How Freedom of Religion Works for Everyone


Freedom of Religion only works if it works for everyone. Thankfully, here in the United States, it does just that. Feel free to thank whomever or whatever you choose.

Some will claim we live in a Christian nation founded on Biblical principles, but that is not actually true.

We live in a secular nation founded on the U.S. Constitution, which protects your freedom to be a Christian if you so choose, and to live by Biblical principles, whatever you interpret those to be.

It also protects the freedom of those who choose otherwise.

It’s kind of a beautiful thing.

If you’re a Muslim, no one can make you eat pork. If you’re a Christian, you can load up on the bacon and ham with a big greasy grin on your face. If you don’t subscribe to any religion at all, the world is your buffet.

It even works well within Christianity. Southern Baptist? No one can make you say a Hail Mary. Catholic? No one can keep you from wearing your “I love the Pope” hat to the mall.

Do you think gay marriage is a sin? Ok, fine. Check your fiancé’s genitals before the ceremony and everything should be a-ok. Just remember it’s not your place to peek inside the pants of other people’s partners. So you can go your married way and let others do the same.

See how that works? You get to live YOUR life according to your beliefs. You don’t get to force others to live THEIRS that way. And they don’t get to force you to live their way either.

This is how our funny little government works for everyone. This is why it’s a handy dandy thing to remember that, should you seek an office or a job in government, YOU ALSO WILL BE WORKING FOR EVERYONE when you clock in each day.

It’s also good to remember this is why the courthouse lawn and other tax payer funded facilities are not churches or temples or mosques.

The Ten Commandments may look lovely hanging in your church or on your wall at home, but, unless you want to allow symbols of other religions including nine-foot bronze statues of a half-man-half-goat with curly horns from the Temple of Satan to greet you when you go to the DMV to get your plates renewed, it’s really best to leave those things up to the private individual to display.

Any Pentecostals cool with a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe at your state Capitol building? No? Well, then maybe you get my point.

Your church, however wonderful it may be, has not been appointed to govern those who don’t wish to attend it. Your holy book, however full of wisdom you find it to be, has not been passed into legislation.

And if you ever study what happens when any religion is given a pass to govern with that kind of power, you’ll thank God it isn’t that way here.

Photograph: Praying for Prey by Rolf Brecher on Flickr

Ken Robert is a guy who can’t not write, writing things he can’t not say. If you can’t not read them, click here and sign up for free updates.

The Truth Doesn’t Care if You Find It


My journey to where I am today in terms of how I think began with one sentence uttered by a Pope. “The truth has nothing to fear.”

Where that lead me is probably not what he had in mind, but dwelling on it made me realize that it didn’t matter what I believed. It only mattered what was true.

The truth can withstand anything. No challenge will change it. No question will unravel it. It will be what it is even if it’s never discovered. If we don’t search for it and do what we can to find it, it will still be there, hidden and unknown.

It will wait patiently for eternity simply because that’s what truth does.

The truth neither feels nor has any obligation to comfort me. It doesn’t  beckon me. If I am uncurious and unquestioning, it won’t care. If I tell myself lies, it won’t care. If I can convince some or even all to believe lies, it won’t care.

In order for it to be revealed to me, I have to care about it. It doesn’t have to care about me.

You and I could work every minute of every day for the rest of our lives and still only find small pieces of it that make up just a sliver of a thread in its tapestry our minds can’t touch the sides of.

There are galaxies beyond our reach  too great in number to fully comprehend and we know nothing about them.

And they don’t care either.

Maybe it’s silly to search for the truth just to hold a few grains of it in your hand until you or your memory of them  fade away. But in that moment, to know you learned something about what is, to know that you caught a peak behind the curtain of the mind boggling mystery that is having been alive for a time in the cosmos?

Well, heck. How cool is that?

But the truth doesn’t really care.  It’s all up to us to care about it.

Ken Robert is a guy who can’t not write, writing things he can’t not say. If you can’t not read them, click here and sign up for free updates.

Photograph: Policy of Truth

Trump Is Everything I Was Taught Not to Be

tp trash

My disdain for Donald Trump has little to do with Republican vs Democrat. It has much more to do with what I was taught growing up about being a decent human being.

Much of that was taught to me by my father, a man who wasn’t perfect but always tried his best to be decent toward and honest with everyone he met. Trump is just about everything I was taught not to be, and it’s become almost all but impossible to hold onto whatever respect I once held for people I know who support him.

