Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: religion

God is An Absentee Landlord

God is an absentee landlord and we are the tenants.

He created the world in six days, and then, on the seventh, he moved to a retirement community in Boca Raton, letting us fend for ourselves.

We are bad tenants. Without God nearby, we turned our Garden into a miserable dump.

“Where are you, God?” we cry. “Why have you forsaken us? Why do you leave us with death, illness, and decay? Why must we stand alone with so little guidance?”

God will not answer. He is too busy playing canasta with his friends.

But I have heard from God.

Oh, nothing dramatic like a Burning Bush or a Technicolor Dream.

God left us a Post-it Note on the front door.

Dear People,

You are not alone. But go look at the contract you signed. You need to take care of your shit yourselves. Grow some balls. I know you are weak. But I already gave you the three tools that will get you through every emergency.

I gave you rain. This will wash away the death and despair.

I gave you sun. This will give enable you to see.

And I gave you love. Which will make life worthwhile.

If any of you would rather trade in one of these tools for a new dishwasher instead, please leave a message at the rental office.

Now leave me the alone.


cc: prophets and angels.


Typical Middle East News Story Comment Section

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

Why should we prosecute the filmmaker simply for making a film, even if it is a badly produced one about Islam? Don’t we have free speech in this country? Do we want to throw the makers of South Park in prison for making fun of Mormons. The Muslims needs to grow up and not act like a bunch of babies when their prophet is mocked in a stupid movie.

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

When you say “The Muslims,” David, who exactly are you referring to? Don’t you realize that accounts put active participation in the anti-film protests at between 0.001 and 0.007% of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims – a tiny fraction of those who marched for democracy in the Arab spring. Most Muslims are peace-loving and have no interest in this stupidity. The Newsweek cover story on “Muslim Rage” was pandering to the lowest common denominator. The Muslim world does not hold the American government or its citizens responsible for acts of ONE irresponsible Israeli filmmaker, and the super-rich Jewish financiers who helped back the project.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

You should know, Ahmad, that despite your glee in pinning this on the Jews, that the filmmaker was actually an Egyptian-born Christian, and was not financed by any “super-rich” Jewish financiers. Sorry.

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

Oh, so it is the fault of the Christians, David! So typical of a Jew to turn in his Christian brother as the guilty party. It has been that way since Judas pointed his finger at Jesus, the Lord, Our God.

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

I so agree with you, Matt, my Christian friend. Never trust a Jew. Look at how they stole the land from the Palestinians.

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

Actually, Ahmed, I am a firm supporter of the State of Israel. The Bible says that only through the Hebrews will there be a War to End All Wars, causing the End of Days and the return of our Savior, who will then destroy all who don’t believe in him.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

Including the Jews, Matt?

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

Oh, definitely the Jews, David. You will live in Hell forever.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

I see. Well, even though you hate the Jewish people, Matt, I respect your support of the State of Israel.

@Rivers Stillman-Thompson, Berkeley, CA

I’m an atheist, David, and I can’t understand how Jews can circumcise their sons like savages. This primitive practice should be banned.

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

Actually, Rivers, Muslims also circumcise their boys and I find your views abhorent.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

Right on, Ahmed. We agree on one thing. Oh, and our love of falafel.

@Rivers Stillman-Thompson, Berkeley, CA

I like falafel, also, David, but only if it is organic.

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

WTF kind of name is Rivers, Rivers? Are you a dude or a chick?

@Rivers Stillman-Thompson, Berkeley, CA

Gender has no meaning to me, Matt. Every individual contain both genders.

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

What a fruitcake! Right, Ahmad?

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

Yes, David. Definitely. :)

@Father Brian McMasters, Cleveland, Ohio

Hey, everyone! Are there any young boys on here?

@Matt Rallington, Waco, Texas

Father Brian, you are on the WRONG FORUM!

@David Gold, Queens, NYC

Neil, that was a really inappropriate punch line for this blog post.

@Ahmad Khan, Beirut, Lebanon

I don’t know about that, David. At least it wasn’t about Mohammed!

