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    Last Goodbyes

    By TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Death for me over the years has rarely been difficult to process and move on. I've buried quite a few, only mourned a couple. The two I mourn are now memories I guard so earnestly a mother bear could not rival my ferocity. These two people immediately bring on the wet eyes and short tight breaths when I just so much as think on their lives, their influence, and my loss.   This past January I experienced a third loss of someone very important in my life. It's hit me very hard, and I am surprised it's taken me this long to be able to pick up a pen and put it to paper finally. It's been thirty days, and this is still difficult to even bother to proof read. I did pour out my initial shock and pain all over social media. I tracked every article on his death I could find. I even found video from where he was that day and watched a VBIED explode in the distance. I had to somehow be there. Witness his chaos, hear the intensity, and visualize the finality that damage brought on in the war he volunteered to fight in.   Albert Avery Harrington had volunteered to fight with Kurdish forces against ISIL two years ago. When he had initially announced his plans, I debated, I argued, and I even pleaded for him to reconsider and find another way to render aid. I knew he would end up severely injured, or worse, dead. But he went anyway, fully accepting the almost guaranteed risks that would change his, and the lives of all who loved him, forever.   He sought life and purpose on his own path, and if death found him, at least it was while he was in pursuit of what made his existence fulfilled. This outlook on life is the only reason I can accept his death without anger or regret. No anger at his dying in a situation that he willingly allowed danger to follow, or regret that I never convinced him to put down this flag for a noble cause.   Our last goodbye was back in September. He'd asked me if I could use my press privileges and get him in to Kurdistan. I'd laughed him off, quietly relieved he wasn't currently in harm's way for the moment. I knew it was only a matter of time though, and once again I would get erratic messages from the front lines in Kurdistan where he would complain about needing sleep and I would promise him the juiciest burger money could buy once he got back.   If.   But he didn't make it back. January 18th he and four others were hit by not one, but two, VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) during a special offensive titled "Wrath of the Euphrates" in a small village called Suwaydiya-Saghirah village in Raqqa. The goal was to cut off the supply line to ISIS's stronghold in Raqqa. Three men were instantly killed, and Avery succumbed to his wounds in the morning hours of the 22nd at age 50. He is listed as a martyr with YPG/MFS Kurdish forces and buried in the land where he fought to defend innocents against ISIL's tyrannical cult. It appears their sacrifice has paid off since Kurdish forces have wrested control of Kukhkhan and Bir Said villages from ISIL in northern Raqqa.   While the progress made since his death has been bittersweet, seeing the word martyr was a difficult thing to process at first. See, like myself, Avery was an atheist. He was living proof of atheist in foxholes and he was very much a humanist. One I try to model myself after. Honestly, I don't know how he gave so much of himself to so many. I get exhausted, but Avery thrived on it, I believe. "Give me a mission," he would say. So, when I saw him being referred to as a martyr, my teeth began to grind. The days to come proved even harder when others began to share their own pain and thoughts on his passing.   As I followed up on news posted on his remembrance page, I began reading the thoughts and prayers comments. I also had to walk away from my computer a few times when I read speculation about whether he'd gotten right with god or turned back to Christ on his death bed.   At first, I interpreted this kind of talk as an affront to what he stood for. His legacy should not be tarnished with the idea he was going to Hell unless he managed a last minute conversion. Could people not see the insult to everything he stood for by questioning his very humanity based on a belief system he did not even ascribe to? Those questions and speculations made me cry. They made me angry. I felt Avery's very purpose of pursuing a larger case for compassion on the world stage had been overshadowed. And after my rage subsided, I realized what was wrong with all these thoughts that were screaming in my head.   The word "I".   The long and the short of it all comes down to the fact Avery is dead. He can no longer be personally offended. He can't feel. He is oblivious to the world as he lays in his box under hundreds of pounds of dirt and rock in Syria. This is about my desire to preserve his memory in my life as I feel it should be. When the desires of other's to do the same do not match up to mine, then I want to stomp them out. And this is incredibly unfair. It minimizes the grief of others, it alienates in a time when coming together is most comforting.   The desire or belief that Avery found God and is now in Heaven does no harm to his memory in my life. It puts a comfort to the personal loss of another, and I don't have the right to control another's grieving process by demanding their hopes be dashed. Just as Avery showed understanding for religious culture and customs of those he sought to protect, why can I not afford the same respect to those who now have a gaping loss to deal with in their lives like I do?   This is a practice I will struggle with for years to come, as do all of us, but for those of us who do not believe in a hereafter, we feel the loss even more permanently than those who do believe. Why should I make a demand for conformity on behalf of those who are dead? Why allow the anger to take away from what we have lost? Do I really need to ask them why their God saw fit to allow such atrocity that eventually motivated Avery to protect those God would not? No, I won't do that. Even if when some say this god supposedly had a plan for Avery.   Grief and loss do not belong to only one individual, though the process is individually different because of perception of the relationship one shared with the deceased. All of us who loved and cherished Avery have one thing in common, his death. Some of us will look forward to dining with him at the table in Valhalla, the rest of us have only his influence to pass on through our own actions so he may life on in the life of others - even if some who will be influenced by him, won't even know his name or know he is the source of their benefit.   I can honestly say that my relationship with Avery ended with no regrets, and the past is forever the past, and tomorrow will always show me where we once were together.   I love you, Avery. We miss you.
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A Ranting Downward Spiral

I had drafted this a few months back: It's been 1.5 years now since the moment the concept of the Christian god no longer made sense to me.  It wasn't like I chose for this to happen. There was something deeper that changed, where my inner logic snapped out of the Christian mindset and started nodding along with the agnostics, atheists, the non-religious.    The problem is that I had deep dark voids within myself that religion used to fill. Lack the love, compassion, and attention of an earthly father? Well, don't worry - your heavenly father loves you eternally.  Spent nights alone enduring arguments and occasional physical abuse in an unhealthy home environment? Don't worry - imaginary saints, angels, god are all there with you carrying you even when you can't see them.  I was taught to seek external validation constantly. I was taught to do everything perfectly out of fear for if my mother was in a bad mood, she would lash out at me. So don't do anything that could possibly upset mother.  And yet sometimes the abuse would come without doing anything wrong at all. For being a kid.    I've clung to imaginary religious figures my entire life, through depressing, lonely nights  in my youth. Through breakdowns in the shower so nobody to could hear the sobs through the water. There were voids, hate for myself, all that religion just "miraculously" filled.  But now that religion is gone, and the voids have returned. So what do you do? By default you fill them with whatever closes good thing you have. In my case, it's my relationship.    But the obsessive dependency religion slowly trains you to have is not healthy. Why is it we have this weird acceptance in society that being obsessively dependent on religion is OK but not otherwise, such as in a romantic relationship?  It should never be OK.    So now I'm left with those voids and trying to figure out how you're supposed to fill them in a healthy way.  I also don't how to define a life purpose now, what should motivate me to want to wake up everyday because deep down I don't have a reason right now.  It's challenging when hardship comes. When I consider my life, it seems more negative than positive, with a few shining lights along the way.  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Now adding from present-day, I feel alone. I've moved away from family/friends for work. My boyfriend and I - both atheists - have trouble meeting people like ourselves. Though we consider ourselves outliers of common society.  Sometimes while driving on the interstate, I just get this urge to keep driving. Where, I don't know. My aunts and uncles, grandparents, are all getting older. I'm watching my parents age, watch them struggle in poverty and emotional chaos, the chaos that once chained me for so long.  I'm watching my dad suffer from depression, from lack of social skills. He says he doesn't want to wake up. My mother looks to me like I'm her mentor. I'm only 24. How backwards this life seems to be.  I seem to be one of the strong few who can pull it all together in times of doubt. But as I get older, and these difficult situations arise, and now that I don't have god... I don't know if I can do it.  My brother is 9 years my senior, and yet he's not ready to deal with the emotional damage from our childhood. I guess that makes me the wiser one here. The rock for everyone else. I'm playing the role of project manager in helping my dad get help, helping my mom get her life together. Only because she's finally ready to help herself.    But deep down some days I just feel empty inside, lacking motivation to do anything I used to dream of doing. The music within me feels like it's dying out, and I'm not sure how to get it back.  Religion used to be my steady ground. But without it now, I feel like I'm over a deep, depressing abyss that is always under my feet, just every once in a while hidden by the pale glow of fading sunlight.    Thank you, false hope and ignorant religion, for adding to my list of disappointments.    -B.   

AnonAgno94

AnonAgno94

 

The Prayer that Never Fails

A woman I knew in high school in the 1970s, and who was ordained as a Methodist minister a few years ago, posted some photos on Facebook of a trip she took to Israel a few years ago. Along with the photos, she commented "The prayer that never fails, 'Thy will be done.'"   I would call that "the ultimate salve for cognitive dissonance". In "the Lord's prayer" Jesus reputedly said "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven."   James 4:13-16 says " 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. "   In Mark 11 Jesus is said to have claimed that if a person has faith, they can tell a mountain to move and God will make it happen. In James, it is said that if you're sick and you call the elders to pray for you, you'll get well. These promises don't have caveats (except for a lack of faith in the first one). Ask for it, and as long as you have faith it will happen -- period!   But when people add "if it's your will" (or, more likely the antiquated English phrase "if it be thy will"), they provide an "out." This "out" isn't for their god, but for themselves. If they add "if it be thy will" then when it doesn't happen, they don't have to wonder why their god didn't keep his promise. They can just say "I suppose it must not have been God's will." Between that and "God's ways are higher than man's ways" they give themselves a way to ignore the fact that the relationship between saying prayers and things actually happening is completely random. There's no positive correlation unless people are praying for things that are likely. There's no negative correlation unless they're praying for things that are unlikely. Saying "thy will be done" allows them to count the "hits" and ignore the "misses."   The terms "Postdiction" and "Hindsight Bias" usually refer to the way psychics go back after the fact and "prove" their abilities by telling you about the things they got right, but it applies to prayer even better, because with prayer, the believer has been taught ahead of time that if what they are praying for doesn't happen, it's not because there's nobody listening -- it's because it just wasn't what their god thought best. You've no doubt heard the expression that some unfortunate person "can't win for losing." Well, people's gods can't lose for winning!   Recent studies have shown that when people are shown statistics, they will often dig in their heels regarding their false beliefs. That being the case, how would you go about showing a Christian or other religious person that "thy will be done" is an evolutionary adaptation of their religion to keep itself replicating throughout the ages?   It seems so obvious from the outside.

