Chapter 14: Is Christianity the Cause of Dangerous Sexual Repression

Short answer: yes.

Before I give you the long answer, I must ask you to consider whether you want to continue reading, as this chapters contains one of the most emetic rape apologism I’ve encountered in awhile. At the very least, find a sturdy chair and a bucket. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The chapter starts off innocuously enough.

Pg. 185 God is pro sex!…Are the new atheists correct? Have religious views of sex been a source of repression and harm?

Most people, when faced with the accusation that their worldview has been the source of harm in a particular area, would probably attempt to show that their worldview has nothing to do with that harm.

The last thing you would expect the author to do after this point would be to, oh, I don’t know, give a stunning example of how his religious view of sex has led him to the conclusion that a profound evil like rape isn’t that big a deal. Despite my many attempts to actually summarize the comparison, I have failed, so you’ll just have to see for yourself:

Is it absurd to think that a creator would even care what we do with our bodies? Isn’t sex just a recreational activity?

Get ready. We’re about to make a weird leap from consensual sex to rape, a leap only comprehensible in a worldview where sex is something men do to women. The unstated logic of the following paragraph is that if women are upset by being raped, it’s mostly because it was premarital rape.

Page 186: In Smart Sex, Dr. Jennifer Morse…looks closely at the phenomenon of date rape on campus, which an rightly be considered a crisis. According to Morse, it’s a puzzle why date rape should be such a big deal. When people go on dates, they frequently find themselves participating in many activities they don’t particularly want to do. Why is it a crisis, she asks, to get forced into sex, but not a crisis to get forced into eating Chinese food when you really wanted Mexican?

Does it even need to be said? If someone is forcibly cramming food down your throat, that’s also a violent assault. But I suspect the author is using an idiosyncratic definition of the word “forced.”

Violating the first rule of holes (when you’re in one, stop digging), the author proceeds:

Why aren’t there “basketball game date crisis centers” for students to visit after being dragged to a basketball game they didn’t want to attend?

If you are literally dragged to a place against your will, you were kidnapped. In that case, there actually are “basketball game date crisis centers:” they’re colloquially known as “police stations.”

Raising this absurd comparison between unwanted sexual activity and other kinds of activities – such as eating chinese food and going to a basketball game – shows there really is something unique about sex.

The comparison is only absurd if you think: A)being kidnapped and literally forced to eat Chinese food wouldn’t be a big deal (to which I say: bullshit), or B) being sexually battered and enthusiastically participating in sexual activity are not that different. B), as I said above, only makes sense if sex is something men do to women, and that a woman’s opinion about the whole thing doesn’t really matter much in determining whether her experience was traumatic.

The author’s religiously-inculcated sexual repression has caused him to fail to see the distinction between sex and rape. Forcing a woman to have sex is the same as ordering Chinese instead of Mexican. It may not be her preference, but she’ll get over it.

The whole premise of the sexual revolution (which the New Atheists heartily embrace) is that sex is just another recreational activity. But the proliferation of date rape crisis centers deeply undermines this assumption.

First, they aren’t date rape crisis centers. They’re rape crisis centers. Second, and more frighteningly, this dude really does not see a difference between sex and rape. If sex is just another recreational activity, why can’t I penetrate you whenever I want?

If I ever see Kerby Anderson, the author of the chapter, coming my way, I’m crossing the street. If I see him in a bar, I’m watching my drink.

He quotes Morris, another disturbed individual, saying:

Either sex is a big deal, or it isn’t. If it is really no big deal, then “unwanted sexual activity” shouldn’t be particularly traumatic. Colleges ought to save themselves some money, shut down the date rape crisis centers, and tell co-eds to get over it.

Those scarequotes around unwanted sexual activity are truly scary. Again, and again, and again, this book proves that the contributors, editors, and publishers do not understand the difference between sex and rape.

They use this failure to grasp such an obvious difference to argue that religion can’t be the cause of sexual repression so dangerous it causes the adherents to fail to grasp the difference between consensual sexual activity and violent battery.

I hate to be patronizing, but it must be said: saying if you like sex, you shouldn’t mind rape, is like saying if you like hugs, you shouldn’t mind being tackled. It’s like saying if you like regular dental checkups, you shouldn’t mind if I pull your teeth out with pliers. It’s like saying, if you’d donate a kidney to your sister, why the hell are you upset you woke up in a bathtub of ice?

The New Atheists embrace sexual equality for women, which means both no means no, and yes means yes. Christians, at least these Christians, reject the idea that women have the right to have or not have sex when they choose. Sex is when men penetrate women – their opinion is largely irrelevant – and only the man who buys a woman from her father has the right to do that.

Make no mistake: these are evil, evil people, who deserve nothing but contempt and scorn for perpetuating these attitudes.

