You’re Not As Profound As You Think You Are

vague quote

I swear that if I see that video one more time of that dude talking about airplanes rusting on the ground and Martin Luther King not having a dream but the dream having him I am going to fucking scream.

For those who do not know what I’m talking about – the video is called ‘Everybody dies, but not everybody lives’ and it’s from American rapper Price EA who has a whole series of so-called motivational and inspirational videos and is better than everyone else.

Here is the video in question:

“What’s wrong, Hayley?” you might ask. “That’s pretty inspirational and true and-” shut the fuck up, dear reader. This is not inspirational – it is bossy and presumptive and actually pretty fucking rude.

Is it the sea and death by drowning?
Are those things the sea and death by drowning?

I want people to stop telling me how to live my life as though they have their shit completely sorted out and together.

Literally. Stop. Preaching. At. Me.

I don’t know about you (and I wouldn’t presume to either) but inspirational quotes and speeches that tell me what to do really wind me up.

‘We only regret the chances we didn’t take’ 

I’ve watched Disney’s The Lion King several times and there’s a lyric that says “There’s more to see than can ever be seen, More to do than can ever be done …” and it’s true. We are going to die having not done things that we wish we had but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It’s just the circle of life, and it moves us all, Through despair and hope, Through-

-what I’m trying to say is that life shouldn’t be a list of accomplishments. Things you should do before you’re 30, 40, 50… fuck that. Existence isn’t about being like everyone else – we don’t all have the same dreams and if you don’t do what everyone else is doing that isn’t a failure. If you’re not happy that isn’t a failure. If you’re not a good christian or a moral atheist that isn’t a failure. Do you see the pattern emerging here?

Fuck off, hipster scum
Fuck off, hipster scum

Other people don’t get to hold the threat of feeling like a failure on your deathbed over you to “motivate” you into improving your life.

Nobody has their shit more together than anyone else. This is all a big lie. We’re all worried that we’re not reaching our potential but the fact is that none of us really know what our potential is supposed to be. We just do what we do and hope that it’s enough.

In the age of social media it’s easy to present ourselves as people who have our shit together. Look at my perfect fucking life, look at the smiles, at these wild flowers I carelessly threw into a glass jar because I’m so grounded with my place in the universe. But these personas we present aren’t really us. They’re the best versions of ourselves that we present to other people who then think “oh shit, I need to try harder.”

Everyone is a sheep but you, right?
What if I want to be bran flakes though?

Our Instagram feeds are our electric sheep. We’re all trying to keep up with the Smiths next door who themselves aren’t even who they appear to be while punishing ourselves by not being the people we present to the world.

I personally think life is about finding what you like and just doing it. Some days I want to travel and experience new things, other days I just want to sit and watch daytime television, or watch DVDs of my favourite movies while drinking whisky. Sometimes I just want to sit down and play Minecraft or read a book.

On occasion I’ve done the things I want to do and have felt this doubt that I should be doing more creeping into the back of my head and it pisses me off that other people have made me feel that way with their pseudo-inspirational lectures when they have no fucking right.

It also really irks me when celebrities tell us “be who you are, do what you want to do” as though they aren’t putting on a front themselves. As though their celebrity status makes them an authority. As though their fame wasn’t brought about by a chance encounter thousands of others failed to have.

And don’t get me started on companies who invade our space with their instructions which we’re supposed to be warmed by: “just do it”. No. No I will not.

I was an ugly baby, though.
I was an ugly baby, though.

I’ve grown up with advertisers telling me that we’re all beautiful and to not worry about beauty standards but there’s an irony in there somewhere because we’re not all beautiful and that’s okay because you don’t have to be beautiful. If a company tells you that you’re pretty while simultaneously trying to sell you something to disguise your naturally occurring appearance they don’t think you’re pretty.

Fuck them.

And fuck the people who tell me how to live without being asked for their opinion because this shit is not inspiring, it’s not empowering, it’s not lovely – it’s patronising and false and harmful.

Look – just do what the fuck you want, and if that means doing nothing, then so fucking be it.

 

Take Action: Don’t Criminalise Sex-Selective Abortion

trojan horse graphic

I don’t know whether or not I would have an abortion and I don’t know if I would have an abortion based upon predicted gender. I’ve never been in that position and I’ve never had to make that choice. Perhaps I wouldn’t care either way what gender my child was? Either way, I’m not egotistical enough to think that other people should live their lives just as I live mine and that’s why I’m pro-choice.

