Bienvenido a FreethoughtBlogs! Say Hello to Our Sniny New Bloggers

You know how we’ve been going on for ages about adding new bloggers? You know how we said we’d do it after the big transition to the new site design was complete? WE DID IT!!!

Image is a lot of pastel-hued fireworks exploding over a bay. Caption says, WE DID IT!

Fireworks photo by Booyah Kasha on Flickr. Werdz by moi.

And the network just got that much cooler. See who we’ve got (in alphabetical order because you can’t rank ‘em by coolness):

Between a Veil and a Dark Place

Now I’m a queer, kinky, polyamorous heathen who ‘can’t just leave religion alone’. I’m vocal, feminist, and vocal about being feminist. I’ve had a very difficult life to date, growing up with a lot of violence and control (neither my family nor Hezbollah took kindly to the whole attempting-to-escape-and-have-my-own-life thing) and I think it’s all worth talking about extensively.

Consider the Tea Cozy

I’m Aoife (think Eva with an F, but only if you’re pronouncing Eva to rhyme with TREE-vah). If you’re looking for descriptors, I’m a queer Irish feminist with a social science background and a bucketload of opinions. This year I founded the Bi+ Ireland Network, and I ain’t kidding when I say it’s the thing that I’m proudest of. I’ll write about all of those things, but- being honest, since we’re friends here- I’ll mostly be thinking about roller derby. Sometimes you’ve just gotta strap on a pair of skates and hit some people, y’know?

Heinous Dealings:

After all, when it comes to promoting a community currently as small and as besieged as the ex-Muslim community, or viewpoints as oddly controversial as being in favor of social justice, every little bit of attention counts. I’m proud to join a blog network doing more than most others in ensuring representation.

So you should go read them instantly, and I hope you enjoy them immensely (as I do!), and above all, give them lots of ohais.

Image shows a chick hatching from an egg. Caption reads, Ohai!

How… Nice… of Richard Dawkins to Provide This Opportunity So Quickly

Ever since the Benson-Dawkins joint letter explaining that of course we can disagree, we just shouldn’t abuse the people we disagree with, I’ve been getting occasional attempted comments snidely wanting to know if this means the folks at Freethought Blogs will shut up. You see, they don’t understand the difference between harassment and criticism.*

Some folks seem to have imagined a cease-fire situation in which one side (theirs) gets to go on saying and doing awful things, while the other side (ours) is supposed to completely shut up.

They’re so precious.

Anyway, because Dawkins has a habit of tweeting his most problematic thoughts and then getting huffy and uncomprehending when advised the tweets are problematic, rather than listening to criticism and doing a bit of investigation to find out why he’s badly misstepping, we nearly instantly have an example of what Ophelia and Richard meant with that joint letter when they said this:

Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.

So Dawkins decided to play the “I’m just using logic!” game with rape victims (and having been the lucky recipient of a rapist who was both an acquaintance and armed with a knife, I straddle both categories. They are both astoundingly awful, FYI, and I honestly can’t tell you which aspect was worse). Guess what? We agree that just because you say X is bad, Y is worse, you’re not approving of Y! Guess what? We also think the rhetorical power of saying Y is worse than X for things like stranger vs. “date” rape is important to take into consideration! And we disagree sharply with Dawkins on that last point, because he can’t seem to move past the “But logic!” phase of the conversation.

Image shows a cat looking into the camera with its ears flattened. Caption says, Uh oh.

What have we done? We’ve disagreed in public! Look, here’s how it’s done:

It’s true that “X is less bad” ≠ “X is good” or “I approve of X.” I think Richard had in mind the passage about the molestation he experienced at school compared with other, less tolerable forms. I don’t think he had in mind “Dear Muslima” – which of course is a mere comment on a blog, not a passage in a best-selling much-translated much-discussed book. But “Dear Muslima” does a good job of illustrating what I mean about rhetoric and implication. The whole point of “Dear Muslima” was very plainly to say that women face horrendous forms of abuse and denial of rights in places where Islamic laws and/or customs have authority, and therefore women who face much milder forms of abuse in secular democracies should…talk less about it, or talk about it more temperately, or something along those lines. It’s hard to spell out the implication exactly, because it is an implication, but it’s something along those lines. That much is not ambiguous. You’d have to be a very primitive bit of AI to miss that.

Note what is missing from this post: calling Richard Dawkins awful slurs, threatening to rape him, photoshopping his head onto crass pictures, and otherwise personally attacking him rather than criticizing his problematic words.

Here’s another:

If you want to make a difference in social attitudes, you can say “Date rape is bad”…full stop. You don’t go on and say that some other form of rape is worse, because that’s all the date-rapers see: “Richard Dawkins says I’m not as bad as a rapist”. The first part is ignored.

And this from someone who explains that Richard Dawkins’s clumsy stomping all over already trodden people hurts worse because he likes the man both personally and professionally! Absent is any declaration that since Dawkins said disagreeable things, he is all manner of slurs, completely worthless, and additionally, deserves violence done to him. Could this be how disagreement and criticism work? Wow.

