Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Protest I Can Rally Behind!

On September 13, 2010 at 12pm, member organizations of One School System Network are planning a rally in Toronto to protest the public funding of Catholic schools in Ontario.  The event has been planned for this date as it is the first day of the two day international summit on education being held by the Ministry of Education.

In Canada, The Constitution Act of 1867 mandates that Catholic schools be publicly funded.  This has remained in the Constitution despite the fact that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms also prohibits discrimination based on religion. 

You can't have it both ways.  You can't provide full public funding to one religion's school system while denying it to others.  You can't publicly fund a school system that denies entry to students based on faith.  You can't publicly fund a school system that denies jobs to teachers based on faith.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has even condemned Canada (1999) for discriminating in their providing of public funds to Catholic schools and not other denominations..  

The solution would seem to be to fund all religious schools or none.  If we were to fund all religious schools we would be taking funds out of the current public school system at a time when funds are desperately needed.  That leaves us the solution of funding none of them.  Keep the school system secular and public, available to all children regardless of faith and open to all teachers regardless of faith.  This would be following the lead of other Canadian provinces like New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland & Quebec.  Quebec for crying out loud!  Quebec which has statistically the highest percentage of Catholics of any province in Canada no longer publicly funds Catholic schools!!!

Come on Ontario - Get with the program!!!  Faith is personal and has no business in the public classroom.  This is why there are churches and youth groups and family gatherings.  If you want to raise your child in your faith, then feel free, but don't expect my tax dollars to pay for it.

While we're on the topic of my tax dollars, there is a misconception that needs to be cleared up.  Catholic schools in Ontario are fully funded.  This means that the funds are given to these schools in the same way and from the same coffers as the rest of the public schools.  When you fill out, on you property tax form, whether you "support" the public school system or the Catholic school system, it means which do you support politically, not to which do you wish your tax dollars to be applied. 

There was an excellent article called Canada's Dirty Little Secret in the journal Humanist Perspectives recently.  It was written by an Ontario public school teacher named Richard Young.  Mr Young does a phenomenal job detailing how the system works as well as how much money could be saved (or hopefully applied to the public system) if we stopped funding the Catholic schools.  I encourage everyone to read it.

Richard Dawkins also recently did a documentary on faith based schools in the UK which can be watched online.  I've only watched the first half so far, but have found it very interesting and fairly relevant to our current situation in Ontario.

My Love of Online Debates

By now you have probably figured out that I love talking about my opinions, but you may not have fully understood why.  It's not because I think I'm right about everything (although I think I am, just like you think you are - Go on!  Admit it!) and it's not because I want to convince everyone that my way of thinking is the best.

I love sharing my views because I hope that you'll share your own.  I love the back and forth discourse on whatever topic I'm feeling passionate about at that particular moment.  I love hearing other people's views because they have the potential to enlighten me.  I can get my mind set on one way of thinking and along comes a thoughtfully worded paragraph from someone else and I find myself saying "I didn't realize that" or "I've never thought of it that way".  That's not to say that I'm always flip flopping on my views, but my opinion on any given subject is constantly evolving.

I, in particular, love an online debate.  You do lose the social aspect, and sometimes a person's tone is hard to read (was that sarcasm or an insult?), but I find it better than a face to face discussion for a variety of reasons. 

The main reason is that you can provide reference material for your thoughts - Here is what I think and here is an example (link to an article or study).  This is far better than a verbal discussion where you can mention a study, but the other person has no real means at the time of refuting it as they may not know anything about it.  Online, I can provide the study link and you might come back and point out that it wasn't double blind so the results could be simple correlation or could be interpreted in a completely different way at which point I might have one of those "I never thought of that" moments.

With this back of forth presentation of evidence, I find the whole experience much more educational.  If someone replies to my argument with something on which I have no knowledge, I have the ability (and generally the motivation) to immediately jump on the internet highway and educate myself.  If we were having a face to face discussion, neither of us would have that opportunity and the debate wouldn't do much to enlighten either side.

Online debates tend to not be instantaneous.  I make a comment.  You might read that comment tomorrow and respond.  I might read your response right away, but not comment until next week.  If we were face to face the replies would be expected instantly, therefore leaving no time to digest what you've heard, reflect on it, investigate it and respond in a well thought out manner.  Unless you're extremely knowledgeable on the subject and a superb debater (i.e. quick on your feet), the online world is a far more productive forum for a good discussion.

