Perhaps, in an unguarded moment, an atheist will look up this Thanksgiving and say, “Thank you” to the One who has made their life possible. Otherwise, the thing about atheism is that you have no One to thank.
Monthly Archives: November 2011
Why is it that I keep getting bingoed through my boyfriend? Well, he was the one getting bingoed, really. The bingo for me was only implied. My BF related this story to me, involving a telephone conversation between him and a relative. As I wasn’t there for the conversation and this is all second-hand, I hope I’m getting all the details right.
I’m saying “relative,” because I think this person is a good guy, and I don’t want to make it seem as though I’m picking on him, so I’m being intentionally non-specific. I’m not writing this post to complain about him, personally, but about the more common attitudes exemplified in the conversation. Here, I can express my thoughts on these attitudes (which I encounter ALL THE TIME in a number of ways) as a childfree person. Maybe I can even use this to explain to non-CF people why it’s not OK to say these kinds of things and why it’s found intrusive and demeaning.
Our beloved dog Molly had some health issues when we first got her, which required a bit of veterinary care and some medicine. Additionally, one day she ate all of her medicine when no one was looking and had to be rushed to the emergency vet. My BF was saying to his relative just how expensive our dog is, to which the relative replied, “Just wait until you have kids.”
“Just wait until you have kids.” That quote just floors me! For one thing, my BF and I are both childfree, and have been since before we ever met each-other. My BF has been telling his family for years that he never wants kids, only to be ignored. Ok, people, seriously. If we say we don’t want kids, support that decision. It’s a valid choice. Assume we mean it.
I’ll assume that the relative has either forgotten or disbelieves that BF doesn’t want kids, otherwise this would seem like a particularly mean-spirited thing to say. Like saying, “just wait until you get fat,” to someone who takes care of their health. It does sound a bit like a threat, doesn’t it?
But childfreedom aside, this is still a nonsensical thing to say. Yes, kids are more expensive than dogs. I wasn’t aware it was a competition. I’m sure a zoo is more expensive than either. Never-mind that though. Why would he think that, as unhappy as BF was about how expensive vet bills are, that he’d want kids on the basis that they’re even more expensive? Oh, kids are extremely costly, you say? Well, in that case, sign me up! This person must be a horrible salesman.
After being reminded by my BF that neither one of us wants kids, the relative replied something to the effect of, “You say that, but sometimes kids just happen.” Where have I heard something like that before?
I absolutely detest this attitude. Unless they were dropped off on your stoup by a stork, no, kids do not just happen. Children exist as a direct result of the actions of their parents and can be avoided in a number of ways. Avoiding sex. Using contraception. Having an abortion. Getting sterilized as I have been! No. Kids not not “just happen.”
I think it takes a very irresponsible not take control of or responsibility for the direction one’s life takes by having the attitude that kids “just happen.” Having kids is a choice, and one (most) people have control over. Take ownership of your choices, and their outcomes.
Tactfully, my dear BF reminded his relative that I’m sterile (sure, BF could leave me, if he wanted, but…,) which was an action my BF fully supported (not that I wouldn’t have gotten myself fixed anyway if he didn’t.) I thought that this relative was already aware of this fact, but apparently not.
Ok, so we’re both stubbornly childfree, my BF has been telling these relative for years that he never wants kids, and one of us is sterile. Surely, we must be serious about never wanting kids, right? The relative then went on to mumble about adoption.
Really? Really?! What part of no kids is so hard to understand? How much clearer does someone need to be?
Dear world, not everyone has kids. That’s OK. Accept it. We’ll all be much happier. Thank you.
I once thought that the Washington Post was a legitimate newspaper with actual journalists, integrity, and interest in facts. Evidently, I was wrong, as has been shown to me by the mere existence of an ongoing column, Higher Things, written by Vasko Kohlmayer, man so devoted to his religion that he has completely divorced himself from reality.
The column is pure fail right from the title of the very first article. “Atheist or agnostic: We all know God” … As I pried my hand away from where it had impacted my face, I could tell already that this was going to be painful.
After I managed to stop smacking my face with my palm every damned time I read that nonsensical title, I started to actually read the article. It’s just as illogical as the title would lead any rational person to expect. Hell, maybe it was even worse.
Kohlmayer starts with an anecdote, which was passed along to him from someone else (because those totally make for compelling evidence, right?) about someone he’s known who had back pain until he started talking to
himself god. A 55 year old man with back pain? It must be because he was an atheist. Obviously his relief couldn’t have come from his body’s natural ability to heal over time, or from the help he received at the hospital, it must have been GAWD!
