Skeptic and the Geek

It’s been a few days. I’m trying to get as many posts in here before school starts, because I know once I’m a complete basket case who’s drowning in academia it’ll be hard. It’ll be hard to write things that make any degree of sense that aren’t coated in despair. I’m one of those irritating students who refers to my academic stress in any real-life conversation and I feel bad for anyone who has to talk to me during school months. It used to annoy me when I’d bump into my high school friends and upon asking them how they’re doing they’d tell me they’re at the UofA (my school) working on their poli sci degree and dive into a story about it. All I’d think is “WHO CARES” but now I totally get it. Sorry, high school friends for thinking that. It is an all-consuming kraken that may or may not one day help us get a sweet job. During school, I’m swimming in the stomach acids of the academic kraken. Sometimes you deal with it just fine, but sometimes you get burned, depending on whether the kraken has heartburn or not. The heartburn happens when you get a prof that doesn’t post notes online.

Anyhow, the way I deal with the stress is by the deep rituals that are tightly laced in the grand schedule we call our lives. I wonder if it’s because of my heavy anti-theism, and I adore my rituals. I would describe them as both languid and intense. The intensity of my 15 minute morning routine that includes a 5 minute drive to my bus stop is one. Putting on the Amelie soundtrack during an hour and a half bubble bath with a juicebox of coconut water and some candy crush on my iPad is another. The majority of my online shopping also happens in the bath. Those ones might end when I drop my iPad in the tub. Lets hope that doesn’t happen. My rituals that make me the happiest are the moments each day I spend with my dogs and my indulgence in geekery.

Here’s a brief history of my journey into geekdom. It started with my parents picking the Sega line of gaming consoles for my brother and I. My Game Gear and Genesis were my best friends for a good three years while I spent my elementary years playing every Sonic game out there. Sleepovers at my Nintendo friends’ houses were a necessary indulgence and to this day I still play Mario as often as I can. Next came Tolkien. Along with every other 10-12 year old out there, The Hobbit is one of the first “big kid” books we read. Some of us are completely enchanted, while others decide that The Babysitters Club is more for them. I was one of the kids completely enthralled with the world Tolkien masterfully painted and graduated to Lord of the Rings. This morphed into more fantasy literary “masterpieces” with almost all of the Dragonlance books. Lame? Doesn’t matter. I loved those books. This was during the time that I started dating a guy who was the epitome of geek. His job, his appearance and his interests were molded around geekdom and we bonded over that for a good four years. I loved watching him play Neverwinter Nights and meticulously painting his warhammer figurines. The best way to describe him is the guy from 40 Year Old Virgin, minus the virgin part and including the lavish breakfasts. I was 16 and he was 22, and it was strange but I feel my geekery put me into a higher level of maturity that allowed this relationship to be okay. Now, I’m a 28 year old with the maturity level of a 20 year old, and I relish in that. It makes it okay for me to do the weird things that I do. So I was this person, who loved Star Wars, Warhammer, Tolkien, old school console gaming and any indulgent fantasy book I could get my hands on. Then I met my husband, Andrei. During the infancy of our relationship, he eased me into MMORPG’s. He got me to start playing WOW and I attribute the success of our marriage to my love of this game. We’re not hardcore with it anymore but still play. 7 years of history with World of Warcraft could probably get me a decent management position at Best Buy or something if I put it on my resume. It’s my greatest indulgence, hands down. And the rituals I’ve created in this game have been one of my greatest sources of joy. Paired with beer and loud gaming-appropriate music? That’s my heaven.  Now, I spend my spare time watching Voyager and TNG, watching Geek and Sundry, playing Magic the Gathering and so forth. It’s still the dominant force in my life.

I understand how the sense of ritual that religion gives us is a positive thing to a degree. For theists, it’s prayer, mass and conventions that keep their faith growing. Since what I know to be true is that religion is a complete fallacy, I’ve placed my rituals elsewhere. They live in places that are constitutional to who I really am. If it wasn’t geek culture it would be something else. Maybe fashion, maybe drug culture, maybe something else. Who knows. When I went to Blizzcon in 2009, I guarantee you that was so much better than a Youth Convention that any theist would attend. If you haven’t been to Comicon or Blizzcon etc and love geek culture, think about how mindblowing and awesome it is to be in a room with 30 000 other geeks. It’s incredible. I’ll never forget those three days. Even standing in line for my pass was an epic bucket list experience. Funny enough, the Anaheim Convention Center was also housing a christian youth convention. There were lots of funny exchanges. My atheist self laughed at the exchanges between hyper geeks and devoted christians. So, these rituals that I’ve created for myself have filled the “void” that christians and other theists consider us to inevitably have.

