Category Archives: Responses

Sexual Assault and Misogynistic Comments

Capture of misogynistic comments

 

You may think I’m being ridiculous, but I moderate the comments on my blog, and I don’t want anyone to waste their time responding to this man because he’s pretty clearly a victim blamer and has no understanding of what “socialization” is.

I will say this, however, because of one of things he says, “How do you know men dont take no for an answer if you dont say no.”

I have said no. Many times. It’s not effective. Why don’t women threaten to beat the shit out of men who ignore our “no”s? Well, terroristic threats (which that could easily be considered) are illegal, and it’s a lot harder for anyone to say that type of stuff out loud than it is to think or write it sitting safely alone on one’s computer, especially when one is smaller or physically weaker than the person one is threatening.

Until you know the tremendous feeling of powerlessness that comes with any form of sexual assault, regardless of whether you responded or not, I don’t think you have a right to say any of what Chris says without censure. Thus I’m not approving the comments. I’ve been sexually assaulted, albeit in a way that most would consider “mildly”, and I know that what I felt must have been a tiny fraction of what people in worse situations feel, but even so have a little tour: guilt, constant thoughts of, “I should have done this, I should have said that,” etc., moments, even today (9 yrs later) when I think what I could have done differently. Victims blame themselves, too. Here’s the thing, though: the only person to blame for sexually assaulting someone is the person committing the sexual assault.

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Facebook Memes, formerly chain letters aka Use a Little Critical Thinking

Okay, I know how old this poem is. I don’t think it will be new to most of you. The only reason I’m posting on it is because I’m sick of the misinformation. Don’t bother to criticize or praise the poem, please.

(If you’d like to donate to MADD, go here. I’d also encourage you to seek out other possible places to donate – be skeptical and critical!)

“Somebody Should Have Taught Him” is a poem “reprinted with permission” of Jane Watkins that was published in the first volume of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul. Seems to me that means she owns the copyright, which may mean she created it or perhaps just wrote it down. The poem is from 1996, but resurfaces every few years with a bogus story attached – or at the very least an unverifiable story. These stories range from it being an e-mail chain letter “petition” by MADD to (see below) a Facebook post with a claim that a reporter listened to a dying girl speak the words and then wrote them down.

Oddly, someone has taken the rhyming out of the poem this time, perhaps to pretend it’s not plagiarism? Granted, it seems the author either never wanted to stop plagiarism or gave up on trying a long time ago.

Poem by Jane Watkins, available in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, here altered to be prose-like rather than a rhyming poem.

Poem by Jane Watkins, available in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, here altered to be prose-like rather than a rhyming poem.

Okay, let’s face it: No person short of maybe Shakespeare lying on pavement, in shock, and dying of blood loss and serious trauma could get those words out of their mouth. If you read the original, this becomes even less believable. Why do people make up stories like this? Isn’t the poem enough?

It’s not exactly high poetry, but the original has a pretty strong rhythm and a powerful message for the intended audience – young teens. It’s poignant, even if we don’t like to admit it. Lying about the thing and altering it to contain fewer rhymes doesn’t contribute in any way to, well, any part of the situation.

Then, there’s this photo accompanying it on Facebook:

driving reenactment

I think the audience is supposed to believe the photo accompanies the reporter/dying girl situation. Yet I’m pretty sure this is a reenactment. Not positive, but think about a few things:

  • It’s broad daylight and the pictured are wearing formal dance clothing
  • The windshield is peeled back and the girl is lying in the nice, cleanly open space.
  • The car in the background is crunched all to hell, but the white car does not appear to be crunched on the corresponding side. In other words, these appear to be two car that were in accidents, but not with each other.
  • There’s a man standing calmly to the right of the photo holding a pole of sorts. A sign for the audience, perhaps?
  • Where are the emergency workers? The blanket to cover what we can assume is supposed to be a deceased victim? They never leave victims of accidents like this uncovered for long.
  • Again, it’s broad freaking daylight. That looks like red corn syrup to me.

A little skepticism, please? Maybe, if you must, share the facebook post with a caveat? “Poem taken from Jane Watkins, there’s no actual petition/movement/etc – mostly I just want you to not drink and drive.”

If you’d like to donate to MADD, go here.

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This post is way too long, but it’s a response to an annoying commenter.

