I was watching Richard Dawkins do his thang this evening
As usual, I was feeling pretty smug about being on the clever side of the argument. And I thanked my mother for indoctrinating me in her own particular way so that I could grow up to be an atheist and have a different set of disappointments and conflicts than the offspring of religious folk.
My mother taught me to question everything, and to come to logical (although not always rational!) conclusions about things, but she didn’t do it on purpose.
Oh no. My mother was and is… a fucking hippie. Yes, there it is… the revelation. The origins of my hatred towards hippies. I love my mother of course, but having grown up with a hippie mother and hippie houseguests, I have an insider-but-not-convert’s scorn for hippie ways. Hippies are my people, but I am not a hippie.
While my peers were rebelling against “straight” parents by smoking weed and dressing like bums… I was doing those things too, with my parents… so I rebelled instead against the hippie politics and the pussy vegetarianism and oh yes the FUCKING RECYCLING.
My mother washes out dog food cans. I refuse to do that, it’s degrading. My mother would actually go through the “all in one” binbag I put out after a party and sort everything into recyclables and I’m there yelling in the background “NO! Don’t! LEAVE THE BAG! FOR ONCE IN YOUR LIFE JUST FUCKING THROW IT OUT!” And she just pretends it’s no hassle, as I sweat profusely and try to remember where I disposed of the condoms…
I went to visit recently and made the grave error of throwing a milk carton in the bin, all squashed up. Oh no, that needs to sit in the sink stinking for a few days before someone rinses it out and then puts it in the correct bag of smelly rubbish.
What about wasting water, eh mother? If you rinse every dog food can, milk carton and sheet of toilet paper in the sink before sending it to an expensive recycling plant, how much water does that use? Comparing the energy it takes to recycle a thing versus throw it in a landfill, it already seems like recycling isn’t the clear winner. Add all the water used (although I don’t get how water can be “wasted”, it’s kinda unlimited hey?) and I think the recyclists should stop being so fucking self righteous. I’m not saying landfills are awesome, they probably are not awesome. But bleaching and melting down recycled rubbish as well as accounting for all the mis-recycled shit… (because I saw you put that manky pizza box in the paper bin. FOR CLEAN PAPER and card, not cheesy deliciousness) is not exactly beautiful environment loving squirrel blowing loveliness either.
Where was I?
Oh yes. Hippie mother, cynical capitalist pig daughter.
So her aim was to teach me about the different ways of life, about all the yins to my schoolmate’s family yangs, the tofu to their dads steaks, the rescue remedy to their antibiotics. I was taught about nature and not to litter, and my pockets all through life have been stuffed with rubbish waiting and forgetting for a bin along the way… my handbags are still havens of old wrappers and chewing gum vaguely attached to paper scraps…all waiting patiently for a bin. She taught me to pick flowers- only where there were enough of that kind left so that it would grown back again. My mother taught me to respect the environment…. some of her lessons stuck better than others. I don’t recycle, so in her eyes I may as well throw my plastic wrappers out the window of an SUV… but she taught me a lot of things I like, the aspects of hippiehood I appreciate.
When I was little I thought my mum was the coolest, smartest person in the world, because she didn’t believe all that horse shit about god and jesus and the afterlife and because she answered my questions thoughtfully, even though I would flit from “hey how come airplanes can fly?” to “why are there potholes in the road?” to “How come I don’t remember being a baby?” and never give her enough time to answer before my attention was distracted by some other shiny thing/ marvel of life. My mother has a very basic idea of science and mechanics so most of my questions went unanswered or were answered with the sort of nonsense that would make me disown my mother today if I remembered it, but she gave it a shot and took me seriously and if she didn’t know, we’d look it up, if I hadn’t forgotten about it by the time we got back to my children’s encyclopedia.
As the only religion-free child in my various schools as a child, I felt indignant about religion. It was a massive culture I had no part in, but it was all around me, in school, on tv, in parts of my family. I heard enough about religion to think it was stupid and contradictory. But whenever I spotted a flaw, my classmates, ignorant as they were, could always claim they had the correct interpretation of things and I was wrong. And there was no arguing with them, because it was THEIR mystery and not mine, and they didn’t really seem to care or question it. And I didn’t have any definite answers to use in an argument. If I attacked their church, they had an infinite source of misquotable replies to me. If they attacked my agnosticism, what the fuck was I supposed to say? I didn’t claim to know anything, I just didn’t think their religion rang true. I wanted to know, but everyone had an agenda and dubious proof of what they swore. And I didn’t just go on the offensive, either. One girl, I’ll call her Cuntface, was a born again church of the followers of some shit believer. On our school’s no uniform day, she wore a yellow t shirt with “Jesus loves me, accept the lord into your heart” or some shit written on it, probably in Comic Sans with a picture of a smiling happy dude chilling out on a cross. One day she marched up to me, the light of the holy spirit burning in her eyes, like some wild crusader for ignorance and fear…
“I have a question for you, you don’t believe in god right?”
