The Time Lord Was Fine, but Creation?

A friend of mine sent me a link to a news release from Big Finish Productions, producers of Doctor Who audio plays. They’re celebrating their 15th anniversary with some reminiscences, and this one made him think of me.

“One other thing sticks very closely in my mind from running Big Finish in 2001 – death-threats. The aforementioned Bloodtide was a brilliant script by Jonny Morris, his first for us. I asked him for a Silurian story, he opted to put the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn on the Galapogas Islands with Charles Darwin and thus emerged an amazing story about evolution of the species from both a human and Silurian perceptive, with the villain of the piece taking responsibility for genetically engineering mankind in the first place. And cue the complaints, every single one from certain areas of America known as the Bible Belt. And within these outraged letters came three death threats. I had apparently challenged these peoples’ belief in God, and they were going to make me pay.

“Having offended possibly the same group earlier in the year by not spotting that Clay Hickman had inverted a pentagram on the cover of Minuet in Hell (which we changed for later repressings and the music collection), I really had run out of patience so rather than cowering from their self-righteous wrath, I pinned the letters up in the Big Finish office and delighted in the fact that a play I had produced and directed (not written, mind) had caused such a bizarre amount of vitriol from people whose grasp on the fundamental concepts of fiction was shaky at best.

“Yes, what a fun year 2001 was :-)”

A time-traveling alien with two hearts is fine. A race of lizard people who have lived alongside humanity unseen is just dandy. But don’t you dare let your fictional creatures say anything about Creation or we’ll threaten to kill you.

“You’re Not Oppressed, White Atheist Dudes”

It’s the Dear Muslima of atheist progressives, so knock it off.

Not enough? Okay, we’ll do this the long way.

No, not all atheist progressives. (Do I really have to do this?) Plenty of atheist progressives manage to critique the actions and priorities of atheist organizations without suggesting that the enterprise as a whole isn’t needed because the atheist oppression white guys complain about isn’t real. It still happens, particularly among a subset of well-educated, urban, white, progressive atheists.

Oppression of people who are otherwise well able to withstand the oppression does not stop being oppression. [Read more...]

I’m Just a Bill

Two bills, technically, as of sometime today. This was introduced in the House a week or two ago. It should be introduced in the Senate today. There’s no chance it will be passed or even receive a hearing this session, but this gives us an official version to start building support around. Isn’t it pretty?

Photo of Minnesota House bill #2966, allowing atheist and humanist nonprofits that sponsor training for marriage officiants to appoint such officiants.The funny thing about this bill is that it’s very close to what we started with. That’s because another member of the House independently introduced bills to make mayors and notaries public able to officiate weddings. We support both of those bills, so we’ll work with the people pushing them rather than start anything ourselves. Those bills have received hearings, where training turned out to be an important issue for committee members. That means that temporary officiants may be a dead proposition for the time being.

How Does This Become a Thing?

Off in a random corner of YouTube, I accidentally “discovered” mime dance. It had to be an accident, because I would never have thought this up myself. Not only did someone else think this up, but it caught on. There are thousands of these videos, and the vast majority of them appear to be religious videos. Some are several years old.

Watching them–and I’ve watched several now in fascination–I can see some continuity with the physical expressiveness of many gospel singers. I still have to wonder, though, how you move from that to the white makeup and gloves, lip syncing and dramatic literalism of mime dance. Articles and sites that talk about mime dance don’t seem to be very clear on its history. Rather they’re focused on its spread and on individual performers. I’d love to find out how it coalesced into its own form with its own traditions. [Read more...]

Contraception Is a Health Issue

As is entirely unsurprising, the news out of Bartlesville today was squirmy. St. John’s Health, which is the company that owns Jane Phillips Medical Center and that was recently acquired by Ascension Health, put out an unsigned statement that read in its entirety:

Consistent with Catholic health care organizations, St. John Health System operates in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, and therefore does not approve or support contraceptive practices. However, only physicians (not institutions) are licensed to practice medicine and make medical judgments. While our physicians agree to abide by the Directives, they also have the ability to prescribe medications, including hormonal medications, in accordance with their independent professional medical judgment. This includes informing patients when they are operating under their own professional medical judgment and not on behalf of St. John Health System.

