November 18, 2013
Earlier today, I wrote an article at Thought Catalog about my annual conversation with my mother in regards to her “War on Christmas” pins. Shortly after publishing it, I decided to dive into the the mindset of someone who actually believes that there’s some sort of attack against Christmas.
Eric Owens, Education Editor at the Daily Caller, a conservative media outlet, is one of my favorite examples. I’d like everyone to look at these two pieces by Owens, both published within the past 5 weeks, and find the hypocrisy.
On one hand, observing a Muslim holiday by taking the day off of school (much like Christmas is an observed holiday in public schools…) in a public school is an attempt to “force their religion on everybody else.”
In the other piece, the mere thought that public schools would not be singing about the tiny baby Jesus and God and so on — that is a WAR! What’s this? Someone suggested that the school include a few secular holiday tunes in their performances (“Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Walking in a Winter Wonderland,” and so on). This is tantamount to the attack on Pearl Harbor! This means war!
This is how those who believe in a “War on Christmas” operate. They decry anything religious in public schools unless it’s their religion we’re talking about; in which case, there needs to be more of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. What I don’t love are hypocrites.
December 25, 2012
O, Christmas Tree! O, Christmas Tree
It’s been a tough year. I’ve learned a lot about myself, but at the same time, it certainly took a toll on me mentally & physically. Christmas gatherings have always left me feeling sentimental, but this one was especially that way.
My family did their best to pretend that their son that visited last year was no longer going to be a guest at the table, instead, with their daughter in his place. One of my aunts actually said, “nice to meet you,” to me as they entered. I appreciate these gestures. They do make me feel accepted among my own family.
No more stockings with my birth name. It was near-impossible to find a photo of me anywhere between the ages of 12 and 25. I was here, for what was, really, the first time. Both exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.
One thing I need to be aware of, moving forward, is how some of the issues I’m dealing with in my life affect those around me. I cannot let single events crush me in a “this is going to be the end of the world” kind of way. I need to find strength within myself to carry onward and come out of this a more confident and authentic person. In that, I need to take things down a lot emotion-wise.
I’m going to do better, world. I’m going to do better, me. I’m going to do better, friends.
December 7, 2012
As you may be aware, the Salvation Army is pretty freakin’ anti-LGBT by nature. I know a lot of people who want to donate money somewhere, but seem to think that donating to the SA is the only option. Obviously, this is not the case. You are not “helping” by donating to a group that spends money lobbying for anti-LGBT legislation, has threatened to shut down shelters if they’re made to comply with anti-discrimination laws, etc.
Here are a list of secular charities (the majority, I would imagine, are friendlier to the LGBT community than the SA). I found this list here. Feel free to share.
Secular Charities and Aid groups
- American Civil Liberties Union
The mission of the ACLU is to preserve all of constitutional protections and guarantees relating to First Amendment rights, including the freedom to practice religion or choose not to, equal protection, due process, and right to privacy.
- Amnesty International
AI’s vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standards. In pursuit of this vision, AI’s mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.
- DefCon: Campaign to Defend the Constitution
DefCon is an online grassroots movement combating the growing power of the religious right. It includes a blog on religious freedom issues, action alerts, and in-depth articles on scientific, religious, and legal issues of the day.
- Doctors without Borders
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international independent medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and exclusion from health care in nearly 70 countries.
a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack.
Engineers Without Borders USA (EWB-USA) helps to provide clean water, electricity, sanitation systems, and education. The concept is very similar to Doctors Without Borders.
- Foundation Beyond Belief
The FBB’s mission is “To demonstrate humanism at its best by supporting efforts to improve this world and this life, and to challenge humanists to embody the highest principles of humanism, including mutual care and responsibility.”
