Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Particular Ice Bucket Challenge

Last weekend, I was challenged to the Ice Bucket Challenge, and I responded with a donation.  So, I've decided to challenge 3 people.

  1. Susi Bocks, a wonderful person and organizer for Kansas Atheists.
  2. Micah Weiss, an organizer for one of my favorite conferences, Skepticon
  3. Chris Attaway, author of my favorite Christian blog, The Discerning Christian

If you'd like to donate, please visit the Out of The Darkness Walk page for the woman who did the dumping of the water, a dear friend and the mother of the girl sitting next to me in the video, whose story you can also read about on that page.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I've Been Ice Bucket Challenged

I've been challenged in the recent trend of the Ice Bucket Challenge, for the ALS Association.

I might do the ice bucket part of the challenge later, but it wouldn't be within the time limit.  So, since I didn't have the time within the 24 hours to film myself getting ice water dumped on me, I decided to do like the President did and just donate for now.

Besides, donations are the real point of this in the first place.  If you'd like to donate, the team I donated to is Team Masters, run someone I know whose husband has ALS.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams Died From A Disease, NOT A Choice

Robin Williams suffered from Depression, a very real medical condition that threatens the lives of its victims.
Feeling sad, or what we may call "depressed", happens to all of us. The sensation usually passes after a while. However, people with a depressive disorder - clinical depression - find that their state interferes with daily life.
For people with clinical depression, their normal functioning is undermined to such an extent that both they and those who care about them are affected by it.
It's not just something people can "get over", because that's not how Depression works.  When someone with Depression takes their own life, it's not a selfish act as some say.

Others will claim the resulting suicide is a mere choice of the sufferer.
It’s a tragic choice, truly, but it is a choice, and we have to remember that. Your suicide doesn’t happen to you; it doesn’t attack you like cancer or descend upon you like a tornado. It is a decision made by an individual. A bad decision. Always a bad decision.
Except that, if you have it, Depression DOES happen to you.  Walsh displays a profound failure to understand what Depression really is in his proclamations about it.
First, suicide does not claim anyone against their will. No matter how depressed you are, you never have to make that choice. That choice. Whether you call depression a disease or not, please don’t make the mistake of saying that someone who commits suicide “died from depression.” No, he died from his choice. He died by his own hand. Depression will not appear on the autopsy report, because it can’t kill you on its own. It needs you to pull the trigger, take the pills, or hang the rope. To act like death by suicide is exactly analogous to death by malaria or heart failure is to steal hope from the suicidal person. We think we are comforting him, but in fact we are convincing him that he is powerless. We are giving him a way out, an excuse. Sometimes that’s all he needs — the last straw.
He's technically correct in saying that a choice is involved.  His failure to understand lies in the place where that choice is made.  He fails to understand what leads to that choice.  He fails to understand how Depression puts people in a position of non-stop suffering.

Depression tortures people from within their own minds.  It puts them in a place where death is seen as the only possibility of escape from that torture.
Second, we can debate medication dosages and psychotherapy treatments, but, in the end, joy is the only thing that defeats depression. No depressed person in the history of the world has ever been in the depths of despair and at the heights of joy at the same time. The two cannot coexist. Joy is light, depression is darkness. When we are depressed, we have trouble seeing joy, or feeling it, or feeling worthy of it. I know that in my worst times, at my lowest points, it’s not that I don’t see the joy in creation, it’s just that I think myself too awful and sinful a man to share in it.
He almost gets it right, and yet still misses the mark by as far as it can be missed.  Depression causes sadness that overrides any potential joy.  It's a medical condition that causes sadness.  It's something quite different from a mere lack of joy.  If Walsh deals with Depression as he claims, he should know better.

But instead, he's even worse, calling it a spiritual condition.
I can understand atheists who insist that depression must only be a disease of the brain, as they believe that our entire being is contained by, and comprised of, our physical bodies. But I don’t understand how theists, who acknowledge the existence of the soul, think they can draw some clear line of distinction between the body and the soul, and declare unequivocally that depression is rooted in one but not the other. This is a radically materialist view now shared by millions of spiritualist people.
All this nonsense does is reinforce the idea that a sufferer of Depression has no hope.  It tells them that their medical issue is not something that can be overcome with medicine.  It's spiritual.  It tells people that their Depression can be overcome by simply praying and getting to closer to their God.  And when that inevitably doesn't work, it tells them that their continued Depression is their own fault for not being close enough to that god for them to be healed.

