Things I’ve thought about in 2013.

I have a confession to make.

I am not as tough as I like people to think I am.

Don’t get me wrong. I am confident, and truly don’t give a fuck what most people think. However, I dissolve into tears at the slightest provocation. Sad books, happy books, animal abuse commercials, choreographed dances, seeing others cry, seeing families reunite… Anything. It’s just as fucking annoying as you might suspect.

Empathy rules my life, and as such, greatly interferes with my decision-making capabilities. It is in my nature to trust people, and to believe they are generally kind, honest, and have good intentions. I hate thinking that something I’ve said or done has hurt someone’s feelings. This makes me quite a good and supportive friend, but is also rather naïve, and leaves me open to being manipulated, emotionally bullied and taken advantage of.

After being burned by this god-awful naïveté, I have decided to make a list of things I have learned, or re-learned, this year. Many of them seem intuitive. Many more I should have learned years ago. But the point is that I’m still learning. Life can be hard, and can throw you ridiculous curve balls- but as long as you manage to learn something along the way, it’s worth it.
So, without further adieu, here’s a snapshot inside my sweet, optimistic, potentially schizophrenic and certainly slightly idiotic brain.

There are some seriously amazing people in the world.

There are some seriously cunty people in the world.

People who object to the word “cunt” are probably cunty cunts.

Facebook is a fucking stupid waste of time. So is Twitter, but at least cool people are on there.

People are not always who they seem to be.

No one will love me like my family does.

Science remains fucking awesome.

It’s ok to be weak and let people support you sometimes.

It’s always a good idea to take good advice. The trouble is trying to sort out “good” advice from “bad” advice.

Making new friends is awesome. Losing old friends sucks.

Saying goodbye is hard when you don’t know when, or if, you’ll say hello again.

Most religious people are not assholes- but the ones who are tend to be such extreme assholes that they ruin it for the rest.

There is no “right” way to mourn the loss of someone you care for. There is only survival until time can work its magical healing powers.

Anyone over the age of 15 who expects you to stop talking to someone because it makes them jealous probably isn’t worth your time.

Real friends will never expect you to put their needs or wants before your own.

Real friends will never threaten you, no matter what the circumstances are.

Not everyone deserves your attention.

I remain unconvinced that sunrises anywhere in the world compare to those in Canada.

Working out is an excellent way to relieve stress and anger.

Showering alone is a huge waste of water.

Oceans and beaches. They are excellent.

No matter how much you know, there is always room to learn more.

A little patience and kindness can go a long way.

Being inherently trusting of people can set you up to be terribly let down.

Words whisper. Actions yell.

Dogs are the best kind of people.

There isn’t much that feels better than looking into the eyes of someone you care for.

People will take advantage of you if you let them.

Life is both too short, and too long, to be unhappy.

Taking risks is risky. Not taking risks may indeed be riskier.

Comfortable silence is extremely under-rated.

You can’t control every situation, but you CAN control how you react in those situations.

If you manage to find someone in this crazy, fucked up world who loves, respects, challenges, adores and amuses you… count yourself among the lucky ones. And try not to fuck it up.

Thank you for being my constant source of amusement, and for all of the kind words, advice, friendship and support. I hope your 2014 is better than your 2013… but not as good as your 2015.

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Shut up and vaccinate your damn kids- part 2

In the wake of the MMR-autism scandal, we have been plagued with parents around the world who suddenly think that vaccinating their children is the wrong move.  Several propaganda websites, often created by individuals with absolutely no medical training, have sprung up with detailed lists of reasons why vaccination is dangerous, unnecessary, ineffective, or conspiracies by drug companies to get your money.  These are, of course, blatantly false, but they are also unbelievably dangerous.  These myths about vaccination aren’t just frustrating for health care providers, but they are actually leading to outbreaks of diseases that were once thought to be near eradication.

 Now- I fully support parents who want to get all of the information they can about vaccines and the general health of their children. I think this is very important.  But there is a difference between getting your information from reputable sources such as the CDC, WHO, or peer reviewed research, and getting it from a blog written by a stay at home mom with no medical training.  If parents are willing to take the time to search google for the wingnut who says their child got autism from a vaccine, why are they seemingly unable to ALSO read the plethora of information available, from TRAINED professionals, that disproves this association?

