Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Getting Personal

To me, writing about myself is like writing a resume: it demands being boastful and showing off, something I'm not comfortable with. In fact, I value being humble and try to focus my conversations on other people's lives so much that I become awkward and uncomfortable when talking about myself--something which makes job interviews and intimate conversations very difficult. The upside is that I am able to learn immeasurable amounts about people who are already my friends, and it helps me quickly establish relationships with new people who enter my life--in whatever capacity that may be. The downside is that when you hold information back and keep most aspects of your life private, people can only guess or speculate about who you are and what you stand for. People are good at a lot of things, but giving one another the benefit of the doubt is not something many humans exceed in (see, I just assumed the worst right there).

I'll keep it nice and simple, point-form:

--I am 24-years-old, tall and lanky, and kind of an awkward looking dude. I should probably cut my hair more often than I do


--I work in a children's respite home, and have been involved in supporting individuals with cognitive/physical/mental delays/disabilities for over 5 years


--I embraced this line of work because I am an advocate for equality and the individuals whom I support are almost universally viewed as unequal; so I decided to put my money where my mouth is and lead by example. I have seen the positive changes in attitudes of people who used to literally be afraid of special needs individuals, and certainly viewed them as lesser--sickly, unequal, almost animal-like--solely through interactions I've helped come to pass


--I love the variety of my job and the things it teaches me, but I love even more the things I am able to share with other people who have prejudices against special needs individuals


--Each summer I volunteer at a camp for adults with special needs and have developed incredible relationships with so many wonderful people there


--I volunteer as a "Big Brother" for B.B.B.S. of Ontario, working in a classroom with a child who needs extra support getting through the school day


--I also work part-time for Extend-A-Family, where I help individuals learn life skills that will help them be fully independent one day; an included and integrated member of society


--I don't watch T.V. I spend most of my time at work or reading and researching about what is happening in the world


--I'm going to school to become a journalist so that I can further my fight for equality among all people. I plan to bring to light injustices that otherwise go unnoticed to most of Western society through travelling to places in the world where turmoil and chaos are everyday parts of life. Taking pictures and writing articles that will shock people to their core beliefs, causing them to pay attention, even if it isn't pleasant, will be my focus


--I've been published on several websites, getting about 8 million views total (outside this blog) since I started writing last November (2011)


--My personal blog (you're reading it now) gets 100,000+ views each month


--I think of myself as a pretty average person, with some skills and talents, but also plenty of flaws


--If video games are for geeks then I guess I am also one of those because I have always been an avid gamer


--I think people who take themselves too seriously, or are unable to laugh at their own behaviour lead terribly uninteresting lives


And now for the thing I catch the most flak for, my 'atheism':


--Although I am viewed by a lot of people as an atheist (because I lack belief in any god), I do not self-identify as one. Partly due to the fact that a lot of people who deem themselves 'atheists' are actually just pompous know-it-alls who value strident behaviour above open-minded conversation, but also because I believe atheism is just too narrow of a definition. I am a humanist: I believe civilization is a real thing and that it is the only thing that people have ever needed to be moral and hopeful. Religion can of course exist within civilization, but it needs to be made clear that society exists for the betterment of humanity, not for the purpose of perpetuating religious beliefs. Culture has existed in thousands of society's throughout history where religion has been absent or irrelevant. Art, science, music, dancing, cuisine, studying evidence, writing, speaking--all of these things are important parts of society. Some people may think religion is equally as important, and that is fine. 


The problem is when religious freedom turns into taking away other people's freedoms because they hold different beliefs or values. So when I write, or speak in criticism of religion, it isn't because I need to voice my opinion, or because of some innate desire for confrontation and to upset people; it's a reaction to religion (in one form or another) infringing on equal rights and freedom of civilization yet again, and I'm pissed off enough to speak up. If you're not pissed off, you're not paying attention. 


People have told me that I am too harsh, and that my jests and crude remarks about religion and the people spreading it are inappropriate. They are wrong, and this is why: The ability to laugh in the face of authority is an indispensable thing--it is the beginning of human emancipation to question, mock, and criticize the powers that be. I believe that religion as a political regime, as a constitution allowing people to abuse, destroy, hold back, dehumanize, and divide us, is dying. It will happen in my lifetime; I'll put money on it. My goal as a humanist is to make sure that religion serves its purpose (giving hope to the weak, the mourning, etc) and nothing else. My goal is to make sure people's equal rights are respected, regardless of how they love, or look, or what illnesses they were born with. 


The reason religion is a target of mine is because it consistently gives people permission to do and say wicked and evil things. I like to challenge people's belief systems and I have every right to do so. After all, they challenge mine everyday. Simply because I say "this religion needs to stop abusing women, and people who support this religion are pathetic for empowering it by following it" rather than "I love Jesus!" I lose friends, I have rude remarks thrown at me, written on my Facebook, Twitter messages, e-mails; and I am indefinitely viewed as a 'bad' person by a lot of people despite the positive things I do with my life. 


I'm actually okay with all of that, I can take it. I can deal because I am still a fully privileged member of society, with an amazing family who loves and accepts me and a uniquely awesome group of friends (and having a bunch of ignorant religious folk condemn me to hell is laughable because I don't even believe it exists). What I am not okay with is when good people, religious or not, have their rights taken away despite having committed no harmful offence--simply for believing differently. Or are laughed at in public for being gay or lesbian (Although I am straight, this injustice and the unequal treatment of LGBTQ individuals is something that causes my blood to boil unlike anything else). Religious people seem to forget that telling someone how to love is the same as telling someone how to listen to music; it's no one's responsibility to tell you how to view your own subjective experiences. 


See, I don't hate religion, I love humanity. The issue is that religion often gets in the way of humanity, and I will not tolerate that (and neither should you).




Thanks for reading a little bit about who I am and what makes me tick!