“Right.” a cheeky little grin played on her stupid cunty face.
“So if you don’t believe in GOD, who do you think made the ANGELS?”
And with that, she had me. Arrrrrghhh damn you Cuntface, damn your sly investigative mind… Of course! Of course you’re right, I didn’t even THINK about angels…
Of course I probably just pinched her hard in the arm and left her to run crying with her little piggy eyes and red face back to the teacher to accuse me of heresy and witchcraft. But I never assaulted her beliefs. I left her to be wrong in peace, and she couldn’t extend the same lack of interest to me. Incidentally, she was pregnant at 15 and had the baby. I laughed so hard…
I looked in the “new baby” section of the greeting cards for a “Congratulations on the new addition to your family….”and then you open it up and inside it says “….Satan!” but they don’t make cards for atheists to piss off religious people, because we tend to live and let live and only sometimes are pushed too far into sarcasm and vindication.
My agnostic/atheist/somewhat spiritual mother I plagued with questions about life, death, religion, god, jesus, miracles, magic and the like. She allowed me to have heaven for my first kitten who was run over by the landlord but caved at the third kitten, also killed on the road, but this time it was a hit and run. The second kitten ran away, not having the right moral fibre to deal with my torture and PASSIONATELY TIGHT HUGS. I was told that kitten had been taken in, adopted if you will, by a large family of stray cats who formed some kind of travelling gypsy cat circus and roamed the lands meeting new cats and dancing for their dinners, or something like that, and I was put at ease. I didn’t want to be selfish and deprive my cat of a life on the road, I was just a bit hurt he hadn’t said goodbye before leaving. But the third kitten lost its life and I was plunged into grief. I wanted answers. The first kitten was remembered. Was it still in heaven? From the distance of a year or two, this didn’t seem so believable any more. I wanted kitten number 3 to be in heaven and for it to be real, but the plausability of heaven being big enough for… how many kittens had died already? Were they separated? Would they fight? Would my first kitten be the same age? Who would feed the kitten? Would an old cat be old in heaven? Would it not be better to die young then and get to be young for all eternity? Would cats eat mice in heaven? What about the mice? Would they infinitely die and be reborn inside heaven?
I picked and picked at heaven and my mother let it unravel. She didn’t tell me there was no heaven, she just didn’t push me back any more, she let me past where I had not been allowed before, where the real wizard of oz sat small and humble, and the illusion dropped. Not wanting to abandon me to the abyss and my own mortality at such a young age, she told me I could believe whatever made me happy, and I worked out my own idea to reconcile my need for immortality, so I made myself believe that in the last second before anyone died, they would become privvy to the secret of life and everything (but not the universe) and it would make them so freaking happy and ok and no one ever died in pain even if it looked that way, because death just acted like it was horrible and painful so people wouldn’t kill themselves but in fact it was like a final massive epiphany and then you would be happy. And that kind of worked for me, until the same restless fingers that unravelled heaven in my mind, started pulling at my happy theory too. And before long, I had lost that too. What was left to comfort me in my young little head? Big fat meaningless nothing. Oh man.
I kind of resented my mother for taking that away from me. What was I supposed to do with the void? I couldn’t come close to fitting a void in my head, and thanks to my mother’s lack of pushy faith, I had no reason to believe anything in particular.
If heaven wasn’t real, why believe anything else either?
I turned to the other things I believed. What else could be picked apart?
With a fearsome sweep of my logic sword, my mother lost:
The power of the moon
Nature as a loving force
Hair growing back stronger or thicker when you cut it
Dreams having meanings
Microwaves are bad for you
Vaccinations cause autism
Animals have feelings like people have feelings
The story about when she felt the presence of her dead grandmother
The dangers of using a Ouija board
She thought I’d march against the war in Iraq. I refused on the grounds that I didn’t have any reason to interfere with a warmonger’s desire to go to war in someone else’s country any more than anyone else had to interfere in a warlike manner in someone else’s country. I didn’t understand the war, it had nothing to do with me. I didn’t think Saddam Hussein was a cool guy, he sounded like a nasty piece of work. I was also 15 at the time, so forgive me for not actually giving much of a shit. I just wanted to play Fallout 2. (Oh man how little has changed. Except in Iraq- shit’s real different in Iraq now) My mother took this as the final straw. I was a lost cause. I was wrong, but I’d grow out of it, probably. There’s a barrier between us, as invisible as a cloudy aura. She refused to accept my skepticism of everything she holds to be self evident. I refuse to Shut the fuck up and accept my mother’s silly beliefs. But we do not speak of these things easily.
She recently drove me to the airport and offered me some rescue remedy to calm me for the flight. I reiterated something I thought I had already iterated enough. That’s fine, mother, you know I don’t believe in that stuff.
But it wooooorks! She wheedled.
It doesn’t, mother. It really doesn’t.
Indignant: It does for ME.