I got a few comments recently from someone claiming his experience echoed mine, but in reverse. Once explained, it was quite clear to me not only that this person over-thinks things, his experience in no way really echoes mine. His (actually, it could’ve been a woman, but in my head it’s a man so we’ll go with that) was a culturally religious upbringing leading to a teenagehood of, apparently, trying to be atheist because that’s what the “smart people” were doing, then some sort of thought-process that led him back to belief. Mine was a mildly religious upbringing in which I was taught to think for myself and eventually came to the conclusion that there was no god by myself.

His comments were full of way too many philosophical terms. What do I mean by that? Just that the average person reads the following terms as, essentially, gibberish: arch-postmodernist, ontological naturalism, atheo-materialism, celestial potentate, denizen of a metaphysical no-man’s land, philosophical materialism, dogmatic reductionist scientism.

Not that these words or terms don’t have meaning, but they make the writer appear one of a few things – pretentious, over-educated, or overly obsessed with a thesaurus. These terms and words also suggest the writer is in the wrong place. My blog has never been and will never be a place where I discuss philosophy, mostly because I’m not that into philosophy. I think philosophy often (but not always) comes down to over-thinking things.

Then, of course, was the lovely insult he threw at me. Perhaps he is one of many believers that doesn’t realize how insulting, stupid and condescending this is – he suggested that my path to disbelief started when my prayers weren’t answered.

First, I want to put one thing straight about me. My prayers were never unanswered. I didn’t get mad that I didn’t get what I wanted and give up on faith. That’s incredibly stupid. There happened to come a point when I realized I was talking to myself. Not the good kind of semi-conversation that some people have with themselves, either. It was the entirely unproductive listing of people for the non-existent divine being to protect.

Second, let me go over, again, why suggesting that someone became an atheist because god didn’t give them what they wanted is insulting. Belief in god is not a default position. Culturally speaking it may be, but scientifically or whatever you want to call it, it’s not. Do children in countries where Santa Clause is not a tradition believe in Santa as a default? No. Moving on from that problem, what you are suggesting when you say an atheist lost faith because god didn’t answer a prayer is that we are angry at a being we don’t believe in. Did you stop believing in Santa Clause because he didn’t bring you that penguin you asked for? Did you disown your parents because they didn’t let you eat cake whenever you wanted to? Let’s face it, most religions cover the whole “god doesn’t always answer prayers” thing, and most people accept it. When coming from a state of belief, it’s rarely unanswered prayers that act as a catalyst because very few people actually have a powerful unanswered prayer (and let’s face it, if you are led to the path of disbelief because your son died in a fiery car crash 5 minutes after you prayed for his safety, you’re being pretty reasonable to doubt the existence of god).

The thing is that I’ve heard a lot of deconversion or losing faith or whatnot stories from a wide range of atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, etc. I’ve read these accounts, I’ve heard them in person, I’ve heard them via video or radio. The vast majority of nonbelievers do not come from an angry place. They do not have “an axe to grind,” as the commenter arrogantly suggests:

Nevertheless, contrary to what many atheists say, it is often the case that the “free thought” part is largely sponsored by an “axe to grind” attitude.

Contrary to what we say? That suggests to me that regardless of how honest and open atheists are with this person, he will make many, many unjust and ridiculous assumptions about us. He’ll decide what really motivated us to question our beliefs. Clearly if we want the world to be more science-oriented it’s because religion didn’t make us feel good enough. It couldn’t possibly be that medicine and science is more helpful than religion for curing the sick or preventing mass infections.

The axes we do have to grind center primarily around what religions fuck up in this world. The children that die unnecessarily, the people that receive accolades they don’t deserve, the nonbelievers that suffer for thinking differently, the invasion of government by religious rules based on the beliefs of one subset of the population. These are things that usually come after our disbelief takes root. Things that our eyes are opened to upon throwing out the all-powerful idea that “religion is good.”

The commenter wants to know what led me to atheism. A lot of things. A lot of separate thought-processes. A lot of rehashing arguments in my head and trying to fit certain ideas into the frames already built as I grew up. And then throwing out the frames that were clearly wonky.

His Dark Materials made me think, what if God really were old and feeble, being kept prisoner by his angels? What if the story in this book is just as likely to be true as the Bible? Maybe the other religions of the world, the archaic and obsolete ones, are more correct than Christianity? I always thought Greek mythology was more fun than Christian mythology. The answers to these questions led me first to basically deism, then to agnosticism. It didn’t add up that there’s a god somehwere that’s all-knowing. He certainly couldn’t be omnipotent and omniscient. And why did it have to be a he?