Here is someone who isn’t even on this network, and so can’t possibly be construed as being part of any “agreement,” and who is less enamored of Dawkins both personally and professionally, who still somehow manages to deconstruct the ideas without resorting to gendered epithets, threats of violence, attacks on his appearance, or nasty photoshop jobs. She didn’t even choose an unflattering picture of Dawkins to illustrate her post:

It’s a bit of passive-aggressive weirdness, for sure. I don’t think anyone objects to the initial statement, of course. He’s right that it is logical! Pearl Jam is bad. Dave Matthews Band is worse. That is not an endorsement of Pearl Jam. Stubbing your toe is bad. Getting it cut off is worse. That is not an endorsement of stubbing your toe. Wine coolers are bad. Mad Dog is worse. That is not an endorsement of wine coolers.

See, I could do this all day, using only examples that are much clearer than invoking touchy issues that are touchy precisely because a lot of people actually deny—and spend a whole of time and effort denying—that the bad things are actually all that bad. Indeed, it’s particularly weird to pull on date rape in an environment where a prominent Washington Post columnist is on the record pulling exactly this trick of implying that date rape shouldn’t “count” as rape because it’s supposedly not as bad as “real” rape. We live in a world where the terms “rape-rape” and “legitimate rape” have actually been used to suggest that only the worst of the worst rapes should even be considered criminal offenses at all.

My gosh, she even seems to understand what he was getting at. Amazing.

Let’s see, what else… Stephanie reposted the post she wrote after Dawkins’s initial comments on “mild” pedophilia, which explains, without attacking the person rather than the arguments, what he’s getting wrong and why he’s upsetting so many people. Still.

I don’t usually do reposts so soon after the original publication. This was originally posted last fall, when Dawkins was talking about “mild pedophilia. He’s ranking rape again. It’s worth pointing out that Dawkins isn’t doing this because no one provided him with any better information. He’s been told this is inappropriate and why, in great detail.

Ashley Miller was even kind enough to give him a freebie on the “mild” pedophilia thing, which is more grace than I feel inclined to offer. She then tries to explain for him why Twitter folks may be a scosh upset:

The main reason that this blew up in his face is that the majority of rapes are acquaintance rapes, so the majority of rape victims seeing this post see it as delegitimizing.  This is happening in a society that already says that date rapes don’t count the same way that stranger rapes do.  As it turns out, acquaintance rape is just a pre-meditated and intentional as acts of stranger rape.  Even if his assertion was true, it would be perpetuating the stigma that surrounds date rape survivors and paints them, inaccurately, as overreactors or people who changed their mind about sex.

And Martin Wagner continues the education:

It isn’t that anyone thinks that, by saying Y is worse in severity than X, you’re endorsing X. It’s that you’re still, whether you mean to or not, minimizing and diminishing X.

This is what people who attacked him for his “mild pedophilia” remarks, and for “Dear Muslima,” were pointing out. Not that he was endorsing “milder” crimes (and “milder” by whose standards?), but that such reductionism was dismissive of subjective experience. It’s just an intellectualized way of saying “Stop being such a whiner.”

Strange that even though he thinks Dawkins should shut the fuck up and stop energetically enlarging the hole he’s been digging, Martin doesn’t take the opportunity to call him names.

Even one of the few people I’ve seen call him names hasn’t made it vicious:

Apparently Richard Dawkins was worried that people might have forgotten what an asshat [applicable to all people] he is. So, helpful fellow that he is, he decided to give us all a demonstration of why he’s one of the atheist movement’s biggest liabilities, a “humanist” who has trouble remembering to act human [not saying he isn't human, mind - just has trouble acting like we'd like to see caring humans act].

This is the most acerbic of all the posts I have so far read on this side of the divide. And it somehow manages to avoid gendered slurs, threats, harassment, and other such specialties of the Slyme Pit and friends. You know, the kind of tactics Richard Dawkins himself says are beyond the pale. Yes, there’s a photoshop at the top of that post, showing a young Dawkins gazing in wonder at himself. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of photoshopping people into pornography, or splashing their images with “rape cum,” now, does it? There’s a difference between using a photoshop job to comment on a directly relevant aspect of an argument in a way that isn’t vicious or spiteful, and a photoshop job meant to harm and degrade.

So. What have we learned today, kids? That we will have disagreements, sometimes heated, sometimes quite sharp, in this community. That was never in doubt. Refer back to the opening phrases of the joint letter, and you will see it was never meant to stifle disagreement or dissent. What it was meant to do was tell those who think that attacking people on intensely personal levels, that threatening them, stalking them, harassing them, is the way to disagree, that they are wrong. That is not disagreement. That’s being horrible for the sake of being horrible. And we don’t need that in atheism.

