Atheist Reflections

I haven’t written anything here in a really long time. I started an exhausting and demanding new job in the meatspace, and it’s been taking up most of my time and energy lately. Plus, I moved to a new apartment and have been spending all my (extremely minimal) spare time trying to dig my way out of boxes. (Why do I have so much stuff?) I’m still doing that, but I felt like it would be good for me to make more of an effort to blog, since I enjoy it so much.

Plus I get paid by the click at Friendly Atheist, so I should be connecting my readers here to what I’m writing over there. Click me! CLICK ME!

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about atheism and me. Because our relationship lately has been a little bit weird. Please bear with me if my thoughts on the matter aren’t very organized, but there is a lot to digest.

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Telling Words from the Archbishop-Designate

A photograph of Blase Cupich in bishops' garments.

Rose-coloured glasses not pictured. Image via Diocese of Rapid City.

I recently wrote a post for Friendly Atheist about the new Archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich (say it like SOO-pitch). I wrote about how he mimics Pope Francis in the way he talks about the Church’s teachings, providing pithy sound bites that sound liberal and progressive without actually committing to change, and while in fact reinforcing the toxic beliefs about marriage, women, and human sexuality that leave so many people at odds with the Church.

There was one observation I made that didn’t quite fit into the rest of the article, so I had to cut it. But I think it’s valuable, so I want to write about it here. It concerns something Cupich said when asked about “the struggles of women religious”, with particular reference to Vatican criticisms of American nuns who have become active in social-justice issues like health care access. Cupich said:

I remember sisters who taught me. I can name each of the sisters who taught me grade school, and so I have a fondness. And so do my brothers and sisters. My mother was able to talk about the sisters who taught her. [. . .] I think that I want to just celebrate that wonderful memory in our family that was part of our own parish life experience.

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Christian Harry Potter Fanfiction To The Rescue!

Last Monday I wrote about the moral panic around Harry Potter, which persists even though the books are finished and the movie adaptations all over and done with. Those books are still out there, stealing souls from Jesus to achieve Satan’s not-entirely-specified destructive purposes. The trouble is, they’re just so tempting to little children! So what do you do if you want to allow your children to enjoy the Harry Potter stories without getting a crash course in phony Latin incantations real and irrefutably evil magic?

An icon-style drawing of Harry Potter, dressed in Quidditch robes and holding a book, with a halo around his head.

Image via Beyond The Pale.

You’re in luck! Somebody calling herself Grace Ann (username: ‘proudhousewife’) has begun to rewrite the Harry Potter mythos as “Hogwarts’ School of Prayer and Miracles”, which is chock-full of radiantly holy Christian messages about how atheists are stupid, women who aren’t submissive stay-at-home mothers are terrible, and Jesus makes everything so perfect, just being in the presence of a Christian is enough to begin to bring harmony into your heretofore heathenish life.

You’re not going to believe me, but read it and you’ll see: it makes Chick tracts look nuanced and sophisticated. The narrative gets really aggressively preachy in places. For instance, Harry’s Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were always characterized as aggressively disagreeable characters, but here they’re disagreeable because of atheism. You can tell they’re a horrible family, not because they treat Harry unfairly like Rowling’s version of the Dursleys, but because they’re atheists, and Aunt Petunia isn’t a stay-at-home mom, and Uncle Vernon bakes when everybody knows that’s the woman’s job, and the carpet hasn’t been vacuumed in quite some time.

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Moral Panic Monday: Harry Potter Leads Us To Satan

I figured that the moral panic over Harry Potter would have died out around the end of the series, or the release of the final movie, or something like that. Okay, Christians, we’re all done leading your children to Satan through the magic of storytelling now. Time to move on, right?

But today I found this on the Chick Publications website (your number one source for cartoon-format moral panic and bigotry for over 50 years):

Banner heading from the Jack Chick website, underneath which we see an ad for Hallowe'en tracts. The ad features a little boy wearing Harry Potter glasses, aside a thought bubble that reads "I want to be like Harry". Brightly coloured text asks, "If you don't give him the gospel, who will?"

Screen cap by Sara Lin Wilde.

Evidently, as far as certain evangelicals are concerned, the Harry Potter fight is far from over.