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Man goes on shooting rampage, murdering wife, her coworkers, and random salon patrons

Prosecutor recounts Calif. salon massacre.

So this dude, Scott Dekraai walks into a salon, methodically murders eight people, injures another, kills a man in the parking lot for good measure, then takes off. Prosecutors, to their credit, are seeking the death penalty. I for one would be ecstatic if they resurrected the old honey/anthill method. At the very least, he’ll spend the next several decades appealing his inevitable conviction and reading hate mail from his son.

Where’s today’s wrong? Why, it’s our old friend, the False Equivalence Fairy, here to reapportion blame equally!

Ok. What do we know about these two parents? Apart from the murder spree, the article makes sure to tell us that:

The two had been involved in an increasingly acrimonious custody fight over their son ever since Dekraai had asked a judge for “final decision making authority” when it came to matters involving their son’s education and his medical and psychological treatment.

“The two had been involved in.” As if it was mutual. See, there was this mysterious, ex-nihilo acrimonious custody fight that these two otherwise charming citizens walked past one day, only to fall into the event horizon. It’s not like this murdered woman had been involved in an increasingly acrimonious custody fight with her control-freak, domineering, mass-murderer ex-husband who demanded the ultimate authority over their son.

Sounds like they were both equally unreasonable and demanding. Oh what? It doesn’t sound like that?

But Cate [the victim’s divorce attorney] added that the report concluded neither parent was behaving as they should have.

“He found they were not co-parenting. In fact, they were parallel parenting and doing a poor job of it at that,” Cate said of the psychologist’s conclusions. “It led to a great deal of mistrust.”

It amazes me that, even after this dude proved what an irrational, violent monster he is, she’s still seen as somehow creating this “mistrust” and not “behaving as [she] should.”

If ever there was a time to stop and go, huh. Maybe she had a reason to mistrust him? Maybe he was the one who was behaving badly and refusing to co-parent? Maybe it’s not easy to co-parent with a man who demands final decision making authority over huge swaths of the child’s life? You’d think post-massacre would be that time.

It takes two to tango. You know how many people it takes not to tango? One. One person has total control over stopping the tango at any time. Dekraai stopped the co-parenting tango a long time ago (or, if you prefer, just changed it to a Batan Death Waltz).


Throughout the custody battle, Dekraai and Fournier traded serious allegations, each calling the other an unfit parent.
Dekraai said…Fournier had a drinking problem…
Fournier responded in court papers that Dekraai was mentally unstable, had been violent and abusive to her when they were married and had once called 911 and threatened to kill himself and others.

You’d think post-massacre, we’d have some hint of an insight into whose serious allegations are true. I guess we’ll just never know whether the man who shot her in the face was capable of violence.

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Apples to Oranges

Yesterday, in response to the Islamophobia Decal’s question, “Are Western values really different from Islamic values?” on their syllabus, I asserted that Western vs. Islamic values constituted a category error. At the atheist club meeting, several people objected that it was not a category error because they were comparing two sets of values. I’ve given it some thought, and here’s why I stand by what I said. I am not asserting anything about the intent of the authors of the syllabus, either. They are welcome to clarify their position, and I will post any response I receive.

The problem with saying it’s not a category error because both use the word “values” and can thus be compared is that it’s exactly the point of the fallacy: to make you think there is a set of values that can be reasonably called “Western values” that can then be coherently compared to Islamic values that, while not monolithic, at least have an official collection of values that we can all go and read ourselves. And sure, here in The West(tm), we have the Bible, but there’s a reason they don’t talk about Islamic versus Christian values: Christianity doesn’t have the political power it once did. Western countries are rarely Christian theocracies, these days – at least overtly (I’m looking at you, Poland).

For the same reason, we know they’re not making a general statement about the private values of individuals – if they were, again, they’d use the word Christian, because the West is still, for better or worse, majority Christian. Plus, Western and Muslim are not mutually exclusive; they can’t really believe that a Muslim abandons his or her Islamic values when they cross the border into The West. So if they’re not talking about comparing the private convictions of Muslims and of Christians, what are they talking about when they say “Islamic Values” versus “Western values?”Simply put: Western is a dog-whistle term for secular democracy and human rights. “Islamic Values” are the values that are enforced on the population in Islamic theocracies.

Here’s an example that should drive the point home. I live in the West. So does the Tea Party. Surely, whatever ‘Western values’ are, we’ve both got them. So why does my skin crawl whenever the Tea Party bleats about how we’re a Christian nation with Judeo-Christian values? It’s because the next sentence is invariably how our laws are founded on the Bible, and we all know God is against gay marriage/stem cell research/women in pants.

