Hiatus has come to an end

It certainly has been a while. Time to dust off the page and get back to posting for myself again. I’m kind of spreading myself out a bit, but i like to think of it as “a place for everything” when it comes to my opinion.

For example, when it comes to anything atheism I have a regular appearance on the A-News podcast where I get to talk to people in the “community” every week. I also [occasionally] write an article for A-News Reports. You will no doubt see some cross-posting from here.

When it comes to things like science, skepticism and philosophy I get my fix on Trolling with Logic every Saturday. I get to talk to all sorts of fascinating people including published authors, Organisation leaders and representatives, and hosts from other shows. I will also toss out the odd article there as well. No doubt, there will be cross-posting here for that one, too.

Then there is my own space. Here I will post whatever doesn’t fit into any other spot but still needs to be heard. So, a little face-lift and a bit of updating and away we go.

~SB

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Faith in Feminism?

Earlier this month, the BBC broadcasted a conference titled “100 Women” covering, among other topics, feminism and whether or not it’s possible for a woman of faith to correctly label herself as a feminist. Considering that those who practice most faithfully to their chosen religions are in fact subscribing to a patriarchy of the most extreme variety, can they find their place in a movement that is specifically trying to put an end to those same values? Many women in those positions say, “yes.”

A panel consisting of six women ~ Balvinder Saund (a Sikh), Caroline Farrow (Roman Catholic), Mirina Paananen (Muslim), Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Christian), Laura Janner-Klausner (Jewish) and Kate Smurthwaite (Atheist) ~ gathered to discuss the question “are faith and feminism compatible,” the conversation was underway. As expected, from the six very different women of very different beliefs you get six very different definitions of what feminism is and what should be achieved by pursuing it.  (see link here)

Ms Saund, although doesn’t claim the specific “feminist” title does claim the same desire for equality, even within her faith. What do we know of the Sikh faith? Well in theory it’s based on equality, with the woman and the man being set on an equal playing field. They are of equal souls and may hold equal positions within the faith. Direct harm to women is strictly forbidden, with harsh punishment for those who break this rule. From this view it seems they have achieved what other faiths only claim. However when we look deeper we see that it’s still not what should be acceptable for complete equality.  (see link here)
Take, for one example, the rakhee which promotes the idea that women are incapable of fending for herself and is strictly dependent on a man (in this case her brother) for protection, and unable to actually maintain independence. How about Lohri, a day to celebrate the birth of male children. This alone has promoted infanticide against baby girls in an attempt to increase the value of the family.  (see link here)  Let’s not forget the fact that baby girls also mean that later the family will need to present a dowry to whomever she is to wed, another archaic system of betrothal. It seems that, although they may feel somewhat equal in that they have a set position and expectations of the two sexes is present, in practice things DO need to be adjusted to modern ideals if actual equality is to be gained.

Next we hear from Ms. Farrow, who does claim the “feminist” banner and seems to wave it proudly. She too states that things within the Roman Catholic church are balanced and she feels like her faith cares for women as much as men, although she sees a need for improvement (hence her claim to feminism). Women are allowed to be theologians, monarchs, missionaries and hold position in the church (not in any of the top positions, but certainly as instructors and “sisters” of faith). They are accepted as nurses and scientists and a great many have helped to establish schools, hospitals and nursing homes. But what about issues that are gender-specific?
The catholic church isn’t quite as liberal when it comes to things that affect women on a more personal level; contraception and abortion, for example, are forbidden which puts their own reproduction rights out of their hands. Although it’s said that the majority of positions held within the Catholic church are held by women (see link here) , none of the positions that bring any sort of power or influence can be women. Because of this, many Catholic women are grabbing on to feminism to help, but it’s a horse of a different colour in that they focus on issues that are biologically necessary, rather than of social importance. Women should still try to be the child-bearers and homemakers, rather than seeking positions that would otherwise be held by a man.