This time between replies also gives you the ability to calm down if something has been said which has upset you.  A face to face conversation might at that point disintegrate into an angry argument, but online you have the ability to walk away, to cool down and/or read the post again (maybe you misinterpreted what was said).  That time to collect your thoughts enables you to respond rationally and hopefully keep the conversation moving forward.

This of course all relies on my opponents having the same respect for the art of discourse.  If I make what I feel is a well thought out argument and someone responds with "You're obviously an idiot" then that person is just wasting my time and his/hers.  That said I'm absolutely open to hearing "I think you're wrong and here's why...".  All sides must try to be respectful and bring something productive to the discussion.

So if I write something that you agree with.  Let me know.  Show me more evidence that you've come up with that proves my hypothesis.  If you disagree, I'd still love to hear from you.  Tell me what you think and why.  Enlighten me!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Agnostic vs. Atheist

Amusing, but the spelling drives me nuts!
The Friendly Atheist had a post on this topic in May.  I disagree with the post itself and found the comments to be all over the map, but it all got me thinking.

From Merriam-Webster
Agnostic - 1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
Atheisma : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity

By its very nature the existence of some sort of god isn't knowable, unless of course said god one day decides to unequivocally show itself to the masses - maybe by calling a televised press conference (you can be sure that Fox News would be there).  My belief here falls cleanly under the definition of agnostic.

But it's not that easy.  While I don't believe anyone can say that there absolutely is no god, at the same time I've seen absolutely no evidence to lead me to believe that there is a god. I often hear the phrase "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".  That's not quite true.  A more accurate statement would be that "absence of evidence is not proof of absence" although that doesn't have near the fancy ring to it.  It is absolutely evidence of absence.  Given this evidence of absence I choose to believe that there is no god.  Here I fall under the atheist definition.

So which am I?  I have long considered myself to be agnostic, but not because it's a "safe way" of saying I don't believe in god, or because the word atheist "sounds evil and wrong and scary" as was suggested by Hemant.  It's because I think the term agnostic best defines my beliefs.

My type of agnosticism has changed over the years.  There was a time when I quite strongly believed that there was some sort of supreme, supernatural being that was responsible for everything, but I still didn't think it had any relation to the religions of the world or any of the holy books.  At that time I would have been considered an Agnostic Theist (also known as a Weak Theist).  I referred to myself as a deist or simply spiritual.

Gradually as I did more research in my journey for truth and knowledge, I began to lean farther away from believing in the supernatural.  Now I would consider myself to be an Agnostic Atheist (also known as a Weak Atheist).  I am fairly certain that there is no god, but I have no way of proving it, but I will live my life as if it has been proven. 

One other item from Hemant's post:  "no one says they’re agnostic about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. No one says they’re agnostic about Zeus or Thor. So why are they agnostic about “God”?"
I am atheist about the FSM because it is an admittedly made up thing.  No one actually claimed that it was real so I have no problem classifying it as fiction.  I am atheist about Roman and Greek mythology because the general consensus is that they were myths - that the people of the time made up stories to try to explain the world around them.  Anything that is acknowledged  to have been made up does not deserve to be given any credence as fact.

If you ask me about the current world religions, I would also respond that I am atheist about these.  The holy books have been sufficiently discredited for my needs in order to dismiss them as utter fiction.  But the fact that they are still believed by so many is enough to open a crack in my mind to the possibility of something supernatural that may have kick started these beliefs.  Let's be clear though that this is a minuscule crack - enough to keep me in the agnostic category but not anywhere near big enough to have any effect whatsoever on my life.

In reading the comments to Hemant's post, I'm really surprised by the negative views on this.  So many of the atheists view the agnostics as "not having balls" and so many of the agnostics view the atheists as arrogant.  I'm happy to see that some understand that it's just semantics.  It doesn't really matter what we label ourselves - we're all pretty much on the same page.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blood - It's In You To Give

This week I'll be making my 15th blood donation.  I try to go every 2 months to the local clinic.  It such an easy thing to do and it has the potential to save up to 3 lives.  All it takes is an hour (ish) and afterwards they give you free cookies and juice.  What more could you ask for?  The staff and volunteers are always exceptionally nice and professional.  I've rarely even had any discomfort (although I really don't like that finger pricker!).

If you're interested in making a donation or want more information, please contact your local blood services agency.  In Canada it's at 1-888-2-DONATE (1-888-236-6283).

My Thoughts on French Immersion

Note:  This was originally a note of mine on Facebook, but I thought I would add it to my blog (edited).