The idea that I get to fill my ritualistic desire with whatever I please is awesome. It helps me get through school, helps me appreciate my relationship and helps to keep me busy when I have nothing to do. The obligation is only encouraged by my own desire, and it makes me happy. I have tried praying before as a kid. Those were the days when I felt envious of my religious friends and wanted to go to church, yet I felt silly. At my bedside I’d be like “hey Jesus, ummmmmmm. Can you make sure I have a good day at school tomorrow?” And then I’d get bullied by the same group of mean girls that would bother me every other day. I never believed, but I tried to. I’m proud to say that I yearned for more. It seems like a lot of people who are a part of geek culture feel the same way. Most of my geek friends aren’t religious and are too busy trying to get through Diablo on nightmare mode than worry about some scripture. It takes skill and an open mind to enter this world, and it’s an incredible place to be.

If any borderline skeptics are reading this, come to the geek side. It’ll fill that void that religion left for you and you’ll leave a better person, trust me.

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Amazing Grace. Why we’re leaving the lost behind.

This isn’t a foreign concept to most people, but I’m really good at being influenced into these great ideas that I rarely go through with but allow to lead to something else. My latest and greatest happened yesterday when I was binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix. It’s a sweet show, albeit slightly depressing sometimes. I highly recommend allowing yourself to be transported to a women’s federal prison for a Saturday of secret indulgence.

Watching the show got me thinking about the inmates who are lonely and whose families have abandoned them. I went online and googled “prison pen-pal”. The websites I came across look generally unkempt and the more I searched, the more I felt like a girl trying to hook up with a soon-to-be-released drug dealer. It’s a lot of personals ads basically. I completely get it because establishing a relationship is a hurdle for someone who’s been locked up for any period of time but I just wanted to make a friend and I feel like my letter would be disappointing to whoever was waiting for one. That being said, I found a girl who is incarcerated in Edmonton, my city, who seems to just want someone to write to. Maybe I’ll send a letter to her.

I have prison experience. I’ve personally never broken the law because frankly I’m too lazy to bother but my brother has been in and out of the system for several years now. I’m not here to capitalize on his struggles so I’m not going to dive into his story. But he is someone who has been to the very bottom and is slowly swimming to the surface, sometimes laterally, sometimes up. I love my brother, and it’s the way I reacted to his struggles that in the past pushed me into complete isolation. I turned away from my friends, my extended family and my job. My then-boyfriend, now husband was even sent out of the country to his homeland by his parents due to the circumstances of my family as a result of my brother’s crimes. When I look back and really think about how I feel, except for sadness for the people whose lives were truly affected, to me, it’s just something that is. The only way my relationship with him has been affected is by the geographical distance that his crimes have placed in between us. Meaning I don’t get to see him that often. Acceptance, folks. It happened to me when I chose not to think about it. And in all seriousness, my dearly departed dog Buddy was my friend when I was in need. I miss him.

