Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blasphemy: A Victimless Crime

We got cable the year we moved back to Florida, the summer I was 12. And I discovered Comedy Central and stand up comedy. I've been in love ever since, from going to amateur night at the local comedy club to hanging out in the greenroom with comedians brought by my university. I love stand up. I think it's important and I think it's often really smart and thought-provoking. So, today in honor of my New Favorite Holiday (seconded by Halloween, which I wasn't allowed to celebrate as a kid), here's the best in comedic blasphemy, things which slipped in under my radar and helped to erode my faith for years, as well as new comedians I've found now that I add "and atheist" to my Boolean commands.

On the God question, we'll have none other than George Carlin, HKA. (HKA is my new atheist version of Rest in Peace - "He Kicked Ass". It applies to Darwin, Salk, and Galileo, too.)

On Jesus, we have Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson)

"For it was orange." :)

On the Virgin Mary, we have David Cross.

That bitch!

On learning Catholicism at an early age, we have David Allen.

On the Bible and Religious Education class, the funny fucker Ricky Gervais.

His theological equivalent is spot on, isn't it?

On Protestantism and the Church of England, Eddie Izzard.

Magnus Betner is hilarious. And Swedish. Read the captions people, and enjoy the fact that he's delivering this comedy act in front of a church congregation.

Here's a compilation of these guys and more.

South Park and Family Guy have done their parts to contribute to the blasphemous tone of our secular society. (I can dream it's secular, right?)

On Baptism, Brian the Dog.

On the End Times, South Park.

And of course, what's the fun of Blasphemy Day if we don't honor the Blasphemy Challenge? Here's Pat Condell (#1 Comedy YouTube Views in all UK) in his first ever YouTube video.

Let's end this post with a series of Monty Python sketches, every one of them delightfully blasphemous. (I think this has to got be the best holiday EVER!)

"And so as a blasphemer, you are to be stoned to death!" Yet here I am, unharmed.
God 0: Angie 1

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My Second Cult

The things that used to confuse me so much are so easy to understand and even easier to mock. Questions like, what about the kittens who died in the worldwide flood? and Why on earth would the Israelites build a cow statue to worship, when it would be so obviously not a real god, since they had made it themselves? Since they'd just seen him curse Egypt with ten spectacular curses - plagues and swarms of frogs! - then part the Red Sea at Moses' prayer and then close it over Pharaoh and his army, saving the Jews once again. And we're supposed to believe that after Moses being up a mountain for a couple days or weeks, they decided to abandon completely this evident, obviously existing and communicating and powerful god, who by the way fed them daily with manna falling from heaven, to build a cow out of their gold jewelry to worship instead?

In the Twelve Step program, people are encouraged to define their own god. Members will say things like, "This pen could be your god if it means something for you, and helps you stay sober." Which sounds great, till you actually read the steps. Steps 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, and 12 are the "give me" list. You just can't in a remotely rationalized way ask a pen to remove your defects of character, or seek to have conscious contact with a pen. (Okay, so there are a few possibilities with the close contact but, yuck.) Of course, one of my main objections to the 12 Step programs is that these steps all relieve the person of responsibility. Combined with the disease model of addiction (you drink too much because you have a disease, like cancer), this allows the alcoholic/addict/gambler/whatever to confess their "sins", be absolved by the group, ask "the god of their understanding" to restore them sanity, care for their lives and their wills, remove their defects of character, to have contact with them, to tell them what to do (knowledge of his will), to give them the power to function, and to provide them with a "spiritual awakening". Notice that nowhere is "God" (pen, doorknob, whatever) actually asked to help the person stay SOBER.

Have I mentioned yet that AA is a cult? I was in Al-Anon for two years, from the week I moved out of my marriage home with my six-week-old little man, through the six months I tried to get my husband in AA and sober and into marriage counseling, and after that through the painfully adolescent experience of living in my mother's house, while attempting to date and have sex and be mother to my own child. (The laundry room people, that's how unwillingly my mom was to let her adult, divorced, obviously sexually active (ahem, child) daughter with her exclusive boyfriend and a condom. Who honestly has laundry room as their first choice location?) Al-Anon is the program for spouses, parents, and children of alcoholics (who the group sincerely hopes are AA members).

Like most people are when they join a cult, I was at an extreme low point in my life. I had just failed at marriage. I had just realized how bad my husband's substance abuse problem really was. (Nothing quite like waking up to pump breast milk at 4 in the morning and finding your husband and a stranger snorting lines off the kitchen counter to make you reevaluate your marriage vows.) I also had a broken ankle, a severe bout with flesh-eating bacteria (ooh, giant purple ghastly belly scars are sexy!), a mother-in-law who attempted to kidnap my son at 10 weeks old, a baby who cried out in pain every night from 6:00 to 9:00 pm., and I had to return to my mother's house, like a dog with my tail between my legs, or like the prodigal daughter, who had squandered her meager inheritance too soon.

That first meeting, my mom went with me. Which was good, since the meeting was on the second floor of a Christian school attached to a church, and I had a broken ankle (and no cast, people, no cast. Or pain killers.) and a baby in a stroller. There was a lot of weekly things - reading all the steps and the welcome message, etc. that I realize now were a subtle form of indoctrination. We read it over and over and over - every single week. Then of course, the whole point of any Twelve Step program is to "work the Steps".

My first sponsor was an English grad student at the university my mom had gone to and taught at, and that I'd attended for one semester before learning I was pregnant. She didn't seem to find it necessary to tell me that she had schizophrenia, however. It ended when she had a break one night, in the parking lot of another meeting. She still came to the group and we were still friends, but I didn't want to take her counsel or advice or pour out my darkest secrets to her. Thes econd woman I asked to be my sponsor seemed to have things much more together. Her husband was "in recovery" and attended AA, and led an AA/Al-Anon couples meeting with her. She lived across the street from the church my mom and I were attending and ran a successful massage therapy business. Her jewelry suggested a hippie attitude, but her shoes indicated she was successful. She was also a bitch who clearly had no respect for me. I figured that out pretty quickly and was able to back off from our arrangement. The third and final sponsor I had was very nice, very busy, and because her teenage daughter had taken the class at the Y, we soon entered into a financial relationship. We talked a few times, but once I learned that her husband and she had married young, divorced, she'd married and divorced someone else, and was now REMARRIED to her 13-year-old daughter's father, I realized I didn't want to take her advice either.