And, being someone who believes the bible, you know that the author took this story as truth. Not only did this actually happen (no need to verify anything like a journalist might, but god heals everyone who asks (never-mind how many Christians yet have persistent health problems). Moreover, that this atheist man knew that there was a god to reach to in time of need, therefore all atheists secretly believe in god, an assertion that is the main thrust of the article.
Hilariously, the author tries to claim personal experience. He claimed to have once been an atheist who knew there was a god, despite the meaning of the word “atheist.” I always laugh when people try to claim to be former atheists. Maybe some exist, but for the most part the speaker is just misusing the word to refer to the time before they converted fully (or were “born-again”) to their particular religion. Yeah, not really the same thing.
To back of his point, he does what any theist does when they have no real evidence to support their assertions, he quotes the bible. Paul says that god can be clearly seen, therefore everyone secretly believes not only in god, but in this particular version of it. Oh, well, I’m convinced. If a character in a book said it (even a book that has zero credibility with me,) it must be true.
It’s difficult to make serious refutations when all a writer does is make nonsensical assertions, with only a fantasy book to back him up. The only response that an unsupported claim deserves is “no.” Like the claim that god exists, the claim that atheists secretly believe in god is completely without merit. That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
Seriously, the argument for the existence of god, in this post, boils down to “babies, flowers, sunsets, therefore GAWD!” I’m not kidding. I wish I was being facetious here, but I’m not. He really thinks that people secretly believe in god when they see those things.
Obviously, atheists and agnostics don’t believe in god. That’s what those fucking labels mean. I no more “know” that god exists than I “know” that leprechauns, unicorns, fairies, and elves do. Despite what this guy claims, I have never experienced god (no one has) even though I have tried very hard to while I searched desperately for an excuse to cling to the label “Christian” which had be foisted upon me by adults when I was a child. The assumption that I have had the “epiphany” of feeling god’s presence is pulled completely out of the authors own ass and has no basis in reality. He’s just making shit up.
I may as well say that the author secretly believes that the Wizards described in the Harry Potter books exist, simply because I do (as far as anyone knows, anyway,) and use the Harry Potter books themselves as evidence. Maybe I’ll even pass along a story from someone, who knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone who had a broken arm, who cast a healing spell on herself and was healed (but of course it took several weeks.) Ta-da, Kohlmayer secretly believes in wizards. And he calls atheists “self-deceived.”
I don’t secretly believe in your imaginary friend, jackass. Get over yourself. (Seriously, this sort of self-serving bullshit reminds me of all the natalism-obsessed people who obnoxiously insist that I want to ruin my finances, body, and life by having babies like them.) This guy has to believe that we secretly believe in god to make himself feel validated. Facing the fact that some people really don’t buy the religious bullshit that he’s fallen prey to might cause him to question the rationality of his own beliefs, and he can’t have that.
All atheists and agnostics secretly believe in this author’s particular version of god. Why? Because Kohlmayer is so insecure that he needs to believe that this is the case. Maybe, deep down, he knows that there really is no god and he’s only wasted years of his life on this bullshit.
There’s more where this load came from.
I do not, and will never have, kids. But I am not childless. I’m childfree. Parents are neither.
The word childless implies that I am lacking children, that I wish to have some, as is expected of me by a society obsessed with living the life-script, but for some reason, do not. The word “childless” therefore invites sympathy. Maybe I haven’t sufficiently stabilized my life. Maybe I can’t get a man. Maybe I’m infertile (which is to be seen as a flaw.) I must be lonely and sad. I am to be encouraged to procreate, or else pitied for my perceived failure. That is, if I use the word “childless.”
So I don’t use that word. I have another one. I didn’t invent it, but I imagine the people who did had similar rationale (if there is some older origin of the term, I am not familiar with it and it has evidently fallen out of popular use.) They, like me, didn’t want to be lumped in with people who want kids but don’t, or can’t, have them. This dissociation isn’t meant to be demeaning of those who are childless, but exists to distinguish from them. People who want kids but don’t have them are a completely different group of people than those who never want kids at all, so it makes no sense to use the same label for both.