We should be just as suspicious of attempts to geographize “Islamic values” or “Islamic countries” as we are of our home-grown theocrats. We don’t have ‘Western values,’ we have _secular_ values. And yes, damnit, when it comes to the state, secular values and Islamic/Christian values are different. Secular values are better, full-stop. We believe atheists should have the same rights as anyone else. We don’t think women should be executed for adultery, or that, as happened recently in Iran, gay people should be hung in the city square, in obeisance to Islamic values. And you know what? Lots of Muslims agree, and don’t want to live in a society governed by Islamic values anymore than I do. Lots of Christians don’t want to live in a Christian nation, either. Who really likes a theocracy? It took a long damn time for us to break free of that garbage, to have an enlightenment, and I for one don’t ever want to go back.

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Five things that would make atheists seem nicer

WARNING: not nice atheist commentary coming up! Proceed at your own risk of mortality salience.

Safety Cat buffers the godlessness

This list is a perfect example of the kind of oblivious and often insulting projection that atheists have to deal with.
Here are five tips for my atheist friends to help them seem nicer and more reasonable.

“1. Stop being so smug.”

This gets thrown around a lot. Atheists don’t believe Christians deserve eternal torture for not sharing our perspective. We don’t believe we have access to anything except our own sensory information, and even that is inherently suspect. We don’t believe the entire universe was created for us to enjoy. Yet we are the smug ones.

“2. Don’t assume every piece of Christian evangelism is directed at you – we want the undecideds, not the decided-uns.”

Why atheists should stand politely and silently aside while Christians teach the next generation of kids to reject a scientific understanding of the universe and instead live in fear of the great cosmic peeping tom has never really been explained to me. If the ideas are true they will stand on their own. An evidence-based, skeptical perspective produces inarguably superior results to any exercise of “faith,” which is reason enough for atheists to speak up, and speak up loudly.

” 3. Admit that the debate about God’s existence is complex – and that it can, depending on your
presuppositions, be quite possible for intelligent and rational people to intelligently believe in an intervening deity who communicates through a book.”

Of course intelligent and rational people can set aside their hard-earned naturalistic understanding of the world which serves them well in every other aspect of their lives, and believe in ludicrous assertions for which there is no and could never be any evidence.

There is however absolutely no such thing as “intelligently believing in an intervening deity who communicates through a book,” if the concept of intelligence is to have any meaning. Just because you have the capacity for intelligent thought, it doesn’t mean that everything you do, you do “intelligently.”

To put it another way – is there way to un-intelligently believe in an intervening deity who communicates through a book? How would you tell the difference?

Oh, right: they believe in the wrong intervening deity who communicates through a book.

It is impossible to give true intellectual assent to religious ideas. What sustains them in the minds of believers is community reinforcement, cognitive dissonance, and rote recitation of crap like the Nicene Creed. The point is to have beliefs that are incomprehensible, to tell who is in-group versus out-group, and to condition in-group members to not question when something doesn’t make sense.

“4. Admit that the scientific method – which by its nature relies on induction rather than deduction (starting with a hypothesis and testing it rather than observing facts and forming a hypothesis) – is as open to abuse as any religious belief, and is neither objective nor infallible.”

How idiotic to separate induction and deduction, as if science could only use one. You observe facts, form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, and then use the results as the next set of facts from which you form a hypothesis, which you then test, etc. And science doesn’t have a pope: it’s mad projection to accuse us of claiming objectivity or infallibility.

“5. Try to deal with the actual notions of God seriously believed in by millions of people rather than inventing strawmen (or spaghetti monsters) to dismiss the concepts of God – and deal with the Bible paying attention to context and the broader Christological narrative rather than quoting obscure Old Testament laws. By all means quote the laws when they are applied incorrectly by “Christians” – but understand how they’re meant to work before dealing with the Christians described in point 3.”

It is impossible to deal with “the actual notions of God seriously believed in by millions of people.” Those millions of people attach whatever qualities they want to the completely empty concept of “God.” This frequently includes various beliefs from both institutionalized sources and their own emotional experiences. Their “God” slot is excepted from the application of the standard “does this fit with how I know the world to work” algorithm so that it doesn’t even have to be internally consistent.

On top of that, god-belief is strongly tied to a person’s fear of death, making them even more reluctant to try to come up with a definition of “God” that is even internally consistent, much less testable, and much less still, REAL, and more willing to make it up as they go along in the conversation with the atheist. They may put on their super serious face when they think about God, but it doesn’t make “God” a meaningful signifier. How is one supposed to “deal” with this ever-changing notion? Why would I want to waste my time?

Try to deal with the actual notions of science seriously understood by millions of scientists and scholars over the last couple centuries and ditch the impulse to see a smiling face in the clouds.

That is all.

