A Schism in Atheism

It is mind-blowing to me just how passionately some people are against the idea of Atheism Plus. Comment threads abound with people rudely and vocally not-getting-it. Blog posts are popping up indignantly decrying the whole idea for a variety of non-reasons. Insisting that the secular movement is being torn apart! And will someone please think of the children!?! I get this mental image of Chicken Little running around the farm yard: ‘The Sky is Falling!‘ Only it’s a bunch of grown-ass atheists flapping their arms and squawking about something that doesn’t have to affect them at all.

Guest Blogger Billybob on Canadian Atheist is a part of the noisy crowd of naysayers and a perfect example of the Chicken Little variety of naysayer that I’m talking about. ‘I want my word back!‘ and ‘This battle is unnecessary and wasteful. Just leave my word alone!!‘ Yeah, fuck you I can’t use ‘your’ word. I’m an atheist and I’m using the label. I’m an atheist plus…I’m a whole lot of other things. That’s kind of the point. Atheism Plus is an opportunity to show the world that it’s not just about atheism. Okay, we all don’t believe in god. That’s established. So we’re supposed to, what? Write blog posts about how awesome we are that we share this nonbelief? How much smarter we are than theists? Make fun of religious people? See, that would pretty much be a giant circle jerk. And while that is fun at times, the thrill dies off pretty quickly. Some of us want to do more. Or at least have the opportunity to discuss it.

So we’re all atheists. Now let’s do something with that. Those of us who care about social justice issues will do just that, under the banner of Atheism Plus. Note the capital letters. Don’t want to talk about social justice issues? Don’t. But don’t show up on our threads to poo-poo and whine about how atheism isn’t about feminism or LGBT rights or whatnot. You’re right, atheism has nothing to do with that. Thank you for stating the obvious. Now, go away. Feel free to come back when we’re discussing the War on Xmas and picking apart holy books. And that has been the trouble as of late. Any atheist who wants to discuss these issues gets bombarded by naysayers who remind us that social justice isn’t a part of the dictionary definition of atheism. No kidding. What a shame.

The irony being that now that a new wave that does care about these issues is created, those same naysayers are stamping their feet and pouting and flooding the comment threads with complaints about how they’re being excluded. You’re being excluded from something you didn’t want to be a part of? Hmm… Yeah, seriously, fuck off already.

This is how ridiculous it is: Imagine I start a group called Toronto Awesome Atheist Association (I never checked to see if this is an actual thing. If it is, didn’t mean to center you out). A group dealing with atheist issues that specifically concern those who are awesome and living in Toronto. The internet then explodes as legions descend upon my website telling me that atheism isn’t about Toronto and I’m tearing the movement apart! Riiiiiight… Actually, I’m focusing on one area so that the members of the TAAA have a place to discuss what’s important to them without cluttering up generic online atheist forums where people don’t care about being an atheist in Toronto.

A group from Free Thought Blogs had a Google+ Hangout that they made public. In it they attempted to address some of the issue people say they have with Atheism Plus. Instead they mostly got terribly sidetracked and goofed around. But still worth the watch. You can find the video on PZ Myers blog, Pharyngula. In it, Jen McCreight of Blag Hag, who was the one who wrote the original post that kicked off Atheism Plus said the following (p.s. Thank you to the fine folks who transcribed the video.) :

I mean, I’ve talked about, I want to go start my own social justice atheist group. Or I want to start a forum where we can just talk about this, without being constantly harassed. And what have I got in the last 48 hours? Is nothing but a constant slew of harassment. And so it’s like, we can’t even go off and start our own group without them saying how crappy our group is, and how much they hate it, and how I’m a fascist, narcissistic, anti-intellectual cult leader? It’s just like,if you’re not interested in issues of social justice and how they relate to atheism, then don’t talk about it! But if we want to talk about it, we should be able to.

If there is a schism in atheism it is because of the naysayers. It’s because of the misogynists and the racists who make so many feel unwelcome in the secular movement. It’s because of those who refuse to take any criticism and refuse to even consider changing and becoming more inclusive. It’s because of those who demand that we stop talking about social justice issues because it makes them feel uncomfortable…because we’ve taken the spotlight off them for a brief moment and shone it on bigger issues. They created the need for Atheism Plus and now they’re still whinging about how unfair it is.

Yeah, it’s really unfair not to feel welcome…
Their Irony detectors appear to be broken.

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Mythic Mondays – Homeopathy

Homeopathy, lauded as a natural alternative to ‘Big Pharma’. Safe. Organic. Natural. Without out all those pesky side effects of medicines from pharmacies. A way to treat your symptoms without having to see a doctor and a way to stay in control of your own heath! It’s been around for over two centuries! Oh yeah, and not only does it not work it doesn’t do anything at all.

