Archive for the ‘mental health’ Category

A Rallying Point for Progressive Atheism

August 27, 2012

It seems pretty straightforward to me: once we dispense with systems designed to prop up existing power structures in the guise of “serving god”…

Then we can serve as friends and allies to each other without consideration for what a mythical man might mandate. We can work towards equal rights and equal pay, we can work to improve education and opportunity, we can work to lift humans to the stars rather than bombing each other back to the stone age where the beliefs of religious patriarchs are more at home.

But even within atheism, many people question religion without questioning the host of biases and prejudices that are packaged with it. And so we need A+. We need a rallying place for atheists to not just reject god, but to reject all that “god” was made to champion by self interested “prophets,” politicians and other swindlers.

We need a place for atheists to rally to support and fight for women’s right to bodily autonomy and to equal pay as well.

We need a place for atheists to come together to oppose xenophobia and racism, and to dismantle the biblical teaching of “Cain’s Mark.”

We need a place for atheists to show their support for and work towards equal marriage rights.

We need a place for atheists to work towards a more sensible mental health system that doesn’t have roots in a belief that you can prayer your neurochemisty better.

We need a place for atheists to discuss issues of disability or gender in a way that doesn’t reflect the larger religiously-inspired discomfort with and blame for any deviation from (socially created) norms.

We need a place for people to teach and learn about privilege and oppression and organize to fight the systems that perpetuate them.

And thanks to Jen McCreight, we have one: Atheism Plus.

Atheism Plus Social Activism

August 19, 2012

Atheism Plus logo suggestions by Jadehawk

First, if you haven’t read Jen’s call to action, go read it and the follow up. I have to say: this is the movement I thought I had joined.

My reason for becoming an atheist- the reason I started losing my faith and questioning religion- was because of biblical passages that were anti women, anti homosexual, pro slavery and pro disproportionate response. Yes, I am an atheist because I don’t believe in god, but that is just the definition. I didn’t question the existence of god first. I questioned the morality of god:

I asked how could God kill children with bears just because they called someone baldy? Couldn’t the prophet have used a beneficial miracle or just good works to show that other things are more important than outward appearances? How could it be deemed appropriate by an omnibenevolent and omniscient being to create homosexuals and then declare homosexuality to deserve death by stoning? If it was a sin, why would God make some people have the urge and others without? And how could two adults being in love ever be a sinful thing?

I asked how God could make women the property of their fathers, to be bought for marriage. How could God decide that war and slavery was correct and that virgin women captured in battle were prizes for warriors? I asked how God could flood the whole world and kill everybody for being sinful when he made them to be sinful in the first place.

And the sick thing was, I wasn’t asking “how crazy is this god?” I was asking “how sinful am I that I can’t even begin to understand God’s Perfect Morality?” I was questioning God’s morality to understand it: and thought that it was evidence of my sinful state that I failed to understand.

But it wasn’t understandable as morality because it wasn’t morality. Even when I realized that, I didn’t stop believing in God. At first I simply decided that the bible didn’t properly record His morality. It took me a long time of exploration and questioning before I finally rejected the god hypothesis. But it was the immorality of the Christian Bible that started me questioning.

And it is my humanism that makes me blog as an atheist. My atheism itself might be just a conclusion about rejecting a premise because of insufficient evidence, but pointing out that lack of evidence is a means to an end: that of freeing minds from the shackles of religion, and undoing the social harms done in its name.

If you think that humans deserve equal rights, that women and men are equal, if you think that death sentences by stoning or otherwise deliberately carried out slowly are barbaric, and that love between consenting adults is something to be celebrated rather than to be opposed, if you think that distinctions in pigmentation are trivial and the social differences that result are profoundly terrible and that slavery and rape can never be justified, then you should oppose religion. But you shouldn’t stop at religion.

These wrongs exist outside of religion as well: religion is merely a transmission device that causes the ideas within to be more resistant to change. But we need to oppose misogyny and racism, homophobia  ableism and xenophobia wherever they may be. And while we are at it, we should fight the undervaluing of labor and the overvaluing of capital. Opposing these things helps everybody, whether you are privileged or oppressed on any particular question doesn’t change that: as a white person, it is in my interest to oppose racism just as it is in the interest of a straight person to oppose homophobia.