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Street Kids

(names changed)

Can you spare a piece of Christmas?

Steve asked me if I thought it was disrespectful to stare at a woman walking away. “When you talk to her, you’re not gonna stare at her chest, right? So why stare at her ass? What are you thinking about when you do that?” He saw the person walking, and wanted to get to know her as a friend. “I hate liars and cheats. If you’ve gotta girlfriend why you gonna go sleep with someone else, you know? So that’s why I just wanna be friends. I know it’s gotta be the right person I am true to, but that’s why I’m waiting!”

Though used to self-medicating for his bipolar disorder and ADHD with marijuana, he’d been trying to quit. They were hiring at a warehouse, and he’d have to pass a drug test. According to the papers he showed me, if he were hired, he would have a mental health counselor and a case worker. But most exciting for him was the thought of having his own money so he could buy what he needed. He hated begging strangers and dreamed of a place where he could entertain friends and maybe someday bring that special girl back to.

I became distracted by a group of Cal sophomores walking by. Only one sneaked a glance without her friends noticing. “You into girls? I notice you’re lookin at them,” Steve asked me. “It’s ok if you’re gay. I’m bisexual,” he confided. “I wasn’t always. But you know sometimes I had to take money to let guys suck my dick, or they’d say give me money or let me do stuff to you. It gets cold outside. And my dad raped me when I was 5.”
“You told us that already!” Francesca scolded him.

Steve showed me his stash pouches in the tongues of his shoes. “Whoever had it before me musta kept drugs in here.” They were empty at the moment. Charlie said he should keep some bills folded up in there, but Steve brushed off the idea. “I’d just spend it on something stupid.” I suggested he dumpster dive near the cal dorms; new clothes and ikea detritus were regularly discarded by students. “I got found in a dumpster when I was 5! Someone was dumpster diving and they thought boy I got somethin good this time. Bet they never expected me!”

The skinny, 5’7 22 year old with the sunburned face turned his attention to his clothes. His threadworn faded orange sweatshirt, with holes cut for thumbs, was the only piece of winter clothing he had. I offered a pair of gloves, but he refused. “Nah it’s here that’s cold,” gesturing to his chest. “My hands aren’t cold. If they were cold they’d be purple and they’re not.” In his backpack was a pair of shorts, some socks, and a folder with pages of resources. In the side pocket was a CD player, but Steve didn’t have any headphones. “Do you have some?” Not with me, I told him. “Oh that’s fine because we’ll see each other again right? You’ll give them to me then.”

He pulled out a sheet of paper that listed public lunches. Given that it was quarter after two, they had two choices for lunch. They could try to make it from Shattuck and Durant to People’s Park in 15 minutes to catch a vegetarian lunch from Food Not Bombs or they could walk down to Acton for another food giveaway at 3:30. Either choice involved a heavy investment in time and energy, and the opportunity cost of money they might be given by strangers. Unlike me, they did not have an AC transit class pass, and they could not afford the $2 per person fare. Francesca had three bags of clothes and toiletries, and a sleeping bag to carry. And with no guarantee that if they made the trek, there would be any food left, they chose to go hungry.

A daytime drop-in shelter also had breakfast and lunch on weekdays. Because it was a women’s shelter, it did not allow men and Francesca wasn’t about to leave her kids. “And what they’re gonna make me do chores for a tampon? I don’t need that,” Francesca snorted. The night shelters were little better. Steve could not sleep because of the constant noise, and could not wear earplugs due to the danger of not being able to hear a threat or a wake-up call. Sami had his own objection to shelters: last time he’d slept in one, he ended up with lice. So he took spongebaths in public restrooms instead.

Might be better to wait and try to scrounge some more change from passers by. Another Cal sophomore, apologetic and saccharine, stopped and handed Francesca a $20. “Thank you! I love you!” she started to say, before the woman realized her error and replaced the bill with a single. “It’s ok, i still love you.” In total, the four had collected $11 and change for the day, not enough to even get them all drunk. In a few minutes, she’d realize even that small amount had disappeared.

Francesca is a 35 year old, mixed race – “I’m black, mexican, indian and german – the german is why I’m white” – from Pima, Arizona, with dred locks fairy wings and a stereotypical hobo bag on a stick. “You gotta kill ’em with kindness because otherwise they pretend they don’t see. Sometimes I wonder if I’m even alive. Am I a ghost? Why don’t they see me?” Her spirit brightened as a tall man with a veil of shimmering gold hair walked by. She ran up to him and came back with a hug and another cigarette.

