I haven’t written in a while mostly due to what I might euphemistically call a re-examination of my writing career. On a happier note, I’m a mother now to a wonderful 5 month old girl, Jessica. Parenting is just as great as everyone says. I don’t think the word “love” even captures the way I feel about Jessica.
For years, people with kids have been throwing back at me, “You’re not a parent, so you can’t possibly understand.” I’m here to say that now I have a kid, too, and I still don’t understand whatever crazy, stupid or whatever thing they did. I’m still the same person with the same sensibilities. I also still agree with whichever comedian (I can’t remember if it was Bill Maher) in that one doesn’t have to have kids to make a judgment call. He said that he didn’t have a goldfish, either, but would know not to fill its bowl with Pepsi.
So now that I’ve passed a human being out of my body and am learning parenthood on the job, let me tell the parents in question that I still call foul on the things I criticized, such as putting a leash on your toddler or relenting to your kid’s demand for an all junk-food diet. I still think you’re wrong.
Besides, other parents, there will always be some difference between us that you will throw back at me, such as, “Sarah, you only have one kid– you can’t possibly know what it’s like to have eight” or, “Sarah, you only have a girl, you couldn’t possibly know what it’s like to have a boy” to replace your earlier damnation that I’m not a parent, so I couldn’t possibly understand. I’ll never be enough, right?
I have nothing really interesting to say about having attended the Reason Rally (I’m sure everything has already been said by people much better than me), but I wanted to air something that kinda bugged me on a completely different topic.
I came across the book, The IT Girl’s Guide to Becoming an Excel Diva. I sarcastically thought to myself, “I bet this has to do with buying designer shoes,” and son of a bitch, it did, according to the copy on the back.
I know this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I found it pretty offensive that female stereotypes are perpetuated like this, especially in this day and age. The stereotype goes that women have a very finite and shallow set of interests, especially expensive ones like fashion and especially shoes. It’s something you see fairly often. You’d think it’s offensive enough not to get past the publisher.
I complained to my BFF Karl, who is a man and, while I wouldn’t really call him a feminist, is all-in-all very modern thinking when it comes to sexism. His response was that since there really are women like the book was describing, it wasn’t offensive. After all, the market is only supplying the demand.
True enough, but I still thought that perpetuation of such sexism crossed a line. Suppose that the book was selling racism, not sexism and you’ll better see my point of view. Can you imagine a book called, let’s say, “Excel for Cool Blacks”? What if its copy was about bling and rap music? See what I mean?
What do youse think?
In the category of Questions I am Too Lazy to Research, I don’t understand how the third world produces so many children. When I ask this question, people misunderstand me. I understand that birth control may not be available to women (or men) in poor countries, and that women may be under enormous social pressure to reproduce, but that’s not what I’m getting at.
Poor countries have a high fertility rate (as in how many children a woman bears). In fact, this is a measure of how poor a country is. They also have short doubling rates, meaning it takes a short period of time, compared to wealthy nations, for the population to double.
My question is this: how can allegedly starving women produce to many children? After all, you can’t really get pregnant and produce living offspring if you are malnourished, and in turn those children can’t survive long enough to contribute to a high doubling rate.
And if these women really are well-nourished enough to get pregnant again and again, what is this I’m hearing about how all those people are starving? How do you reconcile this?
Put it another way: if you have two ponds with fish in them, and one has more food (is wealthier) than the other pond (is poorer), you would expect the poor pond to be unable to reproduce all that much. In human poor countries, they reproduce a lot. Dig?
No matter how you slice it, I think overpopulation is a root of a lot of our other problems. (Says the woman who is trying to get pregnant!)
Maybe I need to talk to a demographics expert? How do I get the answers?
David Orenstein has written on my blog before. He does me the honor of doing so again, this time on being good without god:
Being an atheist requires a moral obligation to show the world that those who may actively choose to be free of religious dogma and faith, can be so while at the same time bring productive and positive goodness to the world. This positivity can take may shapes and forms, but is generally characterized by helping individuals or communities which are in crisis. Whether it is rebuilding after Hurricane Kartrina, or working in a local soup kitchen, or working with those with mental or physical illness, many atheists go unaccounted for in the war on poverty and the humane treatment of others, as society perpetuates the false notion that helping others remains squarely just in the domain of those with faith.