This especially goes for the situation of social movements focused on achieving progress in one facet of human rights: ignoring the other facets doesn’t work. You can’t claim to be working for human rights, and then say “Yes, but not for those people.” Just as the gay rights movement had to reform to include lesbians, the atheist community has to embrace women, the LGBTIQ community, people of color and has to embrace their issues as well. This should be a natural fit – as I pointed out, those issues are our issues – but I know we are going to have to work to make up for those activists who only care if an issue effects white straight males.

Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise Crazy

July 9, 2012

“Tom Cruise is so in love with Katie, at least all his people tell him so.

And while he thinks that she’s a very special lady, it’s probably not the way he’d choose to go…”

I have an excuse to link to Sweetafton23!

Best wishes to Katie… and to Tom Cruise. I hope things work out better for both of them now that they are no longer stuck together.

Scientology, on the other hand… I wish Anonymous redoubled on it.

Maybe sticking to reality is safer than believing in demons

July 7, 2012

If you are a pastor and one of your church members tries to beat the demon out of your head, maybe you should consider sticking to humanism and leave off the supernatural teachings.

And if you are in a congregation, maybe you should compare what you observe at every other point in your life to what you are told by someone with a financial incentive to keep you believing what they say.

Thanks to Jessica at Friendly Atheist.

Stockholm syndrome?

December 10, 2011

I’ve previously posted about mental health issues, but there is one that I think I recovered from without ever knowing I had it.

Stockholm syndrome. Let me tell you about the situation I was in:

I was convinced that I had no chance of escape. I was told that if I didn’t do exactly what my captor required of me, I would be punished without possibility of appeal, but that if I followed all instructions and helped my captor, I would be spared punishment, and even rewarded.

Sometimes the things that my captor asked of me would make things worse for other captives. If I didn’t go along, I would be punished in smaller ways than the way I feared, so that fear never diminished but grew as I imagined it. The captor never intended to let me go, and when I escaped, other captives tried to capture me again, since they too had Stockholm syndrome.

That captor was religion.

Now before I go on, I should point out that Stockholm Syndrome isn’t like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or depression. Stockholm Syndrome, rather than being a disorder, is a survival response to being a hostage or prisoner, or to abusive or controlling relationships.

This comparison occurred to me today while reading statistics about belief. Quick- who in America has suffered the most from religion in the United States?

If you said black people and women- on the one hand because of biblically sanctioned slavery and on the other because of biblically sanctioned male dominance- you’d have also pegged the most religious groups in the United States. Unfortunately the Pew Forum didn’t seem to have a similar break down regarding the beliefs of people by sexuality, or we could pursue that with the same questions.

Just as a caution: the questions differ between graphs, and the statistics are presented differently. The one about gender shows the difference between the views of women and men. The one about race shows the difference between the views of black people and the U.S. population as a whole- which means that the racial chart shows a comparison between the complete group and a subset of that group. With that in mind:

58% of women compared to 45% of men “have absolutely certain belief in a personal God.” When the question is broadened to whether a person has “absolutely certain belief in God or a universal spirit” the numbers are 86% of women and 79% of men.

Let’s think about this: The religions that have the greatest effect on American society have historically placed women in subservient roles. Those who were willing to reinforce the status quo by keeping other women in line either directly or by example got limited power over house and instruction of children and as much respect as women got in such a society. Those who opposed the status quo were branded as ungodly and unfeminine or dismissed as sexually deviant, promiscuous or as bitter old maids. Even though more women have achieved greater autonomy- through much struggle- these trends continue even today.

Could it be that between fighting people trying to fit government into women’s collective uteri and trying to avoid both sides of societal double binds placed on women (Such as avoiding being seen as either ice queen or whore) they -on average- simply don’t have as much energy to spare to resist religion as -on average- men do? Umm… YES. Yes it could.

And, on the question of race, almost 90% of black Americans said they “have absolutely certain belief in God” compared to just over 70% for Americans as a whole.