Over the years I have been asked by a variety of people, mostly parents, whether I felt French Immersion was valuable in my education. Here is my response:

Why I am glad I was in French Immersion

First of all, yes it was hard, but so was science and math and music. And yes, sometimes I hated French class, but no more than I hated school in general. The difference was that learning French was one of the few things in school that made me genuinely proud. I felt as though I had accomplished something.

Yes I had problems in school. I was an average student in ALL my classes. Very rarely was it because of the language. Usually it was because of the teacher. I hated science with Mr. A. I hated math with Mrs. B. I hated French with Mr. C. Does that mean I hated the subjects? Absolutely not!

And yes there were a few problems specific to language. One was grammar. It’s boring. No kidding. But even the most exciting courses have their boring parts. Second was the transition from French to English. That could have been done much better. Some students had no problem. I had some initial problems in math. Mr. D realized this and sat down with me to help. It was just a matter of translating a few words that I had only known in French. No big deal. My marks shot back up in math from that day on. Problem solved. This is a foreseeable problem and if handled in good time not a problem at all.

That foundation in a second language also gave me a better understanding of the English language. And, when I took Spanish in high school, there was a noticeable difference between the Immersion and Core students. The Immersion students generally picked up the language much more easily and quickly.

Let’s face it. We live in Canada (well you might not, but I do) and whether we like it or not there are two official languages. Knowing both can give you a pretty big leg up. And learning a 2nd language as an adult is very rarely an option.

As for not being able to converse in France, we had five exchange students from Nantes in my Grade Ten French Classes. They had no problem understanding us and vice versa. There were differences, but no more so than trying to speak English in Alabama. They [Alabamians] laughed at some of the things I said as well. But, in either of these scenarios, the versions were close enough that there were no significant language barriers.

(Note that the names of my teachers have been omitted as I don't want them retro-actively failing me)

Thursday, August 19, 2010


While I'm ranting I figure I should probably throw this out there.

The views expressed at The Soap Box are mine and mine alone.  They don't necessarily reflect the views of my employer, my family, my friends, my acquaintances or any people I may or may not meet in my lifetime. 

Blah blah blah....habeas corpus....veni vidi vici....R'amen

Habitat for Humanity Just Rubs Me the Wrong Way

I think I'm fairly average in the charitable department.  There are certain organizations that I donate to regularly and I generally support my friends for the various "a-thons".  I've even been known to partake in a few "a-thons" myself although I absolutely hate asking people for money.

That said, Habitat for Humanity just bugs me.

Every year my office encourages the staff to spend a day volunteering for HfH and every year a colleague or two asks me if I'm going to join in and build a house.  And every year when I politely decline, I'm asked why not.  People should really know better than that.  It takes incredible restraint for me to keep my opinions to myself, but if you come right out and ask, I'm gonna lay it on you!

So here's the deal.  HfH works as follows:

  • Habitat for Humanity builds homes using volunteer labour and donated materials.
  • Homes are sold to partner families with no monetary down payment required. However, they must contribute "sweat equity” in the form of 500 volunteer hours.
  • Families receive an affordable and sustainable no-interest mortgage, with monthly payments based on 25% to 30% of the family's monthly income.
Now, I work my butt off in order to afford my house.  I make well thought out decisions on how I'm going to spend my money so that I could afford the down payment to begin with and so that I can continue to pay down my mortgage.  I live within my means and deny myself luxuries if they will prevent me from affording the basics.

I know that there are many people out there who have just been bitch slapped by life in ways in which they have absolutely no control.  I know some people personally and they don't ask for handouts from anyone - would even be offended if they were offered.  Instead they work hard and do whatever they have to in order to make ends meet. 

I think my issues with HfH probably go back to the various articles I've seen in the newspaper since I was a teenager.  You've probably seen similar stories of people complaining that welfare doesn't provide enough of an income to survive.  Meanwhile the photo with the story shows the person in question cigarette in hand and a case of beer in the background.  Even as a 15 year old I could see the contradiction there.  
On a more personal note, I knew a guy who was on welfare.  The only thing that the government asked was that he fill out a weekly form detailing the ways that he tried to find work.  Each week he would go to a few places he knew weren't hiring and ask for work.  On the off chance that they offered him an application, he would throw it out and leave that one off his list.  Then he would go home with a bottle of Jack Daniel's.

