I Had a Chance to Exercise my Skeptical Chops in Real Life the Other Night

It’s not often (in real life) that I get to use all of these skeptical tools and pearls of wisdom that I spend so much time learning about, so when I do get into this type of conversation my heart will start racing and I’ll get excited to where I have to concentrate on keeping a calm demeanor so that I don’t end up coming across as a crazed denialist!

The other night my husband had his friend over, who also happened to be one of my former high school teachers, so we sat around chatting for hours and touched on a lot of different topics. At one point in the conversation Dr. Oz (one of Oprah’s spin-off shows) came up, I guess because teachers get to watch lots of daytime TV during the summer!

I’m in no way a fan of Dr. Oz. I’ve tuned  into a few of his episodes when there’s been nothing else on, and my main reason for disliking him is the way that he talks down to the audience, as if he’s addressing a room full of kindergartners. He gives these ridiculous demonstrations that add nothing to the conversation and dumb down already easy to understand things. Medicine is such an interesting field, and the human body is so diverse and complex that it just makes him look ridiculous to me when he talks to grown adults in a way that would have bored me when I was 10.

But obviously enough people enjoy it, so to each his/her own. What also gets me goat about Dr. Oz is how he lends his credibility to alternative medicines that don’t have supporting evidence (Reiki, for example). I brought this up and that’s what sparked a discussion with my old teacher on alternative medicine.

I wouldn’t say that Teacher (that’s what I’ll call him from now on) was full on into alt med or anything, but he came across as neutral on the subject. He seems like one of those people “in the middle”, who believes in the value of using herbs to treat minor ailments but would turn to actual medicine for big things like cancer. We touched on a lot of things that seem to pop up in every online discussion on alternative medicine, so I think I’ll break it down into some of the areas we hit and what was said.

I’ll just mention that everything I was responding to Teacher with was from memory, and I’m going to write it here as it was said so it’s possible, actually it’s likely, that I was wrong about many things and welcome criticisms and feedback.

1. “The placebo effect is strong, so alternative medicine helps even if it shouldn’t really work” There is a common misconception that the placebo effect is some kind of mind over matter thing, where your brain is actually healing your body, and so doing something like acupuncture is therefore helpful, even though there’s no such thing as “chi” or “meridians” in the body. I was three glasses of wine in, so I wasn’t going to try explaining the placebo effect in detail, especially since I don’t fully understand it sober.

Instead, I talked about how things like acupuncture can be helpful for issues like infertility or back pain because just going to a practitioner, having them pay attention to you and validate your problem, and having something physical done to you can alleviate the stress that might be causing the problem. But relying on these things can get dangerous if you start relying on alt med for problems that need proper medication.

2. Confusing homeopathy with herbal medicine. There are some types of alternative medicine that are so ridiculous that they can’t possibly work, and homeopathy is one of them, but people don’t understand what it actually is and so trust that it must work for whatever reason. Teacher was definitely confusing homeopathy with herbal medicine.  I explained that homeopathy means that the active substance is diluted until there’s not even a molecule of the original substance in the solution, so there’s nothing actually in it that would have an effect.

3. Confusing proper diet with alternative medicine. I’m not really sure that this was what was happening, but at one point when we were having the discussion about using herbal medicine he brought up how cutting milk out of his diet helped him to feel better. Lots of people think of diet and nutrition as alternative medicine, maybe because pretty much every diet book out there will recommend taking some type of supplement. In fact, though, diet and the effect of different foods on the body are studied by science, and therefore perfectly in line with medicine.

4. Pharmaceutical companies are out to make a buck and want you to take medicines you don’t need, so turning to herbs is preferable. Pharmaceutical companies do plenty of shady business, but at least the drugs that they put out have standards for evidence, and will be pulled from the shelves if the drug is shown to be dangerous. With the various herbal supplements out there, they have no standards for evidence if it’s called a supplement, and there aren’t nearly as many strict controls, so you really don’t know how much of the active ingredient is contained in each pill. Not to mention many pharmaceutical companies have gotten into the supplement business, so you’re not necessarily circumventing “big pharma” when you decide to go for alternative remedies. The companies that sell those supplements and natural remedies are in the profit business too!

