Eustress, Distress, and American Health Care

I bring you the best video discussion on American Health Care I’ve ever seen, courtesy of the Vlog Brothers and, specifically, the greatest man in the world, John Green.  If you don’t know the awesomeness of Nerdfighteria, you are missing a lot in your life and I hope you change that for yourself.

My world’s been sort of turned upside down on multiple fronts in the last few weeks and I’ve backed way off the internet and participating.  I find myself unable to engage about the harassment/assault allegations within the atheist community due to my own history and because I am dealing with a fair amount of craziness, both ups and downs, in my offline life.  Family issues, relationship issues, job issues, school issues, housing issues, financial issues, health issues, atheist movement imploding issues.  Basically, all of the issues at once.  All of which has left me a bit overwhelmed.  I now seem to be back to more or less functioning without having constant anxiety, so that’s good.  While I haven’t solved all the issues, I’ve at least gotten used to them.  Clearly it’s just been too long since I’ve been at a conference with my people.

And there’s phenomenal news in that I got a great job that I’m really excited about.  And they are very supportive of me continuing to do my activism work and finishing my PhD, so that really could not be better.  I realize I’m being completely non-specific about everything, but considering the bile and anger going on around here, I just am not feeling up to being open.

My Muslim Facebook Friends

muslimfbI admit that I am fairly wanton in my acceptance of Facebook friends.  Since it’s my primary mode of communication and sharing with my friends and followers, I’m happy to pretty much accept anyone who isn’t harassing me.  More hits on my blog, more attention to me, etc.

While the vast majority of strangers who friend request me are atheists, I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting a lot of requests from strangers who are Muslims.  No other religious denomination, just Islam.  I didn’t think too much of it — they could be people who were curious about what I was saying or maybe were in the closet atheists in inhospitable areas or they were trying to convert me.  All of which were OK with me.  I did a little digging and discovered that these people have friended en masse a lot of other atheists that I am friends with.

The weird thing is that none of them really comment on my page or engage with anything I say.  I guess they just want their posts to show up in my News Feed, but I am pretty heavy with my “Don’t Show Me Posts” powers, so a lot of people disappear soon after friending me.  Yesterday I got a friend request from someone with over 100 friends in common with me and today she showed up in my News Feed:

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Uzma Rathore: I don’t want to come across as harsh but i request those of you who are Islamophobics to kindly remove yourselves from my friends list as being a practicing Muslim, i won’t allow anyone to disrespect my religion. I removed a particular individual from my friends list just now due to the same reason. Cheers.

What’s she doing going around friending all these atheists if she’s just going to tell us to unfriend her.  MAKES NO SENSE.

So, strangers, why are you friending me?

EDIT: Apparently asking why she friended so many atheists is islamophobic hate speech.  Fascinating.

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I have absolutely no idea how many atheistic Islamophobic mad hatters i have added to my friend’s list out of sheer ignorance since i don’t deem it necessary to confirm individual religious beliefs prior to sending out friend requests but i am getting negative vibes about this whole thing. I just removed two women from my friend’s list who were propagating religious hate speech on my wall notwithstanding my persistent requests to not disrespect my religion. I wonder how some people can be so unreasonably adamant !

Zealot by Reza Aslan: A Review

There are a lot of narratives around this book.  Reza Aslan says mean things about atheists, Reza Aslan doesn’t have the credentials he says he has, Reza Aslan was mistreated abominably by Fox News, Reza Aslan is Muslim and that taints his ability to see clearly on the history of Jesus.  The thing is, none of these are about the book itself.  So I decided that I would read it.

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There are a couple things you should know about my background here.  I am trained in historical methods, I have read most of the popularly available books about the history of Jesus and the New Testament written in the last decade, and I love the history of religions.  I am also an atheist.  My particular brand of atheism, as Christopher Hitchens would say, is very much a Protestant one, an Episcopal one at that.  There was no sturm und drang and little in the way of imposing dogma in my upbringing, I had possibly the least contentious relationship one can have with their religion while also not believing in it or understanding the point of it.