Like a good conspiracy theory or religion, it helps to have some truth on your side. Some of the program and literature suggestions were helpful. I started writing a "gratitude list" - in the midst of that really hard time - and just jotting down all the things I was grateful for: food, a roof even if my mother's, Medicaid for my son, etc. Because I have OCD (and a diagnosis - finally), I've read up a lot on cognitive processing, and meta-cognition and how you can steer your thoughts. OCD is like having ruts in your neural pathways, so that thoughts can get stuck in an obsessive cycle, rather than progressing onto the next thought, and then the one after that. Finding ways to change negative self-talk ("I'm fat, I'm ugly, nobody loves me" to "My body is healthy and I am worth liking" for example) really does help. But the people who were supposed to be helping me were crazy, mean, and foolish. I left because the central part of the Twelve Step program - the sponsor, the person who indoctrinates you and leads you into the cult like a Big Sister in a sorority - was such epic FAIL. Because the program didn't have any standards for mental health or personality or compassion aptitude for who could be a sponsor, it's a really bad idea. If there had been someone more appealing to me at the meeting close enough to my house that my mom would watch my son that one hour a week (another reason I liked going), I might be one of those crazy women who still goes twenty years after her alcoholic husband has died of cirrhosis.

(Is it wrong to hope my ex-in-laws have a handsome life insurance policy on my ex, and that it becomes viable soon, and that then I can sue them for the $6,000+ I'm owed in back child support? Never mind., I don't actually care if it's right or wrong. I'm cool with that little mental fantasy. As a Christian I used to pray my husband would get run over by a city bus, so I could collect money, since I knew he'd never provide for his son any other way.)

All that ramble was to say, what makes the Twelve Step members who design a god of their own understanding, any different from Israelites building a golden calf? Nothing. Which tells me that the Israelites hadn't actually seen any miracles either. If something good happens, even just you learning how to change your own attitude through cognitive therapy techniques, you credit it to god. If something bad happens, it's because you're diseased. Just like religion.

Here's an incredibly thorough site dedicated to outing Alcoholics Anonymous as the cult that it is. This page lays out the AA scores on the Cult Test (100 traits that define a cult). This site is a really great cult info resource in general, but especially for "spiritual" behavior modification programs, like teen boot camps and Twelve Step groups. It's also a really model of how someone could lay out a similar site for, oh I don't know, Mormons? $cientology? The Amish? I'm sure you kids will have fun. Go check it out and let me know what you think.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

100 Questions

Can you believe it? I've only been working on this post since 7:30 this morning (minus a few meals and potty breaks), and here it is: the completed, embedded, linked, and seriously pondered 100 New Questions for Christians. I've organized the questions into sequences where applicable, and tried to do things by general category (creationism, morality, WWJD, etc.) In other words, just because you read the last post doesn't mean you should jump down to the very bottom of this one. There are new goodies and jollies all through this list. Enjoy!

I do suggest you take a few hours or a few days to go through the whole list. Just about each one has further links or a video with it. These are a mix of absurd things that are fun to laugh at, shameless promotion of totally unrelated things I find amusing, and the questions that I think would have worked for me.

  1. If homosexuality is a sin, are gay dolphins sinning?

  2. Which is a bigger sin, passing out drunk and naked to be either seen by and/or sexed by your kids OR walking in on your dad while he's passed out drunk and naked, and seeing the twigs and berries?
  3. What Would Jesus Do?

  4. What would Jesus NOT do?

  5. Who would Jesus torture?
  6. If god is better than we are, how come we can think up unicorns but he can’t make them?
  7. Same with mermaids.
  8. Did Jesus have acne as a teenager? Please explain.
  9. Why is the Brick Testament the best version of the bible?
  10. Why is christian music so painfully square?
  11. Is it better to be right or popular?
  12. Should god be put on trial for crimes against humanity?
  13. What are some contradictions in the Bible? Please list no fewer than 3. (or was it 5?)

  14. Why waste Jesus' meager 3 miracle years on earth with petty tricks like turning water to wine and cursing a fig tree?
  15. Why not water into scotch? Or bourbon? Or beer?
  16. What does God have against pillows?
  17. Why is god dependent on human translation efforts to spread his message?
  18. Will we have sex in heaven?

    (Apparently I never get sick of this song - classic for a reason.)
  19. Will we masturbate in heaven? (This isn't a poe. I know people in this program. *facepalm*)
  20. Will we have competitive eating contests in heaven?
  21. How many people do you personally know that you think god is sending to hell?
  22. Doesn't that just suck?
  23. Will we learn new things, write new stories, sing new songs in heaven? (I love this song.)

  24. How the heck do you know what heaven's gonna be like? You've never been there!
  25. Did teenage Jesus wake up with a boner every morning? (Sent in from a Christian reader - thanks!)
  26. Why do you think we have rainbows? (Please say Noah, please say Noah)
  27. Are you practicing another religion - going a-whoring - if you do yoga? Meditate? Decorate with feng shui?
  28. Have you ever talked back to your parents, or have your kids ever talked back to you? Well, the Bible is pretty clear: it's stoning time!
  29. If Jesus saves us from sins, shouldn't we sin so his act doesn't go to waste?
  30. What if Satan's the good one and you're worshiping the wrong guy, because the Bible led you astray?
  31. What is Satan's motive to hurt or harm people, when doing that will only make his opponent more desirable in the Battle For Souls?
  32. Will you see/hear/think of your friends roasting in hell while you're in heaven? If not, why not? If so, how could you possibly enjoy heaven knowing loved ones are being tortured FOREVER?
  33. Are you familiar with the term "confirmation bias"?

  34. If Jesus said you could move a mountain with faith as small as a mustard seed, why do faith healers wear glasses?
  35. If Christians can move mountains with their faith, why have mountain top removal and dynamite?
  36. For literalists: Why does the Bible have to be interpreted literally to have value?
  37. How do you know St. Paul was really inspired by God and not just crazy? What if he turned god's own plan for salvation into something completely different? Could that explain god's apparent personality change between the Old and New Testaments?
  38. If god supposedly loves humans why has he killed so many people?

  39. For Catholics/Methodists/Episcopalians: Instead of doing a tiny amount every Sunday over and over, why can't all the priests get together and bless all the water in the oceans into Holy Water once and for all?
  40. How do you know if a voice in your head is God, Satan, or your own thoughts?
  41. Would you obey God no matter what he asked you to do?

