BREAKING: Iris goes woo! Read my first psychic prediction!

Yes, friends, I hereby renounce my atheism, anti-theism, skepticism, anti-supernaturalism, all of it. I’ve gone all woo on you guys, and have hung out my own shingle as a Professional Psychic! My first Official Prediction: some peoples’ president, Donald Trump, will fire another federal watchdog very, very soon.*

And to be honest, I kinda get it: I’m not really much of a dog person myself. Anyway, YOU READ IT HERE FIRST!

That’ll be $300, please. CASH ONLY.

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*What? No! Of course not! My impressive psychic prediction has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this email alert I just got from the New York Daily News:

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Mah spiritual needz!

Since this came up in comments on my previous post, I thought I’d regale readers with the tale of that one time I had a so-called nondenominational cleric and self-proclaimed “spiritual counselor” approach me during chemo.

Yes, some pasty-faced white d00d in a somber black suit and white collar straight out of central casting came by my station, introduced himself as a “spiritual counselor” and handed me his business card:

Yes that’s right: an official Staff Chaplain was here to help me with aaaaall mah spiritual counseling needz! Whoo-hoo!

Now, contrary to my fearsome reputation as a raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist terrorist*, I do not generally begrudge my free fellow Americans their own personal supernatural fantasies and frivolities, except for when I do absolutely and unequivocally begrudge them. For instance, when they see fit to inflict said fantasies and frivolities upon myself or others by force of law or otherwise. And I have a particularly dismal opinion of clergy, whom I hold in the very lowest esteem for many reasons, including the fact that they are either primary vectors for spreading all manner of hellish evils and deadly nonsense here in the US and around the world, or at best apologists therefor. Also, in my experience clergy are, without exception, all. flaming. narcissists.

And yet, believe it or not, I was SUPER NICE to the Staff Chaplain! We had a looong chat wherein I pretended to be interested in his theological education and its flavor of supernaturalism: some kind of Protestant Christian (*omg yawn*). Then I asked him about his chaplaining philosophy and experience: “oh, it’s non-denominational,” he answered. Why, he could provide me with Buddhist spiritual counseling, even! He said so when I pressed, and I pretended to be impressed.

This “conversation,” if we can call it that, went on and on AND ON, more or less in the form of a monologue, with just a few little prompts and prods here and there from me: his utterly captive audience, attached at the chest to slowly draining IV bags via a one-inch needle recently pierced into a surgically implanted port.

But this part was expected. Just ask any run-of-the-mill narcissist to talk about themselves, then sit back and behold the MEEEEEE that pours forth without end.

Once I was sure he was enjoying himself thoroughly, I pounced. I asked him ever so sweetly about, you know, his actual counseling qualifications. Any certifications? None. Academic degrees in psychology? None. Clinical social work? None. Perhaps institutional internships or residencies as a counselor? None. Any actual license to practice counseling in New York State? None.

NONE.

“Huh,” I said cooly, and pretended to be disappointed. Hurt, even.

By this point his hackles were visibly rising, but yet he looked torn. I mean, I had only moments ago been such a delightful, rapt and eager listener, so generous with my encouraging wide eyes, “uh-huhs” and a few tactical “wows.”

I waited a beat – and yes, I admit I enjoyed watching him squirm – then casually dropped the “Well, I’m atheist” bomb. “But I am sooo interested in discussing religion and spirituality with you! I’ve got nothing but time to kill here!”

The Staff Chaplain seemed taken aback for a second, maybe two. Then he very quickly offered up some banal farewell pleasantries, and oh man, this d00d was out the door of the chemo suite in a streaky black blur. Oh well. I guess nobody else locked up to hideous poisons drip drip dripping into their fragile veins was in need of spiritual counseling that day?**

Listen, as far as I’m concerned, amusing myself by toying with a clergyperson while I’m quite literally stuck getting chemo? Now that is addressing mah spiritual needz!

I never once saw him again at the hospital, despite being a frequent flyer. Or maybe he just saw me first.

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*Okay, so maybe I am a hopeless raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist terrorist. But I prefer to think of myself, at least in this instance, as a raging, fire-breathing, anti-theist Cheshire Cat.

