Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas: Goodwill Toward All or Some?

I admit that I have come to love Christmas. The journey to get to a point of love is long and not relevant to the post but I will say that one reason I love Christmas is because of the pervasive theme of "peace, good will toward men." Now we all know that Christians don't have a monopoly on this concept but they have packaged it in a way I find appealing with beautiful songs and art. Imagine my surprise when I saw this today:

When I read it, I immediately saw what was "wrong." That's one of the perks of having been raised Christian - you often know the KJV like the back of your hand. That version says, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." Big difference. One verse offers peace to all humanity. The other offers peace only to those whom Yahweh has chosen for his favor. One is inclusive. The other is exclusive. What was going on?

The first thing I did was check the source. This graphic was posted by John Hagee Ministries. I have to be honest here: if Hagee told me the sky was blue, I'd go outside and check. He has little to no credibility with me. But assuming that he was just wrong because I don't like him isn't good skepticism. It was time to do some digging.

Let me admit that I have no formal training in Greek. I'm relying solely on the Greek Bible online so if you are a scholar and you find this wrong, please say so. The best I could tell, however, this graphic is not accurate. Here is the Greek:

Δόξα ἐν ὑψίστοις θεῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς εἰρήνη ἐν ἀνθρώποις εὐδοκίας. 

Let's break it down:

Δόξα - splendor, majesty
ὑψίστοις - highest, first rank
θεῷ - God
ἐπὶ γῆς - in all the inhabitable land, in all of a country
εἰρήνη - peace and prosperity
ἀνθρώποις - all humanity (male and female)
εὐδοκίας - goodwill, kindness

I see two possible ways to interpret this based on the translations provided: that either peace and goodwill were meant for all humanity or they were meant for all of Israel. I get the feeling from the translation that it's the first but who knows? I'll leave that for the scholars to say. But what we don't see is that this peace and kindness is just for those who score enough points with Yahweh.

Interestingly enough, this started a sort of debate on Hagee's page. People aren't really happy with the idea of exclusive peace. They like the idea that happiness, prosperity, and kindness are for us all. Of course, it might also be that they are just loyal to the KJV no matter what.

Whatever the case, I find that Hagee's graphic undermines the best concept of Christmas and for that I give him an F. I can't wait to see how he ruins Easter too.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Differentiate Between Schizophrenia and Demonic Possession

Recently, I watched a series of psychology lectures online. I enjoyed the presentation very much and admired the professor's knowledge of the material and his willingness to answer as many student questions as he could. Part one of the lecture covered schizophrenia and he spoke in depth about auditory hallucinations and persistent delusions. When that class ended, I eagerly started part two. The introduction stated this time that the lectures were presented at a Christian university yet I couldn't help but be surprised when he opened the next lecture with prayer! One session he is describing the mentally ill hearing voices, talking to people who aren't there, and believing things that aren't real. The next session, he talks to someone who isn't there and honestly believes that the supreme creator of the universe is listening to him.

This has always been a pet peeve of mine. Mental illness isn't always determined by what is real. It's often determined by what is a cultural norm. So if you believe you can talk to your ancestor's spirits and they talk back to you, that's ok in a culture that promotes such belief. But if you stray too far outside your culture's beliefs, you may be labeled "mentally ill." If you think Jesus hears you and gives you the strength to get through the day, you're fine! But if you think some other cryptic deity or power guides you and gives you power, you may be insane. Of course, I'm not saying that irrationality equals mental illness - otherwise, we'd all be labeled as insane! But it does seem rather ridiculous that two people can have the same exact symptoms or delusions but only one person gets the label.

Back to the lectures, I was further shocked to see this otherwise intelligent and professional instructor talk about the difference between schizophrenia and demonic possession. He listed three ways he believes you can tell the difference:

1. Schizophrenics will display a strong, positive reaction to the mention of God or prayer while the possessed will show a strong, negative reaction.

2. Schizophrenics do not typically display logical speech and are often confused. Demons are sharp-witted, logical, and clever. They often know things about the people who are attempting deliverance.

3. Schizophrenics typically respond to meds and therapy. Demons do not.

By these criteria, I may be demon possessed. After all, I have responded negatively to mention of God. I have had doctors and laypeople galore tell me I need to get back in church, pray harder, turn it over to Jesus, etc. in order to get well. These responses are unhelpful and aggravating. Of course I'm going to respond negatively!

I also display logical speech most of the time. I do not have disorganized schizophrenia. I can also cold read the hell out of most people.

Lastly, I did not respond to medication for the first 14 years of treatment. If at first it doesn't succeed, there must be a demon!

It truly broke my heart to see this otherwise wonderful professor give his students such bad advice. Not just bad, mind you, but truly dangerous. But what else can we expect from an institution (religion) that critiques everyone else's delusions but refuses to examine its own? Tales of demonic possession not only made me feel more guilty and worthless but they also retarded my treatment. In the world of schizophrenia, early treatment is a big deal as it can slow down or stop some of the brain damage associated with the disease. So losing those first 14 years to irrational superstition has likely harmed me physically as well as emotionally.

Please think twice before you turn your mental health over to religion. You can't cure delusion with another delusion.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dear friends,

Well this is just been the worst 2 weeks that I can remember. First our only car decides to have issues that result in the on-board computer needing replaced (estimated $800+) then I get a notice that my previous school is holding my "Official Transcripts" until a disputed charge is resolved ($1100). Both of which are stopping me from signing up and taking classes next semester.

