It’s only natural

Time and again, the religious right use the words “natural” and “unnatural” to support their views on homosexuality, marriage, birth control, adoption, and a host of other sensitive issues. Every single time I see it used, I can think of at least one animal which habitually behaves in the way whichever specific group this time considers “unnatural”. People making these claims clearly have no idea at all about what actually goes on in nature. I’ve got a 500 page textbook on animal homosexuality, if you need a really quick idea of how common it is.

Male-male and female-female pairings have been commonly observed in species very closely related to us, especially “Old World” monkeys, including macaques, baboons, mandrills, and talapoins. Baboons are notably promiscuous (a very value-laden human word), engaging in sexual activity for a variety of social purposes. Partners may be of either gender, and sometimes these encounters are not limited to two individuals.

A pair of male penguins in a zoo in New York formed a long-term, exclusive relationship. When given an egg, they cared for it lovingly until it hatched. The chick, a female, grew up to enter into her own exclusive homosexual relationship.

When a male lion takes over a pride, he may find females caring for cubs sired by the previous dominant male. Like in humans, egg production usually ceases in lions for the duration of rearing offspring. An incoming or arising dominant male often kills the existing cubs in order to force the lionesses into heat so that he can produce his own offspring with them.

The dunnock, a small brown bird, sometimes enters into what looks like a monogamous relationship. However closer observation reveals that a great many of these birds are often in polyandrous (one female, multiple males) and polygynous (one male, multiple females) relationships. The precise configuration of relationships depends very greatly on the control of territory and the availability of resources.

Smaller individuals among giant cuttlefish (yes, small giants) disguise themselves as females. This allows them to get closer to actual females to mate with them without being challenged by larger males. However sometimes the larger males mistake the smaller ones for females, and attempt to mate with them.

Females of many insect and arachnid species will often mate with multiple males for a variety of reasons. In times of poor food availability, the male may be cannibalised after mating to provide the female with important nutrients. This is common in praying mantids. In many species the male will provide a “nuptial gift” to convince the female to mate with him even if she has already mated with a previous male; in human terms he is essentially paying for sex.

I could potentially come up with many many more examples of “immoral” behaviour among animals. I didn’t even tell you about the necrophiliac homosexual mallard. This, this is nature. This is natural. So the next time you want to tell somebody that they can’t do something because it’s “unnatural”, you might want to re-think your argument.

Christian hypocrisy

I make no moral judgements on the actions of the below people; I simply point out that they say one thing and do another. Lies and hypocrisy are what I am judging. 

Josh Duggar, of 19 Kids and Counting fame, has recently been outed as a child molester. It has also been revealed that he had two paid accounts with Ashley Madison, a website specifically for people seeking extramarital affairs.

Well-known South Florida pastor Tullian Tchividjian stepped down in June after it was revealed he’d been having an affair. He claims he was seeking solace after discovering his wife’s prior affair.

L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, was convicted in 1978 for making false claims about his ability to cure sick people.

Catholic Priest Gerald Ridsdale has been convicted of a number of child sex abuse and indecent assault charges against children as young as four. Cardinal George Pell has been accused of knowing about these incidents and making attempts to cover them up and protect Ridsdale.

Peter Popoff, popular evangelist, has been exposed using secret radio transmitters to gather information about audience members, while claiming to be receiving information directly from God.

Televangelist Jim Bakker has been convicted of fraud after keeping $3.4 billion raised supposedly for his ministry. He was also accused of rape, and allegedly paid Jessica Hahn nearly $300,000 to keep her allegation secret.

Baptist Bishop Eddie Long has been accused by four separate men of using his position and influence to coerce them into sexual relationships with him. The lawsuits were settled out of court.

Ted Haggard, once named one of Time magazine’s most influential evangelicals in America, has admitted to having a three-year affair with male escort Mike Jones.

I could continue, but this is depressing. Christians wonder why Atheists are so often bitter!