Sir John Tenniel's hand-colored proof of Cheshire Cat in the Tree Above Alice for The Nursery "Alice"

**Yes I know, there were religious/spiritual/nondenominational/whatever patients lining the long wall of the chemo suite right along with me. But Iris, don’t they deserve access to an official Staff Chaplain to comfort them if they so desire? HOW COULD YOU BE SO AWFUL?!!! Indeed, I myself have said before, not coincidentally to my therapist, and also to my much-missed dear friend and FtB colleague Caine, cancer treatments are trauma. Full stop.

But no. No, my fellow patients most certainly do not deserve this. And I’ll tell you why in my next post.

My esteemed colleague is asking…

How are you treated as an atheist? [Via From the Ashes of Faith.]

I saw the question/post on the sidebar and felt like flexing Ye Olde Writing Muscle and answering it. Unfortunately for ashes, my answer turned into a rambling rant more suitable to inflict on you people, by which of course I mean my people: Squirrel Haters. Here’s my answer. (My comment, followed by my apology therefor, are still awaiting moderation there as of this posting.)

Reporting from NYC here, that infamous bastion of moral turpitude: feminists, POC, AOC, leftists, queer people, Muslims, godless heathens and all those other notorious devils your mother warned you about. Especially those godless heathens!

Even for me, it’s an interesting and timely question, it turns out. Soooo…I’ve recently had multiple surgeries followed by hospital admissions at an enormous, sprawling, nominally Jewish hospital-and-medical-school complex in Manhattan. It’s the kind of place where the intake forms in nearly every doctor’s office – and I’ve been to a LOT of ’em – ask for “preferred name” and “preferred pronoun,” and the various departments proudly display a rainbow flag or two with messages of welcoming and inclusivity. The staff, from renowned surgeons to janitors, is probably as diverse as the U.N.’s. You get the picture.

Now I don’t know if it’s an effect of cancer and its treatments or just a typical case of don’t-give-a-fuck-itis, but if someone who is responsible for some aspect of my medical care is going to ask me about my religion, and the physician practices all do, I say “atheist” without skipping a beat. I have that privilege here.

Or do I? Two surgeries ago back in November, I remember filling out some form or answering some questioner as usual with “athiest.” I get up to pre-op holding, and various people and teams keep dropping by to introduce themselves, then examine and interrogate me (anesthesia docs, O.R. nurses, surgical residents, etc.). I instantly forget all of their names, faces and roles. As I was being wheeled away to the O.R., one of these people, a woman perhaps in her thirties, leans over and says to me almost conspiratorially, “It was nice to see ‘atheist’ in your chart. I wish more people were so open about it.” Huh?! Okay…

As an aside here, yes yes this is a “Jewish” hospital, but nearly every single Jewish person in my circle of friends is at least agnostic, and some are quite openly atheist. And also Jewish, in the cultural sense. They celebrate and honor Jewish holidays with family and friends, just like other atheists might celebrate Christmas.

FF to my most recent surgery and admission, about a week ago. It’s 6:00am and I’m at the very first gatekeeper: the insurance coverage and your copay’s due now person. She takes my credit card and asks me the usual litany of basic biographical questions, including religion. “Atheist,” I say. She doesn’t blink, but after a few seconds appears puzzled at her screen. A supervisor type behind her apparently overheard me, and comes over to assist. It’s apparently no longer a fill-in-the-blank space, and it’s not on the (new?) drop-down menu. I mean it should be right there after Adventist, Seventh Day. Or whatever. I helpfully pitch all sorts of euphemisms like “godless?” “how about heathen?” “None?” “Listen I can take agnostic, just for today?” They’re both mystified that it’s not there. I say, “Come on, I can’t be the only one here today, there are lots of us!” They sort of mumble agreement and apologies and a “Yeah, I know some…”

I don’t know what religion they finally decided to choose on my behalf. Pretty sure the credit card part was the only real key to getting past them.

Some interesting answers are already there – maybe go have a read and answer for yourself?

Behold my magnificent and selfless sacrifice FOR SCIENCE: posting a survey link on my blog.

Full disclosure: I don’t have anything close to a scientific background. I majored in Theatre ferchrissakes, and graduated with my B.A. a few credits shy of a minor in Philosophy. Unfortunately I had crappy science teachers in high school, and as an undergrad I managed to dodge rigorous science classes by meeting my degree requirements with shit like Meteorology 101 and whatnot.

Years later however, I fell deeply and madly in love with the sciences in general, and with evolutionary biology in particular. (In the credit-where-credit-is-due department, that doucheweasel Dawkins’ books contributed in no small part to my intoxicating enlightenment; also, Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish remains one of my favorites reads of all time. Mind: blown.) So although I can spot a cumulonimbus cloud along with the best of ’em, during my formal education I missed out on so much cool science stuff (OMG astronomy! Geology! Marine biology!!!).