This meant we had to cancel our trip to Skepticon 6, an event we helped raise money for and really wanted to attend. It also means that all the money we had for the trip which is less than $400 will go towards the $1900+ we need to come up with by the middle of December to make sure I can stay in school.

 We have been on a strict budget and have absolutely no wiggle room for such expenses. Yea I should have seen this coming and planned a little better but we were to excited about me going back to school.

If there is any of you reading this and can help us out we both would greatly appreciate it. I feel bad about asking for such donations for us and not a bigger cause but I am at my wits end and have nothing left to sell off.

I have added a donation button in the upper right hand corner of the page.

Thank you all


Nathan and Tweenky

Friday, October 25, 2013

Blogging for a living, caring for a disabled spouse - never meant to be easy, but I do it.

Blogging for a Living

We are still going to be blogging here on Deep-Fried but at this time the revenue from the ads here is just not meeting what we need to pay the bills. Even with over a 200 page hits a day we averaged less than 0.5% of those visitors clicking on an ad. That really hurts when the amount for each pay-per-click is really low. Granted, we could do with a lot more content and try to expand our reader base but, when its just 2 of you writing, it's hard to keep up on everyday news items and put the content out.

Being dependent on this type of revenue is not for everyone but in our situation it is currently the only feasible way I can go to school and be home to care for Tweenky as needed. There is also a 70% chance every day that Tweenky is having a bad day and requires more care and looking after than other days. So having a "regular" job is impossible. I hope that when I finish school I will have the skills needed to do more home-based work.

Caring for a Disabled Spouse

For those of you that have met us, you have seen Tweenky on her good days but that is not always the case. Going to an event is a risk and we may miss more than 50% of the event for various reasons. Getting up early is a struggle everyday so we will miss almost all meetings before 2 pm. Being able to say we went and made it to some of the meetings is an accomplishment nonetheless.

When we have a good day, we take advantage of it. We make the best of every day that we can and try to share something on the blog, talk about a bad day, good day, anything. First though, we take care of ourselves so as not to burn out.

Some good days are just the two of use lounging about, talking, reading, watching a movie, cuddling in bed. Then there are the good days that we catch up on the news, add blog content, suffer through a Fischer video and report on it.

On bad days, those are the days I wish on no one - not even my worst possible enemy. Bad days are almost expected daily and can range from a mild event to an almost complete total meltdown. They are taxing on both of us. Sleep is irregular at best and naps can only do so much.

There are days when Tweenky does good to get up and stay awake for more than 2 hours only to crash and sleep for 8-12 hours more. Part of this is due to the medication but I think a larger part of this is due to the vivid dreams she has nightly. They are so real and physically exhausting that she wakes up even more fatigued than she was when she went to sleep the night before. This only creates a snowball effect and she eventually crashes for 16-24 hours of sleep. Even then she is plagued with vivid dreams but hopefully she gets some quality rest (if you can call it that).

Life as a Caretaker and Blogger - Never Meant to Be Easy, Was It? 

We hope to get back into a better routine of putting out content but with me going to school now it has been a struggle to do it all. Caring for Tweenky is my priority every day, school a close second, and then hopefully everything else falls into place. Unfortunately, that can mean that blogging as much as I need to doesn't make it into the daily list of things that need to be done.

It is really a double edge sword: we need to blog to get the traffic to the site to in the hopes that you click on an ad on the page but putting out meaningful content comes first. I have invested some time into an online business as well but that will take time to get the traffic and sales needed to start seeing an income from it. In the mean time we are going do our best to put out content here.

If you have something you would like us to cover, by all means leave us a comment below. Some days it can be a struggle to find a subject or content worth blogging about.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mental Illness: Of Prayers and Polls

Last week was the first time I read about Lifeway Research's new poll which stated that 35% of Americans and 48% of Evangelical Christians believe that "With prayer and Bible study ALONE, people with serious mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can overcome mental illness." I admit that when I first saw those numbers, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut and all my work here was for nothing.

Fortunately, my reason quickly took over and I dug into the poll a little deeper. I didn't find much here to give me confidence in the results which is, I think, a good thing. Let's break this poll down:

First, let's look at how the statement is phrased. What did Lifeway mean by the term "overcome" and did the respondents define the word in the same way? In this sentence, "overcome" does not necessarily mean the same thing as "cure." It could mean "control" or "cope." Christians talk about overcoming the devil or temptation as a daily struggle so the respondents could mean that prayer and Bible study are enough to help mentally ill people cope with their mental illness. That's still troubling but it's nowhere near as bad as thinking that prayer can cure a mental illness.

Second, let's look at how they conducted the survey. They spent 4 days calling 1001 people. That's our sample size - 1001 out of 330,000,000 Americans. Lifeway says that "Responses were weighted by age, gender, education, race/Hispanic ethnicity, region, and CBSA market size." That's nice, I suppose, but it doesn't instill any confidence about the results. They state they have 95% confidence in the sampling but I don't understand how they come to that conclusion. Perhaps I need more instruction in scientific polling or perhaps this whole thing is load of dung.