It is critical that we acknowledge and document the good work and the other labors, the social action, the building of community, and the efforts of those who may not believe in supernatural forces, or have religious faith, or believe in god. This is because those who are godless are not immoral as they are assumed to be by religious forces and figures who make atheists and secularists out to be an enemy. Indeed, as we learn from each other, those who are faithless do have strong ethics and a strong moral compass as finely tuned or in some cases greater and more nobly set than those who believe or have religious faith. Especially when one considers history and that the faithless cause little or no harm, while the religious have done horrible things in the name of their faith.
Surely those who isolate others because of religious doctrine, or deny civil or human rights based on sect, ethnic or clan affiliation, or disallow equal access to education, or kill in the name of their god, or treat women as second-class citizens, or bar others because they may choose to pray (or not believe) and carrying out misogynist and inhumane actions. If one’s faith or dogma bars marriage between consulting adults, or stills another’s reproductive rights, or impedes access to medical treatment, then we can easily make the leap that interpreting one’s religious belief is most certainly doing the opposite of what any kind and loving deity would request from us, if such an entity actually existed.
The late and certainly great Christopher Hitchens was often heard to say that religion and spirituality were each modern humanity’s first attempt at understanding the nature of the universe, a way at getting at some truth. Hitchens would entrance his audience by noting that placing spirituality as a first or any cause for the mechanics of the universe had in fact long ago become a poor and ineffective method to learn about the natural world. Supplanted by great works of literature, or mathematics and advances in astronomy, biology, chemistry and a host of social and physical sciences, the modern rational mind gets nothing from religion that it cannot receive through other means or ideas found within the realm of our common secular humanity.
The scientific method, scientific thinking and science in general have shown religious cause for any level of creation as false. This is based on evidence, not philosophy. If one feels the need to fill in the gaps of one’s life with any creation myth, they are in essence harking back to an urge to learn about and define the planet through some ancient and long discarded set of ideas, philosophy, ritual of thought and action. And that’s fine if one keeps that to themselves, but the construct of most modern religions do not allow for philosophical solitude.
Most religious people want to share, and are eager to extend their “teachings” whether we want to hear from them or not. In fact, they are called upon to pontificate by their faith. This is why religion can be so destabilizing and destructive. It essentially requires practitioners to bring others to live with them in a fantasy world detached from nature and reality for the sake of religious community building. It demands adherence to values and ritual which have never proven to be true except for those who wish such ideas and miracles to be true. Missionaries of all faiths have, over time, destroyed more indigenous culture and language around the globe than almost any war has ever accomplished.
So as atheists, now is the time that we stand up and stand out. Now is the time that we decide on a global scale that our time has come and we are ready, willing and assuredly able to chart a new course of humanity. A good, just and kind course and one that is free of oppressive faith. A course that liberates the mind and body to fulfill one’s destiny unobstructed by false theistic rules, so that we can help ourselves and others not based on anything but our common human sameness. And to truly evolve our humanity way past any faith could ever allow or imagine.
Sometimes in the tangents and fun I have on this blog, I forget why I started it in the first place: to illustrate how atheists are hated in America. Apparently, we’re just as bad as rapists.
Someone in my local atheist group responded, “Just re-affirms my personal belief that I’m included in a group that’s more hated than any other race, religion, gender (or sex) or sexual orientation, Also, the most publicly accepted prejudice.” Another commented, “But if it is true that the hatred is even more than the hatred against rapists, I really want to know exactly who are those people who trust rapists! If such people really exist, that should be more disturbing than anything else, don’t you think?”
There are a lot of issues at play here. Who trusts rapists at all would be a good one. Is the experiment the article is about valid? Would people really be just as (un)comfortable hiring a rapist as an atheist for a high-trust job such as childcare? And if childcare is a high-trust job, why doesn’t it pay better?
Food for thought!
In light of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I got to thinking about the book The Devil Wears Prada and the movie based on it. As is often the case, the book was much better than the movie.