Islamic Feminism Symbol

Ms. Paananen is an interesting case because she was not born to the Islamic faith, but converted to it and sees it as a faith of equality. Women are said to be held in equal respect to men, and because men see them as equal and treat them as such, women should want to make a comfortable home for their men, feeding and caring for them. This again comes off as not equal in the same sense that many feminists view it, and yet Mirina holds on to the title with one hand and her faith with the other.
A closer look at the Islamic faith shows that women have guidelines (read: rules) about just about every aspect in their lives. Some of the more well-known include restrictions on education, employment (although not prevented by the faith, she needs permission from her spouse to work outside the home), marriage (especially where it concerns child brides), property rights (whether a woman can inherit or maintain her own property after marriage), and important health issues like birth control and female circumcision (which is a problem world-wide, not just the Middle East).  Organisations like UNICEF are helping to make strides for children, but especially young girls and women in countries under Islamic rule. (see link here)

Mrs. Hudson-Wilkin, being a Christian with the Church of the England is also a self-proclaimed feminist. There are a lot of similarities between the Catholic faith and other Christians so rehashing women’s place within the church isn’t really necessary. Although claiming equality, again it’s still mostly in antiquated gender roles. There is a group claiming feminism that are working toward getting more women ordained, reproductive rights and even helping Christians within the LGBT community. However, the a large number of Christians still see abortion for any reason to be murder, continue to restrict birth control,  and insist that any relationship other than heterosexual marriage to be of sin.

Mrs. Janner-Klausner is a rabbi and also claims to be feminist. She is of the more traditional Jewish faith, not Orthodox so the rules aren’t as restrictive. As a matter of fact, the role of women in Judaism is a little more liberal than those in other faiths. They are allowed to hold position of [relative] power within the “church”, more women are being allowed to read from the Torah publicly (although there is a group seeking the right to read at the “Western Wall” in Jerusalem, a right only allowed to men currently), and more celebratory ceremonies are being created for women to balance the male celebrations (like the Bat Mitzvah in relation to the Bar Mitzva, for example).
That being said, there is still work to be done in awarding divorce to women, protection and prosecution against domestic abuse, limited access to education and various forms of subjugation (not to limit what needs work, just to show example). Obviously the more Orthodox sects would have other issues, some that would mirror the sort of restrictions that the Islamic faith has, like how to dress and a woman’s position in the married relationship. However, it certainly appears that of all of the faiths represented for this discussion Judaism is certainly the closest to what those who don’t live under the dogmatic umbrella of religion that women of other faiths have to live with.

Woman power emblem

Ms. Smurthwaite, as an atheist seems [to me] to have the easiest to explain and closest (most accurate?) definition to feminism from the panel. This probably sounds jaded or biased coming from an feminist atheist, but some of the very reasons that we are feminists are held tightly within the roots of the aforementioned systems of belief. I understand [somewhat] that these women feel that with certain changes made they will appear more equal. Everyone should have the right to go to school and learn whatever they want, to drive an automobile, and hold any position in whatever church they choose to belong to. Every person has the right to be free from persecution, free to choose whether or not to have their body modified whether it’s decorative or (in the case of circumcision) because of some crude religious practice, and free to have control of their own bodies (birth control, for example).
Because feminist atheists don’t believe in or follow the doctrines of any religion, we don’t have specific guidelines set for us. What the atheist sees as equality differs from those of faith. Since we aren’t limited to specific male/female roles we aren’t expected to stay at home, squeeze out a few kids, and make sure that the man has dinner on the table when he gets home. We can do that, but it’s no longer expected of us or assumed. Now, this is not to say that there are no women of faith working outside the home, quite the contrary. However, and this is an extremely generalizing statement, the majority of those are still expected to return home from work and continue working within the home by then cooking, cleaning and caring for her family. Being a woman is a full time job, which doesn’t end when she finally lays her head on the pillow. She will remain on-call throughout the night, just in case one of the kids falls ill or has a nightmare.
Now, this in no way detracts from what is expected of men in this “specific role” paradigm. However, it remains that there are families that exist that fall into the description that I have just given. Is it possible to seek equality but ignore the most basic qualities of that equality? Is seeking things like birth control and the right to abort a fetus when your own life is at stake possible when you still hold on to antiquated roles in the home left over from the 1950’s? When it comes down to it, can someone who lives under the rules of a doctrine call herself a feminist?

