All Dogs Don’t Go to Heaven

I’m pretty sure that I was first introduced to the concept of heaven by watching the animated movie “All Dogs Go to Heaven”. I still really love the movie. I think it’s a great example of good animation and the voice acting by Dom DeLuise and Burt Reynolds is wonderful. So of course when I was a kid, thanks in part to the movie, I wanted to believe that everybody went to heaven after they died.

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So it’s really funny to me that the Pope Francis has just declared that all dogs do go to heaven. I’ve heard mixed answers on this issue before from different sects of Christianity. Some on the more liberal end of the spectrum already have been saying that animals get into heaven and others say that animals are soulless and do not enter heaven. Pope John Paul II was in agreement with Pope Francis, although it seems that Pope Benedict was on team soulless. I can understand why people would want to believe that their pets go to heaven, we love them very much and it’s hard to see their life come to an end. The ones that refer to animals as soulless scare me a bit, it makes me greatly question how they must treat animals. I’m also very confused by people that refer to animals as if they are not animals themselves. I’ve even seen Christians go as far as to be offended by being called an animal.

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As someone that recognizes that I’m an animal just like a dog, cat, hamster, what-have-you, I’ve always felt a kinship with my fellow animal kind. My love of animals has led me to have a good amount of pets in my life; right now I have three cats and a dog. My pets have always brought me a lot of joy and comfort, and it’s been heartbreaking when pets have passed away or have had to be put down. It would be nice to think I could see them again in an afterlife, but I really don’t think that’s going to happen. I find solace in the fact that I cared for and loved my pets as best as I could and gave them happy lives. I also take comfort in the fact that I was privileged enough to own such wonderful animals. I actually think it can be dangerous for people to believe that all dogs (or other animals) go to heaven. If you believe that animals are going to heaven, then where’s the concern for their well-being while they are with us? They have that paradise waiting, so why bother taking care of them? Just wait for Fido to be god’s problem. As someone that doesn’t believe there’s an afterlife, I feel a sense of urgency to take care of my fellow animals around me. I think every animal deserves happiness and comfort in their life, and I get really upset every time I think about the number of dogs and cats that are put down because they weren’t adopted into good homes. People should be more concerned about making a paradise for animals now than hoping that they’ll end up in one later.

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As cheesy as it sounds, I really love my Twitter handle. In the past year or so that I’ve been on Twitter I’ve been asked so many times, “What does ‘pooroldkilgore’ mean?”

I love it because it gives me a chance to gush about my favorite author. I don’t remember exactly when I started using the name online for various website log-ins, but it’s been a while. I thought of it because I really love Kurt Vonnegut and the character “Kilgore Trout” is a recurring character throughout his work. I wanted to come up with something that didn’t need numbers in it, so I thought of my love of Vonnegut and I thought Kilgore was a tragic character so I was thought of “poor” and he was described as in his 60’s in my favorite book so I thought of “old”.  In some ways, Kilgore was an over-the-top characterization of how Vonnegut saw himself. Descriptions of Trout vary throughout Vonnegut’s books, but what all of them have in common is that Kilgore is an underappreciated science fiction writer. As I’ve read Vonnegut books over the years, I’ve often noticed that I get very excited when he has popped up in different ways. I’m not a Vonnegut expert and there are still some books I need to read, but I have also lost track of how many times I’ve read “Slaughterhouse Five”. In that, Kilgore Trout’s stories are found in pornographic magazines and the main character Billy Pilgrim becomes a fan of his work and also befriends the author.

One of the many reasons I absolutely love Kurt Vonnegut is because his books made me passionate about reading in general. When I first picked up “Slaughterhouse Five” in high school I finished it in two days. For some people it’s not a big deal, there’s a good amount of people that read at a fast pace all the time. But for me it was an amazing feat. I did like reading before that, but I always got discouraged because I was a bit slower than kids around me due to struggling with dyslexia. For years I got awful grades thanks in part to my terrible spelling and getting anxious during tests. Sometimes seeing classmates read and do their work faster than me was a blow to my self-confidence and I would call myself stupid. So even though I liked reading, I would put off attempting to start a book because I would tell myself I was too dumb to get through it anyway. I think people really underestimate how much low self-confidence can hold people back. But one day I mustered up the courage to pick up a book I had heard from a few different sources was good. Something about the way Vonnegut wrote instantly spoke to me; I was effortlessly reading through pages and recognized a kindred spirit in his words. I still can’t put my finger on it, but there is something about Vonnegut’s attitude that I related to right away. The passion his writing brought up in me made me realize I wasn’t dumb, just a little different. I still struggle once in a while with dyslexia but it’s gotten much better. Reading more definitely helped me a lot and I really thank Vonnegut for that.