I’m going to run down a list of common objections people have to vaccines, and my explanation of why those objections are unfounded.

 1) Vaccines are full of dangerous chemicals!

Vaccines do contain chemicals. Anti-vax proponents will give you a hefty list of them- thimerosal, formaldehyde, aluminum, phenol, anti-freeze, etc etc etc. In some cases, trace amounts of these chemicals do exist in vaccines; in other cases it’s downright untrue.  The most hotly contested of these is undoubtedly thimerosal, which is a type of mercury.  The confusion arises, however, in what type of mercury we’re speaking of.  Most vaccines no longer contain any thimerosal at all due to the uproar, but those that do (the flu vaccine, for example) contain ethyl mercury, which is far different from the typical methyl mercury we are so concerned about in our environment.  Where methyl mercury can accumulate in your body and become toxic, ethyl mercury does not accumulate in this way.  This misunderstanding by the public is what has amplified the myth that dangerous, toxic chemicals are thrown haphazardly into vaccines- which is simply untrue.  Each chemical component in any vaccine serves an important purpose- to boost the immune response, help preserve the vaccine, prevent growth of viruses or bacteria, and so on. And furthermore, the AMOUNT of these chemicals in any vaccine is far below what would be considered toxic, even for an infant.  The amount of mercury found in any vaccine is far lower than you would ingest by eating a can of tuna. 

 2) Immune systems of children are fragile- they can’t handle all of these vaccines! It’s too much!

People who spout this tripe clearly have no understanding of vaccines or the human immune system.  The immune system of a child is undoubtedly not as strong as that of an adult, which is precisely why they are at higher risk of becoming infected in the first place, punctuating the need to protect them from these infections.  Those who claim it’s “too much” for a child’s immune system to handle should consider that children come into contact with thousands of antigens every day, which are handled by their immune systems just fine. In comparison, their ENTIRE vaccination schedule contains roughly 150 antigens.  Time and time again, the number of vaccines given to children, even in a relatively short period of time, has been shown to be safe.

 3) Vaccines don’t work- our improved hygiene would have eliminated these infections anyway!

Hygiene is an extremely important component of preventing infectious disease- I won’t downplay that for a second.  But to suggest that this means vaccines are useless completely discounts the wealth of information that shows that they DO have a widespread impact.  The idea that polio, smallpox, diphtheria, measles, or any other infection would be kept to the low levels they are now without vaccination is nonsensical and completely baseless. The resurgence in measles outbreaks in communities who have largely decided not to vaccinate their children is clear enough- and there are several more examples for those who choose not to remain blissfully ignorant of it.

 4) Pharmaceutical companies are crooks that sell us untested vaccines just to make money

Of course pharmaceutical companies want to make money. What company doesn’t? But the myth that they can simply pump out any vaccine or drug they want, untested and unproven, is absolute nonsense.  There are strict regulations, guidelines and safety trials that must be followed before any drug or vaccine can be licensed for use in the general population.  Any of these drugs/vaccines will have risks, side effects and unwanted “adverse events”- that’s simply the reality of any medical intervention.  The goal of the medical community and pharma companies is to ensure these interventions are as safe as they possibly can be while still providing the best possible effect to overall human health.  Clinical trials are always conducted to evaluate the safety and efficacy of vaccines before they are rolled out, and all adverse events are scrupulously documented in order to make an informed decision on if the risks outweigh the benefits.  This continues on even after the vaccine has been rolled out to the public, as an extra precaution to ensure any unsafe reactions that may have been missed in the original safety trials are eventually caught.  If this DOES happen, the vaccine can be recalled, evaluated, and improved.  This is how science works.

5) Any unvaccinated children I know are FAR healthier than the vaccinated ones!

This is anecdotal evidence, which, when compared to large-scale safety and efficacy trials, holds precisely 0 weight.  I know many people who eat chocolate and then go on to be diagnosed with cancer.  Does this mean chocolate causes cancer? Of course not.  Correlation does NOT equal causation, and that kind of anecdotal evidence is, quite simply, completely useless and unfounded in the field of medicine.  Another example is the unsubstantiated conclusion that vaccination of babies in the US contributes to the high infant mortality rates seen there when compared to other countries.  This completely fails to consider the many other factors related to higher infant mortality rates in the US- such as the lack of pre-natal and post-natal care many women receive.  Unlike vaccination, which has shown no direct link to increased infant mortality rates, pre and post-natal care certainly has.