 

*Author’s note: despite the fact that I believe that gender is not binary, for the sake of brevity and because all faiths claim the man and woman are the two accepted genders I have limited my report to only those two. This is limited to what the religions believe, not inclusive of my own beliefs. Also, this is not an attack on men nor a “call to arms” for women. This is merely a focus on whether women of faith can be feminist.

 

Outside Links:

Sikh Women, Empowered ~ “We are an advocate organization comprising of men and women who believe in social change by harnessing the principles of Sikhism.”

Islamic Feminism ~ “Islamic feminism is a belief to provide the equality between male and female within the Islamic framework.”

Jewish Feminist Theology ~ “From theologies that address the male-ness of God to ones that address the femininity of males.”

 

UNICEF ~ I cannot begin to explain how important this organisation is and just how many people (in more than 190 countries) are helped by what they accomplish.

 

Also Posted at A-News

When Do Rights Become Intrusions?

As the world attempts to figure out the issue of secularism and where exactly it belongs in the grand scheme, many people are grasping for what they perceive to be their religious rights. “Religious rights” in this case being things that people feel they should be entitled to simply for believing in a chosen deity. After all, having the right to practice religious freedom means that people should have the right to practice according to how they perceive their belief to be, right? Perhaps, but when does that “right” cross the line into being intrusive or a burden?

Across the globe, people of varying religions are fighting for a myriad of issues. It’s their right as citizens of what could be called “free countries” to reach for whatever they feel would help them live a better life. However, what if that “right” starts to intrude on how someone else chooses to live? At what point is it necessary to say it is too far over the line?

In New York City, for one example, a Muslim and City Councilman, Robert Jackson has been pushing for additional days to be added to the list of recognised holidays for school-aged children. Now in the regular school calender, this won’t mean a real large effect for the children, as they would only technically miss 5 days over the next decade (assuming one day every other year) to honour a holiday created to pay tribute to a prophet who was willing to sacrifice his own son. While this doesn’t sound like a lot by itself, what happens if all religions start to impose request for their own holidays? How about the Hindu holiday, Diwali (requested by Daniel Drumm, also of NY). How about cultural celebrations, like the Chinese New year (at the behest of Sheldon Silver, an assemblyman for NY), which would grant them two more days if followed based on the request.
With American school children already lagging behind in education, is it wise to add to the number of days off during the school year? With so many cultures and varying faiths, denying children classroom time to honour such a small selection of the population seems like it’s not worth the damage to an already-endangered system of education.

While on the topic of education, why not include the ongoing battle between creationists/intelligent design believers and the evolutionists? Surging around the world is an alarming increase of supporters for the inclusion of what can only be described as a religious-based theory of how humans came to be in existence. Now, the “theory” of creationism is not the same sort of theory as the “theory” of gravity, or the “theory” of evolution. A scientific theory is generally an accepted principle based on tested and proven evidence. Creationism cannot be tested nor proven because it bears no evidence. It is simply an unprovable hypothesis, at this point. Who knows, in the future we may unearth some major find that leaves no room to discuss or argue the reality of creationism, but given the nature of nature that’s not really likely.

Creationist Museum

Essentially what is happening is that Christians, with people like Ken Ham (young earth creationist, founder of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum) sounding the charge are shoving their way into schools everywhere in an attempt to inject their unprovable theory into science books to be taught alongside the internationally-accepted scientific theory of evolution. This is certainly not news, and this is not the first time this author has written about creationism either. [If you follow these three links, you will see examples of those stories and links for reference.]However, this is something that should be losing ground and, astonishingly is not.