Maybe this is sour grapes, but I say as both a writer and a reader that the book’s ending was weak. (Spoiler alert) The main character, Andy, finally tells her boss, the monstrous and superficial fashion magazine editor, “Fuck you” and that was pretty much it. The movie’s ending was, alas, even weaker, with the editor getting humanized through a divorce, which did nothing to add interest to her character as a villain IMHO, and in the end being a positive force in Andy’s life.
Here is an ending that I think would have been more satisfying.
I would have had Andy tell off her boss *good and proper,* not just a simple “fuck you.” Since everyone in the industry hates Miranda the editor so much, Andy could have gotten any magazine job she wanted, and Miranda’s enemies would bring down Miranda’s editorship. How the mighty have fallen! Now she has to get a low-paying, entry level job and gets a taste of her own medicine. Or perhaps she could do a 180 and join the Peace Corps.
Religion, God and Addiction – The Story Behind Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story
When I think of my Mormon upbringing, one word comes to mind: Addiction.
My mother, an Austrian emigrant who converted to the Mormon religion when she was sixteen, has always been consumed by her Mormon faith —to the point that it almost completely destroyed our family.
Every day of my childhood started with an hour-long home church session and ended with hymns and prayer, on top of what seemed like never-ending official church meetings. Every decision my mom made was guided by our Mormon bishop (the equivalent of a priest), or by the Church doctrine that places Mormon men in an almost God-like position and gives them complete authority over their wives and children.
I started trying to escape the suffocating religious lifestyle at home at the age of six. But I began escaping for real when my parents divorced and my mother married a cruel man who exploited the religious power he had been given to oppress and abuse our family.
When I wrote my memoir, Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, part of my goal was to shine the spotlight on the serious damage that can occur when a religion gives men complete dominance over their wives and children. But I also wanted to illustrate the consequences of blindly following a religious doctrine.
Sarah: Thanks for the background. So what part of your story is specific to Mormonism? Would your experiences have been similar if your family were a different religion?
IR: Interesting question. While I think a lot of religions put men in the power seat, I think what makes my story specific to Mormonism is the extent to which Mormon men are given complete power over their wives and children. All Mormon men are ordained as members of the “priesthood,” with the absolute authority to preach the gospel, bestow blessings, prophecy, perform healings and baptisms, and generally speak for God. My dad was kicked out of the Mormon religion so didn’t carry this authority over my mom. But when she married her second husband, he was a priesthood holder with absolute authority and abused that power horribly. As a Mormon woman, my mom felt she had no choice but to succumb to the oppression. What also makes my story specific to Mormonism is the fact that Mormons are married for “time and eternity” in the Mormon temple – which further traps women and makes it almost impossible for them to get divorced. Because my dad was excommunicated, my mom’s temple marriage to him was automatically annulled. But it was next to impossible for her to get a temple divorce from her second husband – despite his cruelty.
Because of my mom’s obsession with religion and her desire to turn her life over to God, I think I would have experienced an extreme religious upbringing regardless of the religion I grew up in. But I think my siblings and I would have suffered less if we had been raised in a different Christian religion.
Sarah: When did you become an Atheist?
IR: I consider myself more of an Agnostic than an Atheist – though my idea of a higher force, if there is one, has nothing to do with a single entity. It has to do with karma.
I started to question the idea of God at the age of thirteen, when my mother married a guy who weaseled his way into her life by pretending to be “a man of God”, and then used God as a weapon to keep me from my dad. I began questioning God’s existence in an even bigger way when I reached my early 20s and started writing for a relief organization. I traveled to what was then dubbed the “death triangle” in Southern Sudan to document the plight of hundreds of thousands of children dying from starvation, malaria, AIDS or, in some cases, by machete. Mothers came to me with dead babies in their arms, desperate for help. I saw a beautiful nineteen-year-old girl sitting on her own body bag waiting to die. It’s hard to comprehend how any sort of God would allow such horrid suffering and injustices to occur.
Sarah: How is it that your father and mother married and then your father seemed to lose interest in religion, while your mother maintained Mormonism?