Jesus at the Beach

Summer at the beach.  Tanned bodies, flip-flops, kiddie rides, ice cream cones, pop songs on the radio.  Sure, there may be too much skin exposed, and people are reading dumb books rather than Dostoevsky, but there is way more sin going on in a typical night on HBO than at a California beach.  C’mon, Jesus, mellow out and relax.  Grab a Hawaiian ice and watch the girls.

All Jews, Christians, and Muslims Like to Sing

After a long history of being treated like crap around the world, it is nice that Jews finally feel so comfortable in America.  I can even write about Yom Kippur on Twitter and get knowledgeable responses about fasting from non-Jews in Oklahoma!

Because of this, it was sad to me to read in the newspaper that Muslims don’t feel at “home” in America, even those born in this country. After all, how can you feel safe when you have idiots like that pastor in Florida wanting to burn your holy book?

A little aside: I actually lean more conservative than most of my liberal friends in matters involving the “threat of Islamic extremism.”  It’s probably one of the few areas where I disagree with my progressive friends, a few who would rather blame George W. Bush for 9/11 than religious extremists. I’m sure my commitment to Israel colors my view of the Muslim world. You don’t hear much support for Israel from the Muslim world, or even much of an outcry over the blatant Antisemitism in the Arab media.  Have you ever seen some of the stuff printed in Arab newspapers? While most of us were furious over the Florida pastor, I hardly saw any of my friends make a mention the Seattle cartoonist, Molly Norris, who had to go into hiding over threats to her life after a cartoon of Mohammad. 

I don’t trust extremism in any religion, including my own, and it is condescending to excuse it in other religions.

However, this is America, and I’d like to consider this a special place, a giant newer country where the old country hatreds fade into the background as we all become true Americans — which means sitting around at home watching American Idol on TV and getting fat on processed foods.  We don’t burn holy books in America.  That’s being an asshole. And there’s no reason a group shouldn’t be able to build a house of worship wherever they deem fit.

My grandparents came to this country to escape repression and to be part of a melting pot.   And for the most part, that dream has come true.  I think we should all work towards helping Muslims feel at home in America.  Most foreign-born Muslims came here for the same reason anyone does — to escape repression in their own countries, or to make a better life for their families.

We frequently hear the term Judaeo–Christian tradition, but the concept of “monotheism” — the belief in one God in the Abrahamic religions —  is a triad of religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Islam, one of the most important and powerful religions in the world, deserves the right to be included on this podium.

That said, I want to take a step towards religious unity here in America, doing it the only way I know how to — through laughter, song, and entertainment!

For the last four years, I have been the impresario of the Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!  During this December online concert, bloggers like you present videos, audio recordings, and photographs of holiday cheer — including Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs.  It has been a fun way for Christian and Jewish (and atheist!) bloggers to end the year on a festive note.

Things are going to slightly change this year.  The Fifth Annual concert will see a growth in concept, because I noticed on the calendar that on December 7, 2010  it is Al-Hijra, the Islamic New Year!

The Islamic New Year is a cultural event which Muslims observe on the first day of Muharram, the first month in the Islamic calendar. Many Muslims use the day to remember the significance of this month, and the Hijra, or migration, Islamic prophet Muhammad made it to the city now known as Medina. Recently, in many areas of Muslim population, people have begun exchanging cards and gifts on this day.

Although it is a minor holiday in Islam, let’s be honest — so is Hanukkah in Judaism — but that never stopped American Jews from making it a bigger deal to offset the mega-holiday of Christmas.  And just think how this will bring more money in to the Hallmark company with newly minted Al-Hijira cards!

So, this year, the fifth annual concert will be renamed —  The 2010 Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert.

I realize that there is a dearth of good Islamic Al-Hijra songs, but then again, how many good Hanukkah songs are there?  All the smart Jewish songwriters wrote Christmas songs because that’s where the money is!  Luckily, Faiqa is already on board and knows of at least one good Islamic song for the concert.

Now where else are you going to hear Islamic new year songs, the Driedel song, and Silent Night, Holy Night all in one place?

More information — and the sign up sheet — in November.

Note: My apologies to non-Monotheist religions. We still love you, but you will need to create your own concert.

