Hilary is NOT the First

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Headlines all over the internet are declaring Hillary Clinton the first female presidential nominee. First, the convention has yet to take place, so she is not the nominee. That aside, many have come before her, including  Cynthia McKinney and Lenora Fulani. Fulani grew up poor and black in the 60’s and 70’s. She attended Columbia university and eventually earned a PhD in psychology from the City University of New York.

She worked for years to end the two party system and has taken voter rights to court numerous times. In the 1988 presidential election, she was the first woman and black woman to achieve representation on the ballot in all 50 states. She received 225,000 votes, which at that time, was the most votes for a woman in a general election (Jill Stein received almost half a million in 2012). No, Fulani wasn’t the Democratic nominee. She didn’t have a lot of votes. She also wasn’t wealthy. She didn’t have a husband who happened to be a former President. She wasn’t supported by the media and she didn’t have large interest groups throwing money at her. When she was born, a black man couldn’t eat lunch sitting next to a white man. A black woman could be arrested for sitting in the wrong part of a bus. Getting to where she did could not have been easy. Hilary Clinton may very well be the Democratic nominee this year. She has made history. But we don’t need to pretend she was the first.

Justice for Harambe Means Saving Other Lives

Harambe
Photo: Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden Facebook Page

On Saturday, May 28th the staff of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens in Ohio had to make a terrible decision. Both they and the country now mourn the loss of an endangered western lowland gorilla, Harambe. While the public makes a collective call for justice, we must remember that our moral outrage over neglectful parenting will not resurrect Harambe. Shouting our opinions on social media will not resurrect Harambe. There is nothing we can do to change what happened. The zoo had to make a decision and they had to make it quickly. It is not a position that I envy. I will not speak about whether they were right or wrong, but only where we can go from here. I respect zoo director Thane Maynard for his ability to handle the response from the public while also comforting zoo staff during a difficult time. I have no doubt that Harambe was loved; not simply as a creature to admire, but as an individual with his own presence and personality.

While we are all shocked at this situation, we must remember that gorillas are threatened every day. They are at risk due to human population growth, logging, mining, and road building. They are the victims when humans engage in violent conflict. Their young are left behind when their mothers are killed. They succumb to the same diseases that kill us. Gorillas, as well as other apes, are dying in the wild due to our own negligent behavior. We can sit in judgment of the child’s mother. We can sit in judgment of zoo staff. But who wins that game? It’s much easier recognize the failings of others than to recognize our own. We are all guilty.

Let’s not make decisions based on ignorance. We should seek out information from those who are knowable about primate behavior, as well as primate threats in the wild. Social media is abuzz with comments made from a place of misunderstanding. A misunderstanding of conservation, a misunderstanding of primate behavior, and I think, a misunderstanding of the child welfare system. I do not claim the public should not be outraged, but when we speak or act, we should do so from an educated perspective. Anything otherwise could be detrimental to the welfare of endangered species.

I do sometimes struggle with the idea of keeping great apes in captivity. At the same time, I think the public romanticizes life in the wild. Gorillas are not living wild and free as they should be able to do. Would you feel free if you were continually at risk of being killed for meat or having your home bulldozed? This is the reality they face. Perhaps we will learn that zoos were not the best place for our ancestral cousins, but the wild has not been kind to them either – for we are there too.

If we truly want justice for Harambe, we are going to have to work for it. If we are angry about the incident that took place at this zoo, then we should outraged at what is occuring every day and we should DO something about it. We have to be willing to educate ourselves and analyze where we need to change. We need to be aware that the choices we make have an impact on wildlife, including gorillas. This tragic event has shown us the public does care about the welfare of the great apes. We should use this as an opportunity to further educate our communities on the threats to ape populations, as well as what they can do to help. What better way to honor Harambe than to save lives?

Things you can do:

For more information on the threat to apes and what you can do, please visit: The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and the Mbeli Bai Study.

For information on how palm oil (a common ingredient in products you probably have in your home) is a threat to the orangutan, please visit: Orangutan Foundation International.

Are Muslim Reformers the Problem?