Lerk

Lerk

 

We're All Broken, We're All Fragile, and We're All a Statistic

Having a friend make headline news by becoming the embodiment of everything wrong in the world was not how I imagined my evening would begin. Scott Smith, one of the hosts of the Recovering From Religion podcast, top dog activist for Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF ), father of three, and all around good guy, turned a very dark corner earlier today. He shot and killed his wife and then took his own life just as police arrived. Three school age girls are going home to relatives instead of their own bedrooms and welcoming arms of their parents. The footsteps of mom and dad in the hall to tuck them in are now permanently relegated to memory and dreams. The loving smile of dad is now a porcelain veneer of menace boiling beneath.    Some might take offense to all this imagery, but the reality is whether mental illness was the primary cause or not (many say it was his losing to ptsd), he murdered his wife. He committed domestic violence. I feel that the constant woe of his ptsd being the cause removes some accountability from Scott's plate, and I am not going to have that. We can discuss this reality without eviscerating him. This was a man who was keenly aware of how ptsd affected him. His years in the military and then learning to live as a civilian activist out there to protect vets and bring further understanding to ptsd is important. He is not without his own weaknesses, and maybe the news of his wife's divorce pushed him to an edge he had never traversed before. This does not lessen or change the fact he committed domestic violence. He murdered his wife. He took an opportunity to control his life how he saw fit, and forced his soon to be ex-wife to follow. He even called the police and told them what he was doing. Once again, someone burned it all down because it wasn't going their way and they had to have absolute control.   Does it really need to be said for the millionth time that mental health is a huge issue that is still taking baby steps to become a mature discussion in this country?  And right now is the time in our community of freethinkers to seriously evaluate this issue in our own ranks. We cannot always see or know what is going on behind closed doors in our friends' lives, but we can consistently promote a very personal avenue of communication to find these dark moments in our impulses and try to diffuse them before they become tragedy. We can be active participants in our local communities to demand better crisis services without stigma. We can educate our communities that staying in the hospital for mental health reasons is not a thing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Self-care must happen or we cannot take care of those we love. We will hurt them as we hurt ourselves. I have personally been to that dark edge and back, and luckily my family and I walked away intact. I didn't hide, but embraced help for once. But that was only after barely waking up from an intentional overdose because I couldn't process my guilt.   Some might look back and say Scott was a good man who had his own demons that got the better of him. Some might look back and say he was a bad man, letting this murder define his legacy. What we should be looking back on is how we can help prevent more of these types of violent episodes from occurring due to any number of reasons, simply by being present and demanding we all take care of ourselves through proper programs and resources instead of the way Scott did it in the end.    PTSD didn't kill his wife. He did. Let's prevent this from happening again.

TheBluegrassSkeptic

TheBluegrassSkeptic

 

Enabling Coping Patterns Strike Again

It was a timing much like other realized moments of accounting in my life. I sat at the red light. Chest tight, my eyes wet and slippery, the church on the opposite corner rang its bells. Its enormous clock had struck 7p while I was waiting at the intersection. Like a reverberant pang of regret, the tolling of the bells echoed the hollow sentiments that had gripped a of hold me. The deep pangs of grief I had begun wrestling with physically pulsed in my ears as every dark note rang out from that church tower. The red light seemed to last forever. Seconds like minutes. My thoughts becoming a monsoon of physical discomfort. And that red halo cast down onto the sliver hood of my car, also colored me with a shade of self loathing I hadn't experienced in years.   A cold reality I had doggedly avoided for almost two years now, crept into my future planning quite painfully just a few minutes before I had reached that light.   I sat there, seething with a raging disbelief that I had once again shown my penchant for using shitty enabling patterns for coping in life. I once again ripped my own heart to shreds. I knew I had willfully ignored the flags for months. I once again ignored the lack of results when expressing my own needs. I had straight up given away three years of dedication under a personally enforced blind eye - and now was being asked for potentially fifteen years more of the same. To continue a perpetual state of unsatisfying relationship roles. I sat at that red light and blistered with incredulous laughter, tears, and white-knuckled fingers on a steering wheel.   Could I really be so angry at him for what I so plainly continued to enable? A friend in public, but spoken for in private. His holding back on communicating relationship issues with me under the guise of "looking out for my feelings". His absence in my everyday life. No. I wasn't going to lay all of this at his feet. He didn't make this the norm. I allowed it. I did this. My fear of demanding for myself that which makes my life enjoyable. My fear of admitting it isn't okay and it needs to change immediately. My lack of belief that I do deserve the good things with someone I care about.  With every bell that tolled, I was mentally going through the checklist of what I needed, and not one box was marked off. A voice that was not just acknowledged, but respected and adhered to. Equal control of the relationship. Self-respect to demand and enforce what I need to be happy too. A fucking picture together. A good hump at least once a week. Yeah, three years - no pictures together. What was I thinking?   The light turned green, the bells were silent. My mascara shown all over the back of my hands in that emerald hued spotlight as I made my turn. No goddamn picture. Still invisible to the public. So many flags and no check marks.   This is the devastation many feel in life. Especially when you have all the dreams in place at the other's behest, but not a single step has been taken to make it a reality. It's devastating because you realize that you compromised yourself for a shiny, dangling piece of fancy that you eventually knew wouldn't take off - but you chased it anyway.   Now three more years of my life are gone, and it isn't even a new lesson learned.  

TheBluegrassSkeptic

TheBluegrassSkeptic

 

The Wrath of God

Ah, life in the closet! Fodder for blog posts!   Sunday morning's sermon was called "Motivations for Holy Conduct." Sermons usually have 3 main points, and number three, which the most time was spent on, was "The Wrath of God."   This was pretty ironic, because I spend my time during the sermon reading in the Nook app on my phone. Right now I'm reading "The God Delusion," and I'm in chapter 7, "The 'Good' Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist". Part of the chapter deals with the wrath of this supposed god.   So while the preacher is droning on about how afraid we ought to be of going to Hell, and therefore motivated to do good, I'm reading a chapter that directly dismantles these arguments.   The wrath of Yahweh presented in the Bible has him bringing about natural disasters, or instructing the Jewish army to perpetrate war crimes (killing all men, women, and children, except for virgins, whom they could take home and rape), or punishing the wrong people -- Abraham passes Sarah off as his sister instead of his wife (twice), and the kings who take her into their harems are punished, rather than Abraham, who told the lie because he was afraid they'd kill him to take her if they knew she was his wife. Yahweh also gets really upset when Israel or Judah starts to follow one of his brothers, such as Baal. He'll wipe out a bunch of people just because he's jealous. It even says his name is "Jealous!"   Many modern theologians would protest that these stories are just metaphors for something. Of course, I'm in a fundamentalist church, so the preacher insists that these stories are real. Regardless, there's no moral lesson in these passages. The god depicted is capricious, unfair, and just plain evil.   The Old Testament in no way depicts modern morality, even though fundamentalists portray the book as being 100% consistent from beginning to end. This god of the Old Testament was ruthless and evil, and if he were real, we certainly would be afraid of his wrath, and on pins and needles because we would never know what little thing we do in ignorance might piss him off.   In the New Testament, we're supposedly forgiven because Jesus suffered in our place. The only thing is, "salvation" seems to be a sort-of light switch, constantly turning off and on. If I mess up, I'm headed for Hell until I repent. Not that anyone would directly say that, but it's implied in every sermon.   I suppose the most ironic thing about this "motivator for being holy" is that it's entirely fear based. God, in this picture, is an abuser. He's irrationally angry and will send you to eternal punishment ("where the worm dieth not") for really minor infractions, and for things that are considered sinful for no logical reason. It isn't a "works salvation," but it is. You can't earn salvation, but you have to try. You can be a really good person, do all of the things Yahweh insists upon, and still go to Hell because, well, works don't really count -- thought crimes will get you. Your church has an organ! Sorry, you're going to Hell! Oh, you thought you were saved before your were baptized? Sorry, your obedience doesn't count... off to Hell for you, too!   Illogical. But we aren't supposed to trust our own judgment, we're supposed to figure out what this inconsistent book is trying to tell us.   In Ron Reagan's FFRF ad, he concludes by saying "Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in Hell." When I first heard that I wasn't sure about its effectiveness, because to Christians this would sound arrogant. But the truth is that there's no reason to be afraid of burning in Hell. There's no reason to fear the wrath of a mythological being. In my imaginary conversations with Christians, I would ask them if they were afraid that Zeus would strike them with lightning. Their answer, of course, would be "no." Why? "Because Zeus isn't real." But aren't you afraid that he'll strike you with lightning for saying he isn't real? "Well, no, because he can't, because he isn't real!" Exactly! Yahweh can't send me to Hell because he isn't real. He can't get mad at me for saying he isn't real, because he isn't real! If you aren't afraid of Greek gods, you shouldn't be afraid of Hebrew gods, either.

Lerk

Lerk

 

#MeToo: Awareness Is Only A Beginning

If you haven't seen it yet, there is a hashtag floating around the past week that says simply #MeToo. This is in response to the growing fire storm in the media this past week about Harvey Weinstein's despicable behavior towards women he worked with. Many have come forward alleging instances of unwanted sexual advances, sexual touching, and even rape. Additionally, some other male actors have come under close scrutiny after being confronted about their own behaviors towards fellow female actresses in Hollywood. Much of what has always been acknowledged in the movie industry is now becoming a banner to rally under for the respectful treatment of female peers not just in the acting industry, but everywhere across the United States.   But, as I posted my own recognition of this very important hashtag, it brought out a lot of deeper reflection on what this is all about. This is not just about women coming forward and sharing that they have been sexually harassed or abused in life so that others do not feel alone in their suffering. This is about male victims too. And it is a physical showing of hands on the national stage. It is a movement that is putting a sea of faces out there for all to see and measure. It is showing the grim reality that it isn't a rare occurrence at home, work, school, or public bar scene. Turns out that sexual harassment and assault are more common place in our communities than most want to admit or ever realized. This is mostly in part due to under reporting to appropriate authorities. Under reporting is a tell tale symptom of the lack of support we have in our nation for those who suffer sex crimes. As a victim, I can appreciate this feeling of lack of support. In my case, police officers had my father's own admission, and they still insisted I go back home later that night after everything was brought out in the open.    This is the cruel reality  for many sexual abuse victims.    An even crueler reality? There is a growing awareness in this country of what is happening, but it stops there and isn't blossoming into a larger community outreach to fix this problem. Case in point. Friend of mine and I were discussing my own sexual abuse and assault experiences, and he made a comment along the lines of this kind of thing is all too common a story among the women he knows. He then recounted how one previous girl friend had been raped by an ex that broke into her home one night, another by her father growing up. Another close friend of his had been molested by family members growing up. Then he recalled his own half sister having been raped repeatedly by his estranged father. He found out about this from his half sister some years ago. Even worse, her mother knew about it, and even watched and yelled at her during the event because it was considered a just punishment. All of this he found out years later from his half sister, and at that point he pretty much decided he would avoid his dad from then on.   But our conversation didn't stop there. He then realized he knew at least two men who had been sexually abused in their youth. And then of course his own experience of being fondled by a Boy Scout troop leader when he was young. He often down plays this experience though, as he doesn't see how it has affected him other than it being awkward, and never went further than fondling. Nonetheless, our conversation really made him put into words what many are realizing this week: The majority of people he knows have been sexually abused, molest, assaulted, etc.    What does this awareness accomplish after this moment? What do we do with this shared knowledge and perspective once we have it? Does it mean he is now more sensitive to trauma? Possibly. Is he going to call up his local city leaders and state level officials to start putting money into programs to help victims report the abuse? Maybe push for a counseling initiative? Or insist we get comprehensive sexual education in schools? Probably not.    What do we do once we get others aware of the epidemic that is sexual abuse?   Not everyone can be the activist that is beating down the doors of legislators to get funding in place. The reality is that this is where the local community has to step in and find their own initiatives to develop solutions to under reporting, lack of education on sexual consent, and poorly funded crisis counseling. It could be something as simple as volunteers getting schools on board to do two week elective classes on sex ed and consent. Or volunteering at crisis centers to man the phones and be that rock for victims to cling to at 2 a.m. in the morning after being hurt by someone they trusted. Awareness is a key part of the problem, but it is not enough. We cannot just leave it as sexually abusive behavior happens everywhere to everyone.    If you cannot contribute money to funded education or crisis programs, consider contributing your time. Or at the very least, sit down and have that conversation with your kids, your parents, your neighbors, or a teen that you know is possibly struggling with these issues. Have the conversation and get them help immediately.  Don't just be a visible reminder of the trauma, help fight it any way you think you can.     #MeToo    