They decided to walk up to Telegraph and join a larger group. The walk took over 45 minutes, with several breaks to rearrange belongings. I picked up a hat and hesitated, not knowing where to put this. “You can shove my hat down in the side there.” Francesca, reading my hesitation as fear, added, “You don’t gotta worry, there’s no needles in there.” Sami went ahead and came back with more cigarettes. Charlie sung along to a barely audible Gnarles Barclay song on the crank box, an am/fm radio with a broken dial and an antenna that had long ago become victim to metal fatigue and remained attached to the radio by a sliver of rubber. It had to be manually held in place for the radio to work.

I asked to see it, and turned the dial slightly. The wooden refrain of “I’ll be Home for Christmas” began to drain out of the speakers. “God shit damn is that Christmas music? Change that shit, I have been alone for Christmas for the last 10 years. I hate Christmas music.”

Once on Telegraph we settled in with a dreadlocked Black man with his epilepsy medication in a brown paper bag that he didn’t mind sharing with the rest of us. Though his epilepsy was severe enough to cause drop, petit mal and grand mal seizures, it was untreated save for alcohol. Withdrawal from alcohol can also produce seizures, leaving him in a precarious medical position. His physical appearance made it difficult to panhandle, because people generally reacted to him with fear rather than the condescension experienced by Francesca. The storefront like many others on this block was empty. “You can sit on my sleeping bag,” Francesca said. Sami commented on how unusual that a housie would hang out with them. “It’s nothin bad being a housie, just means you got a place to stay.”

“Can you spare a piece of Christmas?” Francesca called to a passing white haired woman with gold earrings and a clean suit. I played along, beseeching her as well. She walked back to Francesca, bent her knees, and sweetly explained her predicament. “Honey I’m sorry, but the problem is that I buy everything with my card so I don’t carry any cash with me.” Without missing a beat Francesca burst out, “that’s ok there’s stores around. We’ll go with you.” The woman patted her on the head, saying, “I have an appointment at 7 o’clock.”She turned to leave, hesitated, and asked, “How many kids do you have?”

“I’m a real hippy chick, I got no kids except these ones I find” gesturing to me, Steve, Charlie, the 26 year old Brit who spent most of the day doodling on the back of his skateboard, and Sami, a quiet, 28 year old mixed race star wars fiction enthusiast who was in the country “illegally” after overstaying a student visa. His parents were undocumented and first entered the country when Sami was 3, though he had spent most of his life in Russia and Japan. He spoke several languages including a dialect of Chinese. Now he was trying to get back to New York. “Take care of them,” the woman instructed before leaving with her credit cards but no cash to get to her appointment.

A drunk driver suddenly jumped the curb and drove onto the sidewalk towards us. Jerry, the man who had let us join his spot, jumped up and began kicking the tire, demanding that the driver stop and be more careful. The driver got out, enraged by the disregard shown to his car, and was joined by another man, also drunk. “Don’t kick a man’s car!” they yelled. “He works for a living, and that’s his property. I’m retired!” Now addressing us as a group, he shouted, “You just sit here doing nothing blocking this man’s business!” He gestured towards the empty building behind us. Jerry reminded him that he’d jumped the curb. “The sidewalk is public property!” he shouted as though Jerry and Francesca were less a part of “the public” than his vehicle. Francesca jumped up and laid her sweetness on thick to placate them.

The drunk drivers left, but by this point another older man had noticed the commotion and wandered over. Confronting Francesca, he demanded her full attention on his eyes. He stood inches from her face, waving his hand over her torso. She backed up. He took a step forward. He put his hands on her arms. She pushed his hands away, and this cycle repeated itself a few more times before he decided to heal me.

He turned slightly and began again his wax-on-wax-off handwaving. “I am opening your love chakra. Look at me!” I stepped backwards and folded my arms. He stepped forward. My arms were forcibly unfolded. “Look at me” he again demanded. The others in the group watched and waited. “I am a eunuch psychic and I can cure lesbians. What do you think I am doing” “You’re being a creeper,” I said.
“No I’m not.”
“NO! Now listen I will open your love chakra and heal you.”
“You are basing this conclusion on my haircut?” I started to ask, before the tipsy fairy girl jumped up and said, “yea we’re lesbians and we’re proud of it!” and kissed me. Again I was jerked towards this strange man with no conception of personal space. After more miming, the eunuch psychic took a walk.

Taking a swig of the rum and coke earned by helping a Cal student buy party supplies, Francesca announced, “It’s an ok life if you’re already a little crazy to start with.”

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The Fetus Cube

In the first week of November, 2009, some pro-life group on UC Berkeley’s campus fliered the area leading into Sproul with signs that said, “warning: genocide photos ahead.” Now, there are lots of legitimate anti-genocide demonstrations on campus, but I had been warned. These were not genocide photos (except for the actual genocide photos of lynching victims and Holocaust victims). Mostly they were pictures of Obama on various magazine covers. There were also the same seven or eight fetus photos everyone has seen before because they’ve been circulating in this movement since the eighties.