Thinking About Religion

I don’t know if it is stress, loneliness, the upcoming Holiday season, or economic fears about the future, but I thought about religion today.  Perhaps, it is the book I am reading, “The Jew and the Lotus,” or the pizza slice I had for lunch.  Although I’m a rational person, in another place, under different circumstances, I could see myself as a person involved in spirituality and mysticism, which to me, is the logical extension of creative writing.  After all, f irst a man talks to his Penis in silly sex stories, and soon, he is inevitably conversing with God.

I like to read YOUR posts where YOU write about your religion, no matter what your faith.  Even if I don’t believe in Jesus Christ or the holiness of Buddha, these are all human attempts to understand the world, which is… well, human.  I know it is cool to make fun of religious people, and they sometimes deserve it, but I respect those who think about the deep questions, such as “Why do shitty things happen to good people?” and “Will praying increase my traffic on my blog?” I regret that I don’t have more spirituality in my life.  The “community” of Twitter is fun, but it doesn’t truly connect me to the ethical and spiritual thinkers of the past and present.

When I hear a religious person talk, my mind’s first instinct is to say “bullshit,” but my heart believes that there is an energy out “there.”   Even when I encounter one of you online, available on IM, I can feel YOUR energy.  What is this energy?  Is it in my brain?  Why do I have a special connection to certain people?  Is it random or for a purpose?  Is there a universal energy — a God?  And what does this mean in reference to ethics or day to day life?   As for my own religion — how should a Jew act?  What does being Jewish mean?  Do I have to believe everything in the Torah?  Do I HAVE to eat gefilte fish?

I’m not going to bored you today with the crap that sometimes fills my mind when I’m not blogging or watching Judge Judy.    And don’t worry about me suddenly changing my blog title to “Scientologist of the Month.”  I don’t get involved in any religion which doesn’t joke about itself.  But I do think my “rational self” suppresses my more spiritual and mystical side, the one born a Pisces, the Neilochka who isn’t so straight-arrow logical, who might EVEN believe in the supernatural power of words.

OK, enough.   Back to the empirical world tomorrow.

The Orthodox Jewish Guy Outside the Supermarket

I went down to Pathmark Supermarket to buy whole wheat hamburger buns and some bottles of Snapple.   In front of the entrance, was an Orthodox Jew handing out leaflets.  He was wearing a yarmulke and tzitzit, a traditional fringed garment worn under the clothing.  I’ve seen these guys before.   Some ultra-religious Jews go around and try to get less religious Jews to pay more attention to the various rituals of Judaism.  These men believe that the spreading of their religious fervor will hasten the arrival of the Messiah.

Usually, these Jews only bug other Jews.  They frequently ask passerbys, “Are you Jewish?” before they annoy the hell out of you.   I understand that they are on a mission, but sometimes I just want to walk to the supermarket without having to discuss religious issues.   The only time I’ve ever said that I WASN”T Jewish had nothing to do anti-Semitism.   It was to avoid one of these ultra-religious guys pestering me on the street about lighting the Shabbos candles.

“Here, take some candles. Light them on Friday night. Do you belong to a temple?  Come to our temple.  We even will feed you!”

They will feed you. I know their trick.   You go to their temple.  They feed you some good chicken soup, and then they OWN YOU!

What surprised me about this guy outside the supermarket was that he was not asking, “Are you Jewish?” to anyone.   He was handing out his leaflets and talking to every passerby, whether they were black or white or Latino or Asian.  Some of these shoppers quickly walked by, while others politely took one of his leaflets.

Was he trying to convert everyone to Judaism?

Three years ago, I wrote a post advocating Jews trying to convert other religions. I was being a little tongue in cheek.   At the time,  I felt that if other religions are always trying to convert you, why not return the favor?   In reality, conversion is a dirty word for most Jews because it brings up a sad history of forced conversion, mostly at the hands of Christians.   Even though I wrote that post, I don’t really feel comfortable with anyone trying to convert another person.

I wondered if this zealot outside my Queens supermarket felt safe trying to convert others to Judaism because we were in Queens, and there were many Jews in the neighborhood.   Maybe he felt safe in numbers, despite the fact that there was a mosque right across the street.

This made me angry.   If I were a Jew in a Christian neighborhood, I would hate having someone try to convert me outside my local supermarket.  I would feel as if I was being pressured to be “one of the majority.”  I’m not a hypocrite.    Why should a Jew try to convert others in our neighborhood?   Surely, the religions of others — whether it be Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism — is as worthy a religion.   This smug Jewish guy, passing out leaflets, was arrogant.  It didn’t matter if he was “part of my tribe.”