TheBluegrassSkeptic

TheBluegrassSkeptic

 

Dear Atheist Role Model: Sexual Consent Isn't Just About The Act Itself

I'm just going to say it.   I have had it up to fucking here with the Atheist Role Model Who Is Causing A Lot Of Drama In My Personal Circle bullshit.   This is utter BULLSHIT. I have had the opportunity to interact with him for a three years or so now. Granted, it was usually one sided, and when he wanted something, but I have been privy to a lot of background discussion he authors. Ever having a shoulder and ear that many of us mutually shared to let him vent his woes. In all honestly? I'd known him  approximately 6 months, and tried to shake off my red flag warnings. But goddamn, once again, I should have listened to my inner voice.  He is a dishonest person, and while we can't be perfect, repeat behavior like this is a problem.    A little background as to why I am so vehemently stepping out here. As many of you know,  I'd dealt with a dishonest man for 17 years. Prior to that? Well, let's just say my ex-husband didn't fall far from the tree on the standard mistake of men I have a penchant for. He was father of the year in the streets, a selfish bastard in the sheets. He would always tell me to communicate with him what I wanted, and I'll be damned if he would ever acquiesce. All the way down to coitus. He would ask my advice, if he didn't agree, he treated me as if I were infantile, and then of course, if he would use my advice? Declare he had come up with the chosen action all on his own. I was never considered a contributor, unless he was showing off his family. Relationship wise? Oh, we were monogamous, but he would serial cheat, telling the other women either that he was single, or in an open relationship. Of course he would insist I pleasure him on demand whether I wanted to or not (god forbid he went more than 3 days), and blame me for everything that ever went wrong. If the world wasn't in agreement with him, then surely something was wrong with the world.   So, when dealing with a certain atheist super hero of the South, I began to feel an odd atmosphere of deja vu. I tried to shake it, but then the drama with a particular non profit erupted. And seeing and hearing his own testimony, behind private group doors,  on what was going on versus what they said, I took a grain a salt from both parties.  Worse, I let slide the fact this atheist "role model" only approached me if he wanted "crowd sourcing" ideas, wanted to be sure whose side I was on when I was reading through past posts of the non profit mess, or shared a thumbs up if recent pictures of my tits looked amazing. In all honesty,  I could give two shits less if he didn't stay with the non profit, I just didn't want a good service disappearing due to drama that BOTH parties should have taken to arbitration. I know damn well if he were in the right, that non profit would have been on the hook for the arbitration bill, and vice versa.   I now am faced with what I suspected he would do to a friend mine, who is also a former girlfriend of his, coming into reality. Trash and burn. And frankly, I understand that it is his relationship and none of my damn business, except...   He violated consent. Not once, but at least three times. With his now ex-wife. With my friend. And now another friend. And I don't mean he sexually assaulted anyone, but he took sexual advantage. He changed the rules without consent. Cheating is a serious consent issue if you didn't know. If I am in a monogamous relationship, and I decide I want to sleep with other people and not clear this with my partner, or the other partner I am sleeping with, I am taking away their consent to the relationship because I have changed the dynamic of the relationship. Yes, if you sleep with a different partner, and the other does not know, a little bit of advice: DO NOT FUCK YOUR ORIGINAL PARTNER AGAIN UNTIL YOU TALK ABOUT IT. More partners mean more risks. Health wise, emotionally, and financially. I used to take a very different attitude about cheating. My standard rule of thumb has been if someone cheats, just move on, let it go, and treat it as another lesson learned. I no longer take it so lightly because of the earlier mentioned reasons. I've been a victim of disease being brought to my bed. I've been a victim of the emotional toll of desperately trying to save a relationship I was told was still monogamous-despite his cheating. And I have been a financial victim because I had to move almost immediately as my ex-husband couldn't stand me living in the home if I wasn't going to be in a relationship any longer, or wouldn't at least still fuck him in the mean time till I moved.  And I have walked the fine line of cheating, more like disappointing future expectations, but still came clean before engaging my partner again. I gave him the option to stay or walk, and he walked. Deservedly so. I gave him the choice to continue. I gave him a voice. I didn't lie. I didn't hide my actions. I didn't seek to possess him on terms that would have been against his will.   So,  I do not take this continuation of behavior as just a "life lesson" that this role model continues to repeat.   Does he really need consent explained? I highly doubt it. In fact, I think he needs to be honest about who he really is, and what he wants in a relationship. Quit being a coward. If he wants an open relationship, then go into a relationship that is open. Do not promise whatever the lover wants to hear in order to have this person in your life, making you feel special and wanted. That person is not there for you only, and selfish desire is never a good reason to manipulate someone to get what you want. If this person isn't open to being open, then you can't lie and violate them like that. No, means no. You will just have to live with the rejection and move on.   FWIW, my ex-husband got 17 years of my life. 17 years of constant lying, possessiveness, secrets, disease, narcissistic torture, and violation of my consent to the terms of the relationship. He never once said to me,"Kate,I cannot be in a monogamous relationship." He never gave me the opportunity, or even show the respect to allow me to participate in our relationship. No, he used me. He abused my role as mother and caregiver. He also stood on the backs of countless other women in order to fill his starving ego and insecurities, and he also used them to punish me, and further his career that took him out of town for weeks at a time.   This role model for secular and exiting religious alike, is violating consent on every level. It is disgusting and below him, especially when writing   "“We are a sex positive community if we are nothing else. Personally, I’m proud of that fact, because as a former Southern Baptist I am so very done with the body shame and antiquated approach to sexual relationships that I inherited. But people also use the freedom this affords to exploit others and take advantage of them."   What he is doing isn't just a small matter of cheating. If what is said is to be trusted, he outright abandoned a family he created, and then proceeded to wreck another.    So why am I acting like I have any part of his circus? His behavior has had a negative effect on my own social life within certain secular circles. I passed up on what he refers to as a "fight club" get-together last year because I knew he would be there. You know, some of these gatherings are a very intimate settings, and the idea of even shaking his hand, or worse hugging him,  made me sick to my stomach. I skipped out on two conventions because I knew he would be there, and there was no way I was going to stand by with a happy shit smile.   And the fact I am passing up on events to avoid him, and the drama attached,  is bullshit. Who is he to have this effect over me? I will tell you. He is a trigger zone of red flags for me. I know his fan club will be jumping all over me, and so be it. Unlike the majority of them, I have dealt with him on a much more intimate level. I've seen and read enough from his fingertips to be justified in my scorn. To be clear, my scorn isn't for him to personally answer to. He owes me nothing, and this word salad might seem unnecessary to many, but it's my rally cry for him, and others like him, to get help. This role model is burning out fast, and I don't know if he can see it. So let me hold up that mirror for him,  and let him decide. He can claim that this is me projecting past bad relationships on to him, but it isn't. His own actions have triggered my own warning flags to stay away and avoid.   Please do better, oh Southern Secular power house. Your own kids could be your next victims simply because of the example you have set.     ****Special Entry Update****   I have screenshots from the accusers, and am not going to retract one iota of what I have penned here now that I have read it all. I am glad they are working together to not only share their experience and eventually put the screens out there, but are keeping a stiff upper lip with the absolute hatred they are receiving in the fall out. There have been some who question the use of words and phrases like "sexually violated", "sexually assaulted", etc. I leave that up to the discretion of the accuser, as I am not in her shoes. I will say a violation of consent is most definitely an issue here, and I stand by my assessment that the women involved were most definitely sexually taken advantage of by this spokesperson I am blogging about here. Don't like it? See my field of fucks, and that it is barren.

TheBluegrassSkeptic

TheBluegrassSkeptic

 

Christians After Harvey

Oh, the joys of being semi-closeted! I knew I'd hear some ridiculous stuff after hurricane Harvey hit our area.   My wife's sister and her husband lost their home. They're insured, but the house was paid off and they intended to live in it until their kids told them they were too old to be on their own. It's going to be a multiple-months long headache rebuilding. They're with us for the moment, and she was in Walmart the other day waiting for the next self-check register when the woman ahead of her randomly spouted off that she thought all of the events had been good for us, because it brought us all together. My sister-in-law replied that her house was literally under water, and she didn't think that whatever social impact it may have had was worth it.   Of course, that wasn't a Christiany opinion that the woman had, just a generally clueless one.   Then there's the facebook share of an article claiming that this must have been a miracle, because only about 60 lives were lost and with a flood this size you might have expected 1000 or more. So, what, your god underestimated the number of angels he needed to save people, and sent 60 too few? Or maybe 59 too few, because that husband and wife in Katy -- the husband was a beloved pastor -- could have been saved with the help of only one angel. Tell the families of those 60 people that this was a miracle. What a wimpy god you folks believe in!   And then there was church Sunday night. In churches of Christ they don't believe in miracles, but they do believe in divine providence (which really is just miracles that aren't obvious). So the preacher was talking about "the chastening of the Lord" and about how sometimes problems are the Lord's chastening, and sometimes they aren't. He talked about how ol' Yahweh said that Satan had incited him against Job, even though Satan was the one doing the work. So Yahweh sort-of took credit for the actions of Satan. The conclusion of the lesson was that it's impossible to tell whether it was random chance, the work of Satan but allowed by God, or the work of God himself trying to bring about some eternal good, but that we should use it to strengthen our faith. Because what really matters is salvation, of course, eternal life, not this temporary life on this wild and woolly planet Earth.   I wonder when people say things like that if there's any cognitive dissonance. Or maybe it's evidence that he's found a way to get rid of the cognitive dissonance. But I don't think he knows what he said, which is that is that it's impossible to tell the difference in a world with this kind of god in charge and in a world without one. There are no obvious happenings that would show us that there are invisible helpers (or invisible hinderers). Church-of-Christ folks know this, yet they still believe!   My sister-in-law and her husband have been going through a lot in the last few years, and just a week ago a major difficulty in their life was worked out. They thought they were finally going to get some rest. For one day. She basically said that she figured she'd learned enough patience, and didn't need any more training. I think maybe she has some doubts. But she'll shove them down and get on with her life, and continue practicing her mythology. They'll continue to live a life where they take care of way more than their share of their own and other people's burdens, and never see that it's they who are "angels," not any invisible beings. They'll attribute their own strength to the help of this invisible being, despite the clear evidence in their own lives that that god doesn't exist.