Third, let's look at who comprises the Lifeway Research team and what their motivations are:

1. The first listed member is Ed Seltzer. His degrees and experience are in theology so I doubt he is qualified to create scientific polls. 

2. The second listed member is Scott McConnell. His degree is in economics and marketing so he should know how this stuff works. As a marketer, however, we must always be skeptical of what's trying to be promoted.

3. The third listed member is Lizette Beard. Her degrees are theological so, again, I doubt she's qualified to create scientific polls.

4. The fourth listed member is Daniel Price. His degree is in statistics so that's another plus.

So only half the Lifeway Research team is academically educated and trained in how to conduct proper polls. That's not damning in and of itself but we should remain skeptical about their motivations and reliability until we have more information. I tried to find some objective information on Lifeway but, unfortunately, most of what I found was from the Lifeway team itself. They think they are reliable but I'm not convinced - especially when their mission is to "assist[ing] and equip[ping] church leaders with insight and advice that will lead to greater levels of church health and effectiveness." In other words, they want to pack the pews, not necessarily produce accurate results.

Let me clear here: I'm not accusing these people of lying (although it's always possible). I'm questioning their motives and qualifications. I'm questioning their methodology. And I'm certainly questioning their results.

Even though America is a breeding ground for stupidity, I am highly skeptical that so many Americans or even Christians believe that prayer and Bible study alone will cure mental illness. They may believe it's a great way to cope with it but I do not think they believe it will cure it outright. I blame the vagueness of the wording for that.

But let's assume for a minute that their results are 100% correct (which they may be - I may not know what I'm talking about). I am living proof that those people are wrong. Prayer and Bible study fed my condition - it did not "overcome" it in any sense of the word. To think that so many people believe I could just "Jesus" my way out of my illness is frightening and sickening. So I admit my bias...that I do not wish to believe that so many can be so wrong. 

So where do we go from here? Even if the real numbers are much lower than 35%/48%, there are still people out there who do believe that the right religion is a cure for mental illness (and this is often because they think mental illness is a disease of the spirit and not the mind). As long as their are people out their who labor under this misinformation, we must continue to speak out and educate. Whether it's 35% or 3.5%, we've got to push back. I think we're doing a pretty good job of it but we still have work to do. What we don't need are prayers and polls.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Love the Body You Have!

I want to share this with everyone.

It is from the couple that owns this business and we wish them the best of luck in their endeavors. Yes we are also writing for their blog but that should not overshadow the message from Jennifer:

"Yes, it's true. We've chosen the motto, "Love the body you have!" If you're like me, you keep waiting for the right diet, best exercise, latest pill or whatever to get that perfect body. But while we are waiting for perfection, we are punishing the body we do have.

I have learned to appreciate my body over the past 3 years since it carried me to death's door and back. I'll never be a single digit size again but that doesn't mean I can't look good and feel good about myself. You can too! So I laid down the law: either we include plus sizes or the deal's off!

In the coming months, we plan to work very hard to add as much content as we can - especially plus size clothing. Don't punish yourself for not being perfect. Love the body you have!" - Jennifer Rhodes

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You Want to See a "Professional Victim"?

Here's a person who is truly a professional victim. He makes money by pretending that he and his kind are persecuted. He raises that money off the backs of the ignorant who blindly believe his lies. He conflates the loss of white, Christian, male privilege with discrimination and abuse.

Ladies and gentlemen, here's Bryan!

Evidence please. How are white Christians being persecuted or prosecuted? Who discriminates against them? Who demonizes them?

I suspect that Bryan is smart enough to know that white Christians still have a lot of power in American society. I suspect he knows that he's exaggerating and lying. I suspect that any trace of conscience he might have is erased when he gets his big, fat paycheck.

He's a professional victim and, unfortunately, a damn good one.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Let's Talk About the Voices!

PZ's latest cartoon has some people shaking their heads.

Yes, it's ableist and, yes, it contributes to the negative stereotype of those of us who hear voices. But instead of fussing about it, I'd like to see it stimulate a conversation between us. 

How many of us hear voices telling us to kill ourselves?

How many of us hear voices telling us to kill others?

Of those who have command hallucinations of murder, how many actually commit the deed?

How many of us use our illness as an "excuse" to get out of work or school?

I did a quick Google search and found a few references to a 2000 study which suggested that about 30% of patients heard voices telling them to commit violence and about 22% tried to act on those commands. 

A 2008 study suggested that antipsychotic drugs helped prevent such violence and that the risk of compliance increased with age.

This guide lists questions to ask of people who report persecutory or command hallucinations. 

This is just a quick look, of course, and no one source should be taken as an ultimate authority without more research; however, we can see that not every person who hears voices - even voices telling them to kill - is dangerous. In fact, the studies suggest that most people are not.

Now I can only speak with authority on my own case. I have had visual hallucinations sporadically and auditory hallucinations constantly since I was very young. I did have some command hallucinations but they didn't instruct me to kill. Some of my hallucinations were persecutory and I did self-harm and attempt suicide a couple times as a result of them. But for the most part, the voices offered either neutral or helpful information. I don't want to make it sound like the voices were a good or wanted thing - they weren't - but they often talked about things in the background while I worked and then burst out with advice. Overall, I'd say that my voices helped me excel as far as competency and output but, when it came to emotional stability, people skills, and ability to go to work, they hurt me a lot.