I just can't trust that these houses are going to people that truly deserve them or that there aren't better ways to help them out of their problems.  Sometimes I feel like we're rewarding bad decisions.  I heard of one family who arrived each day to work on their house driving a luxury sedan.  Granted I never actually saw this and am taking the word of a friend, but can we say bad priorities???  If you can't afford a mortgage then maybe you should have bought an Accent instead.  Then there are the people with multiple children.  (This is where I get those horrible looks like I eat babies for breakfast.)  In my eyes if you can't afford to feed, clothe and provide proper shelter for children then you shouldn't have had them.  Having children is a choice.  In this day and age it can rarely even be called an accident.  I'm reluctant to draw attention to specific people, but there is a lovely story on the HfH site detailing one woman who had TWO ADDITIONAL children while waiting for her house to be built.

For me it all boils down to that proverb about giving a fish or teaching how to fish.  Maybe the money and time could be better spent helping these people get a better education, create resumes, find viable work or learn how to budget their money.  (All of which already have existing government programs ready and willing to help.)  If they have children, maybe volunteers could spend time doing childcare while the parents take classes or go on interviews.  There are many other options that I would support over HfH.

In the end, if you believe that HfH is a wonderful program, by all means put on your work boots and go pound in a nail or two.  Just don't invite me to come along.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sex Talk I Wish I'd Had

I never really had a sex talk with my parents.  One day in elementary school I was told an absolutely absurd little factoid by one of my classmates.  He was under the crazy notion that in order to make a baby the man's penis and the woman's vagina had to touch.  I, of course, told him that he was a stupid head and went home to regale my mother with his silliness.  Soon thereafter there appeared a book on the kitchen counter.  My friend and I read this book with astonishment and a lot of giggling.  Apparently my classmate had his facts straight after all.

That was the end of my sex education until health classes in senior elementary and high school.  In those classes I learned that girls have menstrual cycles and how pregnancy occurs.  I don't remember much else although I'm sure there was discussion of STDs as well.

In addition to the items noted above, here's my top ten list of what I wish someone had told me when I was a teenager.

1.  Sex = Good

I have spent a very large portion of my life thinking that sex is dirty, naughty, taboo....  Even after marriage I was still concerned that people (my parents in particular) would know that I was having sex.  Oh the horror!!  It's taken years and a lot of re-evaluation of my beliefs for me to realize just the opposite.  Sex can be wonderful.  It's not in the least bit embarrassing.  I'm betting that even my parents are having sex - Imagine that!  (On second thought, don't imagine that.)

2.  Always cum come prepared

It used to be that girls were getting married and having sex in their teens.  Nowadays we would call them child brides.  But they weren't considered children then - they were considered women as soon as they began menstruating.  Just imagine being a spinster at 20!  Now the pendulum swings the other way and many don't feel girls should be having sex until they're at least eighteen.  Ask some fathers and the answer is more like 32.

From a purely physical standpoint, I would say a girl's body is prepared for sex once her menstrual cycles become somewhat consistent (and therefore strong enough to bear children).  But the physical is such a small part of whether a girl is ready.  For this reason I am glad that the age of the child bride is over (with the exception of certain parts of the world, but I'm speaking from a North American perspective).

From a more emotional standpoint, it's far more complicated and I believe different for every individual.  One must understand the consequences (both positive and negative) of engaging in sexual activity and also be prepared to deal with them.  This includes the obvious - pregnancy and STDs - but also the things that young girls don't want to think about.  What if I have sex with him and then he breaks up with me?  What if he tells everyone I know that we did it?  What if I don't like what he's doing?  What if I don't like what he wants me to do?  Let's face it, as Hedley puts it, most boys do the thinking with their little head, instead of their big one.  A girl needs to be emotionally strong enough to deal with all of these consequences and take whatever precautions are appropriate.

3.  Have you met you?

Masturbation is a wonderful and pleasurable way to learn about your body.  It's a private time that allows you to figure out what you like and what you don't like.  Best of all it's a way to have an orgasm without the danger of pregnancy or diseases.  When you decide that you're ready to involve someone else you're going to want to know these things.  After all, how is he going to know how to give you pleasure if you don't even know.  Sex is best when both people know what they want and are confident enough to gently lead their partner in the right direction (and/or away from the wrong direction).

4.  Oh...That's the spot!

The clitoris is a really important part of the female anatomy.  Whenever you watch love scenes in movies or soap operas it's completely ignored.  50%-75% of all women need clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm.  (I'm almost too ashamed to admit that this statistic came from Dr Phil. I'm not sure about its accuracy as a 25% variable seems rather high.)  So listen to your clit and treat her well!  While you're at it, go on a hunt for your G spot.  The debate is still hot about this elusive spot, but the searching can be as much fun as the finding.

