Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Educational Goals of an Atheist and a Catholic Couple

As I was walking Buddy to his new school, my husband emailed me that our city was having a big homeschooling convention. A few minutes later he emailed me, “nevermind.” I smiled, knowing exactly why he lost enthusiasm for the convention.

I found out I was right when he got home. He explained that when he investigated the convention, he found they were staunchly conservative Protestant. And while it’s a given that as an atheist I wouldn’t be down with the agenda, as a Catholic, he’s not too fond of it either. And he went on for awhile in exasperation with how out of sync their educational goals were to our own (me being familiar with the homeschooling culture in our area was not surprised).

I don’t think I could have made an interfaith marriage work with a conservative Protestant. But a minimally practicing Catholic? Yeah. It works. And I think a big reason is because it doesn’t affect us much on a day to day basis.

Here are the reasons Andy is not fond of religious based homeschooling, or religious based schooling, period. He believes that it should be left to the church to teach religion. Andy wouldn’t even consider sending our children to a Catholic private school. In his mind, schools should teach academics, and religious instruction should happen solely within the church. This is a mindset I really wish more conservative Protestants would adopt!

The other reason is because Andy, like me, loves science. We read Discover and Scientific American magazines. We love Neil DeGrasse Tyson and watch his shows together. Andy doesn’t see any conflict between evolution, cosmology, and his religious beliefs. And he values science literacy and wants our children to have a firm grasp of how science and the world works.

And while he’s not a history buff like I am, he is concerned about the revisionist history that goes on in those circles. He wants our children to have a firm understanding on how the separation of church and state is fundamental to our government. He also understands that it’s important to acknowledge when our country was wrong, such as the issue of slavery. He does not want to whitewash something as horrible as the Civil War by reducing it to a mere matter of “states rights.”

Andy is able to compartmentalize his beliefs from his day to day life. In some ways I think this is easier for Catholics, because their faith focuses on acts (going to Mass, partaking in the sacraments, etc) than many Protestant sects which focus on belief. But whatever the reason, it works for us, because the educational goals we have for our children end up being the same. We want them to be scientifically literate, have a good understanding of history and how our government works, and believe that religious instruction is best left to the church.

Why Watching Trump Win is Painful

I never thought Trump was funny. I never thought watching him run for office was funny. Watching his rise to power has been frightening and emotionally crushing for me. I’ve wanted to write something before, but I feel an overwhelming helpless when I think about it, because his followers are so hate filled and irrational that it seems as it nothing I say will reach them or change their minds.

But after the horrible displays of hate over the weekend, after the Nazi salutes and cries of “Heil Hitler” from his fans, I can’t stay silent.

Trump is one man. But he has power because he is tapping into the hate that a lot of people feel for others. And it saddens me to see that hatred so openly flaunted.

No, I never had any delusions that we lived in a post racial society. People holding racist and xenophobic attitudes is nothing new. But the openness with which they are displaying them are.  And it’s not just distasteful hate symbols, people have been assaulted at his rallies. Trump has even thought about paying the legal fees of those who engage in such violence!

What truly scares me is his if “you’re not with us, you’re against us,” mentality, and if you dare to disagree with Trump, then you deserve to be roughed up or killed.

And this is why Trump has always scared me. He reminds me of the people who bullied me in elementary school. Yes, I was different. But my difference was not even tolerated much less celebrated. I was ridiculed, called a “retard”, physically assaulted, cornered against walls while people shouted out me.

And I told the teacher. And I became the troublemaker because I told the teacher.

The teacher and administrative staff have the power in schools. And they encouraged the bullying because the kids who were bullying had parents who were active in the PTA and they did not want to alienate them. At one point the assistant principal sat down with me at lunch and, in front of the whole class, blamed me and told me that I wouldn’t be bullied if I stopped reading and tried to interact more with my classmates. Then she threatened to put me in an alternate program if I didn’t get along with my classmates.

I want to emphasize I was never violent. I never said a mean thing to them. I was very quiet and, when I’m stressed or scared, I tend to become more so. My sole crime for this assistant principal to focus on was that I was reading too much. At school.

My parents had to take me out of that school and homeschool me for a few months while they researched other schools in the area that would be more pro-active against bullying.

Here’s the thing. Trump is no different from the assistant principal who told me to play nice with others. He is making a scapegoat of people who have the least say in our political process. The people in power in the country are predominantly rich white Christian men, not Muslims, not immigrants, not the poor, not blacks, not women. The people in power make the rules, not the other way around. People in power do not cater to the underdogs. Representation matters!

Further, diversity matters. Here’s the thing, I think very highly of myself, but I don’t think so highly of others. When people reject me, I place the blame on them for not being open minded enough, even though it hurts. Because I want to be appreciated for my talents and for my opposing points of view. But too often I feel like I’m that annoying voice who is arguing against what everyone else wants to believe. My life experiences are unique and bring something to the table.

Same with Muslims, and immigrants, and poor and blacks. I went to high school in an area with a large immigrant population and, since a lot of them were non-Christian, I tended to get along with people from Vietnam and India better than white people. No matter where they were from, I got to see their humanity up hand and personal, and see the value that they brought to our country.