  42. For creationists: Should we teach the controversy for all subjects, or just biology?
  43. Is it really a "sacrifice" to die for a couple days, in exchange for godhood, immortality, and billions of people worshiping you and martyring themselves for you?

  44. How is the torture Jesus suffered at the hands of the Romans (assuming for arguments sake that he did) any greater or more noble or crueler than what the US government has done to devout Muslims and other "enemy combatants"?
  45. Why is Jesus' story so strikingly similar to those of other messiahs and demigods?
  46. Why would an all-powerful, all-loving god allow this kind of global imbalance?>nce? Or this kind? (Remember Christians - if your god can't fix it, your god's not omnipotent.)
  47. Would it disturb you if the President prayed to God through his hair dryer? Why?
  48. What's the measurable difference between praying to your god and praying to this jug of milk?

  49. When stoning an unruly child to death as Biblicaly commanded, is it more or less ethical to aim for the head to try to end things quickly, rather than dragging it out?
  50. Could God make a Hot Pocket so hot He couldn't eat it?

  51. Why won't God heal amputees?
  52. Who would win in a fight between Cavemen and Astronauts?
  53. Who is more awesome - Spike or Angel?

  54. Why do you fear Dungeons and Dragons? The D6 will not harm you. (Ha, I love the internet age. My geekdom knows no bounds.)
  55. Is lying for Jesus okay?
  56. How about lying for your anti-gay agenda?
  57. Why is it okay for God to pick favorites?
  58. Who would Jesus feed?
  59. Why doesn't he?
  60. Why are there more churches than homeless people in the US? (Rather, with all that tithe money, why do we still have homeless people?)
  61. For anti-choice Christians: Where does the Bible say anything about abortion?
  62. Why don't bees go to heaven?

  63. What the hell are you doing talking about Revelation? Don't you know it's heretical?
  64. Are the Phelps family following God's commands better than you are? (Biblicaly speaking, Yes. They are better Christians than you. The may be many detestable things, but they aren't hypocritical like most Christians.)
  65. Why do Christians get divorced at a significantly higher rate than atheists?
  66. What's the deal with iron chariots?

  67. What is your favorite color?

  68. Where do you get your morals from?

  69. Now that we've ruled out the Bible as a legitimate source of morals, where do you get your morals from?
  70. Is faith a virtue or a vice?

  71. Is God's plan a good one?

  72. Was the Holocaust part of God's divine plan?
  73. a) If yes, how can you call him good? (I hope that's a poe.)
    b) If no, how can you call him god?
  74. Did Jesus lead a sinless life?
  75. Well, what about working on the Sabbath?No, not that time. This time he violated the Sabbath law.
  76. And what about the fifth commandment?

  77. How was Jesus different from a cult leader?
  78. Why foreskins? (Seriously.)
  79. You probably find this song offensive, but is it scripturally incorrect? (Or: Could it be supported by scripture?)

  80. You probably find this quote from Richard Dawkins offensive, but is it scripturally incorrect? (Or: Could it be supported by scripture?)

  81. Did God get his butt kicked by Jonas Salk?

  82. In a natural disaster, would you rather have a true believing Christian on your side or a lifelong atheist?

  83. If I told you that natural disaster was Hurricane Katrina, and your choices were between President GW Bush (Christian) and Brad Pitt (atheist), would that change your answer for the previous question?
  84. The Bible says it's an abomination for a man to lie with another man as he would with a woman, but is it okay for a man to lie with a woman as he would with another man?
  85. What does God think about marriage?
  86. When you say "Biblical marriage" which of these eight kinds are you referring to? Or which of these kinds?

  87. Is polygamy (like some Mormons and some Muslims live by) sinful?
  88. Then why is it promoted in the Bible?
  89. Why did God design our eyes so poorly?

  90. How can I get a job making millions of tax-free dollars for pushing people?

  91. Why do we crucify ourselves?

  92. Why did God create the dinosaurs (and/or plant their bones to fool you and/or allow Satan to do so)?

  93. What do UFOs have to do with Christians?
  94. Why did God create such a vast universe that we've barely begun to study it, just for us?
  95. If we really are living in some contrived alternate universe like in the Matrix, which is the ethically correct choice - the Red Pill or the Blue Pill?
  96. If you were present at Calvary, and knew everything you know about our world and Christianity today, would you try to save Jesus' life, or let him be tortured to death?

  97. Shouldn't Christians be thankful for Judas Iscariot?
  98. What are you so afraid of?
  99. Who is a true Christian?

  100. After honestly answering the last 99 questions, do you still consider yourself a Christian?

Special thanks to The Secular Thinker, Mary Wood, Rick, Paul Lundren, Jennifer W., Walter Strong, Dave Rogers, and, for contributing questions. We did it!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

DIM: Did It Myself

For all that I tell you the deepest fears I have in the middle of the night, and the strange and terrible things that happened in my childhood, I don't actually talk much about my day-t0-day life as it is now. Which is sort of odd, that I feel that this stuff is either too personal or uninteresting, yet I post intimate details of my past and my psyche. All that's to say, here's what happened yesterday:

I had a kitchen fire, a cockroach, and a flooded bathroom. And I kicked ass dealing with it.

There's a classic family story of a time when I was in second grade. It was approaching time for us to get in the car for Christian school, when my mom came in the kitchen to find me sitting on a stool, still in my pajamas and still hungry.

"What are you doing?" she asked, frazzled and annoyed.
"I'm waiting for Dave to make me breakfast," I replied. My brother David, who I hadn't asked to make me breakfast, was quick to point this out to my mom, lest he be blamed for my bed-clothed and unfed state.

That story was used to make fun of me (supposedly in a good-natured way) for being irresponsible and for being the baby of the family. But I wasn't "the baby" in the traditional spoiled and adored youngest child way. I was low man on the totem pole - more like the new hire on the job than like a beloved and precious little girl. I was told I was a child of God, but I felt like a burden to my family.

What that story really shows, though, is learned helplessness. I was taught to rely on others, primarily God but also my family, for everything. I know my own religious upbringing was extreme, but I do think even mainstream religious faith has this effect. You're taught that humans are dependent on God for existence, for their afterlife, and for a lot in between (in some faiths, everything in between.) So why try to make your life better through effort and hard work and risk and investment, when you can just pray and sky daddy will make it all better? Of course, sky daddy doesn't, but that's in the post I did just before this one.