 6) I don’t think my child is at risk, so I’m not going to vaccinate.

This is an incredibly selfish, and frankly, downright idiotic assertion.  I doubt any of the parents of the children in Wales who contracted measles thought their children were at risk either.  No one thinks THEIR child is at risk until they become infected.  The reason vaccines are effective at preventing infections in a community is because the majority of people get them, protecting not only themselves from infection, but the few unvaccinated individuals around them- a phenomenon known as herd immunity.  There are some individuals in the community who are not able to get vaccines- those who are immunocompromised from other illnesses such as cancer or AIDS, for example.  These individuals rely on OTHERS being protected from those infections in order to be protected themselves through herd immunity.  By not vaccinating, you not only put your children at risk, but you put others at risk as well.

 

When considering vaccines, as with any medical intervention, we need to consider the risks and benefits. To look only at the risks without giving due consideration to the overwhelming benefits is unbelievably short sighted.  Though there are risks, it is the consensus of medical professionals that these risks are far overshadowed by the benefits we see- a huge reduction in the morbidity and mortality caused by infectious diseases.

Here’s the bottom line. Vaccines work. We have come to this conclusion time, and time, and time again. They are as safe as we can possibly make them and we continue to make them safer as time goes on. Not vaccinating your children not only puts them at risk of serious infections, but puts other individuals in your community at risk as well. Stop reading shitty propaganda from Jenny McCarthy et al, and vaccinate your damn kids.

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Shut up and vaccinate your damn kids- Part 1

Though most people on Twitter would know me primarily as a tweeter of atheism, infectious disease and human health from the perspective of basic science is a major passion of mine.  Atheism is a hobby, and nothing more- but medicine and science are my life.

Being in a health-related field, I’ve learned a lot about vaccinology, and being on Facebook (until 6 months ago), I’ve run across a lot of people who challenge vaccinology in essentially every way.

Being on Twitter, I’ve found more of the same- people who have latched onto this bizarre cult movement of anti-vaccination which has been bred by misinformation and perpetuated by fear.  I’ve seen many people in my Twitter timeline discuss vaccination and the anti-vax movement with many people, and thought it might be time to clear up some of the inaccuracies and downright falsehoods that seem to be plaguing our anti-vax friends.

First, let’s briefly consider how vaccines work.

The basic structure of the vaccine doesn’t really matter, as the goal remains essentially the same- expose your immune system to a piece of a potentially harmful pathogen in order to prepare it for the real thing.  When your immune system sees a vaccine, it is able to create a “memory” response, which basically means the next time it sees that particular infection, it will recognize it, and be able to coordinate a fast, effective response which will clear the infection before it can infect you or cause you harm.  

The very first vaccine ever developed was against smallpox in the late 1700’s, by Dr. Edward Jenner. Jenner noticed that milk maids who became infected with cowpox, the much milder “cousin” of the very deadly smallpox, did not contract smallpox.  He had a theory that the cowpox infection was somehow protecting them from smallpox. To test this (much to the chagrin of ethicists everywhere), he infected a young boy with cowpox, and upon recovery, attempted to infect him with smallpox, but the boy was immune and did not become infected.  This is a classic example of how vaccination works.

Working from his early example, medical professionals have developed a plethora of human vaccines that have greatly reduced the suffering and death from infectious diseases. Polio has nearly been eradicated due to Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine. Cholera, the plague, measles, mumps, rubella, typhoid… dozens of diseases are now preventable due to the creation of effective vaccines. We see proof of this every day- how many people do you know who have been crippled by polio?

So why, then, is there this unrest amongst parents within our communities, who suddenly seem skeptical, or even fearful, of the very vaccines that prevented them from a deadly polio infection?