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The Still

This is a piece I wrote about two years ago now, within days of agreeing to my divorce. It’s not really a story in the sense of a piece of writing with plot – beginning, middle, and end – so much as a snapshot of a subjective moment in a character’s life. I’ve been planning to post it here forever; it’s been pinned to my bulletin board so long, the pages have started to change colour. So I post it here as a writing sample: do with it what you will.

An image of the full moon illuminating bare-branched trees against the backdrop of a dark night sky.

Image via KidsGoals.

The child stands at the doorway, hesitant, peering into the obscure gloom of his parents’ bedroom. It is a place that should look safe and inviting. But it does not.

It seemed welcoming enough from the loneliness of his own tiny bedroom, where the shadows were like phantoms crossing the ceiling and the silence deafens him. He envisioned sleeping peacefully in the secure glow of his parents’ sweet affection, his father’s laugh and his mother’s gentle touch. His father’s skin warming his, the orchid scent of his mother’s favourite soap.

But somewhere along the hallway everything went wrong.

There is nothing of his parents’ reassuring presence here, not one glowing ember. Their protective love has gone cold with sleep. He can’t even make out their lumpy forms in the pitch lack. He cannot sense them. But something else in the bedroom knows he is standing there, and its malevolence – its terrifying wrongness – triggers all his instincts. He wants to run.

The boy listens hard. It could just be his father snoring; the sound is breathy and deep at once. But it also holds a hint of menace, like a dog’s warning growl rumbling threateningly low, not quite ready to rise up defensively but letting you know you better watch yourself. The boy finds that sound unnerving, that dog’s growl. Puppies should be playful and loyal and affectionate. A growl is feral and threatening.

More wolf than dog.

He can see it now, the wild thing in his parents’ dark chamber. It has ragged fur, mangy almost, but it is enormous, so instead of being pitiable it seems desperate. Hungry. A creature on the edge of madness. Its breath is loud, open-mouthed, ferocious. If there were any light coming through the curtained window, the boy is sure it would strike a mouth of gleaming teeth, wintry white or bloody red.

It might have eaten his parents up already. That growling breath is the only sound. It could be his father’s snoring but the thought that strikes him is so much more horrific: that somehow his father has become the wolf, mad and feral. The boy has no time to consider the ramifications of that, lost baseball games and bedtime stories never told and who will give him a ride to school now. The animal growls in the dark, soft throaty sounds, some louder ones too – snorts and snuffles and the occasional exploratory roar. The child feels fear tugging inside him. He strains to listen for his mother’s softer breathing, and cannot hear it.

The beast rumbles louder, the sound of hackles raised. Threat hangs thick upon the air. The boy knows nowhere is safe now, that even in bed with the covers over his head and toes pulled in tight, the monster that was his father has caught a taste for his scent. Safety is impossible. His father will swallow him up as he has already swallowed his mother. Still he craves that false security, and anxiously squirms where he stands, close to tears. Stay or go? Stay or go?

From the black he sees a narrow red glow come into focus. It could be the digital clock reflecting numbers onto the lens of glasses, but he also knows it could be more – the rabid glow of a single demon eye sizing up his presence. The thing can see him. He knows he must make a pitiful target, an anxious little boy with tousled hair and Doctor Seuss pajamas.

Easy prey.

He turns tail and runs, as fast as his childish legs will carry him down the moonlit corridor, back to the cool and comparative safety of the room where the phantoms dwell. He prays the wolf will not give chase, and when it does not he fears it was not a prayer answered, but a stroke of blind childish luck. He buries himself beneath the blankets. His last thought before sleep takes him is that he wishes he could tell his mother he is sorry.

Reading YA Novels. Not Embarrassed. Here’s Why.

A pink speech bubble, which reads: "I read YA and you don't. Who cares? No need to be condescending."

Here, have a graphic I lifted from somebody else who’s already responded to the article I found really late. Image via Teen Lit Rocks.

This piece from Slate came out a few months ago, but I only just found it now (thanks to a Facebook friend), and I can’t stay silent, even though I know there have already been plenty of responses saying exactly what I’m about to say. Too bad – it’s my blog, and it’s the place where I get to rant about stuff even if it’s repetitive.

The basic premise of the Slate article is this: adults who read YA (young adult) books should be embarrassed by their literary choices, and should stick to grown-up reading, which is superior.

I’m not buying it.