Then Seroquel came into my life and 99% of the voices went away. It's kind of like waking up to find out that everyone else is gone. The quiet in my mind was almost unbearable and I spent the first year adjusting by listening to music or movies or background noise as much as possible. 

I hated my voices and I loved them. I feel like part of me is gone now that they've mostly been stripped away. My inner life is much poorer for seeing them go but at least my waking reality is mine now. And since I don't have to focus on them, I can focus on real people who really matter.

So am I offended by the cartoon? Not really. I don't get offended by much these days unless it's really bad. Is the cartoon funny? I guess that's in the eye of the beholder. Is it helpful? No, not at all. People already think we "psychos" and "schizos" are dangerous and no one seems to care much that the biggest repository of our psychos and schizos are jails.

Should PZ take it down? That's up to him, of course, but I think it would be great if we used the cartoon as a launching pad to really talk about these illnesses and to see those of us who have them as real people rather than just shut the conversation down. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Republicans Have Already Won 2016 Because...Tits

In yet the latest piece of ageist, sexist garbage, Bryan Fischer explains why Hillary Clinton cannot win the presidency in 2016.

May I take this opportunity to say, "Fuck you, Fischer!" I don't have to be a Hillary fan to see that her age and her body type have nothing to do with her ability to lead the nation. If we were going to vote based on such criteria, people like Reagan, McCain, Christie, and a plethora of others would not have been in the running. People are way more than their age or looks. Women are way more than the quality of their boobs (whatever "quality" may be). Just because you won't look beyond appearances doesn't mean the rest of us won't. 

It's easy to be angry at anonymous internet trolls who make fun of women and objectify people but here is a guy who makes his living doing it publicly. Who is the bigger jerk?

Hagee Fails on Church/State Separation

The concept of the "separation of church and state" ensures that our government will remain neutral regarding religion. It's the backbone of a secular state; therefore, religious zealots often distort it. John Hagee's son, Matthew, explains...

...and gets it totally wrong.

1. He says it is supposed to protect the church from the state only. This is ridiculously false. A quick read of Jefferson and Madison's writings suffice to debunk this notion.

2. He says it is used nowadays to silence believers at the ballot box. This is obviously false. People will always vote their values whether those values are religious or secular. We don't vote as robots. We vote as thinking, feeling people.

3. He takes the opportunity to equate abortion with murder despite the fact that there are serious legal and moral differences between the two.

4. He ends with a fallacious semi-threat. We have no evidence of any gods, an afterlife, or a final judgment. And even if the latter two are true, how do we know which god(s) we will answer to? Does supporting a secular state bring about eternal punishment? There's no good reason to worry about any of this.

I can't help but laugh any time someone talks about how the American government oppresses the religious - particularly Christians. These guys couldn't be much more in bed with each other if they tried.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Little Help?

I need a little help but the current climate is such that one cannot even ask for help in some circles without being branded as "unhelpful." I find that attitude unhelpful so I want to talk this through with you.

You are an educated atheist and you find yourself fielding questions from creationists all the time. It's frustrating and time-consuming. First, you don't know how many of these people are ignorant and how many are just trolling. Second, you aren't an evolutionary biologist so why are they asking you? Third, why don't they look it up themselves instead of being lazy? You tell them to get on Google and just look up the answers instead of wasting your time. I get it - I really do. You don't owe these people one minute of your time. Any information you give them is a kindness on your part - especially since there is a good chance that most of them aren't really interested in learning about evolution or atheism.

But what about the ones who are? You've sent them to Google but they probably don't have enough information to do a good search. If they are particularly uneducated on the subject (as so many Americans are), then they don't know a good source from a bad source. They may google the subject and come up with all kinds of nonsense that is palatable to them but completely untrue. Furthermore, if they do find a reputable source of information, how are they going to digest it? A lot of evolutionary science is very technical and intimidating. Not every article is written with the layperson in mind. It's possible that our honest inquirer may find a good source and then despair at ever understanding it.

How can we fix this? First, we need professional people who are willing to field the same questions repeatedly. Usually, these are writers, speakers, and other activists who are dedicated to a subject (or set of subjects). Second, we need educated laypeople who are willing to do the same kind of outreach but with a more personal touch. Third, we need a list of good sites and sources that are easy for new inquirers to find and understand.

Now let's back this up and apply it to the subjects of sexism and racism. As a woman, I've lived with sexism my whole life but I didn't know squat about feminist theory until recently. I'm still pretty ignorant about the subject. And as a white person (albeit one who grew up with a best friend of color), I'm still terribly ignorant about racism and its effects. In fact, I'm so awash in white privilege that I often don't even know what to ask, much less how to ask it. How can I overcome this?

I need professional people who are willing to speak out. I need laypeople who are willing to help me learn. And I need a place to go to find reputable sources about these subjects so I can do my own heavy-lifting.

Should I expect every professional or layperson to answer my every question? No. They don't owe me any help.

Do they want me to be a good ally for their cause? If so, then I have to know where to go to find the good information and I need people I can talk with about this so I don't go making a fool of myself and hurting others. If I'm going to be your partner in this fight and help educate others, then someone will have to invest in me!