5.  Give me one good reason

There are loads of bad reasons to have sex.
  • Because your boyfriend wants to have sex
  • Because you're afraid your boyfriend will break up with you if you don't have sex (If a guy is so uncaring that he pushes you to do something you're not ready for, he's not worth having around anyway.)
  • Because you want to get losing your virginity over with
  • Because everyone else is doing it (seriously, do I have to pull out the "if everyone jumped off a bridge" metaphor?)
  • Because you want to feel grown up
 All of these reasons are irrelevant if YOU don't really want to have sex.  However, if you think you're ready (see emotional section above) and you know how to be safe and smart about it and YOU want to have sex then there is nothing wrong with that.

6.  What about the wedding bells?

For those who want to abstain until marriage, that is a choice and good luck with it.  However, it's not the best choice for everyone.  Sexual compatibility is a very important part of a lasting relationship.  Imagine finding out after you've made that lifelong commitment that one of you is insatiable and the other has absolutely no sex drive.  I can almost guarantee that your relationship won't last (or it will last with both spouses miserable and resentful).

7.  Playing for the other team

If you find yourself attracted to girls instead of guys (or as well as), that's perfectly fine too.  Don't try to be something you're not just to please the people around you - always good advice.

8.  Toys aren't just for little kids

There is a wonderful world of sex toys to be found.  They're good for when you're solo or with a partner.  Start with the basics and be willing to try anything that you think you might enjoy.  Don't be discouraged if you try something new and don't like it.  Not all women like the same things.

9.  Welcome to Fantasy Island

Fantasies are wonderful.  You can imagine anything you want.  My gynecologist once told me that I could fantasize about anything, even something that in real life I would find unacceptable, because as long as it's  only in my head it's okay.  That was a turning point in my journey to break away from the whole sex is naughty thing.  I had never even given myself permission to think about sex freely.  Even my mind was tied up in knots.  If you're like me and need a little kick start in the fantasy department try a romance novel.  You don't even need to start with Harlequin - the Twilight series has its fair share of lusty scenes.  (Oh Edward!)

10.  Sowing your oats

This might end up being the most controversial on my list, but I have no issue with casual sex.  In this day and age there is a very good chance that you won't end up with the guy with which you lost your virginity.  There has been a double standard for far too long whereby guys who sleep around are studs and girls who do the same (or more often less) are sluts.  This doesn't mean that I'm suggesting that you should just have sex with every guy that walks by (unless of course you really want to), but it does mean that you don't necessarily need to wait for "the one" before you have sex (unless of course you really want to).

In the end my list is all about making your own choices.  Be confident and be yourself.  Be smart and be safe, but don't forget to have some fun along the way!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our Road to Being Childless by Choice

Note:  This was originally a note of mine on Facebook, but I thought I would add it to my blog (edited).

I went to college for Early Childhood Education and that pretty much burned me out on kids. I was still intending to have them until the hubby and I really started discussing it and it occurred to me that it was actually a choice - not mandatory. Imagine that. I can't believe that concept had never occurred to me.  (Along the same lines as it never occurred to me that I could get married someplace other than a church, but maybe we'll talk about that another time.)  I talked to many people from all walks of life - with kids, adopted kids, no kids by choice, no kids not by choice. Almost all of the parents I spoke with said "I love my kids, but if I had it to do over again I don't know if I would have had them. I'm not even exaggerating here - I was truly shocked by this.  In speaking with non-parents I never heard a single regret. I finally decided that I would rather regret not having kids than regret having them.

The hubby had always taken the stance that he was willing to have children if I wanted them.  The thought of having children with someone who would only be having them for my sake put the nail in the coffin.

At 25 I asked my gyno to do a tubal ligation and he said no, through the receptionist without even talking to me. I told him that no was not an option and he would at least be sitting down with me. In that appointment we were able to convince him that we had put a lot of serious thought into this and weren't going to change our minds. If he didn't do it I would find someone who would. He agreed but said he "couldn't fit me in for 3 months." I think he figured once the appointment was made it would seem more real and I would back out. I did not and we haven't had an ounce of regret since.

Something funny (in retrospect) - the day of the surgery I'm lying on the table and the anesthesiologist comes in. He asks my my age and how many kids I have. I told him 25 and none. He said "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS???" I sat up and said angrily "DON'T MAKE ME FIGHT WITH YOU TOO!" He shut up and gave me the injection.