IR: I think there are two general types of personalities – those who are drawn to rules, structure and groups; and those who can’t stand rules or conformity of any kind. My mom is an extreme example of the first type of personality. My dad is an extreme example of the second type of personality (I clearly took after him).
My dad grew up in the Mormon religion in Northern Utah, where Mormonism is ingrained in every facet of life (school, politics, social activities). It was all my dad ever knew, but he never paid much attention to it. After high school, he left Utah and headed to Hollywood to make a name for himself. When that didn’t pan out, he decided to buy himself a little time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life by doing what all nineteen-year-old Mormon boys are expected to do: head out on a two-year Mormon mission. My dad was sent to Austria, where he met my mom, who was then eighteen. They fell in love – or at least they thought they did. But once his mission ended and my mom immigrated to Utah so they could marry, they both quickly realized they were at odds when it came to religion. The more my mom pushed her religious views on my dad, the more he rejected it. Soon, he began leaving on sales trips for months at a time to escape my mother’s religious extremism. As soon as I could, I escaped too by joining him on the road as a tool-selling vagabond.
About the Author:
Ingrid Ricks is a Seattle-based writer and speaker who focuses on overcoming adversity and embracing the moment. She is the author of Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, a compelling true story about a feisty teenage girl who escapes her abusive Mormon stepfather and suffocating religious home-life by joining her dad on the road as a tool-selling vagabond – until his arrest forces her to take charge of her life. The book as is available as eBook or paperback on Amazon or BN.com . For more information, visit www.hippieboybook.com
I don’t typically hear about atheists who are as virulently homophobic as a fellow I met on Facebook. This discussion started when I posted on my wall about an anti-gay bill in Nigeria.
Royalist Humanist, an FB user, went on homophobic rants too numerous to repeat here but here are a few examples.
“I am an atheist, I have always stood for the equal basic right rights for all irrespective of any other qualifications. As a Humanist, I do not discriminate against anybody else on the basis of sexual orientation alone …! However, I have the liberty to socialize with a person of specific inclination or not, that is not discrimination…. that is my basic human right ….”
“Gay marriage is something new to Nigeria, therefore they are sticking to the already established moral code about sexual unions between adult and consenting male and female for sex through the vaginal route-called the natural or normal sex. Thoses who come with a new invention of homosexuality: Anal sex between men or anal-sex between a man and a woman on the name of gay-marriage has the burdern to prove their case….”
“Moreover, human anaal canal has not any defence mechanism against entery of sexual diseases through the male sex organ and the human male sex organ has not evolved any protection against the foul feces in the anal canal and therefore diseases like AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases like Gonorrea and Syphilis are 20-40 times commoner in the anal-sex practitioners like homosexuals and gays as well as in Bisexual men and women. The problems of Bisexuals: A Bisexual man is the one who pracrices vaginal as well as anal sex and thereby easily spreads diseases acquired through the anal route into women through vaginal route as he is a bisexual. A Bisexual woman is the one who allows men to have sex with her through vagina as well as through anal canal; she often gets sexual diseases from Biseual men and then other men get AIDS and other sex diseases through her….”
See if you know where to begin correcting Mr. Humanist. And ask: we might expect this sort of ignorant ranting from religiosi, but don’t we expect better of atheists?
Including some unexpected atheists.
Right now I’m reading Ingrid Ricks’s Hippie Boy, her memoirs of growing up in a religious Mormon family. More on that later.
1. Paul Giamatti – Giamatti is known for his outstanding roles as a supporting actor. In a 2006 interview, Giamatti stated that he is an atheist. Although his wife is Jewish and his son is being raised Jewish, he noted in the interview that he might influence his son’s beliefs: “I’m waiting for my time to step in and tell him how things really are but I’ll do that when he’s a teenager. I figure he’ll be ripe for atheism when he’s a teenager.”
2. Sir Ian McKellen – Known for his outstanding work on the stage and in film for diverse roles such as King Lear, Gandalf, and Magneto, McKellen is noted for saying, “I’m an atheist. So God, if She exists, isn’t really a part of my life.” He came out in 1988 and has been a prominent LGBT rights activist.
