Everyone loves linkspams, right? Right?

Some awesome/interesting things from the internets recently:

What with it being Pride week here, let’s start with some queer stuff! And what better than a rather depressing post about legal homophobia? Una Mullally – “How can a teacher tell a pupil it’s okay to be gay when our education system discriminates against gay teachers?

More optimistically, Put This On The Map are an awesome bunch of queer kids and allies looking to go a little beyond It Gets Better, and make things better now.

Since we’re on the subject, here’s an awesome post about misgendering, assumed heterosexuality and passing ‘privilege’. The Only People with Straight Privilege are Straight People

Over on Feministe, Juliet writes about Love in a Time of Calling Out. This is kinda beautiful, about privilege and hurt and the people who we love and who love us most, about the often incredibly difficult balances between asserting our own needs and being kind to those we love, about the oh-so-personal intersections within ourselves and in our lives.

The marvellous Greta Christina tackles the gendered assumptions and pressure put on men in our society, in Wealthy, Handsome, Strong, and with Endless Hard-Ons: The Impossible Ideals Men Are Expected to Meet.

Renegade Evolution has been dealing with waaaay to many antipornradfems who just won’t shut-up-and-listen, and has a Manifesto, as it were.

After all this gender and sexuality, here’s some things about death. Startled Octupus’s post on End of Life Decisions discusses Death with Dignity and quality of life, in the context of her own life and family. TW for euthanasia and terminal illnesses.

And while we’re on the subject, Grief Beyond Belief is a support network set up for non-religious people dealing with grief. I’m so glad this support network has been set up. I remember the first (and, so far, only) time that I lost someone who I loved after becoming an atheist. It seemed like so many details of the grief that I was experiencing were different to that experienced by the religious people who shared my loss. Not that they were lesser or greater, mind. Just different. Instead of struggling with the idea of a just god allowing people to die, I struggled with the reality that we live in a universe where we will all end. Having people who get that, without having to explain it, and without worrying that people will get defensive about their own beliefs? It’s so damn important.

After all that, I’ll leave you with something more fun. The other day, I managed to tear myself away from playing Mass Effect 2 for long enough to read an article on… Mass Effect 2. Shepard Ain’t White: Playing with race and gender in Mass Effect. As if I needed yet another reason to keep playing the thing.


8 thoughts on “Everyone loves linkspams, right? Right?

  1. Just discovered your blog, via your comment at Ren’s. Very interesting stuff. Particularly interested in your observation that your grieving experiences were qualitatively different from those of religious people. I have served as an Episcopal (i.e. Anglican) hospice chaplain for over 10 years and have worked with hundreds, perhaps more, of dying folks from many or no faiths. I never evangelize and mostly listen. I have found that some near death are deeply concerned with religion: they want to receive last Communion, which I provide, connect or reconnect with God or the Gods (in the case of polytheistic traditions), etc. Others focus on less religious but more broadly spiritual concerns. These concerns can manifest as soulful shared silence, as a conversation about how the death process is affecting friends and family, and in many other ways. Still others are more withdrawn, especially as death becomes imminent, but are still present and communicative in subtle ways. To me dying does not seem radically different for religious and non-religious people, with the exception of the sorts of religious concerns enumerated above (and these tend to manifest earlier rather than later in the dying process). In my experience, death is a powerful leveler: class, educational, religious, racial and gender distinctions are melted by the solvent of a universal experience. I wonder how my observations accord with your experience.

    P.S. I do not take atheism as the opposite of religion. Buddhism, one of the great world religions, is atheistic, and some schools of Hinduism are too. Of course many atheists are not religious or anti-religious, but so are some clergy.

    • Thanks for commenting- that’s incredibly interesting. As I have rarely been around dying people- and when I was, it was close family members, so I wasn’t exactly able to be objective in any way- I can’t make my own comparisons with that experience.
      I can, however, talk about my own experiences with grief, and how my own atheism (non-religious, by the way. I identify mainly as a secular humanist) interacts with that. One of the things that I find very difficult is engaging with religious methods of dealing with grief. Particularly those which mention or emphasise an afterlife, which so many do. Everything from religious funerals, to well-meaning people talking about how my loved one is ‘in a better place’. Although I know these are very well-meaning, hearing them hurts an awful lot. Since I don’t believe in any afterlife, when dealing with death I’m dealing with the person no longer existing. Being told that they’re still around somewhere, that I’ll see them again? It really hurts. It’s rubbing salt in the would, because, of course, I would love for the person to still exist.
      Having people around who had similar perspectives to me, who understood my lack of belief, and who were able to engage with my struggles to come to terms with the death of loved ones in that context? Was incredibly important to me. Again, it wasn’t that I was somehow grieving ‘more’ than the religious people around me. It was simply that there were certain ways in which that grief took different forms, certain differences in the conversations and comforts that we took, which made having non-believers around so very valuable.

