Sunday, August 15, 2010

Guest Blogger: Nikki Soarde

In the first of a new series called "Guest Blogger", I am honoured to have "Char" here to speak her mind.  She is a mother, former Mennonite (now atheist), active blogger and current internationally published erotic novelist.  
Her views on religion, sex, and life are as unique as they are poignant.

I hope you enjoy her as much as I do.


BIO:
Char was raised in a progressive or "modern" Mennonite home where jeans and televisions were allowed but God, church and chastity were central fixtures of day to day life. Now, writing under the pseudonym--to protect the naive and the religious--of Nikki Soarde, she crafts erotic romance novels which are available worldwide and have been translated into several languages. Her specialties are male/male romance...and avoiding the topics of sex and religion around her mother.

Read her here-Nikke Soarde


The Ritual of Rationalization

When I was a kid it was made very clear to me that God does not approve of sex.  Or rather he doesn’t approve of pleasure, at least not the kind that actually yields any physical gratification. It was testified to over and over again for me….

There was the repeated affirmation that sex before (or outside of) marriage was a cardinal—or was it carnal—sin.

My mother’s warning that oral sex was a perversion, frowned on by the Almighty, and not to be indulged in.

Christians didn't drink, and they didn't dance. (Well, we roller-skated, but only to Christian Rock icons like Petra and David Meece.)

I saw ample evidence that those truly committed to their God—everyone from priests to the Amish to the monks in the Cloister in Lancaster near where I lived for a year (long story)—not only chose to forego marriage and sex (at least that’s their story and their stickin’ to it) but they even chose to sleep on hard wooden benches with wooden blocks for pillows.

I mean…it was pretty obvious to me that misery was essential to a truly meaningful worship experience, and that sex and marriage were a necessary evil that he had to accommodate in the interest of keepin’ the generations of worshippers coming. God obviously believed that pleasure in general—and sexual pleasure specifically—was a very clear threat to his dominion over his People. So….enjoy life….but not too much, and make sure that any pleasure you DO indulge in is god-centered. i.e. sex in marriage…but not too often and definitely not too kinky please. And if you have to come, do so quietly.

So, having learned all that….for ME I just KNEW that in order to be a Christian and live my faith—to be true to the Biblical model and call myself a child of God—then I had to do EVERYTHING in my power to follow the commandments as laid out by the Bible. Or, more realistically, as laid out by my church—and my mother.
It was VERY clear in the bible that sex before marriage was a sin. So why would I choose to do that? How could I indulge in that and go to church the next day with my head held high? So….despite a FOUR-AND-A-HALF YEAR courtship with my now-husband, I WAS a virgin on my wedding night. Or a technical one, anyway. By that I mean we did pretty much everything but. But the Bible doesn’t really talk about petting, does it? And oral sex….well, I’d never really been quoted any bible verses for that. And my mother was hardly a theologian….was she? But I digress.

If I took His name in vain by saying, “Oh my God” I repented. Sometimes for days. And, like a good little Christian I felt my share of guilt for the physical pleasures that I indulged in with my boyfriend. I went to church every Sunday. I prayed every night. I served on all the committees, went to the Bible studies and sang in the choirs. And I did so, always with a vague sense of discomfort, a sense of displacement and, yes, misery i.e. For the first 25 years or so of my life, I did EVERYTHING in my power to stay true to the Biblical model of a good little Christian soldier.

It was only in later years, as I started to question and, yes, to stray from the flock, did I start to indulge in pleasures more freely. Dancing. Enjoying NON-Christian Rock music. Drinking alcohol.  And finally performing oral sex on my husband (thanks again Mom for THAT little hangup). But it was my foray into the world of writing romance novels, and eventually erotica that really was the beginning of the end. I realized that I could not, in all faithfulness, do these things and call myself a Christian. Could I? I mean…I was writing about everything from threesomes and moresomes to gay anal ex. I was  purveying and promoting a lifestyle and choices that my religion very clearly disapproved of and considered a sin. So…eventually, the solution became obvious. There was no way to resolve these issues, so one of them had to go. And the choice was obvious. I had to resign from the Church. So, that’s what I did.

