Friday, November 4, 2016

Like a Girl

Recently, I watched a documentary about gender, and not in the way you might think. It was about what we as a society do to our boys and men. As a mom of two boys, it resonated deeply with me. I am afraid for how they will be viewed and treated, because neither one of them is "normal". Tristan has ADHD, and Mis has a speech impairment. They both love girly things right along with mighty machines, and Mis has a female nickname. So when I saw those little boys voicing their emotions for the camera, and the pain they were experiencing from the pressure to be  masculine, it broke my heart. When I listened to the hateful things that were said about women, and to men comparing them to women, my blood boiled.

I've always considered myself equal to a man. Perhaps it was the way I was raised. Perhaps it is my defiant personality, but there is no way I have ever viewed myself as second class. Even when I was Mormon, and I thought women were to submit to men, I still didn't like it, and I still didn't buy it. So when I see women being mistreated by men, or I see my gender being used as an insult or "motivator" I become very upset.

Recently, I had an interaction where someone said he believed that the phrase "like I girl" was not a bad thing. That it had a place, particularly in sports to help motivate young men to be better. If it were used just on the football field between guys, what was the harm? When I heard that, it was like someone had slapped me across the face with a stinky wet salmon.

WHAT???

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

Once I composed myself and had a moment to think, I realized, this person was just as negatively affected by our society's cling to chauvinism and hypermasculinity as any man who might make that comment.

Here's the thing. The football field is not an isolated place. Sure, if the guys were to stay on the field only interacting with each other, only as men, forever, it would be fine. But wait, then how would the metaphor work? Because women wouldn't be part of their existence! The problem is that the phrase "like a girl" is not only a sports term. It is used widely and in varied instances. The insult remains the same, if you are "like a girl" you are somehow less of a man. As though a woman's gender is a worthy insult to any man who isn't quite masculine enough. Because somehow, women are inferior beings.

I'm sure plenty of men wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and think to themselves, "God, I am so amazing". And the thought process might even go a little something more like "women suck, I'm so glad I'm not a woman or like a woman at all. And today I will be as masculine as I can, and I will probably use a female based phrase to insult my bro, because it is a great motivator if I want him to be a better man like me".

Let's chat about this for a moment. Why is it not okay to use a woman as an insult? Why is it wrong to classify femininity as weak or worse? Let me start off with one simple fact: women are human. We may have two x chromosomes instead of one, but we are part of humanity. Two arms, two legs, two eyes, a stomach, colon, and toes. Studies have indicated time and again that the male and female brain are not so different, and yet the stereotypes of women being less smart, more emotional, less capable remain. The idea that women are for men's pleasure and purpose still permeates our society. The idea that a man is better than a woman is rampant.

Studies have shown men exhibit a wider and more dynamic range of emotions than women. They just portray those emotions as appropriate, and even desirable. Emotions such as anger, rage, jealousy, hate, etc. Those are good and strong emotions. So the fact that men are quantitatively more emotional makes the statement "women are emotional and therefore not well suited for --" you fill in the blank, completely absurd. Perhaps the fact that men are prone to these emotions more than women actually makes them less suitable.

My favorite story from last week surrounded birth control for men. It's not the first time I've read about studies and trials for male birth control, but it was certainly the most ridiculous one I have read. Trials for male injected birth control were ended due to unwanted side effects, such as depression and mood swings. I read that and I just had to laugh. As a woman who wanted to have sex, I had to go on birth control, or risk pregnancy, or abortion. Taking birth control screwed with me mentally and physically. I gained weight, I got acne, I had irregular bleeding, I became depressed, I had horrible anxiety, I lost weight, I had mood swings. It was terrible. But it was the price I had to pay if I wanted to have sex. The label of my birth control said: "do not take if you have a history of breast cancer", which there is a significant history of breast cancer in my family. It also said "may cause blot clot, stroke, bleeding, mood swings, depression, weigh gain, irregular periods, infertility, etc". And all of those things women are simply expected to endure, they are expected to take those risks. It is just part of being a woman. But ask a man to do the same thing? To share the burden of sexuality? Oh hell no! They can't handle it! That, my friends, shows such a despicable privilege towards men in this country, it makes me sick.

And instead of addressing this problem, we perpetuate it! We feed this mentality and make it stronger. Our little boys are expected to grow up to be hard and emotionless men. Young males do not see the problem with gender based insults; they do not see how damaging and discriminatory those remarks are. How they cause men to view women negatively. How they cause women to view themselves negatively. How unequal standards are applied, and men equate women with weakness. How young girls in athletics feel poorly about their performance because they inherently play "like a girl".

We need to do better at educating our children, and we certainly need to do better and breaking down gender segregation. Women are not inferior to men, men are not stronger than women. No gender is better than the other, we are all human. It's time we started acting like it.

I am a girl. I am female. I am strong, capable, able, smart, understanding, kind, vulnerable, witty, imaginative, quick, artistic, compassionate. I am also irritable, agitated, selfish, reclusive. I am all these things and so much more. I'm a mom, I'm a photographer, I'm a student, I'm a wife, I'm a daughter, I'm a sister. I have hopes, I have dreams, I have goals. I have two sons. Two sons that I hope to raise to have some of my qualities and some of their dad's qualities. Two sons I hope will look at women as they look at themselves. Two sons I hope will never say "like a girl" unless they say "smart like a girl," "talented like a girl", "able like a girl". I hope they never address a grown woman as "girl". I hope they never blame a woman's response on being "emotional", I hope they never discount woman's feelings because they think she is "hormonal". I hope they never call a strong woman a "bitch", and I hope they never use a woman's genetalia to insult their friends. I hope they always show respect to men and women. I hope they never view a woman as an object, as something to obtain or control. I hope when they look at women, they remember me. A woman who, with two young children and a husband, started a business, maintained a home, and went back to school. I am not so weak.

But I am a girl. And I am PROUD to be.



Monday, August 1, 2016

Two Legged Creature Will Believe Anything You Tell Them



Religion was created by man.

Religion fabricates sin to generate guilt to establish a need for god in order to gain control and obtain money.