As a matter of fact, if we look at Texas we see that a recent battle over textbooks was just tentatively won against the creationists. Texas essentially sets the standard for textbooks for all of the United States, so decisions made for the state actually end up effecting students all across the country. At this point, the publishers aren’t being swayed to include the controversial information so for now, our students are safe. However, the final decision is to be made at the meeting in November, with books to be used starting with the Fallsemester in 2014.

Butt's Myths of Evolution

If we look across the ocean back over to Scotland, in East Kilbride students have received two books about the subject, “How Do You Know God Is Real?” and “Truth Be Told: Exposing the Myth of Evolution”. These were handed out in a non-denominational school by the Church of Christ, an international church intent on making creationism the accepted reality of how we came to be.

Fortunately, Scotland has organisations like the Scottish Secular Society to stand up and push for changes in how things are being handled, like with their current petition working its way through the Parliament process to change the Religious Observance from an “Opt-Out” to an “Opt-In.” In addition to the Trolling With Logic podcast that chairperson Caroline Lynch was a part of, there is an interview with Mark Gordon discussing his role as a parent and author of the petition for more information.

Stepping away from education is the recent issue with employment in the United Kingdom. A woman is attempting to gain the “right” to not have to work on Sundays as part of her religious observation. She isn’t content to merely have a job that will schedule her on different days. She actually wants it to be a law. Should this ridiculous litigation actually end up successful it means that every Christian in the country would end up with the legal right to Sundays off. As anyone who has ever had to fill a schedule will say, this makes for a logistical nightmare for attempting to fill shifts when all someone has to do is claim religious “right” not to work. Not only that, but it is unfair to those who don’t fall into that category but might like to enjoy a day off with their families. It also brings up other religions and needing days off to accommodate “rights” desired by their followers. Suddenly one woman’s desire to stay home Sunday has created problems for employers and employees alike, when all she had to do was change jobs (which she has already done, one that grants her work-free Sundays).

Having the freedom to practice (or abstain) from religion is a wonderful right that is guaranteed people in free countries across this great planet (although not all countries, yet). However when it starts to cause problems and intrudes on those who would otherwise be unaffected by those freedoms they cease to be rights and actually become burdens. It’s okay to want to believe in a deity, or not believe in any supernatural being. However it’s not right to oppress others with that belief, or make the lives of others inconvenienced as a result of someone wanting to practice those beliefs.

Also posted at Trolling with Logic

Are Texas Lawmakers After Women Voters?

One of the most important rights of women in this country is the right granted to us by the Nineteenth Amendment. This right was earned by the women starting back in the mid-nineteenth century who wrote articles and speeches; lectured across the nation; marched and lobbied; protested, often risking their own personal freedom as well as personal injury all for the right to equal voting rights. Women fought so that they could stand next to their husbands, brothers, and sons and have an equal voice in decisions that effect every citizen of this country. Although passed by Senate on June 14, 1919, as of August 18, 1920 women were officially granted that right.

Rick Perry by Gage Skidmore

However, in an attempt to curtail that right, Texas officials have just passed a law, which takes effect on November 5 of this year. The new law states that, in order to vote every citizen must show up-to-date photo identification. For most people, this isn’t really a big issue. But what about everyone else? The Brennan Center for Justice has released a poll showing that approximately 66% of citizens have current, updated legal photo identification. What about the remaining 34% you ask? That’s a good question. According to the results of the poll, approximately 7% of those polled have no official documentation. 7% is roughly 13 million Americans. How does this happen, since identification is required for everything from enrollment into your first school to getting a job? Assuming this is only counting legal adults (since those polled were probably not children), how does someone even get to the age of “legal adult” without proof of citizenship? Based on Brennan’s results it seems that financial hardship is the primary reason for these numbers.

