Yes, I know it is NOT Christmas yet and I know many will think it far too early to be discussing it, however, it was brought to my attention by an e-mail I received this morning inviting me to a carol service.
When I first acknowledged my atheism, after spending my entire life being rather devout (as children my brother and I would actually play at going to church and taking the communion), I went into a period that I can only call mourning. There was a positive side. For the first time in my life I felt very free. I felt relieved that the bad things in my life and the lives of my loved ones were not the result of some divine punishment for an unknown wrong, but instead they just happened. I was relieved of the worry that no matter how hard I tried to please something, I could never really understand what was right and wrong due to all the conflicting messages. I was freed of the concerns I had that basic human rights that I was a strong advocate of were forbidden by this deity that we were all forced to love and worship, and that if we didn't put our best effort into it, if we tried to sham, it would be known anyway. The constant worry and fear I felt melted away. But there was a cost, and that cost was the traditions and community that I had been surrounded by my entire life. The cost was my mother being disappointed in me and saying some hurtful things. I isolated myself within my own family and lost the family I had in church and with those of faith. That was what I had lost and mourned. However, once it (reason, rationality, the breakdown of my personal cognitive dissonance) had clicked (and what brought that about is a story for another time) there was never a moment of temptation to pick up the comfort blanket of faith and belief again.
For a while after this, I felt I could not enjoy the things that I once had. I could not enjoy carols and midnight mass and celebrating Christmas with my family without feeling a sense of betrayal, of myself and by myself, and to this day I am not sure where that guilt stems from. I suspect it was a hangover from my religious background. That was then. I now find that I can enjoy carols and certain moments that create part of Christmas. But I don't enjoy it because I have faith. I enjoy it because I find it beautiful. I find the songs lovely to listen to. I find church buildings and architecture to be inspiring for the vision and work that went into conceiving and building them. I love spending protected time with my family enjoying a winter's feast. Beautiful and enjoyable things are still in place without the faith that goes with religion. God does not make them special, it is humans that have done and continue to do that. So I will go to the cathedral and enjoy a choir singing Christmas carols just for the pleasure I can get from it, celebrating a tradition that is part of my personal history and that of my family.
My family and I have always been strong supporters of Remembrance Day. My mother was in the Territorial army and my stepfather in the regular British army. Remembrance Day commemorates the end of world war I, it was at the 11th house of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 that the guns ceased and the war was officially over. A war that was unprecedented in scale at the time and which almost wiped out a generation of men. Unfortunately it was not the last war to be fought on such a scale.
Reflect, think back on, remember, consider those who are fighting for our country, who have fought and served, and those who have died as a result of their service. We should also not forget the supportive families and friends of those who are fighting and serving our countries, who have to deal with the aftermath of loved ones coming home, forever changed by what they have been through, if they come back at all.
My stepfather died last November at the age of 52. His death ultimately came about as a result of his post-traumatic stress disorder and the subsequent alcoholism that was his escape and coping mechanism.
To all those who serve, to all those who fight, to all those who served and fought in the past, and to all those around our service men and women who support them in every way that they can...
You are in our thoughts
You are loved
You are remembered
We thank you
The article on skepchicks and the further links in the comments section (including a link to the bill itself) reveal that new anti bullying bill voted for by the senate (but not approved by the house as yet) contains a get-out clause that would not prohibit
"a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil’s parent or guardian"
I think, in the end, it comes down to what you class as bullying. There no reason why people should not be able to express their opinions and beliefs, no matter what I personally think the validity of their stance is, but there is a problem when those opinions and beliefs are used to attack and hurt someone else. The interesting wording indicates that physical bullying will likely be prohibited, but verbal expressions based on moral and religious grounds are permitted.
So, do words do harm? "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me" is the phrase I remember from school. Words can't hurt or do harm?
Emoitional abuse can do lasting harm to individuals trapped in an environment where they cannot escape such abuse, such as relationships or work/school etc. Isolated and single verbally abusive incidents obviously do not do as much harm as a physically abusive incident. However, the problem is not single incidents, it is a progressive situation where the abuse takes place over a long period of time.
Statements of "sincerely held beliefs" in a directed manner over a prolonged period of time can take their tole, especially if the person also has similar religious beliefs. In my experience it is the manner in which those statements are used that can be the problem. Intention to do harm and the actions resulting from that can make simple words cut very deeply. It is more of an issue when people are vulnerable or sel-conscious in some way and have areas which the bullies can manipulate.
In this case they have probably done their best to avoid the religious only exemption that appears all to often for my liking by including "moral conviction", which would not exclude atheists etc. But it does effectively mean that verbal abuse and bullying of almost everyone is justifiable. It seems a shame that what could have had some effect is diluted down with such a statement. But in tody's world, could they really have done any better?
Skeptical kinkster musing on whatever takes my fancy!