Thursday, November 26, 2009

Drop-side cribs too dangerous

The ASTM is issuing new (voluntary) guidelines for manufacturers that exclude drop-side cribs. Toys R Us will no longer sell drop-side cribs. has a good article outlining all the issues.

We have a drop-side crib (which is not recalled), and I gave it a good once-over to assure myself that it is safe. We seem to be fine (metal hardware, no indication a gap could form), but I think when we are done, we will junk this crib, rather than re-selling it. Drop-sides are particularly hazardous when purchased second-hand, as it increases the risk of the crib being put together wrong or with missing parts.

Scary stuff! But I am thankful we live in a world where such marginal risks are a big deal, since we have conquered so many risks that once killed babies and children.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Catholic Church hypocritical? Nah, couldn't be!

So the Catholic Church is having a snit fit at Washington D.C., threatening to withdraw social service programs that help thousands of people. Why? Because D.C. is considering a non-discrimination ordinance that would require the church to provide equal benefits to gay and straight married couples. "Oh noez," says the church, "this might force us to participate in publicly support um, be vaguely associated with gay marriage, which is totally against our precepts!"

But the church has evidently been providing employee benefits to spouses of straight people who have divorced and remarried all along. Divorce and remarriage is supposedly just as much of a sin as homosexuality. Why the difference? Gee, could it be that the Catholic Church is run by a bunch of bigoted idiots who are mortally terrified of teh gay?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How to be a good Christian man

According to Steven L. Anderson, "real Christian men" can't sit down to pee. He has this bizarre rant about the bible demanding that men stand up to pee, because it uses "those that pisseth against the wall" as an occasional epithet referring to men.

He details how no man in Germany stands to pee (I'll give you a moment to drag your eyebrows back down from your hairline here), and he's seen signs in private homes and public restrooms that say "No Standing to Pee." This is obviously a sign of the apocalypse. He's fighting it, though. The next time he goes to Germany, he declares he Shall Never Sit to Pee!

Aside from the question of his ah, factual accuracy here, something really strikes me. He boldly states that the way to show you are a Real True Christian is to ignore societal rules and your host's gentle request, and be a rude, self-centered, splashing-on-the-tile boor. Yep, that's about my impression of Christianity in America.

Another reason why proselytizing sucks

I've mused about the psychological underpinnings of witnessing before. But recently I had a personal experience that made me think about it in a slightly different light.

We have a Nursing Nina toy - a stuffed cat with three kittens, with magnets that let the kittens "latch on" to the mother cat's nipples. It's totally adorable and funny. I had been meaning to share it with my friend who was coming over for a visit, since I thought she would get a kick out of it and, frankly, I wanted to show it off.

The morning of the visit, she called to apologize for being late. One of their dogs had attacked one of their kittens that morning, and she had rushed the broken and bleeding little thing to the vet, only to have it expire in the car. After we got off the phone, and my mind had turned to humdrum house stuff as I tidied up, I came upon Nursing Nina and my first thought was of how cool it is. Then I checked myself and realized of course I'd better put it away to avoid rubbing salt in my friend's wounds.

I think hard-sell witnessers are in part like kids wanting to show of their cool toys, without any regard to the interests or feelings of the people they're showing them to. Even if their intentions are good, there's an underlying self-centeredness that's really off-putting.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Religious Education, Day One

Cat really loved the RE class at the Unitarian Fellowship. She got to do CRAFTS! That would win her over even at the International Broccoli Tasting Festival.

I'm told they heard the story of The Blind Men and the Elephant, and did crafts, played with puppets, and had a snack. Sounds good to me. I went to the service and found it a bit boring, but I do find the idea of a supportive community somewhat attractive.

We will definitely try it again. No Jesus, no proselytizing for any one point of view - they surely do use a grab bag approach, referencing many different traditions (I noted Jewish, Wiccan, Native American, Buddhist, and Christian references) as sources of ideas, rather than dogma.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Doing something to help

One of the sucky things about being an atheist is you don't get to feel like you're helping people as often as theists do. For them, hearing about someone's tragedy or difficulty triggers an instant response: "I'll pray for you." Now, a lot of people will do something substantive in addition, but there is a certain danger of complacency in believing that mumbling to your invisible omnipotent friend can have an effect in the real world.

Luckily, just telling someone you're thinking of them, sympathizing, and pulling for them does offer some real solace. So in that respect, whether you say, "I'm praying for you," or "I'm thinking of you," or "Damn, that totally sucks," or "I'll sacrifice an unblemished calf for you," the person hearing it does get some help.

Lately though, I've been lucky enough to be able to help for real: babysitting a friend's daughter for day after the friend's mother died unexpectedly and she had to deal with the logistics of death as well as the emotional load; taking dinner to a friend from my moms' group who almost had to be hospitalized for depression last week, and having her over today so she's out of the house and not isolated.

