Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I need to get my rant on’ edition

We have now been away from home for a week. We have been very comfortable staying at my friend Joe’s house we are missing home like crazy. I have not had much time to blog but that doesn’t mean some things are making me crazy!

First up, the shootings in Newton, Conn:

Mass shootings are a feminist issue. Our patriarchal society is not only bad for women it affects men as well. As much as women’s roles are reified within patriarchy, men’s roles are also proscribed and circumscribed. Patriarchy demands that men be strong and fearless. While women can be emotional,[1] it is not acceptable for men. So what does this mean for men who cannot conform for whatever reason? How are they to navigate a world in which they do not fit? In the most recent mass shooting in the US, there have been calls for stricter gun control if you are on the left of the political spectrum and more guns if you happen to be a Republican.[2] There have also been discussions about mental health and how the lack of treatment in the US may be a contributing factor. While certainly these perspectives are important, I would argue that it is patriarchy along with its defined roles for men and women that is really at the core of the problem.

Then of course the NRA fuck heads have to weigh in after their self-imposed week of silence.[3] Fearful of the cries for increased gun control and what it might mean for their sick obsession, they proposed that Congress should immediately appropriate funds for an armed guard at every school. Seriously folks, their solution to mass shootings is to put yet another gun into the mix. I have never heard of a more stupid idea. What the US needs is less guns, particularly assault rifles which are only meant to kill large numbers of people quickly.

If all that is not enough, conservative writer Charlotte Allen, blames feminism for the shootings. She notes that there were no male personnel in the school and hypothesizes that if there had been some burly men there they could have rushed the shooter. Seriously. How could someone even think this let alone write it? Plus she gets it wrong: there was an adult male in the school, the shooter.


Religion is the next thing grating on my nerves these days. At my brother-in-law’s funeral yesterday the religiosity was over the top. His brother-in-law who apparently is a Christian minister performed it. This man actually tried to conflate Christmas and the birth of Christ with his death. It was beyond ridiculous. I am not sure why people who were not religious in life are celebrated with prayer and psalms. It makes no sense to me. My brother-in-law was an educated man; I highly doubt he was at all religious. In fact, what people said they most admired about him were his critical thinking skills and the ability to question that which many of us take for granted. As the minister was trying to comfort people with bible passages, I felt like I was in the middle of a cult. Religion pisses me off. Historically it has been the main cause of war and heartbreak all over the world. The current world political environment in which we live has conflict driven almost exclusively by religion. Organized religion belongs in the past.


It is fucking cold here – minus 20 and snow. It hurts to go outside. The roads are shit because of all the snow. It is precisely because of this kind of weather that I never, ever want to live here again.

Then there are the drivers. The other day a bus actually tried to not let me merge. I couldn’t believe it. I had to race a bus! There were over 60 accidents yesterday because people don’t drive for the road conditions. These people live here and should know how to drive in the snow!


[1] Even though there are consequences for emotional vulnerability.

[2] Seriously some of these reactionary dinosaurs think that arming teachers is the answer!

[3] It was really big of them.

Great church you have there England!

So yesterday the Church of England decided that it would not allow women to become bishops. By rejecting the proposal to allow for the ordination of female bishops, the Church of England looks as archaic as the Catholic Church. The Church of England is casting its lot with misogynists and patriarchal forces.

The idea that men are somehow better suited for high religious office is contemptible. The days where having a vagina axiomatically makes you unsuitable are over. I am not sure that having a penis makes you a better decision maker. We all know what happens when you put a bunch of men in charge of schools and youth.

The fact that there is still a need for this kind of formal decision is disturbing. We are all equal. If there is any hope for organized religion in this world it is only going to come through balance; we are only going to achieve balance when women are allowed to assume our rightful place.

Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘rant edition’

It’s been a while since I have done a rant post so here goes!