Unlike some, my particular atheism has no investment in the idea that a Jesus of some sort did or did not exist, and so no suspension of disbelief is necessary for me to accept the premise of the book.  Aslan doesn’t really address the question of Jesus’ existence, partially because it’s not really much of a controversy among historians.  Even if you don’t believe in a historical Jesus, however, it’s possible to read the book as a thought exercise.  Liberal Christians will also be able to reconcile the figure presented with their faith, to some extent.  Fundamentalists and Catholics, however, wouldn’t be able to do so, especially believers in the perpetual virginity of Mary.

The story is basically as follows:

Jesus was a poor man from the tiny town of Nazareth who witnessed his homeland of Galilee impoverished, enslaved, and mistreated by Roman occupiers.  Around the age of 30, he became a disciple of John the Baptist, by far the more famous of the two at the time.  When John the Baptist was executed, Jesus struck out on his own with a message primarily aimed at overthrowing the Temple and the Roman Occupiers — he was attempting to radically reform Judaism and free the state of Israel.  He was killed for sedition against Rome.

He was one of dozens of miracle workers with remarkably similar stories, distinguishable mostly by the fact that, after his execution, his message was carried on by his surviving family and followers, particularly his brother James and, later, Paul. The reason Christianity lasted was because Paul changed it drastically from being a critique of Judaism to being a totally new religion, one that Jesus’ brother James did not approve of.  James was killed, as were his followers with the destruction of Jerusalem, meaning that the head of the church changed from being someone who knew the Nazarene and lived in his culture to being foreigners who’d only heard secondhand tales.  Christianity is Paul’s reimagining of historical Jesus, a sort of fanfiction version — the Fifty Shades of Grey to Jesus’ Twilight.

The book is not really new in terms of the history it offers, but it is the most readable history of first century Jerusalem that I’ve come across.  If you are only mildly interested in the subject or the subject is totally new to you, I cannot emphasize enough how fun it was to read.

Aslan goes to great lengths to reassure readers that the possibility of a divine Jesus still exists within this story, sometimes to the point of annoying this reader, but he also makes a good point about the difference between what modern people accept as history and what ancient people did and the difference between facts and truth.  Since the scientific revolution, facts and truth have become more or less synonymous to many people, but the stories told of Jesus were meant to reveal truth about him rather than be facts.  In the same way that parables are understood to be lessons about the real world, even if they didn’t happen.

Read an excerpt here.

Tonight at 7PM: The Ashley F Miller Show Episode 6

Join me, annalise fonza, and Yasmin Nair as we discuss:

Politics: The Anthony Weiner Scandal
Media: “Orange is the New Black”
Guest Choice: Prison in America

The YouTube link will appear shortly before 7PM EST.

This is filmed in front of a live internet audience — if you’ve got input feel free to get in touch before or during the show by commenting here, on youtube, or on the event page.

It will also be edited and released as a podcast.

Podcast website: http://ashleyfmiller.libsyn.com/webpage

I get e-mail: Ben Stein didn’t actually write this edition

Good old forwards from the family — without them, how would Snopes survive?  This particular one is, of course, on Snopes for us.  Snopes kindly explains that no, Ben Stein didn’t write the vast majority of it.  Unfortunately, the message is sent around because people agree with the message, not because they love Ben Stein.  Without further ado, here you go:

Only  hope we find GOD again before it is too late ! !

The  following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday  Morning  Commentary.

My confession:

I don’t like getting pushed around for being a  Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for  being Christians.  I think people who believe in God are  sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no  idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly  atheist country.  I can’t find it in the Constitution and I  don’t like it being shoved down my throat…

Or maybe I  can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we  should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God  as we understand Him?  I guess that’s a sign that I’m  getting old, too.  But there are a lot of us who are  wondering where these celebrities came from and where the   America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we  send to one another for a laugh, this is a little  different:  This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not  funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.
   In  light of recent events… terrorists attack, school shootings,  etc..  I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she  was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she  didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK.  Then  someone said you better not read the Bible in school…   The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and  love your neighbor as yourself.  And we said  OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our  children when they misbehave, because their little personalities  would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr.  Spock’s son committed suicide).  We said an expert should  know what he’s talking about..  And we said  okay..

Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have  no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it  doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and  themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard  enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has a great deal  to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’

Funny how simple it is  for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to  hell.  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but  question what the Bible says.  Funny how you can send  ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when  you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think  twice about sharing.  Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and  obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public  discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing yet?

Funny how when you forward  this message, you will not send it to many on your address list  because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will  think of you for sending it.

Funny how we can be more  worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks  of us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard it… no one will know you  did.  But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit  back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.

My Best Regards,  Honestly and  respectfully,

Ben  Stein

Love you too, fam.

Zombies in Pop Culture: The 2 books that started it — Bite Club

Many people think of the zombie as a cinematic invention, but the zombie story has a long tradition in literature as well. Most of the greatest films about zombies were either based upon or inspired by novels. All of these films depend heavily on the influence of just two books.

Shockingly, neither of these books presents zombies exactly as we are used to them. The first introduces the term and the spelling of the word with an (e) as opposed to just an (i). The second book introduces the apocalyptic nature of the zombie plague.

So begins my first blog post on Bite Club — the blog from Shit Zombies Say.  Go over and read the rest.

SKEPCHICKCON TOMORROW OMG

convergence2013logoOn a scale of stoked, I’m like a 9.  All of the bestest people in the world are going to be at CONvergence.  I, of course, still need to pack.  I’ve spent all day editing my Podcast instead — it’s on iTunes now, which I think makes it official.

Goals for SkepchickCON:

1. Look professional on the panels

2. Convince awesome people to come on my podcast/show

3. Look fancy

4. Hang out with the awesomest people.

I have also found a new apartment in the DC area, so hopefully I will soon be back to making ukulele videos more regularly.  I am currently debating whether I should be taking my ukulele with me to Minneapolis or not.  Yeppers.

SCHEDULE:

Thursday, July 4

11:30pm

 It seems like the villain is British way too much for coincidence. What is it about being British that makes it appealing to have villains British? Panelists: Emma Newman, Ashley Miller, Lee Harris, Emma Bull, Derek Mahr

Friday, July 5

9:30am

It’s a fantasy novel for atheists! How does that work? Panelists: Ashley Miller, Ruth Berman, Heina Dadabhoy, Sasha Katz, Chris Stenzel

2:00pm

Although much YA literature with female main characters has become best-selling in the last few years, the portrayal of the heroines of these stories is problematic. What are examples of good portrayals, both recent and old. Panelists: Michael Levy, Kathy Sullivan, Joan Sullivan, Jody Wurl, Ashley Miller

Sunday, July 7

11:00am

 Stigma of Mental Illness 

 Many of the people you know (and some of us!) are mentally ill by the standard medical definition. How do we cope? How can it be that people with mental illness are still happy, productive members of society? Panelists: Emma Newman, Ashley Miller, Kate Johnson, Steve Bentley, Molly Glover

Tonight at 7pm EST – The Ashley F Miller Show

Tonight, join me, Dan Fincke from Camels with Hammers, and Mavaddat Javid, who has a Tumblr here.

Topics:

Politics: SCOTUS and Prop 8

Media: documentaries “The New Black” and “American Revolutionary

Guest Choice: Prostitution issues

 

After the discussion that the three of us have, I’m hoping to include anyone else who would like to join in the discussion.  This is the first run, so it might not go totally smoothly as it’s all being figured out, but I’m thinking I can answer any questions sent through chat as well as invite people to join the hangout for discussion.

https://plus.google.com/events/c5js9i9ar4ctbg9shs23v51atb8

Monday Miscellany

Debating race and inequality is….messy.

Chana needs a better science-religion Venn diagram. I can’t figure out which part to quote, so you should read the whole thing.