5. Lots of drugs were developed out of traditional healing substances, so herbal medicine must work. Sure, a lot of drugs came about because the substance used in them was traditionally used in healing the ailment. But the reason why they’re drugs now is because they were subjected to scientific testing and found to work, so the active substance was isolated or synthesized, and put into pills with specific dosages in a bottle that lays out the possible side effects. This doesn’t mean that all traditional herbal medicines work, though. Some are tested and found to do no better than placebo. There may be some out there that will be shown to work once they’re adequately tested, but I wouldn’t rely on those to medicate myself because a) possible side effects are unknown, and b) how would you know how much you need or how long you need to  take  it for if the substance has never been properly tested?

 

That was pretty much it, it was a fantastic discussion and I hope I gave Teacher (and you?) something to think about.

Sorry about the scatter-brained posting!

The More I Learn, The More I Realize How Little I Know

Well, damn it’s been a long time. I never wanted to be one of those people who let their blog fall into disrepair, but here we are. My last post was made in February. FEBRUARY!

I always enjoyed writing and putting in my own two cents on things, but for awhile there it was beginning to feel like a chore. I think that I was trying too hard to blog on a regular basis, and to make scheduled posts and so on, so it started feeling like homework instead of an enjoyable passtime. After a certain amount of time had passed it felt like I had let the blog die and I was a bit ashamed about all of the promises I didn’t fulfill, and the comments that I didn’t answer. I definitely let myself down.

So here I am about 6 months later hoping to rectify the situation. I want my blog to continue, and I want it to be fun again! So I’m starting with this post, and I’m resolving to make no promises about future posts. I don’t promise to post on a regular basis, I don’t promise to post about certain topics, and I don’t promise to respond to all comments although know that I read them all and take them to heart and appreciate the feedback and challenges! I’m just going to write about what I feel like, whenever I feel compelled to.

Now to the title of this post: The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. It’s a saying I’m sure you’ve all heard in some form or another (I feel like it’s something I read in the Bible once upon a time, but I’m not sure), but it’s related to why my posts here started tapering off. It might have just been my experience, but when I suddenly realized that I no longer believed in God and started going down the path of skepticism, I felt like everything was clear and that I understood that all of those paranormal things were bunk and I was prepared to handle every argument thrown my way.

I felt like suddenly I was in on the big secret, like I became that one kid in a group of kids that didn’t believe in Santa. I was given some special knowledge that all of these weird things the people around us believe and preach are simply the result of thousands of years of storytelling and indoctrination. I have to admit that it made me a bit arrogant. I didn’t become like that caricature of the atheist as the person who can’t keep his/her mouth shut when someone says “god bless” after a sneeze, but whenever something of a religious or paranormal nature would come up in conversation I had thoughts running through my head saying how can someone really think this crap and that’s so ignorant, and so on.

My blog became a bit of an outlet for that. When I read something loony or came across a ghosty website I would post it up and poke fun without giving it any kind of serious thought, secure in the knowledge that my naturalistic world view was right and that I didn’t have to give these things any further consideration. I even found myself parroting things said by some of the leaders in the skeptical community, without thinking twice. I cringe at that, because as a person who is trying to be a good skeptic, that’s the worst way I could go about things.

But, I’m not worried about that now, because skepticism is a learning process. As someone who previously would believe just about anything if it was under the guise of Christianity or if it made even a little bit of superficial sense, learning to think critically and to think for myself was a long process, and one that’s still ongoing. The more I learn about the universe, about science, and about how to think critically, the less I realize I know, and the less I feel qualified to be repeating things on my blog, so consequently the less I began to write.

In recent times I think I got a lot better at just writing what I knew, taking things at face value and thinking about arguments on my own without just re-hashing someone else’s. But after awhile I felt like I was completely over-stepping my bounds by trying to speak authoritatively on anything besides my own personal experiences. I stepped away from the skeptical community for awhile, I even stopped reading Pharyngula for awhile (shocking, I know), plus all of the other atheist and skeptical blogs that I used to love reading.