Okay, so there was a little more to it than that. YEARS of questioning and not liking the answers. And to come to the point to call myself an atheist was a very big step…and a very liberating one! Suddenly I was free to indulge in all kinds of pleasures—things that gave pleasure to me and harm to no one—and to show my support for others to do the same! And I could do so without spending hours on my knees repenting, or spending days, weeks, or years, wallowing in guilt.

Suddenly—with the four little words, “I am an atheist”—I got rid of sin…something God’s been striving to do for two millennium. How cool is THAT!?
But now….with this new perspective on things I have had some fascinating revelations as to the capability of the average Christian to rationalize their “sins” with their “faith.”

Thanks to my passion for writing about all things sexual and kinky and forbidden, it is astounding to me how free people feel to confess their deepest, darkest secrets to me. I became a sort of sexual…priestess, a confidante—a guaranteed non-judgmental ear who is an ideal receptacle for the secrets that are burning a hole in their panties—or boxers, as the case may be. And they’re right in this, by the way. I mean, as long as you’re not telling me that you’ve raped someone, or cut up a body and hid it in my back yard, there really is nothing you can tell me that will shock or offend me. If you’re cool with it, and your partner or partners are cool with it—even if your partner’s energy source is a honkin’ pair of Duracells—then I’m cool with it.

But what has amazed me about these stories is how incredibly resilient people are in their ability to rationalize their “sins” with their “faith”.  Everything from indulging in multi-partner play, to extramarital affairs to bisexual exploration has been discussed—and by people who still go to church regularly and claim to be faithful believers. I am sorry, but no amount of hedging or liberal interpretation or rationalization can eradicate the passages in scripture that speak to—and clearly condemn—these activities. And yet these people find a way to twist the words and rationalize it so that God still approves of them and their very deliberate choices. “I’ve come to terms with it, and God’s okay with it.” Or even, “I talked to my pastor and he’s okay with it.” They are still that desperate to believe. But then again, how different is that really from the typical Christian women’s choice to cut her hair on a regular basis rather than adhere to the Biblical admonishment that she not do so. Or the woman who has the nerve to actually speak up in church despite Paul’s clear instructions to the contrary. As with all things the typical “believer” picks and chooses what they want to believe and adhere to from the Scriptures.

My question now—as an outsider looking in…as someone who has been there and struggled with those choices and rationalizations and finally come away clean is—why? Why is it so important to believe in something that…you don’t really believe in? If your religion, your belief system, and ultimately your God, does not in every way represent the kind of person you want to be or the kind of world you want to live in…without equivocation or rationalization—why would you continue to pursue it? Why indeed would you want to have anything to do with it?

I stopped believing in a God who didn’t answer prayer, who allowed children to be raped, tortured and abducted. Who condemned to hell every man, woman and child on the planet who had not accepted him as saviour—just by virtue of their bad luck and ignorance. I abandoned a God who was obsessively hung up on what orifices we use for pleasure. And I abandoned a God whose chosen people chose to abandon me merely because I wrote the words “fuck” and “cock” on a regular basis (and no, I’m not talkin’ chickens). Even if such a God existed why would I want to associate myself with it?

Why, indeed, would anyone?


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Shout out to Stupid-Kerry Bensemann

This month's "Shout" goes out to food bank manager Kerry Bensemann for making his church membership drive more important than the charity that he is supposed to enable.

One week ago Thursday they could not deliver many of the 120 meal orders that hungry and underprivileged townsfolk were waiting for. The same thing happened again Friday, as they found themselves understaffed.

But were they really?

The warehouse that stored the food had plenty of workers willing to help, and they even had people volunteer from the community, so why did Mr Bensemann feel he was understaffed?


Because they weren't Christians.



"I know it sounds really, really stupid, but you've got to understand how we're set up"

 They have a policy against non-Christians delivering the food because the aim is to increase church involvement, and having non-religious people deliver the food "defeats the purpose".

Really?

It defeats the purpose?  I thought the purpose was to feed the needy.

Apparently if the church doesn't benefit, it is OK to let people starve.


So regardless of the fact that many of his needy speak openly about how they are forced to pray before they are allowed to accept the food, or how other charities accuse "0800 Hungry Food Bank" of hogging all the food resources, this food sits in the warehouse.

Piling up until someone more pious can deliver it.

If you think that the idea of running a food bank just to proselytize to people who are too desperate to say no distasteful, then you are not alone.

How does he justify letting people go hungry while willing people are volunteering to help deliver it?




