I intend this to be a semi-short post, as it is just something that has been on my mind lately, but nothing that I will pretend to be original. It really annoys me that some atheists feel comfortable with using the language and ideas of social justice movements to point out that there is pronounced Religious--specifically Christian--privilege in the US, but then failing to use the same reasoning to point out male or straight or white or cis, etc, privilege in the US as well. Even worse is that when you point such things out those atheists often get dismissive and/or hostile. Male privilege in the US, or Dawkins-forbid, Atheism? No way--especially in Atheism. We are the enlightened bunch, right?
Of course, the idea that women have full equality in the US, much less in Atheism, is just silly, and I am not going to waste time or space here attempting to demonstrate why I say that. Those who deny the existence of male privilege will deny any facts I bring up, and those who accept the idea don't need me to produce more facts. What I will say is that atheism is really missing out when they do not accept feminism and related movements(let's call it "Intersectional Feminism" or IF. I did not think of this name myself). The reason they are missing out is because they are right in pointing out religious privilege in the US, but they could craft a much more powerful, effective, and true message if ...more
I guess when one gets into this kind of thing that one is somewhat obligated to make a first post to introduce themselves and to lay out their "mission" of sorts with the blog, so that is what I am going to attempt to do here. First things first, the name I chose for the blog is TheAtheismo, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the icons of today's atheism and how their words are revered in a way not dissimilar from how fundamental Christians revere the words of their Bible. At one point in designing the banner, I had put one of the icon's face in where God's is to make the point more explicit, but I decided afterward that such a thing didn't look as good as the original, and it would probably get missed by most people. It did look funny though.
My original idea with this blog, when I first thought of the name and reserved the twitter account(@TheAtheismo) was that I would play a sort of Stephen Colbert role in satirizing the type of atheism that I find pretty terrible. I would take on the pseudo-role of the privileged, white male upper-class New Atheist who calls religion a mind-virus, who dismisses feminism in the movement(among pretty much all other struggles against institutional privilege). At first blush, such a thing seemed like it would be really funny, especially since I would probably get actually mistaken for one of those that I was making fun of, showing that even the most ...more
This will likely be my last post for Skeptic Freethought, at least for the foreseeable future. The past four months have seen considerable changes in my life, especially with regards to my mental health. Over the past few months, I've started taking medication for my depression issues for the first time in my life, and I've adjusted to it enough to know that I'm responding well. This was a major step for me on several levels. I've known I needed medication for a long time, but until recently I've not had access to it. Doing this has allowed me to move forward in my overall treatment plan, and take more charge of my life, which is wonderful. It's also a decision I know I couldn't have made, at least calmly, several years ago, due to fears of stigma. I've reached a place where I feel much more equipped to make informed choices about my health, and a lot less concerned about public perception. But the biggest reason this is a change for me, is that it removes a huge obstacle I've had in my life for a long time.
As I've mentioned before, my issues started when I was pretty young. For years, I was torn between wanting to get better and the fear that treatment would change me. I got stuck in a loop where I didn't like who I was, but I hated the thought of something outside of me impacting how I felt. A lot of this was ...more
In my previous post, I discussed briefly how the evangelical focus on conversion experiences can cause problems for post-evangelicals when they try to join other groups. An additional difficulty with this transition is that so much of evangelicalism is based on persuasion. People who grow up in this culture are taught from a young age that a major part of their faith entails persuading others to join it. Often, the ability, or at least attempt, to perform this type of persuasion is used as a litmus test of one’s spiritual health or sincerity. Apart from the psychological effect of being in a group that has a singular goal and polices commitment to that goal, this also causes people in this culture to build their idea of social responsibility and even affection around the need to convert others to their way of thinking.
The harm and frustration this creates is obvious, and is part of the reason evangelicals have developed a reputation for being opportunistic in the wake of tragedies. To the world at large, an evangelical that promotes their faith to those in pain is preying on a vulnerable moment for the sake of their own agenda. To the evangelical, he/she is providing the best support and encouragement they know how, as well as what they see as a solution to literally any problem.
The two definitions of this behavior are not mutually exclusive, and I don’t mean to imply that intentions matter more than the effect of actions. They don’t. However, ...more
One of the most fascinating and frustrating things about being a person is that you don't get to compartmentalize your problems. If it were up to me, I'd order my personal and psychological issues into a bulleted list, rank them by severity and resources needed, and proceed to mend them in a structured and logical fashion. Also, if it were possible, I'd have on hand an infallible reference point; something I could check regularly and know without doubt if I was Doing It Right. Needles to say, I don't get to do that. My problems often hover below my awareness, bleed into each other, and resurface long after I'm sure they were dead and done. This gets especially complex when questions of identity and change surface.
I've been very open lately about my issues with depression; but for a long time, the identity of Mental Health Patient was one I tried not to have. My long journey towards acceptance of my illness has occurred almost in perfect tandem with my explorations of faith, and what both of those factors in my life mean for me and the world around me. The process is often awkward and imperfect. One example is that until very recently, I was leery about identifying as a Feminist, as you can see in an older post. Apart from the embarrassment I feel about this now, what bothers me most is why. Why did it take me so long to openly identify with feminism? What part of my ...more
As I mentioned in my previous post, Depression is a disorder that has a lot of metaphors attached to it, but not a lot of cultural understanding. Interestingly, computer games are becoming a useful tool for promoting awareness and empathy for clinical depression. I previously discussed Fixation, a puzzle game with a story built around it; Another game I've found striking is Every Day The Same Dream.
