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The Bear Necessities

Chrys Stevenson (Portrait by Michael Barnett)

Chrys Stevenson (Portrait by Michael Barnett)

 

This blog focuses on religion, science, politics and skepticism – all the things that are dangerous to talk about at dinner parties!

Oh, and the title of this blog?  It’s a mondegreen taken from the hymn, “Gladly the cross I’d bear”.

If only all religious texts could be reduced to the harmlessness of a myopic teddy bear!

Events

I will be at Brisbane Skepticamp on Saturday, 4 July, to launch a major charitable fundraising project.

With podcaster, Jake Farr-Wharton, I will be co-hosting the Australian Skeptics National Convention in Brisbane from 16-18 October at QUT Gardens Point.

Articles

If you like my writing, you can see more of it scattered across the internet. My LinkedIn profile

Social Networking

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Subscribe to my Youtube Channel

Acknowledgement

Many thanks to Glenn Watson for producing the Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear image. Also, thanks to Glenn, keep your eye out for a ‘new look’ Gladly blog. Coming soon!

Orlando Vigil – Charlie’s Speech

Last night, I attended the Sunshine Coast vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.
I was particularly moved by a speech by a young woman called Charlie Maycraft.
Charlie has kindly given me permission to share her speech with you.
Chrys Stevenson
Vigil Speech for Orlando
Cotton Tree Park, Maroochydore
Tuesday, 14 June 2016
by Charlie Maycraft

Orlando: I blame you, Lyle

An Open Letter to Lyle Shelton, Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby

rainbow flag halfmastAs I write, 50 LGBTIQ people are dead and at least another 53 wounded; shot down by an Islamic terrorist in Florida.

Florida is a long way from Canberra, Lyle. And you are a Christian, not a Muslim. You were nowhere near the Pulse nightclub when Omar Mateen took out an assault rifle and a pistol and began firing indiscriminately into a club packed with the kind of people your Australian Christian Lobby spends so much money to vilify.

And yet, Lyle, I blame you for the horror which occurred in that nightclub. Because it is you, and people like you, who actively fuel the homophobic culture which helps unhinged people like Mateen justify their actions as ‘right’ and ‘holy’.

Omar Mateen was not born in a Muslim country. He was born in New York. He is as much a product of a Western religious culture as Muslim one.

Just like you, Lyle, Mateen appears to have been influenced by a father with extremist religious views. It is true, Mateen’s homophobia was fomented in a mosque rather than the Toowoomba City Church as yours was. But, the message preached from his imam is not a great deal different to the message preached from the pulpits of churches like your father’s. It differs little from the propaganda the Australian Christian Lobby spends millions of dollars to disseminate in Australia.

  • Homosexuality is not natural.
  • Sex between people of the same gender is ‘dirty’ and sinful.
  • Advertisements which seek to educate and protect homosexual people from sexually transmitted diseases should not be allowed in public.
  • Homosexuals are the same as pedophiles.
  • Children should not be exposed to homosexuality.
  • Homosexual love is unnatural and sinful.
  • People who are gay should somehow ‘become’ heterosexual or resign themselves to lifelong celibacy.
  • Gay families are not ‘real’ families.
  • Homosexual couples cannot parent as well as mixed-gender, married couples.
  • The children of homosexual couples are disadvantaged.
  • Homosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt.
  • Children should only be raised within a marriage – but homosexuals must never be allowed to marry.
  • Australian ‘values’ and public morality will suffer if homosexuals are allowed to marry. People will want to marry their pets and farm animals and men will begin to take multiple wives (just as they did in the Bible).
  • Anti-bullying programs which seek to educate and protect LGBTIQ children should be ruthlessly attacked with propaganda in case nice, heterosexual children are lured into the dark world of homosexuality.
  • Homosexuality is a choice – a sinful one.
  • Nice, white, heterosexual, Christian people will suffer if homosexuals are given full equality.

All of these messages. All of this false, hateful, filthy propaganda adds to a culture which dehumanises LGBTIQ people and makes them vulnerable to attacks from people like Omar Mateen. And this, Lyle, is the Australian Christian Lobby’s stock-in-trade.

These messages are not messages of love, and tolerance and beauty. They are messages of ignorance, hate and irrational fear.

Ignorance, hate and irrational fear. This is what drives terrorists to blow up planes, tube stations and entertainment venues. This is the impetus behind a young American man of Afghan parents walking into a nightclub and opening fire under the delusion it was the ‘right thing to do’.

But this was not just any nightclub. This was a club full of people Mateen had been taught were evil, dirty, dangerous, less than human and an affront to God.

Who taught him these things? Possibly his father, certainly his Abrahamic religion, and undoubtedly the culture created by the Christian fundamentalist, right-wing Americans who inspire your organisation’s own homophobic propaganda here in Australia.

Let me be clear, Lyle. Regardless of whether they came from Muslims or Christians – and it is clear he was influenced by both – messages no different from those disseminated by the Australian Christian Lobby convinced Omar Mateen LGBTIQ people deserve to die. The same kind of religious zealotry you and the Australian Christian Lobby embrace, convinced Omar Mateen God would reward him for his service in ending their lives.