Always be wary of the salesman who tells you that you have a problem and also offers you the solution to that problem. It is a sales tactic, and many people have fallen for it.

*knock knock*

Well, hello sir, ma'am. It has come to my attention that you don't have a security system installed in your home. Did you know there are burglars who will break into your house if you don't have one? I just happen to be selling security systems, the exact kind you will need for your neighborhood, and budget! Just sign here and you can sleep safely tonight.

*knock knock*

Well, hello sir, ma'am. It has come to my attention that you do not have God in your life. Did you know that you are living in sin and will burn in hell for all eternity unless you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? I just happen to have a way for you to be saved, by reading this Bible and being baptized of the Spirit. Just sign here and you can sleep safely for eternity.

Religion began as a simple superstition. A way for mankind to explain the otherwise unexplainable. Why does the sun set? Must be by god's power. Why was there  drought? God must be angry, let us do something to appease him. And as superstition evolved into religion, certain people stepped up to be the mouthpiece of deity. From the Priests of Ra, to the Shaman's of Odin, to the Bishops of Avalon, to the Popes of Jesus, they all began to require something for salvation: money. Tithes and offerings became the ticket into god's kingdom.

But how do you keep people paying? You make them feel like they have no choice. You create sin, which creates guilt, which creates the need to repent, which requires a savior. And you create sin to center around the most basic of human needs so that it is sure to keep happening. For example, much of sin centers around human sexuality, passion, and pleasure.

For Mormons, attending the temple is a central part of the religion. In the temple you save yourself, and you save others by proxy. You can only attend the temple if you are worthy, which means constant repentance. You also can only attend the temple if you are a full tithe payer. Which means, you have to pay to enter. Its disguised as a commandment from god, but it's just as sleazy as if it came from the door to door salesman. But instead of using the threat of burglars, they use the threat of losing your eternal family.

I was taught growing up that mega church's were disrespectful, and not reverent. That large churches with booming music and crazy dancing were not the proper way to worship god. That if we were quiet and reverent we'd be better able to hear god's spirit. That if we were surrounded by beauty and elegance, we'd be reminded of the celestial kingdom.

As I've grown, I've discovered there is no real difference. In the Mormon church, they have large "mega" buildings. Multimillion dollar conference centers and temples with satellite capabilities and giant screens to broadcast to the largest audience possible. They have loud music, just with a slow tempo and conservative feel. The extravagant interior and exterior of the temples is ostentatious and spits upon the message of conservatism and charity. The tactics are a little different, but the message and end results are all the same. You are inherently sinful, you need god to be saved, and god requires your penance and your pennies.



Recently, I saw a men on Facebook, with a heavily laden sheep. It had escaped it's shepherd and therefore had grown over 60lb of wool. The Christian message was that Christ as the good shepherd, would have shorn the sheep, and his burden would have been light. But here's the funny part.....sheep didn't evolve to produce massive amounts of wool. Wild sheep do not need to be shorn. Domesticated sheep have been selectively bred BY MAN to produce wool that needs to be trimmed. For mankind's benefit. In essence, religious followers, or god's sheep, have also been taught to feel the need to be "unburdened". However, without being selectively bred to believe they are burdened with sin, they would never have need to be unburdened. And certainly never by way of paying money to those who say they speak for god.



As Mr. Merriweather explained to a young Jack Crabb in Little Big Man:

"Those stars twinkle in a void there boy and the two legged creature dreams and schemes beneath them, all in vain. Listen to me, a two legged creature will believe anything and the more preposterous the better: whales speak French at the bottom of the sea. The horses of Arabia have silver wings. Pygmies mate with elephants in darkest Africa. I have sold all those propositions."

"Or maybe we're all fools and none of it matters."

Image credits:
http://www.donaldmjones.com/data/photos/2075_1bighorn_sheep03933d.jpg
http://cdn.modernfarmer.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Shrek1.jpg
http://static2.tvbuzer.com/images/episodes/9d/9dc573669505c7dc5cf93380eda4d936-2656788-512-341.jpg
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-31oI9WF1bn8/UgVR31Z2nAI/AAAAAAAAoeo/Cqhl3qFNyQU/s1600/balsam-lbm1.jpg

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dog Poop Cookies


Probably one of the best scenes in Glee is when a vengeful Sue Sylvester hands Coach Beiste a plate of cookies. One whiff and Coach goes, "ugh those smell like dog poop, are those DOG POOP cookies??"

The way my parents taught me about filth in media and other life challenges was by the "dog poop cookie" analogy. The example being, you wouldn't eat a cookie with dog poop in it. You couldn't eat around the dog poop, and you would pick the dog poops out and eat the rest. Most commonly, this referred to movies with bad language, violence, pornographic scenes, etc. You wouldn't watch the edited version (dog poop removed, it still has the essence of poop), you wouldn't bleep out the bad words (eating around the dog poop), and you wouldn't just dive in (devouring the cookies, poop and all).

Gross analogy, right?

But I guess I can respect it, from a certain point of view. If you were to cut the war scenes out of Lord of the Rings, it would still be Lord of the Rings, just much shorter. And it would still have the essence of war.

Lately, however, I've been thinking of this dog poop analogy in a different way. In a religious way. In a Mormon way. Let's pretend the doctrine of the Mormon church is a cookie, and all of the dark parts, paradoxical parts, inconsistent parts, hidden parts, cherry picked parts, are dog poop.

Eww! Suddenly its all very unappetizing. A religion laced with feces. But here's the kicker, they are asking you to eat around the poopy bits. Because hey, there's still some cookie in there, with the brown sugar and butter. It may smell of poop, but if you plug your nose and just pick out the brown spots, you won't even notice.

Just ignore all of Joseph's wives, or his child brides. Don't even think about the Adam-God theory. Forget about the throat slit in the temple ceremony. What was that thing about not eating meat out of season in the word of wisdom again? Oh my goodness, I completely forgot about the Kinderhook plates and the Book of Breathings. And Joseph Smith was a treasure hunter? Yeah, that stuff about Blacks and the priesthood, that's some smelly poop. And women in the eternities, thats a lot of poo if I ever smelled any. And conversion therapy, that's like the wet sticky dog diarrhea you can't get off the bottom of your shoe no matter how many times you drag it through the grass.