Now, for those who may still be unclear on the concepts, allow me to direct you to Alex’s excellent post:

This isn’t a peace accord – it’s a treaty establishing terms of engagement.

And those in this community who deliberately refuse to understand that, and who take sharp disagreement amongst those of us who either signed or agreed with that joint statement as carte blanche to go back to being outrageous assholes, are not now and have never been arguing in good faith.

We’re going to argue. We’re even going to argue heatedly, and intensely, and sometimes impolitely. We may sometimes overstep, and have to apologize, and learn from our mistakes. We may not even like each other.

But we won’t resort to the sort of abuse heaped on people by members of the Slyme Pit and 4Chan and the MRAs in order to argue. That’s the difference. And it’s an important one.

Now, all that having been said…. For fuck’s sake, Richard, please use some of your not inconsequential wealth to bloody educate yourself on these topics. I know you’re smart enough to learn why you keep getting yourself into trouble on Twitter. Try to do better.

Image shows Richard Dawkins at a lectern. The screen above his head says, "Oh, Richard Dawkins, no."

*They also don’t know how to read comment policies. Mine says, among other things, that if you’ve engaged in bad behavior elsewhere, you don’t get to comment here. That rules out the people who think sharp criticism of a person’s behavior or ideas is equal to stalking, threatening physical harm, photoshopping nasty images of people, and cheering such behavior on. Byeee!

One Rope Across the Chasm

Excellent. Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins together have managed to pull a rope tight.

Joint statement by Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins

It’s not news that allies can’t always agree on everything. People who rely on reason rather than dogma to think about the world are bound to disagree about some things.

Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.

In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.

[Read the rest. Especially those drive-by slimers who seem to think they're on Team Dawkins. My, don't you have a nasty shock coming?]

Can that particular divide be bridged? Remains to be seen. There’s more to this than admonishing the worst behaved amongst us – Dawkins has a lot of anti-feminism, casual sexism, and general promotion of people who do the exact things he excoriates to work through. But one sturdy rope can, in time, become a bridge. I do like to see leaders come around and realize that they have a part in ensuring atheism is welcoming to people who wish to improve the world rather than shit all over the people who try to make marginalized lives better. I like to see people whose work I’ve admired in the past start to understand that maybe, possibly, they’ve gotten a few things wrong, and come round, and do their bit to make things better for people other than their cohort. And it’s important for leaders to model better behavior, and expect better of their followers. Good on you for starting that process, Richard. Long may your bridge-building continue.

Image shows a black lab puppy biting a taut rope.

A puppy with a rope to help with outreach efforts. Image courtesy I Can Has Cheezburger.

(This doesn’t erase Dear Muslima and problematic statements about pedophilia and such like, mind. I’m pleased with this statement – but it’s really simple to support not being overtly awful, isn’t it? Still. More than I expected, and I do thank you. And major kudos to Ophelia for pursuing this.)

Of course, there are many people who won’t be crossing that bridge if and when it’s built. They can’t seem to live without making other people’s lives miserable. I think they’re about to find themselves on a very small island with a vast ocean between themselves and the rest of the “movement.” The Westboro Baptists of atheism, indeed. And we shall hold them in the same esteem as we do those… interesting… people.

Nerp. Still Not Deep Enough

Let us reassess whether atheism should be divided or not. Lemme see… Would I want to be on the same side as The Amazing Atheist, f’r instance? Ha ha ha ha no.

My, that was easy. Someone that despicable clearly has no place on my side of the Deep Rift™. I don’t fancy wading hip-deep in festering hatred just to get a larf at creationism. Why, all I need for that is to read their very own textbooks.

But what about his addled supporters? Should I, perhaps, build a small rope bridge between us?

No, I don’t think I shall tolerate hanging with the same side that thinks violent misogynists are no big so long as they deride creationists in a manner they find pleasing.

I shall be assidiously avoiding all association with those who think it’s better to defend an asshole than find and promote the non-assholes who do the same work. I am not so desperate for allies that I need to accept such grotty specimens.

No, the side that embraces people who find it sporting good fun to deliberately trigger rape victims, threaten to rape people with a fist, and hate on teenage girls because society frowns on them salivating on same, can stay far, far away from my side. They, to me, are what the Westboro Baptist Church is to my liberal Christian friends.

Image shows a statue of David Livingstone shading his eyes. Caption says, "No, I'm afraid I can still see them. Do keep widening."I think we can do nicely without that sort, thanks. In point of fact, I think we must.

Oh, Dear, the Rifts Aren’t Yet Deep Enough

Sigh. Yet another cycle of asshole atheists throwing feces at those of us who care about doing more than merely shitting on religion. We’ve got the so-called Amazing Atheist stirring up the masses to send ridiculous missives saying, in effect, Atheism Is All So Shut Up and Stop Dividing the Community By Requiring Basic Human Decency!!! And we’ve got Jaclyn Glenn putting up Very Concerned Comments and Videos about how divided we fall and feminists are icky and feminists are sooo divisive… my gosh, color me convinced. Mm-hmmm.

