The Tacet Underground

What if He didn't exist? At all. What if long ago, visiting ETs decided that the easiest way to keep these creatures (us) complacent was to chisel out some stony rules and promise a heaven and a hell, much like a kindergarten teacher promises stickers for good behavior and time out for bad behavior? Sure - it's crazy. But just for a minute, what if?

What if the bible is not the 'word of God' as it is so flippantly called while held up and venerated? What if you discover that it is a collection of stories jotted down by the fallible and earthly predecessors of Aesop and the Brothers Grimm, later bastardized and edited and tilted to meet the selfish needs of a corrupt church hierarchy?

What if you woke up tomorrow and none of it made sense anymore? 'Why would an all-seeing and all-knowing god be vengeful?' 'Why revere a book that promotes misogyny, revenge, slavery and killing?' 'Am I a thinking person, or was I indoctrinated before I had a chance to make a choice?' What if it all seems so remote and unbelievable that when someone brings it up, your brain has to click into gear: "Oh yeah! - I forgot that people still believe in that!"

Imagine how truly looney it would then seem if you heard the DOJ's very own Imp of Darkness justifying the cruel and inhumane treatment of emigrating children by quoting a bible verse. Imagine how genuinely frightening it would be to hear former White House aide Omorosa Manigault Newman report that Vice President Pence thinks Jesus tells him to say things. For the almost one out of four Americans that do not believe in God, it is chilling.

The Founders were very clear about the need for separation of church and state:

"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."

In this, one of the most fatherly-feeling quotes from our Founders, James Madison and the other framers are looking out for us in the way that parents try to impart hard-learned wisdom upon their children. How many times have we wished our kids would listen to us?

There is a musical term, tacet. This tells the musician to do nothing - still pay attention to what's going on, but do nothing. To make a sweeping and reckless generalization, atheists know how to tacet. It is simply easier to nod and smile and say nothing than it is to get into it. Sure, there are atheists at every turn that have no problem declaring their non-belief, but they didn't get there without also learning how to deal with feelings of disenfranchisement, ostracization and condemnation.

It isn't always easy to say, "I don't believe in god" when those around you do and when the indoctrination you've received makes you feel many emotions - but primarily guilt - just for entertaining the idea. Even for the loud proclaimers, it is usually easier, quicker and less trouble to tacet.

The approximately 25% of Americans that make up this Tacet Underground form a much larger subset of the population than the 1% that are Muslim, the 2% that are Jewish, the 2% that are Mormon, the 4% that are either LGBT or Q, the 12% that are Black or the 19% that are Hispanics/Latino, yet these other groups are constantly protesting, demanding and making themselves the news while atheists are mostly content to tacet and pay attention.

In 1795 John Adams said, "The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."  Atheists take this seriously and are deeply offended when ignorant people like Donald Trump pretend that it is.

The Vice President's proclamation that he is a Christian first, a conservative second and a Republican third is deeply offensive to the (at least) eighty-some million Americans that do not believe in his god and consider that statement alone to be grounds for him to be removed from office. On the other hand, even nonbelievers may sometimes hope that hell exists, comforted by visions of Jeff Sessions roasting marshmallows with Beelzebub.

As has happened over a long period of years with the LGBTQ community, 'coming out' as an atheist carries less of a social stigma with each passing day, although small town folk and conservative communities may still find a way to disparage anything out of the norm. Time passes and the number of people that distinguish themselves as atheist will increase as the stigma lessens and the dark side of religion is continually revealed by people like Jeff Sessions, Dana Rohrabacher and Donald Trump who insist on evoking the Bible and Jesus for evil.

By 2020 the Tacet Underground could include not one in four citizens as it does now, but one in three. That would be over a hundred million Americans that don't want to hear religious dribble or quotes from the bible, but instead want logical and well thought-through plans based on research, testing and evaluation. At some point our politicians are going to have to grapple with the fact that one out of three Americans think the bible-thumpers and scripture-quoters and evil-doers are more than a little nutty and start giving us more than the incessant stale rhetoric about abortion, guns, gays and God.

Can Social Media Contribute to Addictive Behaviors or Mental Health Issues?

Before grappling with the question of whether excessive use of social media can contribute to addictive behaviors or mental health issues, it must in good conscience be noted that ironically no word in the English language is more commonly or severely abused than addiction. Together, groups ranging from ostensibly reputable organizations such as WebMD and Psychology Today to countless spas and rehab centers have posited thousands of 'definitions' for addiction that now float across cyberspace and throughout society - without exception they are wordy and morose, seemingly written by authors unfamiliar with a dictionary, each one different from the next yet all lacking the objectivity expected from a definition, while clearly promoting an agenda.

As defined by Miriam-Webster, an addiction is a "compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal". Contrary to the healthcare industry's misinformation campaign, by definition the terms gambling addiction, sex addition and social media addiction - among others - are misnomers. It is however undeniable that the use of social media can cause its users to develop varying degrees of habits, compulsions and/or obsessions that resemble addictive-like behaviors.

The negative effects of social media are beginning to be well documented, with Facebook executives recently admitting in a blog post that the platform may pose a risk to users' emotional well-being. Frequently looking at one's phone, interrupting conversations to respond or reply to social media posts and an inability to enjoy participating in any activity without attempting to inform the world of it are all too commonplace in 2018.

Social media permits the user to communicate when convenient, allowing for reflection before responding to a query or offering information, making it easier to manage relationships using tech than with interactive conversation because it can be unilaterally controlled. Studies have shown that up to 11% of adults would rather stay at home and communicate on their devices than take advantage of opportunities to personally interact with friends.

Social media provides a shield or veil for the user, alternately used for protection and concealment, behind which bravado is more easily summoned and notions that would not be spoken to another human being are casually dispensed amid social media. In a culture where the currency is 'followers' and 'friends', you can be or say anything you like without fear of having to face consequences other than being unfriended or unfollowed, which in reality is no consequence at all. In this way, social media makes its users less social, less able to communicate person to person, less human.

The resulting emotional and mental health issues worsen as the refuge found in anonymity and a lack of accountability is sought and assimilated into other parts of life, such as closing email and other correspondence with accountability-free generic signatures like Membership Committee, HR Associate or no signature at all - even in business settings!

At a mere fifteen years old, social media, its benefits and its drawbacks have not yet been fully revealed, however it is already apparent that excessive use of social media can and does contribute to compulsive, addictive-like behaviors and mental health issues.



A graduate of Portland State University, Steve (Reeno) Kloser is the author of Beginning Band - A Guide to Success and Let's Make Music - Classroom Recorder Course. He is also an accomplished teacher, conductor and composer, having penned numerous pieces including La Vida and Fly With Me.

Teacher, cook, Packers fan and proud American, Reeno's usually slanted outlook often presents an unlikely perspective on issues old and new.

Reeno currently lives in Portland, OR.


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