The thing is, the church likes to cover this fecal matter up with lovely press conferences and advertisements about charity work and modest clothing campaigns. Wow! Another doctrine just plagued with the poopies, modesty. Beautiful clothes for covering up and continuing female body shaming and rape culture. But it smells good because we add lace to the bottom of cap sleeved shirts. Can't even smell the stink of the doctrine behind it.

Can't smell the stink behind the doctrine of apostasy in regards to LGBTQ members and their children. They smiled while they said it was god's love that inspired the new policy, and made sure to add extra vanilla before baking so the devout members could still choke it down.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one big cookie. One BIG dog poop cookie. And just like my momma said, you can't take the poop out and still have a good cookie. You can't eat around the poop without getting some of it in your mouth. And you certainly would never dream of eating the cookie poop and all, unless someone told you the poop was chocolate and you were conditioned since birth to smell and taste chocolate instead of poop.

And thats the thing. Those of us on the outside, having tasted of the poop and fallen away, now realize how disgusting it was and have been using Listerine ever since. But there's just something about religious poop; you can't digest and expel it so easily. It stays with you, like a recurring nightmare. Like the indigestion from hell.

So before you help yourself to another plate this Sunday, try visiting a bakery to discover what real chocolate smells like. I recommend several great bakeries to get you started:

Mark A. Naugle


Real Life Cookies

2 cups reality
1 cup logic
1 Brain
1 tsp skepticism
1 tbsp education
1/2 cup motivation

Mix together and let sit until it makes sense. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until reasonably sound. Best served warm

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Godly Psychosis


I remember the exact moment my husband crossed the line when it came to my faith. Our son was almost 2, I was pregnant with my second. We had just stepped out of the car in the Walmart parking lot, having been talking about visions and personal revelation, and he said "What if Moses was just schizophrenic?" It made me feel very uncomfortable, that he would talk about a prophet that way. I had visions of bears running out of the trees to eat him like in the Bible.

As time went on, and we had many more discussions about the belief in god being a disorder of the mind (environmentally influenced or not). But it took me several years in fact to get used to the idea of the prophets as fallible men, because in my mind, having grown up LDS, they could do no wrong. I have had the opportunity to shake the hands of many general authorities, and each time I was filled with the "spirit" as well as excitement. I realize now, it was hero worship.

My next memorable experience in discovering the fallible nature of "prophets" was when Elder Russel M. Nelson gave a talk in conference about smashing a watch and putting the pieces in a bag. He said no matter how many times you shook the bag, the pieces would never form a watch again. I hated that talk because it was so mind-numbingly ignorant, even I, an uneducated woman, couldn't stand it.

The following experience was when Elder Boyd K. Packer gave a talk about homosexuality, he said it was a choice because God would never create a gay person. I was very happy when, the next day, they had to release a statement revoking what was said in the talk, and officially change the text for online and magazine publication.

As I began to separate myself from the church, I became more comfortable with the idea that it was wrong. That the leaders were wrong. That it wasn't a church of a divine being, but a church of humans. For humans by humans. But mostly for the taking of money. The church doesn't do anything special, anything that any other religious or humanitarian groups wouldn'y do. Or any business for that matter. Even Walmart donates to charities, and offers scholarships for academic achievements. Even the Catholic church takes care of its own. Even local law enforcement participates in humanitarian aid. It's not anything special, it doesn't set them apart in anyway. In fact, most would argue any decent human being would do the same. And that is what any human being should do.

In a recent statement, the church indicated that it spends $40 million on welfare, humanitarian aid and other charitable efforts per year (previously had indicated this number was $20 million). This would be around $2.60 per member (15 million as indicated by church statistics). This same church also spent $40,000 last year on the light display at temple square. It spent $1.6 billion on the construction of City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake. It spent $350 million on building the Conference Center. With church encouragement, members donated nearly $1.7 million towards the promotion of Prop 8. A typical temple, even in a third world country, costs around $25 million or more to construct, and they have been building at least 2 a year for the last 18 years. And these buildings are tax exempt. I might make the comparison to large mega churches, with collection baskets and booming music. While it is just as easy to broadcast messages over the internet from a small office, or to meet together in a member's living room, construction of these large scale and very expensive buildings goes on.

So why are members so willing to overlook this very obvious discrepancy in church finances?

There is a distinct patriarchy in the LDS church. Men are granted authority to govern bodies of members, to preside over their wives and children, to bless and assign callings, to maintain church finances. Women, are otherwise encouraged to become wives and mothers. There is a popular document called The Proclamation to the World, that they happily give you upon your marriage, that outlines the roles of men and women. While women are heralded as mothers and placed on a lofty pedestal of divine godliness, they are kept out of church financial, business, and authority positions. The are taught to respect men, they are taught to stay modest for the sake of men, they are taught to stay home with children while men work, they are encouraged to go to school and incur debt, but to ultimately forsake a career for childrearing. They are then lacking female deity in the doctrine, female angels in the scriptures, and female priesthood in their daily commitments to church.

So why are female members willing to overlook this blatant chauvinism in church doctrine?

While the church professes to be a lover of mankind, and all are welcome, they have spent an enormous effort in the last 20 years and more combating the "gay agenda". There have been millions of dollars spent on campaigns to keep the definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Countless hours have been spent teaching the youth that homosexuality is abnormal, and an abomination in the eyes of god. Conversion therapy was common in helping gay members get rid of their homosexuality, which included physical and emotional abuse, electroshock therapy, and sexual humiliation. Utah has reached a jaw dropping number of teen suicides since the declaration that homosexuality is apostasy. Since declaring the children of same sex unions are not welcome for baptism or other so called saving ordinances, unless they disavow their parents in writing and petition the first presidency for membership.

So why do any LGBTQ members still associate with a church that clearly does not want them there?