Vox released an article this week by Wardah Khalid that seems a continuation of the never ending tirade against Ayaan Hirsi Ali and others who speak on Islam. This is certainly not the first time Ali has had her credibility attacked due to her status as an ex-Muslim. I have to assume that this backlash is in part due to Islam’s negative view of apostates. With every article and every interview, her detractors try to convince the public that she is not to be trusted, she does not represent Islam, that she is not one of them and therefore her opinions are invalid. Ayaan has been clear about her ex-Muslim status. She has been open about her atheism. She’s also been quite outspoken on why she is an ex-Muslim and this is what Khalid does not want us to hear. Ayaan has been criticized in the past for speaking publicly without meeting the qualifications of an expert. What these qualifications would entail, I am not certain. Ali has chronicled her life as a woman living in Muslim culture and in a Muslim family. She has also worked for the Dutch government as a researcher on immigration issues.

In an attempt to discredit Ali, Khalid claims that she expressed sympathy for a right wing terrorist who killed 77 in Norway. When listening to the clip for myself, that isn’t exactly what I hear. Individuals like her were on the receiving end of the blame for the murder but she suggests, along with condemning the behavior, that silencing voices may contribute to the problem. Whether or not she was correct in her assessment, it does not appear to me that she sympathizing with murder. It is interesting to note that after the attack, Khalid herself made a plea for “tolerance of diverse views, lifestyles, and beliefs” – something she seems to want to deny others.

Ali is not Khalid’s only target. Asra Nomani created a group dedicated to equality in American mosques. She argues that Muslim religious organizations that separate women from men are discriminating against women and therefore should lose their tax exempt status. I believe she makes a worthwhile point, one which could also be applied to Orthodox synagogues. If a church made all black congregants use a seperate door and sit in the back, would our government allow it to continue this practice while maintaining its tax privileges? Should it? Nomani is asking for nothing but equal treatment and this is what Khalid deems fringe. This is what is considered anti-Muslim zealotry.

The title of the article, whether it was chosen by Khalid or an editor at Vox, is nothing but inflammatory and insulting. One can hardly be an anti-Islam Muslim. Islam is not a race or ethnicity. The labeling is not that much different from the way those who have sought and continue to seek modern progress in Christianity and Judaism have been described. Those who push for reform are often labeled as the opposition. Those who want to maintain the status quo or to control the information to which the group has access, will demand attention be directed toward them and away from the noisemakers.

At the end of the article she gets to her real point – that criticism of Islam in a way she does deem appropriate is Islamophobic. The Islamophobia label here is disingenuous. Islamophobia is a real thing. It is evident when potential presidential candidates want to suspend immigration from Muslim countries. It is evident when they suggest a registration database for Muslims. It is evident when a woman simply wearing a headscarf is spat on in public. It is dangerous and should not be tolerated. But sharing your experience as a Muslim, demanding rights for women, protecting young girls against child marriage and having their genitals mutilated, insisting that women have true choice in how to live their lives, and acknowledging that Islam has a number of troubling practices – these are not Islamophobia.

Some of those cited here are indeed practicing Muslims who simply hold to opinions that differ from the author. Whether they are a minority is almost irrelevant. Khalid wants to act as if being a minority for progress is somehow inherently wrong. Muslims like Asra Nomani, Mona Eltahawy, and Maajid Nawaz are demanding women’s rights, LGBT rights, and humanist values. Khalid wants us to ignore them. I think we should ask ourselves why she finds their views the threatening that she doesn’t just disagree, but actually argues against giving them a platform to speak. She claims that the legitimate voices are being stifled by allowing these few “extremists” to monopolize the public discourse. There are a lot of voices and the public obviously wants to make room for those she deems unworthy. The real problem is not Ayaan or any other proponent of reform. The problem is those who want to control the conversation and hurl insults at anyone who disagrees.

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What Republicans Don’t Tell You About Bernie’s Millennial Supporters

Bernie
Photo by Michael Vadon

Opponents of Bernie Sanders want to portray his supporters as if we are all lazy, ignorant young people who want something for nothing. They claim we are lining up to receive our free gifts courtesy of grandpa Sanders. I already have a college education. I’m a semester away from completing graduate school – without any student loans or debt. I have a home which my husband and I own. I have affordable health care. I do not need a handout from Bernie Sanders.

For some reason, there is a failure to recognize that Sanders supporters are not all in it to get something – we actually want to give something. We have noticed that countries with universal healthcare and tuition free universities are producing happy, healthy, progressive citizens. We are undeterred by words like “socialist” even when you try to claim that the Nazis were also socialists. We value Sanders experience and respect the tenacity with which he has fought for peace, equality, and education. We want to live in a healthy and educated society. We realize we need to put more money into education and less money into weaponry (human or otherwise). That doesn’t mean we don’t want to feel safe; it means that we need something different from that which we have previously been provided.