Or, you know. Not.

Image shows a black and white kitten lying in bottom half of an egg carton. Other half is spikey. caption says, Other side wazn't so comferbul."I don’t write about this stuff all that often, partly because I give myself a headache rolling my eyes and then wander off to do something more interesting, like scrub the cat’s water dish, but mostly because other people on this side of the Deep Rift™ do a bonza job of putting this drivel in perspective. A small selection:

Our own Martin Wagner on You NEED to stop doing things to divide the community:

Funny, it’s never the people who are actually making the “community” an uncomfortable and unwelcoming place for women and other marginalized groups who are being “divisive.” It’s never the misogynists or harassers. It’s never the prominent figures who use their celebrity to justify inappropriate behavior, nor the ones who shield them because they don’t want to lose a valuable, popular public speaker.

No, the “divisive” ones are always those who say “Let’s be better than this.”

Funny how that works, innit? I think I’ll stick with the divisive ones, in that case. I like the idea of being better, thank ye ever so much.

Stephanie Zvan assures people like Jaclyn Glenn, who likes to end streams of strawmanning and insults with cries that we all want the same thing, that we don’t, in fact, want the same thing:

No, we don’t want the same thing. I don’t want what you want.

    • I don’t want my arguments to rely on dressing my opponents’ arguments up in a cheap wig and a sneer because I can’t call them ridiculous when they stand on their own.

[snip]

    • I don’t want to benefit from the work of generations while telling the world that I’m not a part of what they’ve done.
    • I don’t want to feel so helpless I throw my hands up at YouTube or Twitter harassment because that’s just the way the internet is.
    • I don’t want to have to make myself look brave by suggesting that people who have stood fast in the face of years of harassment are “pussies”.
    • I don’t want anyone ever to see me conflate caring that people are treated well with weakness.
    • I don’t want to be held up as a “good one” by people who are pretty awful themselves.

[snip]

  • I don’t want anyone ever to see me argue to someone that our mere shared identity is a good way of evaluating how well I work in their interest.

And speaking of lists, Alex Gabriel compiled a doozy, focused this time on how the atheism “movement” treats women, and ends thusly:

When I remind myself and others that the people who carry out the above are supposed to be my allies, I find myself much less worried that I argue with them more than with believers. I’d be embarrassed if I didn’t: if I weren’t so divisive, and there were no rifts between us, I’d be fighting for the same new world they are, and that thought terrifies me. With friends like these, who needs religion?

If colleagues and I are creating the divisions Glenn describes, I’m proud of it, because unlike her I do find them necessary. We all want the same, she says, but I’m less sure: I want a secular movement as accessible to women as men, that challenges religious sexism with authority and isn’t the preserve of powerful men and misogynists. If building one requires rifts today, then like Jen McCreight, I want deep rifts.

I’m not sorry atheists are divided. I’m sorry we need to be.

Which sums up the situation nicely.

Listen: the sides in this rift are not equal. This is brought home to me with renewed force whenever those who want us to shut up start howling about how divisive we are whilst enthusiastically causing strife and pain. I watch their antics and reach for the dynamite, because I’d rather blast through bedrock and split the damned planet than heal any rift between myself and those folks.

Image is a sepia print of a woman in early 1900s attire gazing into the Grand Canyon. Caption reads, "I think we're gonna need a bigger rift..."

Artist’s conception of the Deep Rifts saga wot I made. Feel free to filch. The original image is from here.

They can keep the sexual assaulters, rapists, Randroids, racists, bigots, sexists, and various other undesirables on their side, please. I’ll hang out over here with the social justice warriors and assorted folk with well-developed consciences, thanks. And while I’m sure we’ll cross paths and walk a few steps in the same direction on a few issues, I don’t think I need to swallow my revulsion and lay down my interest in various human causes – such as feminism – in order to help them with… whatever it is they think they’re doing.

As for people like Jaclyn, who believes she doesn’t need feminism despite having to beg other women to make videos so she won’t be left alone and vulnerable in a sea of sexism and people believing she only succeeds because of her looks… well, love, we’ll be here when you realize that, hey, that’s just what those nasty feminists have been working to fix all this time. We’ll be here when you slip up and demand a little too much autonomy and respect from the assholes currently celebrating you because you’re such a cool girl. Feel free to join us when you realize that there’s still a long way to go before there’s anything like equality for women and minorities in this movement, much less this world.

It’s better over here.

Well, My Gosh. I Am Certainly Convinced!

Oh, my darlings, I have been so wrong. Sooo so wrong. All this time running around thinking God doesn’t exist, and yet there are these convincing arguments which I have never ever heard before. Checkmate atheists, indeed!

Image shows a baby. Caption says, If evolution is real and adults come from babies, how come babies still exist? Checkmate, atheists!"