Lerk

Lerk

 

What Is Faith?

Mark Twain supposedly said "Faith is believin' what you know ain't so."  Peter Boghossian, in "A Manual for Creating Atheists," insists that faith is pretending to know things that you don't know. And he insists that other definitions of faith, for example faith in a person's ability to do something, are not really faith, because they're based on your knowledge of the person's ability and history. I think he's wrong to say that this definition of the word is invalid, because it's certainly how it's used most of the time. What he's trying to do is get people to see that that sort of faith does not equal faith in the Biblical sense. That's true -- it's a different thing, and perhaps it gives people who have religious faith (belief in gods and spirits and miracles) some reason to think that their faith is reasonable, because the same word has a meaning that reflects faith justified by evidence.   But what does the Bible actually say? Well, most everyone has heard the verse: Hebrews 11:1 -- "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Christians (and many non-Christians) can quote this off the top of their heads. But what does it actually mean? It is the Biblical definition of faith. What is it getting at?   This verse begins the passage often referred to as the "Hall of Faith." The Hebrew writer goes on to talk about what certain Old Testament heroes did because they had faith. Generally speaking, the point is that they couldn't see the future things that their god had promised them, but they believed it anyway, and acted accordingly. The story of Joseph is that on his deathbed he gave instructions that when Israel would leave Egypt, they should take his bones with them to the land of promise. They weren't even in captivity yet. There weren't enough of them to be a nation yet. But he believed that his descendants would eventually go to the land that their god had promised them, and he wanted to be buried there.   So let's break that definition down. "The substance of things hoped for." If you're hoping for something but you don't have it, have never seen it, and nobody has ever seen it, then there is no "substance" to it. Faith takes the place of substance, allowing the believer to, well, believe. "The evidence of things not seen." This is essentially redundant. What is evidence? Evidence is the set of facts, observations about either physical specimens or the leftover effects of physical processes, that lead one to believe a certain thing exists, or a certain event happened. But "evidence of things not seen" implies belief without what would normally lead to belief.   To put it more succinctly, faith is a substitute for substance, and a substitute for evidence. So Boghossian's definition fits the Bible definition here. Twain, of course, was jesting. People don't know that what they have faith in isn't really so, but his statement is a way to call attention to the fact that Biblical faith allows people to believe things that they can't possibly know, and, in fact, to believe things that are demonstrably false. There's no dome above the Earth, as early Bible passages describe. The  Universe is 13.8 billion years old, not the 6000-10000 you would calculate using the Bible, and it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.   The Hebrew writer was trying to assure his readers that there is an afterlife. There's no evidence for this at all, so in order to believe it one must accept that the New Testament writers knew it to be true. Yet the Hebrew writer himself has no confidence other than faith -- he substitutes faith for evidence, and even tells us that's what he's doing. Not very confidence inspiring, is it?

Lerk

Lerk

 

Links

This isn't a blog post, really, just a place for a couple of bookmarks.   I follow Captain Cassidy on Twitter, who writes the blog "Roll to Disbelieve" on patheos. She recently tweeted a link to an older blog post of her own called The Four Facts of the Resurrection (Aren’t) Here, she discusses how four "facts" about the resurrection that even non-believers don't dispute, aren't facts at all, aren't well attested, and are certainly not accepted by non-believers. These facts are: And in that post, she links a site discussion the lack of ancient sources that reference Jesus. That site discusses what Christian apologists call the 10 / 42 argument, which claims that there are more ancient attestations of Jesus than there are for Tiberius Caesar. Not surprisingly, this turns out to be not even remotely true. Find that web page here:  Ten Reasons to Reject the Apologetic 10/42 Source Slogan   Cheers!   Update: I think I'll use this post for interesting links. Here's one from Bob Seidensticker's blog Cross Examined about the ancient "combat myths" of the creation, and how the Bible actually describes  Israel's version, even though Christians don't recognize it. (These are considered "difficult passages" because they don't agree with Christian belief, so Christians just write them off as "difficult".) http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2017/02/combat-myth-the-curious-story-of-yahweh-and-the-gods-who-preceded-him-2/   Here's the Wikipedia entry on Yahweh explaining where he came from. Seems he wasn't originally an Canaanite god, but may have come from Egypt. I need to read more about this. Israel was  Canaanite nation, worshiping "El" (IsraEL), El having had 70 sons (among whom Baal is the most prominent). Yahweh was eventually conflated with El. I'm not sure how this works with Deuteronomy 32 (though that passage is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry).   Hebrew henotheism: https://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/henotheism.htm   Here's an article about the declining numbers of Church-of-Christ affiliated students in Church-of-Christ affiliated colleges.   New link, 26 November 2018: A post by David Madison on John Loftus' "Debunking Christianity" called The Christian Dark Ages -- Then and Now. Among the interesting insights here is the fact that during the 500 year period between the fall of the Roman empire and the end of the Dark Ages, a great deal of the knowledge accumulated by the Greeks and the Romans was literally erased and written over, and had to be re-learned hundreds of years later. The result of their following the advice to take no care for worldly things, because their Father in Heaven would take care of them (advice from Matthew 6 in the Sermon on the Mount), is that the world population plummeted:  Millions of people starved to death. Villages disappeared and large cities became mere villages. The knowledge needed to sustain the population had simply been forgotten.

Lerk

Lerk

 

The evolution of Political Ideologies as we age

I recently hit my 30s and I've realised over the last couple years a couple things have happened. Firstly, as I keep getting older the X that marks the left simply keeps moving to the left of me and secondly, not only was the X moving to the left as I stood stationary, I myself am now moving to the right of my own accord. I'm not even that old, and I feel in general I am losing touch with what's current. It continues to be a weird transition for me; to move from the "happening crowd" to the lepers on the outskirts of society.   Right now I am at an interesting crossroads politically speaking. Political ideology is inherently selfish. When you're young, you tend to have nothing and policies that you give something for nothing sound very enticing. Yet, when you get older you now have something and those same policies you once liked now mean you get nothing, but something is now taken away from you. As an aside from that, I feel like as you get older your horizons tend to broaden. I know with myself personally that I once tarred all conservatives with the same brush. In essence, they're selfish, heartless and racist idiots.    Now that I've spent some time getting familiar with conservative talking points "straight from the horse's mouth" so to speak, this characterisation no longer seems fair. But (and this is a big but), I don't think those claims are completely baseless either. We all prefer to see the world as black and white, and as I get older I realise that this is just as true of me as it is others. It's easy to switch camps, it's harder to sit somewhere in the middle disagreeing with both about some points, and agreeing still on others. This is where I am currently sitting.   I guess if I were to summarise my current transition, it is to say that I've moved from a big "S" socialist to a small "s" socialist. Not earth shattering I know, but I am beginning to realise that not every government solution helps the people and that a paternal hand upon society can quickly turn into a yolk. For me I care most for looking after people and care for the economy insofar as it supports the goal of looking after people. Because of this I don't ever see myself becoming a libertarian or otherwise conservative due to this inherent focus of mine, but let's see where this goes.   In closing, this quote was something I came across during an interview the other day and I find it rather apt for how I feel about where I am at currently:   Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.  

JadedAtheist

JadedAtheist

 

Yearly update - short hand version

Shorthand version of my 2017 thus far:
-Passed my belt test for my 1st degree black in martial arts, and am working on the Okinawan Sai form.
-I'm working on changing my mindset for the better. This has involved some heavy time management and making time for things instead of just brooding with my thoughts.
-I'm lining up additional physical challenges to press myself to the limits in conditioning and endurance, in an effort to be better prepared for the 2nd degree test in a year and a half.
-My financial situation has greatly improved and stabilized.
-My time is now being devoted to the following, in order of importance:
1. Martial arts
2. Kickboxing
3. Twitch streaming
4. Work

Onto my new activity: Twitch streaming. For those of you that may not know about it, it is a streaming website of people who play video games. Through a good friend of mine who recommended I give it a shot, I started in May. I've had some mild success and am enjoying it. It is also helping me with the keeping my mind occupied thing. So, if you are interested in video games, comedy, general hanging out and chatting, (WARNING: SHAMELESS PLUG AHEAD) please give me a follow and stop in sometime at: https://www.twitch.tv/travilx   My streaming times are Monday, and Friday-Sunday, usually around 6pm EST. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later.

It is not required to sign up if you don't like (though I have made some good friends and they all stream great games). I'd enjoy the chance to hang out with you all while I play some games and sometimes fail spectacularly at them,  I am also working toward an affiliate status (where I can earn royalties from streaming, and have greater streaming options and so forth), and I need to average 3 viewers for that. Right now, I'm 2.5. Soooooooo close!

But mainly, the twitch thing fills a social void for me. As someone who doesn't go out anymore, it is a means for me to hang out in the comfort of my own home and everyone else theirs, while we all chit chat, hang out, and just generally get some good laughs at my failures in gameplay, haha. Again, it is not required that you all do this - but it would be cool to hang out with like minded folks who enjoy video games, and fellow Ex-C'er's.

Thus concludes your yearly update on Travi. Thanks for reading everyone!
 

Travi

Travi

 

Thoughts on Robert M. Price's Book: The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man

