Godless and grieving about Boston

Hi! My name is Brianne, and I’m godless!

I have something that I want you to know, and then to deeply and fully understand and accept: “godless” doesn’t mean “evil”.

The idea is that to know God means to know love. And that must mean that if you don’t know God then you don’t know love. And “love” means “good” in this version of the story.  And if God = Love = Good, then Not God = Not Love = Not Good, i.e, Godless = Bad.

All of which is bullshit…and poor logic to boot. But these ideas about the relationship between god, love and goodness abound in our culture, and “godless” gets rolled out every time people do bad things, with the Boston Marathon bombing being no exception.

Yesterday Michael Sullivan, a Massachusetts Senate candidate, was reported as having described the bombing as a “horrific, cowardly and godless act”. After the news hit social media, his campaign quickly offered a clarification that the would-be Senator did NOT say “godless”, but rather “gutless”. A quick glance through the comments on that FB status update show that a lot of people support the originally-reported “godless as synonymous with evil” label.

You don’t have to believe in God to be a good person (hi!), and you can feel that you have a devout and healthy relationship with God and still do horrifying, cowardly things. Belief in a god or lack thereof are not strong predictors of one’s behaviors or attitudes. So let’s stop using “godless” as a negative term, k? 

Grieving and Interfaith Services – A note to those advocating for interfaith services in times of tragedy.

Atheists in Boston (and across the state, nation and world) are grieving, as are people of many different faiths. Most people would agree that after a tragedy of the type and scale of the Boston Marathon bombing, we need a place to gather, to share our grief across many shoulders, to heal. That place, for me, would not be an interfaith service. When it comes to grieving and honoring our dead, interfaith services leave me cold. Here’s why:

A major part of being an atheist is coming to grips with the idea that we are mortal creatures and that there is no afterlife. Because of this belief I feel that when people say things like, “they’re in heaven now, they’re with the angels, they’re with god” we trivialize our loss. As an atheist I believe that after death a person is very much gone, erased from existence, never to reappear. There is no do-over in heaven or through reincarnation. There is no silver lining to an unfair death from cancer, accident or intentional violence, or from a death of old age for that matter. Upon someone’s death, we have well and truly lost that person. Many atheists hold this life to be so very precious and strive to make it better because we believe there is no afterlife. This is the only chance we get to have a fulfilling life and a positive influence on the world around us.

When people are robbed of their lives through tragic circumstances, I don’t want to join in at your interfaith service if the congregation will be singing praises to god (who via his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence could prevent all tragedies), and listen to sermons about god’s divine plan and afterlife and how victims are in a better place.  It causes me pain to realize that I am suffering what I perceive to be a permanent loss, while others have the confidence that the loss is merely temporary (this happens anyway, but when the person leading the service is authoritatively talking about heaven and such, it makes it worse. It draws a line – believers on the comforting afterlife side, me feeling like I’m on the cynical side refusing to be comforted) . We’re on different wavelengths, and we are grieving differently.

What we do have in common is our shared grief over the suffering and tragedy that has befallen us, and that we have lost friends and family and community members who are no longer with us in this life. This is the shared human experience to which we can all relate. And together we can mourn our losses, and remember and celebrate those lives. But I have a hard time doing that at a religion-based service that praises your god and thanks him for “calling them home”.

And I’m not saying don’t have interfaith services. If you insist on following a religion, I implore you to do your damnedest to reconcile the conflicting views and attitudes that you have with other religions, as they do with yours – for all of our peace! Join hands in prayer to your various gods and take comfort in the fact that you all believe that your loved ones live on somewhere else (and try to avoid banding together against those who don’t). But don’t make your interfaith service the only service. Don’t make your interfaith service a government-sanctioned service. And don’t make it the PRIMARY service, with a little secular vigil tossed out as a bone to those of us who don’t believe in gods or an afterlife. As a representative government, let’s make the primary, official memorial be a secular recognition of the loss in our community, so that all people can gather to share our grief and to unite against the darkness of our own eventual mortality.

Addie on Tolerance

Reposted with permission: 

Image is a capture from my friend Addie Kolm’s Facebook status update. Text reads: So I saw a post last night in my over tired state. It said a bunch of stuff about tolerance and how we need to teach it to our children. And I laid on the couch for what seemed like forever thinking about it. Why would we teach our children to merely tolerate another person? To tolerate another is a nice way of saying I still can’t stand you but will not speak of it or show it cause it’s not socially accepted. Wouldn’t it be better to teach our children acceptance? To teach our children that it’s ok that we are all not the same but that we are equals? No matter the race, religion, faith, lack there of we in the end are all the children of this earth. There is always someone you won’t agree with but in the end most of the time it will not effect you. So accept that they live life different than you and move on.

