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I’ve moved

I know I haven’t been all that active here but I still want to express my opinion in a relatively safe place from time to time.  I was thinking about where and who I am and I felt like the title of this blog no longer reflects that.  I don’t doubt, I’m pretty firm in my non-belief.

The title also seems to have a slight negative sound to it so I created a new place on Blogger called AtheistAmy.  I may post a lot, I may post a little, but I’m going to try to post.  I’m also going to move some of my favorite posts from here over there.

I’ve seen this little gem posted on Facebook a few times.  I know, I know.  For my own sanity I should just walk away.  Poking the crazy is such a strong temptation but I figured torching a friendship (or fracturing family relations) is not worth feeling superior over.  So instead I’m going to do it here.

Back to this not-funny cartoon:

Interestingly this comic touches on two things that  ZOMG!OppressedChristians! (TM) like to twist to make it seem like the evil atheists are trying to abolish or take away their enjoyment of their faith.

Most obvious is the War on Christmas (TM)!  There is no war on Christmas.  I don’t give a flying fuck if you wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, or Chrismahanukwanzikah.  When you say any of these to me, I assume that it reflects your beliefs and I usually will smile and respond “You too!”.  I alternate between Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays depending on the person, and if I were working a customer service job I would default to Happy Holidays.  The reason isn’t not offending, the reason is that I wish to be as inclusive as possible.   Religion isn’t obvious, like blue eyes or red hair.  People choose religion, and sometimes even change religions.  I don’t know if the person in front of me is Jewish, Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Pagan, or whatever.  I wish everyone happiness at this time.

So go have yourself a Merry Christmas.  Hell, say it as much as you want.  Just don’t demand that I say it too, because it doesn’t show how christian you are, it shows how much of an asshole you are and how insecure you are that you need sheep bellowing the same thing all around you.

The less obvious part of this is separation of church and state.  Once again, this totally misses the point.  Kids will not get in trouble if they express their faith in public school.   It’s one thing to say “I’m Christian and I celebrate Christmas”.  It’s another to expect everyone else to do the same.  And if I recall correctly, teachers and administrators can get in trouble if they discuss religion in any way that promotes one above any others or with any intention of proselytizing.  However, if this little boy said to another child “You are dumb because you don’t celebrate Christmas”, then maybe a trip to the principal’s office is in order.

Us Evil Atheists are not looking to take away Christmas.  I celebrate it as a secular holiday and as a time to share love with my family and friends.  Giving gifts makes me happy.  Other’s celebrate it as Yule, or the solstice.  It is also a federal holiday.  Don’t be a herd animal and post this drivel.  Spend that energy elsewhere, be a role model and use that energy to help others, not just in December but all year long.  Charities that have a glut of volunteers in December have a difficult time finding them in the summer.  Use those mouse clicks to spend $20 to help feed or immunize people in impoverished countries (or hey, your own country, we have plenty of hungry and homeless people here).  If you are privileged enough that all you have to worry about is this War on Christmas bullshit, rejoice and Happy Holidays!

Maybe Next Year

I have been watching all the videos from Skepticon IV and I really wish I could have been there.  I particularly liked Hemant’s and Greta’s presentations.  While I am more an more comfortable with my atheism, it is still sometimes a lonely existence and I think of how fun it would be to share an experience like this with like-minded people.  Unfortunately my schedule does not easily allow for this (nor does my budget).  However I’m getting more bold about revealing my atheism and in turn, I’m finding out that some people around me share my point of view.

Refreshing.