So our only kids are four legged and furry. I have nieces and nephews whom I adore and they fill the kid void nicely and when I'm done, I send them home. Nothing to pay for, no illnesses, no missing out on life because I have "responsibilities". Life is whatever we want from it.

We were very fortunate to have family and friends who have fully supported our choice.  I know a few women who made similar choices and are still being pressured for grandkids or being told by the people around them that they'll "change their mind", "it's different when the child is yours" and "you must hate children".  So sad.

There are many parents who had children for all the right reasons and I am truly happy for them. But there are far too many parents who had their children for all the wrong reasons whether it be accident or societal pressures or any of a hundred other bad reasons (My personal favourite is "to take care of me when I'm old" - Hate to break it to you, but there are loads of people in retirement homes whose kids never come to see them). 

For these reasons I am very vocal about the choice we made and stress the fact that it is a choice.

Sometimes Life is Sunshine & Lollipops

I hope to have at least as many positive uplifting posts on this blog as I will have exuberant rants.  After all, I really do love life.  Day to day living can be absolutely awesome!  I'm currently on the second last day of the first real vacation I've had in ages and am loving every minute of it. 

I just returned from horseback riding through the bush and it couldn't have been more enjoyable.  A beautiful sunny warm day with just enough of a breeze to keep the bugs away.  I'm fairly new at riding so I'm still working on my core strength and balance, but winding my way through the trees and over logs and crossing the river with the rushing water teaches me so much and builds my confidence.  And the serenity of the forest is amazing.  There were times when there was no sound at all except for the hooves against the ground and the rustle of the tall weeds as we brushed by them.

While out today we saw five deer including a doe and her adorable fawn not more than 10 metres away (That's a little over 30 feet for my American readers.)  They're so used to the horses that they just continue to lie there and watch us pass.  Had we been walking, they most likely would have taken off.  We also saw a giant heron take off from one of the fields - Breath-taking!

After the ride I spent some time with each of the horses sponging them down to clean and cool them.  It's a nice and peaceful way to relax and do a little bonding.  They all have such distinct personalities and can be so affectionate.  We ask so much of them during a ride and they give so graciously that I feel they deserve a good bit of pampering afterwards. 

Speaking of pampering, I think it's my turn.  Are my toes in the mood for Mambo Melon or Electric Purple?  I love the level of decision making while on vacation!  :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My Obsession with Religion

I am occasionally questioned on why I talk about god and religion more often than most religious people.  The short answer is because religion and other superstitious pseudo-scientific beliefs anger me.

I have been able to find no tangible evidence to support the concept of a supernatural power and even if there was, the scriptures themselves are no more factual than The DaVinci Code or The Other Boleyn Girl.  They all include names and places which were and/or are real and are based on some reality, but the stories themselves are pure fiction.  So many parts of the Bible have being proven to be incorrect that it is astonishing to me that anyone believes any of it.  Added to that, the story of Jesus was plagiarized from many, many, many old religions and myths long preceding the time period in which Jesus was supposed to have lived/died.  A running joke in the atheist community is a reference to Horus 2.0.

I used to believe that religion was fairly innocuous and wasn’t hurting anyone so to each their own.  But the more I read (and that’s something I encourage everyone to do more of), the more I find that religion is anything but harmless.  Yes there are religious people who do good things, charity work and so on, but the religion aspect is irrelevant.  Good people do good things and bad people do bad things whether they are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic or atheist.  But then there are those who do bad things in the name of religion (attack on abortion clinic)- you won’t find that from an atheist.  There are those who place themselves on these religious pedestals only to look foolish (at best) when they’re found to be partaking in the precise behaviour they denounce.  Then there are those who do bad things with the best of intentions - (note that I include this example of a Pro-Life superbowl ad because while Tebow & Focus on the Family think they’re doing something wonderful that doesn’t appear to hurt anyone, I can think of far better uses for the $2.5 million spent for the ad – perhaps giving financial aid to the single mothers out there below the poverty line who chose not to have an abortion).

Now, on to the specifics of what angers me.

Child Abuse

It angers me that our supposedly civilized society routinely abuses our children in the name of various gods.  It comes in the physical form such as female genital mutilation and the male counterpart – circumcision

There is also the physical abuse not in the name of religion, but perpetrated and hidden by its most esteemed followers and leaders.  With all the hypocrisy in the Catholic church, it truly disturbs me that there are still Catholics to be found.