Focusing on Texas for their figures, in order to obtain the necessary documentation to prove that you are either legally married or legally divorced, you need to pay $20.00 for a legal copy of your marriage certificate/divorce decree. If you are standing in the office that handles that transaction, that’s your total cost. The office is open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Monday through Friday, which is fine if you can get time away from work or happen to have a day off during that time. For those who cannot get away from work or simply cannot get to the office in Austin there is the option to request the documents be sent by mail. This adds an additional $13 in fees and your wait time jumps from the 30 minutes in office to anywhere from 10-15 days to 6-8 weeks, depending on how you mail in your request. With elections for Texas’ constitutional amendments starting, that’s not an option for anyone who wishes to participate any time soon. If you overnight your information through a service like UPS or FedEx (another $15 or so, depending) it will be back to you in about 2 weeks. So, now it has become $33.00 plus mailing costs just to get a copy of the document needed for a new photo ID. Obtaining a photo ID with the updated name change is an additional $11.00, unless you don’t already have one in which case it becomes $16.00 for an identification card or $25.00 for a driver’s license. There is also the added cost of travel to the Department of Public Safety office since many states require you to handle this in person.

All this being said, why does this seem as if it’s being aimed at women? Probably because such a high number of women simply haven’t gone through the necessary steps to acquire the updated identification. That’s not a point of blame, just a fact. Back to our Brennan results, only about 66% of those women with access to any legal documentation have updated information. It states that, based on the 2000 Census that means as many as 32 million voting-aged women only have access to documentation that isn’t current with their legal name. Granted the poll is from 2006 and there has been a more recent census taken, but that would mean that these numbers are likely higher.

Women won’t be the only ones effected by this new law. Students, minority voters and most people from low-income families will also be hurt by the new legislation. However, with Senator Wendy Davis announcing her probable run for the Governor seat it would seem that conservative law-makers definitely want to do what they can to keep that position filled by someone who will better represent their needs, and the majority of voting-aged men seem to be unaffected by this law. If you remove students, minorities and low-income males from those figures then the conservatives have just created a voting pool of mostly rich, mostly right-winged, mostly Caucasian males that will decide the outcome of elections in Texas. Somehow that doesn’t seem like it’s representative of the entire state.

Also Posted at A-News

You Write for Who?