I blame you, Lyle.

You did not buy the guns. You did not pull the trigger. But you, and religious fundamentalists just like you (both Muslim and Christian), as sure as hell provided the psychological ammunition.

Words are weapons, Lyle. You and your ilk armed that young man to the teeth with everything he needed to become a terrorist – ignorance, hate and irrational fear.

If the Coalition wins the election on 2 July, Australia will face a plebiscite to decide the issue of same-sex marriage. The Australian Christian Lobby has called for anti-discrimination laws to be suspended to allow you to go for the jugular in your attacks on LGBTIQ people and rainbow families.

Psychologists have warned the harm done to the LGBTIQ community from your campaigning will be immense. People will die as a result of your campaign, Lyle; as surely as if you walked into a gay bar and opened fire on them.

You may not kill them directly, by pointing a gun and pulling a trigger, but the result will be the same. Your attacks will be the final straw for some LGBTIQ people who have spent a lifetime dealing with the kind of hateful ignorance you peddle for fun and profit. And your views will convince some young people they’d be better off dead than having to deal with a lifetime being vilified by people like you.

If you had one shred of decency, you would look at the events of the last 24 hours and put out a statement:

“The Australian Christian Lobby wants no part of the homophobia, hate and religious zealotry that led to the attack in Orlando, Florida. As Christians, we do not want to fuel that kind of fear and intolerance here in Australia. While we remain opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, we accept our views are not shared by the majority of Australians and we are content to let the Australian parliament decide this issue. We will no longer add to the rhetoric that drives people like Omar Mateen to commit atrocities, or drives LGBTIQ people to addiction, self-harm, mental illness and suicide.”

Of course you will say nothing of the sort. Because, Lyle, at your core, you are Omar Mateen with a veneer of respectability.

You have no interest in the truth. You have no empathy for those who do not conform to your narrow, extremist, religious views. You believe in a righteous God, not a loving God. And you are happy to sacrifice the lives and happiness of the people you target in the interests of your own religious delusions.

And that is why, when I watch the footage of the carnage in Orlando, Florida, I blame you, Lyle.

I blame you.

Chrys Stevenson

Perverting ANZAC Day for Jesus

I attended my first (and last) Dawn Service this morning.

I respect our diggers and I am not an ANZAC Day hater.

But ANZAC Day does not belong to the religious right and they should not be allowed to hijack it for their own purposes.

Here is my rant on Doug Pollard’s “The Stirrer”.

Perverting ANZAC Day for Jesus

 

Chrys Stevenson

 

Mamamia Promotes Godless Goodness

matthews-baby-feature-picture-720x547Those of us involved with the Jode Matthews Cancer and Family Appeal are delighted to see Jode and Adam’s story shared today on Mamamia.

It’s a great boost for the Appeal, but also fantastic PR for the Australian atheist, skeptical and secular community which has dug deeply to contribute over $18,000 in  just 12 days to help fund vital medical treatment for Jode.

Please share this good news story with your own networks.

Beautiful proof that you don’t need to be religious to be charitable:  “When prayer won’t cut it, practical people need to pitch in.”

“Fortunately for the Matthews …. their community has rallied around them in a touching show of solidarity and altruism.

“Other people might reach out to their church, their service club or sporting organisation,” Adam Matthews tells Mamamia. “When we realised that, in order to save Jode’s life, we needed far more money than we could manage, we reached out to the Australian secular and sceptical community.”

Read more here.

Secular Charity – A Life-Saving Project

Tonight, I launched the Jode Mathews Cancer & Family Appeal at the Brisbane Skeptics Society’s Brisbane Skepticamp at the Hamilton Town Hall.

This is a vitally important campaign and one I hope all my readers will support – whether by donating or by promoting it to your networks.

Here is the text of my short speech.

Ad and Jode Kiss
“Those of us in the sceptical and secular communities hear a lot of bullshit that we are not as charitable as Christians, that we are selfish, unethical and immoral because of our lack of religious faith.

Penn Jilette

All evidence is to the contrary and non-believers are increasingly joining together to form charitable groups and organisations .

We are great supporters of causes, and I’ve seen many instances where individuals in need find support through our various online communities.

Tonight, I’m here to launch an appeal for a member of our Queensland community of skeptics and freethinkers. Jode Matthews and her husband, Adam, were founding members of the Sunshine Coast Atheists. Jode provided editing assistance on Warren Bonett’s The Australian Book of Atheism.

Jode and Adam are skeptics, humanists and atheists. They care about the issues we care about. They move in the circles we move in. They have put their hands in their pockets to support the causes we support. They are contributing members of our online community.

Adam is a cancer survivor. He battled cancer for 13 years before going into remission 10 years ago. Now, Jode, who is just 46 years old, has Stage 4b metastatic cervical cancer. Despite chemo and radiation, the disease is spreading to her other organs. It’s as serious as it gets and, frankly, without some extra intervention, Jode’s prognosis isn’t good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But there is hope. There’s a drug called Avastin which may extend Jode’s life expectancy. Trouble is, it’s about $20,000 per course. The Matthews don’t have that kind of money.