As hard as it can be (that was one looooong playdate, let me tell you), it feels good to do something substantive to help. And I like to think that my humanism inspires me to do so in two ways: valuing other people, and realizing that there are no magic words that will change their situation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and God

It was a big freethought day for Cat. First, she watched Bill Nye in class, which is unrelated to the theme of this post, but is cool.

Then evidently she got into a discussion with a classmate about Santa. She won't admit that she told them Santa isn't real - she says she can't remember how it came up - but I have my suspicions. The thing she wanted to tell me was that someone said, "If you don't believe in Santa, you don't believe in God."

I asked what she thought about that, and she paused and said, "I think if you don't believe in Godmother you don't believe in God." "Who is Godmother?" I asked. She said, "I think it must be God's wife." "That makes sense," I responded. Hey, it makes as much sense as Jesus, right?

So finally, she lost a tooth today. So I was jokingly talking about how the tooth fairy couldn't leave her any money until the lights were out and stuff. And then she brought up everything all balled up together in a knot of anxious confusion: "I just hate all made up things!" She said she didn't like made up things that aren't real, and that people write books about them to make people think they're real (I had to agree), and she knows that Santa and the Tooth Fairy and "all the other made up things" (*coughGodcough*) are NOT real, and she doesn't like reading books about made up things.

So I said, "Like Junie B. Jones?" And she had to admit that she liked Junie B. a lot, even though she is made up. Pretty soon we were laughing about how fun it is to pretend Santa is real and wrap up presents for Daddy with a tag that says, "From Santa." And along the way I assured her that she can change her mind about these kinds of things as often as she wants, and it's good to think about them and look at the evidence and try to come to your own conclusions. (Thank you, Dale McGowan!)

I feel glad and proud and anxious and concerned, but most of all I feel ever so grateful that I started researching this freethought parenting thing when I did!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yay, critical thinking!

I was proud of Catherine today. She and Eliza just got flu shots, and we were watching Sid the Science Kid on vaccines and how germs get passed along. She asked me about how we get sick from germs, and I described the usual ways. Later in the day she asked, "So, who was the first person to get sick?" What an awesome demonstration of thinking something through!

I tried to explain from an evolutionary standpoint, which is a little complex for her to digest at this point. But the important thing is she was praised for thinking of a great question, and reassured that I would at least try to explain answers to her.

Our religious education schism

OK, my husband and I are not in a schism. But there are high emotions behind our discussion and negotiation of this subject. One of us wants to begin formal religious education for Catherine at a local church, while the other is not in favor of it.

The funny thing is, we are both atheists.

I think Cat could use some knowledge and grounding in major religions, and that the local Unitarian fellowship (OK maybe it's not, strictly speaking, a church) seems like a great place for it. From my research it seems they don't indoctrinate, except in thoughtful, liberal, caring approaches to life that I agree with. They don't have Big Truths they hammer into the kids' heads like Catholicism. Instead they encourage inquiry and reflection in a personal search for meaning.

From my husband's point of view, there is still danger. Six year olds are consummate conformists, and he suggests that whoever is teaching the classes will have a personal religious belief that they can't help inject in some way. Also, there will be the peer pressure of the other students, most of whom probably believe in some god or other.

Our compromise is this: I care more than he does, so I will take her and we will observe what happens. If, as I suspect, she merely comes home saying we need to cut our carbon footprint, or talking about an ethical dilemma they discussed openly, it won't be a problem. If she starts to spout off about how Jesus is the one true savior, I'll be the first one to yank her from class.

Here's the thing though - if we had to sit down and have a serious discussion about this, negotiate our position, and deal with deep-seated feelings from childhood regarding religious education, what the hell do people in mixed marriages do? How can you overcome an atheist/believer or Jewish/Christian divide?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Abstinence till marriage sex education

I'd noticed in our school district's literature that part of the health curriculum standards is to teach children to abstain from sex until marriage. This is one of the dumbest things I've ever heard, not to mention insulting and morally confusing, considering that about 95% of Americans have premarital sex, and this has held true since the 50s. Also, of course, gays and lesbians get the fuzzy end of the lollipop under this scheme. So much for diversity and tolerance!

Now, thanks to my reading of Raising Freethinkers, I realize that this educational standard is one set by the federal government as a requirement for getting DOE money. Thanks, federal government, for sticking your nose into my bedroom. I'm sure all so-called conservatives think it's great, too!

At least now I know it's futile to mention it at the school board level, so I won't be wasting my time.

I'm attempting to plant the seeds of sassy rebellion in the kids, but as noted in my last post, the time is clearly not ripe. And maybe it never will be. Quite possibly my weirdness (liberal, atheist, lactivist, civil libertarian, hippy-ish type smack dab in the middle of a land filled with SUVs sporting "W" stickers) will be an unending source of eye-rolling mortification to one or both girls. I will have to remember to let them have their own opinions.