Maybe, I thought, there’s a god that just sort of hangs out. Maybe he/she/it/hir/their noodliness treated the universe like an ant farm or those sea monkeys you can by. A sort of disinterested science experiment. Why would that be any further off from the truth than the more fleshed-out religions of the world?

I have an inquisitive mind. These questions developed further and went on for years. I became more agnostic than anything. I started to see the harm caused by religion somewhere along the way, and that’s when my thoughts about the existence of god started to run parallel to my thoughts about the silliness of religion. I started to see the benefits from freeing my mind from the heavy frame imposed by most religious world-views, and at the same time I started to find the idea of the supernatural more and more ridiculous. I didn’t simply reject religion and throw out the possibility of the divine with it.

There was a time when I wanted to believe, but the more I thought, the less a god or a divine universal force made sense. If the world/universe/whatever was created, then the being that did so was either horribly bored or terribly cruel or both. I rejected pretty much every religion for the tremendous failure to cover the vastness of the universe or the possibility of intelligent life-forms on other planets. If there were a “word of god,” I’m pretty sure that the god giving that word would be smart enough to make it more timeless than anything offered up so far. Particularly if it were an omnipotent or omniscient god.

I read about half of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion. I didn’t finish it because I had already hashed out most of his arguments in my head a million times*.

As it currently stands, I consider myself to be an agnostic atheist. The concept of god is quite silly to me – an oddly hopeful wish that your life is secretly being controlled by a higher power. Personally, I have no desire for their to be anything controlling the universe or my life. I like to take responsibility for what happens to me. It’s funny to me that one thing many religions suggest is that god will help you if you help yourself – it’s as if the people who made it all up suddenly said, “Shit. We told all these people there’s a god watching you so be moral, and a bunch of them realized if there’s an all-powerful being then they’re not responsible for the crappy stuff that happens to them!” I don’t care if love is only a chemical reaction because I enjoy that chemical reaction. It still means something to me, even if it’s just the inner-workings of my odd, human brain, just as there is still beauty in the world even if it’s just the workings of the universe.

Freethought is associated with atheism because atheists have released the belief in the divine. We have, if you will, freed our minds to consider the numerous other possibilities and even the new possibility that there is a higher power separate from anything humans have come up with. Sure, that possibility always falls short of being acceptable, but I certainly reconsider it on occasion. Freethought, to me, is more associated with moving away from dogma than moving away from belief in god(s), anyway. You can be a believer and a freethinker; it’s when you constrain your world-view by a frame made by others (re: religion) that it becomes impossible to think freely.

I’ve had enough of this whole explaining thing. From now on, just accept my atheism as a far-foregone conclusion. It’s been so long since I’ve figured this all out that I’m not sure I could tell you exactly what thought process got me here anyway. All I can say is I’m constantly thinking, constantly considering. While it’s leading further and further away from belief in the supernatural and particularly further away from any existing explanation offered by the religions of the world, that doesn’t mean I would reject any new evidence offered to me. Good luck finding any.

*hyperbole much?

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$500,000 Revisited

A consistent search term that leads to my blog is, “is $500,000 alot of money” or some variation thereof.

First, stop misspelling “a lot.” It isn’t one word, it’s two. “Alot” is not a word. At all. I’m tired of seeing “alot.” Seriously.

Second, yes, $500,000 is a lot of money. It’s a lot of money to inherit, a lot of money to earn, and just downright a lot of money for any individual or immediate family to be in possession of.

With $500,000, you could pay for 8 years of Harvard undergrad. You could buy 18 Toyota Camry Hybrid XLEs. Or you could purchase:

  • 108,500 gallons of gas at today’s national average price of $3.61
  • over 50,000 Kindle books at a price of $9.99
  • 5,050 Kindle Touches at $99 each
  • 1000 Apple iPads
  • 116 round trip tickets from LAX to Tokyo-Narita, June 30-July 6 at a price of $4,293.29 a piece
  • 2,000 PlayStation3 game consoles

You could buy at least one house in many parts of the country, and in some rural areas you might be able to buy 3, 4 or 5 houses (maybe more!).

$500,000 is a lot of money. A lot. I’m not saying people who make $500,000 a year are ultra-rich, particularly because many of those people have expensive habits, but that doesn’t diminish the value of $500,000. It is, without a doubt, a very large amount of money. It should be considered an extremely comfortable salary or an exciting and welcome inheritance.

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