- Goodwill Industries
Unlike their counterpart, the Salvation Army which is an evangelical Christian “charity” that is also politically and socially-active promoting religion, Goodwill is a secular organization that runs thrift stores coast-to-coast. From their page: “Our network of 165 independent, community-based Goodwills in the United States and Canada offers customized job training, employment placement and other services to people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face employment challenges.”
lets you connect with and loan money to unique small businesses in the developing world.
- Oxfam International
Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations working together with over 3,000 partners in more than 100 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice. The Oxfams operate in over 100 countries worldwide working with local partners to alleviate poverty and injustice.
- The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the diversity of life on Earth. An environmental group that protects natural habitats and the wildlife within them. Focuses on “science-based” initiatives.
- Population Connection
Population Connection is the national grassroots population organization that educates young people and advocates progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth’s resources. Works against faith-based policies that are supported by the Religious Right.
- Rotary/Rotary International
Secular organisation, the world’s first service club organisation. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. Motto is “service above self”. Notable project is global Polio eradication.
- The SEED foundation
National nonprofit that establishes urban public boarding schools to prepare students from underserved communities for success in college.
The Secular Humanist Aid and Relief Effort or S.H.A.R.E. was developed over twenty years ago for those who wish to contribute to those people afflicted by natural or human disasters without having to use the intermediary of a religious organization. S.H.A.R.E. is a program of the Council for Secular Humanism, which for 29 years has been the leading organization promoting the rights and values of secular humanists in the U.S. and abroad.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists
The leading science-based non-profit working for a healthy environment and safer world.
- United Nations Children’s Fund
UNICEF mobilizes political will and material resources to help countries, particularly developing countries, ensure a “first call for children” and to build their capacity to form appropriate policies and deliver services for children and their families. UNICEF provides emergency and disaster relief.
- Wheelchair Foundation
The Wheelchair Foundation is a non-profit organization leading an international effort to provide free wheelchairs to every child, teen and adult who needs one, but cannot afford one. For over 10 years, the Wheelchair Foundation has been delivering hope, mobility, and freedom to people with disabilities, in an effort to provide at least 1,000,000 wheelchairs around the world.
Issue-Specific Secularist Organizations
Anti-Discrimination Support Network (ADSN)
- ADSN Project
The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia’s Anti-Discrimination support network (ADSN) is collecting narratives highlighting instances of bigotry against the nontheist community.
- Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Provides reproductive health care services, advocates for women’s reproductive rights, and offers educational services for women.
- NARAL Pro-choice America
Focuses mostly on the social and legal activism for women’s abortion rights.
Womens Health Organizations
an international nonprofit organization that has been working for 60 years to make reproductive health services safe, available, and sustainable for women and men worldwide.
an international organization that works around the world to increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, and to reduce abortion-related deaths and injuries.
Teen Pregnancy Reduction
- National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
Sadly this charity is rated with only 2 stars due to low efficiency. However their goal is highly respectable and needed, to prevent teen pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy among single, young adults.
- Treatment Action Campaign
campaign for treatment for people with HIV and to reduce new HIV infections. Our efforts have resulted in many life-saving interventions, including the implementation of country-wide mother-to-child transmission prevention and antiretroviral treatment programmes.
- Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
Challenging the myth that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” There certainly are. The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers is a community support network that connects military members from around the world with each other and with local organizations. In addition to community services, MAAF takes action to educate and train both the military and civilian community about atheism in the military and the issues that face us. Where necessary, MAAF identifies, examines, and responds to insensitive practices that illegally promote religion over non-religion within the military or unethically discriminate against minority religions or differing beliefs. MAAF supports Constitutional State-Church Separation and 1st Amendment rights for all service members.
- Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
Dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
- Human Rights Campaign
Large organization working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equal rights.
A national non-profit gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (GLBT) agency dedicated to reducing homophobia, inequality, hate crimes, and discrimination by encouraging self-acceptance, cooperation, and non-violence.
- Lambda Legal
The legal arm of the Lambda organization that protects GLBT civil rights through impact litigation, education and public policy work.