How does Homeopathy ‘work’? Well, you’re probably going to facepalm when I explain it.

Adherents of homeopathy believe that if a substance can cause the same symptoms of the disease in a healthy person, it will cure the sick person. Same cures same. It’s as simple as that. Suffering from vomiting? This Ipecac will cure you! Need to sleep? Caffeine, of course. Diabetes troubling you? Have some sugar. It’s all so simple! I don’t know why the medical field isn’t clambering over themselves to promote these ideas!

Only it’s more complicated than that. You see they ‘potentize’ the solution by diluting it and shaking it (or in their terms, using ‘succession’) in each direction 10 times. They use a lot of complicated nonsense terms to make what they’re doing sound more sciencey/magickey. This magical procedure makes the solution more powerful. And the more times you potentize a mixture the stronger it becomes. So, the more you dilute it, the stronger homeopaths believe the mixture becomes. Seriously. They will often continue to do this until there are no remaining molecules of the original poison that they were suggesting you drink. The end result? Water. With no measurable evidence of the original active ingredient.

This is the reason why there are no side effects to homeopathic solutions. There’s nothing in it but water. Literally. Apparently, they believe that water has a memory and that the vibrations of the original medicine is still there. Also magic. Woooooo……

“It’s a miracle! Take physics and bin it!
Water has memory!
And while its memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is Infinite
It somehow forgets all the poo it’s had in it!”

Tim Minchin, Storm

James Randi, ex-magician and current woo-science debunker, swallows two full bottles of homeopathic sleeping pills before each of his lectures. He does this despite the warning on the bottle to call the poison control center in case of overdose and the max dose being listed as 2 pills in 12 hours. He then speaks for over an hour about how foolish homeopathy is. He gives an excellent, and hilarious, explanation of homeopathy that I highly recommend watching.

Where’s the harm? It’s not hurting anybody, is it? You may ask. Well, yes. Yes, it is. People who have legitimate illnesses are being tricked into taking water as a cure-all. People who can’t afford it are being scammed into purchasing pricey vials of water or placebo pills that are not helping them. Years ago, when I was working in a nursing home, I recall one husband of a patient insisting that his wife be taken off her heart meds and put onto ‘Strauss Heart Drops’ because his naturopath told him it worked better than any pills. It was over $100.00 a bottle that this man on a limited income shelled out. Her doctor compromised and allowed her to have the solution, but insisted that she stay on her Digoxin. Smart woman, that doctor.

As an aside, here’s an interesting tidbit from the FAQ page of Strauss Heart Drops.

‘Question: What is the success rate with Strauss Heartdrops™?

Answer: In our opinion, heart conditions that are caused by clogged arteries are improved in 95 per cent of users.’

I need to let out a huge sigh before I go on, in order to limit my use of expletives. Ahem! Reduction of clogged arteries is measurable. It’s not a matter of opinion. That this company seems to think their opinion is an answer to a verifiable question should be a matter of concern. Or to put it in the succinct words of my brother : ‘You’re fired. That’s my opinion.’

This becomes an even greater concern because the companies that produce this sort of crap have pressured the government sufficiently that it is now possible to get a DIN number for homeopathic remedies. What does that mean? It means it’s classed in the same way that real drugs are. This gives it an appearance of credibility it wouldn’t otherwise have. A misleading appearance of validity. Remember when I said several paragraphs back that there was a homeopathic solution to diabetes? Yeah, I wasn’t joking. Homeopathic insulin is not just legal in Canada, it’s also approved by Health Canada. DIN-HM 80016480 I couldn’t give you a direct URL as each search is timed, but you can look it up yourself with that DIN number.

Have I caused your eye to twitch yet?

‘Through the Natural Health Products Directorate, Health Canada ensures that all Canadians have ready access to natural health products that are safe, effective and of high quality, while respecting freedom of choice and philosophical and cultural diversity.’
Health Canada

What the ever-loving-fuck has cultural diversity to do with whether or not something works? Ophelia Benson of the Butterflies and Wheels blog states : ‘Poison doesn’t become not poison in a different culture. A glass of water doesn’t become insulin because cultural diversity. If you’re certifying something as effective then you have to use the right – universal – standards.’ Amen, sister.

Does Not Compute!

But they aren’t doing that. And let’s focus on one word in that quote from Health Canada: effective. Health Canada ensures we have access to effective homeopathy. Effective homeopathy. I do believe that is an oxymoron. Also a lie. Brought to you by our government regulating body. These snake oil salesmen are the people you’re supposed to be protecting us from, you know. Way to let your credibility crash and burn guys.

