More thoughts on atheism, podcasts and enjoyable TV shows

In the Netflix original show The Baby-Sitters Club, one thing that’s stood out to me so far, is how Stacey, one of the baby-sitters in the BSC, is anxious about telling the other babysitters in the BSC that she’s diabetic. She’s created a story in her own mind where she’s convinced herself that her new friends will want nothing to Do with her anymore, if she shares this secret of hers with them. But thankfully, she does decide to tell the other BSC members about this part of herself…and none of them are unkind to her about it. I loved these scenes of this show, as the creators did a great job of representing how it can truly feel like you may be alienated from your friends, if you are a sick person who thinks that their friends are all healthy. I’ve definitely felt scared in my own life, to talk about my health issues to people, from medical professionals, to strangers, to friends and other loved ones. So seeing this so accurately portrayed in this show, was a huge victory, in my eyes.

And something else that’s stood out to me in Netflix’s version of The BSC, is that there’s at least one transgender character in the show. One of the little girls that’s babysat by the BSC members, shows one of the group members their current style of dressing and their old style of dressing. And then a bit later on in the show, the little girl gets a high fever. So the same babysitter takes the little girl to a hospital to find out if the medical staff there can do something to help her get better. And the hospital staff ends up misgendering the little girl, not only in the way they speak about her but also by giving her a gown to wear that’s a color that’s typically associated with boys. So after these things had taken place, the babysitter who was still with the little girl, had a private conversation with the hospital staff about how the little kid was a girl, not a boy. Even though I’m not transgender myself, I was glad to see that trans individuals were given representation. Being visible is important, no matter what minority group someone is a part of.

In a recent episode of the TED Radio Hour podcast hosted by Manoush Zomorodi, the subject was about how different types of resources can change so that people feel supported rather than demeaned. And one example that stood out to me in this show, talked about how adults shouldn’t be held accountable for bad things that they’d done when they were children. A story that was used to help illustrate this idea, was one in which a child had stolen shoes from other kids that they’d known. And one of the grownups who worked at the school that these kids were students at, encouraged each child to individually be honest about their story of how this particular thing had actually happened. And the kid who’d stolen shoes from another kid, told everyone involved that their family was financially having hard times…and that they (the kid who’d stolen another kid’s shoes) felt responsible for doing what they could to fix their family’s shitty situation. And so surprisingly, instead of being made to go to prison,, the kid who’d committed this crime was told that they could essentially start things from square one at this school, if they could be sure that they wouldn’t commit any crimes in the future. It was really a fabulous story of an adult showing compassion to a child who needed compassion then, more than anything else in the world.

Another story in this episode of TED Radio Hour that stood out to me, was a discussion about how many libraries are rethinking the way that they operate. So, this discussion was lead by someone who worked as a librarian themselves, and how they started questioning why many libraries charge people late fees for books. This librarian was perceptive enough to realize that in libraries charging folks late fees, libraries were in turn limiting book access to people. And so, that’s how the discussion gets started about libraries doing away with fines altogether. And TBH, I wholeheartedly agree with that stance, as I’m someone who wouldn’t know what to do, if I didn’t have access to books, myself.

Speaking of having access to books, I thought it would be neat for me to write about my journey when it comes to Braille or audio books. I know I’ve said several times before, that I’d much rather read books using Braille than listening to audio books. But that being said, if books are read by their actual authors, then they’re typically much more enjoyable. But that being said, I’ve been registered with Libraries for the Blind ever since I was a kid, if my memory serves correctly. And thankfully, before Libraries for the Blind were a part of my world, I’d get Braille-print books from a company called Seedlings Braille Books for Children. The books from Seedlings were in both print and Braille so that if I wanted an able-bodied sighted person to read with me, they could easily do so. But fast-forwarding until two and a half years ago, I’ve had access to Bookshare, another book reading resource. And actually, I’ve had access to Bookshare at least a few different times in my life, when I was a student at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) and even when I was going to community colleges in Texas. And I have access to Bookshare again now, as my state-run Library for the Blind pays for me to have a Bookshare membership. And quite frankly, Bookshare is the best resource out there, in terms of blind or visually impaired folks having access to tons and tons of books for free. Hell, the textbook as well as the required reading for my American Sign Language (ASL) class were even on Bookshare. So needless to say, Bookshare has really opened up this bookworm’s world!!!