Who knows what they portray. That shit coulda come outta any child’s creepy crawlers mold. The best they can say is, this is something that may at one time have been growing in some private citizen’s uterus, and now it is no longer growing there. Did she want it out? What was her health status? Does she want documentation that presumably belongs in a HIPAA protected medical record up on a billboard? Who the hell knows! These idiots fucking don’t.

I’d be shocked if they could tell me what was identifiably human about a gooey fetal limb on a quarter with early digit differentiation that’s common to any mammal with digits (though which fingers then get deleted varies by species). I wouldn’t put it past this movement to whip out the cell phone and snap a shot of their cat’s miscarriage if they thought it would get them some political points for the baaaaaaaybeeeeeez.

And now, an interlude.

Online auction to raise funds in Scott Roeder case.
No shame at all. “Pro-life” group has an online auction to raise funds for the assassin who believed in the sanctity of life so much, he walked into a church and shot a doctor in the head. This is, of course, far from the first inarguable terrorist these groups have openly championed. Paul Hill is another.

The items are:
An Army of God manual. A prison cookbook compiled by a woman doing time for abortion clinic bombings and arsons. An autographed bullhorn. Three drawings autographed by Scott Roeder.

One of the Fetus Cubers on Sproul yesterday insisted forced birthers are “against violence.” This cannot be true. It is violent to oppose medical care for half the population. It is violent to call 1/3 of women murderers when you do not believe that, because you do not in fact support trying all of those women for murder. It is violent to exploit genocide victims to attack people getting the most common fucking outpatient surgical procedure, whose access to which is strongly tied to positive maternal and child health outcomes.

It turns out, healthier mothers who didn’t die from trying to self-abort, or from miscarrying, or from giving birth too often or too young or too uninsured are typically more alive to care for their fewer, planned, spaced kids, and have more income to spend and more education to impart to them from being able to finish school and have a life and be her own person. Her kids will be smarter because of the improved birthweight and heightened acccess to good nutrition in infancy and childhood. All because she had birth control and access to medical treatment for any and all of her biological functions. It’s the miracle of medicine.

Of course these are all issues about which the putatively pro-life movement cares exactly squat. They have a religious opposition to abortion related to their personal conception (ha!) of “ensoulment,” but their religious beliefs have no place influencing public policy much less my access to medical care.

If these supposed genocide-fighting “nonviolence” supporting pro-lifers gave a shit about maternal health, pro-life groups and politicians would be leading the fight for universal single-payer healthcare, for good school breakfasts and lunches, and all that sissy bleeding heart shit us baby-eating feminazis care so much about. They wouldn’t be comparing women who get outpatient surgery to avoid serious (and expensive) complications a few months down the road, to the fucking Klan.

Maternal health is fetal health, but it’s hard to see that when you think a woman’s body is a death camp that brave sperm must escape from, and weep that only one even has a chance.

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Just take a pill.

Today I was witness to a depressing attitude I’ve encountered before. A person was in pain, and asked the collective for advil. I had aspirin and obliged. She took the dose and instead of immediately leaving for water, held it in her hands for a bit – to wait until she “really” needed it. For her, being in pain isn’t a legitimate reason to take pain medication. It’s crucial to wait until you are in enough pain. Though aspirin is safe, effective, and even all-natural (salicylic acid is derived from willow bark), she stated that she does not like taking drugs.

This viewpoint, though common, and even generally viewed as the morally superior position, is actually harmful. If there is something wrong with taking drugs before you “really need them” (according to what standard?), what conclusion can be drawn about people who take medication of any sort on a regular basis? The idea taken to its logical conclusion would mean a diabetic should deliberately hold off on taking insulin until they’re halfway comatose. The thing about drugs is, if you wait until you “really need them” according to some other person’s metric, you risk damaging yourself. And you pretty much guarantee yourself some unnecessary suffering.

Part of it is that to “just take a pill” is to acknowledge your inescapable biochemical reality. Everything about your existence is structured by – you guessed it – drugs. You ARE drugs. The question is, which drugs will help the pile of drugs that is you function as a more effective pile of drugs. Sometimes it’s a cheeseburger. Sometimes it’s a beta blocker. Always it is vitamin C (blame evolution for the fact that we can’t make our own vitamin C and must resort to the unseemly practice of “just taking a pill” to get our fix. And the worst part is, no one waits until their teeth start falling out so they “really need it.”). In this case, it was aspirin – to make her inescapable biochemical reality less painful to be, for a little while.

