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Monday, June 6, 2011

Victoria shamelessly promotes her favorite secular humanist organization-- Foundation Beyond Belief

As you probably now, I am now a summer intern with an organization called Foundation Beyond Belief (here's their website: http://foundationbeyondbelief.org/). Our mission is:

To demonstrate humanism at its best by supporting efforts to improve this world and this life, and to challenge humanists to embody the highest principles of humanism, including mutual care and responsibility.

We have some really exciting things coming up; including a disaster relief program, affiliate volunteer groups who serve their communities and a contest where any $20 or greater donation in the month of July will enter you to win an iPad2.

If you're thinking about joining (which you should be!) or donating to Foundation Beyond Belief, here is another great link for you: http://foundationbeyondbelief.org/whyjoin. This is a link to our "why join" page, and will do a pretty good job of convincing you, let me tell ya ;)

Alright, now that that's out of the way, on to the good stuff. I'm kind of wondering why I started a blog in the first place, given that I am horrible at a) remembering my passwords to the other social media I maintain and b) remembering to post new blogs. If I had more readers I might be a bit concerned that they would feel cheated that my second blog update was all about asking for money, so here's something else:

I recently co-wrote an article with on of my supervisors at Central, Melissa Childs and a friend/colleague, Kelly Patton, who is the current executive director of another great (Des Moines-based) organization, Iowa Refugee Support Project (link here: http://www.compact.org/news/americorps-working-together-to-get-things-done-2/16113/) which has me thinking a lot about service, tolerance and interfaith dialog/connections. As an AmeriCorps member in Central Iowa, essentially every volunteer action I have is an interfaith dialog-- I'm one of the few atheists that I know here, and I'm not sure if I know any who are currently involved in the Iowa Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program with me at Central (I guess I don't technically know the religious leanings of my fellow members, but it is probably safe to assume that they are Christian, given Central's persuasion). Every time I visit my conversation partner through Iowa Refugee Support Project, I participate in an interfaith dialog-- even if I were a Christian (God forbid!) my partner is a Muslim. Sometimes this is awkward, because I can't tell her things about my life that I consider to be very important, for fear of offending her and that kind of thing. Once, she offered me a picture of Jesus, and I said that I wasn't a Christian, so I didn't want it, her face lit up-- an odd reaction, I wonder if it was spurred by the fact that she has experienced quite a few preachy people here in a Iowa, but that is a whole different topic-- but then she asked what I was, and I, thankful that she has a limited knowledge of English and probably wouldn't understand what I meant, mumbled something about being an atheist. When she asked what it was I told a half truth and said that it meant "I didn't believe in a Christian God". And then she launched into a rather lengthy discussion of Islam. And then it hit me, not for the first time and not for the last either, but it hit me: Christians and Muslims are so damn similar. Seriously, I understand they are separate religions with separate teachings, however, a lot of those teachings overlap, a lot of the behavior of their fundamentalist members overlap. Hell, even the behaviors of their less cuckoo bananas members/followers overlap. For instance, moderate to liberal Muslims will tell you that fundamentalist Muslims who happen to be terrorists distort the Qur’an, which, to an extent, they do and moderate to liberal Christians will tell you that fundamentalist Christians who happen to bomb abortion clinics or protest the funerals of soldiers because as we all know by now-- "God Hates F@$s" are distorting the Bible, which, to an extent, they are. They will also be very quick to deny any shortcomings of their religion, and sometimes (I have seen this too often recently) they will deny evolution together. However, there are many people who will still get defensive and angry if you point out these friendly comparisons. How ridiculous is that?? This is where interfaith dialog and service come in. I may dislike pretty much all religious inclinations, but I still have to respect the people who follow them as just that-- people, and I think it is pretty great that religious groups (and non-religious groups) can come together and work through their tiny differences by underlining their vaulted similarities. Yes, there is a danger of proselytizing here, but if you can find a group of truly enlightened people, this shouldn't happen, and there shouldn't be anything wrong with growing and serving side-by-side with people who have different beliefs and value systems.