I think it’s good to step out of your little world for a little while, but I’ve definitely missed blogging and I’m back to trying to keep up with all aspects of the skeptical community, and it’s great to be back! Sometimes you get stuck in a bubble of only seeing and hearing things that you agree with, so stepping out of that helps you to get a better perspective and to see things from other peoples’ points of view for a change. Here’s a really great TED Talk that’s somewhat related:

Wow, well I’ve been writing for a long time and who knows if anyone will even read this! I completely forgot where I was going with this…hmmm…

I’ll try to conclude here, what I’ve been trying to say is (and I want to be clear that this only applies to me and not all skeptics) that I was getting a little too wrapped up in the skeptical community, to an extent that I was turning off my critical thinking at times and just following along with what I read and heard from people I admire. I’ve tried to expand my influences and gain some better perspective and understanding, so now I fell ready to pick up the blogging game again and think for myself more rather than constantly deferring to authorities. Sound good?

Even if none of that made sense, I had fun writing it and that’s what it’s all about! Right? Right???

Every Cold and Flu Treatment That Has Been Recommended to me in the Past Two Months (And What the Evidence Says)

Hey everyone, I’ve been out of the blogging routine for way too long now, so I’m going to try to get back into the swing of things by writing about all of the cold and flu remedies that I’ve been told to try in the past couple of months. I’ve been sick since midway through December. First I had a cold, and just when I was getting over that I caught a nasty cough virus that’s been floating around Winnipeg this winter, and now I have a cold again as well as remnants of that damn cough combined with the return of my asthma. Party! And when you’re coughing and your voice is all nasally people tend to tell you what you need to do to get better.

The following are all of the remedies (alternative and mainstream) that have been recommended to me, as well as the best non-propagandaish information I could find on each:

Vitamin C

  • Rose to popularity as a treatment for the common cold in the 1970s after this book by Linus Pauling was published.
    • The Cochrane Collaboration is an organization that looks at the body of evidence for a given health care intervention and publishes reviews based on what the results of multiple trials say when considered as a whole. Here‘s the Vitamin C review. In a nutshell:
      • Regular ingestion of vitamin C had no effect on common cold incidence in the ordinary population.
      • It had a modest, but consistent effect in reducing the duration and severity of common cold symptoms.
    • If vitamin C doesn’t reduce my likelihood of coming down with a cold then I wouldn’t bother with taking a daily supplement, since it’s pretty easy to find foods that contain more than enough vitamin C, however it seems to me that it may be worth it to take 0.2g of Vitamin C per day to reduce the length of a cold.
    • Here‘s a podcast episode on the subject.
  • It is also frequently recommended as a way to “boost your immune system”
    • I’ll link to a few articles explaining why the idea that you can boost your immune system is little more than a marketing gimmick, but I’ll try to summarize: if your immune system is working normally it can’t be boosted, but exposure to illnesses (ex. vaccination) will improve your chances of not getting sick. I really think you should read the articles though: One, Two and Three.

Oil of Oregano

  • A few different people recommended Oil of Oregano to me, but nobody really had a clear description of what it’s supposed to do, or what illnesses it’s supposed to treat. There are all kinds of claims made about it but the evidence is lacking. Here‘s a good summary from Science-Based Pharmacy:
    “There is no published evidence to demonstrate that that oil of oregano is effective for any medical condition or illness. There is some very limited evidence to suggest that it might be useful for parasite infections – but given the evidence consists of only one study with 14 patients, and no placebo comparison, we really have no idea if the oregano oil was effective. The bottom line is that despite all the marketing, press, and sales, there is no research that exists to demonstrate that oil of oregano does anything useful in or on our bodies.”

Echinacea

  • A recent study (published in December, 2010) concluded that “illness duration and severity were not statistically significant with echinacea compared with placebo. These results do not support the ability of this dose of the echinacea formulation to substantively change the course of the common cold.”
  • Here‘s an assessment of the evidence for Echinacea by Steve Novella of the Skeptics’ Guide podcast. It’s from 2007, so it was written before that most recent study was published.
  • I should mention that I found both of these links on Skeptic North’s article, Coughs, colds and the “appealing but mistaken concept of boosting the immune system”

Garlic

  • I think this may have been the first time that somebody recommended garlic to me as a cold remedy, but basically it was just recommended that I eat a ton of garlic. I love garlic, so I have no problem incorporating it into my diet, especially when I’m going to be home sick from work for a few days and nobody has to smell me. But will it treat my cold?
  • There is a Cochrane review on the use of garlic for treating the common cold, but there was only one study that fulfilled the criteria for the review and it was a small one (146 participants). The study found that people who took garlic every day for 3 months had fewer colds, but it would take a larger trial to confirm these findings. There were other studies claiming that garlic is helpful in preventing the cold, but they were poor quality so they didn’t meet the Cochrane review standards.
  • I wouldn’t take or recommend garlic based on such poor evidence, although I wouldn’t advise against adding it to spaghetti sauce either.