There were two signs this week that I was totes wrong about the existence of God. See, there was this one dude with his “7 Things that Prove God is Real,” and lemme tell ya, they’re doozies. They are:

1. Babies. Yep, absolutely, babies. I have never ever looked at a baby, but now that you mention it, they are complicated, and so I went to have a look at one personally, and by gosh, now I can’t deny the reality of God! It’s amazing! And slightly smelly. And cries a lot.

2. Thunderstorms. (Why didn’t our BJU and A Beka textbooks say so??? I’d have been a believer by the end of the weather chapters!)

3. Flowers.

And you know, this one was so amazing, I feel the need to quote it in full:

There are more than 400,000 species of flowers in the world, and most of them are not edible. Their job is to simply make the world beautiful. Did they just haphazardly evolve over time, or did a loving God create each individual shape and color scheme for our enjoyment? People who choose to deny God don’t spend enough time looking at tulips, snapdragons, orchids, lilies, lotuses or magnolias. This is why it’s really important to stop and smell the roses!

Wow. I mean, seriously, if they’re not edible, what good are they? Things that aren’t edible aren’t useful, QED. And it’s not like they need to be brightly colored or smell good to attract pollinators or anything. And how could all those flowers which were carefully cultivated over centuries by human beings exist if God didn’t create them?

4. The Bible. You know, no one has ever told me the Bible proves God exists! It’s so obvious once you realize hundreds of millions of Bibles have been sold, but only two million or so God Delusion books. But there’s more – we’ll get to it later. I’m so excited I can barely contain myself! Praise the (edible) Baby Jesus!

5. The Global Spread of Christianity. Okay, Islam’s catching up, but Christianity came first, so neener!

6. Jesus. Yep, Jesus shore prooves God is real, all right. Never knew that! But wow, I mean, how can anyone doubt it, amirite?

Image shows a girl rolling her eyes and sticking out her tongue. Caption reads, "God sacrificed himself to himself to save us from himself. TOTALLY BELIEVABLE."

7. My personal friendship with God. And you know, having heard from one of God’s own buddies, I’m pretty well convinced, there. Everybody knows grownups don’t have imaginary friends. So if this dude says God’s his friend, well, his friend must exist!

But here’s the handshake on the deal, okay? You’d better sit down, because this is so absolutely convincing that you’ll become an instant believer just like I did. Ready? Here is the ultimate proof, with emphasis added to the proofiest parts:

The evidence for the Bible is more compelling than any other historical fact! There are over 300,000 parts of the OT and entire books that date back to 100 BC. I’m sure you don’t doubt the Homer wrote the Illiad, but there are only 86 copies of it dating to 1000 AD (he wrote it in 100 BC; so how do we really know what is in it?

We have parts of the NT from 125 AD and whole copies of the Bible from around 325 AD. The lack of whole copies of the Bible before that are because of a Nazi-like strategy of the Roman empire to burn them! How typical! But we have 50,000 complete copies of the NT dating from 1000 BC. That evidence blows everything else out of the water. If you believe anything at all, it has thousands of times less evidence than the Bible. And that is a scientific observable fact!

Mind. Blown. God totally wrote the New Testament a thousand years before he appeared on earth as Jesus! He sent Paul back to 1,000 BC to write letters to churches that wouldn’t exist for another thousand years and change! And we know this because some random creationist guy on the internet who may or may not be a troll said so. It must be true!!!!

So yeah. That’s like amazing. I’m so glad I bought all those Christianist textbooks, because I’ll need them to help poorly explain why creationism is really true although all of science proves it’s completely silly. I’ll also be calling around to local neurologists to see how many and what kind of brain cells need to be killed off so that I can keep the Young Earth Creationist faith. I hope you’ll all contribute to my Kickstarter campaign for the surgery!

And if you’re as convinced God is real as I am, you’ll want to join me in destroying the knowledgeable bits of your brain, so you can protect your immortal soul from eternal torment in the hell God will send you to if you doubt his existence, because he loves you and wants you to believe in him, and created a place where we’ll be tortured forever if we fuck up because he really wants us to have a personal relationship with him.

Isn’t this amazing? I never thought there’d be convincing proof, but this is just mind-blowing. I’d better head out to find some ways to justify all the genocide in the Bible now. Bye!

Image shows a strip of red-and-white striped sedimentary rock, and a person pointing to it. Caption says, "Bacon rock. Checkmate, atheists!"

Abortion Is a Human Right

You cannot compel me to give life. It’s not your place to determine whether a pregnant woman or trans man may be allowed or denied an abortion. You are not the one whose body is being used by a fetus. You are not the one risking your life, your health, and your future. You are not the one who should be making the choice. That’s for the pregnant person to decide.

And it’s not up to you to determine at what point in a pregnancy a pregnant person may abort. Until it is fully born, the fetus is a parasite feeding off of another person. It’s up to that person to determine how and when that parasite should be removed. If the pregnant person decides at nine months that they can’t face childbirth, whether vaginally or by c-section, they can request an abortion, and if the doctor determines it’s safe to perform one, they can have it. Their body, their choice.