So a lot of what caused this dark path my family traveled down is addiction. It’s a disease that runs fairly rampant in my family and although I don’t have it, my brother does. Reading the profiles on the pen-pal sites, it looked like it was a pretty big cause of incarceration for others too. But we know that. Addiction is a dark mistress that has a lot of power and ultimate control. It’s a medical disease with a spiritual cure, so they say. My brother was never baptized as a baby (I was: roman catholic here) and decided to become baptized as a Lutheran in his adulthood. One site I visited had 880 pages of inmates looking for pen-pals, with 10 inmates a page. The search section gave me an option to search inmates by religion, and so I chose atheist, naturally. I came up with thirty four results. It seems like religion has taken in all of those with struggles. I know that, because my brother is one of those people. The problem is, what if you can’t fully embrace jesus to guide you down the right path? I know my brother is also one of those people. When he meets his sponsor at Tim Hortons, it’s all god, all the time. THAT, to most is the only thing that will save your life. So if you’re like me, who completely rejects spirituality, what do you do? Doing a google search of “secular aa”, I found some stuff. There are programs for addicts to help them through their addiction from an evidence-based point of view. I’ve been to AA meetings with my family members who suffer from addiction and being someone who has had addiction become fused to my life, I’ve never heard of secular programs except through my own research. My brother is out, lives in a halfway house and is trying really hard to get his life on track. He’s mostly consumed with making a lot of money and his recovery. I wish I was the one to have influence over him, but I’m not. The money thing bugs me, and the person his pastor, sponsor and church programs made him is someone I’m learning to accept. He spent 7 years being indoctrinated and is struggling to conform to those changes imposed upon him, so me swooping in to redirect him at this point will only make things harder. We talk about it- I believe in being candid. But this is one of those cases where trying to convince someone does become “shrill”, and I become someone who is trying to indoctrinate rather than help.

There is an enormous spiritual presence in prison, and in recovery. Where are we? A 0.04% atheist presence in an inmate pen-pal organization tells me that only one belief system has paved a path to redemption. I have an overly understanding acceptance for people who’ve committed crimes for obvious reasons, and I’ve made zero impact on those people’s lives. As humanists, we look towards ethics, progression, science, intellect and truth and while we’re doing that we are allowing the damned to actually believe that they are the damned. Do we do this because we think we’re taking away their hope? Are we scared to tell them that their actions of the past, present and future happen as the result of their own decisions? There are millions of inmates who will be released, like my brother, who were indoctrinated to believe that they were not responsible for what they did. Although blame comes to mind, there are ways to communicate the idea of self-responsibility tactfully. Not to talk to people who’ve made terrible mistakes with a wagging finger, but to tell it like it is. And give them hope in the future. We’re biological beings who are constantly bombarded with choices and it’s only fair to allow people to exercise their right to make a positive impact after they’ve made negative ones.

It’s a complicated concept that I’ll admit is over my head. There are intricacies that escape my ramblings and if I was a completely politically correct person, I could try to pick those apart. Religion feeds on the abandoned, the sick, the poor and on those who have wronged. The word “help” has been so bastardized that I don’t want to use it, but we can start somewhere. Welcome to the depressing side of atheism. We’ve neglected the darker side and it’s time to spruce it up and hold out our hands to the skeptics out there and talk to them like what they are: human beings who we stand on equal ground with. The lost aren’t food to us like they are to the religious. They’re people who need to know that they aren’t alone. The cool thing about humanism is that it can show the lost that a real person cares. They can see us, hug us and we’ll hug them back. They don’t need to fall to their knees and beg, and they know a person is listening. I don’t think that’s depressing at all and a real circumstance is really the only solution to a real problem.

SPACE, Which to my knowledge is The Final Frontier

I have space to thank for being here. To even comprehend what the odds are that I’m here is nearly impossible for me. Space doesn’t care about odds, or luck, or us for that matter and that is what makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside about life. Even the word: space. It can mean something so small, as in “there wasn’t enough space to swing my  lightsaber around in the garage” and yet it also means everything. We are space, stardust. And when I look at my hands and see my veins, bones and the rest of the hardware that’s letting me type this, it blows my mind to think that I’m existing, doing these things as the result of a phenomenon that happened billions of years ago. So thanks, space, for being so awesome like that. I know creationists think it’s totally absurd to reject the belief that the space wizard created us, but I think it’s much more realistic that we happened here by chance. Like I just said, space doesn’t care. Odds don’t exist there. Life existing in space matters as much as it not existing and therefore the chance is irrelevant. WE know we’re lucky, but that’s an idea that was formed by our own comprehension and perception of our circumstance. I’m really one of those people who should not and does not require any hallucinogenic drugs to be amazed by things and ideas because I don’t need my mind blown more than it already is. It’s ridiculous, really. 

Here are 5 things that space may consider more important than us if it cared: nebulas, black holes, stars that are 300 times the mass of our life-sustaining sun, different types of light and something that we have not discovered yet. Puts things into perspective, right? 

haaaaaaaa

Admit it, you’ve used this excuse before.

