Tag Archives: activism

Keep asking hard questions

As I wrote about earlier, Tuesday night was a huge night for the Democratic party and liberals.  Not only did Obama get reelected, but there was a huge repudiation against many GOPers who had spoken out about their pro-life positions in ways that were shocking (but consistent) with their extreme ideology.

Rachel had an epic takedown of some these politicians in her show on Wednesday night:

Here’s where the Republicans ran into trouble — they had to justify what their supposedly “pro-life” views looked like when applied to actual people. It didn’t go over so well. From Rachel:

Where they were in power between the 2010 elections and the 2012 elections, Republicans governed very, very, very aggressively on this issue [of restricting access to reproductive choices]. They governed so aggressively on this issue, it was unprecedented.

What happened then, though, which maybe the Republican were not counting on was that Democrats decided they were going to make the Republicans explain themselves. Democrats decided they were going to hold Republicans to account for what they had been doing in terms of their governance and their philosophy on this issue, and what they planned to
keep doing if Americans elected them again.

And when Republicans started having to answer specific appointed questions about their issue on abortion, some creepy stuff happened this year. We learned a great deal, very specific, very creepy detail of what Republicans really do believe about this issue they’ve been so energized about.

Yes, who would have guessed that the “gotcha” moments for these Republicans would simply be to have them explain themselves on this issue?

In all honesty, though, I’m not surprised. Asking hard questions is now my preferred way of talking to people about reproductive choice, as I’m no longer that concerned about persuading people to my side of the issue. What I want to hear is how pro-lifers justify their ideology being applied to someone else. It’s all fine and good to say that “life begins at conception!” — but what does that LOOK like in our society? What are the implications of that statement in terms of the law?

The other line of approach I’m taking when it comes to discussing abortion is to say this: There is no such thing as no abortions. There is only such a thing as no safe abortions. Think about that. Does the “life” portion of being pro-life apply to the lives of women who die from unsafe procedures? If the ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is to reduce the amount of abortions that are taking place every day, why isn’t there more support for women to have access to contraceptives?

The best article/essay I’ve read on that question is this one: How I Lost Faith in the “Pro-Life” Movement. So much of this essay has resonated with me, because I, too, once counted myself in the “pro-life” ranks.  PLEASE take the time to read this article, no matter where you fall on the issue — it’s going to be one that I read over and over again.

From her conclusion:

The reality is that so-called pro-life movement is not about saving babies. It’s about regulating sex. That’s why they oppose birth control. That’s why they want to ban abortion even though doing so will simply drive women to have dangerous back alley abortions. That’s why they want to penalize women who take public assistance and then dare to have sex, leaving an exemption for those who become pregnant from rape. It’s not about babies. If it were about babies, they would be making access to birth control widespread and free and creating a comprehensive social safety net so that no woman finds herself with a pregnancy she can’t afford. They would be raising money for research on why half of all zygotes fail to implant and working to prevent miscarriages. It’s not about babies. It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure they have consequences for having unapproved sex.

But I am very sure that there are other dupes out there. If you’re sitting there reading this thinking “but I really am in it to save unborn babies,” I am sure you’re not alone. After all, I was one of you.

If you are one who has been a part of the pro-life movement because you really do believe in “saving unborn babies,” it’s time to cut your ties with the movement. You may be an honest and kind-hearted person, but you’ve been had. You’ve been taken in. It’s time to let go.

This is an important enough issue that these difficult conversations need to keep happening — on my part, I’ll keep asking the hard questions.

grrrl meets conservative media

So I had an interesting day today.

Today I had a conversation with our local talk-radio star, John Gormley.  John and I are on pretty much different sides of the aisle on many (most?) political and social issues, but today we had a moment of commonality.  Beyond our shared affection for True Blood (!!),  we both aren’t in favor of a recent complaint filed with the province’s Human Rights Commission.

Some background: In April of this year, there was a prayer offered at a City of Saskatoon Volunteer Appreciation Dinner.  One of the volunteers being honored found the dinner grace to be inappropriate in the context, and complained. The complaint eventually escalated to now being a case before the Human Rights Commission. [Star-Phoenix article here]

Now when this story first came out, I was really glad the issue was being highlighted and discussed. I also don’t think public prayers are appropriate, because not only will it bother non-believers in the audience, but chances are the prayer will alienate another belief system.  And, thanks to Thomas Jefferson, I’m a big fan of separating church and state.