We don’t want to live in abundance while we watch our neighbor struggle just to survive and feed her children. We don’t want our parents and grandparents to have to work until they are 75 and live in decrepit nursing homes because they are broke. We’re not merely narcissistic or self-centered. We realize that a country worth living in has to be created with everyone in mind; not a place where the highly privileged exploit those who were born less fortunate. We make even find ourselves in that privileged category and we are willing to give something of ourselves in order to make a better country. We want our votes to count; not just the votes of those who could afford to buy their politician.

We understand that the initiatives brought forth by Sanders will cost money. We do not expect that this money will appear magically. But we do have confidence that he will be able to cut spending where we have been spending in the wrong places and increase spending in the right places. We don’t have to trust him blindly – were able to see concrete explanations for what he proposes. We don’t have to be worried that he’s lying to us, or just saying what we want to hear because he’s been saying the same things and working towards the same goals longer than we have been alive.

For some, this is the first presidential election in which they will have the privilege to vote. Unfortunately, many young adults will choose to forgo this right and abstain from voting in 2016. I don’t understand it. I voted in a presidential election the year I turned 18 and have rarely missed an election since. But I’m glad to have a candidate like Sanders to get younger millennials excited at the potential of politics. To show them that no matter what happens during this year’s election, they do have a voice, there are people will listen, and that they have an obligation to keep insisting their voice be heard. In a year where someone like Donald Trump appears to be able to lie and insult his way to the nomination, they are going to need someone who can remind them that things can be different. I think Sanders is that person.

What You Don’t Know About the First Black Woman to Run for President

If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. – Shirley Chisholm

Shirley1. Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn to immigrant parents. She spent a lot of time in Barbados with her grandmother (National Women’s History Museum)

2. She was accepted into Vasser and Oberlin but choose Brooklyn College, where she majored in education and joined the debate team. She then went on to earn a Masters from Columbia University (house.gov)

3. When her black classmates were denied entrance into university social clubs, Shirley started her own, Ipothia, which stands for “in pursuit of the highest in all.” (NWHM)

4. Bernie Sanders wasn’t the first to run on a platform of being a free agent. Chisholm ran for the 12th Congressional district with the slogan “Unbought and Unbossed”. She won (BBC).

5. She was the first African American Woman in Congress.

6. She let it be known that she didn’t intend to be a quiet observer. In her first floor speech on March 26, 1969, she spoke vehemently against the Vietnam War (house.gov)

7. During her Congressional career, she supported guaranteed minimum wages, federation assistance for education, she backed a lunch bill for children, and she advocated for immigrants rights (house.gov).

8. She was responsible for helping to establish the WIC (women, infants, and children) program in the United Sates (BBC).

9. She announced her run for President in 1972. She felt other candidates did not serve the interests of the African American and inner city poor. She received 152 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention, despite her modest fundraising (house.gov).

10. In 1983 she left Congress to teach at the university level and founded the National political Congress of Black Women. She moved to Florida where wrote and lectured until her death in 2005 (house.gov).

 

In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing – anti-humanism. – Shirley Chisholm

10 Ways Republicans & Evangelicals can be Better Friends to Jews (and Humanists)

Ted Cruz, in a speech for In Defense of Christians, an organization that seeks to protect Christians in the Middle East, speaks about his desire to support the Jewish people. His message is not well received for reasons I will not pretend to know, as I am unfamiliar with the group. What I will address is how Republicans and Evangelicals need to change their behavior if they want to claim they are friends of the Jewish community. These changes will benefit all Americans, including non-Christians, humanists, and atheists.

1. Stop trying to insert prayer into public schools. Public schools are exactly that – for the public. They are not platforms for you to push your religious agenda on everyone else. Jewish kids (as well as all others) have a right to attend a school where religious prayers are not promoted.

2. Quit defending and creating new ways to teach creationism in public schools. Jews by in large accept evolution as true and don’t need Republicans trying to dumb down our nation’s students.

3. Stop fighting against same-sex marriage. Jews are among the largest groups to support same-sex marriage in the United States. Don’t assume that just because you get your anti-gay views from the Hebrew Bible that the Jewish community actually agrees with you. There is a lot more nuance to Scriptural interpretation than you seem to want to believe.