Walsh says he doesn't understand how theists can have a proper understanding of Depression.  Here's what one, Christian blogger Chris Attaway, had to say to that.
We don't expect people with Downs syndrome to perform rocket science. We don't expect people with cerebral palsy to perform at the Olympic level. We never fault them for this, and we do our best to love them and support them in their limitations.
Why, then, do we treat people with depression and similar illnesses as though they should be able to perform at a level well above the limitations of their disease? Why do some people -- like Matt Walsh, the consistently insensitive "Christian" blogger -- try to fault people for not making all the right choices, even when those people have problems which preclude making all the right choices?
People like Matt Walsh aren't helping, because their backward view of mental illness treats as a matter of choice, rather than the legitimate medical condition it is.  They're perpetuating nonsense.

I pity anyone who suffers from mental illness and only has people like Walsh as support.  But we can mitigate the damage done by Walsh's nonsense by being vocal against it.  If you make it known that you will be supportive, rather than judgmental, you may end up being the only person someone has to come to when they need such help.

Because we certainly don't want them to going to people who will shame them for something absolutely no one should be ashamed of.

Some tributes to Williams that I've liked:

To stab the giant in the eye (RIP Robin Williams)

'He was a hero to me': Paul F. Tompkins on Robin Williams

5 Times Robin Williams Was Pretty Much the Best Guy Ever

Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves

Robin Williams: When depression kills

Robin Williams's death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish

Robin Williams’s Verdict on Life

Monday, August 11, 2014

Depression And Robin Williams

I've seen a lot of sorrow over the death of Robin Williams.  Mostly paired with sentiments of him bringing people joy.

Depression doesn't discriminate.  Sometimes it even horribly haunts people who outwardly appear happy and bring joy to millions.

If you find yourself in such a situation, please know that it should come with no shame.  No matter what shitty things our society says about mental illness, it's a legitimate medical issue and deserves to be treated as such.  If you're a sufferer, please seek whatever help you need.

If you know a sufferer, please be receptive, supportive, and non-judgmental when that help is sought.  You just may save a life you didn't even know was in danger.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

There Is No Need To Straw Man Ray Comfort

A post about something awful Ray Comfort said has started to go around.

If your first thought is that it must be fake, you're in the same boat I was.  Ray Comfort is an idiot and a habitual liar, but this seems way too much for even him.

He's said so himself.
A number of people have received the following post, saying it was from me. I would never say such horrible things. If you get one of these, please give the details to Manuel@livingwaters.com and we will follow this up. Thank you.
"Slavery is all a part of history. It was a good and bad thing all together. It was good that African Americans were willing to work for scraps to better our beautiful country. The downside is with all this liberation, interracial marriages have skyrocketed. Jesus was a white man, and if we continue this path, all white men will be gone in the next 3 generations. This is when he will come back for the day of judgment."
I have no love for Comfort, and I'm skeptical of just about everything he puts out, but I do believe him here.  There's no evidence he said the awful thing above.  Whoever created that image is an asshole.  If we lie about him like that, we're no better than he is.

We have plenty of material to make Ray Comfort look like an asshole.  He gives it to us himself all the time.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The New Ku Klux Klan?

The Ku Klux Klan got attention in March when they distributed fliers to a neighborhood in Chesterfield, Virginia.  It's part of what appears to be an attempt to revamp the public image of a group best known for murdering people.
The Ku Klux Klan papered several Chesterfield County neighborhoods this week with fliers proclaiming it is nonviolent, not a hate group and not “enemies of the colored and mongrel races.”
I'm not sure how they figure they can be taken seriously in their claim to not be a hate group while referring to people as "the colored and mongrel races", but at least they're advocating non-violence.  Hopefully they're at least also practicing it.