Many years ago now I purchased this book, you can get it on Amazon here. At the time of purchase, I read about a third of it, found it fascinating and didn't touch it again. This of course changed in the last week or two as I made it my mission to go through old books of mine (and books I've always wanted to read) and begin working through them. The first of these was Price's book and it's not exactly a light read, my Kindle estimated about 15 hours reading time, and it wasn't too far off that.   So, what exactly is this book about? Quite simply, Price's mission here is to go through the NT (primarily the gospels, though he touches on some epistles to make certain points) and show that after separating the wheat from the tares you come to find yourself with no wheat, and nothing but tares. That is to say, once you're done stripping away myth you are left with no facts to pin to a historical Jesus. Price's methods (which he outlines at the start of the book) are the following:   Consistency with Known History - Do the biblical accounts match the historical record? If not, then we obviously chuck them out. Price's initial examples of this are the census of Quirinius and the synagogues and existence of Galilee at the time of Jesus.  Criterion of Dissimilarity - This is one of his more contentious methods, essentially if what Jesus said was dissimilar to what everyone else was saying at the time, it's potentially authentic, otherwise it's not. Pro tip: According to Price, nothing is dissimilar. Principle of Analogy - Essentially saying that if it's supernatural, it obviously didn't occur. Price explains that if we can find some contemporary examples of events that are recorded in the NT, then we can reasonably think there's potential for them to have really occurred, otherwise we can't.  Principle of Biographical Analogy - If it walks, talks and acts like a duck; then it's a duck. If the gospels of Jesus look like other mythological tales, are told like them and include plot and story elements like them then why should we not consider the gospels mythological like they are?   Price of course explains this points more rigorously and more seriously than I have here, but this gives you an idea of the tools he uses to dissect the NT. That said, what are Price's findings as he goes through the various elements of the gospel narrative?   He covers so much ground that I don't know if I could do him justice in summarising with the few words I could be bothered writing on this topic. That said, let give you some snippets of the points and arguments he's made:   Parallels between gospel stories and those outside the NT - Price spends a lot of time showing how various stories in the gospels are either similar or identical to other stories found elsewhere. These could be stories told in Jewish lore such as the OT, the Talmud or various midrash. They could also be in Greek/Roman mythology, or even in Buddhist/Hindu mythology. Some of these are very compelling, others I feel are a stretch. I feel like at times Price is looking to find something to match up to the gospel text, rather than it coming to him. Some compelling, or at least interesting examples are those tales told of Apollonius of Tyana as well as multiple midrash concerning various Rabbi and their saying and/or miracles. Hints of revisionism of various narratives - That is to say Price makes the argument in many places the narratives told were an attempt to correct previous authors or otherwise fix up embarrassing tales. Some of the compelling arguments I found were the deification of Jesus and how authors Luke and Matthew (and occasion John when covering the same material) toned down the human Jesus in Mark. For example, massaging Jesus' reply of "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God" into something else. Then there's the move of making John the Baptist subservient to Jesus. At first it was understood he was probably much older than Jesus, and weren't familiar with each other to him being Jesus cousin barely older than him who jumped in the womb upon Jesus' conception. Hints of later church disputes being retrofitted into Jesus' words - Price argues that certain actions or conversations Jesus has are actually issues the Christian authors at the time were facing and were looking to get final word by getting authority through Jesus. Price gives examples of what he believes are allegories to these disputes, as well as conversations that couldn't plausibly have happened amongst Jews. An example off the top of my head is from the Gospel of Thomas where the topic of circumcision comes up - an obvious anachronism.   There is so much really, and I feel like in order to do it justice my summary would have to be 2 or 3 times longer than what I've written so far but I couldn't be bothered going back over the book to give some more thorough details so I will leave the snippets at that. What I will say now are my conclusions based on what he has written.   Price is writing to those in the know. Unless church history and biblical criticism are of particular interest to you, you will feel like you've jumped into an ocean not being able to swim. As a Christian these topics were of immense interest to me and I felt right at home. In some ways it was a bit of a relief as I felt like he wasn't wasting time explaining himself which can be frustrating reading material written to the layman when you yourself tend to be already knowledgeable. That said, he likes to display his extensive vocabulary and I found myself looking up a lot of words which I don't generally have to do when reading books. That was probably the only "annoying" part in terms of communication and writing style.   As for the arguments that Price makes, I feel like he is just blasting out theories and seeing what sticks. If it doesn't stick, he tries seeing if duct taping it on will give it a bit of a hand. This will put some people off and might make them view everything else he says with suspicion, but I believe with what he's wrote he is probably on the mark a good chunk of the time. I wouldn't even necessarily say the majority of the time but it's significant to the point that if you can forgive his stretches, it would be hard for you to continue to believe there was a real historical Jesus underneath the gospel tales.

JadedAtheist

JadedAtheist

 

An Extra Facet Of Coming Out

I have severely scaled back participation in Pride and LGBTQ community activism over the last year or so because I have reached a major crossroads in my life during this time. I openly have lived as a bi-sexual woman for approximately a decade. I have also added a slight addendum to that and expanded my bi-sexuality to include those who are also genderqueer, gender fluid, and trans, as I have really found I am attracted to pretty much anyone. I have come to realize I will love and be sexually attracted to just about anyone out there. There is no specific type that I look for.  I do not know if this is being worded correctly, as trying to explain my emotions do not always come out as a clear message on paper or blog pages.    With all this rehashed, this past year I have been trying to figure out how to describe a larger elephant in my closet that I have not truly addressed head on, nor have I even attempted to just kind of word salad it out in mildly veiled inquiry. Usually I like to crowd source my perceptions so others can help me verbalize better what I am thinking. I literally struggle with this. There are days I would describe my feelings as brown, or my attitude as a number. I can't make it translate into intelligible words when leaving my brain where others can actually understand what the hell is going on up there. I am kind of reaching a breaking point, and maybe I have the correct letters and punctuation to make it all present itself in an understandable dialog.   Somehow, I doubt it, but here goes.   For the first time today, I used the word dysphoria.    This is a big deal for me. I have thought about this word for the past couple of years or so thanks to so many of my friends out there being able to put a word to what they are feeling when having trouble accepting their physical selves. This word they used gave me a starting point to discuss with my own therapist, and of course research it, in order to see if it somehow applied to my own emotional state about my personal self. There has been a lot of personal conflict and nights of quiet contemplation for hours on the subject of what I am. I use the word what, because I know who I am. I am Kate. I am funny, have a bit of dry with, a need to be right, an avid lover of all things robots and scifi, and I have goals in life for my later years where I will be so happy with my family that all the past years of struggle will be eclipsed by the few I will have left of joy. I know who I am. And this is where I might be using all the wrong language, so I am so very sorry if I offend anyone with my words to describe my journey to find the what of who I am.   Little thing about me most don't know. I consider my gender the what of me. What are you? Male, female? Gender has always been a what for me. It has never been a part of the definition of me, as if I have always treated it as optional. I really do not know where I got this from. My parents never exposed me to the LGBTQ communities growing up. Some have said it is probably from me disassociating myself from childhood sexual abuse, and for awhile I bought into that a little since I had no other explanation. My therapist and I discussed this finally, and he seems to think my doubts are well founded and this has zero to do with the sexual abuse I went through as a child. We have looked back on my childhood, and I shared equal enjoyment in things that would be considered predominantly male and activities seen more as female related. The same was true of dress, hair style, and everything else you can think of. One thing is very clear. I never really latched on to the idea of gender roles at all, let alone worried about being perceived as male or female. I only worried if people got my name wrong. And I always corrected them and got offended if they insisted on not calling me correctly. On a side note, it still deeply hurts me today when people butcher my name, and keep on insisting on it. I have a boss that does this now, and while I actually love her dearly, it hurts she insists on calling me what she does despite my protest.   Relationships. Public image versus my personal image. My general attitudes. Anyone that follows my public work, sees my secret group postings, or has dated me, will undoubtedly say,"You obviously do not have a problem with being female. You use your feminine wiles, you try to appear attractive as a female, and you certainly enjoy sex toys designed for females. So, obviously, you don't hate your vagina or breasts."   I'm not saying any of this. Again, my female body is part of the what I am. And after being abused as a child, and trying to survive abusive relationships, one tends to use their body as a tool. It got me through some pretty tough times, and it has given me plenty of pleasure. What can I say, orgasms are amazing. I love sexual intimacy. Yes, some days, I adore my curves and the little button I was born with, and other days it disgusts me, and I wish I could trade out for other experiences. My body is a what. It's like a canvas that I get to decorate and find innovative ways to create fun visuals and sensations with. The past year I have come to realize that more often than not, the pretty images I share on profiles, the extra effort I put into looking nice on a podcast, it isn't for my benefit. It is something I've been in denial of for awhile, and I just need to admit this isn't me being too poor to afford taking care of my look. I have been in a steady, and rebellious, direction of no longer doing this to myself. It has been depressing me. No amount of make up will make me happy with who I am when it isn't a visual that I want to wear to begin with.   This is my dysphoria. This is where my elephant in the closet comes bursting out.     I have come to finally put the words together for something that has been in my everyday life for too long. I would say I am on the fluid spectrum of gender identity. I don't want to wear the pretty eyelashes, mascara, or any of that. Or at least, not for the reasons I have been doing so. The pressure to look appealing is hard enough, but to do it in a manner that doesn't fit what you are seems to make it worse. My clothing wardrobe is experiencing a similar deal. I had to go shopping for an outfit for an important job interview, and while I told my lover that the store just didn't have any complete suit sets available, the reality was that I was revolting against the idea I have to present myself in a strong, feminine, power outfit. I just didn't want to do it. I got overwhelmed walking around that store looking at all these clothes and thinking how I would rather have a nice shaved cut, some gel, and a flat chest with a fit shirt and slacks. Little touch of lipstick would be good, and just some foundation to even out my face. I didn't want to be feminine at all for my interview.   And then there is a festival coming up and there is a sundress I would love to wear with a floppy hat and some sandals, and my painted toes to boot.   Welcome to my struggle. Hopefully I can get this in a more understandable format at some point. If I could offer a plug into my head and you feel it all, I would gladly share.  Anyway, thanks for reading. <3            

TheBluegrassSkeptic

TheBluegrassSkeptic

 