My idea is that a belief in god can reach the point of mental psychosis, a mental health disorder that members simply cannot overcome on their own.

Psychosis is defined as a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.

This is especially true for religious persons when the delusion is fed and nurtured on a daily basis, as is demanded of LDS members. Especially when the belief in deity is so normal for our society. When  most everyone you talk to believes in a god or afterlife of some kind. But the overwhelming systemic problem of religion affects more than the individual who believes in god. If affects those who believe in a different god or no god at all. It threatens personal liberty, psychological wellbeing, and societal harmony.

A belief in god makes a person more likely to experience anxiety, paranoia, obsession, self deprecating thoughts, and hallucinations (commonly known as visions or revelation). No need for statistics here, anyone who knows any religious person knows a few fundamental things. I myself, having lived the life of an LDS woman, experienced these things first hand. They claim to speak to god (prayer) and that they hear god's voice or feel the spirit. They engage in obsessive compulsive actions like rituals, scripture reading, confessions, and prayer. They have self deprecating thoughts because of the notion of sin and personal worthiness. They experience paranoia, thinking they will lose their religious rights or that the world is out to harm them. They are more likely to experience anxiety and depression due to the self deprecating thoughts and guilt brought on by religious teachings. And they are obsessed with being right, and spreading god's word. They are obsessed with everyone believing what they believe, because they believe they are called of god to teach his word. And some even experience visions, or hallucinations.

Recent statistical surveys confirm that Utah, comprised mostly of members of the LDS church, is among the highest ranked in suicide, narcotic abuse, and prescription SSRI and anti-anxiety medication in the nation.  It is estimated that in the last 5 years, there have been over 170 suicides from ages 10-19 in Utah, with a staggering increase in the last year. It is estimated that in  the last several years, 40% of adults in Utah have been prescribed opioid pain medication, and 60% of drug overdose death was related to oxycodone, a prescription narcotic. Strange statistics for a state that is largely Mormon in its theology.

Whether it be large scale and affects groups or people, or personal and dictates which house they should buy. They all experience a delusion of some kind brought on by a belief in god.

This brings us back to that statement my husband made several years ago, what if Moses was just schizophrenic? What if the prophets suffered from mania? Or bipolar disorder? Or what if they were just excellent conmen, and figured out a belief in god by an already superstitious species, made for excellent control and the gaining of wealth?

The bottom line is, some members are just so engulfed in the psychosis of believing in  god, they can't think for themselves. They rely on leadership to tell them how to live their lives, and how to spend their money. They rely on prayer and feelings to tell them what job to get or which house to buy, or which person to marry. They rely on thinking they are feeling something, and then in turn they may rely on someone else to interpret those feelings for them.

An abstract example: Pray and you will feel god's love.
                      1. I feel peaceful
                      That is god's love.
                      2. I feel excited.
                      That is god's love.
Two weeks later you discover you have terminal cancer. You are then made to understand this to be a trial showcasing god's love for you, and it was part of his plan all along.
A practical example: Pray to know which job to take.
                      1. I'm unsure, I didn't get an answer
                      Make a choice, an pray again.
                      I felt good when I prayed about the job in Washington
                      God wants you to take that job.
Upon moving to Washington, you discover the job is terrible, you are mistreated and then your house catches fire. You think, oh no, you probably didn't hear god right and made the wrong choice.

In the first instance, you are told to interpret a feeling a certain way. You are then told to interpret a life experience, even a bad one, as part of god's plan and love. In the second instance, you are told to make a choice and see if you feel good about it. And then when it doesn't work out, god is not to blame, but you are.

The belief in god disconnects people from reality. It keeps them from understanding the world around them in logical and realistic terms. They interact with reality based on feelings rather than facts. If something feels good, or looks nice, it is of god. If it rubs them the wrong way or makes them uncomfortable, it is not of god. They begin to deny actual evidence in favor of anecdotes. They work hard against science and progress, while at the same time enjoying the benefits of things like modern technology, modern society, modern medicine, etc. They take a book compiled of scrolls, chosen by Constantine, translated and retranslated, as the literal word of god. They listen to those who say they speak as the mouth of God. The pay for their salvation. They ignore facts, they ignore sound advice, they ignore reason, in favor or feelings.

The biggest problem is those who believe in god believe there is no problem. They are trapped in a delusion they believe is reality, like John Nash seeing his alternate personalities believed they were real. Only he was able to recognize there was a problem, and he made an effort to fix it. A person who believes in god may not want to see it as a problem, they see it as reality. There is no way god couldn't possibly exists. Everything in life points to god and his plan, from a beautiful sunset, to terminal cancer, to mass shootings. And when people begin to make decisions based on feelings, the world becomes a dangerous place.

A person can feel god is speaking to them, feel god wants them to kill another person, and feel perfectly justified in carrying out god's will. A whole group of people can believe god hates homosexuality, and work tirelessly to effect legislation that demeans LGBTQ individuals by claiming they are perversions of god's plan and do not deserve similar rights as heterosexual people. One man can feel he is god's mouthpiece, tout hallucinations as visions from god, and recruit others to follow his delusions.

The belief in god can be okay on a personal level, and create harmony and order, but ultimately, it is a very ugly perversion of reality. Its like a belief in Santa Claus, that no matter how much evidence is presented that there are no workshops at the north pole and reindeer are physically incapable of flying, you still believe the workshops are invisible and that fairy dust can make reindeer fly. Its magical for children, but impractical for adults.

Perhaps in our earliest days, as a young species trying to figure out the world around us, a belief in god was appropriate. Like a children, a belief in Santa is appropriate. But our species has grown up. We have more capable faculties, we understand more, we've discovered more. We've outgrown the idea of god. We no longer need it to function. We know how the sun rises. We know why the stars shine. We know where babies come from. We know why plants grow. We know how humans came into existence. We understand these things, we don't need god fairytales to fill in the gaps anymore. Its as though humanity clings to god like a child clings to their security blanket. Like we just can't let go for some reason.