- National Education Association (NEA) on school vouchers
Provides several arguments for the case against private school vouchers.
Pledge of Allegiance
- Restore the Pledge
Support Michael Newdow in his quest to remove the phrase “under God” from the official Pledge of Allegiance, coercively recited by millions of schoolchildren every day.
Evolution/Creationism in the science classroom
- National Center for Science Education
Great resource with current news and resources (including the famous “Project Steve” list!) on defending evolution and science against pseudoscience advocates.
Boy Scouts of America discrimination against atheists, gays
- Scouting For All
Composed of mostly former Boy Scouts, it is working to influence the BSA to include all participating youth members and leaders regardless of religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
Children in Poor countries
an organization committed to helping children, their families and communities in 49 developing countries around the world.
An organization dedicated to helping and sheltering children who are orphans of AIDS and abuse in Tanzania.
Church/state separation and secularist organizations
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State
A national watchdog organization (with local chapters all around the U.S.—find one near you!) dedicated to preserving religious liberty. It is open to theists and nontheists of all kinds, and is headed by a minister with the United Church of Christ (Rev. Barry Lynn) who can be seen often in the national media and news stories centering on church/state separation issues.
- American Civil Liberties Union
A favorite target of the Religious Right. The ACLU defends civil liberties on many fronts including church/state separation, personal privacy, and legal protection through due process. Look for a local chapter in your area to join.
- People for the American Way
Progressive group that supports secular values in government. PFAW is an activist organization and PAC (political action committee) working to battle such groups as the Christian Coalition. Click the “Religious Freedom” link for action alerts and information.
- Freedom from Religion Foundation
Great organization that defends the rights of nontheists in courtrooms, sponsors a fun-filled annual national convention, and publishes the popular “Freethought Today” (magazine written by and for freethinkers).
- Godless Americans Political Action Committee
Endorses and supports U.S. political candidates that support secular values in government and the rights of “godless Americans.” We will have our “seat at the table” in formulating public policy.
- Atheist Alliance
Democratic association of various individual atheists and atheist organizations. It is a great all-around resource for all-things atheist.
- Interfaith Alliance
Alliance of leaders of various religions, worldviews, and beliefs that includes Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, et al. It works to promote religious freedom for everyone regardless of religious beliefs as well as civic participation and civility. Nontheists can find theist allies here.
- American Atheists
Controversial atheist organization started by the infamous Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Today it fights for the complete separation of church and state, as well as for the rights of atheists in America.
- Secular Coalition for America
Vast coalition of secular and freethought organizations (including the Internet Infidels!) dedicated to sending lobbyists to Washington, D.C. to gain support for protecting the rights of nontheist Americans.
- Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Explores the causes of religious belief, promotes science in public schools, maintains a list of public lecturers, sells pro-secularist books and other media, and facilitates the giving of humanitarian aid to organizations that are completely secular in nature.
Organizations that promote humanism/Atheism
- Foundation Beyond Belief
A 501(c)(3) charitable and educational foundation created (1) to focus, encourage and demonstrate the generosity and compassion of atheists and humanists, and (2) to provide support and encouragement for nontheistic parents.
- Council for Secular Humanism
Large organization that offers support for secular humanists through activities such as magazine publishing, conducting secular ceremonies (weddings, funerals, etc.), educational courses, and summer camps for kids that teach critical thinking skills and secular ethical values.
- Atheists United
Advances the public understanding of atheism, defends the seperation of government from religon and helps to create communites of atheists. Based in Southern California.
- American Humanist Association
Promotes the spread of humanism and furthering of the humanist philosophy in the U.S. by working with and/or establishing like-minded organizations.
- The Continuum of Humanist Education
Online courses available for humanists in areas such as law, science, ethics, and secular humanist philosophy.
- Freedom From Religion Foundation
Run by Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, also hosts “Freethought Radio” and is the leading atheist group involved in separation of church and state legal challenges, having had several of their cases heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.