If God has a plan for your life, has picked out your future spouse, and knows what career path He wants you to follow, then it makes sense that you should focus on prayer and becoming close to God, and trying your best to emulate his will and his example in the life of Jesus (or at least the version of that example presented in church each Sunday). Your whole goal would be getting on His good side, doing what He wanted, and hoping to get rewarded. And if you want to change God's plan - you want that prettier wife or that better paying non-ministry job or that new secular CD - then the usual secular life approaches, like hitting the dating sites and making up a new resume or just heading to the store and buying a copy of whatever godless music you want - doesn't seem likely to work. (Although it does, just fine.) So instead of trying something tangible and real that would increase your odds of getting what you want, you pray. You ask God to do something that you want, even when it doesn't seem to be what He wants. (And after all, if He's got this Master Plan, what use is your free will or your prayer anyway?)

So let me tell you what my day without prayer was like yesterday. I was planning on making some apple danishes, and set the oven to preheat. I forgot, a week ago, that I put a bowl of popcorn in there to keep it from attracting bugs, but then never went back and ate it. It was a plastic bowl, of course. Fortunately, I've got a really good sense of smell and noticed the problem long before the oven reached 375 or the bowl had melted completed. I turned off the oven, removed the rack - bowl and all, and took it outside to cool. A couple hours later, once everything had stopped being molten lava to the touch, I was able to hammer and knife off all the melted plastic from both oven racks and the heating coil itself, and make my danishes after all. (They were yummy goodness.)

Then, while watching the new episode of Dollhouse (yay!), I spotted a bug. I promise, I'm not actually a gross person, but I live in a relatively low-income apartment complex with 7 other units in my building, paper thin walls, and the Florida bug-loving climate. So, every two weeks like clockwork I spot another roach and call to have the apartment complex pest guys come again. This one was particularly bad though, because it was one of the little cockroaches (which means it has a colony somewhere nearby. A big one might just wander in during the rain but isn't necessarily a sign of more). I spotted it on my desk - on my keyboard tray. Just as I was getting ready to smash that sucker with an overdue phone bill, it crawled into my keyboard. Eeeeeek! So, one vacuum cleaner hose, five minutes of beating my keyboard, one can of duster, and five Lysol wipes later, I'm typing again without my OCD going bonkers.

Last and actually kind of least, my son flooded the bathtub. I was on the phone with my mom and straightening the living room, washing dishes, etc. and forgot to back and check after a couple minutes. My son came out to let me know, after the water was already over the lip of the tub. But I just grabbed a mop and bucket and some Mr. Clean and used it as a chance to scrub up the place.

As a Christian, any one of these small life things would have floored me for a day. I've had a near phobic fear of hot ovens for most of my life. I started baking several years ago as a teen, but would only do it when my mom or sister was home, because I was too afraid of being burned to take the hot tray of cookies or brownies out of the fiery box of heat coiled death. Two Christmases ago an atheist friend of mine, who knew about this fear, gave me a pair of oven mitts. I'd never owned a set. Now I'm still cautious, and I lock my son out of the room or in his high chair while opening and closing it, but I can take things out of the oven myself, which is a really big deal considering I wouldn't for the past twenty years.

And dealing with a bug, instead of freaking out and crying and taking a bath in 1 part bleach to 8 parts water (such a bad idea), I made absolutely sure that sucker was dead, and that there weren't any crumbs in my keyboard to attract any of its buddies. My grandmother had this whole thing about how bugs were a physical symptom of a spiritual, demonic infestation, so when my poorly insulated mobile home used to get bugs a lot, I thought it meant I needed yet another exorcism. (Again, Florida? Is heaven for bugs - and ours are waaaaaay bigger than your Yankee bugs. But they don't give you Lyme disease like deer ticks, so I can deal.) Just killing the damn thing and calling pest control is a lot more effective than crying and praying. I have fewer bugs now than when I thought they were demons, but I think most Christians would agree, I'm a better candidate for demon possession these days than I used to be as a God-fearing church-going Christian.

The flooded bathroom? I don't know. Maybe that one never would have been a big deal. I've long ago given up the fantasy of getting back the deposit on any apartment I have with my son. He's rambunctious and sometimes sloppy. I am too. We're high energy, poor precision kind of people, so the carpet is trashed and he's drawn on every wall and my couch, and it's not like this is the first time this year he's flooded that bathroom. (Once it was by flushing an entire roll of toilet paper. That was much worse than the clean bathwater overflow.) I will say I'm relieved that I became an atheist so early in my son's life. Now when he does something that's against the rules, I don't have to search for some deeper meaning or generational curse or soul tie. I can just, ya know, give him the extra attention or affection he might be needing, or provide safe physical and mental challenges for him. (While I was getting the mop yesterday, he got out and tried to jump into the bathtub from the top of the toilet, so I guess I'll be sitting in with him for the next several baths till we find a better outlet for that beserker dare-devil streak. My ex-husband used to skateboard off rooftops into cardboard dumpsters for fun...)

So, all that is to say: Humanism is right! We are capable of dealing with our lives without divine intervention. Human intervention might be necessary, but God's got nothing to do with my life or my apartment or how I deal with my challenges. Apparently, I deal with them with skill and grace, so I feel much better about myself now than I ever did as a helpless and dependent believer. Whoever says faith gives them strength doesn't know how strong they could feel on their own.

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Idea for Prayer Test

We all know the study results on intercessory prayer (epic FAIL), but what about other prayers? Since theists are likely to count the hits and ignore the misses, and to interpret all kinds of normal incidents or events as divine intervention, their reported experiences aren't a terribly reliable measure.

But has anyone studied prayer cards? I went to several different denominations and non-denominations over my two decades of Christianity. A lot of these churches collected prayer cards or prayer requests, often picked up in the offering plate, or else submitted into a prayer request box near the sanctuary door. At several of these churches, the preacher or another parishioner would read these entreaties aloud, or else read the names of the individuals asking for prayer. Then the congregation as a whole would pray that these requests be answered (sometimes with and sometimes without the "thy will be done" stipulation).

Do churches save prayer cards? Would it possible to, say, gather up the prayer cards from one particular congregation for the past few calendar years, and to investigate how many of these requests were answered or fulfilled? Even these would not account for the total number of prayers that congregation may have offered individually, at home or in traffic or at grace over dinner at Olive Garden. But it would be the most important prayers. I know that when I dialed the prayer line or filled out a prayer request card at a church, it was for those things I felt the most anguish over or that I was most concerned with. (And everyone of them was selfish. I'm ashamed to admit I never submitted a prayer request for starving children or rape victims or amputees - when I believed I actually had an inside line to the man who could solve those problems, I instead asked him to help me pay my rent or to get my husband into Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. That first prayer was "answered" in the form of my priest cutting me a check, and the second one went unanswered - hence my singleness.)