The abuse also takes the more psychological form of fear:
"Little child, if you go to hell there will be a devil at your side to strike you. He will go on striking you every minute for ever and ever without stopping. The first stroke will make your body as bad as the body of Job, covered, from head to foot, with sores and ulcers. The second stroke will make your body twice as bad as the body of Job. The third stroke will make your body three times as bad as the body of Job. The fourth stroke will make your body four times as bad as the body of Job. How, then, will your body be after the devil has been striking it every moment for a hundred million of years without stopping? Perhaps at this moment, seven o'clock in he evening, a child is just going into hell. To morrow evening, at seven o'clock, go and knock at the gates of hell and ask what the child is doing. The devils will go and look. They will come back again and say, the child is burning. Go in week and ask what the child is doing; you will get the same answer, it is burning; Go in a year and asks the same answer comes it is burning. Go in a million of years and ask the same question, the answer is just the same--it is burning. So, if you go for ever and ever, you will always get the same answer--it is burning in the fire.” ---The Sight of Hell (A Catholic book for children….Quoted from Christ Triumphant by Thomas Allin)

There is also the indoctrination, whereby we fill our children’s heads with these stories long before they are able to use logic and reason to work through the fallacies.

Preoperational Stage (2 - 7 years)
"During this stage, children's thought processes are developing, although they are still considered to be far from 'logical thought', in the adult sense of the word. The vocabulary of a child is also expanded and developed during this stage, as they change from babies and toddlers into 'little people'."
'"Animism' is also a characteristic of the Pre-operational stage. This is when a person has the belief that everything that exists has some kind of consciousness. An example of this is that children often believe that a car won't start because it is tired or sick, or they punish a piece of furniture when they run into it, because it must have been naughty to hurt them. A reason for this characteristic of the stage, is that the Pre-operational child often assumes that everyone and everything is like them. Therefore since the child can feel pain, and has emotions, so must everything else

If adults consistently tell children in the Preoperational Stage about a big bearded man in the sky who answers prayers and punishes sinners, they’re going to believe it absolutely.  Once they reach the next stage of cognitive development (Concrete Operational), if the adults around them are still believing in god (unlike Santa Claus or the tooth fairy), then the remnants of this belief will likely remain with them into their own adulthood.

I have to wonder if my long, difficult journey to reshape my own world view and perspective would have taken so long had I not been indoctrinated in the way I was.” - Todd's Hammer

Bigotry & Sexism

It angers me that we treat certain people as if they were second class citizens based on books written thousands of years ago.  The origins of the African Slave Trade rest with Christians and Muslims who traded goods for people.  The Bible justified this most notably via the Curse of Ham.  Even after they fought back and were given equal rights under the law, the racism and bigotry live on. 

Currently the target of choice is homosexuality and its attack on family values.  I’ll never understand how two men or two women in a loving and respectful relationship will ruin the sanctity of marriage.  The divorce rates are already very high and it’s safe to say that almost all (if not all) of those divorcing couples are heterosexual (given that gay marriage has only recently become legal and only in very few areas).
Then you’ve got people like Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich who declare that gays will ruin the traditional marriage while both being serial grooms (seven marriages between them).

What makes me even more angry is when these beliefs make their way into the laws of a country that is supposed to have separation of church and state.  In California human rights were put to a vote with Proposition 8 (an amendment which defines marriage as a union between one woman and one man).  Thank goodness it was appealed and struck down in court.  I only hope that ruling sticks.

Then there is the treatment of women. 

Christians (Southern Baptists in particular) call for wives to “submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.  She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation."  
I’m down with equal and respect, but there will be no submitting and no serving in our household.  I’m either equal or I’m not.  Make up your mind.
As a further example of just how screwed up this is, I provide the following Christian article that practically had me in raging seizures.  It’s a long read, but in essence it tells women that if their husband tells them to do something that they feel is morally wrong, they can question him on it, but in the end must abide by his decision.

Catholics (as well as various other Christian denominations) refuse leadership roles to women.  Janine Denomme was ordained as a Catholic priest in a simulation (because the church doesn’t allow female priests) and was immediately excommunicated from the church.  She was not even allowed to have a Catholic funeral or burial when she died in her forties from cancer.

The Koran tells the followers of Islam to dress modestly.  For men this means covering everything from knee to navel while for women it has been interpreted as covering everything except for the face and hands (note that some don’t feel this is sufficient).  And ladies, even if we can’t see your eyes, they had better be lowered!