4. Refuse to donate to organizations whose only goal is to convert Jews to Christianity. You speak of the harm that is been done to the Jewish community in the past but will invest millions of dollars in trying to convert Jewish people to your own culture because you believe it to be superior. On another note, never utter the phrases perfected Jew or completed Jew.

5. Refrain from comparing Jewish presidential candidates to Nazis.

6. Do not claim the President of the United States must be a religious person. First, we know what you really mean is Christian. Secondly, a lot of Jews are not all that religious. In fact, 23% of American Jews are atheists. When you say the president must start each day in prayer, what we hear is that you think Jews are not worth electing.

7. Stop claiming there are too many non-Christians in politics. We deserve to be a part of political discourse just as much as Christians.

8. Be adamant that this country remain religiously plural. A 2015 poll found 57% of Republican respondents were in favor of making Christianity the national religion. Another 30% weren’t sure. This is not a good way to make friends with Jews (or anyone else for that matter). It doesn’t provide good evidence that you respect the constitution either.

9. Do not fund the spread of Christianity into the Middle East. It is not our country’s job to proselytize other people into your religion. It is not a good use of our money. Also, when anyone says “Judeo-Christian”, they mean Christian. I’ve never heard a Jew outside of Dennis Prager use the phrase. Christianity & Judaism are not the same thing.

10. Stop sneaking into schools under the radar to tell children they are sinners who will go to hell if they do not accept your religion. Parents, whether Jewish, Muslim, or non-religious send their kids to school under the impression that they will not be assaulted with harmful religious indoctrination. Don’t give them reasons to worry. Stay our of our public schools.

 

How To Raise A Feminist in Zero Easy Steps

This is a guest post by Anamarie. You can find this article and more at Que Milagro

It disappoints and kind of embarrasses me that so many young women today refuse to describe themselves as feminists. It completely blows my mind when I hear girls say that they personally, or women in general no longer “need” feminism.

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw one of my 17-year-old sister’s friends had shared this:

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Of course this isn’t to call her out specifically; I just see this kind of thing all over social media these days. I wanted to reach through the computer and shake her, along with whoever wrote the damn thing in the first place, and cry, “LITTLE GIRL YOU ARE BEING SO BLIND.”

Instead I politely commented that it was (bitterly) ironic that the list states “first world women don’t need feminism” even as it rattles off just a handful of issues pressing (and oppressing) first world women – Planned Parenthood facing defunding, breastfeeding backlash and the inherent hypersexualization of the female body implied in that backlash, the right to abortion, and Trump being a horrible human being because he’s a racist, misogynistic fuckwad. This just scratches the surface when it comes to why women — first world or otherwise — still desperately need feminism. The ultra-conservative right-wing warriors are winning the culture wars when they have effectively told girls today that feminism will do them a disservice, that feminists are just ugly man-haters, or that feminism has “won,” done its duty, achieved its goals.

Feminism isn’t done yet. Not even almost.

I grew up on girl power. I grew up as the 90’s revived the 60’s and 70’s, in bell bottoms and peasant tops, with peace and love and flower power and the Spice Girls. I grew up surrounded by working women, generations of them, a family of matriarchs who never left any doubt that feminism had helped them live fuller lives. I can’t remember a time in my existence when I would have said I wasn’t a feminist.

There have, of course, been times I struggled with feminism. Going into graduate school I was excited to declare feminist theory as one of my content specializations, only to be crushed by the weight of various feminisms to which I had never been introduced or even considered. Radical and lesbian feminisms shook me to my core and made me question everything. At its most basic feminism is supposed to be about equality between the sexes, but the way in which women achieve that equality is pretty hotly contested between the different schools of thought. Radical forms of feminism made me question whether I could be “feminist” – and if I wanted to be – if I wanted marriage and babies or wore make up and dressed up. Radical forms of feminism showed me that even my beloved “girl power” cultural icons were likely perpetuating their own oppression – I remember getting stoned one night in graduate school, watching the Spice Girls movie for the first time since childhood and being absolutely horrified by a lyric I had repeated probably ten thousand times on the playground with my cousins: “We’re the spice girls yes indeed, just girl power is all we need! We know how we got this far, strength and courage and a wonderbra!”

I’ve written in the past about how I’ve struggled to come to understand a feminism that works for me, one where I can be proud of being “just” a wife and mother but also establish and maintain an identity separate from my domestic life. I think a lot of the women of my generation — post second wavers, third wavers (?) — are struggling to make sense of things as well. In a lot of ways the feminism that have come before us are failing us now… More frightening though is the number of us fleeing the term, abandoning our daughters and leaving them to fight wars already won by their grandmothers, great-grandmothers… Great-great-grandmothers.