So, preacher's kids out there reading this, or former clergy (I love you guys! Atheists priests are the best), please let me know. What happens to prayer cards, and could they be produced for the kind of survey I'm describing. I think even if they credited every "hit" to their god, the sheer number of misses might have a doubting effect. When I look back and realize how many prayers I answered myself, and how the rest largely went unanswered, it makes me realize how biased towards confirmation my thinking really was.

Ha! I just found an online Prayer Request Book, which is sad and pathetic and so anti-humanist. Religion makes people useless. The prayers are obviously uploaded with editing or spell-check, and some include names. One woman made a "name it and claim it" prayer, telling God and the world that "Gary Collier" is going to be her husband. I can't help but wonder how Gary feels about that! There's also a mother praying that her daughter would be freed of witchcraft and demon possession, which terrifies me. There's another mom praying for her atheist son to become a Christian again (lol). There are horribly misspelled entreaties for jobs or money for bills, and the whole book speaks to the unanswered problems in our society: You can't live on minimum wage; being a single mom is really tough; it can be hard to find the right partner or mate. Everyone of us wants to have enough money to pay our bills (at least), have loving family relationships, and have romance and companionship. Because the church promises "God can do it!" people fall into learned helplessness or trained dependency. (More on that in another post later today.)

Now if someone could figure out a way to verify which of these have been "answered" and which haven't, we could have a really cool study on our hands.

Today's image was found on It recommends having personal petitions as the smallest aspect of a prayer life, with listening as the largest. I suppose, since no one divine is hearing these prayers, it doesn't matter how a Christian allots his prayer time. Yet, I worry about the concentrated focus on listening, since that's only a half-step away from receiving "Rhema" or personal revelation from God (which leads to the infallible pope and Jonestown.)

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Long Story Short

Someone asked for my story in an email. I realized my response was way too long for an email, and would probably be a good FAQ post, so here it is.

My story? My grandmother wrote a fiction end times thriller that sold on the NY Times Best list for 18 weeks in the religion category, back in (I think) 1979. At the same time, she delivered a couple babies - for a girl at church, for my mom. She was a nurse at that time, and did have some medical experience, but no midwifery or obstetrics experience. A "baby ministry" started, where my granmdother would tell pregnant women why God wanted them to have their babies at home, without a doctor or a midwife, but with a "spiritual midwife" or birth attendant (read: her). She made up a handbook for those meetings, which eventually got turned into the book "Born in Zion". It was published by a Word of Faith pastor in Texas and over the next two decades it spread to the far corners of fringe society - all the way from the Florida trailer park where we ran the cult to daughter sects in Australia and New Zealand. She wrote other books which were even more extreme in their message, but they didn't sell as well. I don't think anyone bought "Egypt or Zion" or "Healing in Zion" as their first book of dogma. They were much more legalistic, which is hard to imagine if you've read Born in Zion, heh.

I was born the same year the book was published the first time. (She had four editions, but none of them were actually *edited*. She just stuck new forwards and updates into the newer editions.) Like my older siblings and three younger cousins, I was born at home with no access to medical personnel or equipment. My mom and dad had separated while I was in the womb, so my grandmother lived with us to take care of the house and kids while my mom went to school and work. (She finished her PhD when I was 8 or 9, so I don't really remember her much before then, even though we lived in the same house.)

The homebirth was what my grandma was best known for, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. She advocated total reliance on God for everything, and total isolationism from the "seven world systems": education, religion, commerce, science, entertainment, medicine, and government. She said those things in her books, but the only one we lived 100% was complete abstinence from the medical system. We were born at home, never saw a pediatrician, never got vaccines. I stepped on a rusty carpenter's nail in my cousin's back yard. It went clean through my foot, but I didn't get taken to the hospital for a tetanus shot. We also never locked our house or our cars, because that would putting our faith in man and man-made things, rather than in our heavenly provider and protector.

Because of the isolationism, we were cut off from all other sources of help or information. And then she told us that we weren't allowed to do anything to protect ourselves from danger, that we had to just rely on God and not lift a finger to prevent a bad thing. Instead of trying to solve a physical problem or treat a physical illness, we were supposed to discern the "root cause" in the "spirit realm" that was the *actual* problem. Because I was born into this mentality, being taught that my imagination was a more reliable source of knformation than my five sense, it's given some problems. I spent a few years as a kid, on and off, worrying that I was imaginary, that I was a dream some other girl was having, or that I was invisible or translucent. My world was so insubstnatial, I didn't believe I had physical substance. Add a serotonin imbalance and a childhood filled with neglect, abuse, and trauma (my grandmother ran over and killed a pedestrian, while I was in the front seat, when I was 7), and I gotta say, I'm pretty pissed at religion.

At first I was just mad at cults, but then I realized - we went to Christian school some of those years. We went to public school for most. We had guidance counselors (and I talked to mine - a LOT). My brother reported we were being abused to HRS when I was 8 and he was 12, but they did a lazy half-assed job and shut the case without recognizing how hellish it was (because my sister and I were so brainwashed, we cried and defended our grandmother from the allegations from our wicked, sinful, rebellious brother - which I totally regret now). In retaltion for the report, my grandmother kicked my brother out, and he was shipped across teh country to California to live with our dead beat musician dad. It was a horrible threat to my sense of security, the idea that you could get kicked out of the family if you didn't toe the line.

Thet cult itself was nebulous. It was families and home churches and small country churches across the US and the Oz. There was no central authority, and in some definitions she techinically wasn't a cult leader. She wasn't interested in the work involved in actually caring what any of them were doing. She wanted attention, and she wanted to not have to work. She was never ambitious enough or organized enough to make a central authority out of it, or to make a lot of money. We never *really* lived on a compound (just a bunch of families in a trailer park) and most of us went to other churches at the same time. The vast majority of her followers were out of state, and she kept in touch with them through a monthly newsletter/catalog, then through a website, and eventually through a blog. I worked for her cult's office (which was just the kitchen of her single-wide mobile home) putting together that newsletter, that website and that blog, and shipping out her books and teaching tapes to dozens of people a week, from the time I was 12 till some nebulous time in my early twenties. (It was never a full-time job: whenever I went to my grandma's house, she had something I could do for $10 or $12 an hour, so I did it.)