One of the first things we were taught during our librarian training was this: nobody should be ashamed of anything they’re reading. I still believe this. There are no banned books, no wrong book choices. There are books I like and books I don’t, books I openly criticize, and books I don’t think are worth anybody’s time. But I’m not judging you for reading them.

One thing I noticed about the Slate article was that it tended to take aim particularly at love stories written for young adults. It specifically took up “realistic fiction”, though it didn’t talk about YA fiction that deals with gritty issues affecting today’s teen like queer issues or cyberbullying or poverty or whatever else affects today’s teen. It talked about romances. Maybe this means I shouldn’t be commenting on the article; I don’t really read romance novels much, YA or otherwise. But, as the very intelligent woman who pointed me towards the article noted, it is interesting that fiction associated with young women gets so heavily critiqued, while fiction not readily seen as “girly” draws no fire.

But that’s not even my point. Girls certainly read much more than just romance. They read smart, sophisticated stories about real issues affecting themselves and other people in the world.

And for my money, Young Adult speculative fiction is some of the smartest stuff around.

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Bloody Hell

I have a friend who is refusing to donate blood to Canadian Blood Services because of their policies around Men who have Sex with Men (MSMs). She writes about it at her blog, Maple Tree Druidry

I can’t decide whether I’d want to boycott CBS as well, and I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about the issue, because for me it’s an academic question. They boycotted me first.

Generic "Hello, my name is" style nametag, which reads: "Hello, I am what you label me."

Image via Social Deviance.

My friend RixBoudicca at Maple Tree Druidry references me in her blog entry (with my permission):

I am close friends with a couple, a man and a woman.  Though they are currently monogamous in practice, they have had an open relationship in the past, and the gentleman in the couple is bisexual.  As a result, both are barred from donating blood because their blood is considered tainted, even though neither have contracted any blood borne disease.  She is told that if she stops having sex with him for 5 years, that she may be eligible to give again.  But they are talking about getting married and having children!  She is expected to walk away from the love of her life, because CBS disapproves of bisexuality, and believes he can just choose to be straight, or just choose to be abstinent.

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Ten Books

A red heart shape peeks from between the pages of a book.

Feel the love. Image via The Perfect Line.

My very good friend from Maple Tree Druidry has posted a meme that’s just too much fun for me to not get on the bandwagon. 

Rules: In your status, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard – they don’t have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just the ones that have affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends, including me, so I’ll see your list. If you’ve already done this, leave a link so I can check out your list.. and if you just don’t care for the whole being-tagged thing, that’s fine too.

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Moral Panic Monday: This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory, But . . .

I was hoping to continue my reading of You’re Teaching My Child What? by Miriam Grossman this fine Monday, but the computer on which I’ve stored my notes has crashed (possibly permanently) and the notes are inaccessible (possibly permanently). One of these days, I will learn to back up my writing . . . and actually follow through on that lesson. Until that day, and until my computer gets fixed (which should be as soon as my tech-savvy boyfriend finishes gaming, so we’ll be waiting a while), that series is on hold.

However, the Internet holds no shortage of Moral Panic, so I will continue to write these blog entries as often as I can. Today I’m delving into the world of LifeSite News, my favourite source for anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-contraception news articles, and the only site on the Internet where I have been banned from commenting with literally every social media platform and e-mail address I possess. In terms of Moral Panic, at times they offer almost an embarrassment of riches.

It was easy to choose a single article to narrow in on today, though. One of the unwritten rules of blogging about moral panic is surely, “Thou shalt not pass up any article that contains the phrase ‘THIS IS NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORY’ in its headline”. 

Game of Thrones screen shot, with words superimposed over it that read: "Brace yourself, the conspiracy theories are coming".

Image via Lady Business.

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Boy Skates, Girl Skates

A collage of black-and-white images in which children are skating or learning to skate. Front and centre, we see a boy in black hockey skates and a girl in white figure skates.

Boys’ and girls’ skating styles? Think about it. Image via Cool Sports Knoxville.

I was having a conversation with my Dave today about how hard it is for me to learn to rollerblade because I grew up using skates with toe picks, and rollerblades don’t have those. I’m working on developing the muscle memory to use the edge of the blade to push off instead of the toe pick that isn’t there. I mentioned the possibility that I might get men’s ice skates during the winter so I could practice that movement. But, he pointed out, that wasn’t exactly what I meant.

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