Wednesday, January 6, 2010

This is Irrelevant to Modern America, Right?

Seven States' Constitutions forbid atheists from holding public office or testifying in court. They are overruled by the US Constitution so this should not be relevant in today's society, right?

Apparently it isn't completely irrelevant. You've all probably heard about the fiasco in North Carolina where conservatives are threatening to sue over the election of an atheist to city council.

That's an isolated incident, right? 99.99% of Americans would not interfere with such an election, right?

Probably wrong. I put up a few polls recently and while response hasn't been huge, I've gotten enough votes already to show that some 21st century people would agree with those North Carolina conservatives and prevent atheists from holding office or testifying in court.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Religion Taboo Interfering With Addressing a Social Problem

Many of you may know that I am somewhat of a homelessness activist. Over the years I have worked in shelters, soup kitchens, and literacy programs. I have taken homeless people into my home.

Lately, in trying to build empathy toward homeless people I've been writing some pretty frank pieces about what being homeless is like. I've pulled from my own experiences as well as my interactions with other people who are or have been homeless. I've dug into some pretty painful areas to give humanity and a face to homeless people, to show the reality and humanity of people simply in a bad spot.

But there's an aspect that I feel I'm not so free to write about. I touched on it briefly and altogether too lightly in Some Reasons People Become Homeless, but not in any depth and not with any real power. I'm a bit afraid to probe this aspect because I know that people will be cruel to me about it. Even as shallowly as I've touched on this aspect of the homelessness problem, I've already gotten some nasty mail. I know it's going to be painful but it's like a sore tooth I just can't stop fiddling with.

The taboo topic is the relationship of religious belief to homelessness in teens and young adults. If you doubt that there is one, consider this - as many as 42% of homeless teens and young adults are homosexual as compared to less than 5% of the general population. According to one study 26% of homosexual teens who come out to their parents are asked to leave the home.

You can read more about this phenomenon in An Epidemic of Homelessness.

If parents are not discarding their glbtq teens for religious beliefs then why are they?

Religious beliefs aside from religiously derived homophobia also impact teen homelessness. I only have anecdotal evidence for other religiously motivated discarding of teens so far, consisting of stories told to me by homeless teens and young adults. I recall a teenage boy of middle eastern descent who confided that he had become homeless because he'd decided to explore the Christian faith. He was completely blindsided by their decision to evict him from their home because he'd thought they were pretty laid back and reasonable. Other teens I met held Pagan beliefs counter to their Christian parents' beliefs which resulted in their homelessness. I also know of one case where suspected (but not actual) premarital sex resulted in a teen's expulsion from the home.

As you probably guessed I'm winding myself up to write something about this topic, something that will catch a lot of flack and abuse. I am well aware that sometimes I'm more thin-skinned than I ought to be so I'm just dipping my toes into sharkless water until I have all my studies and ducks in a row to stand up to full on attacks.

Wish me luck!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Illness is Not a Punishment from God

A few online "friends" recently decided to get together and hold a sort of email/pm intervention about my illnesses. It's been going on since just before Christmas. The general gist of it is this - they sent me messages blaming me for being sick and accused me of doing nothing about it because I haven't asked Jesus to heal me. They said that God made me sick to force my hand because obviously, being in pain would make me turn to Him. It was followed up by accusations that I'm "avoiding God to stay sick" because I like not having to work.

First of all religious people of all stripes get lupus. So, belief in Jesus does not cure lupus. I left a lupus support group because of the number of times people suggested I'd feel so much better if I'd just pray. People there kept telling me I should see my illness as an opportunity and as a gift from God. No thanks, I'd prefer a laptop, I thought the bugger was supposed to be all-knowing.

Secondly, if I were mentally warped enough to enjoy being as sick as I often am, that, in itself would be a serious mental illness. I'm bloody fucking miserable at times and just miserable at others. I often feel like my muscles are made of ground glass encased in plastic wrap. Yes, sometimes I enjoy myself and sometimes I can ignore and suppress the pain to great degree. But I was once an active person who delighted in all kinds of play like biking, tickle fights, and athletic sex.

Third, I want to get back to work. I just have a problem finding an employer that will tolerate occasional loss of consciousness on the job plus frequent rests and sick days. Yeah, not very damned likely. So, in the meantime, I spend about 6-12 hours per day searching for online gigs and writing things to sell. It doesn't compare to the enjoyment I got from being a florist.

But here's the cherry on top. Years back I was homeless and during that time some really awful stuff went down, PTSD bad and then some. One "friend" had the gall to tell me that I deserved all of the trauma I suffered, even as far back as childhood. She said God was punishing me then but He'd make it all better if I could "stop being so arrogant and ask for his healing."

Yeah, even if I thought it were real, that's not the kind of thing I would worship.

I am not suffering from a terminal lack of Jesus, my physical pain is not a gift. I don't deserve to be ill because I don't worship God.

So I'm now replying to all their emails and messages with a link to this blog post. I hope maybe they'll see how nasty they are being.