It doesn’t feel good to lose that respect. I was also taught to look for the good in people, and I still believe there’s good in almost everyone, but I find less of it when I hear people cheer for a man who embodies everything my father taught me to disdain: bullies, liars, blowhards, braggarts, and cheats. To me, championing a man who displays those behaviors on an almost daily basis demonstrates a fundamental flaw of character.

Based on what I was taught, you just don’t do the following: You don’t mock the disabled. You don’t disparage someone for being a prisoner of war, even if you disagree with their politics. You don’t take money from a proclaimed charitable foundation and use it to pay $20,000 for a painting of yourself to give to your spouse. You don’t claim you’ve given a million dollars to veterans that you haven’t given, then, when the press discovers and reports that you haven’t, try to cover your ass by giving it in the middle of the night before calling a press conference the following day to berate the media for calling you on your dishonesty. You don’t insinuate things about the parents of a fallen soldier you could have discovered were false by checking just because you got your precious feelings hurt when they criticized your proposed ban on people who practice their religion which is about as direct a violation of the U.S. Constitution as someone can cook up. You don’t claim that people in the military will do whatever you tell them to do, even if it’s a war crime, as if this is Nazi Germany and you’re der Führer. You don’t score women’s looks like you’re the Universe’s gift to them. You don’t encourage crowds to commit acts of violence against people exercising their first amendment rights. You don’t encourage foreign agents to hack your political opponent’s emails. You don’t run around accusing the president of not being a natural born citizen, then wrongfully dump the blame on your opponent when you finally have to admit, in the most weaselly way possible, that you were wrong from the start. You don’t claim you can’t release your tax records because you’re being audited when being audited in no way prohibits you from releasing them, and then refuse to even provide evidence that you’re actually being audited. You don’t pretend you’re friends with someone you never met. You don’t promote torture when men and women have given their lives to fight enemies who employ it. You don’t make flippant remarks about people assassinating the other candidate. You don’t do so many things this man does almost every day.

If we disagree on these things, we simply don’t share the same values. If I criticize these things and your response is to laugh with derogatory glee, you come across to me like a toothless jackass braying as you take a steaming whiz on human decency.

We can debate the impact of a minimum wage hike, the best approach to healthcare, the effectiveness and constitutionality of a gun regulation proposal, and a great many other things, but human decency isn’t on my list of debatable topics anymore, and it never should have been to begin with.

My father was a Republican, but he was not a straight ticket voter, and I can’t believe he would have ever cast a ballot for this man. As the father of a handicapped child who died very young, he would have severed any ties he had to Trump the day the candidate mocked a reporter’s disfiguring congenital joint disorder.

I think my father would have agreed with my basic argument against such behavior: “Screw that asshole and the festering pile of shit he rode in on.”

But more important to me than what my father taught me is what I teach my own children. They’re adults now and must decide for themselves who they’re going to be, but I still believe it’s my responsibility to be someone worthy of their respect.

I have never been what anyone would call wildly successful, and I would say I failed at being the kind of husband I should have been when I was married to their mother, but I do my best to demonstrate to them how I feel about the importance of honesty and compassion for others. No, I don’t always live up to my own standards, but I have them, which means I’m painfully aware of the times when I bite the ethical dust.

It also means I recognize a candidate who has no standards at all when I see one. I don’t have to read a news report or fact check claims made by others about him. I can read the transcripts of his talks and interviews. I can watch videos of him in action. I can read his childish tweets. I can watch him live as he displays an absolute disdain for anything requiring humility, compassion, or scholarship.

As former POW Joel Sollender says in a new Hillary Clinton ad, “He is everything I would not want to be or emulate.” And those who support him are supporting everything I have no respect for, and I honestly find it hard to separate them from that.

Ken Robert is a guy who can’t not write, writing things he can’t not say. If you can’t not read them, click here to get free updates.

Photograph: Trash Planet by Alias Albinos on Flickr

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The Last Gift I Gave My Father

dad and me

Shortly before he passed away, my father came to see me play the part of Schroeder in a community theatre production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

It’s a night (and a lesson) I’ll never forget.

My Father Laughed at Me (and I loved it)

I can still see him sitting there beside my mother in the front row. His skin was pale. His frame was lean. He looked so tired and weak. Just months before, he’d been diagnosed with Leukemia, a thing that seemed intent on doing what it came to do in a quick and merciless manner.

But what I remember most about that night was the sound of his laughter. From the stage and all through the performance, I could hear him chuckling and giggling in a way I hadn’t heard him do in quite some time. It was the laugh I’d always loved, and on that night, it was the sweetest sound I’d ever heard.

It was, however, a fluke that I was even in the play. I hadn’t pursued the role, or any other role, or much of anything else I cared about since high school. Long ago, I’d put such things away in order to become practical.