Depression and anxiety

I haven’t blogged in a long time, partly because I’ve been busy, and partly because I’ve been dealing with some mental issues. I’ve seen a doctor, I’m on medication, and things are a bit better. But I wanted to talk about something that happened today which, I think, exemplifies what I’ve been going through.

This morning I got a text message from my husband who was out with the kids. He told me that two ladies I know vaguely through mutual friends had invited me out to a concert tonight. My initial thought was “That sounds nice”. But close on its heels came the next thoughts: “Why have they invited me? They hardly know me. Do they pity me? What if I go and then can’t find them? What if I can’t think of anything to say to them? I have no mutual friend there to lean on, and no escape route if I’m not comfortable.” The more I thought about going, the more anxious I felt. The greater my anxiety, the more I thought I was being silly for feeling anxious. The sillier I felt, the more depressed I got about my own emotional reactions.

One simple invitation from very lovely people who seemingly just wanted to spend some time with me ruined my entire day, because of my mental problems. It’s ridiculous. I think I need more help.

The last year

There’s a lot I haven’t said about the past year. Lots of things have happened to make it quite a stressful year in lots of ways. But now that it’s over, I think I can talk about it with a laugh instead of a scream!

I’ve been the president of the kindergarten committee of management for the last year. When I volunteered for the job, the description was basically “Know about everything that goes on, and sign lots of things.” What they never said anything about was the ongoing problem with a specific staff member. This staff member was on two warnings when I arrived, close to being terminated, and she continued her poor behaviour for the first half of the year. Fortunately for my stress levels, she resigned in August. Unfortunately, she continued to haunt me, wanting to come back and visit, and claiming that the way she’d been treated was bullying and illegal and all sorts of things. I stood my ground, with the support of the rest of the committee, and she’s left me alone for a while now. Phew.

They also never said anything about the tendency of people to gossip, backstab, lie, manipulate, and generally be awful. We had more than one committee member leave us under somewhat dubious circumstances. We also had parents squabbling amongst themselves and then looking to kindergarten staff to sort out their childish problems!

The up-side of all this is that I’ve been inspired to start writing a new book. It is going to be a highly fictionalised account of the year. I think I’ve got quite enough dramatic material to make it interesting!

It’s a good time to be gluten intolerant

When my father first embarked on a gluten free diet, it was difficult and expensive to maintain. As the years have gone by, though, products are becoming more and more easily available. Not just in health food stores or online, but in mainstream supermarkets and at reasonable prices. And if there is something you can’t find (like really yummy hot cross buns and crumpets), you can always get good quality gluten free flour and make it yourself. Options are expanding all the time. And today I found gluten free Weet-Bix from Sanitarium! They’re made from sorghum, and they are actually really good. I am so thrilled, because Weet-Bix is one of those things you can’t easily make, and I love it. 

Sacrifice

I think just about everybody is aware that becoming a parent is going to involve some sacrifice. You give up work for a while, you have to forgo certain social activities, you can’t sleep whenever you like. But over the last five years of motherhood, it’s the smaller things that stick out.

Music choice: I can’t listen to my own music without somebody saying “But I wanted Disney songs!”

TV and movies: Ditto, if it isn’t Disney or Pixar, it just doesn’t happen.

A leisurely meal: Any meal is inevitably going to be interrupted, either by the need to go and assist a child with something or by a child wanting some of what I’m eating.

Daydreaming: Doing nothing sends children a clear signal that now is a good time to need me.

Silence: What is that?

Walking: I can’t just stride off anymore, I’ve got to modify your pace to suit shorter legs. This has also lowered my level of fitness and my weight; I used to briskly walk everywhere, but now I either dawdle or take the bus.

Belongings: Nothing is really mine anymore, not if somebody else thinks it looks appealing. Without constant vigilance and repeated “That is not yours!” things get lost or broken.

Personal space: I can’t move without elbowing somebody in the head.

Doctors, dentists, and hairdressers: I prefer not to have two bored restless children hanging about while people are trying to do delicate or precise things to me.