What does that mean? It means their “ethical directives” are in conflict with the law. This one in particular:

5. Catholic health care services must adopt these Directives as policy, require adherence to them within the institution as a condition for medical privileges and employment, and provide appropriate instruction regarding the Directives for administration, medical and nursing staff, and other personnel.

It means they really, really don’t want to consider reproductive health to be a medical issue. They want it to be considered only an ethical issue unless and until a pregnant person’s life is directly on the line or they can hand-wave away contraception as treatment for something else.

That doesn’t work, though. Deciding when and whether to get pregnant is an issue of physical health, of mental health, of economic health–frequently for an entire family. Prescribing contraception, administering contraception, inserting contraception, and performing surgical interventions that obviate the need for additional contraception are all health care, even if they’re done for no other purpose than birth control. They are all subject to professional medical judgment.

No church should be interfering with this medical judgment in any way. Basing their decisions on what they posit will happen once you’re dead is not health care. Your immortal soul is not on any medical school exam and with good reason.

The good news is that there are ways to push back on this stuff. I’m still doing a bunch of reading, but I’ll bring you more soon. In the meantime, know that the first step–sometimes the only step needed–is to raise a fuss. Folks in Bartlesville did that, both with the original report, and by organizing. If Ascension Health continues to try to substitute “ethical directives” for good medical care on contraception, it’s not going to happen quietly. And they’ll have help.

In the meantime, those OB-GYNs will go on and do what their professional medical judgment tells them to do, which is what they were doing already.

How Ethical Are These Directives?

Since I put up yesterday’s post about the Catholic hospital telling nearly all of the OB-GYNs in town that they can no longer prescribe birth control, I’ve been told that this is, in fact, illegal. Ophelia confirms that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists are both looking into this matter. Step one, which is hard to do on a Sunday, is to confirm that Ascension Health really intended to give Bartlesville OB-GYNs this message and intends to stand by this now that it’s received some publicity–that it’s neither a miscommunication nor a “miscommunication”. I’ll update here or in a separate post as I hear more.

Meanwhile, via Mano (and Pteryxx) comes the news of a probably doomed lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over the same Ethical And Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services (pdf) that is in play in the Ascension Health situation. The impetus for the lawsuit is a case very much like Savita Halappanavar’s but not resulting in death. In this case, however, the patient was not even given enough information to ask for her miscarrying fetus to be aborted to protect her health.

While the article at ProPublica indicates that the lawsuit may not hold up, it also highlights how big a problem we’re looking at.

The ACLU and women’s groups have been voicing concern since the 1990s about the growing role of Catholic health care operations around the country and what they see as the resulting threats posed to women’s reproductive rights. Those complaints have grown louder in recent years as Catholic facilities have moved aggressively to merge with secular hospitals and reports have surfaced about the challenges – some say contortions — that doctors and nurses have sometimes had to face to comply with church teachings on abortion, birth control, and end-of-life care while fulfilling their duty to patients.

Catholic hospitals now account for about 16 percent of hospital beds in the U.S. And in eight states — including Washington, Oregon, Iowa, and Missouri — they control more than 30 percent of beds. Ten of the 25 largest health-care networks in the country are Catholic-sponsored.

That’s an awful lot of people subject to those Ethical And Religious Directives, and frequently without another reasonable choice. An awful lot of those beds are in more isolated communities like Bartlesville, making the next-nearest hospital both far away and likely to itself be a Catholic hospital. That makes this statement from the Ethical And Religious Directives even more absurd.

When the health care professional and the patient use institutional Catholic health care, they also accept its public commitment to the Church’s understanding of and witness to the dignity of the human person.