I’m the mother of a daughter now. Lord help me if there’s a day when this child is ashamed to say she’s a feminist.

So how do I help her navigate these muddy waters?

Short answer: I don’t know. There is no “how to raise a feminist in 10 easy steps.” But here are a few things I (think) I know about feminism and will be trying to relay to my daughter:

1.) Feminism isn’t about equality, really. I mean you can say it is and it works just as well for the most part, but feminism is about justice, not equality. So when some idiot (who may or may not end up being your father, uncle, or grandfather) says something moronic like, “If women/feminists want equality so bad, why don’t female basketball players shoot from the same three point line?!” (or anything along the lines of “women actually have it easier while demanding equality”). The answer is because feminism is about justice, not equality. Sometimes justice and equality are the same thing and sometimes they are not.

2.) It actually doesn’t matter if you’re beautiful or not. So much of what I see today are campaigns that “all women are beautiful,” and on the surface I suppose that’s a nice sentiment. Everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin. But feminism also – and more importantly, I think – means that it’s ok to not be beautiful or even to feel beautiful. It’s ok to be ugly. It’s ok to be fat. It’s ok to know that you’re ugly and fat and be ok with it anyway. You are worth more than your physical appearance. You do not exist to be visually stimulating for others. Of course I hope my daughter loves herself… And she will always be the most gorgeous girl in my eyes… But feminism demands that we stop putting so much emphasis on our bodies, even if it’s #bodypositive messages we are sending.

3.) It’s not about personal choice. At least not exactly. I hear way too many of my contemporaries going on about how feminism is really about women being able to choose what kind of life they want to lead, and that being able to choose in and of itself is empowering to individual women and by extension all womankind. Again, in a superficial way this sounds all well and good but in reality NOT all choices are empowering – to individual women OR to womankind. Feminists have a responsibility to make choices that empower not just themselves, but other women. We have the ability to change the culture around us by making informed and beneficial choices. Sorry ladies, but it’s not all about you. By all means, do what’s best for yourself, your family, what makes you happiest, etc… I’m a live and let live kind of gal… But not every decision is a feminist one just because a person with a vagina made it.

4.) Feminism is not about man-hating, but it’s also not about men. And that’s OKAY. Ok?! Look… Feminists don’t hate men, and we don’t want to live in a world where roles are reversed and women oppress men or are viewed as superior to men. And despite popular belief, feminism has done many things to the benefit of men (how about that domestic violence point from above about how women aren’t the only victims? That’s an example of feminist study creating insight into an issue that seemed like a women’s issue until we realized it totally wasn’t and male victimization keeps getting more and more attention because feminism wants to talk about domestic abuse. I digress but just sayin’. Ultimately, though, women are ALLOWED to have a social justice movement that revolves around their needs. The fact that men and society in general can’t wrap their minds around the possibility that something doesn’t have to be beneficial to men to be worthwhile is just one more reason why we still need feminism to keep doing its work.

5.) People may not like you. I can’t count the number of times I have been told or asked if I hate men, that I’m a bitch, that I’m a feminazi, or some variation of the sort. All feminists have this shared experience to varying degrees and I think this is one of the biggest reasons girls are hesitant to identify as feminists. It’s seen as something almost derogatory. But that’s just male privilege talking, and ain’t nobody got time to listen to that crap. They will try to vilify you to silence you, to maintain the status quo, to leave privilege unchecked. So instead just wear your scarlet “F” for feminist with pride, and don’t ever stop talking or doing because someone might like you less for it. Oftentimes being unpopular means you’re doing something right.

6.) GIRL POWER. In all its glory. In every form. With all its contradictions and nuances.

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Does Religion “Poison Everything”?

This is a guest post by Ezra. You can find this article and more at a Secular Jew.

Is religion harmful?

Are the fruits of religion on the whole more bad than good? Would the world simply be better off without it, in all its forms?

Christopher Hitchens explores these questions and others in his 2007 book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. The author is sometimes associated with a worldview known as antitheism, defined in the book as the view that “none of the religious myths has any truth to it, or in it.” Yet his writing style, witty and eloquent, is offered in refreshing contrast to the disturbing realities he often presents, and his tone is that of the detached academic, even as his main argument in the work is that “religion poisons everything.” But while the breadth of the author’s knowledge is certainly impressive, and his argument is well-reasoned as far as it goes, I am reluctant call his views my own.