In 1998, a paper was published in the very reputable journal Lancet, by Dr. Andrew Wakefield et al, which suggested there was a link between the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, rubella), and a new syndrome which was a combination of a kind of autism and a bowel disease.  In time, several other studies were done to show that this link did not exist, and eventually the paper was retracted and Dr. Wakefield stripped of his medical license.  It eventually came out that the methodology used in this paper was completely inappropriate, many of the results exaggerated or completely falsified, and that Wakefield had several monetary conflicts of interest which may have driven this falsification of data. For example:

– The study contained only 12 children, some of whom previously had symptoms of bowel disease or neurological impairment

– The results were determined based on anecdotal evidence from parents (many of whom came out later disputing that they’d actually said what Wakefield claimed, or that their children did not possess the symptoms he claimed they did)

– Many invasive procedures such as colonoscopies and lumbar punctures were done, WITHOUT ethical approval (that’s a big no-no, folks)

Most damning of all is that Wakefield had a monetary conflict of interest- he was involved in trying to license a single measles vaccine- by discrediting the MMR vaccine, the likelihood of his vaccine being more widely used would have improved dramatically.  Furthermore, it eventually came out that Wakefield had personally pocketed ~$400,000 from a group who was filing a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine- AND that several of the 12 trial participants had been recruited through the lawyer filing this suit. This type of conflict of interest is completely unacceptable in the field of medicine, and was likely a driving factor for why Wakefield presented the false data.

Despite the eventual retraction of this paper, the damage had been done. The media attention garnered by this case could not be dampened even when several studies proved that there was no link. Parents in the UK in particular stopped vaccinating their children, which led to outbreaks of measles, including fatalities. Worse yet, several years after the paper was retracted and the link dissolved, we are STILL feeling the effects, thanks to celebrities like Jenny McCarthy getting on board and perpetuating the myth to the media.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I feel for the parents who have to see their children dealing with autism, and I can’t imagine the guilt they suffer in this belief that a vaccine they gave them somehow caused it.  But the simple fact of the matter is that there is absolutely no link between autism and vaccination of any kind. This has been shown time and time again, but for some reason the myth has penetrated our society so hard that now we just can’t shake it.

 

 

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Misogyny and Feminism: Don’t be a whiny bitch.

I’ve already posted my feelings on atheism+ on Twitter and the block bot (Update: They’re all still whiny douchecanoes). But stemming from this, something else has caught my attention, and in typical Mel style, I need to rant about it.

I’ve long considered myself to be a supporter of equal rights, whether it be for women, homosexuals, bisexuals, transgender people, racial minorities, or anyone else who has been oppressed or had their rights taken away. However, I have never, and will never consider myself a feminist. Other people may say I AM a feminist by default, in that I support gender equality. That’s fine. But it’s never a label I’ll apply to myself, for a few reasons.

One main reason, which I may get backlash for, is because whether it is fair or not, “feminism” has a rather negative connotation in my experience. I’m no expert on the feminist movement, but it seems that recently there has been an upsurge in what is colloquially known as “radical feminism”- which, in my humble opinion, is a bunch of whiny bitches making a big fucking deal about things no one should really care about. Many of them go as far as to claim that anything a man says is misogynistic, or “mansplaining”, and that as men they shouldn’t get to comment on women’s issues. This oversensitivity and dramatic behaviour does nothing for the cause of feminism, and nothing for its reputation, either.

The other reason I reject the label of “feminist” actually stems from the word itself. I don’t necessarily support “women’s” rights. I support equality. I don’t care if you’re a man, woman, black, white, gay, straight, trans, or anything else- you are a human being. That in and of itself means you should have equal rights to every other human being. The trouble with focussing on women’s rights alone is that it overshadows the overall goal, which should be of equality. When we focus on women’s rights alone, we ignore the fact that suddenly the opinions of men are being ignored or disregarded simply because they are the “privileged”. Well, here’s a thought- no man decided to be born white, straight, and with a penis. But suddenly as a society we are blaming them for their “privilege”. Maybe instead of trying to bring down men, we should be focusing on trying to make all people equal.

I have never been one to be easily offended by what people say, either as an intended insult to me or just as a phrase. I’ve seen people get upset on Twitter by the phrases “man up”, “don’t be a pussy”, or “don’t be a bitch”. Indicating, of course, that men are strong, and bitches and pussies (ie, women) are weak. I understand this in an objective way. I understand how people can see that meaning and be offended by it. But I am not offended, even a little bit.