Image is a red poster with a drawing of a uterus on top. Caption says, "Keep calm and stay out of my uterus."

That’s the position I’ve come to after nearly 40 years. I used to think abortion was hideous, but if mom or baby was in danger, then it could be done. Then I thought a pregnant person should be allowed to have an abortion until the fetus was viable, at which time abortion should be denied except to save the life of the mother. I was sure this was a good position. But there’s something I wasn’t during all those years: pregnant.

I’m not now, have never been, and likely never will be pregnant. But I’m older now. I’ve seen a lot of women endure pregnancy. I’ve been with two women who considered abortion, who then chose to carry the fetus to term. Their body, their choice. One friend who decided to give her baby up for adoption changed her mind and kept her daughter. Her child, her choice. My cousin chose to keep her baby early in the pregnancy. I know at least one of those women never regretted her choice. But they had the option of abortion. They thought carefully about their options. And they made the choices that were best for them.

It was up to them what to do with their unintended pregnancies. If they’d decided to abort, it wouldn’t have been a tragedy. It would have been a good choice, the right choice for those women. Pregnant people are capable of making the right choice for themselves.

No one else should ever be able to make that choice for them.

Ever.

I’ve come to realize that pregnancy is a dangerous gamble. And if you think adoption solves anything, it doesn’t. The pregnant person is still risking their life and health and future. It’s up to them whether to roll the dice, and they get to decide when to stop gambling, no matter how late in the game or how high the stakes. That autonomy only ends once the fetus is born. When the fetus is no longer attached to and feeding off another person’s body, then there is no choice. The formerly-pregnant person has no right to end that life once it is free of their body.

I’ve reached this position because there is no other acceptable dividing line. No one has the right to tell anyone else that they must relinquish control over their body so that someone else can live off of it.

There is no secular or religious argument against abortion that doesn’t hit this wall. You are not allowed to force someone to donate a kidney, half their liver, skin, muscle tissue, bone marrow, blood, cornea, or any other part of themselves to save someone else. Not even to save an infant. No, not even if they registered as a donor. I can’t compel you to sacrifice part of your body or give your life for another person. You can’t compel me to carry a fetus to term.

Image has four pictures. The first is an egg yolk and white in a dish. Caption says, "This is not a chicken." Second image is an acorn, and says, "This is not a tree." Third image is a silkworm and a silk cocoon, and says "This is not a dress." Fourth image is a blastocyst, and says "This is not a person." Caption says, "This is not a difficult concept."

In fact, I’d say I have a better case for forcing you to donate some part of your body to save a life: we’re talking about giving the gift of life to a conscious person, someone with a rich tapestry of life experiences, who has hopes and dreams for the future, who is suffering and vividly aware of that suffering. But I can’t force you to so much as a needle stick and the temporary loss of a bit of blood. You have to choose to be an organ donor; without that, I can’t even remove desperately-needed parts of your body from your corpse after you’ve died. I can’t violate your vacated body to save several living human beings. How, then, is it your right to compel me to sacrifice so much more of myself for a potential person?

You don’t have that right. It’s not your body. Not your choice. Not ever.

I Lost My Best Friend to Abortion – I Can Stand to Lose the Atheist Orgs

I haven’t spoken to my best friend of 21 years since November 2012, when I found out he’d voted for Romney.

We’d survived about everything together. We made it through the years of horrible clingy-ness and self-esteem issues brought on by a lifetime in a church that told him he was worthless. We survived his crush on me, and three thousand miles of separation, and enormous long distance bills. We survived my loss of faith, and his journey through various flavors of Christianity and paganism before he returned to the Church of Christ. We survived him voting for Bush Jr. (twice) and me voting for Obama. We survived my obsession with science while his interests diverged into the occult. We thought we’d be forever.

But our friendship died when I found out he’d voted for Romney.

Image shows a headshot of Mitt Romney with a quote: "Outlaw all abortion even in cases of rape and incest." -CNN Debate, 11/28/07. Caption reads, "Romney supports dangerous "personhood" amendments. 'Is committed to overturning Roe vs. Wade, and he supports such amendments that define a life as beginning at the moment of conception.'" -Debbie Wasserman Schultz

This was a time of increasing attacks on women’s reproductive rights. And my best friend, who has many women in his life that he adores, and two beautiful nieces he dotes upon, voted for the man who would force all of us with wombs to carry unwanted, even potentially dangerous, pregnancies to term.

That broke something inside me. I can forgive a lot in my friends. I can accept their religion, even though I think religion is harmful bullshit. I can accept a certain amount of conservatism. I can accept that a person may have thought it sensible to vote for Bush Jr. Twice. But after that fiasco, to vote for the man who would not only flush our economy back down the toilet, but ensure Roe vs. Wade was a footnote in the history books and that women would have to turn to back-alley abortionists and dangerous home remedies to terminate even the results of rape – that was too much. That was a personal, visceral attack.