Here’s a nifty pull quote from David Silverman, interviewed at Netroots Nation:

But really when we’re talking about how we’re dealing with this, it’s hard because atheism is all about free speech, atheism is all about open communication, and some atheists are simply not nice people. And just like some Christians are not nice people, and some Jews are not nice people, some atheists are simply not nice people. And there’s a lot of people who are in that middle area, and there’s a lot of misunderstanding. So what I think has to happen is that the feminist voice in atheism has to be protected — protected may be not the right word, but I’ll use it anyways. The voice of feminist has to be protected, it has to be amplified, it has to be helped by the men in atheism and by the women as well. We have to make a stand that says, “It’s just obvious that men and women are equal and it’s also obvious that rape jokes sent to feminist speakers and sent to feminist bloggers, that’s not what good people do.”

At the crux of that, I’ve said many times that the atheism movement is the good guys. We are the good guys! We strive for equality, not advantage, that’s what makes us the good guys. Good guys don’t act like that. They don’t act like that to our enemies, and they don’t act like that to our allies. I have seen people within the atheist movement treat other atheists more poorly than I would treat the worst of our adversaries, and that shames me. That makes me ashamed of them.

And speaking of atheists, Hemant fact-checks Time’s piece on community service, and whether or not secular humanists offered help in the wake of the Oklahoma tornado.

As an addendum,  I’m all for voting with your dollars and canceling your subscription to Time in protest (as I’ve seen many advocating). But I’d argue that you can probably do more if you cancelled your subscription, were outraged, and then organized, joined, or otherwise did a community service project. 

And, for a question: what’s the best argued blog/article/op-ed you’ve read that argues for a postion you do not hold?  

Proposed: That We’d Just Be Better Off If We Forgot About That Flying Spaghetti Monster Stuff

Move over, Noodliness.

Move over, Your Noodliness.

I floated this post idea on Twitter and everyone told me to write it, so if this goes badly, I think I can just blame it on them, right? That’s how it works?

It’s not that the original Flying Spaghetti Monster wasn’t a useful allegory–in fact, it was a hilarious allegory with enough snark to give us atheists years of rib-elbowing and behind-hand snickering. It’s just that now, it’s become part of the dialect, if you will. OMFSM. Pastafarians. Whatever this was.

And I think, as this movement focuses more on social justice, as we combine feminism with atheism…or even if you’ve just wondered how to have more women in your group…we need to take a look at things like this:
[Excerpted from The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster]

We’d like to tell you all about our Heaven, which features a Stripper Factory and a giant Beer Volcano.

[....]

Q: If there’s a Beer Volcano and a Stripper Factory in Heaven, what’s FSM Hell like?

A: We’re not entirely certain, but we imagine it’s similar to FSM Heaven, only the beer is stale and the strippers have venereal diseases. Not unlike Las Vegas.

*goggles*

Sorry, one of the big in-jokes in atheism has a stripper factory? A factory? Like the sort where inanimate objects are made? And simultaneously, we’re looking about for reasons women are less likely to be atheists than men?

Oh, there’s male strippers too:

Q: Are there male strippers in FSM Heaven for women?
A: Probably, but they are invisible to the non-homo guys.

Cuz it wouldn’t be heaven if straight men had to see nearly-naked dudes!

Antarctica, the cursed, is the continent that is the Pastafarian equivalent to Christianity’s Hell. The Beer Volcano froze over millennia ago, the strippers wear big bulky parkas and snow pants, and the place is covered in ice and snow.

Yeah, the real problem is when strippers cover up. That’s hell. </sarcasm>

I’d like to argue that this is not, perhaps, the face we want to put on our message. We do not want the intrepid high school google-er, sitting at her computer when her parents are out, trying to find out more about her unbelief and why there keep being pasta jokes and coming upon….Stripper Factory.

Oh, but you say, it’s just become part of what we do. It’s offhand! Most people don’t even know the whole thing about the Kansas School Board and the book and most of the people who do know about the book haven’t read it–and—–

Really?

Have you recently told a Christian they can’t just pick and choose the gay friendly parts of the bible, or giggled along as a Family Values Politician divorced–what does his bible have to say about that? Did you let them get away with pleading ignorance, or that it was the main message that was important? But you want me to ignore the strippers, because the important part is about teaching science in school?

I think not.

 

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