Maybe its because reality is actually scary. And a belief in god is comforting. And absolves us from responsibility. Its much easier to rely on a supposedly all powerful being than yourself. But again, I think humanity is in a place now where we can take responsibility. Where we can stop using the idea of god as a scapegoat. Where we can work to resolve humanity's problems on our own, and stop fighting about who's belief is best. If we get rid of religion, and rely on what we can logically and objectively understand about reality, and the world will be a better place.

In the words of John Lennon "You may say I am a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. And some day I hope you will join me, and the world will be as one".


Photo credit: http://cdn2-b.examiner.com/sites/default/files/styles/image_content_width/hash/9d/32/9d324ae93c4735532a6dcf787ab55a02.jpg?itok=M4zvIZRo
http://www.health.utah.gov/vipp/topics/prescription-drug-overdoses/
http://www.standard.net/Preventing-Teen-Suicide/2015/02/14/Too-many-young-lives-lost-to-suicide-Utah-ranks-fifth-in-nation
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LDS_Conference_Center
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Creek_Center

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cyber Bully

http://img01.deviantart.net/488c/i/2012/267/3/6/cyberbullying_by_cyberbubble99-d5fsyrv.png
No one gets online thinking they are going to learn something. We all approach social media with the same attitude, share our opinion and damn the rest of the world.

I admit, I am guilty.

But where I don't fall short is in attacking people, that is, making character attacks. I don't attack people (unless relentlessly provoked), I attack ideas, organizations and systemic problems. Hey, I'm imperfect, I slip up. But I really have no desire to attack people, because that takes away from what I want to actually address. I believe people are good for the most part, but are blinded and misguided by bad ideas.

A good example for me is the Mormon church. It has lovely members. Wonderful people who genuinely are trying their best. I think they are horribly misguided, and taken advantage of. And I'd love to see that change. So I challenge the ideology. The problem is, Mormon's can't separate themselves from their ideas. It becomes personal, they think I am making an attack on them. Its very hard to speak to someone about ideas when they can't separate themselves from their ideas. I ran into this problem trying to speak to people about racism, and colorblindness. The minute I said we had a systemic racial bias towards whites, everyone became upset and thought I was calling them racist. If they did a little reading, they'd probably realize that they were. But it wasn't my goal to pronounce them as racist. Merely bring to light that the ideas they were sharing (All Lives Matter) are racist. And white normative. And colorblind.

For the past few days, I have been dealing with a cyber bully. I'd never met this person, I had no idea who they were. I had no idea how they found me for that matter. I just figured it was someone who had found my blog somehow and taken issue with it. Until they started making personal comments about my husband and our relationship. When I asked if he might know who this person was, he knew immediately, and said they had had a bad interaction a while back over an article published b y the university about atheists and agnostics. He sent me to her Facebook page, so I messaged her to let her know her behavior was inappropriate. She accused me of stalking and blocked me. Interesting because she would have had to do considerable digging to discover who I am, because my husband and I weren't even linked on Facebook at the time. Which means she's a very good stalker.

I understand her behavior is completely inappropriate, and only reflects her own insecurities on the subjects she wanted to attack. However, it still was unsettling. People who have no fear of consequences, for example interacting through a computer screen, become their worst self. They have no fear of harming another person, because they can't see them. This woman took my blog to heart, took my attack on ideas personally, sought vengeance for a bad interaction with my husband, and took  the opportunity to make character attacks at me, someone she had never before met. She  mocked my relationship with my husband, my relationship with myself, my intelligence and my integrity. She compared me to a 4 year old, and kept daring me to say something intelligent. I understand she was behaving like a child, but it still upset me. My blogs are important to me, because I feel like I have a responsibility to share what I understand about religion, racism, feminism and tolerance. I feel I have a moral obligation to discuss these things, and I don't do it lightly. I research and reflect extensively before I write anything.

Again, cyber bullies have no fear of retribution. They are throwing poop at a computer screen, an inanimate object, so they forget the person on the other end is human. I hate to admit that she got to me, but she did. I struggle with my own self worth as a post Mormon woman, as evident by the blogs I write. I struggle with my intelligence, having been told I'm not that smart for years. I struggle learning new things because I don't feel like I am able to. So when I can begin to understand something new, it is a great achievement for me. Not saying she ruined my progress, but she had no idea my history or background. I am still very proud of myself for overcoming the bullying I'd faced in the past regarding my intelligence, and my working hard to keep learning new things. Even when it scared me. Even when it turned my world view on its head. Even when I didn't want to learn it.

She mocked my relationship with my husband. Saying I only did what he told me to. That I did what he did and I couldn't think for myself. Again, this woman knows nothing about me, or our relationship. Or the struggles I faced as I tried so hard to prove my husband wrong about the church.  She had no idea the struggles I faced in regards to patriarchy. How I'd always hated it. How it made me uncomfortable. How many conversations my husband and I have had about how patriarchy is wrong. She didn't know that, and so she made comments about my character in regards to patriarchy that simply aren't true. Again, I think this may have to do with her own insecurities on the matter, but it doesn't take away from the fact that she felt it was okay to dump her insecurities on me.

I don't believe in bullying. I don't believe in calling other people stupid just because you don't agree with them. I think its wrong, probably because of how I was raised. I can think someone is an idiot, I can t think a whole group of people are idiots, but I'm not going to tell them just because I can. I aways try to discuss ideas. Because I want people to learn, and I want them to understand what I understand. That is why I am so passionate about what I write. Anyone who knows me and Nick know that we are very seldom in total agreement. That we have our challenges as any marriage. Anyone who knows us knows that we are distinct individuals who struggle to come to the same decision. Anyone who knows us knows the struggle and heartache leaving the church brought upon us, the strain it brought on our marriage. Anyone who knows us knows how strong willed we are, and how we have to work to think as a team. But I think that is true of any good marriage. A woman shouldn't do what her husband says just because he says it. And she shouldn't subscribe to patriarchy because it is wrong. What Nick and I have is healthy, what women have in the church is unhealthy. Recognize here I am not attacking people, I am attacking ideas and ideology. It is not healthy for a woman to think she should defer to her husband, and it is not healthy for a man to think he has dominion over her, righteous or not. A marriage like mine, where we have to work to be cohesive in our ideas and our wants, is healthy. Because we remain individuals. 