Why, oh why, do the BC RCMP insist on setting up HOV lane checks on Highway 1 during rush hour? Here is why this is a stupid idea: the mere presence of the RCMP on the highway causes a back up. Seriously, you could just park an unoccupied cruiser on the highway, with no officers in sight, and that highway backs up for miles. I have actually asked them this question, via twitter, and they say they are there because people complain about HOV lane cheaters. I call bullshit. I would like to meet one of these people who would rather sit in traffic for an extra 45 minutes just to have the RCMP nail the cheaters.[1] So here is how I see it – the BC RCMP create the situation that causes people to cheat by going into the HOV lane by creating such a backup that people lose it in frustration. Sounds a helluva lot like entrapment if you ask me. The number of times they are out there during rush hour has increased incredibly. The cynic in me believes that the RCMP know they are going to lose this revenue stream once the new lanes come on line and the new Port Mann is open. Why else would they be doing this so much right now? I have been commuting into Vancouver for 6 years and they only started doing this recently. The other thing that pisses me off about this is all the costs incurred by traffic snarls. Think of the gas (pollution created) burned, the time spent and the overall cost to the economy to have so many people sitting in traffic so they can catch some cheaters. Seriously, BC RCMP stop it now!

My ‘discussion’ on Twitter with @BCRCMP


I am a little late to the party on this one but here goes anyway. So, last winter the feds parachuted in a ‘third-party’ manager into Attawapiskat to deal with the housing crisis. Instead of owning up to their part in the housing crisis there, the feds accused the Band of mismanagement. The Band challenged this decision in court, rightly so. It turns out that the federal government over-reached its authority and, in fact, there was no mismanagement at all. To add insult to injury, the manager appointed by the Harper Conservatives, had been fired by another Band. It is time that Canada steps up and recognizes First Nations as the experts on their lives and needs. We have treated First Nations so abhorrently there is nothing we can do to apologize for residential schools, the robbing of culture and the complete disregard for their right to self-governance. We must pressure our federal politicians to do the right thing. And, as winter quickly approaches, there is still not enough housing in Attawapiskat; people are still living in the treatment centre and substandard housing.


It seems that the Parti Quebecois has made a decision to become secular and remove religious paraphernalia from the Province’s National Assembly. It seems that Monsieur Tremblay is a Catholic and in his little pea brain he believes that Christians have a right to promote express their religion in all aspects of Quebec and Canadian culture. His reasoning is that Canada is a ‘Christian’ country founded on ‘Christian’ beliefs. While he is technically correct that Christianity informs a great deal of our culture, that doesn’t make it right. What is even more disturbing is that he is singling out one PQ candidate: Djemila Benhabib. It seems that Ms. Benhabib[2] had the audacity to support the PQ’s secularist stance and she supports removing the crucifix from the National Assembly. In the year of our whatever 2012, religion has no place in politics. Separation of church and state people. Monsieur Tremblay believes so strongly that he is right that he is appealing a human rights case so that he can continue to recite a Christian prayer to open council meetings. The clip of him speaking with Bernard St. Laurent of the CBC was so racist and dripping with white, male privilege! Because Ms. Benhabib was not born in Canada, he believes she does not have any right to express an opinion on the subject. In his mind, he can’t go to Algeria and assert Christian supremacy so she should just accept Canada’s Christian values. He does say she is free to be a Muslim. Wow, big of him. I am sure she is very relieved that she can practice a religion in Canada!

I am not a big fan of organized religion. It has been used to keep the masses in line. So much has been done in the name of religion that it really boggles the mind. I have studied a fair bit of religious history and honestly I do not see any upside. I believe people can be spiritual but bowing down to an angry, punitive god is not on my agenda. Our society is growing increasingly secular which is a good thing. And don’t forget that Monsieur Tremblay’s brand of Christianity is Catholicism. This is a religion that does not want people thinking for themselves EVER! They are not even allowed to interpret the bible for themselves – they must rely on priests. They believe in transubstantiation whereby the priests can turn wine and bread into the blood and body of Christ.[3] Attendance at mass is down in most of the developed world perhaps due to the sheer number of children abused by pedophile priests, supported by the Vatican. Don’t even get me started on Benedict.


This lovely gem is fresh from the news today. I don’t even know what to say. I cannot believe that she and I inhabit the same planet. I don’t believe in capital punishment but if she is convicted of animal cruelty, I would flip the switch myself. I doubt I am alone in this one.

[1] Yes, it is frustrating to see people cheat the HOV system. Personally, I would rather focus on my driving than worry what others are doing.

[2] Commenting on her name on As it Happens last night, Monsieur Tremblay stated that it was ‘unpronounceable.’ Apparently in his world the only names acceptable are ones familiar to him. Privilege run amok here folks.

[3] Hello, critical thinking skills!