Cold-fX

  • I have a friend who swears by Cold-fX, which means that for the past couple of months every time I converse with her and I sniffle or cough she tries pushing it on me. I know she means well, but I’m skeptical of any product that makes vague claims like “strengthens the immune system.” To me, that’s meaningless. It’s also fairly pricey, so it’s not worth it to me to spend money on something that has poor supporting evidence.
  • Science-based Pharmacy has an article looking at the evidence related to Cold-fX.
  • My Cold-fX loving friend always tells me “when I take it my colds don’t last as long,” but that’s not something that convinces me because: a) colds don’t always last the same length, b) personal testimonials aren’t helpful because there’s no way of knowing whether an individual would have gotten better without the treatment (this is why trials need large numbers and placebo groups), and c) who keeps track of how long their cold is anyways? People recover from colds whether or not they use a treatment, but without proper trials it’s impossible to say for sure whether something like Cold-fX has an effect.

Buckleys/NyQuil/any cough syrup

  • Personally, cough syrup did nothing for me. Buckleys provided 5 seconds of cooling in my throat before I had to start coughing again. All it did was put me to sleep, which was definitely welcome. But it made me doubtful that cough syrup does anything to alleviate symptoms.
  • I always thought of cough syrups as being efficacious just because they’re pretty mainstream medicine (not that that is a good argument for any treatment), but even Wikipedia has this to say: “There however is no good evidence for or against the use of these medications in those with a cough. Even though they are used by 10% of American children weekly, they are not recommended in children 6 years of age or younger due to lack of evidence showing effect, and concerns of harm.
  • The Cochrane review on “over-the-counter medications for acute cough” concludes: “There is no good evidence for or against the effectiveness of OTC medicines in acute cough. The results of this review have to be interpreted with caution due to differences in study characteristics and quality. Studies often showed conflicting results with uncertainty regarding clinical relevance. Higher quality evidence is needed to determine the effectiveness of self-care treatments for acute cough.”

Neti Pot

  • I actually can’t talk about the Neti Pot without gagging. The thought of sticking something up my nose and pouring a saline solution through my sinuses to wash snot out into my sink is so off-putting to me that I’ll probably never try it.
  • Neti Pots are an example of an alternative medicine practice that has been validated (to an extent), although evidence has shown that using it on a regular basis can increase your risk of sinus infections.

It’s funny that when you’re sick everyone around you puts on their doctor hat – all of a sudden they’re all medical authorities. I have this compulsion too, I recommended my “treatments” of Advil for the sore throat and NyQuil to get some sleep – who knows if that combo is even safe! I think it’s hard to see someone suffering from any kind of illness and not want to help, so we offer up treatments in the hopes that it will make them feel better. Unfortunately this probably does more to line the pockets of drug and supplement companies, who play on peoples’ beliefs in certain treatments in spite of the poor evidence for their efficacy, than it does to soothe the symptoms of a virus.

My Mom’s History with Religion (Part 2)

The following is a guest post from my mom, I hope you enjoy it an I’m interested in hearing your thoughts!

Hi everyone, I’m back. Sorry I am taking so long to post another piece. It has been a struggle deciding what thoughts, feelings and information to share about my life. The struggle is about respecting boundaries…mine and others. Something that is helping me make decisions in this regard is this new favourite saying of mine by an unknown author; I heard it on one of the latest episodes of “Being Erica”…

“Life they say can turn on a dime. In a world that constantly shifts beneath our feet, the only thing we know for certain is how we feel. The love we have, the fear we hide from, the pain we push away…give them a voice and the rewards are peace of mind and a peaceful heart.”