And Then it Happened

I posted in the forums about how my older son discovered the truth about the Bible after he decided he really needed to study more. He had managed to come out of the closet and, he thought, not destroy his relationships. Well, it turned out to be more complicated than that, and it got really complicated for me, as well.   My son and his wife had a baby. They live in another town, and his in-laws live there, as well. So we went to see meet new granddaughter. They weren't at church that Sunday, and in fact left the hospital for home about the time of the evening service. My wife and I went to church. We noticed my son's father-in-law looking what we thought was his usual odd self. We didn't really want to talk to him because even though our son was accepted as a "visitor" and "former member" by the church, his father-in-law is one of the "church discipline" types who thinks you can't have anything at all to do with any Christian who is "living in sin," and that being a Christian who has rejected God is "living in sin." (In other words, there's no such thing as an "ex-Christian." If you leave, you're an "erring Christian.")   So when it was over we answered a few questions about the baby for the people who were asking and congratulating us, and then we made our way to the car. We planned to pick up dinner and take it to our son's house. But father-in-law went out a side door and intersected our path! As he approached, making a bee-line for me, my wife congratulated him on the new granddaughter, which interrupted his train of thought. He turned to her and shook her and and said "you -- congratulations!" Then he turned to me, refusing my hand, and said "and you... I KNOW YOUR SECRET." I replied "ohhhh kay?" and we proceeded to the car.   Boy, was my wife mad. I was shocked. How in hell did he know I was an atheist? It was a tough night, but I didn't really know that anything would come of it. Our son already had a chilly relationship with him.   The following Wednesday night I went to Bible class, and as usually, afterwards took our older granddaughter outside to play. But a little while later one of the elders came out and found me, and asked if they could speak with me. I took my granddaughter to our other son and told him the elders wanted to see me, then I went to the room they were meeting in. Only two of the three were there. One of them said to me, quite sheepishly, really, that they had been told I had a blog called "The Closet Atheist." Well, of course, that was true, but in my shock I was able to act shocked enough to deny it and, I thought, seem believable. I asked what it was, and he started to explain to me what a blog was. When I said, no, I understood that, he told me how there were pages and pages of posts dating back several years. After attempting to deny it, they said that they weren't inclined to believe it, but that they felt they had to ask.   I wandered out in a daze and went home. My wife hadn't gone that night and I didn't say anything to her. She was unaware of the blog.   So, I need to back up a bit. When my son first indicated that he was doubting, he also implied that his wife was kind-of on board with him. That was wishful thinking. In an effort to be supportive (and, frankly, because I was so happy for him) I told him about the blog, and even said he could tell his wife about it. I wanted her to know that even if they didn't agree, that didn't mean he wasn't the person she married, and it didn't mean their marriage was over. The baby's birth was four month's away at this point, and it really seemed important that she not suffer any undue stress. In reality, the realization that there are no such things as gods shouldn't cause anything but joy in one's life, but when you have fundamentalist family, it isn't simple at all. I wanted to help.   But his wife really still believed, and she's not one to keep secrets, so when conversing and seeking advice from her parents, she mentioned my blog.   Later in the week the elders emailed me wanting to meet again. I had to tell her now, and she yelled at me about how naive I had been. She's never been more right. I trust people. My daughter-in-law loves me. She wasn't trying to sabotage me or betray me, yet that's exactly what she did. My honesty plus hers combined to start an avalanche.   I didn't know whether to be relieved or scared to death. My younger son and his family were moving... that Wednesday was to be the last one at this church, and they were headed on a vacation/journey to a new home on the West Coast. They left before I could talk to him. Right here -- this is it. The ONLY reason I cared whether anyone knew I was an atheist is because I was afraid it would affect my relationship with this younger son, and that he wouldn't want his daughter to be around me much. That's it. That's the only real negative that could happen in my life. And if that happened, my wife would never forgive me. Literally, not metaphorically, never forgive me.   The blog was somewhat cryptic, in the sense that if someone had stumbled across it they wouldn't have suspected it was mine. Yet there was enough information in there that if someone said it was mine, and someone else read it, I wouldn't be able to deny it, so before my meeting with the elders I decided I'd better come clean. I admitted it was mine, and I said that I would go before the congregation and ask for forgiveness. I took the blog down before sending the email. I also said that I would begin a Bible study via email with a preacher who was well educated, but a member of a "mainline" church rather than one of the non-institutional groups. (My thinking was that this would keep the rumor mill quiet. I didn't have to tell that preacher what was behind it, and he wouldn't have any discussions with "our" preachers.)   The next Wednesday night I showed up early (along with my wife, who went into the auditorium to both suffer embarrassment and to be comforted by the other ladies who were there early. I went into the office to meet with the three elders, and the preacher was there, too. He didn't know much about what was going on except for what the elders had told him in a few minutes, and he had not seen the blog (which was gone by this time). He was aware of my older son's deconversion and had actually had a number of discussions with him about it. Again, I made my promise to study, and I indicated that I wished to continue to be a member of the church. I was to go forward to offer public confession after the "invitation" was offered ("invitation" is Church-of-Christ speak for "altar call") and "acknowledge my sin." One of the elders remarked that most people in my situation would just say "I'm outta here!" and he wondered why I didn't respond that way. My honest reply was that there was simply no advantage to it, and that it would cause too many problems within my own family. They accepted this reasoning.   So then there was the confession: This was tough. I told about the blog, and explained that I needed to confess because that was public and required public "repentance." I apologized to my wife and thanked her for putting up with me.  Then one of the elders got up and made a few comments. I interrupted to ask that nobody call my younger son, who was on his way to his new home, because I hadn't talked to him yet and he didn't know what was going on. Then they prayed for me.   Afterward, people offered all sorts of words of encouragement. Several people wanted to talk way too much, and in the next couple of week some brought me reading material.   I called my son the next day and left a message. He eventually called me back. He was upset, but he said he wasn't surprised. I talked to him about how Moses apparently believed that there was more than one god, and he said he knew that already! (So why is he still a believer.) I didn't tell him everything, but at the end he asked me to please say that I still believed that Jesus was the son of God, so I lied and said "yes." Since then, he hasn't said a word about it and I really think he doesn't want to know any more.   And since that time, I quit leading singing. One of the elders did ask several months later if I was going to start leading singing again, and I indicated that I was pretty happy to be retired from that. I may get that uncomfortable question again, but I can easily dismiss it if my wife isn't around. (When she's around it's harder to just dismiss, because it embarrasses her and she doesn't go to bat for me -- she takes the side of the person who's bugging me. I end up having to try to justify my decision. It's a pain, especially because she knows I'm an atheist!)   Occasionally, one of the other elders asks me how I'm doing, meaning "spiritually," and I say "pretty well." That's all there is to that conversation.   And that's it at this point! I show up most Sunday mornings by myself and use the time to read, and I go other times when my wife makes it, but not usually by myself. Nobody really expects much of me any more, and that's quite a relief.   I hope that some day my younger son won't be able to avoid the truth, and we can just be done with it. My older son surprised me when he figured it out, so it could happen.   I may decide to write a book someday. I wrote this post because I had never written this stuff down. It's kind of hurried, so there may be typos and awkward wording, but if I wait any longer I'll forget things.  

Lerk

Lerk

 

Serenity

There's a saying by Reinhold Niebuhr known as the "Serenity Prayer." It says "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference".   A discussion in the forums made me realize something today: For a Christian, the above is impossible, or nearly so. That's why they think the prayer is so important that they post it on knick-knacks all over their houses. They want their god to grant these things to them, but because they really think that by praying they should be able to change those things that are beyond their control, they will never have that serenity.   But as an atheist, this is easy! Once I realized that there was no such thing as Yahweh or any other god, I actually gained that peace that is beyond the Christian's understanding. I know for a fact that there are some things I can change, and some that I can't, and so accepting the things I cannot change becomes easy.   There are many things that Christianity claims for itself that are merely wishful thinking. The "peace that passes understanding" is once. Another important one is "ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." These are things that only the atheist can enjoy.

Lerk

Lerk

 

God's Presence

For various reasons -- mostly family related -- I'm semi-closeted, "making an effort" in order to avoid uncomfortable discussions -- so I show up for church on Sunday morning. I use the opportunity during the sermon to read. (I've just started "The God Delusion!") Since I am using the Nook app on my phone, nobody knows that it I'm not following the sermon in my Bible.   But I can't help hearing the sermon to some extent and seeing the slides. This morning's sermon was about "God's Presence." It was pretty much what you would expect.   How can we know that God not only exists but is near us? Some families just returned from a road trip out West, and having posted a number of beautiful pictures on Facebook, well, there's evidence right there, is there not? (Spoiler: No, actually that's evidence of 4.5 billion years of geology.) Preacher's point was that the fact that we perceive this as beauty is evidence of God.   And then there are the things that make us happy: Look at that cute baby! Wow, that ice cream sure tastes good! I love my children and grandchildren so much! Surely the fact that God has given us these wonderful things is evidence of his presence, his nearness! (Please ignore the circular reasoning!)   But that's not enough to convince a person, so what about this? You got to eat this morning! That's right, the fact that your needs are met is evidence that God is near.   But lest you be going through a rough time and are having a hard time appreciating all of the wonderful things in your life, please listen to this. Preacher suggests that if we wanted to, we could all make a list of the problems we're having right now. The aches and pains, the fact for some audience members that they're out of work, or that a loved one is sick or has recently died. And if we were so inclined, we could all make lists and compare them. By doing so, we might find out just who among us has it the very worst! But even after having done that, we still have blessings, don't we?! So you see, we still know that God is near!   Yes, that was the lesson. He's usually a pretty good preacher with some decently deep thoughts, but this lesson was as shallow as it could be. To boil it down, he's suggesting that we can have confidence in God's presence if we learn to exercise cognitive bias! If we learn to count the hits and ignore the misses, we'll have more faith!   That's it! Aren't you thrilled to know how easy it is to believe?

Lerk

Lerk

 

Isolation and Suicide

I remember watching a sociology course a few years ago, and one of the lectures discussed the study of suicide by a man called Emile Durkheim. It covered a lot of ground, but essentially what it boiled down to was that the more isolated you are, the more likely you are to commit suicide. Single people are more likely that people in a relationship, people without kids vs those with kids and so on. The lecture also discussed another finding Durkheim came across: Men commit suicide more often than women.   One of the interesting things the lecturer pointed out was that men's social networks often depend upon their partners. This of course isn't true in every case, but often men's social engagements are organised by their partners and their friends are generally the partners of their partner's friends. Thus, a break up or divorce is incredibly traumatic as their one connection to the outside world has been severed and they're now isolated. You combine this with the fact that men in the west are often raised in a way that "bottles up" their emotions and you have men that even when they do have some type of support network, they can't leverage it due to social norms making pushing against them seeking emotional support.   As I mentioned in a previous post, as I've gotten older I've not kept up with making new friends to replace the ones I've lost. I am now in a position where I literally have no friends. I have a few "acquaintances" that I would call friends in casual conversation, but no one who if shit hit the fan I could call up and expect help when I asked for it. My only form of socialisation is through my partner, and while I don't expect us to break up - I am very aware that I am connected to the rest of the world by a single thread.   Because of this, I have been trying to increase my social activity. I've recently gotten involved in a meet up, and I think I will start attending others as I find them. This isn't enough though, I need to make some meaningful relationships - this is a lot harder. I do hope I make some more friends because I know I need it. I've been seriously depressed before, but not in a very long time. The reason for this is that I now have a meaningful relationship with another person: my partner. This is also why I am aware that if anything every happened to us, I know exactly what is in store for me and I don't want to be in a situation where I am left alone, with no one to really turn to.

JadedAtheist

JadedAtheist

 

The Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund Scholarship Program

Over the last decade I have dreamed of being able to help students pursue education that helps them further important work needing to be tackled in separation of church and state issues and many fields in science. This can be accomplished if students decide to pursue political careers, community leadership positions, higher education teaching jobs, and so much more. With the onslaught of propaganda surrounding issues like keeping a god in school, governmental suppression on earth science, encouragement of people to remain ignorant about important social justice issues in the name of ideological purity, I decided I would come after your kids. I'm looking at you evangelical parents out there. I am coming for your children. To educate them, remove this naive idea that leveling the playing field for all communities to have authority is showing preference, and enable them to think logically about an issue and understand that sometimes, you just have to say,"I don't know" instead of filling in the gap with whatever unsupported reason one can find.   And finally, I am coming for these kids to help sponsor their future careers in the areas I mentioned above. Well, at least one this year anyway.    I'm excited to announce the creation of the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund. This is a scholarship program that I am excited to launch this year on behalf of my podcast Unbuckling the Bible Belt. This year, starting 10/1/17 - 11/1/17, students ages 17 - 22 that are enrolled to start, or are currently attending college, can toss in their hat for the $500 award amount for an essay to be submitted that is judged the best for the topic of "Bad Ad Hoc Argumentation for Intelligent Design". Scholarship money will be awarded to one individual based on the best scoring in the grading scale listed below in the details section of this post.    How could this get any better? Well, more money for entries next year! Part of my plan to start putting money towards next year's scholarship fund-in which we hope to raise $1500 to award to three students- will be a publication of all the entrants' submissions from this year in an eBook! All proceeds (minus processing fee by Amazon), will go directly to the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund for 2018! We would really love to make this scholarship program larger and larger every year, so I hope this catches on. Our podcast celebrates youth and the future they are creating for the coming generations, and every little bit, even if just $500, will help them accomplish that endeavor.    So, here is the official rules of the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund Scholarship Event:   Entrant Requirements:   1. Must be 17 - 22 years old,  and identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist and/or secular.  2. Must be currently accepted/enrolled in college pursuing a career course that helps you further a higher level of secular activism.  3. If you are still in high school, you will have to provide an admissions letter and set to start at a college in January of 2018 (Winter quarter). 4. A resident of the United States of America, including its territories. 5. Provide documentation of all of the above using a state identification card, Admission letter, and college program statement. 6. Short paragraph outlining your current secular activism and biographical information. 7. Be sure to give three options for communication:     -Home address     -Two phone numbers     -Email address 8. Applicants of all races, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are encouraged to apply.   Entry Requirements:   1. The topic is "Bad Ad Hoc Argumentation for Intelligent Design".  Have fun with this topic. If you are unsure what ad hoc argumentation is, please go here: https://www.thoughtco.com/ad-hoc-explanations-causes-and-rationalization-3968430, or if you learn better by seeing examples, this YouTube video about Jibbers Crabst really shows ad hoc fallacy at its best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ_BtZ-5O60 2. Entries will be accepted from 10/1/17 at 12:00 pm EST - 11/1/17 at 12:00 pm EST. If sending via postal service, entries must be postmarked 11/1/17. A winner will be chosen and announced Live via our YouTube channel on Black Friday, 11/24/2017 at 12:00 p.m. EST.     Be sure to give three options for communication:     -Home address     -Two phone numbers     -Email address  3. Entries must be an original work and not previously used for previous essay contests. We do check for plagiarism, so Don't Do It. 4. An essay between 800 - 1500 words, double spaced, typed, edited, and in pdf format.   Where To Send Entries   Via email  unbucklingpodcast@gmail.com. Via postal service: Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund, c/o Amanda Ashcraft, PO Box 72394, Newport, KY, 41072. Fax is not available.   How A Winner Is Selected   1. If any of the entry requirements above are not met, it will not be considered for the scholarship. 2. We will be expecting a properly formatted and proofread submission. 3. We will be only considering entries that stay on topic. If it is off topic, we will not consider it for the scholarship. 4. Podcast members will judge each entry and decide on a single winner.   Scholarship Disbursement   Scholarship money will be sent to the college listed on your Admission letter by January 2nd, 2018. Award will be earmarked for your account with the college that can be used towards the cost of any of the following:   1. Tuition (Current only, not for default amounts) 2. Textbooks, Computer Software, general class supplies purchased on campus only 3. Dorm costs 4. Campus Parking costs 5. THESE MONIES CANNOT BE REFUNDED FOR CASH NOR REPLACED IF YOU TRANSFER SCHOOLS AND ARE UNABLE TO TAKE THE REMAINING AMOUNT OF THE SCHOLARSHIP WITH YOU.   Miscellaneous   When submitting your essay to the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund Scholarship program, you must agree to the following:   1. All works submitted to this event will be considered the property of Unbuckling the Bible Belt Podcast who will use the material submitted as they see fit without any compensation owed to the submitting party. 2. Unbuckling the Bible Belt Podcast will always credit the original author for composing the submitted work when used in advertisements, compilations, fund raisers, and other marketing options. 3. Winner will be required to do an interview with Unbuckling the Bible Belt by 2/1/2017. Because we're proud of ya!     Oh, and if we think of something we might have forgotten...Yeah, we will update these rules at any time.      
 

Coming full circle

As an introvert, I tend to favour having few relationships that are deep over many that are shallow. While this is a strategy that works fine when you're younger, as you get older I've found that you still experience the attrition of friendships that you used to, but you're no longer getting new supplies. In other words, when you're younger you make and lose friends at roughly the same pace, but as you get older (especially as an introvert) you're still losing friends but not really making any new ones. It's to the point now where I don't have any friends anymore in my usual sense of the word. I am friendly with a bunch of people, but not particularly close to any of them.   This is something I need to do something about, but I am at a bit of a loss as to how to overcome it. I'm not sure if I'll ever have any meaningful relationships anymore and that's a bit concerning to me because we all need some lifelines out there, even us loners. While we're talking about meaningful relationships, I've slowly come to realise over the last year that some relationships that I had were more one sided than I had realised. Looking back, I held onto some relationships despite the obvious signs that I was not valued. It's funny for me to realise now how misguided I was about it all, and how concerns my parents raised were more valid than I considered. Which is really a funny realisation to have given my age.   I think I settled for what I could get, which it seems was not a lot. I didn't realise it until now, but I need some more self respect and that starts with not putting up with what I have been putting up with this whole time. 

JadedAtheist

JadedAtheist

 

VA GOP Candidate Says Because Incest Can Be Voluntary, Sometimes...Then No Exception For Abortion

The headline is colorful, chilling, and woefully short sighted about the issues of incest, pregnancy, and consent.   I think it goes without much emphasis how quickly it hit all the wrong buttons that put me back to my youth being molested by my father. It made me immediately reflect on the moment I said yes when he asked if he could pretend I was my mother. That headline made me stand up and pace the room for a good three minutes, reminding myself how often incest happens: voluntarily - but with limited understanding of what it all means until the damage is done.   Virginian delegate, Bob Marshall (R), is well known for his blatantly reckless, and often abhorrent, public airing of his reasoning regarding issues ranging from disabled children being nature's vengeance on mothers who have had abortions before, to making cursing in an email a misdemeanor offense if he had his way. When reading his rationale that there should not be an exception to an abortion ban in cases of incest because sometimes incest is "voluntary", one cannot help but wonder how many victims of incest, let alone those who became pregnant, has he ever been socially involved with. To take the attitude that because some victims were complicit in the demands of their abuser should automatically disallow abortion, even for those who were forcefully abused and impregnated, demonstrates how little this candidate is familiar with the dynamics of sexual abuse to begin with.     My own experience of being molested by my father underscores the need for legislators like Marshall to understand that it is not black and white when it comes to abuse. My father was a verbally, physically, and emotionally abusive man. He pretty much left me walking on egg shells, anxious when working on projects with him, and never sure if I would become too annoying and he would find a way to punish me and make me go away for awhile to my room, or worse, take the belt to me. When my father approached me to come to his bed while my mother was nearly dying in the hospital from severe pancreatitis, and he was being gentle, caring, even conversational and patient, how could I at such a young age say no? I was completely ignorant on what sex was, or that his desire was inappropriate. My church never spoke on such things to children so young. All I knew is that dad wasn't acting like the normally recognizable monster that kept our home a nightmare of bipolar highs and lows, and I wasn't going to pass up on a chance to have a father that was calm and loving for once. Of course, I didn't realize he was hurting me until later on, and this is where Marshall's public opinion on "voluntary" incest is woefully misguided and lacking any real depth of the situation. It leaves out the reality that a lot of "voluntary" instances of incest and other forms of sex abuse are situations of "uninformed consent" --  which is assault.....    It's been two years since Marshall made these statements, and sadly, he is in his 11th term of office, and even more politicians are taking the same attitude, but with different rationale. George Faught (R) state representative of Oklahoma, made it clear that except for genetic anomalies and Down Syndrome, that there shouldn't be an exception to an abortion ban. His attitude, like that of Rick Santorum and many other conservative congressional leaders, is that the suffering of one will "bring beauty from the ashes" in the form of the child that is forced to be carried to term, despite how it was conceived or the lingering psychological damage that the mother must recover from.  Rape and incest, no exception, but genetic anomalies, kill it. The attitude that ultimately beauty comes from sexual abuse tells me they watch way too many Lifetime movies, or this demonstrates how much cognitive dissonance is at play in the policy making minds of many conservative congressmen in this country.  The romanticizing of suffering, and the more personal an assault the better for such a process, is undeniable in the Bible. There have been many stories shared not just in religious studies, but in everyday life and story telling, of how a person is sexually violated, and the resulting child brings about a metamorphosis of recovery and strength to defeat all the odds against the victim. But as Faught seems to point out, a genetic deformity is not the same as sexual abuse. There wasn't an an act against one's will involved. There wasn't trauma. There wasn't a good enough story of a human life being shattered behind it. Worst of all, this type of romanticizing of suffering and humiliation of an individual creates an obligatory martyrdom that is then demanded to be shared publicly for all to gain a lesson from, which is atrocious and dehumanizing in my opinion.  It takes away the right to process your pain in a manner that best suits you, and even encourages a suppression of hurt as there is an expectation to perform for the general public an astounding feat of an "overcoming the odds" underdog story of encouragement.    It's pure selfishness on the part of these congressmen and ideologues pushing this line of rationalization to the general public. They are saying to victims,"We want a feel good story from your tragedy that reaffirms our faith values, Suzy, so you have to have that rape baby your daddy put in your belly. Don't worry, it's a blessing you can pay for, sweetheart." This is exploitation of the vulnerable to benefit the masses, and it must stop. Some might argue that it isn't about any of what I've just said, but actually a focus on the beauty of someone trying to survive and recover, and that the baby in the mix makes it all the more beautiful.   But to whom?   This refusal to offer exception for incest is not about the rare cases of sister and brother, or uncle and niece, who are of age, informed of the risks, and willingly in a desired relationship together. This is about the 15 year old, or 22 year old, who finds themselves pregnant after sexual abuse. They are feeling depressed, used, overwhelmed, and are struggling to survive. And you think that this notion that being in this predicament is benefiting them by showing others the strength and resilience of their desire to get through that mess? That in the long run, everything will end up like Queen Simonida of Serbia, and these abused souls will take solace in being the example for everyone else? That this constant recognition of pain and anguish will be a pep rally for their psyche to continue on and look back on their lives with a grateful attitude?        

TheBluegrassSkeptic

TheBluegrassSkeptic

 