"It's like sending someone who plays ping-pong out to play for the All Blacks (New Zealand Rugby team)."


 Really?

Because I thought it was more like giving much needed food to the hungry.  I don't think that the hungry care about whose hands are kind enough to hand it to them.

Kerry does though.

And until his Church gets more involved, nothing else matters.

Not the food that is sitting in his warehouse, not any higher moral purpose or charitable action, and most certainly not the hungry people who call in day after day for help that he promises to give them.

In the 0800 Hungry Food Bank, the needy take a backseat to church membership.

You are right Mr Bensemann, it DOES sound stupid.


Original story- Here

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Top 10 Worst Reasons to Believe in a God.



Here is a list of common arguments for god that fail from the very outset.




1-Fine tuning


This is the argument that there must be a divine artificer because the universe is so complex and so fine tuned for our survival.

Since the universe came billions and billions of years before we did, it is obvious that the universe isn't fine tuned for US but rather we simply developed to survive in, and are bound to the natural laws of, the universe in which we find ourselves.  We could have developed no other way.

2-Blind watchmaker/Complexity

This is a very easy one to debunk.  It is easy to be convinced by this one, but the watch is "obviously" made by a watchmaker, because we know that watches are made by men.  To conflate man made creations with nature is a mistake. Complexity arises from chaos in many instances in reality (IE-fractal structures) ever see a snowflake?


3-Appeal to popularity

Convincing yourself that belief must be right because all societies have believed in god (they haven't; Watch about Pirah├ús) or that most everyone does is not convincing.  Or at least shouldn't be.  "Most people" once believed that the earth was flat.  See how that went?

4-Appeal to authority

Very similar to appeal to popularity.  This time it is the meme of the name dropper.  Merely saying that a famous or intelligent person also believes so therefor so should we, is a statement that asks you to believe not based on evidence, but by devaluing your own intelligence and over valuing the celebrity's.  Who knows how that person came to that belief, trust your own intellect and never let belief come from respect of a person, but out of respect for the evidence that he presents.

5-God of Gaps or the first cause

VERY common.  Where did we come from?  Or science can't explain this!  Not knowing something does not imply a divine conclusion.  It merely means that we need to explore and seek evidence that we can test for a conclusion that is based in that evidence.  An unanswered question only implies that we don't know.

6-Anecdotal evidence or He revealed himself to me

"He revealed himself to me" or "My experiences teach me that god is real"  These are false indicators for truth about the nature of the universe.  There have been many people who had Napoleon reveal themselves to them, or the devil, or Odin.  How is this revelation any different?  Your experience may lead you to evidence, but if you don't expose them to skepticism and rigorous testing, then they leave you with assumptions about the universe.  That is it.

7-Objective morality Plato's Euthyphro Dilemma

There can be no objective morality.  Either morality is decided by us as a means of enabling us to survive in a social environment, or it is decided upon by god.  If it is decided upon by god, then it STILL isn't objective because he simply made them up subjectively as a way to assist us in living harmoniously in a societal structure.

Either way, it is subjective.  So a call to objective morality is a false one.


8-Only god can help the universe escape entropy

False.  This is usually a false interpretation of the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  This only applies in a closed system.  Which clearly people are not. There are many outside influences and outside sources of energy that affect us (the sun).

9-Divinity of the bible

This is the "The bible says that God exists, and I know that the bible is true, because God says it is.  How do I know?  Its in the bible"

This is circular reasoning.

If you have no proof of the divinity of the bible, then you are taking it on man made authority.  If there is nothing in the bible that couldn't have been known by men of the time, then  divinity clearly can't be established and nothing in the bible can be established as true on that scriptural basis.


10-Ontological argument

This is the argument that a function of perfection is existence, otherwise it wouldn't be perfect.  So if you can conceive of the perfect being, then he must exist because if he doesn't exist then you aren't thinking of the perfect being.
Therefor if he is thinking of the perfect being, then he is thinking of a being that exists.
This argument fails right off by the principles of bare assertion fallacy and is bound to the same standards of evidence that everything else is.  You can't just assert that things are true without saying why they are true, or citing reasons for it.


If these are your arguments, you have some thinking to do.

If they are not, and you feel that you have a good and logical one that will stand up to peer review, then please, by all means, share it with us.