Skeptic North examines some of the other ridiculous items that Health Canada has recently approved. It’s an excellent source for more information regarding the limitations and flaws in our national drug regulating body, Health Canada. Also if you want to curse out these homeopathy scam artists and shake your fist at a computer screen.

31 States

Thirty One. Thirty One is how many states in the USA currently allow visitation rights or child custody rights for rapists. So those estimated 32,000 children conceived in the US each year through rape? The rapists can sue for custody of the resulting children. I’m guessing that if many women knew they may be forced to deal with their rapist for the next 18 years, more of them would choose to abort those fetuses. But that’s just me projecting.

“I was struck with terror, not only with the idea of letting my child be around him, but also having to spend the next 18 years of my life tied to him,”
Shauna Prewitt

Shauna Prewitt, a lawyer and mother of a child conceived through rape, recently wrote about her story for CNN. The short version is that she was lucky and stopped the raping scumbag from asserting his ‘rights’ as father. He did try. The comments for that story are absolutely toxic. Be forewarned. There’s a lot of ‘But women lie about rape all the time’, ‘Get over yourself and move on’, ‘It wasn’t rape unless I say it was rape’. In other words, it’s the typical commentariat of Rape Culture and it’s bloody depressing.

It’s telling that those who scoffed at Todd Akin’s embarrassing biology fail still agree with his main (and not so subtly disguised) point: Real rapes don’t result in pregnancy. So women who claim they were raped and are pregnant are obviously liars. One commenter on the CNN piece asked incredulously : ‘Are we supposed to take a woman’s word at face value?’ No. Of course not. We all know women are sneaky. It’s in the bible, isn’t it? Women are inherently more deceitful then men. We should always mistrust anything any woman says. You can insert some copious eye rolling here. I know I did.

It’s also interesting to note that those (like our dear Todd Akin) who are insisting that women have no right to ever abort a pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest, fail to mention that more than half of the states have laws that may force the woman to further be victimized by a violent sexual aggressor moving into her life and demanding child custody rights. They’re fine with it and didn’t think it was worth mentioning. The important thing is that the rapist and the fetus are being taken care of. As we should know by now, Republicans always place the rights of men and fetuses first. Who gives a fuck what happens to the woman who was attacked? They certainly don’t. Not to mention how much it could mess a child up to be partially raised by a filthy criminal who has no respect for his/her mother.

Then again, it comes down to biblical law. Maybe that is exactly what these Republicans, who keep reminding us that the USA is a christian nation, really want. They didn’t mention it because it’s part of their belief system and they’re okay with it.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29, New International Version (NIV)

28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

Atheism Plus. Where Atheism and Feminism Meet – Part II

The first part of this post can be found here : Where Atheism and Feminism Meet – Part I

Atheism Plus. The term was coined by Jennifer McCreight and the commentariat of her blog, Blag Hag. The idea being that we want a label that applies to more of what we do believe, and not just what we don’t believe. Jason Thibeault , from Lousy Canuck, defines it thusly : ‘the “atheism plus” label takes the part of the Venn diagram where humanists and “new” atheists and social justice advocates overlap, and defines itself as that overlap.

I am wholeheartedly on board with this suggestion. I’ve often said that my feminism and social justice ideals stem from my atheism. And yet, atheism at its core has nothing to do with either of the other movements. I am a feminist because believing half the population is somehow inferior to the other is irrational. I believe in Social Justice because we only have one life and we should strive to make this place where we live the most pleasant place we can, before we die and the ride is over.

At its core, atheism is merely the lack of belief in gods. Many people have no belief in gods. People who identify as MRAs, and racists, homophobes, people who are not skeptics, and people who are capitalists all may have no belief in god. I share this label with people who do not share any of my philosophies. The irony being that it was my atheism that brought me to these other philosophies. It didn’t bring everyone here. It did bring enough of us to the destination where we should probably have a label to describe where we’re coming from.

The idea of creating a new wave of atheism for those atheists who fit the description of Atheism+ seems to be receiving a lot of pushback. People who insist that tossing all this extra luggage into the trunk is going to cause division and strife amongst atheists. Guess what? The division and strife is already there. As I noted in my previous post, I feel very unsafe and unwelcome in the atheist movement as it stands. I am not the only one. Jen’s original post on starting a new wave of atheism explained her feelings on the subject and they are very similar to my own.

And then I found this quote :

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheist women… and also be inclusive of people who publicly call women ugly, fat, sluts, whores, cunts, and worse; who persistently harass them; who deliberately invade their privacy and make their personal information public; and/or who routinely threaten them with grisly violence, rape, and death.