During the process of composing a future post about how psychology has influenced my life, I have been finding myself constantly questioning “How relative is this to the rest of the content of Lindsay’s blog? Are people really interested in knowing about my personal struggles? What in the world is my intention for sharing this information with Lindsay, her spouse (the only people I actually know that read this blog) and the anonymous strangers that read this blog?”

So I feel a need to preface any possible future posts with this one. I need to express up front that I feel like some sort of interloper on this blog. Even though Lindsay has assured me that whatever I write is okay, I am still having trepidations. Even though I am quite motivated and feel my intentions are honourable I still need another shot of encouragement, reassurance and permission that this is the right forum to tell my story.

I can somewhat justify that my history is part of Lindsay’s and therefore has some relevance to her blog on the basis that my story has influenced her life directly and indirectly. My intentions have a great deal to do with providing her with a bigger, clearer picture of who her mother is. Also, the process of writing this is helping me focus on the parts of my life that I think are most valuable to share.

My initial interest in telling my story was sparked in my early thirties when I briefly attended a bible study group. This group began each session with someone telling “their story” with the intent of showing how God was working in their lives. I remember being in awe of those who volunteered to do so. First and foremost, I admired their ability and willingness to articulate and share their innermost struggles with others. I also envied them for being able to express their most authentic selves, something I desperately wanted to do, but felt I couldn’t without betraying the confidences I felt I owed to others. Finally, I was amazed at the creative ways they were able to see the big picture and create a story out of their lives. In essence they were speaking about the cards they had been dealt, how they coped, and how everything shaped them into who they were today. In addition, I appreciated the positive outcomes that their collective stories offered. It didn’t matter so much that they attributed their outcomes to God, what mattered to me was the inspiring messages of hope that I always took away. It was then that I first realized and had come to believe in the healing power of sharing one’s story. It was a healing that seemed to occur not only within the teller but to the listener as well.

So over the past few decades I have persistently tried to tell my own story hoping for the restorative qualities I believed it would provide me and ultimately my family. My attempts took many forms mostly involving journaling and talk therapy. My major stumbling block was always the feeling that I would be betraying another’s confidence so I mostly limited myself to letting my inner life unfold within the confines of a therapist’s office. Unfortunately, what I have finally come to realize is that in the effort to protect others I was sacrificing my own authenticity and in a sense I was betraying myself. Is this making sense to anyone?

Sharing my innermost thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and hopes with a counsellor definitely helped me find peace of mind, yet it still felt like it wasn’t quite enough. More and more I felt as though I needed to share my authentic self with my family and the community at large. When my husband left me in September of 2009, I immediately began to feel less constrained about speaking about my past. While his leaving wounded me deeply, it also opened me up to new possibilities. Suddenly I was able to be myself more with my children, friends and other family members. It has been a huge relief to be able to talk to them about some of my struggles and it is my hope that in the knowing, my children especially, will gain something…whatever that may be.

To conclude, I am unaware of a forum that provides atheists an opportunity to tell their story. So, perhaps in addition to Lindsay’s unique and creative way of telling her story, the telling of mine, will provide further inspiration for others to speak of theirs. That is one of my hopes. I think it is important to know what you don’t believe and why. Equally as important is to know what you do believe and how you came to believe that. Would you like to know more about me? More of what I believe? Is this the right place to voice my story?

My Mom’s History With Religion (Part 1)

Hi Everyone! Well I have been very terrible at this blogging thing lately, but it’s a phase I go through from time to time. Luckily my mom is here to pick up the slack for me this time! She has been getting some questions in the comments about her experience with religion in relation to my own journey with skepticism and atheism, so she has written a series of guest posts on the subject.

My mom was the first person (besides my husband) that I talked about my atheism with. When I was first starting to question religion and explore atheism I wrote a letter to the editor about science and theology, and this led to long email exchange between her and I on the subject. She has been very supportive and influential in the way I have dealt with my loss of religion, so I think it’s fitting for her to write about her own experiences on my blog.

So…the following is the first guest post by my mom, I hope you find it as interesting as I did!