Perhaps it's that I'm honest to a fault that I can't stand people saying things about me that aren't true. I don't lie. So expect others not to lie. I do not appreciate being misrepresented. I do think for myself, and when she said I only thought what my husband told me to, and didn't make my own decisions, it opened some deep rooted wounds I have from being a feminist in an antifeminist religion. It was traumatizing for me, and I still have deep feelings of hurt from what I was told and how women are abused with misogyny in the temples.

If you feel you must speak to someone because you don't agree with them, remember, you don't agree with their ideas. We're all human, and we have feelings. If we only separate ourselves from our ideas for a moment, we can look at them critically and have meaningful conversations that will help both parties see the world differently. Don't fall into the trap of being a cyber bully making character attacks. Its easy. There is no guilt interacting with a computer screen. But always remember there is someone on the other end. If you find you are reading something you don't like, no harm or foul if you stop and don't go back to it. Move on with your life. If you know you are right, nothing is going to compromise that. Unless you are wrong, then perhaps try to figure out why. You can voice your opinion in healthy ways, without bringing another person down. Example: I don't agree with Mormism, I think it is detrimental to female members. NOT Sally is a Mormon, and she is stupid for subscribing to its tenets. 

But don't be a cyber bully. Don't let your own insecurities dictate how you interact with people. Don't seek people out who don't agree with you because you want to be confrontational and harmful. Work within your own realm to affect change. That is what I have done with my blog. Small as it is, and insignificant as it is, I still hope I will be able to reach someone. Because I wish someone had been able to reach me when I first started doubting.

I just have to remind myself, I am not in the wrong. She sought me out. She began engaging me. She became agitated and confrontational when I removed her comments from my blog. It is my right, this is my blog, my intellectual property, and she has no right to say what I can or cannot post. She has no authority. She is in the wrong for seeking me out to harass me based on my atheist views, and continuing to harass me even after I asked her to stop. This is religious intolerance at its finest.

If you find yourself the object of bullying or harassment on the grounds of race, religion or sexual preference, seek help immediately.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

If You are Against Abortion, You Endorse Male Privilege




Let me preface by saying my title is an opinion. It is my opinion. And I will try and persuade you that it is a good opinion. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are against abortion who are actually very intelligent feminists. But I still believe they are idiots.

In order to never, or hopefully never, be faced with the decision to abort a child, I underwent voluntary sterilization. That's right, I got my tubes tied. Well, to be more specific, burned to pieces. Because while I am in favor of abortion, I don't know if I could go through it myself. Which also  helps me to understand what a difficult decision it is for women who face it. I am still struggling to come to terms with my inability to reproduce, and I've gone through a sort of mourning, but I'm glad I will probably never have to think about abortion. You see, I probably shouldn't have have two babies to begin with, having a swallowing disorder, below average sized pelvis, and short stature. Both of my pregnancies ended with complications, and both of my children suffered physical deformities. I love them more than anything, but my selfish choice to be a mother brought them unnecessary suffering, even as limitedly sentient new infants, it was still painful for them.

I'm sorry ladies, existence shat on us. We evolved to bear the burden of sexuality. For hundreds of thousands of years, women have become pregnant, more often than not forcefully, born a child, nursed and weaned that child, and then have done it again. A man has no obligation or responsibility once the sperm leaves his body. Ethically, morally maybe, but biologically, he is not required at all. His part is played. And a woman's is just beginning.

Women have been effectively enslaved by men's sexuality. And when brute force was no longer enough, religion took over. After sex a man can walk away scott free. A women is one of a few things : pregnant, emotionally traumatized, physically traumatized, ready to go again. Pregnant means a choice, abortion or 18 year commitment. Emotionally or physically traumatized refers to rape and abuse. And ready to go again means consensual and probably protection and/or birth control used.

Again, men can just walk away. I'm not saying men do not suffer from abuse, they certainly can and are abused sexually. But the result for them is never a pregnancy. Maybe STDs or PTSD, but never pregnancy. They just are biologically incapable of growing a baby within their body. I think that is common knowledge though, so we'll move on.

Evolution has also selected for larger males and smaller females. Humans are not the only animals with this gender dynamic. We see is across the great apes and many other animal species. Sometimes the males stick with their female or harem of females to help rear and care for offspring, and sometimes they are no where to be found. Elephants, for example, are matriarchal, and have family groups of females and offspring while males rove. Lions have harems, but still the females typically raise the offspring. Geese, have mated pairs and both parents care for their offspring equally, both males and females incubating the eggs once lain.

Humans, well, we started out very much like great apes. With hunting/gathering males bringing in resources for harems of females caring for offspring. We created societies in part to help care for offspring, which gave males more responsibility past donating sperm, consensually or not. We created morals to dictate what was ethical in terms of child care, which included males being present during the rearing of their offspring. However, this did not alleviate the biological burden for women in anyway. Women still bore and nursed the baby. And a man could, and would, walk away.

Abortion, the termination of pregnancy, is not a new concept. In fact, women have been receiving abortions for thousands of years. Safely? Not really, but yes, abortion has been around.

Abortion is a threat to male superiority. It takes away a man's ability to effectively impregnate a female and see that pregnancy to fruition. It takes away his control over the female body. It removes his authority over female sexuality. And that makes men scared.

Let's be honest, we are biologically programmed to value our own existence. We are biologically programmed to value human life above all other life. We are biologically driven to reproduce, because a species can only continue if offspring are produced. That is intuitive. But, do we really need to be slaves to our biology? And women, do we really need to be slaves to male sexuality?

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the research and production of female birth control. However, we aren't we pursuing male birth control just as vigorously. Why? There isn't enough interest to pursue the research. And, oddly enough, many research companies say it is because there just isn't enough money. Why? Because even in protection, women bear the burden. If a woman becomes pregnant, and it is unwanted, it is typically her fault. She should have been more careful, she should have been on something, she shouldn't have been messing around, its her responsibility now. And men? Probably should have worn a condom. But no big deal, its not like he's going to get pregnant.