Greta Christina, Why Atheism Plus Is Good for Atheism

Not just women, either. As it stands, the movement is already divisive and exclusive in regards to sexism and racism, and homo/trans-phobia. Which explains why the current face of the atheism is a group of old white men. That’s not my atheism. It’s not reflective of the rest of us. And there are a lot of ‘the rest of us‘. So give us a banner to crowd under. So we can march forward united. The chaff having been left to the wayside. They were making us look bad and they weren’t contributing anything worthwhile anyway.

Atheism Plus. Where Feminism and Atheism and Social Justice meet. Call me an optimist, but I have high hopes for this movement. It’s exactly the face we need to help secularism grow. One that is supportive of LGBT issues, feminism, people of colour, and one that embraces social justice. A friendly face, as it were.

Mythic Mondays – Legitimate Rape

You know, this is one post I never thought I’d have to write. The level of stupid involved in rape culture and the forced-birth movement is pretty bad, but this comment takes the cake.

Todd Akin, a United states congressman AND a member of the House Science and Technology Committee, stated this weekend that rape rarely causes pregnancy because:

“It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare, if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down, But let’s assume maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist.”

Apparently, according to Akin, a woman’s uterus knows the difference between rape and consensual sex, somehow, and magically destroys sperm that doesn’t have its paperwork in order. I want to meet the incompetent doctors that he said gave him this information.

Was it Galen of Pergamon? He taught that a woman could only conceive if she’d had an orgasm. He taught this is 150 CE, mind you. While he was ahead of his time in cutting edge anatomy…this was also almost 2,000 years ago. He also was a staunch supporter of blood letting, and of fixing ‘bad humours’, which has been thoroughly discredited by modern medicine. As has the idea that a woman needs to orgasm/consent in order to get pregnant.

Todd Akin, a man who has the power to legislate laws that limit a woman’s reproductive choice, while following advice from a 2,000 year old medical book. Not to mention the fact that this man is on the House Science and Technology Committee. Let that roll around in your head for awhile. I’m not even going to debunk this one, because if you believe that a woman’s uterus knows about consent and can decide whether it should get pregnant or not, then you are an idiot. Todd is an idiot.

The really scary thing? Todd is not an isolated case. There’s plenty of documented occurrences of Republican politicians stating this very thing. These are university educated men in positions of power. Jezebel has a recent timeline of some these incidences. Not to mention that this is one of the core beliefs of the anti-choice movement.

‘Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, on Sunday called Akin’s remarks “flat-out astonishing.”

“That kind of rhetoric re-traumatizes sexual assault victims …That kind of talk, I believe, is intended to shame women,” she told AP Radio.’
The Toronto Star

There’s also the not-so-subtle undercurrent of what he’s saying: Real rapes don’t get women pregnant. Most rapes are just made up by loose women who can’t keep their legs closed and regret it after the fact. So the estimated 32,000 women a year who get pregnant each year from rape? Lying sluts who are just trying to put an innocent man in prison. Stay classy, Todd.

There’s a petition to get Todd taken off the House Science and Technology Committee. ‘Someone who believes nonsense like this has no part overseeing science policy.’ Says the poster of the petition. Seeing as the man is still living in the dark ages, it might not be a bad idea.

Here’s some good posts on the subject of Legitimate Rape, Todd, and Rape apologists:

The myth that women can’t get pregnant from rape stems from basic assumptions anti-choicers make about women.

The Offical Guide to Legitimate Rape.

Akin’s eager apologists

What Todd Akin Said

Islamophobia?

I’ve noticed a trend lately where liberal left-leaning atheists tend to shy away in horror whenever someone says anything disparaging about islam. I’ve seen numerous people called racists and islamophobes for saying something that no one would bat an eyelash at if it was said of christians. Frankly, I think it’s gotten ridiculous. The fear of being seen as a racist apparently trumps speaking out against a harmful and vile philosophy that seeks to gain power in our society.

I’ve never personally been called an islamophobe (I’m sure that will change after this post) but I do bristle when I see the label applied to others. Because to me it stinks of a silencing buzzword. In the same way that anti-feminists try to use the words ‘bitch‘ and ‘man-hater’ to end conversations with women.

Let’s break islamophobia down for a moment : islam (The so called religion of ‘peace’) and phobia (intense fear. I would dispute the phrase ‘irrational fear’ in this case). Now what would we possibly have to fear from a religion with such a strong history of violence and aggressive expansionism? How could we hate a religion that refuses to grant half the population even basic human rights? A religion that preaches that you must submit or die. One that encourages lying to nonbelievers to make your religion seem more palatable.