*****

I was asked how it is that I have been able to be supportive and encouraging about Lindsay’s atheism, skepticism, feminism and activism given my Catholic background. The short answer is that a couple of years ago for several months Lindsay and I emailed back and forth about the very ideas she writes about in her blog. She very eloquently explained to me her reasons for becoming an atheist, encouraged me to read certain books about atheism and suggested some podcasts to listen to. I followed up on her suggestions out of both concern and curiosity. I wanted to know more about whom and what was influencing her towards an atheistic stance. One day she invited me to check out her blog. I couldn’t believe how much thought she was putting into changing her outlook on life. It was obvious this was not a trivial decision; the time and effort she had put in to this process was remarkable. It took some time but I could see the rationale behind her views more and more clearly.  So it really hasn’t been as big of a leap to be supportive of her views as what one might guess. Perhaps even more importantly, is the fact that I have always trusted Lindsay’s judgement. She has never been one to make decisions on a whim and so there was no reason to think this one would be any different.

The long answer to the same question is much more complex and I am very excited and motivated to provide an explanation. As such, it is my intention to write a series of posts focussing on the different threads of influences that have run through my life and how they have combined to form my own somewhat unique worldview (one that strives to be inclusive, accepting and non-judgemental). I hope you will follow me on a journey of self-disclosure as I recall and document how I have arrived at my current worldview. I have always wanted to write some sort of memoir so I thought I’d take this opportunity to kick start that process. Don’t worry, I’ll try not to torture you too much!  If you do find this tedious please let me know and I’ll adjust.  Hopefully, this will simultaneously provide some insights into the ease with which I can accept and support Lindsay’s worldview.

I’ll begin with the role Catholicism played in both concretely and abstractly shaping my life. I want to share my experience of “being Catholic” for several reasons. Primarily, because until now I have never focused specifically on this aspect or thread that runs through my life, so I am interested in discovering where that thread might lead and what I might learn about myself. Second, I hope this exploration may dispel some assumptions and generalizations people make about Catholics (I think this extends to anyone of any religion). I hope it will become obvious that my particular experience and impression of what it is/was to be Catholic is likely entirely different than my siblings’, my mother’s, her parent’s, my children’s, etc. I think it is important to acknowledge that! The third reason for wanting to share my experiences and perceptions is that I believe that the more we share about ourselves in general the more likely we will find commonalities with each other and perhaps even make it easier to bridge our differences.

Many factors shaped and moulded me and there is no doubt Catholicism was one. To what degree? That shall remain unanswered because it is impossible to know. What I do know is that  I was baptized as an infant and confirmed when I was six. So the way I see it, religion chose me not the other way around. Under my mother’s influence, my family of origin (excluding my father because he was a non church going protestant), followed a number of Catholic traditions, customs and rituals. Though, considering the import and influence religion had on my mom’s life, I don’t think my home life differed that much from the non-religious families I knew. Aside from the modest adornments of Christian symbols, saying grace at dinner, observing meatless Fridays, praying before bedtime, and attending church on Sundays and holy days, not much set us apart from our neighbours. My parents drank and partied just as hard as the rest of the neighbours. Matters of a spiritual nature rarely came up in conversations at home though I did receive a couple of messages from my mom. When I was three, my infant sister died, and I was told that from then on she was my guardian angel. Another message my mom impressed upon me was that “God was a loving God”. Those two impressions seemed to be all I needed because I never felt any desire to inquire about God, the bible or any other spiritual matter until an emotional crisis sparked an interest in my early thirties.

Although I attended a public school, throughout my elementary and junior high years, Catechism classes were a part of my daily routine. I guess my mom must have signed me up for them because I don’t recall ever being asked if I’d be interested in participating in such a class. Consequently, during the last half hour of each school day, while the majority of students got free time (or an opportunity to do their homework) I, along with other Catholic students, learned about our faith (at least that was the intention of these half hour classes).  I vaguely recall learning about the Ten Commandments,  mortal and venial sins, how to pray the rosary and I’m guessing there must have been some bible story lessons too. I also remember envying my non-Catholic friends that seemed to be either getting homework done or having fun during that time slot.