A man has no obligation or responsibility in a pregnancy. He should, but the focus is on the woman. She is a horrible person for considering abortion. She is irresponsible, and that's how she got pregnant. She just wants to have sex without consequences, that is why she is considering abortion. Even in cases of rape, a woman is more often than not told to carry the child and either raise it, or give it up for adoption. Even if she has been abused, she would be considered a terrible human being for thinking to abort.

This is in part thanks to a little something called religion. Humans are a funny species. Very arrogant too. We think we are from divine origins, and therefore have dominion over the entire planet and everything on it. We think our lives are more sacred than any other animal, and have an insane need to preserve our own species. To a point, right? We are perfectly okay exterminating anyone who doesn't agree with us, but we have to preserve the unborn conceived of rape.

Why? Why are humans so hellbent on absolving abortion? We have effectively conquered the entire planet. Raped the natural world. Expended almost all of our fossil fuels and resources. Driven hundreds of thousands of species to extinction. We happily slaughter animals for our clothing and consumption, but won't bat an eye at a child naked and starving in the street. But oh ho ho, we will picket and protest outside of Planned Parenthood.

Men and religion have enslaved women, and it needs to stop. Women have a right to their own body, and this includes a decision to bear a child or not. Of course, none of us would be here were it not for our mother's sacrificing their bodies. But if we didn't exist, we wouldn't know the difference. I believe we have a moral obligation to endorse abortion and make it save and available to any woman who desires to have one. Our planet is over populated as it is, take religious morals out of the equation and begin to understand we have a responsibility to limit and control our population growth. We have, maybe, 100 years left of fossil fuels. We have maybe 100 years left of resources to sustain, poorly, our current rate of population expansion. Wars will be fought over food. More and more children are going to die in infancy. More and more mothers are going to watch their babies starve.

So prochoice aside, I honestly think we have a moral obligation to endorse birth control, abortion and sterilization.

Back to men enslaving women. Abortion is a threat to our current way of life, a chauvinistic way of life. Where men are the primary breadwinners and women are still encouraged to stay home and raise children. Where a teen mother is mocked in the halls for her bad choices and no one even thinks about the teen father. Where a girl impregnated by her abusive father is encouraged and counseled to carry her child to term. Where women suffering from miscarriage are turned away from medical intervention on religious grounds. Where a woman who is not prepared for the financial or emotional burden of raising a child is mocked and harassed as she walks from her car to the clinic door. Where a woman is blamed, and a man is applauded.

Its wrong. It needs to stop. Bottom line, men's control over women would be turned on its head if we embraced abortion. Patriarchy would die. Sexuality would finally start to be more of a shared burden. With less placed on the woman's shoulders. Women would finally be able to be in control of their own bodies the way men are. We do not say men have an obligation to raise their children, but we do say a woman has an obligation to carry a pregnancy to term.

I do however, have a solution. If abortion cannot be accepted, we should implement this practice. The father of any pregnancy that would have resulted in an abortion should be castrated. This removes his ability to create more unwanted pregnancies and ensures he has no control over his body or his own sexuality. And as a castrated male, he will be more able to care for the child that would have been aborted because he will be unable to create more offspring to be responsible for.

I also propose that we stop research and development on female birth control immediately, and divert all dollars and time to the research and development of male birth control. While a woman can only become pregnant with one man's offspring at a time, a man can effectively father as many babies as he can ejaculate. It makes more sense that his sexuality and his propagation be controlled.

Further more, birth control, abortion and sterilization should be made available and affordable to anyone who wants them. And get rid of the 30 day waiting period for female sterilization, because it does not exist for men. Yet another evidence of male privilege.

It's time to stop being so egotistical human race. It's time to stop being so selfish. It's time to stop being so naive. It's time to stop being so misogynistic and chauvinistic in our moral and ethical codes. We're not anything special. We just were more successful than any other species. But that doesn't make us divine. Or give us an inherent right to life. It certainly does not give men power, or dump  the burden of passion on women. Take some responsibility men, and women, stand up for the right to govern your own body.

Do you have to like abortion? No. Do you have to get one? No. But does that mean you get to keep others from receiving one? Absolutely not. Your ideology should not be imposed on others. The practice of abortion is voluntary. Making it legal and affordable does not force you to have one. It does not change what you believe. But making it illegal does harm those who would need or want to receive one. And you continue to have privilege over them. And that is wrong. Your religion, your ideas, your insecurities, do not trump another person's. Their abortion does not harm you in any way. It does not affect you, your ability to work, your ability to interact, earn money, raise children, have sex, or be happy. But you saying they cannon have an abortion, or they are a bad person if they do, does harm them. Wake up.


***I would like to take a moment to thank all of the wonderful men who father children. Who are monogamous partners and try to be involved in every aspect of their child's life. Fatherhood is just as important as motherhood. I do hope you realize that is not my argument here. My argument is that women have been at the mercy of men's and their passion, and that the biological burden of reproduction is on the woman. I would like to see this change. And I would like to continue to see men like you caring for and rearing offspring in virtually every way a woman can.**

Sunday, July 3, 2016

As Most Conversations Go

My mother said something to me during a conversation recently. She asked if I was hoping she'd agree with her. I had originally said, I was just wanted to share with her how I feel, and what I think. But thinking about it, I realized she was right. I wanted her to agree with me. I want everyone to agree with me. That's why I keep sharing my thoughts. I am hoping for someone to go, "hey, she's onto something there".

But the more I discuss my thoughts with members of the faith I left, the more I realize its a losing battle. No matter how much evidence I produce, no matter how many reasons I give, no matter how much I just want to slap people across the face and say "WAKE UP!" its never going to happen. Why? Because that's not how it happened for me.

A friend of mine recently posted on her Facebook a gushing status update about getting to serve Jeffrey Holland. Just 5 years ago, I might have gushed right back, thinking she was the luckiest girl on the planet. She got to meet an apostle! No hero worship there..... but reading it now, it just made me sad. And if I'm honest, angry. I hold a lot of contempt for that man.