The reason for this goes to the greater issue of generalization. Many feminists I’ve seen tend to try and pump women up by saying “we can do anything men can do!”. And that’s a lovely slogan for your campaign, but I must say, I do not support it. Using phrasing like this just increases the generalization of and divide between men and women. Why do we need to always consider these issues as a case of men vs women? Yes, I am a woman, but I am an individual. Some men can bench more weight than me. But so can some women. And I can bench more than some men. So what? I am still just an individual human that happens to fall into the category of “woman”. But generalizing it as if we want to make men and women the same makes no sense to me. Men and women are NOT the same. Why are we constantly trying to force them to be? In general terms, what one sex may be “better” at than the other should make absolutely no fucking difference. If we’re striving for equality, the generalizations shouldn’t matter- you should be judged based on your individual merits and not discriminated against for your sex, gender identity, sexuality, race, or anything else. So to me, getting bent out of shape because someone has suggested you “man up” is just completely nonsensical. Why get offended when someone calls a man a pussy? Do you really lack so much confidence that you think that this label applies to you, that somehow you are weak just because you are a woman? The issue here seems to be more one of self esteem than anything else. I am a confident person. I know what my strengths are, and what my weaknesses are. I don’t identify with some stereotypical version of “the woman” that these “slurs” seem to apply to. I am not weak, quiet, proper, and do not submit to men. I am not the stereotypical woman. If you are confident in who you are and allow your individuality to be the focus, instead of your genitals, these words will remain exactly that- words.

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Atheism Plus: Atheism, but now with fuckwittery!

If you’re reading this, it can be of no surprise to you that Atheism Plus has come up as a topic of conversation again. As usual, I have an opinion, and am here to share it. Let me start by providing a run down of my understanding of Atheism Plus.

Atheism Plus is a relatively new movement which seeks to go past a simple lack of belief in gods, and into the realm of social justice. They tackle issues such as homophobia, transphobia, feminism, misogyny, racism, and basically every form of bigotry or “ism” you can imagine. How they actually group together to counter any of these things I admit I do not know and do not understand, outside of online forums and Twitter.

My personal opinion on Atheism Plus is that it is not necessary. The majority of atheists I’ve come across are vocal about LGBT rights, many are feminists, and I’ve yet to meet a racist or homophobic atheist. I can support equal rights for women and preventing bigotry and homophobia without labelling myself as belonging to a group. I don’t care if others want to be a part of some group, but personally, I don’t see the need for it, and in my experience, all it has done is successfully fractured the atheist community into an “us and them” mentality. It says on the atheism plus website that this is not the intention, and I believe it- but many of the Atheism Plus members I’ve come across have immediately cast me and other non- A+ members as being unsupportive of the “issues”. I have had several A+ people come to me out of nowhere, badly misunderstanding and misconstruing things I’ve said, and labelling me as they see fit without bothering to listen to an explanation. This is the first way in which I’m reminded of theists.

People have gotten very upset at me for “painting all of Atheism Plus with the same brush”. The fact is, when you identify as part of a group, the actions of the individuals within that group reflect back onto the group as a whole. Is this fair? Probably not. But it’s reality. That’s the trouble with groups like this. The idea itself isn’t a bad one- more people working towards equality can’t be a bad thing. But trying to put so many individuals with so many opinions into a single heading just doesn’t work. My interactions with Atheism Plus members have been 100% negative, and as such, this has coloured my opinion of Atheism Plus as negative. Add to this the fact that they don’t seem to do anything I can’t do on my own, and the entire thing seems wholly useless to me.

Up until the block bot came out, I didn’t even know what Atheism Plus was. This is a whole different pile of horse shit that I struggle to know how to address because it’s so fucking stupid.

The block bot is a service created in conjunction with Atheism Plus, which adds unsavoury people from Twitter to one of three levels; Level 1 (most severe), for “stalkers” and “doxxers”; Level 2 for “assholes”; Level 3 for “annoying people”. Users can opt in to Level 1 only, Level 1 and 2, or all three levels, and the bot will automatically block the list of users the blockers have deemed fit into each level.