But Trump and his supporters don’t want to hear it. They want to shut down people who think different and who are different. They don’t even want people who are different to have a voice. This is not a democracy. This is totalitarianism. In a democracy, even people who are in the minority have rights and protections.

And I am distraught that so many people are supporting him. Seeing people cheer on a bully after what happened to me growing up? It makes me indescribably sad. Seeing people so willing to hand him power? It makes me fearful.

America, we should be better than this. But as he comes closer to securing the Republican nomination, well, I’ve not been this disappointed in our electorate since Bush won in 2004.

Twisted Morality

Before modern times, a laboring woman faced three choices if the baby was unable to descend through her pelvis. A cranioctomy could be performed on the fetus, where a hole is drilled into its skull and it’s brain removed to allow the head to come out. The mother would live, the fetus would not. The second option was a c-section, which would undoubtedly be fatal to the mother as, before the invention of modern medical techniques, there was no way to suture the uterus to prevent her from bleeding out. The baby would live, the mother would not. Of course, the work around solution would be to perform a hysterectomy along with the c-section, which would both save the mother and the baby. But while this solution was know about, it was condemned by the Catholic Church.

The reason? It would enable couples to have non-procreative sex.

Yes, to prevent people have having non-procreative sex, the Catholic Church would have rather the mother died during childbirth. Better a woman should be dead than engaging in sex for non-procreative reasons!

And here is what I want to stress. The focus of the Catholic Church, conservative protestants and others in the so-called pro-life movement is not about the health and well being about the baby as they have spun it, it’s about people have sex for pleasure. If the pro-life movement was about preventing abortions, then they would be backing LARCs.

Haven’t heard about LARCs? These are otherwise known as Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives. Essentially birth control that lasts for years so you don’t have to worry about taking a pill every day or slipping on a condom that could break. These are also reversible so if you decide to have a baby, they can be removed and you can procreate at your leisure. And the failure rate is less than 1%. They are extremely reliable. Examples include the IUD and implants.

In Colorado, they were responsible for lowering the teen pregnancy rate by 40% in 6 years (and the abortion rate fell by 35%) GOP “pro-life” Republicans refused to continue funding this successful program, because “morality.”

It’s not just teens in Colorado. In the US, the rates of unintended pregnancy are at an all time low thanks to the IUD.

Birth control has achieved what years of abstinence programs and attacks on abortions have not, drastic drops in the rates of unintended pregnancies AND abortions. Birth control works. And all of the arguments I’ve seen against birth control are based on a person’s religious beliefs and that whole morality thing about fears of people having non-procreative sex.

Here’s the thing, this moral panic about people having non-procreative sex? Its getting in the way of implementing policies that are good for the health and well being of the nation. And unplanned pregnancy is a situation that is not good for anyone and which, despite the promoting of adoption, there is no perfect choice.

Recently the CDC got into a flap about the risk of alcohol use during pregnancy. Having worked with substance use and seen the effects of FASD first hand, as well as the tragic situation women who are addicted to opioids find themselves in when they get unexpectedly pregnant.Alcohol use is extremely detrimental to a developing fetus, and the worst time to drink is when most women don’t realize that they are even pregnant! This can cause severe mental retardation and a host of other complications. Women addicted to opioids who become pregnant are at an increased risk of miscarriage if they try to STOP using drugs, and therefore have to continue using drugs (hopefully while monitored by a doctor). Unfortunately, the baby is born addicted to opioids and has to go through detox. This is not a great first start in life: being born addicted to a drug, and spending weeks detoxing at a hospital and not a nurturing home. For women who have gone through this, it is agonizing.

I bring this up as an example of the value of having a planned pregnancy. When a woman chooses to get pregnant, she usually pays a lot of attention to her life choices, eliminating alcohol and other harmful substances from her diet.

Drug exposure is not the only thing we have to worry about. Zika has recently exploded as a public health crisis. Exposure to zika while pregnant is likely linked with microcephaly and Guillain-Bare syndrome and a host of other birth defects. There have been cases of zika in the US and my husband who works for the city government is privy to the measures that they are starting to take to prepare for it here in Texas. In fact, I’m dismayed that with this new public health crisis more isn’t being done to make sure women in those areas have access to LARCs, which, in the case of Texas, would mean not fighting Planned Parenthood and working with them to make sure women who wants LARCs have them! But, as we have defunded Planned Parenthood, pregnancy rates are up. Further, the Texas government was so unhappy with this report that they have attacked the researchers. Once again, concerns about moral indecency vs public health is what is influencing policy here, and when research flies in the face of morality, rather than changing our policies, we’re attacking the people doing the research.

I’m about finding solutions that work that protect the health and well being of women and enable them to bring healthy infants into this world. LARCs dramatically reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate, AND they dramatically reduce the abortion rate. They allow a woman to decide when she is ready to have a baby, and therefore allow her to make sure her environment and her body is health when she chooses to get pregnant. This increases the chance of healthy moms having healthy kids.

Fretting about “morality” is not doing anything for the health and well being of women and their babies. In fact, it is doing a lot of harm. This so-call morality is not morality, it is ultimately about control. This is about the church dictating when it is okay to have sex and when it is not.

My morality is about putting policies and resources in place to make sure every woman who wants one has access to LARCs. It’s better for women, it’s better for men, and it’s better for the babies.