In an episode of the This American Life podcast, the show’s host Ira Glass and others told stories about how Detroit Michigan as a community of people, had responded to Covid 19. And some of the stories that were told in this episode, highlighted hospital personnel specifically. So for example, some of the folks who were studying to be doctors talked about how they felt they’d be traumatized from this pandemic. Other hospital professionals who’d regularly been treating Covid 19 patients talked about how the only way that they could reliably cope with the amount of death they’ve been seeing, was to disconnect from their work happenings altogether, once they’d left their job for whichever shift they’d been on. And yet another story that was told by a hospital nurse, talked about how a patient she’d had who didn’t understand what had happened in their life, learned about having Covid 19 because this nurse used the world’s current technology to connect this patient with at least one family member of theirs. But sadly, this particular story didn’t have a happy ending; this patient’s family member that they’d been able to connect with through today’s technology, died from having Covid 19 themselves. And yet there were numerous other stories about other patients trying to survive through this awful pandemic. But sadly, many of these folks died from it, due to the awful ways in which the United States president has been and continues to run this country.

In another episode of This American Life, Ira Glass and others told a story about a car dealership. And quite frankly, cars are not my thing; but that being said, I gave this episode a chance. And ultimately it turned out to be at least a little bit better than I’d expected it to be. Because there were a few car salesmen who worked at this particular dealership, who had different sales tactics from one another. One of the employees played along with customers that they’d talk to, with the intention of making their customers believe that they (the customers) had the ultimate say in whatever the outcome was, in terms of them buying a vehicle or not buying a vehicle. I thought that this car salesman’s way of getting buyers for the vehicles he wanted to sell was creative; I doubt I would’ve thought of doing things as this guy did. And yet there was another car salesman who worked at this dealership, who’d often get sternly talked to by the bigwigs at the company, as he seemed to be very chill…and just did the minimum amount of stuff that he could. He seemed to understand that the fact he was treated this way, was just part of this job, especially given the fact that he’s someone who’d been retired, prior to having this particular job. But there was also a car salesman who worked at this dealership, who understood that he was only competing against himself. I have a similar way of living as this man does, in that it’s easy for me to not compare myself to others, because life is not about taking things away from anyone. It’s about helping each other shine, at whatever it is that we are great at. So all in all, listening to this episode of This American Life made me glad that I’m not in these folks’ position of being a salesperson. I would totally hate having that kinda job, myself.

Something in The Way of the Heathen that stands out to me, is how its author Greta Christina points out that just because many atheists have continually heard the same arguments about atheism, that doesn’t mean that religious folks are also used to hearing those beliefs. This particular thing was interesting food for thought for me because I hadn’t ever specifically thought of this possibility. But that being said, I do see how it could be true. And honestly, this can sort of be related to the way able-bodied folks react when they’re forced to interact with someone who has a disability. Like, even though I as a disabled person have years and years of living with disabilities, that doesn’t mean that every sighted person I encounter has that same knowledge or even my same way of thinking about those of us with disabilities. And in fact, one reason why I decided to create this public blog, was so that I could do my part to make people aware of the misconceptions society tends to have about disabled folks. Because being that I have multiple disabilities myself, along with multiple chronic health issues, these things all signify that I have a unique voice as a part of this movement of people who are doing their part to move closer towards living in a more equal and just world.

Also in this book, Greta Christina compares being a sex positive individual to many human beings love of music. While music itself doesn’t cause people pain, sex acts do/could physically be painful to people. And the thing is, sometimes folks want to be spanked repeatedly in scenes that they create with others. But yet other people like to cause people pain; consensually, of course. And still even other folks like myself, are not into causing anyone pain, nor am I into receiving pain via others. But at the same time, I understandand accept that there are tons and tons of folks in the world who like very different music than me. And that’s great!! I have no desire to try to make anyone like music that doesn’t jive with them. Similarly, I know that there are human beings who enjoy very different sex than I do. That’s lovely; I wouldn’t want to take others pleasures away from them. And so, I say these things because Greta Christina’s analogy of comparing music to sex positivity is perfect. It’s perfect because no one becomes infuriated when they find out that a new friend or a potential love interest of theirs can’t stand the same kind of music as them. Each person may be momentarily disappointed that they don’t share love for the same genre of music; but then they move on and are still hopefully able to find common ground with each other. Well, I agree with Greta Christina’s view that we human beings should treat sex the same way: people have different sexual preferences from one another. There’s no need for anyone to become irate, just because their love interests have different sexual preferences than they do. But all that being said, I doubt that we’ll see the way that society thinks about these things shift. At least, that is unlikely to happen, in my lifetime.