Fiona Bruce MP & chairwoman All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group has proposed an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill which aims to make abortion on the grounds of gender a specific criminal offence, a move that has been dubbed a ‘trojan horse attack’ by Abortion Rights who have today called upon their supporters to urge their MPs to vote against the amendment.

‘It might appear to be pro-women but its purpose is to reduce reproductive rights. This amendment is nothing more than an anti-abortion campaign tactic. Designed to impinge upon a much-fought-for choice.’ Abortion Rights

trojan horse graphic

An open letter from a group of medical professionals and academics was recently published in the Telegraph outlining the significant legal concerns of this move. Concerns included that it is likely to undermine professional integrity, lead to ethnic profiling and alter the UK’s legal definition of pregnancy.

The letter also rightly points out that MPs should seriously consider if they want to take that step, particularly when there already exists legislation that already makes it illegal to coerce a woman into having an abortion. This is, after all, the issue that seems to be at the centre of Bruce’s campaign to push for the amendment, that she is acting in the best interest of women being preyed upon by the bad abortion people. It’s awfully deceptive.

To add your voice to the fight to stop this amendment visit the Abortion Rights website today. You just need to enter your postcode, a few details and you can then send a pre-written letter to your MP asking them to vote against the pro-life amendment. Alternatively find your MP and their contact details by looking on They Work For You and write to them about your concerns. The vote for the Report Stage of this bill and amendment is Monday 9 February 2015.

 

Whatever floats your godless boat

paper boats

I am non-religious. I always have been despite the best efforts of a Church of England Primary School, and those two or so years I spent in the company of Spiritualist friends, seduced by their ideas of an afterlife. I’m a happy non-religious, non-worshiping, atheist human being with as much good as bad to my name.

When I turned my back on tempting religious ideas I didn’t find it a struggle and I know that I am fortunate because of this. I know that many people are isolated, excluded and cast out when they doubt religious teachings. For some, identifying as an atheist is a life changing event – sometimes even a life endangering event. I think it’s important not to judge people who approach their atheism in different ways than I do, but sometimes it’s difficult. Sometimes other atheists make it difficult.

When Sunday Assembly became a thing, and when it’s popularity soared, it made me feel uncomfortable. For as long as I have been open about my atheism I have been questioned about my ethics and morals and what I live for. The person that I am is the person I became without religion and I am proud of that. I have personally never needed church and, in some ways, find the concept of belonging to a church congregation – being a part of a ‘flock’ – creepy as fuck.

I have read horror story after horror story from friends about the awful things they had to endure growing up in families who heavily relied on the church, and I vowed to myself long ago to never take the good and ignore the bad. The sense of belonging offered by the church must be lovely, and the giving-back-to-the-community aspect is nice and all – but can that good ever erase the terrible? No.

When I encounter people on the streets offering to pray away cancer, aids, crippling disease and more… or trying to entice people to join their congregation and speak in tongues I feel angry and disgusted. There is nothing appealing about organised religion and it’s traditions for me, and that includes church congregations – even parody, feel-good, ‘we all love the universe‘ ones.

I don’t believe in any gods, but I do believe in humanity. Unlike gods, humanity isn’t perfect and has never claimed to be. That’s why I like it. When tragedies occur I am always moved by the selfless acts of people who run towards the danger to help those in need. When there is a natural disaster, a famine or some other global crisis, I am moved by the generosity of those who don’t have much to give. When I do my food shopping I am moved when I see the basket at the front of the store collecting food for the local Food Bank always overflowing onto the floor with donations.

I get the need to belong. I’ve tried belonging to atheist and secular organiations but they never felt enough, or they tried too hard, or didn’t represent atheism in the way that I identified as being non-religious. After spending so long trying to find belonging I realised that to do so I needed to look away from organisations and just live.

I’m an old-fashioned atheist. I’ve never needed my atheism to make friends or to feel a sense of belonging or meaning, even though for a little while I thought the opposite. I am not defined by what I do or do not believe in. I don’t feel a desire or need to congregate with others on a Sunday morning and give thanks or to celebrate life. I celebrate it every day, and I get meaning from the people around me, and music, theatre, art, the cinema, a good book, writing, my job, going for coffee, libraries, museums, my community, learning new skills and many, many more things.