When my husband was going through his crisis of faith back in 2012/2013, I reached out for help where ever I could find it. I contacted his mission president, a general authority to ask for advice. There wasn't really any given. And then in a moment of insanity, I thought god gave me the impression to ask to meet Elder Holland. After all, he was Nick's favorite, and had recently given a talk about doubting your doubts before your faith. If anyone could bring my husband back from apostasy, it was him.

And I was told he was too busy. I said, if even for a moment, or a phone call, or letter, something to show Nick he was loved and his questions had answers. But no, they were too busy.

Of course they were busy, they were god's chosen apostles. Oh the excuses I made. Oh the lies I told myself. Oh how I fought the evidence with, I just know. Or that's not what my testimony is built on. Or I've felt it. Or I can't deny my Savior.  So. Much. Brainwashing.

Its been insinuated to me several times that I am an ungrateful person because I have spit on what I was taught from youth. That my parents taught me the gospel, and so I am showing contempt for their love by betraying how they taught me to live. Statements like "you were taught this as a child" or "you know what you were taught" or "this is how you were raised" or "you should no better because you were raised better". Had I been taught to hate different races from my childhood, of course I would have cast that teaching aside. It wouldn't have spit on my parents love or legacy to discard a teaching I feel is wrong. Thankfully, my parents never taught me that, but they did teach me about god and jesus christ. And I find those two ideas very harmful.

Its been insinuated to me that I am a bad person because I no longer believe in an afterlife. And it comes with a shock to some people when they find out. "You mean, you believe that when your dad dies, that he isn't going to exist?" Its always something personal, and very disheartening. I say I don't think life has inherent meaning and that I don't think consciousness continues, and that somehow makes me worse of a human being. And the accusations are loaded with guilt, and I feel terrible. I'm not a bad person for thinking life ends at death. Nor am I a pessimist. I'm just living within the reality I can observe, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I don't think there is anything wrong with believing in an afterlife. Its a beautiful idea. My family who died before I lost my faith exist in a kind of limbo for me. Because I believed in heaven when they died, I still think of them there, even though I believe it isn't real. I am worried for those I will lose in the future, and when someone reminds me I don't believe in an afterlife, as sort of a jab or insult, I'm afraid. Afraid of the future, afraid of my feelings, afraid of my reaction. I don't know what it will be. Again, the idea of an afterlife if beautiful, and I can hope for it. But I don't think it is likely.

Believing in life after death is not the same as believing in deity. I would be happy to think consciousness continues after we die, but I'm not happy to think its because of a god, or that a god is in charge. Because I have learned too much of the concept of god to ever be in favor of one. Or to even think one exists. Is it possible a more powerful being exists somewhere out there in this endless universe? Of course. Is it probably that it is a personal god who decides our eternal fate based on his manic whims? Yeah, probably not. As a Mormon, my education about deity was limited to the Mormon view. I didn't learn about the other millions of gods in existence. Over 4 million to be exact. And all of them different, with different laws, different ways to achieve salvation. And most of them in direct conflict with each other. And all of them based on geography. You believe in what the people of your region believe. Sure there are pockets of different religions in other places, but its a small world now, we have technology to travel and communicate ideas. So that is not surprising.

But my conversations about religion always end the same. It ends with frustration, and with the bearing of testimony. Which always comes with pity. Maybe not always intended, but it is pity. Pity that I don't believe, and thats somehow a shame. Pity that I can't understand faith, which I actually do. Pity that I don't care about what I was given, which always makes me feel terrible. And hope that I will return to the fold. Which I will never do.

You know how the conversation ends for me? Sadness that they can't see what I see. Frustration that no matter what I present, they always trump it with faith. Horror that they can reconcile suffering and pain with god's plan. Anger that they think they are better because they have god. Disgust because they think they know more than me. And confusion, because they think the world is out to get them. Mormons have a martyr complex, everything is against them no matter what, and they expect it and welcome it, because it somehow affirms their faith. If you think about it, that was a good plan actually, because every opposition they face will only make their faith stronger. You think I'm wrong?  That only proves I'm right! Or even better, you think God doesn't exist? That only proves Satan exists and he has seduced you! Its such a horrible mentality because it makes communication impossible.

Like I said, you can't argue with someone who has a testimony as their go to trump argument. You can show them how they are wrong, and their response will be "I know the church is true, I've felt God's love, my testimony isn't based on church history, and I know God loves you". Ugh, I hate that last one. "God loves you". I hate hate hate it. Its like, there there you poor child, let me pat you on the head. Its so passive aggressive and such a cop out argument. "God loves you". And very offensive. I've just told you I don't believe in god, given substantial evidence to support my reason, and you still end by saying, don't worry, I know God loves you.

If I could have one conversation with a Mormon friend or family member that ended with, "wow, I never thought about that. Could you tell me more?" I would probably pass out. Its never happened, and I doubt it will. They already know everything, because they don't need to know everything. That attitude disgusts me. It creates complacency and contempt for modern knowledge. They want to keep living in a cave thinking they know more than the rest of the world. And don't ever say you know more than them, it makes them go crazy. Or tell them they aren't understanding you, it shuts them down immediately. I've yet to learn an effective way to communicate my thoughts on religion to the people who matter to me. And I feel like I fail every time because we walk away in disagreement. If I could communicate my ideas better, I don't see how they couldn't agree with me. Its so painfully obvious to me, and to so many others. And its so painful to watch the people I love be taken advantage of because they want to believe, and they do believe, and their hearts are good which makes them easy targets for ecclesiastical charlatans.

My life is not easier for leaving religion. Its not objectively better. In many ways its worse, in many ways I'm happier. But I don't necessarily care about that. I care about truth, and being lied to. If life is hat it is, I have no say in it. I can't alter reality. But I can live with what I understand existence to be, because I'd rather know whats going on than think something that isn't real. Its nice to believe in unicorns, and leprechauns and fairies, but would it really help me?