Something else in this book that’s made me think, is Greta Christina’s writing on the concept of soulmates. This made me think because even as an atheist, I’ve just always thought of the term “soulmates” as a non-religious thing. But Greta Christina talks about how in order for people to believe in the existence of soulmates, those people would have to believe in the actual existence of souls. And then not only that, but people who believe in souls would also have to believe that there is a creator who literally makes people perfect for one another. And I definitely don’t believe that that is true; I don’t believe that there is something bigger than me in the world, that controls everything that happens in the universe.

Yet another thing that this book has encouraged me to think about, is the concept of gratitude when people are atheists. Greta Christina tells a story in this book about how she and others were at an atheist-specific conference and how most people in attendance discussed being thankful to the universe for the lives that they have. But there was one atheist at this conference who brought up some food for thought which was this idea that we cannot actually thank the universe for anything, because the universe is not some type of being. The universe simply exists, just as we human beings exist. And also within this same story of Greta Christina’s, she (Christina) poses the question of whether it’s even OK for us human beings to even say that we’re grateful, as the word “grateful” typically has a religiously-oriented/spiritually-oriented subtext within it. So needless to say, this is something that I definitely want to think more about.

In this particular book, Greta Christina also discusses how she saw adulthood as a child and how she sees adulthood now that she’s an adult herself. And that particular discussion resonated with me, as I’ve viewed adulthood similarly to her, as a little girl and as an adult myself. What I mean by that, is that when I was a little girl, I thought grownups had literally all of the answers about life. As a kid, I also saw being an adult as something that would make people miserable. My little girl self made the assessment that being an adult meant that grownups had their freedom taken away from them. And so for years, even as I’ve become an adult myself, I mostly thought that I had no control of my life. For years as an adult, I’ve mostly saw life as something that happened to me; and I was also miserable because I’d had numerous toxic individuals in my life, for much of my life. But the thing was, once I learned that these perceptions of mine were not true, my world completely opened up!! And even though this particular thing has only shifted for me just a few short years ago, living as a grownup has felt amazing to me. And as I’ve said numerous times before, I wouldn’t want things to be any other way. My life is truly mine now, and I hope that other human beings have that same realization about their lives: that they can write their individual stories however the fuck they want to!!

I recently heard someone say something along the lines of “I do things for people because I know that God will reward me for those things, in the end.” And that got me thinking to myself how as an atheist, I do things either because I know they’re right for me, or because I know that they’d help other individuals. I also do things because I know that this life is literally the only life that I, that other human beings, have. I don’t need the thought of an invisible sky daddy hanging over my head, supposedly judging my every action that he, she, it, doesn’t believe is moral. Also as an atheist, I don’t need the thought of a fiery place called Hell, where folks go who this invisible skydaddy has determined are evil, for one reason or another. Such stories have existed for years and years, but that doesn’t mean that they represent reality. Many parents and significant others abuse people, but that does not make the abusers right. Many people believe that Covid 19, climate change and global warming, are all made up stories. The fact that people believe that about these things though, does not signify that these people are correct in such thinking. Many churches cover up the truth that preachers, ministers, whatever you want to call them, have inappropriate relationships with kids; but those coverups don’t mean that it’s justified for these people to sweep this under the rug. My point in saying all this though, is to illustrate that belief alone is not what creates truth. An honest examination of what evidence there is about climate change, global warming and Covid 19 all being very real things, can lead folks to the right answer: that all of these things are not make-believe stories.

I’ve been talking about my atheism here on my blog a lot lately, not just because I’ve been reading books that are making me think deeply about it, but also because it’s an important part of my life that I don’t talk much about. Because the reality is that in my offline life, it’s most important to me to maintain the relationships that I have with people. And considering that where I’ve lived for the past couple years is super conservative, many folks here are religious, at least to some extent. And so that being said, I’ve thought long and hard about whether my entire life goal is to be a loudmouth atheist who alienates herself from most people…or whether it’s important to me to prioritize the myriads of other ways in which I deeply connect with other human beings. And ultimately, as I’ve said, I love the numerous ways that I connect with others…and so that’s what I primarily focus on. And as I continue to evolve, this current focus of mine may change. Because I don’t know exactly what my future holds, in terms of who I’ll meet and how the different relationships I have will play out. And TBH, that’s incredibly comforting: to think that my world is open now more than it’s literally ever been, and to be open-hearted about literally everything, brings me a joy that I can’t quite put into words.