Then there’s the honour killings which appear to be mainly Islamic.  In Pakistan “Karo-kari is a tradition whereby a man can kill a woman, claiming that she brought dishonour to the family, and still expect to be pardoned by her relatives. Once such a pardon has been secured, the state has no further writ on the matter.”  The worst part is that these killings are happening in North America too. 

Health Care & Scientific Progress

It angers me when decisions about health care are decided based upon scripture. 
Reproduction and sexuality are prime examples.  The Catholic church is telling the world that birth control is a sin and trying to prevent the use of condoms in areas which are stricken with HIV and AIDS, even going so far as to say that condoms contribute to the spread of the disease.  Sure, abstinence is the only 100% effective method of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, but it’s also highly unrealistic.  So let’s give people everything in the arsenal rather than saying “Here’s the bullets.  I’ll keep the gun.  Now get out there and win the war!”

St. Mary’s Hospital in Madison Wisconsin is trying to get a religious exemption to a new law which requires all group benefits plans which have a drug benefit to cover prescription contraceptives.  The Madison Diocese has gone one step further and threatened to fire any of their staff that use the benefit. 

How about masturbation?  The Bible tells men that it is a sin to spill their seed.  I hate to break this to you, but if this is about sperm that didn’t get a chance to fertilize an egg, that’s going to happen regardless.  A typical male will produce over 12 trillion sperm throughout his life.  The ones that don’t get expelled are reabsorbed back into the body and therefore never have the opportunity to seek out that luscious egg.

Then there’s abortion.  First of all let me say that I don’t like the thought of abortion, but I am pro-choice within reason.  If you decide in the eighth month of pregnancy that you no longer want to be pregnant, I have moral issues with that.  But if you were raped or the condom broke and you don’t feel that having a pregnancy or a child is in your (or their) best interest right now and you feel that an abortion is the right choice for you then get thee to a doctor ASAP and deal with it.  It’s a far better option than having an unwanted child or raising a child in poverty or with an abusive parent or whatever your reasons may be.
In May 2010, a nun in Phoenix was reprimanded for agreeing that a patient at the hospital needed an abortion to save her life.  Those that had her reassigned don’t deny that carrying the child would have been a death sentence for the mother, but still don’t condone the abortion.  Amazing that the life of the fetus is sacred, but not the life of the mother.

Let’s move on to stem cell research.  Embryonic stem cell research is regarded by many scientists as the wave of the future for managing or curing various ailments such as MS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, heart disease, diabetes and much, much more.  It was discovered in 2005 that we could use adult skin cells in the research thereby removing the need for fertilized embryos.  Prior to this, the embryos were donated by women using fertility clinics who no longer needed them.  I’ve never understood why this caused such an uproar among the religious as the embryos would have been destroyed other wise.  My main question with embryonic stem cell research would be what’s more sacred? – An egg or the lives of the millions of people that could be helped or saved with the research?  To me this one is a no brainer.

Violence for God

The main cause of wars throughout the ages has been religion. 

One example being when the United States was the attacked by Islamic extremists.  Even the U.S. civil war had religious undertones as the South fought to hold on to slavery as justified in the Bible.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been ongoing since the 1800’s and causes emotional (and physical) outrage all over the world.  Jerusalem is a particular hot spot, with Jews, Christians and Islamists all claiming a piece of the Holy Land.  The Crusades lasted for hundreds of years as Christians attempted to control various areas and people across Europe.  Ireland even has the followers of Jesus fighting amongst themselves.  If god did exist, I’m sure he’d be so proud of his kids.  Although he shouldn’t be surprised as violence begets violence and his books are certainly full of it.  Who could read about all that smiting on their behalf and not feel it was their right to try it out themselves?

All in all I would love to see a day when all religion is gone.  It most likely won’t be in my lifetime, but I’m confident the day will come.  After all, if history tells us anything it’s that today’s religion is tomorrow’s myth.

My First Blog Post Ever!!!

Welcome to my brand new blog!

I’ve been contemplating starting a blog for some time now.  After all I’m opinionated and completely full of myself so it was only a matter of time before I began spewing my views all over the internet.

Let’s start by getting one thing straight – while I do have very strong opinions, I’m also open minded and love the discourse involved with the sharing of new ideas.  There is nothing better than a well thought out debate that causes people (myself included) to think about situations in new ways and possibly even alter long held beliefs.  It’s probably why I enjoyed my college ethics course so much.

That said, I encourage everyone to comment on my posts – for or against.  Let me know what you think.

Now let the fun begin!