I have a confession to make

I am an atheist. I have been an atheist since about age 6. My mother decided we should go to church for some unknown reason. We went to the United Church and during the service we were sent to Sunday school. I hated Sunday school. I thought the woman teaching it was a snot and told us we all had to believe in God and Jesus if we wanted to be go to Heaven. I am sure I asked questions, many, many questions. She would also tell us that God knew everything that we were thinking and everything we did. I didn’t buy it. I just couldn’t fathom how this was possible. I felt the same way about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny but I digress. It was not easy having critical thinking skills as a 6-year old. Deb is positive that I must have made my mother mental. I probably did. There is nothing like a precocious kid to deal with on a daily basis.

The one thing I did like about going to church was the singing. I love singing. I think that year we were involved in the Christmas pageant. We sang Mary’s Boy Child and I loved it. However most of the hymns we sang that year were quite boring to me. After a while I no longer had to go to Sunday school and instead had to sit through the boring service. I was never good at sitting still.[1] Thankfully my mother’s commitment to church did not last long.

Sadly, my childhood religious education did not end there. My mother had a penchant for parking my sister and me with families to look after us so she could go away for the weekend. One of the families we stayed with were Italian and Catholic. My memories of staying there were sleeping in the basement with all these mozzarellas hanging from the ceiling and going to catholic mass every Sunday. I hated it. Half the time it was in Latin and I really didn’t understand what was going on. Another family we stayed were born again, evangelist Christians. These people scared the hell out of me. They insisted that we be ‘saved’ and that we attend the youth club. I was completely bored.

In my early twenties, I became involved in Wicca. I liked the idea of the nature fertility religion that was aligned the world around us. I loved the chanting and the energy it generated. I found met some great people, some of whom I am friends with to this day. It was a great time in my life.

In university, I discovered a passion for religious history. I loved learning about various religions and how they affected the settlement patterns of North America. I particularly enjoyed learning about fringe religious groups like the Anabaptists. Cults and Mormons fascinated me as well. However, what became clear to me in university was that religious belief and faith, while important to many people, did not bear up under empirical evidence.

I am finding as I grow older, I have less tolerance for religion in its various manifestations. Whether it is people saying things like ‘god bless you’ or religion causing war. I get even more incensed when I hear homophobia cast in religious belief; when people talk about god being offended by homosexuality. Today I ready something that completely incensed me. It was about vegan restaurateurs not wanting to kill rodents or insects in their establishments. One Buddhist woman said that giving her dog a flea bath and killing the fleas caused her to have anxiety attacks. So she applied a Buddhist teaching that said if you chanted “Om Mani Padmi Hung” as you killed the fleas then they would come back as human beings. What an absolutely ridiculous assertion.

I work very hard at keeping my opinions to myself. People who are religious get something out of it. Perhaps they need fellowship or someone to help them guide their lives. For many people, belief in something bigger themselves is really important. I just don’t get it.


[1] Come to think of it, I still don’t sit still well.

The Rapture

So today was supposed to be the ‘Rapture,’[1] according to Harold Camping, was going to roll across the world, starting in New Zealand, at 6 pm. He predicted cataclysmic earthquakes that would ravage the earth. Of course, as you all are reading this clearly the ‘Rapture’ has not occurred. This is not a big surprise to me. There have been all sorts of religious fundamentalists who predict the end of the world. In fact, Camping has done it twice and he has been wrong both times.

What causes people to believe in the end of the world?

There are many things that cause people to believe in and follow these kinds of religions and fundamentalist pastors. In order to believe in the possibility of a ‘Rapture’ one must have a strong belief in God and the bible. Generally these people do not bother to try to read and interpret the bible for themselves but they allow someone else to interpret it for them. This is a characteristic of Catholicism wherein the priest is not only the interpreter of the bible but also the vessel for transubstantiation.[2]

The allure of religious fellowship is very powerful for some people. While many educated people also believe heavily in fundamentalist Christian religions, it is my contention that many people involved in these religions lack critical thinking skills. People involved in these religions are deterred from asking questions or pointing out discrepancies.

There have been some religious sects that emerged in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. While many were just other sanctioned religious organizations[3], others like the ‘Anabaptists[4]’ also emerged. These groups took Luther’s beliefs further believing that they were able to interpret the bible for themselves and live life the way Christ would. The Anabaptist groups are mostly comprised of the Hutterites, Amish and Mennonites. Each group practices their faith slightly differently and with varying degrees of discipline for members.