So what I'm saying is this: there are honest actors out here and we need a little help. Telling us to just "google it" isn't always going to cut it. There's too much misinformation and pseudoscience out there to just expect that we're going to find the good stuff on the first try. And we need people who are willing to deal with those of "good faith" I'm not saying everyone should have to do it. I'm not saying we have a right to demand anything of you. I'm simply saying that some of us want to do better and we really hope you will see something in us that is worth investing in.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wisdom Starts with Fear of the Lord?

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" - Proverbs 9:10 (KJV)

From this one verse, Bryan Fischer explains to us why we are foolish and can never be otherwise.

Unfortunately for him, there are some problems with this:
  1. How does he define "wise" and "discerning"?
  2. What about Democrats and liberals who are committed Christians? They exist.
  3. What about Jews and Muslims who revere the same god but have very different viewpoints and philosophies?
Don't expect to Fischer to answer these points though. He doesn't respond to logic.

Dear Atheist...

I don't mind seeing "Dear Atheist" letters - really, I don't! Even though I may have seen such a letter a thousand times before, I don't mind answering them. Someone has to if we want to change people's minds! But there are times when so much fail is packed into such a small space that I feel like I'm spinning my wheels. Nevertheless, let's ask some relevant questions:

1. What evidence do you have that a god (esp. your god) created earth? "Because the Bible says so" does not count. That's hearsay - and very old and unreliable hearsay at that.

2. What is heaven? Where is it located? How do you know this? Again, do not say, "Because the Bible says so." 

3. How do you know Jesus existed? That he is Yahweh's son? That believing on him confers peace? Once again, do not say, "Because the Bible says so." 

4. How do you know that there is an afterlife? How do you know that merely believing in Jesus will get me to that afterlife? For the fourth time, do not say, "Because the Bible says so."

5. Why do we all need to believe in something eternal or supernatural? 

6. How do you know that Jesus is the "Truth" and what is "Truth" with a capital T?

If you can ever accept that the Bible alone is not a sufficient reason for believing these stories, then you'll be a step closer to understanding why we don't believe any of this at all. 

If I were going to write a formal reply, it might look like this:
Dear believer,

What evidence (other than a book of hearsay) can you bring to this court to meet your burden of proof?

The best answer I'd get is probably "personal experience" or a "personal relationship" with Jesus. That's all well and good but it won't stand up in court. Think about it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

You Don't Know What's Good for You

One of my friends posted this article on Facebook today and I immediately took note. I've walked in similar shoes.

There is a pervasive theme in America that most people on disability or who come into a clinic presenting with pain are faking for drugs. While there certainly are people who do this, most of us do not. Yet to walk into a new clinic or hospital is to be almost guaranteed that your concerns will be reduced or dismissed if you have a mental illness.

This is a sampling of what I've either witnessed or experienced:
1. You are lying because you want me to give you drugs. I don't know if you are taking them or selling them but I know you are faking.

2. You don't know how you feel. You're mentally ill so I can't trust you to accurately describe what's going on with your body and mind.

3. You aren't smart enough (or educated enough) to understand what's going on. You need to just shut up and let me do my job.

4. You don't deserve any pain medication. I don't like you and I don't appreciate how you are acting in my hospital. I don't care that you are hurting and terrified and I'm enjoying wielding this power over you.

5. You are so much smarter than the staff members here and coming to therapy here would be a waste of time. Take this book home and read it. You can help yourself better than anyone else.
While it's true that I am mentally ill and I sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy, I can assure you, Dr. Asshole, that I am an expert in how I feel. A fucking genius! And while I may be wrong about things on occasion, I'm no liar. I don't need to fake for drugs or anything else because the totality of my mental and physical ailments is one big pile of PAIN. 

And while I realize that drugs aren't always the right answer, there are times when they are. If I haven't slept for two days because of severe stomach cramping (from my IBS), then you can bet that when you don't help me out, I'm going to relapse into either depression or mania. That's what sleep deprivation and stress do to me. In case you didn't know, those conditions are far worse than me getting a couple of Lortabs I didn't need. You aren't helping - you are making it worse.

Of course, I know I have responsibilities here. One is not to lie about anything - not condition, not pain, not income, not insurance - because if you ever think I've lied about something, you will never believe another word I say. The other is to present myself as neatly and intelligently as possible. Because if, gods forbid, I show up looking and acting sick, you'll decide I'm a druggie bum who is faking. Now I know that when I look and sound normal, you'll say I "look fine" to you and don't need anything but that's the dance we do, isn't it?

What's been your experience with medical staff?  Do they make assumptions about you unfairly? Do they deny you care or medication inappropriately? How do you deal with the stigma?

Mental Health Watch: Demon-by-Color

We're familiar with the mistaken and dangerous notion that demons cause mental illness but have you ever heard of identifying these demons by color?

Benny Hinn interviews a guy who has developed a "scientific" method by which he can tell you everything about yourself. He (randomly?) assigned values to parts of the brain and then has you fill them in with colored pencils. If you use too much black, brown, or gray, then you have demons in that part of your brain.

Beware this pseudoscientific nonsense. Mental illness is not caused by demons. Your color preference does not give away your history or your health.

Benny Hinn says, "Trust me." 

I say, "Beware."

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Do We Owe Someone an Apology?