It’s extremely self-serving to think that we are the reason the universe exists, which is the religious point of view. Once upon a time, it made sense and the fact that that idea still exists in my lifetime is the reason I started this blog as an outlet. This is essentially a dog chasing its own tail, with us atheists being the head and theists being the tail. The tail has no knowledge, or desire for it. But we’re chasing it, trying to tell them to stop doing whatever they’re doing. What they’re doing is trying to grapple at all of the scientific evidence that’s been steadily providing a solid foundation to one day answer our biggest questions, placing them in theist circumstances. I can’t ever see the blocks of reason being placed inside a big, fake fairy tale box ever establishing a plausible answer to any of these questions. Theists tend to consider us to be self-serving for understanding that we were not created by an all-knowing, loving god who lives in the clouds. I don’t think that that’s something I can explain to them without passing out from a flood of suffocating, ill-reasoned bible verses. A life founded on the make-believe is not one that you can intervene with easily. I have no physics background and know little about the intricacies of space and our interstellar neighborhood. I have Star Trek and Gene Roddenberry to thank for most of what I know about space, and I do understand that really all that did for me was make me a huge Trekkie who thinks space is cool. But I am an evolutionary biology nerd, so theists, brace yourselves if you ever want to have that discussion with me.

Anyways, here’s to space! Cheers to being so big, vast and mysterious and giving us a reason to never stop asking the questions that matter.

god = Dog

So I have all of these topics figured out that I want to discuss, but today I decided last minute to give a glimpse into the present and talk about who/what take up the most of my time: my dogs. I have a dog, my border collie Lacey. She’s 11 and we adopted her from the humane society 2 years ago. Love her. I’m also a foster parent through an organization that rescues dogs from mostly rural reserve areas around the province. They only have foster parents to house their dogs- no facilities; so that’s why I chose them. Basically, right now I have 3 sick dogs in my house. Not going to lie, I’m feeling like a terrible “dog parent”. Long story short, Lacey and her foster brother Odin both have kennel cough, which Odin caught at daycare. Lacey needs to go to the vet today since she’s 11 and it’s more dangerous at that age. My third dog… well he needs his own paragraph.

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Odin and Lacey during a painting sesh

So my third dog is Guinness. He quite literally represents the ethical dilemma of “rescuing” dogs. Chances are pretty good that he would have been killed in the wild by an alpha and so at the very least he’s alive at my house. But this dog is something else. He’s feral, behaviorally challenged… alright, never mind. It’s hard to think of a word to describe him. In all honesty, I guess I would call him autistic. Seriously. I don’t think it’s far fetched to say that non-humans can be autistic too. Essentially, all we can do is sustain his life. I do therapy with him and a behaviorist every Sunday and I’ve definitely made some headway. Sigh. It’s soul-leeching, but luckily I don’t believe I have a soul. Maybe that’s why I can handle this. A few positives? He eats from my hand now. Only after I’ve sat there on the floor for 45 minutes with delicious smelling dog food (I’ve mused with the idea of trying some). He had turkey dinner last night. Yum. My legs fall asleep about 5 times a day when I’m down there and my circulation is going to shit, but him eating from my hand means that he’s taking a leap and learning to trust people a bit. It’s not even worth going into his behavioral profile. I’m sure whatever you think is bad, he’s worse. Totally shut down. So he got a bedsore from never moving. It needed to be stitched together and now it’s infected. So we go to the vet again.

ImageGuinness at therapy

Send them your well-wishes! It won’t matter to them, but it’ll make me feel better.

Obviously, there is a facebook page for the amazing organization I volunteer for, and we were posting Guinness’ journey from feral to um, whatever its opposite is. Unferal? And probably every 3rd or 4th comment was a prayer, a thank you to god, or something associated with him. I’m not saying here that I require validation for my services, I specifically chose to help those of whom cannot say “thanks” to me because that’s how I keep it real. That being said, I still get encouragement from the people behind the dogs. So a few things I’ve noticed: the people who are the ones DOING things aka driving out to the reserves, bringing these dogs to the city and fostering are overwhelmingly non-religious. One of my newest and most awesome friends is the one who does a bit of everything at the organization and we share the same beliefs. On the other hand, the facebook crusaders, so the ones that post pictures of abused animals and comment on pictures of our dogs at an exhausting rate are the ones sending prayers and placing the responsibility of the good we’re doing on god. I have no statistical analysis of this but I’ve seen things here and there on pinterest that have hinted towards non-religious people being more charitable.