I walked into the supermarket, using a side door, just to avoid him.

After I finished my shopping, I looked through the store window, and saw my Jewish friend deep in conversation with a black mother and her son.  The mother took the flier, nodding in agreement.  Did he just sucker in another victim to leave her own religion behind?  My face grew red.  This idiot was giving the Jewish people a bad name.

I walked outside, waiting for him to hand me a flier and engage me in conversation.  I walked by and he completely ignored me.   What was up with that?!   Did he see that I was angry and was worried about a conflict?   Or could he tell that I was already Jewish so he didn’t need to convert me?   And how did he know I was Jewish?   Was he judging me on my Jewish nose like a racist would do?   Was this Jewish man stereotyping a fellow Jew?

Hell, I wanted him to try to convert me!   I wanted him to hand me one of those leaflets, so I can shove it back in his face and tell him that this is not the ways Jews should behave.  That it is a shame for him to stand there in his yarmulke and tzitzit and show such disregard for other cultures and other religions.

I did a 360 and entered the supermarket again, just so I could exit a second time and get one of those leaflets.  I quickly re-walked my steps, leaving the market as I did before, not even waiting for the electric door to fully open.  I walked past the ultra-religious Jewish guy, who was eagerly handing out his leaflets — and the asshole ignored me again.

That was enough for me.   Like Abraham, who would sacrifice Isaac, his son, because of God’s word, I knew that it was my moral obligation to confront my Jewish nemesis.  I stepped in front of him.

“May I have one of those leaflets.”

“Sure,” he said reluctantly.

He handed me one. I held it tightly in my hand, ready to start my diatribe against religious hypocrisy.  And then I read the piece of paper:

“Looking to sell your condo?  Call 718-555-1212.”

When I arrived home, I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair had gotten long again. I was unshaven. I was wearing an old t-shirt. Apparently, I was stereotyped by this guy as someone who can’t afford to own a condo.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the MonthTruth and Fiction

The Morality of the Lost Wallet

Let’s imagine I’m walking down the block and I find a wallet on the ground.  I open it up.  Inside, I see a driver’s license with an address.  The wallet also contains $5000 dollars. 

What am I going to do? 

I’m going to contact this person and return the wallet, with the money still inside.  I’m not even going to think about keeping the money for myself. 

I know this is the right thing to do.  But why?  Cause my mother taught me to do this?  What does she know?!  She used to serve me margarine with all that trans-fat rather than butter?

This is an example of the type of sh*t you think about when you go to therapy too much and you start becoming f*cked up.  

Here’s are my current thoughts on this important “wallet” matter.  If I was religious, I wouldn’t keep the money because I would be afraid of sinning.  God would see me taking the money, shaking his head in disappointment.  I might even get karma kicking me in the ass.

But I don’t believe in any of that.  If I took the money, NO ONE would know, NOTHING BAD WOULD HAPPEN TO ME, and I would have 5000 bucks to live it up in Paris for four days, drinking champagne with lanky French fashion models.

Of course, the reason I don’t take the money is that if I did, I would feel like a SCHMUCK. This feeling is not based on any scientific fact.  It is based on some religious system of morality, of right and wrong.  And a morality without any real consequences. 

You only live once.  You need to grab what you can in life.  So, who’s the bigger schmuck?  The guy who gives the money back and gets nothing in return?  Or the guy who keeps the money, goes to Paris, has a naked French model dance for him in his hotel room, writes a terrific blog post about his experience, and then wins a Pulitzer Prize for his novel “Paris on 5000 Dollars.”

Two years ago on Citizen of the Month:  Neilochka Sez:  Boycott the Fashion Industry

Republican Religiosity


Note:  Sophia suggested that I take this post down since it wasn’t in the spirit of the Holidays, especially since it is the post right after the big Holiday concert.   I did take it down, and then I remembered, from past experience, that everyone will just see it on Bloglines and Google Reader anyway, and I’ll just look like a wimp.  So, I put it back up.   Proud of me?