If you're looking for a post that's going to take sides in the sexual harassment/rape scandals in the atheist community, you've come to the wrong place. I am in no position to tell you that any person is guilty or innocent of anything because I've had nothing to do with these situations and I've not experienced anything personally. I'm not a lawyer, an accuser, or a victim. I'm looking at this from a sort of outsider perspective and I just want to share some thoughts. So again, if you're looking for someone to take your side in the drama (whatever that side is), you won't find it here.

First, I want to say that if you've been accusing everyone who doesn't fully agree with you of "not being a real skeptic" or "not thinking critically" then please stop. This is a gross insult to many in the skeptic community. Most of us can and do think for ourselves. The fact that we refuse to jump on every popular bandwagon (including yours) should tell you that we aren't just "sheeple." You are not the sole arbiter of truth and we aren't convinced that your opinion is right just because you believe it is. We don't want authority figures to tell us what to believe - we are thinkers who are going to figure this out ourselves. It may take us more time to come to a conclusion than you did (some of us have to spend extra time reading, observing, researching, and sorting this stuff out), but that doesn't make us stupid. It means we are careful.

Second, I've been thinking about how we deal with these outcries. When people accuse Catholic priests and other pastors of rape or sexual assault, we don't typically demand a lot of evidence. We don't wait for these cases to go to court or for a jury to convict. We usually shrug, say "Who's surprised?" and show sympathy for the (alleged) victims. We demand that the churches stop moving around the perps and covering up the scandals. We seem to be pretty comfortable with the idea that a priest accused is a guilty priest indeed.

When you turn the tables and put the same scenarios in the atheist community, we act differently. Many desire "evidence" of the accusations, demand a trial before we can decide, and come up with all manner of reasons why the harassment/assault/rape probably didn't happen since the accuser didn't report it, or is anonymous, or whatever. We seem to be pretty comfortable with the idea that our own leaders are innocent unless there's enough evidence for a jury to convict.

It seems to me that we have a severe disconnect in how we handle these cases. Do we owe all those priests and pastors an apology for deciding they are pedophiles without a trial or "proper" evidence (not even a victim's name)? Or do we owe the apologies to those in the atheist community who have reported harassment and rape and were met with scorn and ridicule?

I'm sure there is a middle ground that I haven't covered. That's what I'd like to explore here in a calm, civil manner. Are we falling victim to our own prejudices or is there some substantial difference in these cases that I'm failing to see? 

*I'm not much for monitoring comments but, if someone tries to derail the thread or attack other people, then you can expect those comments to be dealt with. Stay on topic and please be civil while you are a guest in my blog house.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why I'm An Out Feminist Male in Australia

 I haven't always been an advocate for gender equality. During my days as a fundamentalist Christian, I had a definitive notion about what I deemed to be appropriate gender roles. I dismissed many acts as sinful and had some chauvinistic ideals in regards to a number of other items. Even in the incipient stages of my atheism I possessed an apathy about a plethora of social and humanistic concerns.

 Only in the last year and a half have I acquired a a strong humanistic and secular mindset. Exposure to podcasts and news stories elucidated to me controversial issues concerning feminist's and women's issues and remoulded my attitude from one of  nonchalance to a strong concern for equality for all.

While issues such as abortion and access to contraception aren't such an exigency in Australia, gender inequality still manifests itself in most salient ways in this country (such as the disparity of wages between the sexes). According to ABS statistics, women on average still earn only 83 cents to the dollar earned by their male counterparts. Examples such as these illuminate the fact the gender gap needs to be closed here. While many female advocates voice their opinion in this subject, the dissenting voices of males remain conspicuous by their absence. We need to focus on controversies like this to have a truly egalitarian state in Australia where all people enjoy parity. We must strive harder to eliminate the vestiges of an archaic patriarchal mindset.

While abortion and access to contraception may not be of a poignant nature in Australia, we shouldn't insulate ourselves, remain oblivious, not show concern and express our disdain of problems facing females in other countries. These issues have been prevalent in places such as the United States and Ireland (the unnecessary and tragic death of Savita in Ireland a few months ago due to not being given an abortion when it was quite evident carry to birth to term would cause complications to mother and fetus). Despite medical intervention being needed  to prevent the death from occurring, negligence was displayed due to not being legal to perform the necessary operation, which resulted in the death of the mother.

Also there are numerous examples of politicians defunding organizations such as Planned Parenthood and ratifying laws making it virtually impossible in some areas to enjoy access to birth control, contraception and abortion. The lunacy of some politicians is befuddling - they defund Planned Parenthood, restrict access to birth control, then complain there are too many abortions and unwanted pregnancies. The stupidity of some politicians is incredulous. I'm sure if they farted their brains would fall out. These oppressive laws stem mostly form religious ideology,  an ethos that remains the most stultifying and stymieing obscenity to a true state of secularism and equality.

Attitudes to rape remain eerily problematic too. Victim blaming resonates all too much in this day and age as well:. Implications such as its somehow the physically weaker victims fault that when a strong perpetrator violates her. In many circumstances the victim is too afraid to come forward for fear of being stigmatized, is reluctant to go though a grueling legal process or thinks too many people will conspire to conceal the matter. Insinuations that the victim was being "too provocative" or "asking for it." Never addressing the real cause - the neanderthal who couldn't keep his libido in check.