God is Not GreatHitchens begins the book, fittingly enough, with a laudatory portrait of his childhood teacher of religion, Mrs. Jean Watts. He describes Mrs. Watts as “a good, sincere, simple woman, of stable and decent faith,” and recalls admiring the breadth of her knowledge as a teacher of botany and Scripture. But he also notes the first moment when he began to question the wisdom of his beloved teacher’s Christian worldview. He quotes her as having said, “So you see, children, how powerful and generous God is. He has made all the trees and grass to be green, which is exactly the color that is most restful to our eyes. Imagine if instead, the vegetation was all purple, or orange, how awful that would be.” Hitchens relays somehow knowing, even at age nine, that “[t]he eyes were adjusted to nature, and not the other way about.”

Considering the nature of his point of view, Hitchens is often more conciliatory than one might expect. In one such passage, he writes: “When I go to the mosque, I take off my shoes. When I go to the synagogue, I cover my head. I once even observed the etiquette of an ashram in India….” His genial tone, coupled with the many refreshing witticisms such as “Heaven hates ham,” make the reading experience digestible and even entertaining. Yet Hitchens’ critique of religion is lengthy and thorough, extending to many groups, including Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, and Buddhists. Included in many are detailed descriptions of the various practices of female and male genital mutilation and various incarnations of institutionalized child abuse and pedophilia.

martin luther kingIn the second half of the book, Hitchens highlights the three individuals from history whom he deems exemplary in their life’s work and legacy: Martin Luther King, Jr.; Abraham Lincoln; and Albert Einstein. This is all the more intriguing for the fact that all three of these individuals publicly professed belief in a force or entity they referred to as “God.” But as for Lincoln, Hitchens is probably correct to describe him as “a tormented skeptic with a tendency to deism,” and regarding Einstein, Hitchens is correct enough to describe him as a “genius” whose mission was “to spread the message of enlightenment and humanism,” yet who was nonetheless “[d]ecidedly Jewish.”  Perhaps more provocative is his description of Dr. King, of whom he writes: “In no real as opposed to nominal sense was he, then, a Christian,” going on to say, “When Dr. King took a stand on the steps of Mr. Lincoln’s memorial and changed history…he did so as a profound humanist…his legacy has very little to do with his professed theology.”

In the last quarter of the book, Hitchens concedes the point that “secular totalitarianism has actually provided us with the summa of human evil,” and cites Hitler and Stalin as only the two best-known examples. He attempts to salvage his main point about religion by affirming that “a totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy” [italics original]. It’s a clever argument, but it begs the further question: if Hitchens’ critique of religion extends also to political systems such as Nazism and Soviet-style Communism, does it in fact extend to any organized worldview or philosophy, with or without reference to the supernatural? One wishes that Hitchens had spent some time in this book discussing the French Revolution, a period in which horrible atrocities were also committed, in the name of secular Enlightenment ideals such as liberty, equality, and fraternity.

God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens is a thoughtful and erudite critique of religion, coming from a largely enlightened worldview, and refreshingly lacking in malice or envy. Nevertheless, I am less than inclined to agree with the main thrust of Hitchens’ argument that “religion poisons everything.” My own view is that religion, like almost anything else, can inspire human beings to do either good or bad. For me the better version of Hitchens’ thesis might well be: “some religious people poison everything.”

Anti-Evolution Film is Sexist and Very White

A Matter of Faith – this film about a college student who gets the little too far from her fundamentalist upbringing was heavily endorsed by creationist Ken Ham, which may tell you all you want to know.

It opens with a father sending his daughter, Rachel, off for her first year of college. The parents wanted to send her to a Christian school, but she needed a good pharmacy program so she opts to attend a public university. I’m not sure where the school is supposed to be located but everyone is white. Nary a person of color in sight.

The trailer leads the viewer to believe the film might be about Rachel’s struggle with her faith. In actuality, it’s about her father’s need to control her education. He really is the main character. Rachel mostly smiles or looks confused. She is portrayed as being susceptible to peer pressure, which I will note is a stark contrast from the male student in God’s Not Dead. This may seem a trivial point but Christianity is based on the idea that women are susceptible to messages that sway  us away from God (ex: Eve in the Garden). As Rachel begins to respect her biology professor, her demeanor changes and she becomes angry and childish.