Hazrat Ali Shah – Another victim of blasphemy laws

Ugh. Rights activists in Pakistan must have their hands busy. Asia BibiRimsha MasihMalala Yousafzai. Here’s a list compiled by FP.com of ten women who have – for the most part – been high-profile victims of human rights abuses in Pakistan (Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is an exception on the list; she made a movie about victims of human rights abuses in Pakistan). The Human Rights Watch website on Pakistan and the HRW 2012 Report on Pakistan make me want to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head.

These are just the abuses that make it into the news.

And now this: Hazrat Ali Shah is a 25 year-old man who has been convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to imprisonment and death by a judge in Chitral, a city in the northwestern region of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

iOL News is reporting that he was charged in March 2011 after insulting the Prophet Mohammed and the Qur’an during a fight. He was tattled on reported by fellow villagers, who later provided the “evidence” of Hazrat Ali Shah’s blasphemy at his trial. According to TheHindu.com, his family has distanced themselves from him as well.

Imprisoned, sentenced to death, no support from his family.

Has freedom of speech ever looked so good? We have had so much evidence just in the past year for why we need to reject measures such as resolutions to condemn defamation of religion in the UN. Well, not enough for this guy. If he had his way, this self-righteous, delusional prat, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai, would have blasphemy laws enforced:

The Catholic patriarch says Christianity is often a target. He mentioned that Jesus, the Church and the Bible are attacked and insulted in movies and documentaries. To prevent this, he wants the UN to intervene with a resolution.

He argues, the UN needs to take action, since world peace is based on respect for God and all religions.

No disrespect in movies and documentaries!!!??? Well isn’t that swell? I wonder who gets to be on the board that screens movies and documentaries to make sure they measure up to the patriarch’s definition of “respectful”?

Bechara Rai’s idea of world peace is based on all of us having respect for his God and his ideas for how other religions should be. Protip: Not all religions share this ideal of mutual respect for other religions. The COEXIST bumper sticker is a lie.

Blasphemy laws don’t lead to peace. They lead to state-sanctioned murder of hot-headed 25 year-olds like Hazrat Ali Shah who shoot their mouths off in the wrong place and the wrong time.

Kids Know What’s Up

Twice yesterday I was blown away by the insight of young ladies who have an incredible grasp of the world around them.

13-year old schools you on slut shaming.

This is fantastic. I am awed that this incredible teenage girl not only grasps the problem of slut shaming, but that she so thoroughly and eloquently explains it in under four minutes.

Seen on Feministe

Boy-Girl Bear

My friend’s four-year old daughter has this to tell you about her bear:

Text reads: E’s bear’s name is Isabelle and he is “both a boy and a girl and he’s ok with you calling him he or she.” We are changing the world people! It’s so simple for kids to get why is it so hard for adults?!

Boston SlutWalk 2011

I am very, very excited to introduce a guest post by Jo O. All words and photos are hers, and have not been edited from her original submission. For more of Jo’s photos from the Boston SlutWalk, please visit her BostonSlut Walk set on Flickr.
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Last Saturday I attended the Boston SlutWalk, one of many satellite walks affiliated with the Toronto SlutWalk held in early April. The original SlutWalk was organized in response to a statement made in January by a Toronto police officer during a campus safety forum at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School where he stated “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”

Although he eventually issued an apology, organizers of the Toronto SlutWalk were not deterred, stating that police failed the citizens by allowing this culture of slut-shaming to enter the ranks of those sworn to serve and protect. “With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed.” And it’s not just Toronto Police that are the problem, which is why this message grew from a small group of people who heard the insensitive comment to the launch of satellite walks in London, Boston, Dallas, and many other cities (including Minneapolis on August 6th).