I am the most recent addition to the A-News team. I am also a feminist. Why is this blog-worthy? I have no idea. I was involved in a conversation recently however that struck me as odd and was somewhat enlightening. So much so that I have put a couple of actual news stories on hold to deal with this. If I don’t it will prevent me from finishing those anyway.  It seems that by simply using A-News as a place to post stories about real news that effects life outside the cyber world of atheism/skepticism that I am going to be seen as taking sides against my fellow feminists. I’m going to come back to this however because there is something about this that, frankly disturbs me more.
The cyber-realm of the skeptic community has what appears to be an immense ego. The reason I am not seen in much of internet-atheism (or feminism) is because I spend a lot of my time in the real world. I attend school full time, I am raising kids, and when I can fit it in I often get involved with protests, marches or even writing to lawmakers to get things changed for the better. What I don’t do is spend all my time arguing with other people about whether or not they fit into my ideal of the labels they choose to use…or inventing words to make me seem like a expert in the matter.
Yes, I am a feminist. What I am not is anti-man. If we look at Merriam-Webster “feminism” is defined as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” What it does not do is say that only people who were born with a vagina can be feminists. I getting really tired of people redefining words to justify their anger. I’m also getting tired of being lumped in with people who would turn away support from someone just because s/he was born with a penis. No one made anyone on the internet today the feminist police. As a matter of fact that position doesn’t exist, and for good reason. There is no cookie cutter feminist. We come in all shapes, sizes, genders, creeds, and races. This includes men and it certainly includes trans* allies.
The fact is that some feminists are falling extremely far from the point of feminism, or worse, using the title for some petty agenda. No, I will not be posting links or quoting specifics. If you are active on the internet within the community you already know. If blasting me for not spreading the stuff that’s already out there is all you have to complain about then you can save your typing. Frankly I don’t really care and I likely won’t be responding to it anyway. Digressing…
The first feminists were not out to shame men for being men, they were fighting for the same rights that men have. They fought for the right to vote, as one example. Astoundingly, according to the Center for American Women and Politics in 2010 less than half of the eligible female adults actually cast a vote. 46.2% and that’s not even all of the registered woman voters, although that number isn’t much higher. Women actually endured violence, arrest and in some cases death so that women could vote and they aren’t even doing it. That is what you should be upset about and trying to fix. Need another thing to be mad about?
How about equal pay? Now, ordinarily I am wary of using Wikipedia for a reference however in this case they cite over 150 sources for information so for all intents and purposes it will do for this blog. According to Wiki, “In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported women’s median weekly earnings to be 81% of men.” Despite the fact that every day women fight for equal pay we are still earning a check that’s almost 20% lower than that of a man. You can work as hard as you want, but the industry will still only see you as 81%.
How about fe/male genital mutilation. Yes, I intended it to be that way because I am against genital mutilation of either sex. There is no reason to rally against one while ignoring the other. This is a perfect example of how everyone can fight for equal rights and still be fighting the same fight. Incidentally, some interesting things are happening in the medical world with FGM. There is actually a doctor having success with repairing the female sex organ to where she can actually regain sexual pleasure after having endured mutilation. For more information about this you can search for Dr. Pierre Foldes in France. What’s unfortunate about this however is that men will likely never get the opportunity for anything like that since the entire foreskin is removed.
What’s my point? Simple. First, there are real-world issues that need to be handled. Boots-on-the-ground work that needs to be done. Laws need changing. Rights need to be balanced. Second, rather than worrying about inventing new words to insult the men who would be allies (seriously, mansplaining? dudebro? I just threw up in my mouth a little), help educate them. Remember that there are many men who were raised by other men who weren’t understanding and may need some patience as they work through that sexist or bigoted upbringing. Rather than scorning trans women for being born to bodies different than yours embrace them as the beautiful women they now are. Instead of hating trans men for “abandoning their sex” accept that they can alter their body to fit their gender and yet still be a feminist. The fact is that there is no mold that we come from. We are all humans and need to learn that no matter what shell we walk around in, underneath we are all the same. It’s just that some require a little more patience than others.

Disclaimer: This does not mean that we should exclude violent offenders or people that just don’t want to understand. I’m not trying to excuse anyone for reprehensible behaviour. Sometimes people are assholes and there is simply nothing you can do to help. However there is no reason to approach everyone of a different gender as if they fall into that category. I also do not intend to imply that every feminist out there falls into this category either. I also do not want to be shoved into a side-taking category simply for choosing this as a place to post my articles and the odd rant/rave. The fact is that I don’t want to be on any side and certainly don’t want to be recruited. I speak only for myself and the views expressed here are my own and may not necessarily reflect those of the rest of the A-News team. Also, I am not going to poll the rest of the feminists on the internet to see where I am not going to offend by putting it. If people are going to judge the articles I write (not this rant, but actual writing) based on location rather than content then I’m not interested in “joining forces” anyway. I’m more impressed by substance than rallying angry mobs.

Also Posted at A-News

Just another political party

I considered using this platform as a way to vent my anger at the current Executive Board for the obvious misrepresentation of me in their Press Release this morning. Anger and hurt and, frankly disappointment. However what I didn’t feel was surprise. After all, this Party has proven over and over and over again that they have all the potential to be shady. Now that I am writing it though, I have decided to do this a different way. I would rather explain how exactly I got to this point. Don’t worry, I’m not going to rehash my entire life for you. Just what is somewhat relevant to the current events.