Now let me be clear- I don’t actually hate this idea on the surface. I can’t begin to imagine the harassment transgendered individuals in particular probably face from a plethora of dickheads on the internet. That happens. If the purpose of this bot was actually to target just these relentlessly harassing individuals in order to prevent LGBT or others from being harassed, then great. I can absolutely see a place for it among people who are constantly targeted with relentless attacks on Twitter. The trouble is the people who are allowed to add people to the block list are apparently power hungry idiots who have completely ruined the interesting premise of the bot by adding people they simply don’t like to the block list. I was added to Level 2. Was I being an asshole? Definitely (That’s kind of my MO). I committed the mortal sin of speaking up that the block bot adding @secularbloke to its block list was downright fucking ridiculous- because it is. @secularbloke and many others (myself included, now) were added for either having a disagreement with the bot creators, for voicing a dissenting opinion about the bot itself, or saying something “rude” about Atheism Plus. Please explain to me how any of these things are considered “harassment”. If you cannot, then the premise of your bot has utterly failed. Silencing your critics rather than listening to their criticisms shows incredible immaturity, and in this case has ruined whatever good intentions there may have been with this bot. The inability of the creators to have a civil conversation or accept criticism for their idea has completely sunk the idea and turned it into a playground farce and pissing contest. This idea could have worked, if the blockers had a shred of integrity or maturity. Sadly, they did not.

I’ll only briefly mention the incredible irony of being a group of “free thinkers” and letting someone else’s judgements, biases, and personal vendettas decide who should be on YOUR personal block list. Like I said, I understand the purpose if it were to prevent relentless attacks from transphobic assholes. But to allow someone else to decide who is “annoying” and let them be blocked on your behalf shows an unbelievable amount of laziness. If you do have a bad experience with someone, guess what you can do? You can hit the block button yourself.

To illustrate how ridiculous their blocking decisions are, I’m going to go ahead and note some people who have been added to the list, that I know, follow, and think are excellent tweeters and better people- and none of whom are harassers, homophobic, transphobic, misogynists, or rape apologists. Certainly none of whom seek out LGBT, feminists, etc to harass them.
Level 3:
@ZachsMind
@WhiteLighters
@SelfExamineLife
@secularbloke
@MsGrumpy
@Lenn_Len
@Kieran_Madden
@ihaveoreos
@idebunkforme
@GodlessSmeghead
@god_sucks
@ex_muslim
@EuropeanAtheist
@dawkinsassange
@DamnedAndromeda
@curtfox
@CompleteCulture
@chrisrenfrow
@francosoup

Level 2:
@TelfordAtheist
@Ratzsa1
@jen_august
@GreenBudAtheist
@fieryskulldiary
@CommonCormorant
@AtlanticCanuck
@ascotsmanabroad

This is by no means an exclusive list but some I happened to notice while looking at the block list (http://www.theblockbot.com/?page_id=35)

One in particular I’d like to mention is @Lenn_Len. I haven’t followed him for long, but all reports and my own witness have shown him to be nothing but an absolutely lovely person. Recently he got into a discussion with one of the block bot creators, at which point he tweeted something that was VERY badly misinterpreted, to the point where the block bot creator decided it was fair to label him a rape apologist. This, quite plainly, is fucking bullshit. To make such a character judgement based on 3 tweets, all of which were innocuous to anyone who understood what Len was trying to say, is a perfect example of how this A+ block bot nonsense has gotten completely out of hand. I can assure you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, Len is NOT a rape apologist, no matter how many holier-than-thou A+ idiots try to paint him as such based on a misunderstood tweet. It’s been explained ad nauseum, and those involved refuse to listen, and refuse to even attempt to understand what happened. This is the kind of shit that makes A+ look bad. It’s the behaviour of these people that sour the entire concept for me and a fair few others. To see how the A+ group refuse to listen to sense and simply label people as rape apologists, misogynists, transphobic assholes, etc illustrates a disturbing level of group think that I haven’t seen since my exit from religion. To see people like @secularbloke, @damnedandromeda, @fieryskulldiary, @francosoup and @jennaugust on this list, among the others, shows exactly how fucking ridiculous the whole thing is. It shows that the creators of the bot and the other A+ individuals I’ve spoken to really seriously don’t give a shit about helping to create a “safer” environment on Twitter- they simply want to make themselves feel powerful and special by publicly shaming and blocking people they don’t like, or who have criticized them, and as a result, have created an incredible divide among atheists on Twitter.