Unlike the Queen of Spain, who enjoys a little religious controversy now and then (see her current post), I’m a lover more than a fighter.  My point here isn’t to attack any religion, especially all you nice religious Christians and Jews who just sang your hearts out for everyone to hear, but to acknowledge that everyone’s religion is sort of weird if you really sit down and think about it.   That’s why it is called “faith.”  So, I’m not sure what Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion has to do with anything.   If I’m not going to vote for him, it’s because he’s a lousy candidate, not a Mormon.

OK, here’s the mediocre post.  It was difficult coming up with a topic after the concert, because everything I came up with seemed anti-climactic.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said he considers his rival Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith a religion, not a cult, but questioned whether Mormons believe “Jesus and the devil are brothers.”

Huckabee raised the question on his own in an interview to appear in The New York Times magazine on Sunday, and ignited a new flap in the up-for-grabs race to be the Republican Party’s nominee in the November 2008 presidential election.

Clearly, Mike Huckabee, needing to jumpstart his campaign, is insinuating that Romney is not fit to be President because of Romney’s religious background. He’s just not one of us!

Am I Republican? No.

Will I vote for Mitt Romney? No.

Do I agree with Mike Huckabee? Absolutely.

The President of the United States is the most important position in the Free World. We want a rational leader, one is is not swayed by “odd” beliefs or cultish stories masquerading as the truth. Do we want a religious “Mormon” running our country, his finger on the “button.” Of course not! Just take a “tour” of the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City on the way to Park City, like I did, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Our country requires someone logical, someone we can trust, like a Christian or Jew, a person of religion who believes in FACT — proven historical events like immaculate conception, individuals getting resurrected, angels, and entire seas magically splitting open to let thousands of people walk through to safety.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Why a Pillow is No Substitute for a Woman

Freedom of Speech

Before he got the Ten Commandments, MOSES is seen coveting his neighbor’s wife.


Full of Emoticons


A couple of days ago I got into a little trouble with one of my readers because the person misinterpreted something I wrote as true.  This is not the first time this has happened.  Sometimes, I stretch the point, such as when I wrote that I "slept with Tom Cruise."  Still, there are times when I want to express something personal, and I don’t want you to dismiss it by saying, "Oh, he’s just joking around."  Why am I the only one having this problem?  And then I realized why.  Most of you use those smilies (emoticons) when making an ironic or sarcastic point.   How many times have I seen a comment written to me that reads something like this:

 "Neil, you suck. Your blog sucks.  Your mother is a moron.  Your penis is smaller than Jude Law’s.  I hate your guts."  emoticon

Oh, look — she used a smilie.  She is joking.  Ha ha ha.  I love my readers.

I’m not sure exactly why I never use smilies.  I have nothing against them.  It could be because when I was a young student, I actually used a typewriter rather than a computer (so there were no smilies yet).   (Does anyone out there remember typewriters?  Has anything become as outdated as quickly as the typewriter?  Does anyone else feel bad for the Smith-Corona company?  Will I one day tell my grandchild about using "Wite-out" and they will laugh in disbelief?  But that’s something for another post.)

Today, I have smilies on my mind.   That, and religion.  What has caused more problems in the world than religion?  Why are the three big Western religion — Judaism, Islam, and Christianity — always at each others throats?  Even within the religions, there are divisions, usually between between the ultra-religious and the moderates. 

And why? 

I think the reason is similar to the one I had with one of my readers — interpretation.  For thousands of years, men have been fighting over God’s word.  What did He mean?  Which is the true religion?  Each religion is always fighting over the interpretation of the Bible.   Thousands of years of tsuris (trouble in Yiddish), and for what? 

If only God had waited a little bit — only had been a little more patient before he released his Word — at least until the arrival of the Mac in 1984.  Then, he could have used smilies to clarify things for all of us —

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.   And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.   emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."  And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.  And God called the firmament Heaven.    emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so.  God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.  And God saw that it was good.  And God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth."  And it was so.  The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.  And God saw that it was good.    emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.

And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so.  And God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also.  And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.     emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens."  So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.   And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth."   emoticon

And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so.   And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind.  And God saw that it was good.   emoticon

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.   emoticon

And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."  And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.  And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food."  And it was so.   And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.    emoticon