Having a unique name is important. We don’t want to be encouraged to have kids, or pitied for not having them, or seen as lonely or sad, or as selfish and hateful. The word we identify with exists to legitimize our choice, and to be a word for the lifestyle that we’re keen to talk about among ourselves and encourage acceptance of in the public sphere. We can’t do any of this without a unique word so that everyone knows exactly what we’re talking about.
This word is “childfree.” The word differentiates us from the childless, and from parents. More importantly, the word communicates that the absence of children is a positive thing for us, something we’re happy about and do not wish to be pitied for. To be childfree means that we, each for our own reasons, do not want kids ever, and have therefore chosen to never have any. This is not some temporary status, but a permanent state.
Unfortunately, the word has been more popular than the meaning. It seems to have become a trendy word for parents to use. I often see parent try to appropriate the word for themselves, either to refer to their life before they had kids, or something to gleefully call themselves when they’ve dumped their precious kids off with someone else. Neither of these fit the meaning of the word childfree, and misusing the word this way tends to annoy childfree people.
If you’re scratching your head and wondering why this would bother childfree people, you’ve not been paying attention to what I’ve written so far in this post. How can we have a conversation about a very specific lifestyle, and gain public awareness and support for it, if the word we use to identify ourselves with loses its meaning and becomes ambiguous? We can’t. The whole reason that we started identifying with the label “childfree” in the first place was to solve that very problem. And now that parents muscle in on it, whether they mean to or not, they set acceptance of the childfree lifestyle back.
I don’t think that childfree people are the most oppressed group out there, and we certainly don’t face bigotry to the extend that blacks, gays, Jews, and other groups have been and still do. But we are still a heavily marginalized group, often treated with suspicion and prejudice, if not completely invalidated, by various different groups within society, and face a great deal of discrimination in private and public spheres. The only way to combat this, to gain acceptance, is to stand proud and publicly talk about our childfreedom, and we need a word to do so. Not only do the childfree wish for the constant harassment to have kids, and the stereotypes about them to be ended, but those who are childfree might like to know that there’s a word for it, and that it’s OK to live this way, and that they aren’t alone.
That’s why it’s so important to have made our own word, and to go on to defend it. It’s not as petty as it may seem to an outsider. A word’s only value is its meaning. A misused word loses that. If the meaning of the word “childfree” is diluted, it sets acceptance of the lifestyle back. And acceptance of the lifestyle is important.
Do you think I’m exaggerating about the importance of a unique word? I once spoke to a parent about her misusing the word “childfree,” and she responded that she wasn’t aware that childfree people (people who don’t want kids) even existed at all, and had a word for that lifestyle choice. The reason she didn’t didn’t know about childfree people, or respect that choice for that matter, was because of parents like herself misusing the word. She was perpetuating that cycle. Somewhere down the line, parent ran across the word and thought it sounded hip, and without understanding the meaning, went around misusing it.
Now there is nothing wrong with parents discussing their pre-parenting days, or being happy about temporarily having a break away from their kids. A person is well within their rights to discuss either. But please, get your own word.
It’s apparently a popular meme, on Twitter anyway, for theists, usually Christians, to say that atheists have no one to thank for the good in their lives. Apparently, this cliché was made popular by a blogger Joey Nelson on his Spiritual Questions Blog, or so I learned from About. He wrote:
When I see this cliché, I laugh. On Thanksgiving, my family always has turkey dinner. It takes days to prepare, and of course we have to buy all of the food with our own money that we worked to earn. We make the food ourselves. Why should I tank anyone but ourselves? (to be fair, being a child, I didn’t contribute financially, and most of the work preparing the meal was done by my mother. So when I say “we”… ) And if I’m with my family, I need not look up, but across the table to thank the people who made my life possible.
Meanwhile, around the world, people continue to starve to death, and suffer in numerous other ways. Why the hell would I thank a god?
I remember, when attending my brother’s Marine Corps boot camp graduation, listening to the Chaplain speak over the microphone. He told everyone to bow their heads is prayer. I remember feeling so angry as I listened to him thank his god for the work of others. I was there that day because I was proud of my brother for HIS accomplishment, because it was his. Yet here there was a chaplain giving thanks and praise, not the new marines for their accomplishment, not the drill instructors for their training and leadership, but to his own god, his imaginary friend.
For me, this was a repeat episode. Different characters, different setting, same story. The same exact thing happened had two years earlier at my own graduation from Army Basic Training and again at our redeployment ceremony when we returned from Iraq. Each time, someone else was thanked for our own achievements, someone we were instructed to thank as well.