So my conclusion is that, despite intentions that may have been good, personal egos, silly vendettas, and holier-than-thou attitudes have made the block bot, and the greater Atheism Plus movement, a complete and total laughing stock. Things have spiralled so far out of control that I can’t imagine how anything good can come from this. For me, I’ve decided to take my own advice and just block those people who I don’t care to talk to. And can you believe it- I’ve managed to do so without the help of a bot.

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I am not LGBT, but I am an ally.

I am not LGBT, but I am an ally. Here’s why.

“Gay New Mexico Teen Commits Suicide After Reportedly Being Bullied By Classmates”
“Gay Iowa Teen’s Suicide Fifth to Rattle Local High School”
“LGBT seniors struggle with suicide”

Headlines like this make me sick to my stomach. Unfortunately, they are all too common in our society today. I grew up in an excellent, nurturing, loving environment, and it baffles me that there are people out there who struggle so much with bullying and hatred for who they are, that their only option is to take their own life. However, if you spend 10 seconds doing a search of Twitter, there are numerous examples of how much ignorance and hatred these people face on a daily basis.

“It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”
“Being gay is a choice.”
“Homosexuality is an abomination.”

I used to spend time arguing with theists about whether or not homosexuality is a choice. I still do, sometimes. But I’ve come to realize that the point is moot. They like to say that it’s a choice, which somehow makes it ok for us to discriminate against them. It makes it ok to quote bible passages that define marriage as between a man and a woman, because they’ve “chosen” that lifestyle. Of course, we know now that human sexuality exists on a spectrum. We know that homosexuality exists in thousands of species in nature. We can be quite certain that homosexuality is not a choice, just as the millions of heterosexuals who fight so hard against gay rights can’t tell you at what point they “chose” to be straight. But why does it matter? In what way does what 2 consenting adults do affect you, at all? Let me tell you something. It doesn’t. I’ve said this many times to many people and I think it’s worth repeating- if I’m not fucking you, it’s none of your business who I’m fucking. What consenting adults decide to do with their time, sexually or otherwise, does not affect you. I can’t possibly understand why you would want to ruin the happiness of people, or prevent them having the same rights as you, simply because of who they love. It’s complete and utter madness. I’ve never met anyone who had an issue with homosexuality that was independent of religious belief. So what we’ve come to as people is the decision that homosexuality is wrong, based on the teachings of the bible which also states a non-virgin bride should be murdered, a rape victim should marry her abuser, or that slavery is ok under certain guidelines? This is utter madness. Why should I or anyone else, believer or not, be held up to this horrific guideline? When’s the last time you murdered your child for talking back? When’s the last time you killed someone for being gay? Never, I’d hope. And why not? Because these horrific acts we are told to do as a “biblical standard” are obviously completely immoral by today’s standards. So why do we still think it’s ok to tell LGBT people they are less worthy, they are abominations, or they aren’t allowed to marry?

I’ve heard people compare homosexuality to bestiality. If you have ever used this argument, you are an ignorant twat. I refuse to even explain why that comparison is nonsensical, because it’s offensive that I should have to. Likewise, the “argument” that homosexuality is somehow linked to pedophilia fills me with so much anger that I can barely stand to mention it. People who say things like this have been completely blinded by hatred of something they choose not to understand. They would rather completely discount the rights of LGBT people simply because they can’t step outside of their own ridiculous preconceived and baseless notions of how or what these people are. Let me explain something to you about “what” LGBT people are. They are you. They are me. They are people who were born human, to human parents, who grew up and feel attractions that are outside of their control. They are people who fall in love and form attachments and just want to be treated as equals. But our bigotry and hatred are preventing that and turning them into a marginalized population simply because of who they are, and what they do in THEIR lives. The fact that there are places in the world, and even in the United States and other industrialized nations, that still don’t recognize LGBT as equal to everyone else, is completely fucked up, for lack of a better term. This is precisely why the rest of us cannot remain silent, and why we must stand up against the true abomination- that in 2013, there are still places in the world that can imprison or kill LGBT people by law.

So, you still think homosexuality is “wrong”? Fine. But if you can’t stop feeling that way, then keep that disgusting, bigoted opinion to yourself. By expressing it, all you’re doing is furthering the hatred and discrimination of an already marginalized population. You’re contributing to the hate that is making so many teens and adults feel like they don’t belong, or that there is something wrong with them, or that maybe they’d be better off dead. Can you live with that on your conscience?