Who I Used to Be

Yes, when I was a small boy, I made my first trip to a movie theatre, saw Tom Thumb, and insisted on reenacting it for a string of hapless babysitters.

Yes, after receiving a cassette recorder for my eighth Christmas, I used it to produce a series of little radio plays I wrote.

Yes, when I was in the fifth grade, I saw my first live play, went home, and immediately wrote my own, one my classmates and I performed for our Home and School Christmas program.

Yes, I went on to write dozens of sketches, stories, poems, and plays; become a member of my high school drama club; and even win a few awards.

But that was all just grade school and high school stuff. Life’s a ball and then you grow up. You get a degree. You get a job. You get real.

Who I Tried to Become

You see, I was going to be the first in my family to attend college and I took that pretty seriously. I wanted to make everyone proud. Especially my father.

I thought I couldn’t afford to waste my time on things I loved. They seemed so silly, trivial, and impractical. Sure, the university offered degrees in things like English and Theatre, but come on. I had to earn a living.

No one I knew made their living writing stories or poems or plays, and the town in which I was raised contained no actors or artists, at least not any that I knew of or that anyone paid attention to. So I took stock of my more practical skills, like math. I’d heard somewhere (Okay, more like everywhere) that engineers made good money and were in high demand, and I headed in that direction.

I boxed up all the silly stuff, writing and acting and goofing about, and threw it in an attic somewhere. I shut the door. I moved on.

Getting Down, Down, Down to Business

And almost immediately, the sadness set in. The sadness became listlessness. The listlessness became depression. The depression became constant.

Unhappy with engineering, I tried computer science, another respectable and profitable career path. Same results. I tried accounting, did really well in my classes, and even received an additional scholarship. More sadness. Every day, as I walked across campus, I’d glance sideways at the English building, but I’d already completed the required writing and literature courses, courses I loved but considered a mere distraction.

In those courses and all the others in which I was given writing assignments, I’d hear the same thing. “You’re a very good writer, you know,” my professors would say, and they’d often point to my work as an example for my classmates.

But I wouldn’t listen. I was out to make my father proud, and to me that had nothing to do with the things I loved.

Moving On and Further Downward

I eventually settled on a marketing major in order to settle on something, anything, get the hell out of there, and get a job. Maybe then, I thought, I could find a way to prove I had something on the ball. But the job world wasn’t much different. I worked hard, received a lot of praise and a few awards and promotions, but never felt at home. The depression only grew larger and darker, and just as I’d done in college, I drifted from one thing to another while feeling lost.

The Me My Family Never Knew

Somehow, in the midst of all that, I got married and had kids. I had a great family, but I still couldn’t shake the blues. I knew I was not the person I once was, and it struck me that the people in my home, the ones I loved the most, had no idea that such a person had ever even existed.

In fact, when a friend of mine paid a visit and showed some old video tapes of me acting and performing in skits and plays and amateur movies my friends and I had made, my wife at the time looked at me as if she had no idea who she married.
“I’ve never seen that side of you,” she said, “I love it.”

But I was still busy struggling and straining to be practical and failing miserably at it. The only practical thing I was succeeding at was feeling practically dead inside and exhausting those who cared about me.

Saying Yes for a Change

Then came my father’s Leukemia. My attempts to make him proud, in the way I thought I should, weren’t really panning out, and the time to do so was slipping away. Life had not gone as planned.

I think that’s why I agreed to do the play. It reminded me of better days, days when my friends and I had fun, and it had been a long, long time since I’d allowed myself to do anything that sounded like fun.

My friend Jennifer had called to see if I’d be interested. The theatre group was shy one actor.

“Umm, a musical?” I asked.

“Uh-huh,” she said.

There were reasons to say no. I was in my thirties and it had been fifteen years or more since I’d done any acting. I’d never been in a musical. Whatever singing voice I might have once had (I actually sang in a few weddings when I was younger) had been ground down by the cigarettes I smoked to escape my restlessness.

And it was community theatre, something many people regarded as the K-mart of the performing arts and the last bastion of ridiculous, wannabe actors. We would be a bunch of goofy people having a goofy time doing a goofy thing.

“Okay,” I said.

It was a blast. The people involved in the production were smart, warm, supportive, and fun. The practices were an escape from my troubles and depression. I felt alive. I felt happy. I felt a lot like the person I used to be.

We did three performances. Friends came, my wife and the kids came, and on a Saturday night, my parents came. They all laughed, but no one laughed as hard as my father did.

My Father’s Delight

Oh, how he laughed, and I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Back stage, the others grinned and remarked how much he seemed to be enjoying himself.