Characteristics of Fundamentalist Christianity

Fundamentalism is not just limited to Christianity.  There are fundamentalist aspects to Judaism and Islam as well.  Generally, it is Christian fundamentalists[5] who predict things like an apocalypse or Rapture. In Christianity, it is protestant[6] faiths that most often have fundamentalist branches.

One of the primary characteristics of fundamentalist Christianity is the idea of being saved by Jesus. Most services would offer an opportunity for a ‘sinner’ to come up and be saved by Jesus. Members would then be encouraged to have a ‘personal relationship with Christ. The services use upbeat music to drive the congregants into a frenzy. Gesticulation and other movement is encouraged and often results in people ‘speaking in tongues.’[7] The preceding characteristics are mild in comparison to what can happen with these groups. Some groups demand even more from their parishioners. People have been known to give up their worldly property, money, families, jobs, homes and to slavishly follow a charismatic leader.

What are the alternatives?

People have a need for fellowship. We need deep and meaningful contact with other people. While organized religion can provide that fellowship, it is, in my opinion, based on a lie. The idea that there is a supreme being, a god, directing life on Earth is preposterous. There is no evidence that God exists, it is only in peoples’ minds.

Organized religion has been the cause of more wars and deaths than anything else. The root of terrorism, whether it is Islamic or Irish, is religion. We have been involved in Afghanistan, which is a war about religion. Most of what is going in the Middle East is caused by religion.[8]

I imagine a world without organized religion. Without religion we would not have the same degree of fundamentalism as we do today. The world would be a much more rational and safe place.

[1] Rapture defined by Wikipedia as: “In Christian eschatology, the Rapture is a reference to the Christians of the world will be gathered together in the air to meet Jesus Christ.”

[2] Transubstantiation – is the process whereby the wine and bread for the communion is transformed into the body and blood of Christ. Only ordained priests can be the conduit for transubstantiation.

[3] Churches like Anglicans, Lutherans, Zwingli, Calvinism

[4] Anabaptist means specifically re-baptized. Typically children are baptized and then re-baptized as adults if they choose to remain in the faith and community.

[5] Fundamentalist Christianity, also known as Christian fundamentalism, is defined by historian George M. Marsden as “militantly anti-modernist Protestantevangelicalism.” Via Wikipedia

[6] Protestantism began with the posting of the 95 theses on the door of the local church (all churches were Catholic at the time) disputing certain translations of the bible and how they should be interpreted.

[7] Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the fluid vocalizing (or, less commonly, the writing) of speech-like syllables, often as part of religious practice. Via Wikipedia.

[8] The other cause is oil. However, the two causes are inextricably linked.

Article of Faith

An elderly Sikh man had his beard cut off by a nurse in a care facility. The family states that he was so upset by having his beard shorn that he stopped eating and died. The Fraser Health Authority has apologized for the incident and promises that there will be cultural education.

In my opinion, the Fraser Health Authority is acting in a ‘Canadian’ way. Words about understanding different religious and cultural issues are in the forefront. Contrast this reaction with the proposed legislation in Quebec that I blogged about yesterday. I wonder what is at the root of this different reaction.

I think the fact that it is a woman in Quebec and men in BC is a salient point. It would seem that people accept the religious expression of men more readily than the same expression by women. If a man makes a decision to be a conservative Sikh and not cut any bodily hair his decision is respected at face value. Women wearing the niqab or the burka are not respected in the same manner. It is assumed that these women did not come to this decision on their own as there is a belief that no woman would want to cover themselves in that way. Many feminists believe that these women are being forced into these garments. While that may be the case for some reasons we still must respect the beliefs of women.

As It Happens had an update tonight on the story last night. They interviewed a niqab wearing woman who, in spite of her religious beliefs has an earned a degree. She had plans to go back to school but now she was not sure. She described what happens when someone needed to confirm her identity. If it was not possible to have a woman do it, she had no problem allowing a man to confirm her identity. She further indicated that other women would behave similarly. She mad an interesting point comparing the Quebec government to oppressive regimes that deny women access to education. Denial of education is what will happen, in the province of Quebec, if this legislation is passed.