My worst regret about all of this is that I have contributed nothing of any significance to the truly amazing troves of knowledge humans have acquired via the scientific method.

Until now.

I am thrilled to announce that the Atheist Research Collaborative is conducting a survey study on how and why people become atheists. FreethoughtBlogs has been encouraged to publicize the survey to our readers, so I am posting about it in case participating in this research might be of interest to you godless heathens out there. From the researchers:

The study is open to those who are at least 18 years of age, and those who once believed in god(s) but do not now; this means you are not eligible to participate if you have always been an atheist/nonbeliever. The survey is a maximum of 76 questions, and a minimum of 64 questions.  On average, the survey should take 20 to 30 minutes to complete, although individuals may find that it takes them more or less time than this, depending on their answers. The survey can be found here.

Joseph Langston ARC Affiliate/Web Admin

Phew! Wow. Doing this science stuff sure is exhilarating – and exhausting! I had no idea.

Well I’m sure we can all agree that I’ve stepped up in a REALLY BIG WAY and done my part for SCIENCE. And that obviously I deserve at least a co-author credit on any published research that comes from this survey data. And of course the best part is this: “make major Nobel Prize-worthy scientific contribution” is now crossed off my bucket list.

What a great day.

:D

Excellent news.

I just heard Florida governor Rick Scott say – TWICE in a brief live interview – that the single most important thing the state needs right now is everyone’s thoughts and prayers.

Right now I am sick with worry about my friends in Florida, including one in the Panama City area, and my oldest, dearest friend sheltering in the home of a couple he knows in Pinellas County, 20 miles inland from his house on the Gulf Coast. Both of my friends are nonbelievers. I’m sure they take great comfort in knowing the state government has its priorities straight.

I can’t even.

I’m becoming an Irish pagan!

OMFG you guys! I cannot help but think that I have found among the Irish pagans the place where I truly belong!

When I read the email exchanges posted by Pagan Federation Ireland on their Facebook page, I shouted hallelujah! (<-It’s a relic of my xtian upbringing. Obviously, I will have to learn what my new fellow Irish pagans are supposed to shout in similar situations.)

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What if we’re wrong?

Our esteemed colleague and beloved friend Don Ardell forwarded an interesting exercise he received from his friend, a fellow Robert G. Ingersoll enthusiast. The Great Agnostic was asked what he would do if he passed on and discovered there was indeed a God. The Christian god, of all the possibilities. Ugh.

Q: If you died and somehow found yourself face to face with Jeezus Haploid Christ Incorporated, what would you say to him?

I have to admit my instantaneous reaction was to imagine myself getting right up in his grill and saying FUCK YOU YOU FUCKING FUCK. And not just because I’m a New Yorker and that’s how I greet everybody. It’s probably no secret ’round here that I detest Christianity (though I do not detest all Christians) with the burning passion of ten thousand UY Scuties. Cursing Jeezus out would succinctly convey my feelings perfectly well. But upon further reflection, a more thoughtful (though no less enraged or revolted) reaction might go something like this.

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Christ as colonic?

[CONTENT NOTE: discussion of fecal elimination and common problem associated therewith.]

As readers here may recall, I take tremendous pride in my half-assed, poorly executed, semi-regular attempts to extract $82 billion worth of amusement every year from the Religion-Industrial-Complex on behalf of atheist U.S. taxpayers. I perform this service 100% free of charge; it is my noble, selfless, one-woman protest of the appalling injustice that is $82 billion in yearly taxpayer subsidies to the R-I-C. Okay, it’s probably not much of a sacrifice on my part, because I happen to thoroughly enjoy mocking a particular church sign in the small town in Northern Maryland where my mother lives. Hey, someone has to do it.

And today’s sign is a doozy. [Read more…]

ALL UR BONEZ ARE BELONG TO US.

It’s bad enough of course that the Catholic Church as an institution has precisely zero respect for the bodily autonomy of living people. Like all authoritarian panty-sniffers, the hierarchy strives to control every aspect of human existence in keeping with its morbid and moribund dictates whenever and wherever it can get away with it. Now, in accordance with its bizarre and stunted worldview, the Vatican has helpfully narrowed its mandates for what Catholics can and cannot do with their bodily remains even after they’re fucking dead.

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