3. Eva Green – She is best known as the smoldering Bond girl of Casino Royale. Eva is actually a French actress who speaks English fluently. She was raised as an atheist and starred in the film, The Golden Compass, which is based on a young adult novel by atheist author Philip Pullman.
4. Mark Zuckerberg – The co-founder and CEO of Facebook has “atheist” listed for his religious views on Facebook, although he was raised Jewish. He was named Time magazine’s person of the year in 2010 and is the world’s youngest billionaire.
5. Hugh Laurie – Like his cynical TV character, Dr. Gregory House, Laurie is a self-proclaimed atheist. In a 2007 interview, he said, “I don’t believe in God, but I have this idea that if there were a God, or destiny of some kind looking down on us, that if he saw you taking anything for granted he’d take it away. So he’ll be like: ‘You think this is going pretty well?’ Then he’ll go and send down some big disaster.”
6. Woody Allen – The neurotic director is of Jewish ethnic descent but declares himself as an atheist. He has made numerous witticisms on the subject, such as, “Not only is there no God, but try finding a plumber on Sunday.”
7. Julianne Moore – When asked what God would say to her when she appeared before him in heaven during a 2002 interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio, she said, “Well, I guess you were wrong, because I do exist.” She is also a pro-choice and LGBT activist.
8. Roger Ebert – Perhaps the most famous of film critics, Ebert is slowly dying of thyroid cancer, but has stated the he does not fear death. In an article about his beliefs in 2009, he wrote, “I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist–which I am. If I were to say I don’t believe God exists, that wouldn’t mean I believe God doesn’t exist. Nor does it mean I don’t know, which implies that I could know.”
9. Stephen Hawking – Hawking has been a longtime proponent of the extraneousness of a belief in God. He first raised the prospect of a self-creating universe in his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time, which was published in 1988. In his 2010 book, The Grand Design, he wrote, “The question is: is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can’t understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second.”
10. Angelina Jolie – Jolie has stated that she does not identify with any religion because she doesn’t feel the need for a God and dislikes authority-based religion. Her equally good-looking partner, Brad Pitt, has been noting as saying he is 20% atheist and 80% agnostic. In another interview, Angelina mentioned that she and Brad are raising their six children to respect all religions and they have a bookshelf in their house with a Bible, a Torah, a Koran, and other religious books.
Patricia Duggan has a Masters in Psychology and has been in practice for 12 years. She runs the site Psychology Degree Finder. She writes about various subjects within psychology.
Can you believe the above pic is a cake?!
Sex and the City brought it out of the (erm) closet, but I’m sick to death of hearing the stereotype that women love shoes, specifically expensive ones. OK, I get it: we’re the fair sex, and looking good is important to us, and we appreciate beauty in objects, but I think this shoe stereotype is particularly offensive. It perpetuates the idea that females are shallow and materialistic, and furthers the idea that we are gold-diggers so that we can use men’s money for material pursuits such as shopping. People seem to have the idea that women and girls are silly and do silly, useless things. The amassing of designer shoes seems to epitomize this.
I was more than once criticized as a writer trying to get more money: “You just want it to buy shoes.” I’ve heard the same thing about abortion: women just want to abort their pregnancies so that they can afford to buy shoes. I’m sure.
Girls are encouraged at a very early age to be into this stuff. I have seen at least one children’s book teaching girls how to love shopping for shoes. Just what we need, right? 🙂
Not all women are shoe-obsessed, or even shopping-obsessed. True, many are, and many of you might say, “Well, if the shoe fits…” True enough, maybe this is one of those times when the stereotype is accurate, but I’m still sick of seeing it everywhere. I’ve seen the shoe fetish (fetish in every sense of the word) in the form of cookies, umbrellas, Christmas tree ornaments, and tzotzkes. All hail the high heel!
Tangentially, I’ve heard of rich women getting surgery on their feet so that they can wear designer shoes better. Hello, Darwin Award in the making!
Just kidding. This is Not My God, a site for the personal aspect of atheism. I'm putting together a book with that title, having already 20 interviews lined up, but I still want to hear from more of you.
I've expanded the blog to include material not related to atheism, including rants, raves, consumer issues, curmudgeonly matters and other miscellany.
Read more about Not My God on the About page
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