I have never felt the need to clap, dance or sing about these things that are touching and moving and inspire me.  It doesn’t seem satisfying enough, and I have heard people sneer one too many times at the atheists ‘who need church after all’. I don’t.

Yet, some atheists need church, and as mind boggling as that is to me, and as physically uncomfortable as it makes me, I understand that. Whatever floats your boat, right? Leaving religion is difficult. I understand the need for a support network for those who have started to doubt their religious teachings, or those feeling isolated or lost after leaving their religion. I just hope, deep down, that one day that celebration of what we are, and that sense of meaning, belonging and wonder can be found away from religious traditions – secular or not.

paper boats

The Other Side & The End

Pic: death

Many people are fine to live their whole lives treating death as a catalyst to a potential next step for their existence, some people decide early on that when you die that’s it. All done. No encore. Others believe in the existence of an afterlife in one form or another.

One thing I have learnt over time is that whatever you believe when you start to research ghosts you will at some point question it. What the conclusion of that questioning is depends on you individually, but it happens because of the people you deal with in your research. You will deal with the thoughts, fear and consequences of death nearly every single day and it will become something that is no longer taboo for you. The negative thing about this is that the people you interact with who aren’t involved in paranormal research are less likely to be that relaxed about death and will seek comfort and answers from you.

I’m not able to offer these people the answers they are looking for as I don’t know what happens at the moment of death as I’ve never died. I can only offer my personal opinions based on the best understanding that we have on what happens to the body when the brain dies. Being put in the earth to decompose seems a fine end to life – being comitted to the very Earth that sustained you in your life. However it’s very rare that anybody takes comfort from my thoughts on death.

It seems mystery makes the inevitable easier to stomach. I also think it has a lot to with why ghost hunters are so keen to look for the ghost rather than the logical cause for activity, until one accepts how insignificant life really is then one cannot appreciate how delicate it is – how superb and wonderful life is. For as long as people continue to believe in their hearts and minds that there is more than just this they will search for the proof of that.

I know this from personal experience because I used to take great comfort from the idea that those I loved who had died were still nearby on ‘the other side’ of whatever it is that is supposed to divide the living from the dead – the astral plane, the spirtual portal, or the whole host of other names people have given to such an idea over time. I believed that I too would one day pass over into that existence and would meet them again.

However, in my early twenties (yes, I know I’m only twenty-four) I started exploring my views on religion and humanity and I realised I was Atheist and also identified as a humanist, it became apparent to me that the spiritual beliefs I used to hold were actually quite manky.

I no longer take comfort from the idea that my dead gran is on ‘the other side’ where she is ‘always near’. In fact I find that idea horrifying, my gran stuck in a place where she can see and hear all of her relatives that survived her going about their business as usual without being able to interact with them. What sort of continued existence is that?

My belief in the other side was purely selfish and I think it’s quite sad that people live every day of their lives believing that they will survive as spirits or astral beings because it gives them a false sense of time. In my spiritual days I would often quote Peter Pan; “To die would be an awfully big adventure”, but I came to realise years ago that it’s not death that is the adventure, it’s life – death is simply The End.

Conversations with a London pro-lifer

40 Days For Life - London

Their aim is an end to abortion throughout the UK and they plan to make this happen through peaceful prayer. Their name is ’40Days For Life- London’ and their next campaign is kicking off in a weeks time in London.According to their website:

“From March 9th 2011 – April 17th 2011 our community will be one of many cities joining together for the largest and longest coordinated pro-life mobilization in history.”

40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life effort that consists of 40 days of prayer and fasting, 40 days of peaceful vigil, 40 days of community outreach. We are praying that, with God’s help, this groundbreaking effort will mark the beginning of the end of abortion in our city — and throughout the UK.

40 Days For Life – London

At first it seems like a harmless protest, they’re entitled to speak out about their beliefs, right? Besides, they’re not being viscious and abusive as the pro-life movement in the US is known to often be. However, as March 9th draws closer I have a cold and terrible concern that has been growing in the back of my mind. The very fact that these people are going to be on the streets with their peaceful protest brings me more fear than the idea of the violent protesters being out there in their place.