Last spring I was taking a class on US history the Age of Jackson, (1800-1850s). One of the social/cultural trends of that period we studied was the Second Great Awakening, a protestant religious revival movement that spawned a lot of early native cults. Joseph Smith founded the Mormons and Brigham Young trekked them out to Utah (which is impressive as hell, I will grant them that!). The Shakers attracted a lot of widows with kids as converts, because they were a celibacy cult. A woman could provide for her family by living comunally like this. A lot of utopian societies were started, on all different things - enlightenment, health and wellness from Alexander Graham (of cracker fame).

And the Oneida utopia was founded by the charismatic horndog John Humphrey Noyes. Everybody who joined was married to everybody else of the opposite sex (each woman to every man, and each man to every woman). However, they had a major policy against, ahem, completion of the sex act and engaged instead in "male continence". (No, they did not just masturbate after. I asked the professor.) They lived communally and started a silverware company, which is still owned by the desendents of that original utopian society today. Which is pretty neat and an example of why I like history.

It was also a pivotal moment in my life, one of the most life-altering. Everyone else in class was so clearly thrown by the way this community lived. They found it utterly foreign and couldn't relate to the motives or reasons these people had for doing something so completely different from the mainstream. And it made me realize, like a light clicking in my mind, my childhood was just as foreign. I could relate to the Oneida members, especially the second generation, product of chosen exceptions when a man was permitted to impregnate a woman. (Most of the time it was the leader who got to do the impregnating, because he claimed to have spiritually superior semen.) The cult split up over disagreement about deflowering virgin girls - who should get to do it and how old the girls ought to be before it's done. And as weird as all that sounds, and even though my cult had nothing like polygamy or polyamory in it, I felt a connection on some deep level.

So much so that later that night I Googled my grandmother's name and the word "cult". Here's the search results that come up today for it, which are largely the same. More news articles have come down in the meantime, or you have to pay to access them as archives. There were horrible stories of children who died, one who was starved to death because his parents thought God wanted him to go back to breastfeeding from an underfed woman, after he'd been on solid foods. His brother who died shortly after birth, because his parents didn't know to aspirate him and it's thought he slowly suffucated from blocked miconium in his wind pipe. (It's thought, rather than known conclusively, because the parents buried both bodies in a state park, rather than reporting their deaths at the times they occurred.) These were followers of my grandmother. The man who ran that sect, that cult, used her book and her words to justify his actions. She wrote the manifesto for any arrogant prick, a blue print to follow, to keep people in submission and terror, and to get your own ego stroked on a near constant basis. She created Be a Prophet 101, but no one recognized it for that at the time, or at least no one I was talking to.

That night started the 6-8 week jump from being a creationist Christian true believer to an outspoken atheist. Once I realize I've made a mistake, I don't want to keep doing it. :) And it's been a little over a year now. I'm blogging and writing a book about growing up in the cult and why we have to reform the laws that allow religious exemptions for medical neglect and pissing off my relatives. So that's the short version. The book will be the long version. I'll let you know when that's finished. :)

(No, I'm not embedding links this time. They're all the same ones from every other post about my crazy grandma. I'm lazy and it's the weekend and my son wants me for something.)

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Why I Blog: No One Thinks It's Cool to Run a D&D Game Anymore

I hear there are still some people out there who think that blogging is nerdish or "uncool". But since all the people I talk to are on the internet, I never hear from them. In fact, I'm much more likely to answer an email than a text message. And if you leave me a comment on my blog, I get downright giddy but I'm usually annoyed to hear my ring tone (and I never listen to my voicemails).

I've been a geek my whole life. I loved organizing decks of playing cards by suit and number, jigsaw puzzles, and crosswords when I was 6 and 7. I play logic puzzles online and I get in debates and I watch TED talks and I entertain my toddler and teach him about science and oh, I also watch tv there as well, and the news. And I read the news, and I follow a bunch of blogs, and of course there's social networking, but I'm not really a fan of the stalkerish/ADHD elements of Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Frankly they all creep me out just a little bit. (I mostly use Facebook to play even more games, and I just use Twitter to spread cool articles. But I'm proud to say I've never had a MySpace.)

Part of what I love so much about the blogosphere is that I have time to think about what I say, I can spell check and try not to sound like a complete moron when making a point, and I've got Google on my side (which is way more helpful than having God on my side). Now that it's so easy to embed and link things all over the place, I get to make a scrapbook of the thoughts in my head out in the world for other people to see. Just about every day someone new starts following and every time it makes me smile, because that means someone else out there is as entertained by myself as I am.

In high school I started playing a table top dice RPG - you know, before 3D superreal first person shooters imprisoned a large section of the male population, aged 9 to 37. (I'm still pissed about losing a high school boyfriend to EverCrack.) Shadow Run was awesome. I cannot tell you how much fun it is to create this badass character who gets to run around town getting in fights, running from the cops, casting spells, killing orcs and trolls or hacking into some super-secure network to steal data for your client of questionable ethics. If you love fiction books or you love movies, chances are you'd love gaming. But people think it's lame (and on the surface? so is every other hobby) so few people give it a shot. I tell you what, I never had a bad time. I played for years. My brother was my first GM (that's "Game Master" to you, also known as a DM or "Dungeon Master" - but not in the kinky way).Running a game was completely awesome. I got to craft this whole larger story arc, like writing a television season for a really exciting, high-budget sci-fi drama, all played out in our imaginations. I've gotten to act out an array of fantasy characters - from a half-elfin disgruntled postal worker with several armor-piercing weapons and a caffeine addiction, to a samuri-ko (chick fighter) with extensive opera training and skill with throwing knives. (I liked playing mentally unstable characters, because I could usually negotiate with the GM for better toys or character points in exchange, during character generation.)

When we're kids we're encouraged to imagine, but somehow we let that go as we age. Why? Seriously, why the flip do we do that? So whether it's posing as a wittier, more grandiose version of myself in my blog (as I agoraphobically hide out in my batcave) or learning all kinds of cool things about biology and politics and religion I never knew before, or just watching the Daily Show, the Internet has been good to me.

Today's image is D&D artwork by Jeff Dee. (ACA gains twelve character points for having a game designer on board. Roll to fight.)