I also want to acknowledge JT Eberhard’s presentation about mental illness.  I have struggled in the past with major depression (was nearly hospitalized) and moderate anxiety.  While my family was unflinchingly supportive as I sought out help, my husband was slower to come around because he viewed it as a sign of weakness (if you saw JT’s speech, this is mentioned).  After the first two weeks I was in therapy and on medication, I made a complete turnaround.  I was able to stop taking my meds (only to go back on temporarily a few years later) and have come to pay more attention to my moods.  Going through treatment taught me to get more in touch with my emotions, since bottling them up to not burden anyone doesn’t really work all that well.  In fact it usually results in another relapse.  Now when I start getting that panicky feeling for no reason, I can often talk myself down because I now recognize it for what it is, a total overreaction by my flight or flight response.   And if I’m in a funk for more than a few days, I take a look at what I’m doing and how I’m being.  Often if I shake up my routine a bit and get in more sunshine and activity I can avoid that downward slope into depression (I’m solar powered, who knew?).  This is what works for me, and I want to avoid going back on meds because I hate that fuzzy feeling I get when I’m on them.  Yet I know that if I reached a point where shaking up my life a bit will not pull me out, I would not hesitate to seek out counseling and medication if warranted.  They really can be a miracle for those suffering.

Before I was prescribed Prozac for the first time I was sleeping 12-14 hours a day and still moving through my waking life as if I were half-asleep.  I would cry at damn near any perceived slight or frustration, and I would have random panic attacks for no good reason (it was fun feeling like I couldn’t leave the restroom at work without totally flipping out).  When I finally decided to seek out a referral from my regular doctor, the combination of fear, relief, and disappointment in myself triggered a 2-day crying jag.  That right there let me know I was on the right path.

I was tired of not being able to function.  I was tired of trying to fake normalcy for everyone around me.  I no longer wanted to live the way I was, but I wanted to live.  JT is right, we need to remove the stigma on mental illness.  Being depressed is not a sign of weakness, having hallucinations is not a sign of weakness, having panic attacks is not a sign of weakness.   They are signs that there is a chemical imbalance that needs to be corrected.  Much like diabetes, or hyperthyroidism, or any number of diseases and disorders that require maintenance medication.  Seeking help is not a sign of weakness.

It is a sign that you are strong enough to realize  you need help.

At what age is it appropriate to read “A Handmaid’s Tale”?

My oldest daughter is almost 13 and I think I may have her read it soon.  Especially after the past few months of legislation defunding Planned Parenthood, and many states making women jump through hoop after hoop to obtain an abortion (I was going to add more links, but there are too many).

Today during lunch, my mother, mother-in-law and I got into a spirited discussion about abortion rights.  Kind of a heated and strange topic for Mother’s Day (or not).  I was pleasantly surprised to find that my mother is very much pro-choice.  I always thought she leaned more anti-abortion, but I suspect that legislation in recent years, augmented by emails from a very pro-choice friend of hers, has given her the courage to state that nobody has the right to dictate what happens to a woman’s body except the woman herself.

Why is this topic on an atheism blog you may ask?

It is my experience that religion and anti-choice tend to go hand in hand.  The subtle difference between ethics and morals is missed.  Just because your religion dictates a certain moral code does not mean that we all must live by that code.   Your religion may teach that abortion is a sin and wrong and should be outlawed.  I don’t share your religion, so I do not necessarily share your moral code, yet that does not mean I live without morals.   Many on the religious right try to force their beliefs on everyone, despite what the law states.

Margaret Atwood’s novel illustrates what could happen if everyone were forced to live under one moral code, whether or not you believe in it.   My daughter is intelligent and emotionally mature.  She recently read Fahrenheit 451 and Animal Farm and was able to discuss both with me and I sense that she likes to read books that challenge her to think about society and what is accepted versus what is acceptable (not always the same).  Books that challenge one to think and form their own opinions seem rare these days.  These modern classics seem perfect for sparking interesting conversations and often help you see society from different viewpoints.  Any other suggestions for similar books that are captivating reads?

