Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When Religion Is An Addiction

I went to a talk given last night by Dr. Robert Minor of the KU Religious Studies Department. He has just published a new book titled, When Religion Is An Addiction. In 2001, he published another book, Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human.

His talk was quite interesting. Basically, his main arguments are:

  • Religion is an addiction. Many people seek religion (especially Christianity) because they feel so bad about themselves and who they are. His point was, Why else would someone join a religion that promises the punishment of Eternal Child Abuse (Hell) by a supposedly loving Father?

  • Religion gives people an excuse not to confront their own feelings, fears, and prejudices. "It’s not me who hates homosexuals (or Jews or Muslims); God does, so I do." It’s a way to avoid confrontation with our darkest selves, which can make us feel so bad we need to change ourselves. This is something many of us are unwilling to do—change ourselves—so religion gives us the excuse that it’s okay to go on being our wretched selves and not have to change our thinking or our ways and take responsibility for our own beliefs and lives. Christianity tells us that’s just the way we are—we’re born sinners and evil-doers.

  • Minor feels that, when someone tells him that human beings are evil, that’s telling him something about the person saying it (how they feel about themselves). That’s the same as saying, "I think I’m a bad person. I think I’m evil, so I need God or Jesus or Somebody or Something to tell me I was born in sin and evil, but that’s okay because everyone else is too, so that makes me not feel so bad about myself and the disgusting person I really think I am."

  • Many fundamentalist Christians cannot see past their own addiction, as addicts of any type cannot, and it’s unnecessary and useless to try and argue with them; in fact, doing so only encourages their addiction (and makes those who argue with them enablers) since they’re enabling the addictive thought process by validating the addict’s beliefs and behaviors.
Perhaps this may seem a bit extreme, but he makes some very valid points, and it’s all definitely food for thought. Of course with me he’s basically preaching to the choir (no pun intended) since I’m already somewhere on the continuum between agnosticism and atheism anyway.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Learning an almost lost language

The few Mono Indians remaining who speak their tongue are passing it down to children to preserve culture. (A condensed version of an article in the Fresno Bee.)

This piece is particularly poignant:

As late as the 1970s, Native American children in Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools were punished for speaking their native languages.... (And this is in the supposed land of the free?)

By Charles McCarthy / The Fresno Bee 10/14/07
Source: Barbara Burrough

NORTH FORK -- Just uphill from an authentic cedar tepee -- or "nobi" in Mono -- four children sat down for a lesson in a language on the cusp of being lost.Volunteer teacher Barbara Burrough, one of the few people left who still speaks Mono, held up a cue card with the word "kah-why-you.""Horse," the youngsters said.Next was "moo-nah.""Mule," they said.Burrough's mother, 81-year-old Gertrude Davis, smiled as she watched the recent lesson unfold."I speak it, and I have no one to talk to, because no one knows how to speak the language or understand it," she said.In classrooms, Mono cultural sites and private homes in the North Fork area, Burrough and a few others are working hard to change that, one child at a time.Before contact with Spanish and English-speaking cultures in the 1800s, an estimated 5,000 spoke Mono in a territory that stretched from the San Joaquin River south to the Kern River.

Today, Burrough estimates that no more than 17 Mono around North Fork can converse in the native tongue -- and not all of them are fluent.It's unclear how many others outside the North Fork area might still know the language.North Fork Mono Rancheria Tribal Council Treasurer Maryann McGovran's son Cody, 13, has been one of Burrough's pupils for about two years. She said she isn't fluent in Mono, but she knows a few words.

Preserving the language is important, she said at tribal headquarters, because the language reflects the culture."It's the heart of our tribe," she said. "It shows who we are and what our people are about."

Mono is among 50 Native American languages in California that are considered endangered, said Leanne Hinton, professor emeritus in the linguistics department at the University of California at Berkeley. Another 50 already have disappeared since the early 1800s, she said."When you lose a language, it's a symptom of losing a whole culture," said Hinton, who has written three books devoted to endangered languages.But saving a language is no easy task -- especially when so few people still speak it.

Mono tribal officials say the decline of the language -- and traditional culture -- began as early as the 1810s with the arrival of outside cultures and languages.A series of broken treaties, land grabs and the integration of much North Fork Mono tribal land into the Sierra National Forest left the native residents little choice other than to join mining, lumber and agricultural economies.

In school, children were discouraged from speaking Mono. As late as the 1970s, Native American children in Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools were punished for speaking their native languages, said Andre Cramblit, Northern California Indian Development Council operations director and chairman of the Karuk tribal language restoration committee.Burrough said that her family escaped boarding school because her grandmother told her children to hide whenever a car came up their driveway."That's why we were able to hang on to our language," Burrough said.

Cox has invited parents to a series of Mono classes starting in November."It's important to know where you came from ... to have that sense of self," said Cox, 29, who learned Mono language and culture from her grandmother and others in North Fork but said she still is learning. She claims Chukchansi as well as Mono ancestors.For Burrough, the effort is a labor of love."With learning the language, you learn the culture," the 57-year-old Burrough said. "And with the culture, you learn respect. With respect, you learn to love the land and each other."

