When I was 15, my parents saved enough money to send their oldest son across the ocean to their place of origin: Macedonia.
I have many memories of that trip, good and bad and horrible. I remember only two horrible memories and lots and lots of the other kinds of memories.
I want to tell whoever is listening about the horrible one that bothers me today.
I was 15 and very naive. In the middle or last half of my trip, I decided to go alone somewhere on the bus that came by my parents' village that I was visiting. Most likely the nearest big town called Resen, but I don't remember exactly because of the horror I was subjected to. Of course nothing really bad happened, but as a kid from a different world, I was horrified, scared, dumbfounded, and feeling host of other emotions.
I was at the bus stop with a great bunch of people all waiting for the bus. We waited for what seemed to an impatient teenager a long time. The bus finally came and all the people rushed to door to the bus. I ended up in the middle of the crowd at the beginning, but because I was trying to become part of a line, I ended up almost not getting on the bus. The people crowded each other like sheep entering a corral. No order. No common courtesy. No apologies for pushing their way past me. My mouth was definitely opened in fear and not understanding the whole time getting on the bus and most likely a long time on the bus as it drove toward my parents' village. I wonder how many Americans have had an experience like that, let alone when they were 15?
Now, 31 years later, I understand what happened and why it happened and why it horrified me.
The US of A has been the leader of scientific advancement during most of the 20th century and I was "lucky" enough to be born and raised in the US of A in a time when the US of A was fighting against things that I now blame religion for.
I visited a world that was only beginning to feel the benefits of science ever so slowly. They had hot water tanks, but could only turn them on during the hours that the electricity was turned on every day by the municipality. The kids I hung around with never played in the dirt and dust. Want to know why? They could only take a shower or bath once a week or so, so they had to stretch out the time they were clean as long as they could. And somehow they always looked dirty. I, the spoiled American teenager demanded a shower every day and I got it and that just made me stand out even more. American jeans, smelling clean, hair not greasy like the others. I think you get the picture. Here in the US, I was a poor kid on welfare, but in my parents' village, I was the extremely rich kid and as a result, the only kid who would hang around me the most was the outcast of the village. My second horrible memory was something that kid did.
That kid and I had a falling out, so I went to the town on my own on the bus when I became horrified for the second time.
The Macedonian language has God's name in the word that means rich as in wealthy. That made me think about religion's influence in Macedonia and the US. In the 20th century, the US made huge strides in science because they were so afraid of being destroyed by powers greater than themselves. That fear had the unintended side effect of making the lives of normal Americans better. More food, better medicines, leisure, etc. But my parents grew up in the 40's and 50's and they lived like the stereotypical view of the hillbillies of the Cascade Mountains of the late 1800's. And to make it worse, they lived inside of the Communist Block. My father risked his so called freedom to escape to the US.
Religion had and still has a great hold on the normal people of Macedonia. When I buried my father there in 1991, I did not get on a bus the whole time so I don't know if they still get on buses like a flock of sheep entering a corral, but the people were still very religious and very poor.
The promise from the church there is if you do not want to suffer any more, you have to be with God, so that you can be the opposite of suffering which the church flaunted in the faces of the ones providing the opposite of suffering to the clergy. Have you ever seen a Macedonian Church? Gold everywhere. They preached for the common people to be God's sheep and they, in my honest opinion because of my bus experience, they took it literally.
One day last year and a few times since, I asked my mother to compare her life growing up there in the 40's and 50's with her life here since she came here in the 60's. I suggested and she emphatically agreed that her life now is drastically different from her life then. I also pointed out that her life then was not very much better than all the people who lived from 2 thousand years ago till the year 1900. And when I asked her to compare her life then with her life now, it is a different planet.
Religious people waited 2 thousand years for God to provide meat, to cure many horrible diseases, to provide less suffering (not the eradication of suffering like they should have), etc. I suggested to my mother that science provided so much more than what she and those before her asked God for.
And I ask you who are still reading, I suggest that if people forgot about God like they forgot about the Egyptian Gods that Egyptians worshiped 5000 years ago, people may actually have a chance to eradicate suffering altogether everywhere on this planet. God and money are on one side of a two sided coin which has suffering on the other side. Remove God and money from the planet, and you will see suffering eradicated. You will see a world that the common people have asked for over and over from God, but God always said they can have it after they die. Science will provide that world while they are alive so that they can enjoy it. All it will take is for the common people to realize that the elite and the religious do nothing but put up walls so that there are us and them, so that when the common people say we, they also mean not them. Science proved that we is all there is. There is no them (yet - had to put my plug in for extra-terrestrial life) unless you artificially label a part of us as them. The elite and religious are us as well, so don't label that part of us as them when you do what I am asking about below.
I will end this with a question:
When will the common people take back what God has taken from them?