The belief that a woman’s choice of clothing could cause a man to lose control of his sexual urges is absurd and offensive to men and women alike. But this attitude exists everywhere, from the professionals to whom we report a crime to the communities expected to provide support. When an 11-year old girl was gang raped in Cleveland, Texas, the New York Times article about the case highlighted just how skewed some people’s views of the situation were. Interviews with residents familiar with the victim and the attackers focused on the fact that the victim “dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s” as well as concerns about how the young men involved would “have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

Admittedly, I’ve harbored similar prejudices in the past, which is why I came out for the Boston SlutWalk. It’s easy to say that under no circumstances is rape acceptable, but it’s more difficult to quiet that voice in your head that asks inappropriate questions that don’t matter, like “what kind of reputation does she have?” or “what was she wearing?” When I told a friend of mine I was going to this event, he asked me if I thought a man wearing a Rolex or flashing a wad of cash should be surprised when he gets mugged. It stumped me for a second, until I thought about how sad it is to assume that an expensive trinket in someone’s hand would cause everyone in the vicinity make a grab for it or that seeing a little cleavage would suddenly turn any man into a sex-crazed animal. It assumes that every person out there is a potential attacker, a likely thief or a possible rapist. It also wrongly puts fault on the victim, when the blame should always fall squarely on the shoulders of the actual perpetrators of violence.

In the build up to the event, people questioned why a SlutWalk was being held in Boston. Did we really want to take back the word “slut” anyway? Did we want to advocate slutty behavior? Was this really the message we want to send to the children spending a nice day in the park with their parents? The true message was obvious at the event, when two thousand people, young and old, male and female, gay, straight, bi, and transgendered all came together in Boston to say we would not tolerate slut-shaming or victim-blaming anymore.

As Jaclyn Friedman said during her speech, “It ends because there is truly nothing, NOTHING you can do to make someone raping you YOUR fault. It ends because calling other people sluts may make you feel safer, but it doesn’t actually keep you safer. It ends because not one more of us will tolerate being violated and blamed for it. And it ends because all of this slut-shaming does more to us than just the violence of rape. As if that weren’t enough. The violent threat of slut-shaming also keeps us afraid of our bodies and our desires. It makes us feel like we’re wrong, and dirty, and bad, and yes very, very unsafe, when all we want is to enjoy the incredible pleasure that our bodies are capable of.”

Jaclyn Friedman at Boston SlutWalk 2011

The SlutWalk wasn’t just about one stupid statement made by a cop. It is a response to the skewed way society looks at victims of sexual assault. It doesn’t matter how many sexual partners a person has or what they like to wear, rapes happen because a rapist is around. The SlutWalk is a call for people to stand up together and say I’m not ashamed of liking sex, I’m not ashamed of the way I choose to dress, and I will stand up against anyone who suggests a victim of rape was “asking for it.”

Social Science and Stuff

Omigosh, I’m so excited to be going tonight to Party with the Pharaohs, the Science Museum of Minnesota’s first Social Science event for adults. I set up a page on Eventbrite to organize all of my fabulous science-minded friends for this evening, and some of y’all even accepted! I’m giddy. It’s going to be a blast, what with the mummies and the movies and the food and the cash bar and the live animal exhibition and the omnitheater and wheee!

So until tomorrow when I can tell you about how all of that went, here are some articles that caught my interest today:

  • Verbal and physical attacks on students are encourged by extremist animal rights group, Negotiation is Over. Reported on by Pharyngula, Respectful Insolence and Speaking of Research.
  • SlutWalk - A Toronto event that is speaking out against the idea that women who dress like “sluts” get what is coming to them. Covered by Almost Diamonds.
  • Abortion Crackers – What happened when a pro-choice store owner in a small town encountered an anti-choice consumer. Written by Liberal House on the Prairie.

Hey Homos, Quite Picking on Christians.

‘Cuz you all are.  Don’t you know that when don’t let others threaten you, deny you civil rights and discriminate against you, that you’re infringing on their intellectual and religious freedom?

Cardinal Giacomo Biffi is bummed out that a woman lost her position on an adoption panel because she was turning away gay couples because they were…gay. 

“Is it still permitted … to be faithful and consistent disciples of the teaching of Christ … or must we prepare ourselves for a new form of persecution, promoted by homosexual activists, by their ideological accomplices, and even by those whose task it should be to defend the intellectual freedom of all, including Christians?”

If you define being persecuted as being called on your shit when you discriminate against someone because they are different from you, or because they don’t honor your supposedly personal beliefs, then…yeah, prepare yourself for “persecution”. 

But you know what isn’t going to happen?  Those doing the “persecuting” aren’t going to try to interfere in your love life, your children’s life, your access to health care, your ability to serve in the military, your  ability to marry, visit your partner in the hospital, challenge your bequeathment wishes…  oh, right. 

Who is persecuting whom, again?

Story via RichardDawkins.net

Would you lie?

Seen on Nothing to Do With Abroath

Original article: NZHerald

New Zealand museum bans pregnant women from attending exhibit

A clash of cultures over a rule forbidding pregnant or menstruating women to attend a Te Papa exhibit has been criticised by feminists. An invitation for regional museums to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of Te Papa’s collections included the condition that “wahine who are either hapu [pregnant] or mate wahine [menstruating]” were unable to attend.