I know there are missionaries and the christian children’s fun etc. and even though it’s not my personal cause, I’m all about saving the kids. But missionaries are a ploy of conversion cloaked in a few bowls of oatmeal for hungry children in third world countries. JUST GO DO IT. Going with an ulterior motive is a sick way to be the hand that feeds. As far as I can see, jesus hasn’t actually eradicated hunger anywhere. So, your missions are therefore invalid. As Sarah Silverman said once, “sell the vatican”. Take that money, and feed the poor. It’s pretty straightforward. Take your tithes and give them to those who need it, but I know your superchurch is more important. Giving the glory to god with your $15000 sound system will definitely prevent children in Haiti from dying of disease and hunger. And while you’re at it, forget about the dogs, livestock and other non-humans because they’re soulless, right? Therefore, unworthy of your attention. Also, screw the monkeys. I believe a fear of apes and our association with them is called pithecophobia. The classic line “if we’re descended from apes, why are they still on this planet?” is ones of my favourites. I’m using every form of restraint right now to not post a Picard face-palm. So where’s your compassion, christians? I don’t dislike christianity any more than I do other religions, but it’s prevalent in North America and therefore more relevant in this topic. Don’t worry, I’ll talk about Islam eventually. But I feel it needs to be devoid of sarcasm. It’s serious stuff.

So in summary, Guinness is an ethical dilemma for me. He’s shut down and his quality of life is very poor, but I’m not going to give up until somehow we know for certain that he is never going to be happy. Odin. Now he’s my success story. He makes me feel like this when I wake up every morning:

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I saw a unicorn when I looked in the mirror before, but I cred Odin for the badassery.

Below is an image of what he was like before. If you dislike unflattering bruises, scroll no further.

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Yep. That’s me. Odin was a nervous chewer. He’d spend all day chewing on my arms, legs, whatever skin he could get a hold of. He’s 90 pounds of muscle so it was tough to shoo him away. And clearly, I bruise really easily. Well he’s better now. I haven’t had Odin jaws clamped on my flesh since May. Now most people thanked god he stopped, but it was actually a trainer, a bunch of little treats torn up in my pocket, and me having to point at my nose and tell him to sit every time he’d get nervous. A phrase we humanists and atheists like to use is give credit where credit is due! Now his trademark move is to lie his head in my lap and nudge my hand asking for pets. We’re nearly foster fails, we love him so much. But I’m keeping my focus gloves on because we made a commitment to foster these dogs who would otherwise be shot for $10. That sounds awful, but in these rural areas, that’s quite often how the dog population is kept under control.

I try not to put too much stock into the religious facebook crusaders or take offense when someone thanks god and not the organization that puts so much time into saving a life. My rant centers around these people who spend their energy under a guise that seemingly validates complacency and laziness. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m lazy as fuck 🙂 I see very clearly that doing a good thing when religion is a strong force in your life, must be under the banner of religion. Charity is an action that will guarantee your path into heaven. At the end of the day, goodness is goodness, but since the journey is more important than the destination, doing it to save your own ass is a petty excuse. Those who are talking about god’s glory should instead act in whatever capacity they are able to to support the cause they preach to. You are doing nothing for me, and your prayers are not appreciated.

To know that you are compassionate only under the banner of your own morality is what promotes progression.

Welcome fellow humanists! A bit about me

I’ve noticed a swell of atheists, anti-theists and humanists emerging from the woodwork since I’ve been lurking around social media lately. It really hit me when I joined Pinterest and found all of these incredible individuals who totally get it. The meaning of “faith” does not have the same connotations that it did 50 years ago, and I remember even as a kid in my relatively non-spiritual household that I felt we needed God there. Keep in mind, I was a little kid living in the bible belt of my province. Okay, so we passed through the dark ages, and the renaissance was the age of enlightenment. It seems like we’re emerging from a sub-dark age that came about after “In God We Trust” was added to American currency. And this not only remained, but nations embraced being run under the banner of religion after communism didn’t work out so well. I don’t remember the founding fathers of the U.S. establishing the nation under God.