But they're not the only group attempting to make the Klan more palatable for the modern world.  A Pennsylvania Klan group wants to start a neighborhood watch.  In the article about the neighborhood watch, Imperial Wizard Frank Ancona said,
It’s just like any neighborhood watch program. It’s not targeting any specific ethnicity. We would report anything we see to law enforcement
That would be great if they could believed.  But he also said,
We don’t hate people. We are an organization who looks out for our race. We believe in racial separation
In other words, they're still racists.  The fact that they do not understand that they're racists is what has them being surprised when people react negatively to them attempting to police their neighborhood, however passive they claim to be with it.

Even if their violent past really is behind them, it's not that far behind them. Earlier this year, a Jewish center was shot up by "former Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan".  Ancona's reaction was to condemn the violence.
"I believe in racial separation but it doesn't have to be violent," he told CNN. "People in the Klan are professional people, business people, working types. We are a legitimate organization."
Cross, who founded the Carolina Knights of the KKK in the 1980s, went "rogue," Ancona said.
The Young Turks covered the basics pretty well.

Although, they did miss one thing about Ancona's attempt at reimaging.
The leader of the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is tired of “a few rogue Klansmen” ruining the group’s reputation, and argues that the group is a non-violent Christian organization.
I'm sure many non-violent, non-racist Christians today would take exception to the Klan declaring itself Christian, but they'd have to deny a lot of history to do so.

Photo Credit: Dallas Voice
If the Ku Klux Klan wants a palatable image, they'll need to do 2 things.

  1. Change their name.
  2. Stop being racists.

Even then, I don't see many people buying it.  But it's not like the Klan has ever been accused of being all that smart.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Coming Out Story, And The Insidious Nature Of Religion

Recovering From Religion often tweets/posts good questions to provoke conversation.  Here's one from yesterday.
So, here's a short story of me coming out as a non-believer.

Having always been an atheist, I went into college as an atheist.  I was not yet an activist.  I don't think I even really identified as the word "atheist".  By that point, I had put very little thought into it all.  Even after spending 6 years in a church youth group while openly not believing and not participating in most of the few religious things they did.

When making friends, I put zero thought into their religion.  I didn't give a shit about their religion even when I befriended a girl who always wore the same cross necklace.  The only reason I even noticed the cross was because it was the only way I could tell her apart from her identical twin sister.  The only time I ever remarked on the necklace was to request that she keep wearing it until I could tell them apart without it.

I enjoyed my friendship with the pair of them, who were my lunch companions every day for the first several months I was at college.  We never argued over our religious differences.  Those differences never came up at all.  I honestly don't even know the exact point they found out (or figured out) that I was an atheist.  I never made a point of telling them.  At least not until it came up.

One day, they decided to invite me to a meeting of a group they belonged.  Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Maybe they thought I was Christian and had made the same assumption most people do.  Maybe this was the moment they found out I was not a Christian.  Either way, their response to me telling them I'd be out of place in that group because I was neither of those things (Christian or Athlete) changed the nature of our relationship forever.

"We don't want you to go to Hell."

I'd been around religious people all my life, but that was the first time anyone had suggested that my fate possibly involved Hell.

My response was not fear.  Hell is often used to scare people into believing, but Hell was never something capable of inducing fear in me.  I'm not wired that way.

My response not offense either.  While I find the concept of Hell offensive, I took the invitation as them wanting to include their friend in a group they enjoyed.  And I took the bit about Hell as them being genuinely concerned for my fate, not wanting me to suffer.

Nevertheless, that incident meant the end of two friendships I valued.  I do not recall if it was me or them who pulled away.  I never held ill will toward them, and I never had any reason to believe either of them did so toward me.  There was no fighting.  No arguing.  There was only that one implication that I was going to Hell.  We simply drifted apart.  It was not even until years later that I realized this incident was the cause of us drifting apart, but I have no doubt that it was.  And I have no doubt that this was not the only time in my life this has happened to me.

I still regret that we didn't remain friends.  They were fun.  They were good people.  Two good people that I lost from my life all because of their religion and what it says about people who do not share that religion.

Religion does not just cause obvious harm.  It's not always family we lose because of it.  It's more insidious than that.  Sometimes it just quietly kills the relationships between people who found each other and would otherwise be quite close.