The anti-medicine mindset is embraced by the body of non-medical placebo practitioners and practices known colloquially as “alternative medicine.” This worldview rejects the evidence-based approach of figuring out why certain chemicals interact with the pile of chemicals called you, and instead wants to sell you elaborate, expensive, but ultimately inert (at best!) medical theatre. Compared to that silliness, that you can very often take a pill to actually treat illness and pain, above and beyond the placebo effect, is a triumph of the evidence-based approach. Sure I could throw money at a reiki therapist 3 times a week for several years, for no discernible reason and with no measurable improvement in my condition.

Or I could “just take a pill.”

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Yoga: Another pseudoscientific practice funded by your tax-dollars.

Living with chronic pain means I’m always looking for something simple that will improve my quality of life. When I saw on Berkeley’s course catalog a class called “gentle, restorative yoga,” I thought it might do me some good, build up some muscle in my back. And I figured, since it was offered through a public university, it wouldn’t be full of hairy fairy spiritualism.

I figured wrong.

This class was taught by an instructor so deep in woo he actually described the universe as breathing, as the sun coming up around the Earth, using expressions like “let your organs work at their most optimal for you at this time” and “this pose opens up your heart chakra.” The last time some overbearing dude tried to open my heart chakra it was for the stated purposes of “curing lesbianism” (whose lesbianism went unspecified).

This instructor is also quite fond of recommending these practices for the treatment of specific medical conditions or diseases, likely in violation of FDA regulations on that sort of thing. Apparently, a particular yoga pose that involved lying on your side under a blanket with a pillow under your neck and a jasmine eye bag on your face, magically improves liver function and reduces blood pressure by “giving your organs more room” for the “energy” to circulate.

He regularly questioned students about their medical conditions, and on at least one occasion, he asked another female student about the regularity of her menstrual cycles! He then exclaimed, “Oh, so you’re not THAT skinny.”

When he exhorted to “turn your awareness to your past lives,” I would my awareness to more important matters, like whether the ceiling was a true eggshell or just a burnt ivory. And I smiled and nodded when he’d inform me that he could “sense” that I was taking longer to “fully relax” and scold me for drinking coke outside of class because “you know why!”

Once I asked him to define energy, the quack replied that he didn’t “live his life by science, but by experience.” Sure, I may have thought, “right, you live your life by your experience of other people’s liver function before and after yoga,” but even then I suppressed my better urges to publically eviscerate his entire persona. Even though, he digressed into saying how “taking a pill should be a last resort.” Not if it’s the best resort.

I held my tongue to this shit, week after week, still willing to give the technique a chance even if the messenger taught no better than a malignant narcissism See ‘n Say

Then I find out, the dude thinks he’s going to give me a B, in the academic and literal equivalent of preschool naptime. And I say to myself, oh, it’s on.

Given the reactions to the proposed “prayer space” on campus, perhaps the political climate is right to eliminate these anti-science classes from the public dole. Yoga is based on religious notions of the soul, past lives, “energy” (undefined), “vortexes,” and other nonsense, which is all claimed to be somehow relevant to our day to day lives and chronic medical conditions.

Our tax dollars should not go to support the religious indoctrination of students, when courses are being cut, real professors furloughed, and students losing financial aid, all for lack of funding. Let’s employ some competent individuals as yoga instructors if yoga is that critical to the student experience. I’m sure there’s a pool of unemployed graduate students who could do a much better job. Anything is better than the incompetent quack welfare system we’ve got now.

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Comas, Seizures, and the Risen Christ

Your brain structures your reality. It does this best by logically organizing perceptions, and the idea is we more or less re-create the external reality the rest of us lives in.

Usually brains work ok, but shit happens, and sometimes they need to reboot.

A coma is “a profound state of unconsciousness. A person in a coma cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to pain, light or sound, does not have sleep-wake cycles, and does not take voluntary actions.” “Coma” is a spectrum, and people are located on this spectrum according to the Glasgow Coma scale. Comas are generally bad and should be avoided.

Other times there is a power surge somewhere in the brain, called a seizure. Seizures can be as mild as an occasional experience of déjà vu, or extreme as the prototypical grand mal tonic-clonic seizure. Sometimes they can be experiential, perhaps creating an experience for the internal “you” that is as if the person had met god or discovered “the truth.”

Such experiences are called complex partial seizures. They occur in the temporal lobe. They are certainly “real” experiences. However these experiences can be induced in a lab setting by sending magnetic pulses into a person’s temporal lobe. This demonstrates that such experiences are not supernatural, but biological.

What does that have to do with Jesus?

First, a quick rehash of the story.

Jesus, the protagonist, angers the occupying Romans, who then torture him and nail him to a cross.

A few hours later, so the story goes, he dies. The proof of his death is that he is unconscious and unresponsive to pain. Three days later, he becomes conscious again, and goes and wanders around town, describing the experiences he had while dead. These experiences include descending into hell and conquering death, conversations with god etc.