(this discussion contains spoilers, click the link above if you want to play first.)
This game could best be described as minimalist. The graphics are simple (but beautiful) and there are only three controls: forward, backward, and action. The limited scope works wonderfully, since it revolves around a suicidal man desperately trying to change his life, who has no idea how to do so. There are only a few screens in this game: home, elevator, traffic, and work, with a few others that have to be discovered. The challenge of the game, since there are so few controls, is to discover what it is you can do differently. There are only a handful of changes that can be made, and one of them entails jumping off the roof of your work building. If you discover all of the changes, you get a closing scene where you catch someone who looks a lot like you also jumping to his death.
This is controversial, and like Fixation, I would not recommend this game to someone looking for an uplift, but I'm enthusiastic about it myself. The reason for ...more
Theferret.com recently posted a response to Libba Bray's description of what it's like to live with depression. You can find Bray's post here, and the response here.
As someone who's recently started writing about their own depressive issues, the exchange interested me. As people with mental health concerns become more vocal, and more visible, it's inevitable that they will also become more vocal about their disagreements. TheFerret doesn't pull any punches in his criticism of Bray's personal story. He calls out what he considers catering to a “Good Depressive Citizen” trope: the disingenuous tendency to write about depression in a way that distances it from yourself:
“write a Very Articulate Post detailing your pain…
…but do it from a distance. Write about it in a sad, somber tone. Do not evince an ounce of self-pity. Hold this odious disease at a distance. End it with a triumphant note that yes, you too can fight back!”
The pressure to keep silent about mental health problems is real, and the author of the above statement has every right to be angered by it. The tendency to try and distance oneself from something like mental health is a serious problem, and one of the reasons that so many people with treatable conditions don't seek out the help they need. But my issue with this response lies mostly with how Libba Bray's comments are criticized:
“Now, I’m not kidding, or being in the least sarcastic, when I say that Libba has written a wonderful post. That is part of what it’s like to ...more
In my previous post, I attempted to clarify some confusion caused by differing views on biblical interpretation. Today, I'd like to address another subject that often complicates this further; Selective interpretation, otherwise known as cherry-picking. Here's the thing about it in Christianity: everyone does it to some extent, but many of us are unaware of it. Most reasonable people will admit to points of confusion in their own attempts to interpret scripture, but others will become very defensive. Much like the assertion that “The bible is true” can mean several different things, “Cherry-picking” has its own problems associated with it in conversations about belief.
Here's a personal story by way of explanation: As a teenager, I took biblical knowledge very seriously. I'd read the entire Bible multiple times; I competed in a competitive biblical study program; I could recite entire books verbatim in King James English. I prided myself on knowing scripture, and was more than willing to discuss my religious views. But if someone brought up cherry picking, my first response was to feel deeply insulted. The reason for this was that I was raised in a literalism tradition, and when someone asked about cherry-picking, what I heard was this:
“You haven't read the Bible for yourself.” or “Why are you lying to me about your beliefs?”
In reality, what was usually being asked was: “To what degree are you a literalist?/Do you agree with the traditional interpretation of passage xyz?”
I won't try to excuse my own defensiveness, it was the product ...more
I've been battling depression for approximately fifteen years. I like to think that I've built myself a type of arsenal against it. I'm used to some of the more intense symptoms, and with time, practice, and help, I've found my ways of managing them. For example: I experience self-destructive impulses pretty regularly, but I've got a litany of coping strategies that work for me, and while it's always unsettling, I don't have any worries about actually indulging them. I'm also getting better at sifting my symptoms from reality. This is never going to done with. But I've at least learned that when I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for accidentally breaking one of my Aunt's glasses and start to think I've ruined her entire life and thus become unworthy of her love, that I might possibly be in the middle of a depressive episode.
I've developed a tough hide over the years with regards to my health issues, and I'm proud of it. I'm not frightened any more of my illness, or of being stigmatized by others because of it. I don't think I have to apologize for being sick, or hide the fact that I'm sometimes in pain. As hard as punching back against depression is, the fact that I'm still here after a decade and a half means that I must be doing something right. But I've run into a problem. If all goes well, in the next few months I'll begin taking medication for the first time ...more
As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m currently receiving therapy for my depression issues for the first time in my life. The decision to get help necessitated another difficult decision: whether or not this would be public knowledge. As I’m sure anyone reading this is aware, there’s a lot of misinformation about mental illness and health in our culture, which contributes to negative stigma for those dealing with it. I’m convinced that an important way of combating this is open discussion, but believing that is a lot easier than acting on it. Even though I ultimately decided to be open about my own issues, I still struggle with that decision. One of the issues I’ve run into in working through this,is that depression seems to have an overabundance of metaphors attached to it.
"It's like drowning."
"It's like Suffocating."
"I feel like a ghost."
"Imagine being buried alive."
I have mixed feelings about this. On the surface, the number of metaphors is a good thing, because it means it’s being discussed. It's also true that these metaphors have a certain accuracy to them, at least for certain people. But their limited nature can make clear communication difficult for individual people, and lead to damaging stereotypes; especially the idea that depression is strictly an emotional state, affecting only "emotional" people. People untouched by clinical depression, and without extensive research on the subject, usually don't understand the variability and pervasiveness of depressive symptoms. Metaphors are often necessary to communicate these things, but it's difficult to find one that is ...more