Afterward, when it came time to go out and greet the audience, a few of the other cast members and I made our way to the front row. My dad was there, smiling like a big kid, working to rise from his seat. When he stood, he embraced me.
He shook his head, looked at us through watery eyes, and said, “I just want you to know you sure made an old man happy tonight. I haven’t laughed that hard in a very long time, and I really needed something to laugh about.”

My new friends and I had made an old man, my old man, happy, and we’d done it by doing something that made us happy.

What a Little Joy Can Do

I wondered how much happier I could have made him through the years if I had simply followed my heart and pursued the things I loved. I wondered how much joy I could bring to everyone I love, if I just did things that brought me joy too.

I don’t know if I always made my father proud, or if that even mattered. What I do know for certain, however, is that one night, a night when he and I both needed it most, I made him laugh, and that makes me proud.

In a few short months after that night, my father passed away. The last gift I ever gave to him, it turns out, was a gift I gave by simply using my own.

That’s why you absolutely, positively have to share your gifts. And I’m not talking about the the respectable, admirable, or sensible ones. I’m talking about the ones that make you giddy, the ones that make you feel like you might be floating.

You have a gift like that, something you love, something you enjoy, something that lights you up inside. Those are the gifts you have to share because you have a need to share them, and because there’s someone out there who has a need to receive them. And that’s really the only thing this trip called life is all about.

An Angry Letter from Your Big Idea


Dear Creative One,

This may surprise you, but I have a complaint. You see, I think you’ve been toying with me, and to be quite honest, I’m tired of it.

I don’t mean to seem ungrateful. I really do appreciate the effort you put forth in finding me, the hours and hours of thinking and digging and exploring you had to endure just to catch a glimpse of me.

And I’d be lying if I told you I’m not flattered by all the time you’ve spent daydreaming about me ever since we met.

Yes, I know all about that.

But having said that, I need to tell you it’s no longer enough. I’m no longer satisfied with being your plaything. I’m ready for a commitment.

For one thing, I find it confusing that you talk about me all the time to a handful of people and keep me a secret from everyone else. And every day, I grow more and more frustrated with the way you summon me, look at me, fawn over me, then send me away. I’m not just a pretty thing to look at.

You told me I was your dream. You told me how wonderful it would be if you and I could be together for all the world to see. Now, I want proof that it wasn’t all talk.

If you can’t provide that, then set me free. If you’re not serious about us, you could at least introduce me to someone who will appreciate me, someone who will give me the support I need to fully develop, someone who will put in the time and effort too make this thing real.

The sad thing is I’m not even asking for all that much. All I want is a little bit of your time each day. I’d even settle for each week. You, however, treat me as if I’m asking you to sacrifice everything.

That’s crazy. What good would I be to you or you to me if I asked you to burn yourself out for me? No good at all, that’s what.

But, nevertheless, you have to give me something. I can’t go on this way. It’s killing me, and I thought you should know.

Sincerely, Your Big Idea

How to Zig When Everyone Else is Zagging

zigzagThe world is whizzing by and your head’s spinning.Change isn’t just constant. It’s freaking relentless. The information flow’s a gusher. The order of the day? Chaos. Let’s see. What was that plan you made to stay sane?

You could just join the nearest crowd or take your place in the longest line. After all, there’s safety and comfort in numbers.

But here’s something to consider. One cool way to cut through the madness is to forge your own trail. Cutting left when everyone’s heading right can be a great adventure. Alternative wisdom is the backbone of every great breakthrough.

Think Einstein. Think Curie. Think Picasso. Think. Ready to move in your own new direction? Here are: 7 Ways to Zig When Everyone Else is Zagging

1. Steady your pace when everyone else is accelerating.

Faster, faster. It’s the call of the modern age. We have the need for speed, or so we think.

But while you’re pushing the pedal to the metal just to keep up with the Joneses, ask where everybody’s going and why they’re in such a hurry.

A lot of people got behind the wheels of some pretty dumb loans and drove them down the drag strip towards ridiculous homes they couldn’t afford. Everyone was high on the exhaust fumes, until they crashed and burned. The winners, much to our dismay, are the ones who took the slow road, saved their money, and lived within their means. Hmm. Interesting.

It’s an old saying, but it’s still true. Slow and steady wins the race. Find your pace and know where you’re headed. It’s better than getting nowhere fast.

2. Follow your instincts when everyone else is following trends.

When I was in college, I made a dumb move. I tried to be practical. Turns out, I suck at it.