This past year or so has been a trying time for women’s rights.  They are being chipped away at piece by piece, starting with the easiest and most contentious target, women’s health.  Lawmakers like to frame their argument, claiming it is trying to reduce abortions, when they are most likely increasing unwanted pregnancies and STDs due to birth control and low-cost health care being taken away.  I guess if you are a low-income, single woman you shouldn’t have sex.   Ever.  And if you do you are forced to have a child you are unable to care for.  All those people who care so much about keeping your fetus alive care so very little once you have an actual child.  Because now you are a parasite on the system, living on welfare.  It puts a lot of people in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

Lately I fear I’m becoming a broken record on the issue.  I see myself moving fairly quickly from a sometime feminist (only caring about what directly affected me), to a full fledged cheerleader of women’s rights and a cog in the machine that must make a change in the world for all women.  It has been my intent not to react due to fear, but fear has been the driving force of this evolution of mine.  Fear that my daughters will grow up to live in a world where important choices regarding their health are made for them, without any regard as to circumstance.  Fear that they will live in a world where women are still not given full credit, and still fear to make their opinion heard.  Fear that a world could once again exist where they will be labeled as criminals for taking control of their reproductive health in the way they see fit.

A little fear can be a good thing if it creates a space for us to rise up and challenge the source of that fear.

When you post a long-winded “prayer”, an incomprehensible rant against our president that repeats talking points,  or want to “fly a flag” protesting the Muslim rec center and then spam everybody asking people to repost, it does not win you my friendship.  It makes me mentally put a tick mark in the column labeled “asshole”.

So, I finally commented on Pharyngula.  Never really thought I would since the discussions often left me fearful of inviting a smack down of epic proportions.  After reading the responses on the “Woman Problem” thread, I got to wondering why I was so fearful.  I think I gained some insight into why I don’t often express my opinion.  In some ways, I’ve been told repeatedly that my opinion doesn’t matter and that I shouldn’t exercise any type of self-confidence.  Sometimes overtly, sometimes subtly.

For instance, there was one discussion I had with my husband a while back.  We had a minor scheduling conflict involving a child’s birthday (our best friends) and our child’s soccer game.  He thought our daughter should just skip her game and go to the party.  I thought that we paid for her to play soccer, and her team was counting on her being there, and we could arrive to the party late, but still attend.  He told me I need to be careful while asserting myself that I don’t shit on those closest to me.  That pissed me off and at the time I couldn’t really see the real reason why.  Now I know that it was a roundabout way of saying that he was always right, and I always had to fight for my opinion.  In the end, I went to the game with her and he went ahead to the party with our other daughter.  We showed up late and everything was fine, even if he was a little prickly towards me.

Not to give him a pass on this moment of bad behavior (it doesn’t happen often), but a lot of his opinion was borne out of fear.  He has this idea that all it would take is one “no” to our friends and we will no longer be in their good graces.

It makes me think that a lot of the societal marginalizing of women is borne out of fear.  (Before I hear a “No shit, Sherlock!”, I would direct you to an earlier thread which highlights the fact that I seem to be coming into critical thinking fairly late. )

As I so often  point out to my husband, he is a straight upper middle-class white male, enjoying all the privileges that comes with being one.  By this very nature, he is inherently blind to the issues of minorities (women, POC, gays, etc.).  This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially for him, it just is what it is.  The downside to this is that he has a tendency to deny there is a problem, sort of like a knee jerk reaction.  Because it doesn’t affect him, it doesn’t affect anybody else.  It’s a lazy way of thinking, but those that are “privileged” in society don’t really have a reason to think otherwise.  Unless they are married or have daughters, or have minorities as friends, co-workers, in-laws, etc.  He has become more sensitive to women’s issues due to the fact that I consider it my mission to educate him when he is dead wrong, and the fact that we have daughters that will one day be women.

Those in power (whether they realize the are or not) sense someone or something challenging their power, and they get scared.  A common response to fear is denial.  So combine the inherent blind spot and fear, then add denial, and there can be a major roadblock to progress.  Add a few people who tend to be a little more testosterone laden than others, and a situation (either globally or personally) can become a very scary thing for women, gays, etc.  There are many men who are aware of their power and wield it like a weapon, and there are others, thank goodness, who realize that they can use their power to make things more equal.  We need more of the latter.

