There Are No Foxes in Atheist Holes

I read an absolutely fascinating and terrifically-written article today:

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/28/my-faith-what-people-talk-about-before-they-die/

First of all, this lady is my new favorite chaplain.  To be fair, I didn’t have a favorite chaplain before this, just a favorite Chaplin.  But now I have a favorite chaplain, and it’s her.  Her absolute compassion and humanity shine through in this article, and I truly wish that more people were this thoughtful about their faith.  But aside from the inspiration I drew from the article, I also reflected on a most-likely-unintentional point that Ms. Egan (if there’s a more proper title for a chaplain, feel free to inform me) made here.

One popular fallback of the self-righteously religious is the oft-heard phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

Before going on, I’d like to direct everyone to http://militaryatheists.org/, where you can learn all about the many, many atheists serving in our military.

This phrase is always invoked to get the stubborn atheist-on-the-street to realize that, in the direst circumstances, they’ll figure out that they really believed in a god all along.  The general myth seems to be that in our last moments, everyone abandons the convictions they held in life (no matter how important they were) and embraces Jesus.  I say Jesus, because I’ve never once heard this tripe from a non-Christian (which may just have to do with my geographic location).  So what I find amazing about Ms. Egan’s experience is that it not only shatters the myth of the repentant atheist, it turns the myth on its head and makes it do a little dance.  We don’t have any images of atheists breaking down in tears and realizing that they’ve wasted so much of their life fighting the inevitable acceptance of a personal lord and savior.  Instead, we find a much different narrative: the faithful on their deathbeds looking to the earthly and very tangible loves that they’ll be leaving behind.

I think it’s truly beautiful how Egan ties this narrative in to her idea of a god, and I completely respect her faith.  And one of the reasons I respect it so much is that it makes her god very real, in the way that matters most.  She doesn’t care if everyone shares the exact same ideas she does, nor does she seem to care if we all interpret a very old book the same way she does.  Instead, she finds her god in the common experience of love and human bonding that we all share.

And I don’t have any problem with that god.

Up next: Dolphins, friend or foe?  Tonight at 11.

Whales, Mermaids and Bullshit

So most people have probably seen this post going around Facebook.  If you haven’t, here it is:

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: “How amazing am I ?! “

So this story has been circulated for a couple of years, and I’m guessing that it’s probably completely fabricated.  For some reason it’s become ultra-popular this time around, probably due to the picture of Tara Lynn that’s being posted with it.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that the story is just as shallow and judgmental as the media it claims to criticize.  Now, let’s get one thing really, really, really, really, really clear: there is nothing wrong with bigger girls (or guys, for that matter).  But there isn’t anything wrong with skinny girls (or guys) either.  The entire point of this maybe-fictitious rant is to put down one group of people in order to make another group feel better about themselves.  And it says far more about the person who wrote it than it does about the people they’re attacking.

The real message that should be getting around to women and men of all sizes is “Different strokes for different folks.”  It’s that simple.  Someone, somewhere finds you unbelievably sexy.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t see pictures that look like you on magazine covers; I guarantee that someone, somewhere thinks that you’re beautiful.  In fact, I’ll just bet that thousands upon thousands of people find you attractive, and that you may even find someone in that legion of you-admirers who you think is sexy too.  Everyone has different tastes in body types.  For example, I don’t find that picture of Tara Lynn to be a huge turn-on.  That doesn’t make me a shallow, judgmental, chauvinist bastard.  I’m a shallow, judgmental, chauvinist bastard for totally different reasons.  But if you know me, then you know that I am- how shall I put this? -slight of frame.  A woman like Tara Lynn (whose beauty I can still appreciate, even if she’s not my big-gulp of tea) could quite literally crush me.  Call me old-fashioned, but that’s not really what I envision when I think of good sex.

But.

There are thousands upon thousands of men (and women) who probably think that Tara Lynn is one of the sexiest women on the planet.  And many of them would find my “type” of woman to be not at all sexy.  Which is great for everyone, because there’s less competition all around.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with an article that’s meant to pump up the self-esteem of larger women.  That’s fantastic.  I love that.  But that isn’t the only thing this story does.  It pumps up larger women at the expense of skinnier ones.  It isn’t enough to just be a whale with years of wisdom accumulated in various fatty deposits on your body (don’t even get me started on how stupid that metaphor is).  You have to also make all those evil little mermaids feel like shit for going to the gym.  It’s the “Real women have curves,” argument.  Which I detest.  Saying “Real women have curves,” makes about as much sense as saying “Real dolphins have a bottlenose.”  I don’t know what the hell a “real woman” is supposed to be, but I know plenty of women with lots of different body types.  I don’t think of any of them as not being women.  So I guess they’re all real women.  Same goes for men.

Had this posting been solely about promoting feeling good about your body, no matter what size it is, I would have had no problem with it.  Wherever you feel comfortable and healthy is great.  But insecurity is always ugly.