Saturday, September 13, 2014

How Feminism Has Benefited Me - Friendships Edition

I was going through Laci Green's YouTube channel to find a specific video to share in a conversation, and as happens most times I visit her channel, I ended up watching a few more of her videos because she's all smart and stuff.

This time, one particular video caught my attention.

I've never understood the myth that men & women cannot be platonic friends.  Throughout my entire life, the vast majority of my closest friends have been female.  There's really only been a handful of exceptions.  My oldest friend is male, and we've been through some pretty rough, and some pretty good times together.  But I'm just as close to his wife as I am him.

I have separate bonds with each of them because I'm able to see them as separate people.  My friend's wife wasn't just my friend's wife.  She's a person of her own, and because I was able to see her that way, she quickly became the closest thing I've ever had to sister.  We're close friends, and we both find the idea of it being anything else as laughable as if we really were siblings.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  It's never been weird because none of the three us have antiquated views on friendship and gender.

Rarely has sexual interest ever come up with any of my friends, and it's never seriously hindered or ended a friendship of mine.  I attribute this largely to the fact that I never bought into the idea that it should.  Plus, I've made (mostly) good choices about who I've called friend.

I never specifically sought out female friends or male friends.  It's happened that most of my friends, and nearly all of my closest confidants, have been women.  I'm glad I never bought into the archaic ideas that friendships should be gender segregated or that the only interaction between genders must involve our genitals.

If I'd let that silly notion into my head, I'd have needlessly deprived myself of most of the best people in my life.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Life In The Bible Belt From A Tourist Perspective

Having to constantly have Jesus thrown in your face is a common theme I see from people all over the United States, but this is especially so in the Bible Belt.  As if to illustrate my point, just as I started writing this, my family in the other room started talking about a Bible study one has been attending.

I was in the same house as that much of my family because we were on a trip to Branson, Missouri.  On the day we visited the part of town with all the touristy, gift shops, I encountered something I was not surprised to see, but it was still interesting to see it in that volume.

Jesus merchandise was everywhere I went.

This was just over a few hours, and it's not even close to all I saw.  It's not even all the pictures I took.  For several of the places, it's just about all they had.  These were all found in private businesses, so there are no Church-State issues involved.  I'm not writing this to say they should not be allowed to sell this much religious merchandise or even that they're wrong to do so.  In fact, considering the fact that these are for-profit businesses in this place, they're right to do so.

This is merely a visual representation of what many atheists have to put up with.  All the time.  Around here, Jesus sells.  It sells this way because Christianity is ingrained into every part of the culture in these places.  It's even in their newspapers.

Just something to think about before you go all rageface at someone who comes from this environment and believes things that seem absurd to those who've been lucky enough to escape it.  Something to think about before you call all Christians stupid or call closeted atheists in these places cowards.

Just because you were lucky enough to overcome something does not mean it comes easily to everyone.  It couldn't hurt to keep that in mind.

Interviews, Anxiety, and Society

I'm sitting here waiting for a phone call from a reporter with the Omaha World Herald.

This should not elevate my heart rate, and yet it does.

I shouldn't be worried about saying something to hurt Omaha Atheists or Apostacon.  I've done this before.  And yet I am.

I shouldn't worry about the reporter surprising me with a hidden agenda against us.  He already has a history of treating us fairly, and there's no reason to expect he'll behave differently today.  And yet those thoughts are in my head.

I should not go through this neurotic thought process before every interview or conversation with someone new.  And yet I do.

I shouldn't have lost sleep over this.  And yet I did.

My brain should not play tricks on me like this.  And yet it does.

There should not be a negative stigma from society for people like me, whose brains play tricks on us.  And yet there is.

I should not be ashamed of having a brain that plays these tricks on me.  And I'm not.

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.