It’s all because of a conversation I had with the leader of the London branch of ’40 Days for Life’ last year. I got in touch with him after the Daily Mail ran an article about them entitled: The new abortion war; Doctors murdered… clinics firebombed. Could Britain follow in the steps of the militant U.S ‘pro-lifers’?

At the time I hadn’t known they were in the UK and it surprised me that pro-lifers were so active in this country. The title of the article had shocked me as I knew the extent of the violent ‘pro-life’ protests in the US and I couldn’t imagine such a thing coming to the UK.

The Daily Mail article reported that the British organiser of ’40 days for life’ (which is widespread in the US already) is Robert Colquhoun who is 28 and trained for the priesthood but now works in finance in the City. The Daily Mail said:

Robert paid about £280 for a ‘starter protest kit’ that he bought on the internet from 40 Days’ head office in America.

‘It’s a brilliant idea,’ he says. ‘They give you the best training I’ve ever had. It’s all online and really clever. And then they send the basic resources — the big banner and the signs — and you adapt them to the local campaign. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. We need to get the message across here.’

In return, he’s provided regular updates to the 40 Days HQ in Texas. ‘They’re very interested in how it all works in the UK and how the ­campaign’s been going in London, so we’ve been feeding all our findings back to them and they seem really pleased. The group’s grown exponentially in America, so we’re hoping it will take off here.

‘We’re hoping for at least 1,500 local volunteers by Lent. This is just the beginning — we have so much to learn from America.’

The last part of that quote scared me very much indeed as he didn’t elaborate on what he meant by ‘so much to learn from America’. Would that be how to firebomb clinics and kill people? How best to use placards with dead babies on them to shock people arriving at abortion clinics? How much did the London branch of 40 days want to learn from pro-lifers in America?

Being the proud skeptically minded person that I am, there was no way I could simply take the Daily Mail’s word as fact so I did what anyone should do, and I contacted Robert directly who very kindly answered most of the questions I had about their campaign, their aims and their beliefs.

As I have said above, I was aware of the ‘pro-life’ movement and protests in the US, but it was always something I only knew a bit about as it had never been something I had to deal with on a local level. London isn’t local for me, but it’s a bit closer than America (if that makes sense).

My knowledge of the way in which pro-lifers justify their actions wasn’t top notch and so for me, this was a great way to really understand the people behind the scary Daily Mail headline that suggested that Pro-lifer activists could already be in the UK.

What follows is my conversation with the leader of the London branch of ’40 days for life’:

Hayley: Thank you for sparing me some of your time, I appreciate you are busy with your campaign. In the Daily Mail article there is a link between breast cancer and abortion mentioned that suggests abortion can increase the risk of cancer. I was wondering where the link with breast cancer comes into play as I saw that many cancer charities deny such a link.#

I was also wondering how exactly abortion was a sin? I saw in the article “We don’t love sin, we love the sinner” but I don’t understand how abortion is a seven sin. Also, do you not feel that making abortion illegal or less accessible, girls and women will still abort in “back street abortion clinics” which can seriously harm them?

Robert: Abortion is a sin because it is the deliberate ending of the life of an unborn child. This is contrary to the will of God. Since abortion has been legalised, it has grown exponentially and has been encouraged throughout.

We encourage people of faith and conscience to pray and fast for an end to abortion. So far six women have changed their minds about having an abortion as a result of our initiative and we have helped to build a growing consciousness about the humanity of the unborn child.

Hayley: You say “Abortion is a sin because it is the deliberate ending of the life of an unborn child. This is contrary to the will of God” but does God not order people in the bible to kill children – and does he not, himself, kill children?

Whoever strikes his father or mother shall be put to death. (Exodus 21:15 NAB)

From there Elisha went up to Bethel.  While he was on his way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him.  “Go up baldhead,” they shouted, “go up baldhead!”  The prophet turned and saw them, and he cursed them in the name of the Lord.  Then two shebears came out of the woods and tore forty two of the children to pieces. (2 Kings 2:23-24 NAB)*

Please tell me why your God feels it is okay to murder children, but it is not okay to “murder” unborn children?