We argued. I did some shouting, I won’t lie. I was livid. And it was even worse when he told me he respected my right to choose. Really? How could anyone say that, when they were voting for the people who would take that right away? That’s the thing my pro-choice-but-very-conservative former friends and acquaintances cannot understand: your words whisper, but your actions scream through an amplifier.

What my best friend told me by voting for Romney, knowing full well that this would lead to a Supreme Court packed with anti-choice judges, who would ensure that women’s rights were set back a century, was that he doesn’t give a shit about me or his nieces. He doesn’t care what happens to us. He’s willing to gamble our bodily autonomy, health, and economic futures on a shitheel who was recommended by the church he made fun of every Sunday. He didn’t even consider us when he cast that vote. And he couldn’t understand why that felt like being stabbed in the heart.

Then it came out that he was personally anti-choice, because he’s adopted, and he’s glad he wasn’t aborted. He couldn’t see how saying he supported my right to choose while working to ensure that right was taken away was basically telling me I’m nothing to him. How selfish it is to force other people to give birth because your birth mother chose to carry you to term. How awful it is to be treated as nothing more than a walking womb.

We managed all of two conversations after that. Both of them ended with me furious and him unable to understand why. It wasn’t worth it anymore. I couldn’t stand trying to love someone who was willing to cast women’s health and safety aside so easily. We decided it would be best not to talk again for a while. And after an initial mourning period, I came to the conclusion that this was a deal-breaker. My friends must, at the very least, walk their walk when it comes to human rights.

Image shows me at the end of a wooden bridge, distant and walking away. Image credit Cujo359.

Image credit Cujo359.

You can’t tell LGBTQ people you love them and support their right to marry, then work to elect the people who not only want to deny them that right, but want to make their love illegal.

You can’t tell women you personally support their right to choose, then vote for the people who would rip their choice away.

It’s just words. Just noise. You say something lovely – I support you – and then open the trap door that dumps us into misery. That’s not support. That’s contempt masquerading as love. And I don’t have to tolerate it.

I’ll tell you something about the atheist organizations working hard for the rights of the non-religious. I appreciate the effort. But I’m not going to support orgs whose leaders think my right to choose isn’t just as unquestionable as the right to die and the right to live without the government forcing religion upon me. I can’t stand with leadership that is willing to cede my rights, who are trying to recruit people who want to force birth on women and trans men who have the misfortune to get pregnant. I will not accept a big tent that includes people who treat me and mine as less than human.

We’ve got enough of a problem with sexism without recruiting more misogynists. We don’t need a herd of atheists who believe women should be forced to be incubators, whose concern for them stops the instant they develop a blastocyst. If those are the people you want to reach out to, then what you’re saying is that you want me to leave.

And don’t tell me you’re pro-choice, personally. I don’t give two shits. The talk isn’t important. It’s the walk. And when you walk in the direction of the people who see me as worth less than a fetus, you’re showing me that your pro-choice stance is utterly meaningless. I can’t trust you to have our backs without stabbing them. I can’t believe you when you say you care about us and our concerns.

What you are telling me is that women aren’t welcome in this movement (and you don’t even think about trans people). You’re telling me that thousands of women aren’t worth as much as a handful of anti-choice conservatives who just happen not to believe in god. You’re telling me that your organization is not for me and mine.

I have no desire to be part of a tent that big. Atheism isn’t enough to make me want to stay in it. And if this means a schism, I’ll be happy to see that rift open. I’m much more content in a smaller tent that contains people who can see me as a human being even if my uterus ends up occupied, and who will ensure that real choices are available if I need to serve an eviction notice to the parasite in residence. I’d rather be united with those who care for each other more than their guns and their low taxes and their supposedly-small government.

Our right to abortion is not a bargaining chip you can trade. I lost my best friend over this issue. Imagine how much easier it is to lose you.

Image shows a pro-choice rally. A huge pink banner says TRUST WOMEN. Other people are holding signs saying "I have a heartbeat, too!" "Stop the war on women," and "Stop the war on choice."

Image credit ProgressOhio (CC BY 2.0)

“When Its Sacraments Are Others’ Standing Jokes”

Alex had an excellent post a while back talking about “why atheism can never be inoffensive enough.” This bit made bells ring for me:

Few things but faith could yield such results: blasphemy, even apparently when most benign, threatens the norms on which religion rests. The earnestness of faith, and faith itself, can’t be taken comfortably for granted when its sacraments are others’ standing jokes, and what can’t be assumed must be explained.

