Concern over Possummomma

Some folks may have noticed that Possummomma’s blog has been inaccessible for some days. I’ve been in touch with her via email, and can assure everyone that this is nothing to do with her or the family being in any kind of imminent physical danger. Yes, there is a situation in play involving some vile scumbag who threatened the lives of her kids, necessitating a panicked return from a camping trip that, as children, they should have had the right to enjoy without interference from theistic madness. But that fellow is currently facing criminal charges, the law is on it, and so that situation can be considered under control.

What has been going on involves a pattern of online harassment she’s been having to deal with, that is literally too bizarre to be described. Sorry not to be more specific than that, but I figure if she ever wants to come back online and spill the details (and she hasn’t wanted to so far, mainly so as not to seem as if she’s giving the people responsible any legitimacy, which I understand), that’s up to her. But she did want me to let everyone know that they are all, at the very least, safe.

I don’t know what it is about P-Momma, that’s she’s proved to be some kind of Internet maniac magnet. But I’ve assured her that there’s no reason for the current nonsense she’s been experiencing to cause her to quit blogging altogether, which she seemed resigned to in her last email to me. I’ve told her, hey, just go over to WordPress, start up again there. But don’t let assholes stifle your right to speech. Where would any of us be if we caved whenever people who can’t stand anyone different from them tried to intimidate us into silence? Sure, I know, with P-Momma’s health, and her concerns over the safety of her kids, it can be easy to find your energy wearing out after a while. But I support her, and I know her readers, a lot of whom also stop by here, support her too. There are a lot more decent folks out there on her side, than there are fools and madmen (and madwomen) with a desperate need to assuage the feelings of inadequacy their superstitions cannot compensate for by making life miserable for a mom and her little kids.

Addendum: Calladus has the most thorough accounting of what’s happened. Seriously, it’s frickin’ insane.

I get email…

I got an e-mail today from a young man who hasn’t written in months. The author e-mailed me many months ago, to tell us just how horrible we were. Here’s are a few snippets from his previous e-mails, with a short note on my response…and at the end I’ll include today’s e-mail – which won’t be getting a response:

“God speaks upon people like you in the great book. You people and yes i say you people are all logical and need everything handed to you. You expect God to hand you everything, i bet half you on this stupid committee are homosexual. Its a sick world we live in these days and you just make it even more sicker. The time will come for all of you, i bet if God was too strike down on earth as your reading this you would be crying to a precher in seconds. Now im not up with my religion but i do know that god gave us a life to live, all he wanted us to do is ask him to be our savior. Why would he give to us if we cant give back to him, think, thats probably why your lost now…Your selfish and want everything in front of you.”

I asked whether this e-mail was real, or Poe and noted how sad it made me. I addressed his points and got the following reply:

“I was searching the net to look at groups who are agaisnt homosexuals for my research and of course i come across you people. Sall you on Youtube and thought…how sick people are. You know damn well what great book im talking about and everything. Like i said before, you are the type who need to see it to believe it. I gaurantee most of youare gay i can tell by the videos i was watching. You point out every bad thing in the bible besides the good.”

He’s clearly obsessed with homosexuality and in his next e-mail, he continued his hate and told me his age…

“Confused and Lost…and homosexuals has a big role in this. I may not be the best at talking cause im only 14 but i know what i am talking about. All gays are going to hell no exceptions, just like you, and if you were to put my letter on the air you would have no logical reason to back anything up, only with more of your atheis questions. You cant take the truth, your weak minded, good luck in the after life.”

At this point, we exchanged a few e-mails where I tried to carefully and politely offer my thoughts on his questions. I was deeply saddened that a young mind had been so crippled by dogma and hatred and was concerned, given his age, that we might be dealing with the confusing awakenings of puberty. After answering a couple of questions about religion…his tone changed:

“Ok i have done my share of research about God. I apologize for my opening statement i email to you, all i wanted to do was get more people to believe in God before its too late. God loves each and one of us dearly, All i really want to say is MAY GOD BE WITH YOU”

A few more e-mails were exchanged when I received one from him that was far more thoughtful, covering the trials of human life, waiting for death, a lost soul trying to survive the trial, apologizing for any rude comments, begging me to “believe and ask for jesus to be your savior, and commit to being clean from sins.”