People don’t have other real options, and they’re not being asked to affirmatively make an educated choice about this matter. It’s being aggressively pushed on them and spread to more and more hospitals. Their acceptance comes not by choice but by declaration of the bishops.

So what are people “accepting” when their local hospital gets bought out or merged? [Read more...]

A Town Without Contraception

I used to live in Bartlesville, OK. It was just a short stop–six weeks–in the year of living in four towns. It’s a good thing we didn’t stay for a lot of reasons, but now I have one more.

Confidential sources told the Examiner-Enterprise this week that a meeting was held Wednesday to inform local doctors of gynecology and obstetrics that they can no longer prescribe contraceptives of any kind — if they are to be used as birth control.

How could this happen? [Read more...]

This Is What a Witch Hunt Looks Like

Dr. Skyskull, in addition to being one of our funniest Mock the Movie participants, blogs about history. His usual topic is the history of physics, but he runs across other interesting tidbits too. About a week ago, he pointed at this translation of a contemporary description of a persecution for witchcraft. I thought it might help our community to see what a witch hunt actually looked like.

On Friday, June 30, 1628, the aforesaid Junius was again without torture exhorted to confess, but again confessed nothing, whereupon, . . . since he would confess nothing, he was put to the torture, and first the [Page 24] Thumb-screws were applied. Says he has never denied God his Saviour nor suffered himself to be otherwise baptized; [1] will again stake his life on it; feels no pain in the thumb-screws.

Leg-screws. Will confess absolutely nothing [and] knows nothing about it. He has never renounced God; will never do such a thing; has never been guilty of this vice; feels likewise no pain.

Is stripped and examined; on his right side is found a bluish mark, like a clover leaf, is thrice pricked therein, but feels no pain and no blood flows out.

Strappado. He has never renounced God; God will not forsake him; if he were such a wretch he would not let himself be so tortured; God must show some token of his innocence. He knows nothing about witchcraft. . . .

On July 5, the above named Junius is without torture, but with urgent persuasions, exhorted to confess, and at last begins and confesses:

It’s just like the blogosphere, isn’t it?

Why We Marry, Part 2: The State

A while ago, Tauriq asked why we should get married. In The Guardian, he argued that we shouldn’t, or at least that he shouldn’t.

I, on the other hand, have spent the last few months deep in Minnesota Atheists’ work on getting marriage law changed so that atheist and humanist celebrants don’t have to declare themselves religious or be recognized by organizations that identify as religious in order to have the state recognize the ceremonies they perform as legal marriages. This means I’ve spent a lot of time talking to people who perform nonreligious ceremonies and to people who have been married in nonreligious ceremonies about why these ceremonies are important to people. I’ve spent somewhat less time talking to legislators about the state’s concerns with the changes we’re asking for.

It also means I’ve spent a bunch of time answering questions about why we’re involved in the issue at all. There are two that are incredibly common in various forms. Why should we take an interest in marriage? Why are we supporting the idea that the state should take an interest in marriage? I’d like to address both of these questions. I’ll split them into separate posts, because they are very separate issues.

In Part 1 of this, I addressed marriage as a ceremony, a ritual that signals a commitment and a combining of families. Now it’s time to look at the state’s interest in marriage, because it does have a legitimate one.
[Read more...]

“No One Else Has Done More”

Via Ophelia comes the news that the sweet, friendly, new pope that everyone loves has a rosy outlook that extends to the coverup and facilitation of child sexual abuse by the Church.

“The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility. No-one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked,” he said in an interview with Il Corriere della Sera daily published Wednesday.

The same article notes that the Vatican has been denounced by the United Nations for appalling response to allegations of abuse. Commenters at Ophelia’s compare the response to allegations in the Church and at the local school, finding the Vatican wanting. They point out that the Vatican is a haven for those running from facing the problem. Me, though? I think it’s time to check back in with Minnesota Public Radio on our own local problem. [Read more...]