I read the career guide magazines, the ones that blathered on about the hottest industries and the top ten careers for anyone with a brain. Those magazines left out a few things like interests, passion, and strengths.


Following their advice, I ended up banging my head against the work for decades.

Those years are gone, but I still have today and so do you. If the hot trends leave you cold, follow the trend from within. It’s the surest way to a path that keeps you warm.

3. Work on mastering the pieces when everyone else is working on a masterpiece.

Everyone wants to be a master, but mastery takes practice and that just bores some folks to tears.

Some want to write the great American novel, but won’t take the time to craft a great sentence. Others dream of being millionaires, but would never dream of doing all the stuff that millionaires do.

While everyone else has their eyes on the prize, focus your sights on the hundred and one steps it takes to win it, and master them one at a time.

You’ll need to learn to draw a straight line before you can paint the Mona Lisa.

4. Speak softly when everyone else is shouting.

When every thing’s printed in bold red letters, a message written in small italics stands out. When everyone is clamoring for attention, you can’t help but notice the quiet and the calm.

Do what it takes to build a quiet brand of confidence and people will take notice. In the midst of all that noise, some peace and sensibility is precisely what people will be looking for.

5. Decide who you’re going to be when everyone else is deciding what to do next.

A whole lot of people are looking for instructions, a set of blue prints, for the seven steps to everything.

Have you looked at the self-help section of your local book store? Looks like everybody’s got some secrets and they’re selling them for 19.95.

Few, however, take the time to ask, “Who am I?” or “Who do I want to be?” Figure that out, and the doing comes natural. It’s like you have an inner filter. You know what works and what mucks things up. You know what to let in and what to keep out. You know what to do and what not to do.

While others are looking for the secrets of success, take the time to define what success actually means to you. Achieving it will be less of a mystery.

6. Seek to build relationships when everyone else is seeking to build a fortune.

If you really want to feel rich, accept all forms of payment. When it comes to happiness, studies show that beyond a certain point, money’s just added padding.

Love is the real gold standard. Connection, interaction, contribution, and intimacy, believe it or not, are better than a three car garage and a big screen TV.

While the others are counting their assets, be one to the people around you. You’ll get a greater return on investment.

7. Focus on being purposeful while everyone else is focusing on being productive.

It’s great to be productive if your productivity has a purpose, but a lot of people are burning their way through to-do lists like it’s an Olympic sport and they’re going for the gold.

“Look at all the things I got done!” they shout, “Now, what was the mission?” But if you’ve steadied your pace and followed your instincts, practiced the pieces and built that quiet brand of confidence, know precisely who you are and use that knowledge to be an asset to the people you meet, you’ll know what your mission is.


Better than a list of things you’ve done, you’ll have a list of reasons for why you do anything and you can use that to guide you.

So, What Will It Be?

Are you gonna zag, or are you gonna zig?

My No Regret To Do List


Sit down and write. Get up and run. Those are the only things I have to do each morning before I start the rest of my day. If I do those two things, it doesn’t matter how that rest-of-my-day goes. I did what I promised myself I’d do, and there’s a very good chance I’ll do it again tomorrow.

This is the only thing that works for me. Every other method I’ve attempted to use to move forward has either left me standing still or falling behind. Nothing gets written. My middle expands. My body, brain, and mood slowly atrophy. It gets harder to get up, get back, and get on with it.

That’s a painful place to be. It hurts like your spirit has a migraine. An even greater danger is the possibility of going numb, forgetting what it feels like to feel anything at all. I’ve been there. It’s the ever loving pits.

Writing and running are two things that keep such ailments at bay. How? I’m not really sure. I only know that I have never felt an ounce of regret for doing either of them.

What are your no regret activities? Painting?  yoga? practicing your scales, listening to music without thinking of anything else, caring for animals, tending a garden, hugging loved ones, paying sincere compliments, doing favors for those who are truly in need of some?

When was the last time you did them? If it’s been a while, how can you get back in the swing of things? Could you start small? Could you make it a part of your routine? Is it really that much harder to fit into your day than brushing your teeth, combing your hair, or stopping to grab something to eat?

When is the best time? When you first get up? Right before you go to bed? Smack dab in the middle of your day so you can take time to breathe, relax, and refocus? Only you can answer that. Will you?

I believe in this. I also believe you deserve this, not because you’re better than anyone else, but because you’re so very much like everyone else. Because you’re human. It’s okay to be human. It’s okay to not be a superhero who never gets tired and never has needs. It’s okay to take time each day and do something that nourishes you.

Sometimes people need to be reminded of that. I know I do. I’m assuming you do, too, so today I sat down and I wrote this. Now I’m going to get up and run.