I think his work has also been partly responsible for my interest in humanism and atheism. “Slaughterhouse Five” isn’t an explicitly atheist book, but while reading it I remember my lack of belief growing a bit stronger. I would explain why in detail but I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t read the book. If you read it, you may not have as much of a life changing experience as I did but I still highly recommend it. I still put myself down here and there (as we all do), but at least from I’ve learned to remind myself to stop being my own worst critic and that it’s okay to be a bit different. I also realized it’s usually the “different” people that are the most funny and interesting, like Mr. Vonnegut.

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Christian Mother

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Generally, I’ve noticed that people often associate the word “Christian” with being good or having many positive characteristics. So by putting the word in front of another, it instantly made that following word just a little more positive. I usually disagree with that generalization of the word, especially in certain cases.

I was lucky growing up that I had a mother that was Christian and didn’t have a “Christian mother”. That may sound a bit weird, but I think there’s a big distinction. My mother did take us to church and Sunday school, but she never really pushed it on us.  Christianity wasn’t a constant thing for us, mom had a few moments where she got a little more interested and looked into Christian books. There were a few “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and Amy Grant CD’s in our house, but that light sprinkling of Christianity was as far as mom pushed it for us besides going to church. I can vaguely remember her moments of interest in being more religious, but she never tried to drag me and my brother into it. She was very accepting of the things my brother and I were interested in even if she didn’t really get them, but I also got some of the things I like from her. She’s partly to blame for my love of “The Muppets” and “Star Trek”. So it’s of course possible for religious parents to raise their kids to be freethinkers.

I consider a “Christian mother” to be the type of mom that’s overbearing and controlling when it comes shoving Christianity down their kids’ throats. This type of mom typically monitors the types of things their kids are exposed to, like banning certain cartoons because their Pastor or a Christian website told them it was “of the devil”. They also make the child’s whole world focused on their faith, with things such as faith-based education, only Christian entertainment like Christian music and shows, and closely monitoring who their friends are. There are varying degrees of this type of mom in different sects of Christianity; personally I’ve noticed this sort of parenting mostly in the Evangelical community. (Good example of this is the documentary “Jesus Camp”) When I was a kid, I noticed that the families that were really into church were a bit on the bland side. Something about being really Christian makes people wear really boring and sometimes unflattering clothes. They also manage to find hair salons where their specialty is styles that are out of date and never looked good in the first place. So I always felt bad for kids who had a mom like that, and I still do. Sometimes the kids get brainwashed and become Christians like their parents, but sometimes they rebel and break away from their parents’ lifestyle and beliefs. Besides the fact they typically have a terrible taste in fashion and entertainment, I often find them creepy. In terms of a scary type of person, I think the Christian mother is pretty high up there for me.

There are some fictional ones that are pretty scary, like Carrie’s mom in the Stephen King classic “Carrie” for example. She essentially was responsible for turning Carrie into a monster. She scared me a lot, but I remember a real life Christian mom that terrified me in my early teens. I remember the news reports about Andrea Yates shocked me, how could a mother drown her five kids? She had a history of mental illness that had been masked by her religiosity; she also didn’t seek proper treatment for a long time because the extreme version of Christianity she was following didn’t approve of taking medications. During a psychotic break she thought she had to kill her kids to send them to heaven because they were still in the “age of innocence”, implying that they would have gone to hell if they had a chance to live into their adulthood. Another real life example is Carri Williams, whose adopted daughter Hana died due to hypothermia compounded by malnutrition and gastritis thanks to the abuse caused by Carri and her husband. Her Christian mothering style was based on lessons from the now infamous fundamentalist book “To Train up a Child”, and other deaths and abuse have been connected to the book. I’m not saying that every Christian mom out there has the potential to be abusive, psychotic, and/or a murderer. There are just good examples of religious belief getting out of hand and some aspects of the doctrine being very dangerous. I know there are many Christian moms that try to push the positive messages of Christianity and are very sane and intelligent, and I commend them for it. But I also think there much better things out there for kids to learn from than the bible. Often, things like child abuse and mental illness go unnoticed in Christian households because the religious façade they present to the world around them. Back to my original point, the stereotype that “Christian” means good can be detrimental. Sometimes dangerous ideas can go out of control in the hands of the wrong person, and problems can be masked by cultural assumptions. I also think this is a great example of why questioning people’s religious beliefs should no longer be taboo.

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