    • Not saying, by the way, that religious friends and family were somehow of no help or comfort to me at the time! Many of them were amazing. I don’t see this as a zero-sum game by any means 🙂

  2. Perhaps this is a bit off-topic, but I feel that contemporary Western cultures do not handle death and dying well. Elsewhere and in our own past, dying took place in public or at least in social space. Contemporarily, however, we confine it to specialized places and consign it to specialist professions, and it is quite possible to grow up in the West without ever seeing a corpse or personally experiencing a death. One of the root Buddhist practices is meditation on death (to foster the realization of impermanence). This can seem odd or ghoulish to us – and it certainly does not come easily – but in a traditional culture it is a much more natural move.

    Back to the topic: the death of a friend or relative is a difficult passage, and grief can be a spiky and awkward emotion regardless of your religiousness or lack thereof. My guess is that those “well-meaning people” who seem to be talking so comfortably about being in a better place are feeling just as lost and discomfited as you are. The difference (to paraphrase the Wizard of Oz) is that they have a language to resort to. Religions have been talking about the meaning of death for millennia, and they have compelling and by no means uniform apercus about it. For Western religions, the key issue is the one you have described – the possibility that existence ends with death. For Eastern religions, the issue is converse – the fear that existence might not end, and we might be trapped in unending cycles of rebirth.

    I am glad that you have found comforting presences among both religious and non-religious people in your life. Do you think it possible that the divide is really not so stark, or at any rate need not be? My own professional life (not chaplaincy, which is an avocation) engages me with Jews, Muslims, Christians of all stripes, Hindus, Sikhs, Wiccans, Buddhists, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, First Peoples, Vodou and Santeria practitioners and others. To me, atheists and secular humanists are nothing more nor less than a piece of a big picture to be honored: that of people trying to make sense in different ways of death, life, the cosmos and themselves.

    • Oh, I don’t think for a second that people who believe in afterlives are somehow immune from feeling lost and discomfited surrounding death. And I don’t see myself as being without a language to resort to- it’s just that we, like you’re saying, use different ‘languages’ to process what we’re going through. Being around secular people is like being around people who speak the same language. While I love engaging with people who speak different ‘languages’, it’s also true that there is a comfort and familiarity to people who have more similar sets of concepts, particularly in difficult times.
      I find it interesting that you talk about Buddhist meditation on impermanence and death. It seems to me that that may be one of the things that Buddhists and secular people could have in common. One of the things that I’ve noticed among my conversations with nonbelievers is our (often intense) awareness of the impermanence of life, and often a strong determination to make the most of the limited time we have. It’s less to do with fear of permanence, though, than a simple sense of pragmatism.
      I agree also that we’re all just people trying to make sense of ourselves and our universe. The difference that I see- which is a major reason why I believe what I do- is that atheists and other nonbelievers tend to take the universe at face value. We tend to be skeptical, to only believe that for which we have strong evidence, to be open to accepting things we would prefer not to be the case if the evidence is strong enough. That’s the major thing. When it comes to these questions, it can be frustrating that people’s belief systems seem based more on wishful thinking than evidence. While we’re all trying to make sense of ourselves and our place in the universe, some of us are operating with very different toolboxes to each other.
      I don’t think that that means that there isn’t room for common ground, for empathy, for understanding of each other’s perspectives. I do, however, think that there’s no point in trying to pretend that our differences don’t exist.

      • There is undeniable comfort and familiarity to be found with one’s in-group, though real growth in understanding sometimes comes via engagement with out, or other, groups. My sense is that secular humanism is in the process of developing its pastoral language around death and other phenomena. I have seen online conversations within the humanist community that address this process and speak to this need. This is no knock: religious traditions have taken millennia to construct their languages, and secular humanism (as opposed to the variety that flourished among the Christian intelligentsia of the Renaissance) is quite new. The formation of the “Grief Beyond Belief” network may be an important marker of progress.

        The GBB network and likeminded others might want to compare notes with religious communities on dealing with death and grief. Perhaps, as you suggest, Buddhism might be the natural starting place, since the theism issue, which can block conversation, is absent or greatly reduced. At some point though, you will bump up against the reality that Buddhists, though philosophically atheist, are by no means secular. This may occasion some misunderstandings and challenges. You seem to imply that the Buddhist doctrine of impermanence is fear-inspired. Not so. Rather it is an experiential predicate (Buddhists are encouraged not to accept the truth of any doctrine unverified by personal experience) to rejection of this-worldly attachments and commitment to the Dharma.

        As you say, there are real differences between secular and religious perspectives, though I would add that the differences in perspective are just as stark within secularism and religion. I would guess that your worldview and mine have more in common than yours and Josef Stalin’s, a fellow secularist (though onetime seminarian) or mine and Jerry Falwell’s, a fellow religionist (though the child of an atheist family). One matter on which I would like to press you is the claim that atheists “take the universe at face value.” This is reminiscent of Christian fundamentalists’ assertion that that they take scripture, and by extension the universe which scripture fully describes, at face value. I submit that all of us, believers and nonbelievers alike, are constantly engaged in processes of interpretation. Before hermeneutics and epistemology raise their Hydra heads, I shall sign off with best wishes.

  3. Thank you for the link love!

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