The Atheist’s Pulpit

One believer’s view.

Jan 132015

EJH November 1978My Mom died 30 years ago today. She has been dead more than half of my lifetime. I’m at a loss for a word to describe this. It’s not inconceivable, not really unbelievable, no longer unfair or unjust. It’s just un-Mom. It’s grief — interminable, but suppressible.

Ernestine Hinton loved all kinds of fabric. She frequented fabric stores, buying yards of cloth she liked, which she piled in an out-of-the-way corner solely to paw through, no specific project in mind. She loved sensual materials like satin, silk and velour. She loved color and was happy to put colors next to each other that some might call daring. When she remodeled the house — transformed it, really — she brought together golds, yellows, reds, greens, sage and Chinese lacquer, all unified by a carpet that might have pleased Jackson Pollack, a studiously patternless palette of color blotches that gave every first-time viewer pause.

Ernestine was a natural hostess, welcoming everyone with such genuine charm. She wanted you to be comfortable but never complacent and she trusted you to know the difference.

Out and about, she spoke to people most others ignore, extending courtesy to everyone equally. She worked to improve the lives of many and was outraged by those who did the opposite. She did not suffer fools. She would be appalled by the churlishness and pettiness of modern politics. And she would be overjoyed to see Obama as president.

Mom 1980 She preferred to be called Teen, but I could only call her Mom, or in occasional shock, Mother! And shock me, she did. She was her own woman and expected to be accepted as such. In conversation, she was alive and witty. She could turn a deft phrase to knock you off your feet and then pick you up and dust you off and make sure you were still OK. She was brilliant.

Although Teen was a feminist role model before that concept emerged, she loved being a mother and loved children without reserve. There was nothing more important or valuable than nurturing children. We make our future by teaching our children and by loving them.

Mom taught me to love quick wit, language and laughter. She taught me to despise ignorance, the root of hatred and most of the ugly things we do to each other. She taught me empathy and compassion and patience. She taught me to speak out when I see the emperor has no clothes. She believed everyone’s life would be improved by a little more gentle affection, even between strangers. She was kinder and more gracious than I’ll ever be. Many people and events have shaped me; she did it first and gave the world what there is to work with.

Before she died, Mom told Mer she knew I’d be angry about her death for a long time. I’ll never stop being angry about that — she deserved a long life as much as anyone else — though I do better understand the burden of anger after all these years. Anger is a poor memorial. She deserves better. peace, mjh

Ernestine 1966

Teen 1973

Click for more photos of my Mom

Cue Dave Carter’s “When I Go.” (He’s dead, too.)

[originally posted Sun 01/14/07 at 6:27 pm]

mjh’s Blog: Cut (2004)

 Posted by at 1:37 am on Tue 01/13/15
Jan 082015

Islamic fanatics believe with all their hearts that you should die for disrespecting their god. While they are the most vile and violent at the moment, they are not alone. Christians have waged wars and crushed cultures with the same zeal.

We cannot force people into non-violence, they must embrace it. But non-violence can be taught and, especially, it can be *preached*. Those who believe in god of any flavor must speak for peace and non-violence.

As for me, I’m certain there is no god and those who kill for a god provide me with considerable evidence.

 Posted by at 8:36 am on Thu 01/08/15
Jan 042015

We celebrate a lot of anniversaries. In Autumn’s case, there’s her birthday (8/29/13), when we met her (it’s in my journal somewhere), when she first came to live with us (11/25/13), when we gave her up (11/27/13), and when we got her back, which was one year ago today. Yes, it’s a long story, all documented here and in her ever-expanding photo album. We are over the moon with both our sweet dogs.

[As often happens when people fawn over Autumn, Luke wants you to remember him, too.]

[The following was first published 1/1/14.]

WP_20140104_13_35_39_ProYou may recall that prior to Thanksgiving, we adopted a dog named Autumn (Dogs of Future Passed). Within a week, we returned her (Grief and puppy love), in large part because I seemed to be allergic to her and also because I let her take over the household and began to regret that. Letting her go was very difficult for us, to say the least.