Some folks have a robust faith that can stand being laughed at, and I’ll frequently find my religious friends in on the joke (when they aren’t cracking it themselves). But there’s a disturbingly large number of people who want you punished for poking a bit o’ fun at their religion. Some of them are probably feeling entitled, some of them are probably afraid their sky god will smite them if they don’t smite us, and some are just assholes, but I suspect a majority of them are outraged by blasphemy because it jams a finger on the ol’ doubt button and keeps it pressed.

And being an atheist who’s not afraid to say “Hey, I’m an atheist” is enough to unleash their outrage. That being the case, I’m not gonna bother with trying to be an inoffensive atheist. I’ll calls it like I sees it, and if faith can’t withstand it, it’s not worthy of respect. If the deity is as powerful as proclaimed, if the religion is the rock people assure me it is, then it had better be able to at/with/near us. If not, it’s a sad, pathetic little thing that people might as well not bother with. If a little light blasphemy is enough to destroy it, it was never worth having to begin with.

If you’re ready for poking some fun at faith, you could head over to Loltheist, where you will find many fine illustrations of the concept of blasphemy.

Image shows the pope making spyglasses out of his fingers. Caption says, "I seez blastfemmerz!"

Why I Would Wish Religion Away

Many folks seemed to think I was being a bit naive, thinking religion to be at the root of many of our problems. Problems would remain, they protested. Religion doesn’t cause them all.

I’m completely aware of that. I’d hoped this sentence would prevent misunderstandings:

When we go chasing after invisible gods, all of our worst human tendencies remain, but are given God’s stamp of approval.

I obviously should have done a better job at clarifying that I didn’t think our problems would magically vanish once religion was gone. Let me do so now:

Humans are shits. We can be right arseholes to each other. Excise religion, and humans would still be shits.  Atheists are right arseholes to each other all the time.

But.

But.

They can’t claim divine sanction for their arseholery. They can’t shut down criticism and condemnation by saying, “God says I’m not a shit. Look, he says to do this arsehole thing. Right here! It says, ‘Do this arsehole thing or you will go to hell.’ So this shitty arsehole thing I’m doing is good and just because God told me to do it, and no one can argue with that, because God.”

They can’t get society to accept their arsehole behavior as being sacrosanct, their religious right, and they can’t terrify people into going along by threatening them with hellfire and damnation if they don’t.

Look, without religion, shit parents would still abuse their kids. But they wouldn’t write books about beating kids into submission because God says to beat ‘em with a stick or else. They wouldn’t have the power to convince non-abusing, loving parents they must beat even their babies if they want their kids to avoid hell.

Image is a black background. A cross, a crescent moon and star, and a Star of David are all within crossed-out circles at top. Caption says, "Morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told. Religion is doing what you are told regardless of what is right."

Without religion, I doubt very much we’d have these lingering hangups about homosexuality. Certain types of men might still try to impose patriarchal authority, but without a holy book saying obey or burn, that this is what God wants, I doubt very much that many people would be eager to go along.

Without the promise of a reward in the afterlife, I’ll bet you cash money that more people would make this life better. They’d realize this is all we’ve got: this world, this life, and each other. No God is going to protect us here and give us glory once we’re dead.

We wouldn’t have people trying to cripple science education for religious reasons. The bizarre alternate universe we’ve been exploring in our Christianist textbooks certainly wouldn’t exist. People wouldn’t have to discount the overwhelming evidence of an old Earth with life evolving via natural processes with no divine intervention. They wouldn’t have Ken Ham’s biblical glasses or his stubborn belief that a bit of ancient poetry is scientific truth, evidence be damned.

I think we’d be much more flexible, better able to weigh evidence, explore reality, and change our minds when warranted. We wouldn’t go centuries or millennia kicking and screaming against good ideas, because there wouldn’t be this god-belief standing in the way.

I’m not saying we’d suddenly be perfect. Just better. I think there would be less strife, and fewer people easy to con. Doubtless, we’d find ways to do stupid shit and make bad choices. Sometimes (often), we’d let our thinking get lazy and end up doing some spectacularly wrong stuff. We’re human. We’re the result of evolutionary tinkering, and we know evolution doesn’t have any way of ensuring high-quality results. We have brains that come up with ridiculous notions and silly ideas and get duped and dizzy and frequently misfire. Removing religion won’t fix that.

But without religion, we wouldn’t make our worst ideas, impulses, and mistakes sacred.

We’d have no authority higher than humanity to rely on to shore up our worst traits. We couldn’t shut down debate by pointing to heaven.

Does anyone want to make the argument that a world without religion would be worse than what we’ve got?

Don’t you think we could do better without?

Image shows a twilight sky with stars, a silhouette of a person holding out hands and looking like they're holding two very bright stars. Caption says, "Some believers accuse skeptics of having nothing left but a dull, cold, scientific world. I am left only with art, music, literature, theater, the magnificence of nature, mathematics, the human spirit, sex, the cosmos, friendship, history, science, imagination, dreams, oceans, mountains, love, and the wonder of birth. That'll do for me. -Lynne Kelly"

Lynne Kelly via Science Memebase.