A little over a year ago I was just a random atheist. I wasn’t involved in what is [poorly] referred to as the “community” nor did I intend to be. I had moved back to my home state and was looking for work and something to fill my time until I found it. That’s when I stumbled upon what was then called the National Atheist Party. Ordinarily I don’t like political parties. I don’t vote any party line, and I abhor the two-party system. However this was a Party I could actually get behind. I read the charter and agreed with more of their planks than any other Party. So, I registered. At some point during this I made contact with Shannon Kietzman (no longer with the Party), who actually talked to me more about what the Party was trying to accomplish and what their goals were. I offered to fill the position of State Chapter Leader, at least temporarily since they had no one who in that spot. I had never worked with a political party, and didn’t really feel like I was qualified to do so. After an interview with her and filling out some paperwork I was official. Despite being extremely nervous about it, I went to work. I made contacts and joined groups and really dove in, sleeves rolled up. It wasn’t too long before I was gaining members in the state and started filling the other positions.
A few months went by and I was asked by Ryan McCue (who was acting as Vice President of Outreach) to take over the the rest of the Midwest as the Regional Membership Coordinator to help boost leadership. He apparently liked what I was doing for Missouri. I was thrilled that what I was accomplishing was actually being noticed. I agreed and became the RMC, which was in addition to SCL of Missouri. Around the same time I had offered to write for the blog that Flash Kellish and Erin Fortes were building, starting off my work for the Public Relations department. Sometime in early April, I was contacted by James Klawon (VP of Operations) about the possibility of being his Deputy VP. It wasn’t really going to add a lot of extra time to my load so I agreed. At this point I had already suggested someone to take over my spot as RMC, twice. Neither request had even been listened to, but I wasn’t going to abandon it. None of the positions required a lot of time individually. However I don’t go into anything halfway, plus I am an insomniac and have a lot of time to fill in. So, at this point I am sitting on three titled positions, helping with the blog, and working as secretary to Flash. The latter mostly entailed writing the odd PR, scouting bloggers, then when the podcast came up I was involved with that as well. In the meantime I am still trying to recruit members and find people to volunteer, if for no other reason at this point that to start filling the many positions that I was doing. Yes, I am pretty sure I am out of my mind.
As you are reading this, feel free to ask why the hell I am willing to do all this. I am donating all of my time, literally 18 hours a day for this Party. Why? Because I believed in what the Party was trying to accomplish. Despite what the majority of those who clicked the “Like” button on the page on Facebook, or actually took the 20 seconds required to register through the website thought, the National Atheist Party is not, nor has it ever been an atheist advocacy group. When Troy Boyle (and his co-founder, Mark…whose last name eludes me at the moment) started the organisation the intention was to have a party that would promote and fight for the separation of church and state. What it was not was a way to end all religion or prevent people from believing in whatever they want. Violating the First Amendment is not the same thing as wanting religion kept out of government.
When it came time for the new voting cycle to start there was a group of us who thought that the best thing for the Party was to change the name to something more inclusive. If there is nothing else I learned from the thousands of people I interacted with about the NAP, there were too many that flat refused to have their name attached to a political party  that was calling itself the National Atheist Party. I cannot tell you how many times I had people loving everything I had to say about what we stood for only to have the name scare them off. “If only it was called something else. You know, without ‘Atheist’ in it.” We had decided that in order for the party to move forward, or anywhere it needed a new name. This would potentially open the doors for any secular person to join, not just those who didn’t believe in a deity. After all, being secular doesn’t necessarily mean you are an atheist. Nor does it require you to be.
So, we worked hard on a commercial. We recruited from within those that we thought would actually promote the name change, since it would require more than just agreeing it was necessary. Flash recruited the likes of Hayley Meyers and Aron Ra hoping to attract more attention to the cause. Both of whom, in addition to several others also appeared in a commercial that we used internally to promote the upcoming vote. It was all slowly gaining steam and we were thrilled it was going well. We even used the podcast to alert people that the votes were coming up and blasted the commercial there.