Professor Kaman, played by Harry Anderson (of the 1990’s Night Court) is shown as humorous, good natured, and friendly. I was surprised how little he butchered evolution. They didn’t get it all right, but I had expected worse.

The father, because he lacks boundaries, visits the professor in his office to let him know that what is being taught to his daughter goes against their religious principles. He believes the professor has no respect for God. They agree, despite Rachel’s protest, to a formal public debate. Leading up to the debate, one of the character expresses his opinion that the Professor is merely an excellent communicator, not a good scientist. He doesn’t believe in God, so he teaches that God wasn’t involved in the creating of life. A common creationist theme is to claim that those who except evolution as true, do so simply because we don’t believe in God.

The Debate: Professor Kaman mentions the first cause, which has nothing to do with evolution and attacks religion as wishful thinking. He then goes into a fairly accurate description of evolution, which indicates the people making this movie are capable of understanding evolution, they just choose to deny it (multiple studies have also shown that creationists are perfectly capable of understanding the concept of evolution).

The creationist side argues that evolution is simply an attack on God and his authority. Evolution is not a science because it is not observable. The earth is not old. Dogs always give birth to dogs. The usual. We do at this point have the emergence of a new character, Portland, a former professor (and only non-white person in the film) who was antagonized by Professor Kaman for teaching creationism. He takes the place of the father in the debate, where it all comes down to what the film is truly about – religious faith. Man’s ideas vs. God’s word. The audience is visibly swayed by the creationist rhetoric and Professor Kaman is humiliated by Professor Portland. Fortunately, the viewer is not forced to watch the science Professor recognize the error of his ways, denounced evolution, and except Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. He quietly accept his defeat and exits the stage.

When it first released, I made the comment that the filmmakers would never make this movie with a male college student. I stand by that statement. Never would they have a father encroach in his adult sons life this way; going around him to speak with and debate his professor. They surely wouldn’t have chosen a mother and son for this storyline. Only by having the child be female could they get viewers on board. The cast is largely male and it is the men who address the issues of the film. The Christian men are portrayed as wise and calm whereas Rachel is overly emotional and easily manipulated. Her love interest, who I assume we are to believe isn’t a Christian, is a lying scumbag who just wants in her pants. He exhibits no concern for her welfare. She is unable to figure this out on her own; she has to hear it from another man. Rachel is given little to say throughout the whole film. Her mother has only a few lines. I already knew what the filmmakers wanted to say about science and religion. None of it was new. What they had to say about women spoke louder to me than anything else.

Is Infant Adoption a Right?

This post is about infant adoption. It is not about adoption from foster care, kinship care, or international adoption of special needs children. Those are a different topic altogether. 

Jane, who wishes to remain anonymous, recently wrote an article on how she feels judged as a baby thief as she pursues infant adoption. I can’t speak as an adoptive parent, first mother, or as in adoptee. I can speak as a woman in her 30s without children.

Jane wants you to pity her. I don’t intend to discount the pain and grief that comes with childlessness. It is very real, which is why it must be handled. Infertile couples, I believe, are not doing this or at least not doing it well, in some cases. They are told how to seek treatment and if that doesn’t work, they are told to just go adopt, like it’s an easy thing to do. This is what women encourage one another to do. This is where we find the online support. Your doctor will send you to a fertility clinic, your cousin will remind you that her friend tried six times before having a baby, your uncle reminds you that adoption waits are long, so you better get started quickly. Where do we find encouragement on how to sit still with our feelings and accept where we are right now? Who asks us what else we want out of life and what we can do now to be happy, so we are not making choices out of our grief? I’ve never heard it and I’ve never seen anyone ask it.  This is where we find the “Janes”.

Sitting in this grief, feeling like a failure can lead you to come to strange conclusions. I have witnessed time after time, women insisting and demanding that they need a baby right now. Waiting even six months to a year feels like too long. They bemoan the lack of infants available for adoption, which is essentially complaining that there aren’t enough mothers in this country who are finding themselves pregnant and without financial and emotional support. It’s complaining that not enough women endure pain of giving birth to their own child, handing it to another person, and having to walk away. Could it possibly be healthy to complain about such things? Or is this indicative that potential adoptive parents are not properly dealing with their grief or their feelings of loss?