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Rough Draft

Hi Aunt Z,

Let me start off by saying that I love you and your family as well. You covered a lot of different ground in your email. As I see it, you brought up
1) Your perception of me as "wounded" and in pain
2) Me calling Gig a cult leader and holding her responsible for dead babies
3) Atheism and anti-theism
4) The history between Gig and Asshat (I'm not using my ex husband's real name)
5) How I raise my son
6) Peter and the prodigal son idea
7) The role of mental health

Let me get the shorter responses out of the way. I'm sorry Asshat stole from Gig. He stole from everyone, even cashing in Little Man's change jar when he was a month old to buy drugs. He had serious substance abuse problems and was not a nice person. Last year I had to file a restraining order, after he threatened to kidnap my son and kill me. How I raise my son, in a single parent home and outside of a church, is not up for discussion. I haven't provided any insights or suggestions on what I think would be best for your children, and you will do the same for me.

Lumping together points 1, 3, and 6: I'm touched by your concern I suppose, but I'm not in pain and I'm not blogging because I'm "wounded". Atheism has been a huge positive in my life, and is the second greatest thing to happen to me (after Little Man, of course). I did not become an atheist because I'm angry with God or with Gig, or in reaction to any of the aspects of religion I decry on my blog. If you'd like to talk about it, there are three scenarios I can work with.

1. If you have questions, I'll do my best to answer them. A lot of people don't have a clear understanding of what "atheist" means, but it just describes the fact that I don't believe that any gods exist. It doesn't say anything about my outlook or my values, which in many respects are the same as yours.
2. You and I can exchange books and talk about the issues that way. I'll read a Christian apologist book of your choosing, if you'll read something I choose on atheism in exchange.
3. We can agree to never directly converse with each other on the issue of god, religion, and religious education/indoctrination of children.

Now that I've set those issues aside, let me get to what I think was your main purpose in writing me. Gig was a cult leader. I know that this is hard to hear and painful to discover, but it's factually true. Just google "Carol Balizet" and "cult" and you'll be amazed at what you find, and not just on my blog. The International Cultic Studies Association, Apologetics Index, Childrens Healthcare is a Legal Duty, Concerned Christian Growth Ministries, and the Rick Ross Institute (all groups specializing in cults) recognize Gig as a cult leader and Home in Zion Ministries as a cult. (Which sort of answers your question of why I kept working for her even as an adult. Brainwashing takes time to reverse and I was still very much under her spell at that time.)

You didn't live with her during those years, so you may not be aware how crazy and controlling she really was. I don't know if you've read her books anytime in the last twenty years, but my mom and I have. She knows that Gig is a cult leader, too, and she's still a committed Christian. The atheism and the recognition of Gig as a cult leader aren't at all related. (In fact, Rick Ross Institute, CCGM, and Apologetics Index are all Christian cult-watch organizations).

I'm sorry if this wounds you or causes you pain. That's not my intention. It's just a fact, and in part because I did work for her and promote her crazed ideas for so long, I want to make amends to the world. I want to debunk the dangerous lies she told. Children have died, Z. And, sorry, but the facts say they *would* have lived if they'd gotten medical care. I know Gig always said each death she spoke of was unavoidable, but I've read about them now in news articles and cult watch websites. She brainwashed people into putting "faith" above all else, and told them it was blasphemous to respond "in the sight realm" to actual physical problems people were having, and that it was a sin to go to a doctor. In the end, when she was the one in pain, she did go to a doctor. By that point six children had already died as a direct result of her books and her dogma.

I don't know if you remember the story of Harrison Johnson, the little boy who was stung by all those yellow jackets and died from medical neglect in the HIZM office, but I used to babysit him. Gig was with his family that day, and advised them not to get medical care. He would be 16 now, if his parents had never read Gig's books. She killed him. It's taken me 14 years to get to the point where I can recognize that for what really happened.

Regarding the role of mental health in Gig's decisions and actions. I was diagnosed with OCD at 21 and have received multiple additional diagnoses since then. I've long suspected Gig had mental health problems, probably OCD and certainly NPD. However, a high-functioning adult with mental illness is not excused for bad behavior. I have mental health issues myself, and I can be sympathetic to the additional challenges that come with living like this. But I am responsible for my actions and words, just as as she was. If someone is found not guilty of a crime like murder by reason of insanity, we don't convict them of murder but we still do lock them up for the safety of others, in an institution rather than a jail. You can believe whatever you believe, but we have rules on how crazy you're allowed to *behave*.

You seemed to suggest that by simply being an atheist and talking about it on my blog, I am doing more harm than Gig, who directly contributed to the deaths of several children. I don't see how you possibly could make this statement "gently". The sweetest words won't hide the fact that you worship a god you think will send me and my friends to hell, simply for not believing he exists, and that you think he is the source of love, comfort, and morality, and that I'm depriving my son in some way by not teaching him about this deity. Do you really want to have this conversation with me? We can, but you almost certainly won't like what I have to say.

I'm more than willing to talk about Gig's effect on the world with you - or not. I do recommend you talk to my mom about it. She has a lot of insights about Gig over the decades, and was a lot more involved in Gig's personal satellite during the baby ministry days. She's also read a lot on abusive churches and Bible-based cults, written by Christians, on how to make sure the group you belong to is healthy and not heretical. Since I think you're more likely to respect what she has to say, both because she's a Christian and because she's your sister not your niece, I think you should probably talk to her. I know you don't like this, but I'm not making it up.

A Christmas present for Little Man would be grand, as long as it's not a Bible or something like it. I'll get your children religiously neutral toys in a similar respect of your right to educate and instruct your children as you see fit. I'm glad to hear you're getting treatment plan for Lil C and testing for Lil J. I only wish I'd had access to health care and mental health care as a child. Because of Gig and her beliefs, I didn't.

This is what I'm thinking of sending. But on the other hand, I remember that I don't even really like her. Yes, she's my aunt and I love her in that obligatory family reflex way. But in 2006 when I was living in my car and asked her for money for diapers, she referred me to the homeless shelter for help. (She married rich, so it's not like she couldn't have spared a pack of Pampers.) She used to make sarcastic comments about me as a teenager that really enhanced some of my insecurities and certainly made my eating disorder worse. When I was a kid, in a cult, at that time being sexually abused by a neighbor, she would pinch my bottom and tickle me, after I'd scream for her to stop. And she'd laugh. (So did my favorite aunt. It's taken me a long while to realize that I'm not overly sensitive - they were just jerks.) I don't actually want to spend time with her or talk with her individually. We're not that close and I don't respect her opinion that much. Really, I just want her to recognize that her mom ran a cult, or just leave me alone about it. I don't want family guilt when this book comes out. If she never speaks to me again because of this, either because I'm an atheist or because I called a spade a freaking spade, it's not actually going to bother me.