Those are my rants for today, I promise in the future to keep better track of updating this damn thing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Victoria loses her blogging virginity.

Welcome to my first post. I rant a lot, and am a liberal, bisexual female, atheist/Secular Humanist, so if you don't like any of those, get out now. I don't tolerate trolls, stupidity or intolerance. Oh, and don't say I didn't warn you.

I came across an article today by someone who is pretty much one of my heroes, Rekha Basu. She's an editorial writer for the Des Moines Register, and I feel like she's almost always dead on. Anyway, I was reading a recent article by her, called "They want to be free not to believe", and I started to get a little angry. And then I started a blog. Go me, and definitely go Rekha, because, as I said she is almost always dead on, and this article is a great example of that.

Let me start out by saying, I feel like a loser for missing out on the American Atheists convention in Des Moines (the thing that inspired RB to write the article I'm referencing in the first place). I mean really, how did I miss that? Why didn't I try harder to go? I'm kicking myself, let me tell you. The one thing that will enable this to make this up to myself is that I have a fiancĂ© who recently suggested that we go to the Amazing Meeting for our honeymoon. Yeah, he's pretty special, I love him.

Next, I'm sure you're wondering how an article that was "dead on" pissed me off. It pissed me off, because I was already in a snit over an article that Foundation Beyond Belief posted, about how creationist materials have been submitted to the Texas board of education, so when I began to read RB's article, I was already fuming mad and declaring that I was going to leave this country if I ever had children, because we're so willing to let conservatives/fundamentalists completely high-jack our education system (another blog for another time). Because I was already bothered, when I read RB's article it inspired this internal dialog that was really frustrating for me (I forgot to mention, I talk to myself, A LOT, so this blog is for my sanity-- now I can pretend that I'm talking to plenty of other people on the internet-- much saner).

RB says that "One woman who belongs to a Siouxland atheists chapter told the Register that in western Iowa, people are afraid if they disclose that affiliation, their cars or homes will be firebombed. A man said the group has been denied participation in charity fundraisers" and then goes on to say that "Intolerance can be a two-way street, and some on the atheists' side needlessly mocked or baited Bible worshipers, too". OK, let me unpack this for a bit. Can I just say...wow? I've heard rumors of the way of western Iowa, and frankly, based on those rumors, I didn't think they were capable of figuring out how to make a bomb-- that being said, if the rumors are true, and the region is heavily populated with bigots, these are the same people who are often toting guns and proclaiming that liberals are threatening their constitutional rights by not wanting them to "bear arms". These are the same people who are advocating limiting my constitutional right of separation of church and state. The same people who helped oust three judges, and who call themselves "libertarian", while voting for the biggest government possible. Let's face it-- if you want the government to dictate who can and can't marry, and will punish judges for doing their jobs admirably-- you want some pretty damn big government. In regards to the second statement,  I also want to point out, that even though I think Christianity is one of the silliest things on Earth, I still respect the people, because they are just that-- people. The one "Christian thing" (even though many other cultures have said it similarly and even better) is treating others how you wanted to be treated, so I give these people the courtesy of not trying to convert them to my views, and just once, I'd like to receive that treatment in return. Is it too much to ask? "You can't get to tolerance through self righteousness". Well said Rekha.

 I'm also not sure how I feel about the "baiting" comment. Clearly, the western Iowans who feared for their safety, were worried about bodily harm, and RB doesn't really give an example of atheists physically harming Christians. No, I don't think we should go around being disrespectful twats and "baiting" people, but I need to know what her definition of "baiting" is. Healthy discussion, totally fine, unprovoked mocking and rudeness, not so much. Hell, even provoked rudeness is out of line, lead by example, right? But, as Sam Harris points on, and I thoroughly agree with this: "Tolerance of religious stupidity has a way of making liars and cowards of people who should have nothing to fear from the fruits of honest reasoning". If we're too honest, we risk hurting feelings, if we're not honest enough, we aren't doing ourselves and our world any favors. Where do we draw the line?