Sometime within this period, problems started happening internally. Erin and I were spending more time combating Ryan about the lack of support whenever problems came up. We were questioned and on more than one occasion told we were overreacting and wrong. Erin eventually stepped down. With Susi Bocks already gone, this left me the only woman on the board.
Then it came time for people to actually vote. At this point there are something like 3,200 registered voters. That’s everyone that has ever registered, except for those who have specifically asked to be removed from registration. Let me restate that. That’s everyone who has ever registered, whether they have ever actively participated in, responded to or even opened an email from the Party. Realistically, are 3,200 people actually expected to vote? Not for anyone sane, no. However, I will continue. It was in this time that I got into my last row with Ryan. I was frustrated by the fact that a lot of the ballots that weren’t being sent out were people who had information that needed to be verified. During a discussion about this I was called a subordinate, told that it wasn’t necessary for me to get all emotional about it and that my anger was misplaced. I notified Ryan that I was quitting the Party. There was no way I was going to continue to work next to him while being berated by him in these long diatribes. I notified the board that I would finish handling the voting, since Jim was at work but once I posted the final counts I was done. However we will come back to this. With Jim being busy with work I handled sending out the ballots and helped resend to anyone who hadn’t received one. I wanted to make sure that everyone who wanted to would be able to vote.
I know there was some question raised about the percentage needed for the vote to pass. Let me clear that up right away. Two voting cycles ago, while Troy was still with the party a proposal was raised to change the necessary percentage from the original 90% to the 75%. The claim that it was only supposed to be 75% was genuine. It was in place even before the last name change vote (when someone was trying for American Secular Party as the change) leaving something like 6% shy of that change.
Ballots were sent out. People were voting. It wasn’t just the name change. There were like 6 different proposals, including one to make Ryan’s position as VP of Outreach official (he had been acting VP since Jacob had vacated the position several months earlier). It came down to the last hours on the last day. This is when Flash panicked. I was contacted about my willingness to help fix the vote. I turned him down. I didn’t even want to know about it and yet there it was. Knowing it was going to happen I knew at some point it was going to come out. I’m the one who sent out the ballots. It was publicly known that I was the one to go to if a member hadn’t received their ballot. I had just been fucked. I screen-printed everything. The photo of the 15 mocked emails was not the only one I got. There were several just like that. I wanted it known that I wasn’t the one responsible for it. At this point I had no intention of going public with this information. No matter how angry I was or how Ryan had treated me, I didn’t want to hold the members responsible for what had happened, nor did I want to set the Party back another step. Was that the right thing to do? Probably not, but it was my choice.
Fast forward to four days ago. I received a message that the story was about to break. I was asked about what I knew about it. At this point I have already helped hide a fraud. There is no way I wanted to lie for it as well. I was offered anonymity. No, thank you. Chris was going out there with his name on his chest, I would stand there with him. Chris is a friend. I had no idea that he was involved while it was happening. I’m glad of that. I’m also glad that I can once again look people in the eye…relatively speaking. I’m not proud of what I did. However I won’t waste my time with regret either. It’s not going to change anything. I believed in the Party. The fact is that the EB knew I was leaving, on the first day the voting started. I have other screen-prints showing that as well, including the conversation with Ryan that ended my time with the NAP/SPoA. It’s a shame that when the current board released their statement about it that they blatantly lied in the opening paragraph, especially since they released it after my conversation with Flash was posted. In the rush to show that they still have some sort of control, they put out what they thought was best. They were wrong.

I no longer believe in the Party.

Also Posted at A-News

“A” Week 2013

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Thousands across the world give use of their profile and cover photo for the cause:

“You take part by changing your Facebook profile picture or cover image to an ‘A’ for one week. You’ll be joining thousands of people from all over the world in a global shared experience. If just a handful of people were to change their profile pictures almost no one would notice – but with many thousands taking part it gets noticed all over the world.”

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