But that said, I can also understand why a prayer may have been given in the context of the volunteer appreciation dinner.  For many believers, it’s just second-nature to offer a grace before eating, and they may not have thought of the implications of their actions on audience members who don’t share their faith. (this doesn’t excuse what happened, but it may explain why it did)

I don’t think that this dinner prayer was meant to subvert nonbelievers or nonChristians in a way that violated their human rights, per se.  But I do think that we, as a society, need to talk about what’s appropriate in public contexts (and clearly this prayer wasn’t appropriate) — and then we can hold our leaders accountable for following through on what is best for ALL of us.  But, again, I think taking this complaint to the HRC is a few steps further than what I would have done.

SO — to hear more about where I’m coming from, check out today’s interview on John Gormley Live here.

When it’s all said and done, I’m happy with how it all turned out.  I feel like I was able to respectfully disagree with the complainant, while also highlighting how diverse the atheist/secular/humanist/nonbelieving community can be when it comes to various issues. I was also able to talk a bit about a case I think would be worthwhile taking to the HRC, plus there were 2 plugs for the different groups I help facilitate (including one plug made by the man, Gormley, himself!).

About 10 minutes after I did the interview, I got an email from a reporter from the national news station Sun News who was requesting me to do an on-camera interview!  Crazy.  So not only did I have a chance to speak my piece on local talk radio, but sometime tomorrow I’ll have a bit on a national news channel. (if anyone out there can PVR my interview, I’d be much appreciated — hopefully it’ll appear on the website)

All in all, it was a busy day — but a good day.  It was a chance for me to share my opinion and hopefully educate others on the diversity of the atheist movement.

The current signature line of my email account pretty much sums up why I decided to speak out on this issue when it could have been just as easy to walk away from it.  My signature quote is from Emile Zola, and it reads: “If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud.”

Today was one of those days I lived out loud. And I liked it.

Fear and Prejudice on Trial

Go. Go now. Go now and watch “8″: A Play About the Fight for Marriage Equality

Jerry and I watched it tonight, and if ever there’s a church service for someone like me, this. is. it.  One of the final monologues by Martin Sheen (playing the role of the plaintiff’s attorney Ted Olsen) is simply ELECTRIC.

The final scene of the play includes the plaintiffs addressing the audience, talking about the reasons why they put themselves, their relationships, and their family in the public spotlight for this trial.  I was struck by how their primary motivation wasn’t to secure their own individual rights to marry, but the rights of other couples.

Hearing this made me think of one of my favorite high school teachers, Ms. Hearn, who taught me AP US History. I remember that we spent WEEKS studying the ins and outs of the Constitution, including many of the court cases fought that ended up securing some of the rights we enjoy today.  Now, 17+ years later, I can remember how Ms. Hearn impressed upon us how hard others have had to fight to give us the freedoms we so often take for granted.

And that’s how I see these plaintiffs. Ordinary Americans who are doing something extraordinary. Not just for themselves, but for everyone — gay and straight alike.  It’s only a matter of time before everyone back home will be able to marry the person they love — and no piously-driven homophobia will stand in the way.

David Boies (the other plaintiff attorney) put it best: “We put fear and prejudice on trial – and fear and prejudice lost.”

Happily living without religion

CFI Transnational has a new ad campaign that just kicked off today: Living Without Religion — here’s the video for the campaign:

Didja catch the 2 smiling mugs at the :33 second mark?  That’s Jerry and I!  I’m very happy to lend a picture of myself to such a campaign.

To hope, to care, to love. We have all experienced these powerful, fundamental feelings. They help define what it is to be human. These important elements of a fulfilling human life are experienced by religious and nonreligious people alike.

There are some common myths about the nonreligious—atheists, agnostics, and secular humanists. One popular myth is that the nonreligious are immoral, or at least that they can’t be relied upon to be as good as those with religious beliefs. If you know any nonreligious people (and almost everyone does—see below), you already know this is not true. Human decency does not depend on religious belief. There are good believers and good nonbelievers; there are wicked believers and wicked nonbelievers. You can’t predict a person’s moral character just from knowing his or her metaphysical beliefs.

more here

practically pro-life

One of the most effective ways to describe why I support a woman’s reproductive choice is to show what being “pro-life” looks like, when its principles are practically applied.

