Support Women, Drink Coffee

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Happy International Women’s Day, readers! Earlier today, I tweeted about a charity called Grounds for Health, an organization that provides women’s healthcare in Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Peru, and elsewhere. Their program centers on reducing cervical cancer among women in developing, coffee-growing companies.

For awhile, I struggled to promote or donate to charities of any sort. After learning the ins and outs of a powerful and politicizing “charity,” I became more skeptical about the not-for-profit sector. I now meticulously research charities before donating or serving them. Admittedly, my research often leaves me feeling rather bruised. I am particular about which charities I choose to support. (It makes me uncomfortable to support any charity with a religious message or tone, for instance.) I used to have a difficult time convincing myself to support programs that didn’t seem like long-term solutions to certain societal problems or infrastructures, but I have come a long way from that line of thinking.

By focusing only on endgame prescriptivism, I realized I was neglecting the humane core of altruism. Particularly, my thought process was challenged by Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams. We absolutely do need long-term solutions to poverty and global healthcare for women. However, when I choose not to support a charity that is a “short-term” solution rather than a long-term solution, I am forgetting the people who are still trying to live in the short term. I am forgetting the people who are dying from cervical cancer, the people who need to eat, drink clean water, wear shoes, receive medical treatment in the short term. Ignoring the short term while talking about long-term solutions is a conversation one can have from the too comfortable vantage point of privilege. Keep the conversation about the long term alive, but I more often advocate that we leave our leftism at the door and think about people too.

Berning Bright

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(Source)

It has been interesting to watch my more progressive Christian friends excuse Bernie’s lack of apparent religiosity. Some friends have taken to calling him “a spiritual man” instead. Here is one comment a friend posted online:

Each to their own. Trump has the racist, sexist, ageist, ableist, and narrow-minded ignorance and greed that would suit this nation to its demise. But each to their own. Many people probably recognize Bernie Sanders as a passive, tree hugger, atheist, but I have to disagree. He is much more than just some atheist. I am glad to hear from you though, even if it is on political disagreement!

Let the record show that I am just some atheist.

Bernie is not openly atheist. He is openly humanist.

Unless there is some better source stating Bernie’s atheism? I am shamelessly delighted that a video from Jimmy Kimmel Live! is all we have to discuss his religiosity.

All this begs the question: Why are Christian democratic voters excusing his lack of religiosity? In short, atheism has a negative appeal. Supporting an atheist in an election is inconsistent with their worldview, and so they choose instead to simply dismiss the lack of religiosity rather than confront and rationally assess it. It’s much easier to ignore than to an accept someone’s deviance from religiosity. Just ask my parents; they’re experts.

From what I have seen, secular groups are endorsing Bernie. They never quote Bernie as an atheist, but they are apt to quote some of Hillary Clinton’s more religious remarks. For instance, in 2014, during an interview, Hillary said: “At the risk of appearing predictable, the Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement. [1]” It’s enough to make my skin crawl. Hillary has made anti-extremist statements, but secular groups are painting her with a particular brush at the moment. Humanist groups have also quoted and supported Hillary in the past. Even their social media has taken a dramatic tern for the bern.

No matter who is elected, I imagine atheists can expect to see much of the same congressional ritual, the same Bibles passed along and used as ceremony, just one more token piece of evidence that fanatics cite when claiming that the United States is a “Christian nation.” We in a period of unhealthy nationalism, and we have been here for a long time.

Blasphemy Law: Don’t Poke Your Nose

Taslima Nasreen is a writer and humanist who I was privileged enough to meet last year at a conference in Virginia. When I approached her after a panel, I thanked her for sharing and speaking, and we shook hands politely. Then, I walked away to the coffee stand, kicking myself for not saying something more important or engaging, and talked to an elderly woman about her dog. In all truth, I felt pretty humble in Taslima’s presence, not in the manner of intimidation, but rather a silent awe and respect.

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I was researching blasphemy in the United States recently and came cross an organization called End Blasphemy Laws (link) that Taslima supports. The website ultimately raised a lot of questions and good points for me. I was surprised to see that the United States was not highlighted on the website’s home page map and then further surprised to read about “blasphemous libel” in Canada, which is punishable for up to two years in jail. When looking at their map, I wonder if the creators of End Blasphemy Laws are simply doing a preliminary keyword search to find blasphemous law in global legal databases or what their research methods entail. For instance, I live in Tennessee and would consider Section 2 of Article IX in the Tennessee Constitution blasphemous law. The section reads:

No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this state.

There are similar laws in the states of Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and others across the board. (You can see similar laws internationally in Pakistan, Ireland, India, and other countries. Even the United Nations has some notable complications in this particular field of legality and religiosity.) The Texas legal statement on public office is particularly interesting. The law reads:

No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.

I would consider these legal statements under the category of blasphemy law, but often these particular laws are considered “unenforceable” as well and thus dismissed from conversation.

My research into blasphemy law comes admittedly from the Charlie Hebdo internet movement and influx in media representation. My thoughts on Charlie Hebdo are complicated to say the least, too involved with censorship and then Islamic blasphemy law, and thus convoluted and perhaps even ill-informed as some opinions tend to be. And maybe, I am too late in on the conversation. Anyway, it’s blasphemy thoughts for today, readers. And I find that I am all too reminded when researching law of the familiar childhood phrase, “Don’t poke your nose where it doesn’t belong.”