- The Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS)
A think-tank that offers news, opinions, information, and humor relating to humanism. It works to spread public awareness and acceptance of humanist principles.
- British Humanist Association
The largest provider of humanist ceremonies in England and Wales. Offers services for weddings, funerals, and baby-namings as well as general resources on humanism and support for humanist organizations.
- Humanist Association of Canada
Provides secular officiants, information, services, and support for humanists in Canada.
- Positive Atheism
Comprehensive resource for positive atheists to learn about atheism, history, philosophy, religious freedom, and responsibility.
- Unitarian Universalist Assocation
A popular “church” for atheists, agnostics, deists, very liberal Christians, etc. Check your local yellow pages for one in your community or use this website’s handy * Congregation locator.
- The Brights
A movement endorsed by several prominent nontheists to adopt a new term (“Brights”) with an accompanying philosophy to describe secularists, freethinkers, atheists, naturalists, etc. with the intent of putting forth a positive, and less-stigmatized, perception of ourselves. Many nontheists have encouraged its use, while many others reject it.
- Skeptic Society
Learn how to live life free of nonsensical beliefs, and develop your own scientific and critical thinking skills. Also publishes a popular monthly magazine, SKEPTIC, which can be found in major bookstores.
- Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)
Investigates extraordinary claims from a scientific and rational perspective. CSICOP also puts out a popular monthly magazine, Skeptical Inquirer, found in major bookstores.
- American Ethical Union (AEU)
The American Ethical Union (AEU) describes “Ethical Culture” as a humanistic religious and educational movement inspired by the ideal that the supreme aim of human life is working to create a more humane society.
- International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)
IHEU is the sole world umbrella organisation for humanist, atheist, rationalist, secularist, skeptic, laique, ethical cultural, freethought and similar organisations world-wide.
December 2, 2012
I spoke with my dad today via phone, and while he has thus far been very supportive, I feel that I now have reason to question the legitimacy of that support.
In talking with him, he brought up some basic concerns he and my mom have about me coming home for Christmas:
- “You’re not going to… uh, wear a dress or anything, are you?” – no, I’m not, nor was I planning on it, but I don’t think it’s necessarily appropriate to tell me that I have different dress code options than anyone else going to my family’s house.
- “What I hear when you talk about this is, ‘me, me, me.’ Why can’t you consider how this affects us?” – I’m sorry that it affects you, but my transition really is about “me, me, me.” By necessity, it really has to be.
- “We’ll try to tell everyone in the extended family about your… situation.” – I certainly hope so… Seeing me femmed up isn’t exactly how I’d like to break the news to my grandma…
Throughout this, he used my birth name, incorrect pronouns, etc. This doesn’t leave me feeling hopeful that I’ll come home to a family that refers to me by my real name/pronouns come Christmastime. I finally asked him not to call me that (birth name) anymore, but he continued doing that as if I said nothing.
At one point in the conversation, though, I did feel like there was something I needed to bring up. My dad is a member of the school board in the district where I went to high school. I told him about the transgender-specific policy put in place (but later rescinded) by the East Aurora school district (students/teachers would be allowed to go by their chosen names, use the correct restrooms/locker rooms, etc.). I’ve been a strong proponent of these types of policies, and I thought it was good fortune that I happened to know someone who had the ability to work to implement this in my old high school district.
Finally, it came up: “If there was only some sort of policy that was in place when I was in grade school/high school that would have let me know, ‘you can be you,’ perhaps it wouldn’t have taken until I was 26 to come to terms with myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt broken all my life. I guarantee that policies like this save lives.” I then elaborated on the provisions present in the E. Aurora policy, and how I believed that if a school board could just implement a policy like that, not bow down to religious-group pressure, it would inspire school districts across the country to follow suit.
My dad responds: “right now, I’m just trying to work on how to deal with this and you. I have a hard time worrying about anyone outside our family.”
Well, I tried. *sigh* Maybe I can bring this back up in the future.