Burrough often holds outdoor classes on the rural property of Kendrick Sherman, a tribal elder who died in late September. The Sherman family has dedicated the property to the future of the Mono nation, Burrough said.Nine-year-old Antonio Beihn, a North Fork Elementary School student, said he signed up for the off-campus program because he is half-Mono and it's his culture."If it was lost, we wouldn't have what we have right now," he said.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Čaačakiy Maččan 'inn Paysen 'Ačyankw
Coyote and the Pregnant Girl

A Rumsen Fable

Another Rumsen Ohlone Coyote story. I suspect that this is merely a fragment of a larger story due to its rather odd ending and the fact that the text itself seems a little disjointed. But it is nevertheless entertaining.

Neku kayy Čaačakiy Maččan: “MiSix a tsorkost pirre. ‘Ot ‘aiwis watčorta!” “’Inta rottey watčorta?” “Imxala ‘ačyankw misix.” “Me ku xawwan Sa ‘ačyankw.” “’Ann ku rott ka ‘iswin?” “Xuya me tuuls.” Was kayy siirx: “Kuuwe kuuwe miSix. Kulusta.” “Kuuwe miSix.” “Simpurta.” “Kuuwe miSix.” “Ritčiysta.” “Kuuwe miSix.” Neku kayy ‘Ummun: “Kuuwe miSix. Ne miSix pitinta.” Neku kayy Sa ‘ačyankw: “’Ink ku ka ‘anamii? ‘Ink ku ‘anamii ka ‘iswin?” “’Ot me xawwesp! Me ku xawwan Sa ‘ačyankw.” Neku wattin xuya Sa ‘ačyankw. Kayy Čaačakiy Maččan: “Kas kaxiy!” Neku was tonney pakkeliuwx. Neku šoxlon. Neku ‘aččep pakkeliuwx. Neku was ‘urru Caačakiy Maččan. “Nenney! Ooyonk! Katt! ‘Amxay ka kaxx!” Neku was Sa ‘ačyankw. “Xork! Xork!” Neku paysen Sa ‘ačyankw. Neku šoxlon. Neku ‘uuwin Sa ‘ačyankw. Neku xič misix ‘innx. “Kuu ka ‘iwsen Sa ‘innx.”

Then Coyote said: "A dry earth is good. Go see what’s in the river!" "What’s in the river?" "One pretty girl." "That girl will be your wife." "Where will my children be?" "In your knee." The eagle said to him: "No, no good. In your elbow." "No good." "In your eyebrow." "No good." "In your back." "No good." Then Hummingbird declared: "No good. Here is good in your belly." Then the girl said: "How will I do it? How will I make children?" "Go, get married! This girl will be your wife." Then the girl left. Howling Coyote said: "Delouse me!" Then a wood tick was found on him. Then he got scared. Then he threw down the wood tick. Then the Howling Coyote grabbed (the tick) again. "Look! Look! Eat (it)! Eat my louse (tick)." Then the girl (ate) it. "Swallow! Swallow!" Then the girl became pregnant. Then she got scared. The girl ran. Then she made a pretty road. "I don’t like this road."

Neku kayy Čaačakiy Maččan: “MiSix a tsorkost pirre. ‘Ot ‘aiwis watčor-ta!”
then say Wild Dog: good ? dry earth go.look river-LOC
“’Inta rottey watčor-ta?”
what be river-LOC
“Imxala ‘ačyankw misix.”
one girl pretty
“Me ku xawwan Sa ‘ačyankw.”
2S-POSS IRREAL wife DEF girl
"’Ann ku rott ka ‘iswin?"
where IRREAL be 1S-POSS children
"Xuya me tuuls."
in 2S-POSS knee
Was kayy siirx: "Kuuwe kuuwe miSix. Kulus-ta."
3S-ACC say eagle no no good elbow-LOC
"Kuuwe miSix."
no good
"Kuuwe miSix."
no good
"Kuuwe miSix."
no good
Neku kayy ‘Ummun: "Kuuwe miSix. Ne miSix pitin-ta."
then say Hummingbird no good here good belly-LOC
Neku kayy Sa ‘ačyankw: “’Ink ku ka ‘anamii? ‘Ink ku ‘anamii ka ‘iswin?”
then say DEF girl how IRREAL 1S do how IRREAL make 1S-POSS children
“’Ot me xawwesp! Me ku xawwan Sa ‘ačyankw.”
go 2S marry 2S IRREAL wife DEF girl
Neku wattin xuya Sa ‘ačyankw. Kayy Čaačakiy Maččan: “Ka-s kaxiy!”
then go-PAST away DEF girl say Wild Dog 1S-ACC delouse
Neku wa-s tonney pakkeliuwx. Neku šoxlon. Neku ‘aččep pakkeliuwx.
then 3S-ACC find wood tick then fear then throw.down wood.tick
Neku wa-s ‘urru Caačakiy Maččan. “Nenney! Ooyonk! Katt! ‘Amxay ka kaxx!”
then 3S-ACC grab Wild Dog search search eat (it) eat 1S-POSS louse
Neku wa-s Sa ‘ačyankw. “Xork! Xork!” Neku paysen Sa ‘ačyankw.
then 3S-ACC DEF girl swallow swallow then pregnant DEF girl
Neku šoxlon. Neku ‘uuwin Sa ‘ačyankw. Neku xič misix ‘innx. “Kuu ka ‘iwsen Sa ‘innx.”
then fear then run-PAST DEF girl then make pretty road no 1S like DEF road

This story appears in:
Kroeber, A. 1904. The Languages of the coast of California south of San Francisco. Berkeley: The University Press. (page 79)

IRREAL = past or future (i.e., not present). Irrealis particles seem fairly common in Amerindian languages. Irrealis particles also occur in Biloxi and Soke (Zoque).