Of course being Catholic meant attending Church every Sunday too. As a child, I complied because it seemed to make my mom happy when I seemed willing to go. However, to me church didn’t seem to have any relevance to the rest of my life and I never made any attempts to connect them. Mostly attending church seemed like an obligation to be endured.  I knelt, stood, and sat with my mom and siblings practicing patience and discovering ways to bide my time in silence. Until I was eight the mass was said in Latin but even after the switch to English I still didn’t comprehend much of what was uttered. I recited the words of all the prayers and responses along with other parishioners but I rarely gave any thought to their meanings or intentions. I suppose the repetition of the same prayers week in and week out, particularly the Creed, worked their magic though. Somehow, in spite of how little I seemed to attend to things, a belief in the holy trinity, the Virgin Mary, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting became ingrained in me. In a nut shell, I would say my faith development amounted to going through the motions and absorbing precepts and ideologies through some sort of osmosis, without actively engaging in the thought process. It’s really quite amazing and I liken it to being immersed in a new language. You just pick it up without really being aware of it.

I continued to attend church until I turned 18, mainly to appease my mom. After that, my university and work schedules conflicted with church attendance and my mom didn’t say much about my interlude. However, at age 24, when I got engaged, she set the stage for my return. I was busy taking courses and working so she happily planned our wedding. It was expected that we would get married in her church and my husband (to be) and I complied. The next thing we knew we were attending an Engaged Encounter weekend—part of the church requirements of getting married. That entailed spending a weekend at a monastery with other engaged couples examining our faiths, our expectations of each other, and prioritizing the importance of different aspects of our lives under the direction of experienced married Catholic couples. It was during that weekend that we agreed our children would be baptized Catholic.

So, when I became pregnant with our first, my husband and I attended the obligatory baptism preparation classes and our daughter was baptized at a few months of age. From then on, history began to repeat itself. What you do for one of your children, generally you do for the rest. So each succeeding child of ours was baptized into the Catholic faith in infancy. We then had an obligation to follow up with a commitment to educate our children about the Catholic faith. That was mostly accomplished through their attendance in Sunday school classes and other church activities.

During the fifteen or so years that we attended our neighbourhood church a number of factors drew me/us there. As alluded to earlier, at age 31, I suffered a life altering trauma. At first, I sought help from the parish priests. That turned out to be a good move because my he wisely referred me to an excellent counsellor. I began to appreciate some aspects of my religion for the first time in my life too. Sometimes the sermons consoled me like nothing else could. I started to read the bible and I began to understand what people meant when they talked about a “personal relationship with God”. Now before you start to roll your eyes, let me say that I have a different understanding of all that now. However, at the time I was pretty convinced that God was nudging me and showing me the way…how to cope and how to recover.

Suffice it to say, my recovery was a long, slow and often very painful process. Throughout it I read many self-help books. I think I was around thirty-three when I came across a book called Jung and Christianity by Wallace Clift. It was this book that started me being conscious of what it was that I was agreeing to believe due to my religious upbringing. I think that book for me had a similar effect that the movie Religulous had on Lindsay. After reading it, I experienced an ongoing internal struggle that waxed and waned. I wanted our kids to have the benefits they seemed to be deriving from attending church and yet I became more and more conscious of the dogma of religion.

This is as far as I can go with this thread right now. Due to my struggles as I tried to recover, my thirties were fraught with a variety of influences that had significant impacts on my life. It’s driving me crazy trying to tease out Catholicism from the mix of influences during those years we attended church with our kids. In my next post I will attempt to write about the significance and influence psychology has had on my life.

Welcome to 2011!

Hey everyone! I feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the earth lately, at least when it comes to my blog so sorry for the long absence. I’ve been sick since mid-December with a cold and on top of that I recently caught a bad cough and I feel like I’ve been run over by a steamroller, so I haven’t been in the mood for writing lately. 2011 can only get better from here!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season.

You may have noticed I was a huge failure when it comes to positive thinking month. I’ll try to extend it into January but I won’t make any promises! If you were hugely disappointed in the lack of positive thinking stuff fear not! Here’s Gem Newman’s take on Startled Disbelief:

Alright now I’m going back to feeling sorry for myself. Hope to be back soon!

Rufus Wainwright’s Atheist Christmas

I happened to turn on the TV to This Hour Has 22 Minutes just as this came on:

Merry Saturday Night, atheists!

PS: Woohoo I can embed videos now!

PPS: Aw it’s been a long time since I’ve watched 22 Minutesmemories!


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