Anyways, a bit about me. I’m a girl, I’m 28 and I’m married. I go to the University of Alberta and am working towards my BA in Anthropology and Classics. My super deep dark secret is that I want to go to law school. Fingers crossed! I feel okay revealing that because I’m still locked by choice in the closet of atheism, free thought and humanism so on here, I’m anonymous to a degree. Being cautious, I don’t like verbal vomiting my hopes in dreams until they’re a reality. If I fail miserably on my LSAT that I’m writing in June, I’ll be sure to let my future followers know while lying in a festering pool of shame. Being an anthro student, I’ve been encouraged to consider these questions about religion, race and where the lines that divide humanity are drawn. Ever since I became an active seeker of knowledge I’ve considered myself an agnostic, but last year, after returning to school I moved further down the spectrum towards downright atheism. Now, I’m a full blown anti-theist and it really coalesced into this force that occupies my thoughts once I joined Pinterest and found a society of people who are like me, who are willing to take full responsibility for trying to make the world a better place.

What I know to be true, is that religion needs to cease to exist in order for the world to move forward. I will explain my point of view on this in a future post, it’s a heavy subject. Likelihood of that happening? Pretty much a big, fat 0% chance, BUT people who have secular beliefs emerging from the shadows and redirecting the power (aka: $$$) that religion holds over the world towards real causes is a start. This is why I want to become a lawyer. I want to exercise my right to try to answer the questions that perplex us without looking up, and I want to tell the truth with my hand placed upon my faith in humanity – NOT the bible. I also believe that prayer is the best excuse for most people to do absolutely fuck all about a problem they or someone they care about is having. My proudest moment as a humanist happened recently when a close friend was in a bad situation. Let me tell you this heartwarming story with many twists and turns. She has a little dog who ended up in intensive care. After several days at the vet, her vet bills were approaching $7000. The majority of her facebook pals made sure to send their prayers and let her know that god is on her side. Maybe I should “thank” these prayers for infuriating me to the point of action, so I found a legit fundraising website that she could use so that her family and friends could safely donate some money if they were able to to help with these bills. She used it, got not only donations from her friends/family but also from random do-gooders around the world. The financial goal was decimated, and her dog was treated for pancreatitis and released from the vet. My super amazing bright idea was born out of my detestation for “prayer” and my desire to act as I believe a good person should act who claims responsibility for their actions. Funnily enough, I’m sure a christian or other person of religion would totally say that my actions were spawned by their prayers for god to help this little dog find a way. That’s actually pretty insulting to people such as myself. Thanks again, Christians, for being totally useless while your friend is suffering.

Anyways, lets wrap this up. I want to do an advice from a humanist heathen section on my blog. If anyone, even religious haters wants to ask me something and get an answer from a humanist point of view, email me at humanistheathen@gmail.com. I will also take suggestions of topics. I’m researching this crazy, wonderful world as I go along and might even need to get a hold of a bible (sigh). I’m new to the blogging world and as this is my new baby, I want it to grow and thrive into a soundboard for likeminded people. Also, we need more ladies representing the world’s most despised minority. We’ve got Hitchens, Dawkins, Sagan, Harris as our contemporaries of whom we all idolize and men in our history who’ve guided our capabilities encouraged by science and reason. But women are definitely under-represented here. I can pretty safely make the assumption that a lot of the men and women in this community are feminists and would be thrilled if girls took this bumpy, rather untraveled road to establish ourselves in this world.

Once I figure out my picture-posting rights on here, get your wincing face ready because there will be memes (sorry Richard Dawkins). And other things that actually encourage food for thought. We all know walls of text are unnecessary unless you’re reading a scientific journal.

My parting words for today are: If all things are in god’s plan, because the holocaust happened, a religion under god is not something we can be a part of as moral people. And Boston, and Sandyhook, and Lac Megantique etc etc.

Until next time!

You friendly neighborhood Humanist.