We also need more women to stand up and speak up.  I acknowledge that this can be scary.  Start with a fairly safe audience, like friends with similar thinking, and express an opinion that you normally would have kept quiet about due to fear.  Sometimes it even helps to acknowledge that you are afraid you will be jumped on for this opinion and stress that you need a safe place to voice it.  It’s practice for bigger audiences, or less receptive ones.

I need to take this advice more often myself.  I “practice” with my husband.  We can often have spirited debates, but I know that even if he doesn’t agree with me in the end, I will have been heard, and I may have even educated someone on the realities of being a woman.  For instance, I expressed a desire to be more involved in women’s rights, whether through an organization, or involvement in local issues.  He made a comment that all the issues have been solved.

After picking myself off the floor after laughing so hard, I explained to him that while a lot of big issues have been “solved” (voting, equal rights, etc.) there were still problems.  In the U.S. there is still a pay discrepancy between women and men (it keeps getting smaller, but it’s not equal yet).  There is the whole health care issue.  Not just abortion rights, but rights to birth control, and affordable health care for women and children.  Globally there is still a huge issue.  There are many places in the world where women are not allowed to have an opinion, let alone any control over their own lives, and live in constant fear of rape as a method of control.  When I stopped to take a breath, he acquiesced and admitted that maybe he didn’t know the whole story.

One thing that stood out for me in the comments over at Pharyngula, was how much us women see a subtle oppression, whether it is in assuming societal “norms” of behavior, such as women being quiet, diplomatic, and conflict phobic, you know, just smile and be nice, or as insidious as girls still being discouraged from the hard sciences and maths (Barbie uttered “Math class is hard” as recently as 1992), while men tend not to notice this at all.  Yes, there are exceptions, but without research and statistics backing this up, would these men be aware of the problem?

I have been in situations where I point out that certain things are a problem for women (equal pay for instance), and I get a wave of the hand and a “Pshht” that dismisses me right out of hand.  This has to stop.  Just because you don’t want to hear it, or are afraid of losing power, doesn’t make it any less real or valid.

Wow, I got a little long winded.  I could probably write about this all day, but there are many more who have done so much more eloquently and skillfully than I have.

I finally put on my big girl panties and commented, and I will probably continue to do so in conversations that interest me.

So, I was out of town for the weekend and just got around to watching Real Time with Bill Maher from Friday, May 14.

I was interested to see what S.E. Cupp had to say since there seemed to be a bit of a buzz about her book and the fact that she was a guest.

My verdict?  S.E. Cupp is an idiot.  She may be earnest and have the strength of her convictions, but she’s an idiot.

The first alarm bell went off when she talked about Joy Behar saying that teaching creationism is child abuse.  Ms. Cupp goes on to say that this is ridiculous, creationism taught as an allegory* is not child abuse, completely disregarding the fact that those who wish to see creationism taught in school are not teaching it as an allegory, they are trying to teach it as a “factual” alternative to evolution, or Darwinism.  This, in my mind is nearing child abuse, it is teaching, with authority, something that is not factually true, and in fact cannot be studied, proven, or disproved.  If the schools in my area (which I pay about 1/3 of my taxes to) were to teach this garbage, you bet I would be vocal about it.

There is also the pesky little problem of creationism being only one viewpoint – the Christian one.  Once again, I would be first in line saying they need to also teach how the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe and touched us with his noodly appendage.

Ms. Cupp’s second attempt at defending her argument was saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was basically about land rights.

Ok, I’ll give you that, but she is ignoring the fact that religion is often used as justification for the escalation of violence.  This violence often starts with one faction trying to make a “land grab” in the name of religion.  Or in the case of the middle east, believing that the Jews were rightfully thrown out of the holy land, or that nobody can claim it until they are pious enough to deserve it.

It seems as though she already has a conclusion and she is trying to massage facts to back it up, instead of amassing and analyzing data, and then coming to a conclusion.

Personally, I think she’s using the controversial fact that she’s an atheist defending Christianity to sell a load of horseshit.

*allegory (from Merriam-Webster): the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; also : an instance (as in a story or painting) of such expression

Creationism isn’t the truth.  Creationism is a fictional story to try to explain the truth.

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