It’s one thing to cite the emotionally-evocative platitude of “life begins at conception” — it’s another to see what life looks like when such a talking point is put into law.

Case in point: Georgia Representative wants to investigate all miscarriages

Georgia state Rep. Bobby Franklin want abortion classified as murder, according to his latest bill, the police will have to investigate all miscarriages to ensure that they were “spontaneous.” Here’s the complete bill.

Via Daily Kos: Franklin wants to create a Uterus Police to investigate miscarriages, and requires that any time a miscarriage occurs, whether in a hospital or without medical assistance, it must be reported and a fetal death certificate issued. If the cause of death is unknown, it must be investigated. If the woman can’t tell how it happened, than those Uterus Police can ask family members and friends how it happened. Hospitals are required to keep records of anyone who has a spontaneous abortion and report it.

One step closer to becoming a Pro-Life Nation — who’s on board?

realization: size doesn’t matter

[oh I can only imagine the spammy comments that title will generate]

Tonight I met with a reading group for the Saskatoon Secular Family Network that I help facilitate.  There were only 6 of us (2 of them being under 4), but we had a great time of connecting and sharing ideas/miseries associated with being parents.  Times like these really charge me up, and confirm for me the passions I have for building smaller communities in the larger atheist/freethinking/skeptic movement.

Right now I facilitate 3 groups/sub-communities in Saskatoon:

It’s funny how each of these groups reflect a passion of mine: family, (rejected) faith, and feminism!

When I first started up the SSFN, the first meeting we had had a turnout of over 20 people!  I remember being stunned at how seemingly-popular this group already was, after only its FIRST meeting.  But as cool its first turnout was, though, I really think that it derailed me in my “mission” (for lack of a better term) in establishing these smaller communities in the larger movement.

After such a high turnout, I spent the next several months feeling bad that each consecutive meeting would have lower numbers — I started questioning myself, as if the reason people were staying away was because of something I had said/did in leading these meetings.  Looking back on those first few formative months of the SSFN, I can still feel the frustration and uncertainty.

Thankfully I smartened up, and realized that my perspective was ALL WRONG.  It wasn’t about hosting “big events,” with monthly themed talks and the like.  The *point* of a secular parenting group is to find support among other parents and family members who are choosing similar parenting approaches.

Since that ah-ha moment, it’s like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.  I’m just as happy with a turnout of 5 as I am with one of 50 (though it does help to know ahead of time the 50ish turnouts!).  I recognize that there are amazing connections to be made in the smaller meetings that could never happen in a larger crowd.

And while there are still big, fun events to throw (insert Darwin Day and Camp Hoodoo), I’m just as happy sitting around a table of 4, drinking coffee, and talking about a parenting book with others.

I’m where I need to be.

Ooops, I did it again…

…stirred up a little bit o’controversy, that is.  I started another Meetup group (yes, Jerry, this will be my last!).

My latest foray into the atheist activist’osphere is a group I call “Reasonable Women.”  Here’s how the Meetup description reads:

Why a group for atheist/agnostic/skeptic/freethinking women?

After reading this BlagHag post about the troubles some women faced at a recent American Atheist conference, we got the idea of forming this group.  Don’t get us wrong — the local atheist groups in Saskatoon are not sexist in their treatment of women members, but we thought it may be fun for the women of these groups to have a place of our own.  And, maybe, having this kind of group available could encourage other female-minded folks to join the movement!

Are you anti-men?  Why aren’t you allowing men to join this Meetup?

Well, this group’s purpose is meant to engage one particular subset of the larger atheist/freethinking movement: the women.  We welcome the men to start their own “Reasonable Men” Meetup!

So much of the current “new atheist” movement is dominated by its male voices — this little group is meant to counteract some of that testosterone by inserting estrogen into the mix!

So far we have 9 members, and it’s only been a day!  I’m quite excited about the potential of having such a group in Saskatoon — not only for what this kind of group can do for our immediate area, but what this type of group can do for empowering women in the larger atheist movement.

And yes, I knew when I started this group that there would be some people who wouldn’t be so keen on the idea of having a women-only group.  So far there have been some interesting discussions back and forth on the pros and cons of a single-gender group — my commitment to the conversation is to not get too defensive when it comes to explaining why I support a women-only group.  For one, I don’t think there’s reason for me to be defensive, and for two, it’s just not necessary at this point.

Anyway, stay tuned.