Jane Keig, Te Papa spokeswoman, said the policy was in place because of Maori beliefs surrounding the Taonga Maori collection included in the tour. She said the rule was one of the terms Te Papa agreed to when they took the collection.

“If a woman is pregnant or menstruating, they are tapu. Some of these taonga have been used in battle and to kill people. Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect women from these objects.”

If an object is tapu it is “forbidden” and in Maori culture it is believed that if that tapu is not observed, something bad will happen. Women who plan to attend the tour on November 5 are expected to be honest about whether they are pregnant or menstruating as a sign of respect to Maori beliefs.

So the argument for keeping certain women out of the special tour is because the women are sacred, forbidden, and need to be protected.  And if they do go on the tour, tapu will be violated and something bad will happen. 

I have nothing to lose in this debate, so I don’t know if I would lie or not to get in.  But if I was affected by this ban, I might.  Or I might try to organize a boycott or protest.  The group imposing the restrictions doesn’t have the right to insist that I respect their beliefs. They have a right to not let me see their private stuff, but do they have the right to open their collection to the public except for the people they don’t want to see it? This particular museum is a public institution that accepts public funding.

Does the owner of a private collection have a right to place restrictions on who gets to see it, even if they allow it to be displayed at a public institution?

If only I had a seestor with a concentration in museum studies…

JFK Separation of Church and State

Thanks to Freethought Radio (9/11/10 episode) for reminding me of this wonderful speech, given by John F. Kennedy to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1960. 

This is just one excerpt, but there is a wonderful page completely devoted to this speech at the American Rhetoric website*, where you can find the speech in its entirety, as well as video, audio and several different downloadable document types of JFK’s speech.

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.”

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The American Rhetoric website has an awesome tagline: “Rationalize rhetoric and it speaks to your mind; personify her and she speaks to your soul.”

Of Alarm Clocks and the GZ Mosque

Darn alarm clock – how dare it go off and let me sleep through it this morning!  Darn work – how dare you be so…here?  (J/K – I love you job, and I hope we have a long and meaningful relationship). 

So, in light of my slackerness let’s talk about someone else’s blogpost today!

Jen McCreight from Blag Hag has a couple of interesting posts up about her visit to New York City’s “Ground Zero Mosque”.  The first post is about her rather uneventful visit; there were no wild protests going on while she was there.  The second post is called Defending the rights of theists does not equal agreeing with their beliefs, which was in response to some blog commenters’ criticisms of Jen’s original post, the building of the “mosque” and of Islam in general.  Jen’s response is kind of a beautiful thing.

I’ll bet you’re aware of the “non-troversy” surrounding the building of the GZM.  Ground Zero Mosque isn’t actually a mosque, but an Islamic community center being built two blocks away from Ground Zero.  From the NYTimes:

The proposed center, called the Cordoba House, would rise as many as 15 stories two blocks north of where the twin towers stood. It would include a prayer space, as well as a 500-seat performing arts center, a culinary school, a swimming pool, a restaurant and other amenities.

I think this is factually important, but irrelevant to the controversy – mosque, Islamic community center, it doesn’t matter.  

Some people (Glenn, you twit) on both sides of the political spectrum are saying that building the Islamic community center so close to the site of the 9/11 Twin Towers attacks (“Ground Zero) is an affront to the families of those who lost their lives at the hands of Islamic extremists.  Even my old favorite, Howard Dean, sided with the anti-GZM gang (sob!).  But there are also people who are calling this dispute out for the fluffy, junk story and fake controversy that it is.

I think that living, working and building buildings in a country with a constitution that guarantees religious freedom means that you get to build your Islamic community center or a mosque or a temple to pink unicorns.  People died in the 9/11 attacks because Islamic extremists chose to committ violence against Americans.  Islamic extremists are not your typical Muslim, just as David Koresh is not your typical Protestant.  Why should we discriminate against Muslims for crimes committed by Islamic extremists?  Do we not allow Muslims to even visit Ground Zero because a victim’s visiting family member might see a man or woman with a covered head and be offended that a Muslim is walking on the hallowed ground where their loved one died at the hands of an extemist Muslim?

The Islamic community center shouldn’t even be seen as a moment to tolerance, as some proponents are calling it.  Tolerance implies that we’re graciously allowing this building to go up.  There’s nothing to tolerate.  It’s just another building in Manhattan.