Honor killings and immoral sentencing in many parts of the world are associated with the aforementioned attitude. If a woman is violated, it is her fault and gets either sentenced by the law or executed by her insane family for bringing shame upon them in a shambolic attempt to restore honor to the barbaric murderer's family name. Similar abhorrent attitudes have been echoed by certain Republic politicians and evangelical Christians. Egregious remarks such women possess a biological mechanism to prevent pregnancy caused by rape or if impregnated its somehow a gift from God

Since when are old men with two inch penises and misogynistic attributes qualified to adjudicate or comment on the bodily rights of women. Then again, its no surprise that attitudes like this exist because they are derived from scripture - a book in which no instance occurs where a woman's consent is ever required or requested. Just look at Deuteronomy 22:28 -29 where, if a woman is violated, the rapist just has to pay the victims father 50 shekels and must marry her. No consideration is given to to obvious psychological trauma this would cause the female in question. Attitudes and occurrences like these need addressing. Retaining antiquated attitudes like this need to be eradicated for the betterment of human kind and for progress to a better world. There are many more topics I could address but space prevents that.

For now I will continue to crusade against misogyny and sexism.

Friday, August 9, 2013

2013 Beat the Heat Wrap-Up

It's the end of our 2013 fundraiser at least and I can only say one thing:

Holy Hypatia, guys! You really came through for us.

We began this year's fundraiser hoping to exceed last year's but we knew times were still tough for so many of you. Nevertheless, we pressed ahead with the idea of getting a portable A/C and heating unit for an out-of-state family who desperately needed the extra cooling power for their young son. I'm proud to say we raised those funds without a hitch.

Figuring out how to raise regular funds for Mississippians after this seemed like a monumental task. So we turned to our good friends Hemant Mehta and JT Eberhard for help. That's when the floodgates opened and a multitude of wonderful people came to our aid. We raised enough extra money to buy seventeen - yes, 17! - air conditioners for elderly and poor Mississippians.

Here's the letter from Community Action acknowledging we turned them over as well as some snaps.

 We had a little change left over so we did as we had done last year and bought school supplies for some needy children. In fact, we were able to sponsor one child's entire list. 

This was an incredible victory for NEMSHA, for the atheist community, and (most importantly) for Northeast Mississippians. None of it would have happened without your support, my friends. We are bringing substantial relief to other human beings regardless of our borders and differences. We are living out the very best of our values. We don't bring hope to these people - we bring help - and we do not apologize for it. When you have help, you do not need to hope. Imagine what we can do next year if we spread the word online and get more donors. It doesn't matter if you send $5 or $500 - you will be helping someone. 

But that's not all! The story has been picked up by the local paper and will run next week. NEMSHA is going full public with the story that nonbelievers are doing good. What will the churches make of this? Will they welcome our help or will they see us as competition? We cannot know but we have already pledged that any hostility or reproach will fuel us to work harder to do what's right.

This wonderful story will even feature a picture of Jon Rhodes, Vice-President of NEMSHA, so people can start seeing folks they know come out of the secular closet.

So we say again, THANK YOU to all our donors and supporters. Thank you to those who spread the word. Thank you for trusting us with your money and your information. We should have said it before but it's worth saying now: we value your trust and we will never knowingly share your name or address with anyone. Neither will we spam you or harass you. You have given willingly of yourself to those who need it most. We will always honor that trust.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Reason in the Rock 2013

After enjoying the event at Skepticon 4 a group of people from Arkansas decided they wanted to put on a conference as well. Something the South desperately needed and a chance to get liked-minded individuals together to share ideas and stories.

Well I'll just let Anne tell it:

"Secularist issues. Promotion of science education. Humanism. Skepticism. Critical thinking skills. Protection of the separation between church and state. Reason. Tolerance.
Within a few weeks, we had a name for our pipe dream and a few speakers had agreed to attend. Seth AndrewsLauren LaneJerry DeWittAronRaTeresa MacBain. And some guy – from right here in Arkansas! – who has a great blog" - Anne Orsi on WWJTD

Read the rest of her post on JT's Blog here:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Yes on 26" Starts Off New Campaign by Disturbing Their Own Viewers

When initiative 26 (the "personhood" amendment) hit Mississippi a couple years ago, we documented their lies, misinformation, and general fail. It appears that they are back to push a new personhood amendment because their page is rapidly filling up with the most idiotic and revolting statements people can make.

Rest assured, DFFT will fight these people every step of the way - and not because we love abortion, but because we strongly value freedom and bodily autonomy. We oppose any government attempt to force a person to donate his or her blood, tissues, or organs to anyone else for any reason. Also please remember that the one time we had an opportunity to make such a choice, we chose the pregnancy. We have not ever and hope to never need to choose abortion. That is our personal preference. 

That being said, I want to focus today on a (possibly) disturbing image of a miscarried fetus and the incredibly harsh comments that followed.

This would be a very disturbing image for me as a mother who experienced a 23 week stillbirth if I still had properly working emotions. Not only does it give me flashbacks of my dead son but it also seems to imply that I, as a pro-choice woman, did not consider my son a person in any sense. This is untrue, of course, because I did consider him to be a future person and member of our family. But at no time did I think that he had any legal status. How could he? He did not have the ability to carry out even the simplest privileges of a born citizen - to breathe American air and experience his environment - much less carry out any duties.