Yes, by that definition I’m an islamophobe.
I have nothing positive to say about this religion. Or any of the monotheistic and Abrahamic religions, to be completely honest. Don’t for a moment think that christianity is somehow kinder and better than islam. Both are violent and irrational at the fundamental level. So this term ‘Islamophobia’? I don’t see the term as being pejorative when applied to someone who’s speaking out against what I perceive as evil.

Is it the same as racism? No. Because because being a muslim is not a racial thing. It’s a religious thing. You choose (or are brainwashed or bullied) to be a muslim. I could be a muslim–Okay, I’m lying. I have self respect and a fundamental need to seek out answers with evidence and not fairy tales. Not to mention the fact that I’m a woman and this is not a religion that has any tolerance for women. I’ll never be a muslim. But the point stands, anyone from any cultural background from anywhere in the world can choose to buy into this silliness.

Islam is not a race it is a religion. The fact that the majority of muslims are ‘brown people’ has more to do with the fact that people almost always choose to stay with the religion they were raised in. It’s relatively rare to convert to a completely foreign religion. Both religions were born in the desert and are utterly incompatible. So they had to part ways. Christian families moved north, muslim families stayed south. Correlation does not imply causation. Skin colour does not predict religion.

The most unfortunate thing, as far as I’m concerned, is that by standing by my right to find fault with islam, and I maintain that there’s plenty of fault to find, the people most likely to agree with me are the racists. nowhere was this more evident then during ‘Everyone Draw Mohammed Day‘. A day of protest condemning the threats of violence from muslims against anyone who dared to make a representation of their beloved prophet.

I agreed with this support of freedom of speech. I agreed to protest anyone trying to silence us with fear. I participated. I drew my depiction, a rather bland portrait of a bearded muslim man. Hey, it wasn’t about art, it was about principle! Most of the other drawings were, well, vile. It became more about vilifying brown people than focusing on islam or Mohammed. I participated a second time: it was a worse parade of racism. I did not participate in 2012. The people participating drew sikhs and hindus and muslims and called them all Mohammed, because to them brown people in turbans are all the same anyway. The original meaning had been too badly corrupted and the protest had been stolen by racists.

I recognize that racists revile islam. But as I said, they don’t appear to be able to tell the difference between any person of colour in ethnic attire. This is not the same thing as specifically calling out islam on its faults. In fact, the two couldn’t be further apart. I’d be amazed if those tea-bagger style racists knew the first thing about islam. For those that do know about the ‘religion of peace’ and who choose to shine a glaring light on its ugliness, have at it! This is not something that should have other atheists turning on them in horror and accusing them of racism. It’s a dishonest accusation, or an ignorant one. And I can’t help but feel it may have more to do with fear than with reason…

Here’s some awesome smack talk from my favourite islamophobe, Pat Condell. He totally nails it.

Mythic Mondays – Jesus Hates F*gs

That’s right: Figs. Jesus hates them. It’s an unreasoning and petulant hatred too, according to the bible.

Matthew 21:18-22
King James Version (KJV)

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.

And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.’

Jesus sees a fig tree, has a complete conniption when he realizes it’s not in season and has no fruit for him to eat and smites the tree. He then writes out a cheque for free fulfilled prayers which his ass never quite gets around to cashing. This is a totally rational reaction to a tree…if you’re a five year old throwing a temper tantrum. He totally wasn’t acting like a spiteful asshole teenager at all. I’m thinking the son of Yahweh needed some serious anger management counselling.

And then there’s this bit:

Jeremiah 29:17 KJV ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.’

That’s some serious righteous rage, right there. I don’t believe it’s ever been explained why our man Yahweh and his son Jebus have such a hard-on for persecuting figs but they were never big on explanations or…logic.

Or… did you think the title of this blog post referred to something else?

Well, good luck trying to use Jesus to justify homophobia, there’s nothing to back it up in the bible. At least not in the New Testament.

In Leviticus it states that a man cannot lie with a man as he would a woman. Which apparently lets lesbians completely off the hook. This divine wisdom is, of course, right beside passages that threaten hell for wearing mixed fibers, planting more than one crop in a field, having a rounded hair or beard cut, eating pork or shellfish, or having a tattoo. Which most christians are so super careful not to do. So clearly this rule about making sure lesbians don’t have sex with men must be pretty important right?

In warning others that homosexuality is a sin, this guy (in the photo in the left) is going to hell for having a tattoo…and prolly wearing mixed fibres too. He takes his bible really seriously when it’s backing up his chosen form of bigotry. Ignores it elsewise. Credibility…gone. I just hope for his sake that he’s not a fan of Fig Newtons too.