I gave her a weak smile, and told her she’d better keep her placebo for when she needs it. She refused to fight me because we were about to say goodbye, but she pursed her lips and forced her eyes not to roll. I knew as soon as we hugged and I got out of the car, she was chugging that tiny expensive glass vial… then she would look at it and back at me, and think “what a pity my daughter doesn’t believe in rescue remedy, she’d have a relaxed and calm flight” and then drive home in a forced good mental state just to spite me. And then she’d rinse out the little bottle, put the glass part in one bag, the plastic lid in another.
Fucking homeopathy, man.
If spending money to receive nothing relieves anxiety, I’m probably already covered by paying Ryanair’s online check in fee.
All the value of homeopathy and other mystical unscientific medicine, is the freaking placebo effect.
So it has a value, then? Homeopathy cures people, even if it’s all in the mind? Isn’t it wrong to take away something people believe in for the wrong reasons, if it’s actually healing some of them?
Eh, if belief in a sugar pill actually works, then why don’t these do-gooder homeopaths just tell us that carrots contain magic juju that cures cancer or that a drop of some harmless substance in a cup full of spinach juice strengthens your body’s flow of Pi energons meaning you don’t get sick… or whatever. In that case we would have deluded people taking placebos and getting the benefits, as well as believing something stupid while eating healthier, and the homeopaths wouldn’t be making a fortune off a trick of the brain. But even then, it wouldn’t be justified. Curing a few nervous individuals whose health problems were merely manifestations of a desire to talk to a trained professional of any kind about their diet and toilet habits in great detail, while keeping cancer and aids patients from trusting the only medicine that, so far, can do anything to help, is not a fucking charitable service.
Homeopaths know more about their subject than lay people, so they should be more aware of its bullshit. Homeopaths don’t sit back and say, well it’s not an exact science but it does make some people with mild bladder problems or a bit of a sore throat feel better and it keeps them from taking antibiotics unneccessarily. NO. They don’t do that. They claim to have cures for Aids. They claim cancer treatment is evil, they tell parents to give babies homeopathic remedies instead of nasty calpol to get the fever down. People die. Not all homeopaths do this, but then not all priests molest children. Would you leave your child with a priest babysitter? I doubt it, and that’s not just because if you’ve read this far you’re probably an atheist. It’s the same deal with homeopaths and priests- you don’t give some asshole with no value the power to fuck things up if they go wrong. Because they live their lives by something incorrect. Sure, some police and doctors rape or kill or otherwise violate- but you can’t go without police or doctors. They might do harm sometimes, but the rest of the time they have an important value. Priests and homepaths and nutritionologists or whatever… have no value. So don’t let them EVER have any power. If the trade off for having doctors in the world is that every now and then one does something bad, then it’s still worth it because we won’t die of gangrene or childbirth. What does homeopathy give us that’s worth even one child of deluded parents losing its life?
My mother believes in homeopathy, she sent me to a homeopathic shrink when I was a teenager, I shit you not. I was depressed and she sent me to a homeopath. I told this crazy old cat lady every detail of my life, how many times I chew my food, what colour my shit comes out (hint: brown), what time of day I feel like eating sugar… what my favorite animals are… EVERYTHING. And after an hour of me pouring out my confused stressed out teenage heart to this stranger, she handed my mother a slip of paper and received a few much more valuable sheets in return. The slip she gave my mother claimed, my depression was caused by “A lack of silver”. That’s right. I was put on a course of Argentum, a billionth of a billionth of a drop of a billionth diluted mollecule of silver in more water than exists in the universe. There was more dinosaur shit in those sugar pills than there was silver. Seriously, look up how much they dilute homeopathic remedies. It’s not “1 in 30”, it’s one drop to the power of 30, or one drop diluted and then one drop of that dilution diluted, 30 times, which is a hellofalot more diluted.
Anyway, suffice it to say, silver in a load of water doesn’t cure teenage angst. It didn’t stop me writing poetry about darkness and love and broken suffering hearts and it didn’t stop me pretending to worship the devil or believing I had magical powers, and it didn’t stop me getting drunk and fucking people I shouldn’t have condescended to talk to. In fairness, I’m glad they didn’t give me serious pharmaceuticals at that age, but that’s another flaw in the argument protecting homeopathy- just because some doctors give people drugs they don’t really need, because the body will cure itself of a cold or flu, doesn’t mean that giving them fake medicine is a good thing. Just get some balls and tell the patient, “no you can’t have antibiotics for your hurty throat, it’s people like you that make the super hospital bugs so fucking powerful” and if they really want to believe some shit, give them a placebo but seriously monitor their progress. It shouldn’t be that the only people legally allowed give out placebos are also released from the responsibility to actually do some good. A homeopath can give a person with panic attacks a placebo, cool. But a homeopath can also give a cancer patient the idea to chew on some roots and avoid chemo until it’s too late. A doctor can do neither.
Right, I’m in a bit of a pissy mood because my wallet was stolen from my bag yesterday on the metro, and I lost money and cards and ID and all sorts of stuff. And a rant always clears out my system.