So maybe I cut it down to simply the groups that called HIZM a cult and the recommendation to call my mom. Maybe I just pull myself out of it. Or send her an email that says, "You're a moron who believes a man lived in a freaking fish belly!" Probably not that last one.

I called my best girlfriend in the world last night to vent about all this. She's a hippie spiritual Jesus type, and dating a Satanist. She's gotten over my disbelief now, which is fantastic. I love this girl because she came up with the perfect solution to cheer me up.

"Chica, we gotta get together and stir shit up. Let's go to a bar and get in a chick brawl!" Just the thought of hitting somebody and pulling someone's hair made me perk right up. :)

The image for today's post is of the Jonestown mass suicide, which is probably what most people think of when they hear the word "cult".

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

This is loving??

I've gotten another complaint from a family member, this time for trash-talking my grandmother. (Apparently there isn't yet consensus on the whole "cult leader" thing - because not all of us have studied the deaths yet. Those of us who have say "cult leader".)

The letter was a mix of defending the indefensible, saccharine religious manipulation, and a lot of weird misconceptions of my emotional state. (I was informed that I'm "wounded" and in great "pain". Huh, now I know!)

I'll post and respond to the whole thing tomorrow, because I want to edit it for identity and length and my kid's real name. (No, I didn't actually name him Little Man Jackson, but you gotta admit it'd be cool if I had.) But I just have to post this part, because it's the sentence that makes me want to not be reasonable (and is why I have to wait till tomorrow to hit "send" on my reply. I've written and deleted three complete responses already, because they're too... truthful.) This sentence is her basically brushing aside all the people my grandmother helped to kill, and saying that at least they're better of than you. (No YOU, not me. I'm apparently doing a greater disservice to YOU than my grandmother was to the people who's children she murdered.)

I want to say this as gently as possible: the people who were following mom will probably go to Heaven, yet the people you have following your posts and blogs are being directed in the other direction.

I'm leading you straight to hell, blog readers! Oh well. At least she said it "as gently as possible", right? I have to laugh so I don't break my fist punching my monitor. THIS is her impassioned plea for me to go back to religion and guilt and nonsense! The other real winner I'm not even going to comment on now. I'm going to let YOU do that.

Your life with Little Man right now has no father figure for either of you and it breaks my heart that you’re against the main source of love, guidance, provision, and protection.

Anyone else wanna vomit? Let's end on a happy note. Let's sing a rousing chorus of "God fucked him up".

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Roles: part 2

I have a really weird relationship with gender roles. On the one hand, I grew up in family that lauded "traditional values" and men being the head of women. On the other hand, I grew up in a family of Amazon women - career women, and women with advanced degrees, and single mothers who raised bright, well-behaved, successful children. What's more, my mom and dad separated shortly before I was born, so the necessity (or even usefulness) of men wasn't apparent to me at all. So while I heard all these lessons on the proper role of a Christian woman, and although grandma quoted Paul's admonitions to women frequently, she was a female preacher. She *did* teach men. At that time, my mom was a TA at the university where she was getting her doctorate. Eventually I figured out that my grandmother's praise of fathers/husbands was nothing more than lip service. (After all, she clearly thought it was okay for her not to submit to a husband.)

In second grade Mrs. Dempsey gave us a handout to do in class: My Christian Family. (I went to Christian school then, so keep your 1st amendment shirt on.) It was a one-sided page. After a brief paragraph on the importance of family, and a few choice Bible verses on the topic, there followed two fill-in-the-blank statements.

  1. My Christian daddy goes to work most days. He takes care of things around the house and he pays the bills. Daddy takes us to church on Sundays. My Christian daddy's name is ______.
  2. My Christian mommy stays home with me most days. She cooks and cleans and takes care of me. My mommy keeps the house looking nice. My Christian mommy's name is _______.

It was a ridiculous assignment, obviously. It was 1990, and single parent homes weren't exactly new, but they were rare in our school. My mom had apparently been required to write a letter to the school, justifying her reasons for getting a divorce, before we could be admitted. I didn't know that at the time, which I'm pretty glad about. It wasn't till a few years later that I started to feel like my family was less-than the families that included fathers.

But Mrs. Dempsey was concerned by my answers. Clearly, I'd misunderstood *something* about the questions. After all, I'd answered by saying

  1. My Christian mommy's name is Giggy.
  2. My Christian daddy's name is Mommy.
My mom and I have laughed over this story since. She's very much a father figure, not just because she was the breadwinner, but because she worked in a highly analytical, almost entirely male field (psychometrics). I'm much the same. I've always loved logic puzzles and science fiction writing and extremely geeky technology. My mom subscribed to Wired when I was a teenager, and I used to read the issues when she was done with them (and make collages out of the pretty high tech pictures.) In a lot of ways, I think like a man, but in the body of a woman. There have been times I've wondered if my ideas might be taken more seriously if I didn't have breasts (and they're not even big ones.)

In the Einstein Syndrome, a book about high IQ kids with delayed speech (like my son, and myself, and my mom) the small sample-size studies they've done indicate that boys are much more likely than girls to have this combination (9:1) but that girls who do fit the total pattern, including family history and other factors, tend to score statistically the same as the boys on all areas tested, like analytical thinking skills and tendency to like working on puzzles sand computers.

We both felt like this fit. I've always felt somewhat masculine in my thinking. This was a great social asset in high school, and I still have a few girlfriends who call when they need me to interpret something their man said or did. I find it much easier to understand a male mindset than a female one, or at least I did before my pregnancy (and mass hormone invasion). Since the pregnancy, I've felt "more in touch with my feminine side". I cry at sappy music more easily, and I'm a little better at both nurturing and nesting (which is good, because my bedroom in high school was definitely a germ breeding ground.)

Still, my hobbies and interests, my preferred style of communication and relating to people, how I bond with friends - all of it falls into typically male patterns of thinking and relating. Maybe I have more testosterone than other girls, I don't know. But I find that the older I get, and the less I care what anyone thinks, the more comfortable I am in my male/female split.

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