As if that itself wasn’t outrageous enough, this someone isn’t even real. I was, on each of these occasions, feeling very much insulted.
I, as an atheist was not left with no one to thank. I had my leadership, the soldiers to my left and right, my family and friends, and myself. Without religion, I was still able to thank someone, I just thanked the right people. I was able and willing to give credit where it was due. If you’re a believer and you’re happy about an occurrence other than a natural phenomenon (like weather, which requires no thanks) and you want to thank someone, ask yourself, is there really no human being responsible who it would be appropriate to thank?
Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.
To celebrate my birthday, my boyfriend and I spent a few days at a lovely bed and breakfast in New Mexico last week. Happily, the place was pet-friendly, so we were able to bring along our dear Molly. Despite the gorgeous scenery, private hot tub, Jacuzzi, home-made gourmet breakfasts, and a room that came with iced champagne (we actually don’t drink,) chocolate-covered strawberries, and rose-petals strewn about (which I had to quickly pick up as I’d already taken my dog to the vet for activated charcoal once that week,) our dog seemed to have more fun than anyone on the trip.
The B&B, it turns out, has a bit of a dog pack. Our first morning, as Molly was outside doing her business, a big, white, bushy dog lumbered over. This polar bear, like all the dogs we would see, was unleashed, but we knew she belonged to the hosts. Apart from giving Molly a sniff, this dog, who we’d later learned was named Beebee, wasn’t much interested in her. Molly tried to engage Beebee in play, running about begging to be chased, but the old dog just stared, seemingly exhausted just watching. Later, Beebee would remind me of a cranky librarian as she’d bark and growl if the other dogs played or ran or otherwise acted excited.
The second dog Molly met, as we brought her in to the lobby with us when we went to breakfast, was a dalmatian Labrador mix named Pongo. Pongo, was apparently a rescue by the inn keepers. He was found badly injured on their property one day, apparently having been hit by a car. Being kind and generous people, they made sure that Pongo got the medical care that he needed and they’ve had him ever since. Pongo was a bit more inclined to play than Beebee, but was still a mostly lazy dog.
As we were eating breakfast, Molly laid quietly under the table. She doesn’t beg for food often, as we never reward her for it. Suddenly, my BF and I hear an angry bark from under our table, which do don’t recognize as Molly’s. “Who’s grumpy?” BF asked. Trying to threaten Molly was a small, old chihuahua mix. The hosts quickly scooped Tina up and took her away, explaining that she wasn’t as friendly as the other dogs.
As we spoke with the hosts, they mentioned a dog who was not there’s but often wandered onto the property. The dog’s name was Rubio and he would come by for attention and food and shelter from inclement whether. The hosts had no idea who the dog belonged to, if it had an owner at all, but were keen to find him a new home as they couldn’t afford to take on anther dog. We later met Rubio as he wandered in during breakfast. He was a big white dog of a breed I couldn’t identify, and he was very friendly and playful. He and Molly quickly became buddies.
We let them out to play and the whole pack (minus tiny Tina) ran in the yard, disappearing. We called Molly back, and the pack followed, Beebee lagging behind the younger, faster dogs, trying to rein them in only to trip and fall on her belly, her four legs spread it all sides. Rubio was a bit of a galoot. At one point, he pushed Molly into the cold stream, only because he was big enough to just walk right into her. We had to separate the two after Rubio started nipping to hard, causing Molly to yelp and hide behind my BF. After that, Rubio quickly learned restraint.
Rubio would often look inside our door window to see Molly. Once, we let Molly out to play with him, and she brought along her toy. We weren’t expecting them to run off together off the property, but that’s what happened almost immediately as Rubio had gotten ahold of the toy and seemed like he was trying to take it somewhere. BF followed after them.
He found Molly being attacked by a chained dog. He shouted and ran at the animal, which immediately released Molly and retreated to its doghouse. Molly, startled and not used to unfriendly dogs, ran away, getting caught in a chicken wire fence. BF scooped her up. Rubio wandered over, head down, and returned the toy. BF said that he would have kicked the chained dog’s head in, if it hadn’t stopped attacking Molly. But he admitted to feeling sorry for the dogs as it was obviously neglected and likely abused by its owners. There is almost always a human to blame.
Apart from that incident, it was a great trip. As we left, we said goodbye to our hosts and to the animals. As we loaded Molly into the car, Rubio followed us. He stuck his head in the driver’s side door, as if we meant to jump in. We would have taken Rubio if we could.