Jode’s cancer may even go into remission if she can access a drug called Nivolumab. It’s showing great results in the treatment of melanoma and lung cancer and the Yale Medical School is now trialing it for use on patients with cervical cancer. Jode can apply to enter the trial, but if she’s accepted, she’ll have to travel to the US and stay there for an extended period. The Matthews have had an awful run of one financial disaster after another and they simply can’t afford that option.

I think we can help. That’s why Danny Jarman, vice-president of the Atheist Foundation of Australia, Ron Williams, president of the Humanist Society of Queensland and I have set up the Jode Matthews Cancer & Family Appeal.

I don’t have a lot of time tonight, but you can read all about Jode’s story and the Appeal on our website: www.jodematthewsappeal.com

We also have a Facebook page. Please find it and like it.

Ad and Jode Wedding 2

We already have the support of some of Australia’s leading sceptical and secular organisations. Now, we need your help in spreading the word about this appeal and, if you can afford it, making a donation – however small.

The success of this appeal depends on the networking power of our sceptical and secular communities. It’s true, we don’t have the organizational structures or financial resources of religious groups, but we have a strong, well-connected, international community and with your help we can make a damned good stab at saving Jode Matthews’ life.

We all know that skeptics and atheists OWN the internet.

And, you know, when prayer doesn’t cut it, practical people pitch in.

Thank you

Chrys Stevenson

To donate to the Jode Matthews Cancer & Family Appeal, please visit the appeal page at:  www.jodematthewsappeal.com

Vaccination: Stay Classy University of Wollongong

Brian Martin is Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong and fancies himself as a champion of whistleblowers. When the whistle-blowing is legitimate, that’s a fine and honourable pursuit. But, when someone in a position of authority can’t tell the difference between whistleblowers and conspiracy theorists it’s cause for concern. When those conspiracy theorists actively endanger lives, it’s cause for alarm.

Professor Martin has been a staunch defender of Meryl Dorey and her appalling Australian [anti] Vaccination Network. He is the PhD Supervisor for anti-vax campaigner Judy Wilyman. Wilyman’s Masters degree is currently the subject of investigation for academic misconduct.

But Professor Martin claims he has no ‘strong views’ about vaccination;  that his interest in the anti-vaccination debate is all about free speech.

Free speech is all very well. But, when propaganda and misinformation from uneducated rabble-rousers endangers the lives of children and vulnerable people, I think we can rightly argue free speech must have limits.

Whether or not Professor Martin is an anti-vaxxer himself, his work enables these anti-science, numb-skulled conspiracy theorists. The connection with Professor Martin and the University of Wollongong lends credibility to them while tainting him, and more importantly, the university that supports his and (by association) their work.

Dr Matthew Berryman, author of the complexitydaemon blog,  is appalled by Professor Martin’s involvement with some of this country’s most prominent anti-vaccination propagandists. Dr Berryman is an academic at the University of Wollongong. His degrees are in science, mathematics, computer engineering and systems analysis.

Berryman is the co-author of the 2013 paper “Answering human papillomavirus vaccine concerns; a matter of science and time“, published in Infection Agents and Cancer, an open access, peer-reviewed online journal.

In an interview with the Illawarra Mercury in 2012 regarding Judy Wilyman’s PhD candidature, Dr Berryman said:

“While I’m a big supporter of academic freedom, I somehow don’t think that academic freedom extends to … making unscientific claims discouraging people from seeking appropriate preventative measures for life-threatening diseases.”

In a blog post, published today, Dr Berryman draws our attention to a book chapter written by Dr Martin in Nonviolence Unbound. Martin’s chapter deals specifically with the clash between the Australian [anti] Vaccination Network and Stop the AVN, a Facebook-based citizens group which doggedly opposed and exposed the AVN for years, effectively bringing it to its knees – for now.

That this was all achieved legally, backed by decisions against the AVN’s dodgy practices by various Australian health and regulatory authorities, does not seem to deter Professor Martin one iota. Instead, in Chapter 8 of Nonviolence Unbound he suggests a number of strategies the AVN might use to circumvent the Australian laws which have so constrained them.

You can read all about it on Dr Berryman’s blog:

The AVN fought the law and the law won: AVN stopped

The University of Wollongong must be so proud that one of its academics can, so cavalierly, aid and abet an organisation which actively compromises the health and lives of Australian children. Stay classy, U of W.

Chrys Stevenson

PS: Ms WIlyman thinks very highly of me, too.

 

I Run!

“Go!” yelled the event director and I took off in the middle of the pack. Soon, the fastest runners began passing me. Then people who were clearly older and (ahem) larger than me trotted past, followed by people with dogs, ladies with prams and (oh, the humiliation) seven year old children! At one point I looked behind me and there was no-one there. I was dead last of the runners.”

Chrys - Before and AfterOn Christmas Day, 2012 I weighed 129 kg. On 22 August 2013, I walked into the local gym for the first time, weighing 126.6 kg (having lost no fat but an ovary or two in the interim). On 21 March 2015, weighing 65kg, I ran 5 km for the first time in the Golden Beach parkrun. Here is my story, published in parkrun’s national newsletter this week – “I Run!”

Chrys Stevenson