We can’t change everyone. We can’t change every bigoted opinion. Some people will remain ignorant, and will keep hating and discriminating. That’s why it’s up to the rest of us to pull up the slack, and stand up and tell the world this type of behaviour is NOT ok. Even if we don’t succeed in changing minds, the support we can lend to marginalized LGBT people may be the difference between life and death. A kid in high school who is bullied may look at us and realize that not everyone out there will look down on them and treat them as less than human- that things will get better, that there ARE people who will support them, and fight with and for them, for the equality and acceptance they deserve. So don’t stay quiet. Don’t back down when you see someone being bullied or discriminated against for their sexuality or gender. Show the world that we aren’t going to stand by and let people, our fellow human beings, be told they are less worthy of rights and freedoms that the rest of us enjoy. Gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and everything in between- we are all human. “Gay rights” shouldn’t be a term in our vocabulary. They’re called human rights. If you’re a human, you should get them.

Links:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/16/new-mexico-gay-suicide_n_3606614.html
http://www.advocate.com/youth/2013/07/29/gay-iowa-teens-suicide-fifth-rattle-local-high-school
http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=68908

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Only an atheist until the plane starts to fall.

The full quote of the above phrase is “Communist until you get rich, feminist until you get married, atheist until the airplane starts falling”.

hypocrite

I could probably spend blog entries of equal length debating the merits of the first two statements as well, but allow me to focus. Typically, theists just love the last part of this statement, and love to quote it whenever possible. I always imagine them posting it with a smug little smile on their faces, thinking, “Take THAT, stupid atheists!”.

You can’t really blame them. It’s quite a catchy little saying. It’s got some nice punch to it, which is why so many theists post it without thinking, and assuming they’re being terribly clever. Of course, like many of these viral quotes (think: “Atheism is a belief that nothing exploded and made nothing which turned into dinosaurs!” or “It takes more faith to be an atheist”, or my personal favourite, “Atheism is a religion too”), this one suffers from similar leaps in, or, a complete lack of, logic.

I was thinking about this while in an airplane, funny enough. A 12 hour flight gives you plenty of time to think, and I’d grown tired of imagining I was living in Pride and Prejudice (TMI?). The flight was quite turbulent. We experienced a few of those drink-spilling, shriek inducing, random 10-foot drops… which I find terribly amusing, and wish the entire flight was made up of to be honest. Of course, many people already experience a fear of flying, and several gasps of surprise and “OH MY GOD’s” were heard. I spent a few moments after that seriously considering if that plane started to go down, what I’d do. I decided quite quickly I’d try to call my mom, and if that didn’t work, I’d turn my iPod up and settle in for the ride. Never once did it occur to me that I’d pray. Hear that, theists? I am an atheist. And I know for a fact there is a 0% chance a crashing plane would lead to my re-conversion to theism. I’m finding it difficult to properly describe why this is, which should be a clue as to how utterly ridiculous the proposition is.

Let’s first consider the unintentional irony of the statement itself. “Only an atheist until the plane starts to fall!” So essentially what theists are suggesting is that logic completely fails in times of panic. Or that fear leads to completely irrational beliefs. Well spotted! I feel like theists should get a prize for this. But despite this irony, I still can’t imagine a situation in which this would potentially be true. Atheism is an informed position. It is a position of logic and reason. Being an atheist means you’ve seriously considered the claim that there is a god, and have rejected this claim. Why would a crashing plane ever make me re-think that conclusion which I’ve spent years arriving at? No amount of fear, or panic, would make me reconsider this truth I’ve come to in my life. Certainly, the fact I’m about to die in a plane crash would in no way confirm that a god exists. It might piss me off a bit, or make me wonder what idiot didn’t properly check the plane before letting us fly in it. I think the thing theists fail to realize when making statements like this is that we have truly THOUGHT about the possibilities. We aren’t atheists because someone told us to be. It isn’t some waffling position where we may or may not believe. We do not believe. No amount of tragic circumstances will change that. At least not for me.

So, next time you’re in an airplane and the turbulence gets a bit rough, do what I do- turn up your music, chuckle at the frantic believers, accept there is not a single fucking thing you can do about it, and just enjoy the ride.

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