Not everyone on "Yes on 26" appreciated this graphic image either. Two women and one man (all against abortion) told the page that this picture was too disturbing to them and possibly to others who had experienced miscarriages and stillbirths. The gentleman even said he would have to hide the post because he couldn't bear to see it. I am not going to post their names or comments because I do have respect for those who grieve. But guess who didn't show any respect? "Yes on 26" sure didn't bother taking it down. Better yet, some of the commentators retorted that it wasn't disturbing or, if it was, that folks needed to see it anyway so they could see what they were killing. I don't feel any remorse for showing you those comments below:

Never mind how this picture makes you feel, sir. Never mind if it makes you relive the agony of losing a child you desperately wanted. We've got to get these icky pictures in front of America and its children so they'll know that abortion is...well...icky. I hate to tell this guy but he could wave a thousand pictures of people dying or dead from horrid diseases and that won't make me vote to force people to donate their organs. Life is full of suffering and it is always good when we can give of ourselves to help alleviate another person's suffering. But it has to be a choice - not a legal imperative. And there's no need for you to so unapologetically rejoice in your fellow man's suffering. Where's your compassion for the born? You have none.

Well, hooray for you that you love women who, by your definition, are murderers. You are going to push for legislation to send them to jail for their abortions, right? And why do you need to gratuitously share these "loving memories" to fight your fight? Yes, I'm aware that the family has posted many pictures online and given everyone permission to share them; nevertheless, do you not stop to think that maybe they aren't making that decision from a good place right now? Do you not stop to think that maybe there are better ways to honor that family's decision than by slapping the picture on every pro-life site you can find like it was a cheap porn ad? Hell, I'm feeling pretty crappy for showing the picture now (so much so that I learned how to hide it) but I can't think how I will make my point if I don't. But you seem to have no concern for whom the picture hurts - you can only think about how many unborns you can save and then discard once they take their first breath.

I don't feel particularly happy about including this picture either but it's so crucial to my point. Perhaps this is a simple declaration of hope but, in context with the other posts, it sounds like, "Didn't bother me so it shouldn't bother you." I get that people need to believe their loved ones are in Heaven but please don't assume that your lack of pain is shared by us all. My mother desperately believes in Heaven but she has grieved for the loss of our son. You do not want to tell her that the picture shouldn't upset her. You really don't.

Here we have the worst offender - the commentator who drove me to write this post. Not only does he feel no sympathy for his fellow pro-lifers who were hurt by the photo but he lectures them and goes so far as to blame them for offending him! I hate to tell you, dude, but unborn babies are pretty revolting. Have you seen one come out? They're pretty revolting too until they get cleaned up. Isn't that why you guys parade the pictures around after all? Because they are shocking and revolting? 

And how dare you tell these grieving parents how they should feel or what they should look at! Does your picture of your dead cousin show him all mangled and bloody or is it a pleasant picture? It makes a difference. These parents shouldn't give a single thought to what offends you or what you expect. You don't control us and you don't speak for us.

I can already tell this next battle is going to be dirty. It's already begun. It's going to compel me to write and to relive my experiences until I have to double my blood pressure medicine. But one thing you won't see me do - you won't see me drag out pictures of my dead son and tell everyone to post them all over the internet to support my pet causes. Not because I'm ashamed of him but because I care about other parents out there who are grieving and do not need to be traumatized again so that I can make a point. I'll tell my story, yes, but I won't whore out pictures of my grief to win votes.

"Yes on 26" and their crew, however, seem to have little compunction about doing so. I guess we'll continue to discover their true colors again as this battle rages on. As for me, I'm not going to post a link to the family's blog or other pictures even though they've given everyone permission. I just don't feel like it's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Skepticon Fundraiser by DFFT and Twink A Dinks .

Deep-Fried FreeThinkers and Twink-A-Dinks team up for a Skepticon Fundraiser!

Hello Everyone,

Skepticon is fast approaching and Tweenky and I look forward to attending again this year. As of today 7-29-13 Skepticon has raised right around $7600 of the $40,000 they need to make Skepticon happen.

So Deep-Fried FreeThinkers and Twink-A-Dinks have teamed up to help raise funds for Skepticon. Twink-A-Dinks is graciously going to be donating 50%-75% of all profit of her "Skepticon Exclusive Dinosaur Chocolates" to Skepticon. The other 50-25% will be going towards raising funds to help get 4 more Mississippians to Skepticon this year. It is rumored that a couple hundred pounds of milk chocolate has been set aside just for this event!

So what are these "Skepticon Exclusive Dinosaur Chocolates?" Well, they are cute, little nommy chocolates that look like this: 

You get a Bronto, Steggy, Tritops and T-Rex
Awwwwww how cute!!

They will be available in the following packaged sets:

Get 2 of each (total of 8) for $10.00 + S/H - Skepticon = 50%
Get 4 of each (total of 16) for $20.00 + S/H - Skepticon = 50%
Get 6 of each (total of 24) for $25.00 + S/H - Skepticon = 50%
Get 14 of each (total of 56) for $50.00  Free S/H - Skepticon = 60%
Get 30 of each (total of 120) for $100.00 Free S/H*  - Skepticon = 75%

*The $100.00 set will have special packaging so that you can gift the chocolates to 10 others. Each package will contain 3 of each dinosaur for a total of 12 per package.

You can even gift the chocolates to someone else entirely - just leave a special notation about where you want them shipped before final check out.

Click below to join the party