Accommodating Belief in the Workplace.

I have been reading a lot of stories lately where employees are suing their employers for human rights violations.
For making them do things that are against their beliefs. (Like the JOB that they were hired to do.)

It is happening enough that I am starting to feel boxed in by their arrogance.

ENOUGH.


It’s a trade off, you do your work, I will do my best to accommodate your beliefs. Employers SHOULD ensure that a persons right to believe whatever they want is not violated, and not place an employee in any position where he is asked to go against his beliefs. Unless that means that means that they violate the contract of the position they agreed to uphold.
Employees on the other hand SHOULD do the job that they agreed to do, and leave their personal beliefs out of it.

It is not about the practitioner, it is about the patient.
It’s not about the teacher, it is about the student.
It’s not about the bus driver, it is about the passenger.

If it is not illegal, then you have an obligation to the person seeking the service that you are supposed to provide.
If you are working at a place that offers a service and you never plan of doling out that service, then what you are doing is lying in wait. Lying in wait for your morality play victim to appear so that you can turn them away in your self righteousness, so that you can openly judge them and so that you can openly force your opinions on other people.

And I do mean force.

They have no choice but to be victim to your predator, for they have trusted in the ethical offering of services that your establishment provides and opened up their private lives to you in order to get it.

The shop brings them in, you knock them down.

Easy pickings, right?

Wrong. You should be fired. And possibly charged with harassment for your actions.

Harassment you ask?

Isn’t that harsh?
No, it isn’t. They have chosen to work in a field that contradicts their beliefs, and taken a job that places them in a position where they are entrusted with people in possibly very vulnerable positions. These people trust that the institutions will respect that trust and act according to their mandate.

These workers KNOW that they will have to serve these people, and they KNOW ahead of time that they will deny them. Thereby violating the trust of the customer who opened him/herself up to seek that service.

By knowing and still choosing the job, they are planning to violate the trust inherent in the position before they work even a single day.
They are planning on giving judgment and explaining whey they simply can’t do as they are asked.
In short they are planning on ambushing these trusting people, and judging them openly when they are at their most vulnerable.

Harassment.


For these people to cry discrimination, or a that their rights have been violated by being asked to do the job that they agreed to do is ridiculous.

If you are a pharmacist and you can’t issue some legal drugs on religious grounds, then you can’t be a pharmacist. It is that simple. You can’t fulfill the duties that you are asked to fulfill. You don’t get to decide what people’s stance on abortion or birth control should be.

The law does.

If you are a bus driver who refuses to drive people where they want to go, then you can’t be a bus driver. You don’t get to decide where people are and aren’t allowed to go.

The law does.

If you are a teacher and you violate the sanctity of trust that the parents place in you by teaching YOUR beliefs instead of evidence based science, then you can’t be a teacher. You don’t get to decide what people should believe. You also don’t get to comment on science based on that unsupported belief. If you want a voice, publish a paper on it and see how that goes. But deciding what is and isn’t true based on unsupported belief is unethical. You don’t get to decide what is and isn’t constitutional to teach to other people’s children.

The law does.

People place their trust in service providers to give them that service without judgment, for why would they offer the service if they judged those who use it?

Some people violate that trust, by refusing to do that job or give that service and by offering a moral judgment instead they violate it twice over.

People talk about how moderate belief is not harmful.

It is if it is unsupported.

The fact is that belief informs action is what makes it so.

Your beliefs inform your actions and if they are unsupported beliefs then your actions will be unjustified.

If those actions keep you from doing a job fully and without open moral judgment on those who place their trust in you, then you are not fit to perform that job and you are harming those who depend on your service.
You are harming them by denying a legal service that should be accessible to them, and you are harming them in the form of public humiliation in many cases by bringing some very hurtful and personal issues to the fore and in front of people that just don’t need to know.
You are hurting them by ambushing people who trusted you to be understanding of their plight because of the position that you hold.

It is as simple as that.

If you can’t do the job because of your beliefs, then don’t apply for the job!

You simply don’t get to decide what is and isn’t moral for other people.

Period!








Teacher Fired for adding Creationism to Subject matter- Here

Pharmacists Refuse Birth Control- Here

Bus Driver Claims Discrimination-Here

Illustration by-Mark Alan Stamaty

Sunday, August 1, 2010