Cognitively Dissed

I've always enjoyed watching how a person can adapt, and even sometimes evolve, belief to fit the not just certain time frames in life, but even moment to moment. The give and take between believer and belief system has always fascinated me because many times it seems the believer is unaware of the relationship that is actually occurring. Especially so when confronted with situations or reasoning that directly confronts and contradicts said belief relationship. Much like poor Beni Gabor (The Mummy, 1999), one starts flipping through all the angles of belief in order to find a ledge to maintain standing on. To teeter wildly on the edge of rational thought and desperately avoid it has always been something I could sympathize with. How many times have we had to look in the mirror, and finally we admitted we are tired and committed to an important change?      This constant flipping about belief rules to fit situations isn't an uncommon problem in many religiously oriented life styles. A wife promises to keep her spending under control so as to not run up the credit bills too high, but turns around five minutes later to pledge $85 a month on that same credit card to Joel Osteen ministries. It's for God, so she isn't breaking her promise.  Pope Francis condemns gender pay inequality, but I'll be damned if they are willing to ordain women anytime soon despite how flimsy the basis of doctrine is to support the church's patriarchal employment structure (Jesus only chose male apostles, so there's your proof?) If one does not follow the same structured belief rules as another, each one dismisses the other's belief as misguided instead of understanding why they ended up serving the same deity differently.  A child is sick and dies despite the prayers and pleading by the parents for the child to be healed by their god. Instead of accepting that the illness took the child, the parents reason that their god had a plan in their lives for allowing their child to die so young, instead of accepting it was a disease that decided the entire event that was unpreventable and out of their control. Many believe the End Times are here, are saving food and ammunition, yet aren't they supposed to go in the Rapture and not have to need any of these things anyway? When you bring up this example, things get very defensive don't they? That's the fear, the feeling of vulnerability, and nervousness of having to reevaluate one's pool of answers.      The examples can go on forever, but this type of thinking doesn't have to. Let's start with one of the first exercises in dealing with cognitive dissonance:     A Question Is Not A Judgement.      Have you ever been in conversation with someone and you tell them some fantastic epiphany you had about becoming rich, doing good for humanity, and maybe you could die with an awesome legacy? And then that person points out how your method of becoming rich might actually not be good for humanity and suddenly you go blank, feel super awkward, and then scan your memory banks for a more solid position that supports your plan.    Hello being defensive, goodbye having a conversation.    Anytime we are confronted with errors in our reasoning, we instinctively hold onto our original reasoning. We can't help it. Our brains need time to rewire our understanding and application of logic when we get new information or realize we have an error in our data set. This is a common issue many atheists run into when trying to get family members to understand that because we don't believe in a god doesn't mean we automatically believe in the devil. After all, why believe in the devil if we don't even believe in a god? But this logical concept is actually difficult to understand for many religious family members because they are programmed with an "either or" scenario when it comes to belief and practicing it. Either you go to church or you aren't a true believer. Either you believe in the holy spirit or you aren't a true believer. Either you are pro-life or you support murder, which is a sin. It's always extremes, which is the mode of thinking you have to get out of.    To combat this, one has to remember a question is not a judgement. It's just a question. A question helps one explore concepts, avenues, solutions, application, and understanding of held belief. You can't call it a question if you are looking to only reinforce your own side of the argument either. This is an exploration into thought process, so it is an experience of mutual understanding for both parties. You have to be patient when doing this because unease will undoubtedly strike. I've often hear phrases like,"I don't like this line of conversation" or "You can't change my mind", and my favorite "I'm not going to let you misconstrue what I say and attack me with my own words".  All of these are defensive positions, are the red flags you need to be aware of so you don't allow the tension to escalate enough to allow for a complete avoidance of the subject.   There is another part to questioning though, and it's a tough one sometimes.     This is difficult enough to do with just one's own cognitive processes, but trying to help someone else to do the same? Do not count on knocking it out in one conversation, or even ten. I've found demonstrated consistency and interaction is the only way you can start to break down some of the resolute self-denial that just won't budge when trying to convince Aunt Mary that you really are happy with your life without jeebus. Again, it's not about being right, it's about understanding, which leads to discussion and tolerance, which can sometimes lead to even greater things in helping someone grow into a more rational mind set when trying to understand the world we live in. The old saying about more than one right way to skin a cat? Very true, and opening your mind to the methods available are important. Having an open mind is about learning and education, not argument and debate.   "You're trying to change who I am!"      I think this is probably the most important piece to cognitive dissonance's grip on the way a person approaches life. Pretty much says it all in that picture above doesn't it? Identity is hands down the biggest part of confronting and changing one's patterns of logic. Mostly because when you start questioning small things, they add up, and the next thing you know your entire identity is on the dissection table. How much of it was your own to begin with? Who am I? Who was I? Who will I be? And more importantly, will my community still accept me or am I willing to lose some of them? This loss of identity is probably the most scary thing to face because when you grow up and have so much of your world manufactured and programmed by others around you when you are young, you have to begin an entirely new journey of self discovery, and not all of those programmers are going to want to be in your life in anymore, or they are going to want to get you back on the right track. You feel like you are an aberration in the land of Camazotz.    Even worse, you will find a lot of self-doubt rumbling up to the surface, and this is true for many who do take the plunge into exploring fact and fiction, and what is reasonably acceptable in life. Cultural programming and human nature contribute to this most primal of defensive mechanisms. No matter how much stark facts are thrown at us, we will grip even tighter to the error ridden logic that has helped us get through life. It turns out that the best way to help people get past cultural barriers, ideological barriers, and even class barriers are the kind of tactics I absolutely hate to use: emotional appeal.     Fear is the word to know, but do not always say it out loud.       Yes, that's right. Showing the stark numbers of dogs abused every year in black and white will yield little change of heart in donations. You bring out a woman singing "In The Arms Of The Angels" while showing slides of mangled, dirty dogs that are in shelter cages? The compassion starts to flow and the urge to take action is nearly impossible to ignore. This is why churches and families have such a solid control on the thought processes of young children and adults in the world, usually reinforced with fear and shame. Fear being the more popular so long as it leads towards a pre constructed solution. You can't just set someone's mental world on fire and expect any productive results without a clear cut path of action you want them to take in order to avoid the fire. Keep it simple, and to the point. Don't want to go to hell and be tortured and burned and cut into pieces everyday and reassembled over and over again? Don't kill people!  Bad situation + easy rule to avoid bad situation = Controlled line of thought. Yeah, you have to really work on the convincing part of the bad stuff actually being real, and that is where shame comes in. Point out all the flaw and beat down someone's self-worth is usually a good start. Or, just start filling their heads with these frightening concepts before they are even mature enough to know better.        And all of this is what you are up against when dealing with someone who lives in a world of conflicting ideas. You can't make the change happen overnight, and honestly, it's an ongoing process for everyone no matter how freed one might think s/he actually are.     Patience is not a virtue. It's a life hack.      The only final thing I have learned is that patience is the best tool in my shed when dealing with folks that are making my life a living hell because they do not agree with my lifestyle, listen to bullshit lies passed around by an ex-husband, or think my direct nature is a personal issue with them and not just me being a socially awkward gadderblast, and act upon those preconceived notions. Years ago I'd read a few memoirs by Benjamin Franklin, and one quote in particular stuck out in my mind:     It's called the Ben Franklin effect, and I have to say, it does wonders with those you have tense relationships with. It can help you get the conversation started, but you have to be patient, and essentially kill them with kindness.      That's all I've got this week! Got any additional tips for dealing with compartmentalized religious people? Share in the comments below! I will be discussing this on next week's podcast.                

TheBluegrassSkeptic

TheBluegrassSkeptic

 

Last Goodbyes

Death for me over the years has rarely been difficult to process and move on. I've buried quite a few, only mourned a couple. The two I mourn are now memories I guard so earnestly a mother bear could not rival my ferocity. These two people immediately bring on the wet eyes and short tight breaths when I just so much as think on their lives, their influence, and my loss.   This past January I experienced a third loss of someone very important in my life. It's hit me very hard, and I am surprised it's taken me this long to be able to pick up a pen and put it to paper finally. It's been thirty days, and this is still difficult to even bother to proof read. I did pour out my initial shock and pain all over social media. I tracked every article on his death I could find. I even found video from where he was that day and watched a VBIED explode in the distance. I had to somehow be there. Witness his chaos, hear the intensity, and visualize the finality that damage brought on in the war he volunteered to fight in.   Albert Avery Harrington had volunteered to fight with Kurdish forces against ISIL two years ago. When he had initially announced his plans, I debated, I argued, and I even pleaded for him to reconsider and find another way to render aid. I knew he would end up severely injured, or worse, dead. But he went anyway, fully accepting the almost guaranteed risks that would change his, and the lives of all who loved him, forever.   He sought life and purpose on his own path, and if death found him, at least it was while he was in pursuit of what made his existence fulfilled. This outlook on life is the only reason I can accept his death without anger or regret. No anger at his dying in a situation that he willingly allowed danger to follow, or regret that I never convinced him to put down this flag for a noble cause.   Our last goodbye was back in September. He'd asked me if I could use my press privileges and get him in to Kurdistan. I'd laughed him off, quietly relieved he wasn't currently in harm's way for the moment. I knew it was only a matter of time though, and once again I would get erratic messages from the front lines in Kurdistan where he would complain about needing sleep and I would promise him the juiciest burger money could buy once he got back.   If.   But he didn't make it back. January 18th he and four others were hit by not one, but two, VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) during a special offensive titled "Wrath of the Euphrates" in a small village called Suwaydiya-Saghirah village in Raqqa. The goal was to cut off the supply line to ISIS's stronghold in Raqqa. Three men were instantly killed, and Avery succumbed to his wounds in the morning hours of the 22nd at age 50. He is listed as a martyr with YPG/MFS Kurdish forces and buried in the land where he fought to defend innocents against ISIL's tyrannical cult. It appears their sacrifice has paid off since Kurdish forces have wrested control of Kukhkhan and Bir Said villages from ISIL in northern Raqqa.   While the progress made since his death has been bittersweet, seeing the word martyr was a difficult thing to process at first. See, like myself, Avery was an atheist. He was living proof of atheist in foxholes and he was very much a humanist. One I try to model myself after. Honestly, I don't know how he gave so much of himself to so many. I get exhausted, but Avery thrived on it, I believe. "Give me a mission," he would say. So, when I saw him being referred to as a martyr, my teeth began to grind. The days to come proved even harder when others began to share their own pain and thoughts on his passing.   As I followed up on news posted on his remembrance page, I began reading the thoughts and prayers comments. I also had to walk away from my computer a few times when I read speculation about whether he'd gotten right with god or turned back to Christ on his death bed.   At first, I interpreted this kind of talk as an affront to what he stood for. His legacy should not be tarnished with the idea he was going to Hell unless he managed a last minute conversion. Could people not see the insult to everything he stood for by questioning his very humanity based on a belief system he did not even ascribe to? Those questions and speculations made me cry. They made me angry. I felt Avery's very purpose of pursuing a larger case for compassion on the world stage had been overshadowed. And after my rage subsided, I realized what was wrong with all these thoughts that were screaming in my head.   The word "I".   The long and the short of it all comes down to the fact Avery is dead. He can no longer be personally offended. He can't feel. He is oblivious to the world as he lays in his box under hundreds of pounds of dirt and rock in Syria. This is about my desire to preserve his memory in my life as I feel it should be. When the desires of other's to do the same do not match up to mine, then I want to stomp them out. And this is incredibly unfair. It minimizes the grief of others, it alienates in a time when coming together is most comforting.   The desire or belief that Avery found God and is now in Heaven does no harm to his memory in my life. It puts a comfort to the personal loss of another, and I don't have the right to control another's grieving process by demanding their hopes be dashed. Just as Avery showed understanding for religious culture and customs of those he sought to protect, why can I not afford the same respect to those who now have a gaping loss to deal with in their lives like I do?   This is a practice I will struggle with for years to come, as do all of us, but for those of us who do not believe in a hereafter, we feel the loss even more permanently than those who do believe. Why should I make a demand for conformity on behalf of those who are dead? Why allow the anger to take away from what we have lost? Do I really need to ask them why their God saw fit to allow such atrocity that eventually motivated Avery to protect those God would not? No, I won't do that. Even if when some say this god supposedly had a plan for Avery.   Grief and loss do not belong to only one individual, though the process is individually different because of perception of the relationship one shared with the deceased. All of us who loved and cherished Avery have one thing in common, his death. Some of us will look forward to dining with him at the table in Valhalla, the rest of us have only his influence to pass on through our own actions so he may life on in the life of others - even if some who will be influenced by him, won't even know his name or know he is the source of their benefit.   I can honestly say that my relationship with Avery ended with no regrets, and the past is forever the past, and tomorrow will always show me where we once were together.   I love you, Avery. We miss you.

TheBluegrassSkeptic

TheBluegrassSkeptic