This one is even easier to analyze. In the early days of this country, Abrahamic religion was used to condone, support and encourage black slavery. The plantation owners were white, as generally were their lead overseers, but the overseers managed to maintain order not just through direct brutality but also through a system where those willing to help keep order were rewarded with more food or better bedding.

They were also given bible lessons, with emphasis placed on verses such as Ephesians 6:5-9 “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. ” There was literal textbook Stockholm Syndrome going on there.

Even though slavery is gone, there is still a great deal of prejudice towards black Americans.  They are seen as an angry group- much like feminists and atheists, what a surprise- as well as seen as uneducated, often by the very people who don’t want to spend money on education to level the playing field.

The double bind I will mention here is that of either “being whitewashed or acting black.” My stepmom was talking with one of her relatives from Illinois and was told she was acting white because of how she talks. Now, we lived in California and my stepmom was to my ear just talking like a Californian. But there was almost an accusation of betrayal under the joking. The idea being that if you talk too proper you are betraying blackness. But let’s look at the other side of that- there are grammatical structures that aren’t common between Illinois and California, there are words that have completely different meaning, and differences of pronunciation that would lower your chances of being hired in California if you talk in a way that would be perceived as “acting black” by her family in Illinois. Another aspect of “acting black” in America is being christian. Despite the fact that christianity was inflicted on African-Americans (term used to denote Americans born in Africa, ‘black Americans’ is the term I use when talking about black people born in America) against their will when they were hauled across the sea into slavery, since it was almost universally adopted thereafter it is a point of cultural unity, and is very hard to break free of as a result.

Could it be that this history causes more black Americans to be trapped in christianity than would otherwise be the case? Hell yes.

Mental health : It isn’t demonic possession, it is a skeptical issue.

November 26, 2011

Martin Luther- who started the Protestant Reformation in Germany- believed that crazy people were possessed by demons. How could we possibly think that correcting misconceptions about mental health isn’t a skeptics’ issue and an atheists’ issue? Is it just that it hadn’t been given the spotlight before?

Well, if we haven’t, there is good reason. Nobody wants to be seen as… broken. Even if our species no longer believes crazy people are possessed, the negative stigma and the judgment still linger. If I make comments about being obsessive compulsive at the library where I work, it is in the context of joking about how useful it is: because nobody puts things in perfect order like the person who triple checks everything. But talking about it in a serious way? Oh hell. If I explain how I would always retraced my routes as a child, as though I was attached to an invisible string which would get knotted if I didn’t return the same way I went, never going around the other side of that house if I came around it on this side, the anxiety I felt if I didn’t… if I talk about checking doorknobs and the fridge door three times every time I lock the one or shut the other… if I explain that my reading speed has slowed since I was a kid because I have developed a habit of checking the space between pages to see if I left a makeshift bookmark in between them – despite not having used bookmarks for years, since I memorize the page numbers – if I, worst of all, talk about my lack of ability to motivate myself to do things despite my great passion for those things… my depression…

That is terrifying. It makes me worry that people won’t bother to notice that I can triple check things as fast as many others check them once. Because I’ve had to become that fast. If I wasn’t that fast, people would notice. It is terrifying that people might misconstrue anxiety for expectation, it is terrifying that people take responsibility when it isn’t theirs to take. I am not depressed because of my parents, or because of my friends, and despite my wonderful wife’s tears and anxious questioning, I am certainly not depressed because of Emily. I am depressed because I suffer from depression, not because of outside factors.

If outside factors were the cause, I wouldn’t bother with sad – I’d go straight to ‘angry.’ I’m good at that, I’m an activist at heart and if you can’t see reasons to be angry with the world as it is than you aren’t looking hard enough. And as an activist, I will deliver a call to action. But I am a pragmatist, and I know a superior rallying call when I see one – over to JT Eberhard, who alternates between causing laughter and tears:

Also, here is a link to Jen McCreight, who blogs about another issue I’m working on.

I’ll follow up soon with a post about religion and mental illness – but probably not the points you’d expect.