Jane doesn’t want to be judged, which I understand. She probably also doesn’t want to hear worn out platitudes like “it will happen when it’s meant to happen” or “if it’s meant to be, God will make away” (or maybe that’s just me). But here is where Jane goes off the rails. She claims that a person coming to adoption from a place of infertility does not hold power over anyone. She says they are not in a position of privilege, no matter what anyone else says about it. How would I or anyone else get to a place where we could adopt another woman’s child if we were not privileged? We have the financial means, the support of an entire international adoption community, oftentimes family support, books, blogs, and any number of people who would like to see us succeed in acquiring an infant. What do first mothers get? Have you ever come across this on Pinterest?

Adoption Fundraising Parody Edge

No? Me either. People would likely think it’s nuts. And yet, there are numerous websites that offer all sorts of cute ideas for potential adoptive parents to raise $20-$80K to adopt. Friends and family clamor to donate. How can we claim we’re not in a place of power over someone else? The system is set up to favor adoptive families. Yes, those who struggle with fertility, pregnancy loss, and child loss are vulnerable. Many are hurting – some unspeakably so. This does not give us free reign to demand that our actions be ignored by those who are trying to educate us on what adoption is, what it does to families, and how it should be approached. We do not need to be shielded from reality. We’re still adults who should be held responsible for the choices we are making.

Jane believes that desiring a child, whether by birth or by adoption is selfish. Therefore, her wanting to adopt is not at all different from the woman who wants to have a child by birth. But when people are trying to tell you how much adoption process has been problematic, how much it has caused pain on all sides, how much it ignores first mothers in order to focus on adoptive parents – should you not pause to listen rather than going on the defense?

Jane feels this issue is really about her. She seems downright resentful at the idea of having to take anyone else’s feelings into consideration. This is all about her grief, her feelings, her desire for a baby – something she believes is a right. But is it? I am not claiming adoption shouldn’t be an option, but when did it become a right?

 

If you’d like to read more or you’re wondering what I am talking about, try these links:

Why I Dislike Adoption Fundraisers

For Jane, Who doesn’t Want to be Called a Baby Thief

Why the Trend of Adopt Crowdfunding Makes me Uncomfortable

Angela Tucker – The Adopted Life

Lost Daughters

Land of a Gazillion Adoptees

The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption

 

 

 

Guess the Religion by it’s Tenets

To google is to cheat! Can you guess without looking?

  • One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.
  • The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.
  • One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  • The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.
  • Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.
  • People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.
  • Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word

The Lies You Tell

Sarah Klockars-Liar

Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship. By Lying we deny others our view of the world. And our dishonesty not only influences the choice they make, it often determines the choice they CAN make – in ways we cannot always predict. Every lie is an assault on the autonomy of those we lie to. ” – Lying by Sam Harris. Pg 39-40.

I agree with Harris here. I firmly believe that lying is a form of control and manipulation. The liar does not want the person to whom he or she is lying to be able to form their own opinions, beliefs or to act based on reality. They are trying to control the person and the situation by giving false information. This can work on multiple levels. Lying to a potential employer so they will see you as you wish them to see you rather than who you are as a person. Lying to your spouse about where you have been in order to prevent them from being able to take actions that you may not like. Lying to your child so they form the beliefs you’d prefer they hold rather than letting them decide for themselves. Lying to a patient to spare them pain but also preventing them from living life as they would if they knew the truth.

Some lies may be more insidious than others but they are often about controlling the situation. Lying is about getting what you want, appearing as something other than what you are or robbing others of their right to make informed choices. It’s a way to manipulate their thoughts and actions either because you are trying to get your way or because you think that you should be able to decide what is best for someone else.

The consequence of this control is lack of trust, the eroding of relationships and difficulty in making decisions. Lies not only tear apart our intimate relationships (or prevent us from having them in the first place) but also place us in a position where we are unable to determine the correct course of action within our communities and governing societies because we are never quite sure if we are getting the truth. Lies are a barrier to good relationships and meaningful interactions.

What Can We Do About Steven Avery?

I haven’t finished the series yet but I hear about it everywhere I go. The entire country appears to be caught up in did he or didn’t he? For some, this may be the first time they have contemplated the idea that an innocent person can be convicted of a serious crime like murder. The reality is that whether Avery is or isn’t guilty – the conviction of innocent people happens often.

There are hundreds who are wrongfully convicted for various reasons seen below. The Innocence Project is a national organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully accused individuals and working toward policy changes that will reform our justice system. Visit their website to learn how you can help. Whether it be donating funds, learning more about cases in your area, shopping in their store, or a number of other actions – you have the power to do something.

Innocense Stats Dark THH