Robert: The Old Testament passages you have used are out of context from their true meaning.** The most important passage is from the Old Testament 10 commandments: You shall not kill. Abortion in fact violates all the ten commandments:

If you’ve had an abortion yourself- there is wonderful hope and healing available from this ministry that I highly recommend as truly excellent. <a link was provided via email>

Hayley: You say that six women changed their minds about having an abortion. Were they Christian? If not, do your campaigners have any right to tell other people how to live their lives? Isn’t it a bit arrogant of anyone to presume they can dictate wrong and right to another human?

Robert: Those who changed their minds were from a variety of different backgrounds. Many of them did not know that there were people who were willing to help them with many practical needs which were the primary reasons that they were having abortions. They all felt as if they had no choice but have an abortion.  We do not impose, merely propose an offer of unconditional help to those in need.

In terms of dictating right or wrong to other humans: that is what the law does by giving a list of laws by which society is governed. No laws would equal anarchy. In the case where the law in an injustice, a further difficulty arises.

Hayley: I was worried because I read in the Daily Mail article that somebody involved with 40 days in London feels that the methods used in America to campaign and target people attending abortion clinics need to be used in England too. What was meant by that? Some of the campaigning in the US is dangerous and violent and has led to murder.

Robert: The Daily Mail article was extremely misleading because only peaceful and prayerful means are used in our campaigns.

Hayley: What do your protest entail? For example, do you use graphic images on placards like in the US?

Robert: we have a prayer vigil for 12 hours a day: we have signs saying ‘pray to end abortion’ but no pictures of aborted babies as we don’t think that it is effective of pastorally effective to do that in that context.***

Hayley: Do the protesters really have the right to condemn women to a lifetime of raising a child they didn’t want? I know they may grow to love the child and that is great! However, you don’t know what led them to that clinic, what their backgrounds are, why they chose to abort the baby due to their backgrounds, positions, lifestyles. How can you be sure that you aren’t condeming a child to a terrible life?

Do you follow up with those women to ensure they are okay? Or do you just send them on their way?

Robert: We have a prayer vigil, not a protest. We don’t condemn or judge anyone, merely pray and offer help to those in need.

We offer counselling and help so they are not just sent on their way, so many have been helped thanks to our presence. To learn more about what abortion really is, visit: <link provided to me is available on request due to the graphic nature>

Hayley: But will the banning of abortion not result in women just seeking abortions elsewhere? We’ve seen that happen in the past. Backstreet abortions are dangerous and potentially fatal. Is that okay with you? That you could be condemming women to dance with death in order to live their life how they wish to live it?

Robert: We are not mainly interested in changing the law, but praying for an end to abortion.

Hayley: Do you not think that by protesting abortion you are actually infringing the human rights of the very women being labelled as ‘murderers’? I know people believe they are protecting the human rights of the unborn child and there is a lot of debate regarding the stage at which abortion becomes ‘murder’ but when is it ever okay to disregard one persons human rights for anothers? I don’t think it ever is. #

This is where the conversation ends.

The claim that six women had their minds changed by the campaigners is what worries me the most about the peaceful protests that are kicking off on March 8th. The ’40 days for life’ campaigners have no right to tell a woman what to do with her body, and they have no right to try and change a womans mind. I would also question whether they have the training or qualifications to deal with people who may be in a fragile state of mind.

I accept that the claim made by Robert is that the women in question were made aware of the fact that there were alternatives and that there was support they could get.

However, this happens anyway when you speak to your doctor about being referred for an abortion and when you visit a private abortion clinic.

A doctor is more likely to be able to give somebody access to suitable resources and the correct advice for their situation than a religious stranger on the street.

Peaceful protests or not, pushing your own beliefs onto others at a very difficult time in their lives in fundamentally wrong. Not only that though, threatening them with damnation from your god is cruel.

Beware London, 40 days for life are coming.

# No answer provided for the questions about the link to breast cancer as spoken about by ’40 days’ campaign members and no answer provided regarding the potential for human rights infringement.
*I’m sure some will say that I have quote minded or cherry picked these bible quotes, however, there are many instances of children being murdered by the will of god. I just chose two I was aware of.
** I’m not sure how one can take the story of children being killed at the will of god out of context, but hey ho…
***but providing such graphic pictures and videos is alright in an email to a woman you don’t know, apparently?