In the 6 weeks since then, we’ve talked about Autumn almost daily, second-guessed and regretted our decision, then resolved to put it behind us. We have the best dog in the world in Luke (all dog owners believe this of their dogs — it’s part of that powerful bond between us). With Luke, we have a near-perfect life. We could not ask for a better dog.

It seemed the Universe wasn’t going to let us get away from Autumn so easily. On the last day of 2013, out for our last walk of the year, we encountered Autumn walking with her terrific foster-mom, Susan K. The timing was perfect. Autumn seemed so happy to see us again and we realized that although we don’t want or need a second dog, we do indeed want and need Autumn. We ran into them again a day or so later. There was talk of other adopters, so we this was our last chance to have her.

During the holidays, we also came to realize that a little disruption could be a good thing. I like change and Mer likes challenges and Autumn might be both. Autumn is a phenomenal fit with us. Though she is a small dog, she’s not a yapper. She adores Luke and emulates him; he’ll be a great role model for her. She’s mostly housebroken and can walk on a leash and sit on command. She’s a small dog with long legs and Luke is a big dog with short legs. Their coloring and face shape are very similar. Their ears are very cool in different ways.


When Autumn came home today, she and Luke ran joyfully in the yard. We’d been concerned that he was at best indifferent to her. We also worried about his well-being, especially trying to keep up with a puppy. Those concerns vanished in play.

But what about my allergic reaction, which consisted of burning hands and hives? Well, my symptoms pre-date Autumn and recurred during her absence. She may contribute to my ailments but she isn’t the sole cause. If I knew Luke was the cause of my difficulties, it wouldn’t change how I feel about him nor would I consider for a moment getting rid of him; the same for Autumn. I’ll work through my issues.


 Posted by at 7:47 am on Sun 01/04/15
Sep 092014

WP_20140909_09_54_49_ProGreetings from my old friend, Teddy. Oh, the things we’ve been through together.

National Teddy Bear Day – September – Festivology

National Teddy Bear Day takes place in the US on September 9th. Initially a US specific holiday this is increasingly being celebrated by bear lovers across the world. There appears to be no record of the origin of this holiday or why this particular date was chosen – perhaps the bears themselves know?

Teddy bears are, of course, named after US President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. The name came about after a 1902 hunting expedition. The hunt had found no game, so at the end of the day someone brought out a baby bear and suggested that Roosevelt might like to shoot it instead. Roosevelt understandably felt that this was not exactly sporting and refused. The incident was illustrated in a newspaper cartoon entitled “Drawing the Line” – which also referred to the political situation at the time. An enterprising New York toymaker saw an opportunity and brought out a cute stuffed bear named “Teddy’s Bear”. The rest, as the say, is history.

National Teddy Bear Day – September – Festivology

And speaking of Teddy Roosevelt…

July 1975

 Posted by at 10:12 am on Tue 09/09/14
Jul 282014

All wars are madness. That people would chose war is insane. Don’t respond by listing “reasons” for war, because there is no shortage of such justifications. It is not reasonable to prepare for or engage in war.

All around the globe, people are killing each other and destroying each other’s homes. I see one thing in common in all of these conflicts. Each side believes they worship a loving and just god. I’m sick of it. To hell with god.

If your god cannot end war, he is impotent, evil, or a delusion. If your religious leaders preach anything but peace, they are charlatans who will mutter pieties at your funeral. If your government cannot end war, it is incompetent or serves only the profiteers. If your people cannot end war, they do not deserve you. To hell with tribes.

Make peace. If you cannot make peace where you live, then leave that terrible, hopeless place. Does it make more sense to leave one’s home for a job than for peace? How is a place worth your life? Be one less victim, one more to escape the madness of war in the name of god and tribe. Perhaps when the only ones left in that terrible place are madmen and profiteers, they will simply kill each other and there will be no innocent victims in the way. To hell with warmongers.

 Posted by at 8:47 pm on Mon 07/28/14