Archive for December, 2010

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!

The Moment I Stopped Believing in Santa is Preserved in Writing

I’ve always preferred communicating with people in writing, even when I was a little kid. I suppose that’s why it’s only natural that I have a blog! Even before I could write my mom would have me communicate my feelings through drawing or painting. So when I wanted to broach a difficult subject I would always write her a note.

I remember writing to her when I found out my classmate was shoplifting and smoking, I wrote to her when I wanted to stop going to Church with the rest of my family, and I vaguely remember drawing her a picture representing my feelings about a war I heard about on the radio (I think it must have been the Gulf War).

My husband and I recently moved, and when I was unpacking I started to dig out my old correspondences and read through them. I found one cute little journal that was full of notes back and forth between my mom and I. Most of it was her guiding me on how I could learn to tolerate my annoying little brothers, and I was also very concerned about a wallet I had lost (I remember finding it in the couch, that was a good day). But my heart skipped a beat when I saw this:

I think that for many children, the first time they really think about and apply skepticism and critical thinking is when they consider the existence of Santa Claus and the other various characters that our parents make up to make our childhood more fun. My mom had the perfect response to the above query:

My response:

And her again:

And me again:

At this point she knew I had figured it out, so the next response from her is her explanation about what Santa Claus is, and about how he represents the spirit of giving.

I have the best mother!

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed finding it!

Happy Holidays everyone :)

Reddit /r/atheism Doing Good for Doctors Without Borders

This is awesome!

I was reading Reddit /r/atheism this morning and I saw that they were starting some friendly competition with /r/christianity over who could raise $10,000 for charity first. They collectively settled on Doctors Without Borders as their charity and set up a page to collect donations about 7 hours ago. As of now they’ve almost raised $7,000 already! (Plus another £433.32 on the UK site)

Here‘s a link to the thread on Reddit, and here‘s a direct link to where you can make your own donation to add to the total (you don’t have to be on Reddit).

Positive Thinking

So, December is proving to be a terrible month to do an anything “of the month”, but I’ve been trying to fulfill my intentions to read up on the subject of positive thinking, and to inform myself on the evidence for its efficacy. I hope to go more in depth at what science says about positive thinking, but for now here are some of my initial thoughts on the topic.

When I told my husband that I would be doing positive thinking as my skeptical topic of the month, he thought it was a little bit strange because of his experience as an athlete. He plays and coaches hockey, so he’s familiar with the effects that a positive attitude can have on the outcome of a game. If your team is convinced that they’re going to lose, they aren’t going to over-exert themselves to try in futility to score. It’s easier for the players to get over their own insecurities and to play their best if they’re feeling confident.

I was an athlete myself back in my highschool and university days. I was a competitive swimmer, and my best event lasted less than 30 seconds. I had to be positive about my training and abilities, otherwise I would get caught up in making sure my hands were positioned correctly or making sure I didn’t breathe too often. But here’s the thing, no amount of positive thinking would have allowed me to go faster than I was physically able to go. If I hadn’t worked hard enough in practice I couldn’t count on my optimistic brain to push me into the lead. I could visualize myself springing from the blocks the moment the gun went off, but it wouldn’t change the fact that I had terrible reaction time.

Thinking about something doesn’t make it happen, no matter what Oprah tells you.

Out of curiosity I Googled “Positive thinking can”, and here are some of the results that came up:

·       Help you feel better, longer
·       Reduce stress
·       Ease back pain
·       Change your life
·       Increase your wealth, health and happiness
·       Help you attract success
·       Help children feel confident
·       Help you lose weight
Etc…

How can thinking possibly do all of this magic? I have back issues myself, and let me tell you no amount of positive thinking is going to dull that sharp pain like loads of ice and an anti-inflammatory. Though I might be able to distract myself from the pain by thinking about how annoying Deepak Chopra is…

Positive thinking may be helpful in some of these instances. Being a positive person might make people want to be around you, which will increase your chances of having a friend that can help you find wealth or success. But looking at websites and videos that promote positive thinking make it seem as though if only you start to think more positively you’ll suddenly find yourself in a beautiful green meadow with a big blue sky and rolling clouds, basking in your own success while you spin around with your arms in the air in loose, white clothing.

Google Image search results for "positive thinking"

Thoughts aren’t magical. Conjuring something up in your mind isn’t going to make it happen. Positive thinking isn’t going to help you pass that test unless you study. A good attitude won’t shrink that tumor. Optimism won’t give you the money you need to buy your dream home.

Yet there’s an entire industry out there of people who want to sell you the idea that you can get anything you want by sending your positive thoughts out into the universe. On the surface it’s a nice idea. Just be positive! Your dreams will come true! But what really disgusts me about these ideas is the implication that if good things don’t happen for you it’s your fault.

Terminally ill? Maybe you should have a better attitude. Didn’t get the job? Keep sending those positive vibes and you’ll get a job eventually. Depressed? Well maybe you should smile more.

This is what protects the cult of positive thinking: it’s immune to criticism. If it doesn’t work for you it’s because you weren’t doing it right.


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