So we are to believe, then, that although Jesus’ hands and feet and skin were not impervious to stakes and spears, his body was impervious to posthumous putrefaction. What stopped the bacteria in his colon from eating him? After all, we each 10 trillion microorganisms in our GI tract alone.

I have another theory:The Jesus Coma. Being tortured and asphyxiated via the cross, or just utterly dehydrated both for lack of water and for injury-related water loss, led to a hypoxic brain injury, leading to a coma. Comatose people do not respond to painful stimuli – even spears. That is the definition of being in a coma. No one in the story is aware of this fact, possibly due to their living in the 1st century, instead of the 21st. I just can’t trust the medical opinions of ancient Roman executioners.

It’s hard to say what a comatose person experiences internally. People delirious from having just woken up from a coma, experience a very altered reality. It’s entirely possible Jesus’ seizure disorder pre-existed his brutal torture, but the coma certainly would not have helped. It is also not surprising that Jesus “ascended into heaven” so soon after his coma. This dude had a history of wandering off by himself into the desert for weeks – he probably keeled over from the raging staph infection he got after being beaten with unsterilized whips.

Overall my explanation is much, much more plausible than the more popular supernatural theories.

And there’s always the possibility Jesus was simply doped by Tetrodotoxin

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Chapter 13: Is God just a Genocidal Bully?

Professional Apologist and amoral monster Clay Jones penned this outrageous chapter defending the indefensible God of the old testament. Normally, Christians will hem and haw and say, “That’s the Old Testament. We don’t believe that anymore.” Not Clay Jones.

Clay Jones is a better Christian than you. Clay Jones knows that God could never do wrong. Clay Jones is the kind of person who can modify “bully” with “genocidal” like it’s no big deal to commit genocide. It’s like pulling Susie’s pigtail or giving Mark a swirlie. Bullying isn’t nice, sure. But neither is being a tattle-tale. Even in the title, he’s already trivializing genocide

We Gnu atheists say, no. God is not just a genocidal bully. He’s a genocidal monster that you, for reasons known only to Cod, find worthy of worship.

Of course, it gets worse.

Here are the main rationalizations for genocide:
1. Page 178. Genocide is about the motives of the oppressor, not the effect on the oppressed.

While herem was carried out by the Israelites against a specific people – the Canaanites – it was not motivated by racial superiority or hatred. Therefore, the language of ethnic cleansing or genocide is inaccurate. Idolatry, not ethnicity, is the issue here.

Got that? So the holocaust wasn’t genocide because Hitler went out of his way to point out the christ-killing tendencies of German Jews.

2. Page 174. We can only know genocide is wrong because God gives us an objective moral standard. Since atheists don’t believe in God, they can’t say genocide is wrong, because that would go against the objective moral standard we don’t have.

We are also right to point out that New Atheists’ condemnation of God’s actions and commands makes use of an objective moral standard that they have been unable to adequately justify,… pg.174

3. Page 180. God says to kill all Canaanites, showing no mercy, but then it says to not intermarry with Canaanites. Since it gave rules about intermarriage, they must not have killed all of them.

Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn our sons away from following me to serve other gods…

Notice the tension. This passage speaks of total destruction and showing no mercy, but then proceeds to instruct the Israelites regarding treaties and intermarriage. But if no Canaanites are going to be around, then why even bother including this?

That’s weapons-grade disingenuousness. It’s as if I told you, “don’t go in my room. Don’t even consider opening the door. Don’t turn on my computer. Don’t rearrange my closet or eat my jellybeans.” And your response was, “Notice the tension! You speak of not going in your room or even opening the door, but then you proceed to instruct me on eating your jellybeans and trying on your clothes. If I’m not even in your room, why bother including this?”

4. Page 183. Even though it totally wasn’t genocide, the Canaanites really did deserve it.

What I learned…was that they were, indeed, desperately wicked…If we don’t tell anyone, they won’t understand God’s true reasons for their destruction.

Sometimes, genocide is ok.

And finally, my personal favorite:
Page 175: It’s ok to murder children for the crime of being Canaanite because they’ll go straight to heaven:

Undoubtedly, some children would have died at the hands of the Israelites during the conquest, but all the children who were killed would wake up in god’s presence.


Killing babies is pretty much a moral imperative. They go straight to heaven if you smash them against the rocks, but if you let them grow up, they might not worship the right god. They’ll go to hell! Why take that risk?

Makes you wonder why they’re opposed to abortion, if killing children guarantees their eternal bliss.

Posted in Christianity, Genocide, Morality, Special Pleading, violence against women, What the hell is wrong with you!? | 1 Comment