I ended the conversation shortly after this and won’t be replying. Several months have passed, and the following e-mail arrived in my inbox this morning. I see no reason to respond, or even comment on it here…

“PAIN and TORTURE. I have not forgotten about you my friend. Pain and Torture. As i keep researching atheist i realize, YOUR SCARED OF GOD. You know God, like no other point blank, for he is the Only God that exist. PAIN and TORTURE. You know his word automatically, its embeded into your brain. PAIN AND TORTURE. On youtube they have people saying I deny the exsistence of the Holy Spirit. PAIN AND TORTURE. Why is it that you hate on God so much, he has done nothing to you. PAIN AND TORUTRE. I mean if you want evidence go look in the mirror. PAIN AND TORTURE. I was told not to care for you, to hate people like you. PAIN AND TORTURE. But i realize that we were put here to help each other. PAIN AND TORTURE. But i realize you are full of stupidity, and will soon be full of regret if you dont change. PAIN AND TORTURE. What else can God do for you, let me guess show himself. PAIN AND TORTURE.

Enjoy this life, becasue if your going to be an athiest forever, your next one wont be so joyful. Lets just say there will be alot of NASHING OF THE TEETH. “

Copy and Paste Dialogue

I don’t mind a theist being inspired by another person’s arguments or ideas. I don’t mind a theist referencing someone else’s ideas and arguments in his own arguments. There’s nothing wrong with including a link or a quoted passage, in a correspondence, to someone else’s data or views. But if a person comes to me announcing that he wants to talk to me about his beliefs, he should at least do me the courtesy of presenting his beliefs—whether or not they are supplemented by the ideas of those who have influenced his thinking.

The author of Article X, from which the theist quotes, is not the person who contacted me to discuss her beliefs. If that author wants to hear my views about her beliefs, she is able to write to me and request my feedback. But I see no value in pretending that a long strand of copied and pasted material from her article is the view of the theist who wrote to me to dialogue about his beliefs.

If a theist writes and wants to know my response to a particular article or view that is not his own, that’s fine. But he should refrain from calling it his belief, if all he can do is parrot the argument of someone else. If he lacks sufficient understanding of the concept to be able to so much as restate it in his own terms or respond to questions without running back to the source, then he shouldn’t put it forward as his belief.

Forming our own beliefs in life is not the same as memorizing and internalizing someone else’s arguments and ideas. To label such things as our own beliefs is plagiaristic and shows a woeful lack of understanding about what constitutes forming beliefs of our own. In order to dialogue about what I believe requires I have a firm enough grasp on the belief to express it clearly, in my own terms, to others, and also to respond to questions without seeking input from any source beyond my own mind. Anything that can honestly be labeled as my belief can exist nowhere but inside my own mind. A prerequisite to holding a belief is understanding the belief. It is not possible for a person to both assert a proposition is true, and to fail to understand the proposition. When questioned about what we believe—why should we need to go and look it up? If I find myself looking up my response to a question that concerns what I claim I believe, clearly, I have a dilemma.

If someone were to ask me, for example, what I believe regarding UFO activity on our planet, I can’t imagine it would make sense to that person if I said, “give me a second to go and look up what Carl Sagan has to say about that, because I believe whatever he says.” How can I call it my belief if it (a) is not contained within my own mind, and (b) I don’t even know what it is I’m claiming I believe while I am asserting I accept it as true?

I seem to see more often than is comfortable long-winded e-mails that ultimately say, “I don’t understand it myself, but I absolutely believe it.”

Read a banned book

Twigged to this a little late, but apparently it’s Banned Books Week until the 4th. Now of course, one does not need a formally dedicated week in which to read a banned book. But it’s always good to support the efforts of the American Library Association in bringing to light all of the attempts at censorship that — amazingly, considering it’s 2008 — still go on whenever someone’s precious ideology is offended.

So celebrate by reading a banned book. One that’s on the list of most frequently challenged titles is, of course, Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, which is about six million and three times better than the movie made of it. (So if you saw and disliked the movie, that shouldn’t steer you away from giving the book a shot. Just sayin’.) And its sequels only ramp up the challenges to religion. There’s also Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War, which had the good fortune to be made into an excellent movie, and both versions of which paint a less than flattering picture of the culture within Catholic schools.