Friday, December 23, 2011

My battle with Cafe Courier

So, dear readers, for those of you who know me, you know that I am a terrible cook. A "oops-I-set-the-kitchen-on-fire" kind of terrible cook. So it should not surprise anyone that I often look to professional food makers to feed me. Since I also don't like going out into the real world (I have Skyrim; why would I need to go outside ever?), I utilize delivery services, which are arguably the greatest thing ever to people like me.

I settled on a service called Cafe Courier. I was fine with them for the most part, until I received an email from them.

 It's your standard Christmas email, "peace and prosperity, we'll be closed, safe new year, blah blah blah." I thought it was nice of them (actually, I thought "WHY DO I GET SO MUCH EMAIL?" but if I didn't get 50 emails a day from companies trying to sell me things, I would have thought that). But wait, what's that bit at the bottom? 
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6 
 Huh. Well that's...something. I got upset. If this had just been one of those "love everyone" or something kind of Bible verses, then whatever, fine. It would leave a bad taste in my mouth but I wouldn't make a big deal of it. However, this reeks of proseltyzation. 

So I did two things: I emailed them and I posted a Facebook status about it.

My email said: 
Dear Cafe Courier,

 I just wanted to let you know that you've lost my business due to the Christmas email you sent out. I had been a happy customer for a while, but your addition of a Bible verse in your "thank you" email makes me feel ostracized as a non-Christian. I realize it is your prerogative to include religious messages in your private business dealings, just as it is my prerogative to avoid doing business with a religiously-based business.
 My Facebook status said:
Boo. I've been ordering from Cafe Courier a lot since I moved to Columbus, but when they sent me a "thank you" email they included a Bible verse. Ugh. I understand they are free to do that, just as I am free to no longer give them my business.
My Facebook status blew up. Comments ranged from confusion and honest questions to understand to hyperbole that I would now start disowning Christian family members to comments about how horrible the Bible is to suggestions that I am intolerant, with many, many comments in between (it's at 98 comments as I type this). Now, despite the popular idea that I'm bullheaded, I actually do take any and all criticize of my ideas seriously. I try very hard to think things through all the way before I make a judgment or decision, but I could miss something and be wrong. So, when someone suggested that this company is "not necessarily asking you to believe what they do, they're just saying, 'here's a sentiment that I find lovely, and because I find it lovely I wanted to share it with you'." I kept it as a possibility. Maybe that is what they were doing, even though my initial reaction was to think otherwise.Hey, sometimes I overreact and think emotionally rather than logically. I could be wrong.  So I offered up the chance that if their response email (if I got one) was something to that effect, I would keep using this company. 

So imagine my (lack of) surprise when I got this email back from them.

(It reads: "Sorry we offended you. We, however, feel it would be offensive to ignore the meaning of the major holiday that 95% of Americans celebrate. Happy Holidays to you!")

Huh. Well, now that's some condescending, factually incorrect, proselytizing bullshit. 

All my madness has been spent for the day (trust me, it takes a lot of energy being mad at everything all the time), so I was debating whether I should respond to the email or not. And if so, how? Do I correct them that Christmas is not, in fact, because of Jesus? Or how shitty of a business practice it is? Luckily, my friends were on it. 

I posted that response to the status, and one of my friends (who had actually suggested the "maybe they're just sharing because they think it's nice" thing) basically said 

She drafted this up and sent it:

To Whom it May Concern,
In a recent email to a non-Christian client of yours, you gave the least sincere apology ever for offending her with your inclusion of a Bible verse in your holiday greeting. You informed her that ignoring the “meaning” of the holiday was offensive to you because 95% of Americans celebrate it.
While you are correct that 95% of Americans celebrate Christmas, 67% of those people say that their enjoyment of this holiday has nothing at all to do with the birth of Jesus Christ. So that “meaning” you speak of is something that less than 30% Americans celebrate. That in itself is an interesting number given that 60 – 76% of Americans call themselves Christians, yet less than 30% of Americans celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas time. I guess that means that 30 – 46% of Americans are bad Christians, huh?
At any rate, your attempt to foist your religious views on your clientele is unprofessional and offensive not just to the majority of Americans who are not Christians but also to those of us in the 30% minority who do celebrate Christ’s birth. You owe that young lady an apology. A real one this time.
Now, please provide me with the name and contact information of the owner and/or president of your company, so that this issue may be addressed by more than an anonymous mouthpiece.
Sincerely, [Sarah's bad ass friend] 
I feel like she handled it very well. (She's an old friend of the sense that I've known her for a long time, not that she's old...but I am a bit younger than her so I think the "young lady" part is kind of funny.)  I will post updates if anything further happens. I probably will respond to them, however I think I should calm down first (and do laundry, because I am still in pajamas).

What do you think? Did I overreact? Are they being shitty? If you send them an email, post what you said in the comments.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Christopher Hitchens passed away. He was a great mind, and will be missed. Rather than extolling his excellent writing and speaking skills (because it's already been done), I'm going to share a personal anecdote. However, this obituary from the Onion is hilariously fitting. And if you've never heard him speak, this is my favorite debate of his.

Anyway, I attended the Texas Freethought Convention in Houston this past October, and Hitchens was there to receive an award (a video of it is here). They announced that he would be there to sign books and the line started 3 hours before it was due to start. The line wound literally around the entire hotel (and this was no small hotel, mind you). I was supposed to give a speech an hour before the signing was set to begin, and we cancelled it because the simple anticipation of seeing Hitchens was a far greater draw than seeing this hack talk about something (I don't blame them). 

He signed books, and one person told me the people in front of him were a couple and the woman was visibly pregnant. Apparently the couple told Hitch that they were going to name their son "Hitch" after him. Hitch stood up and hugged them.

Between the book signing and his speech, he stepped outside to have a cigarette with his wife. I was sitting in the bar, talking with a few people, and someone walked in and told us Hitch was right outside. I didn't want to bother him, but I knew I would never have this opportunity again. I walk outside to join a small crowd (probably 6-10 people) already surrounding him. I said, "I'm sorry for disturbing you, and I don't want to make you speak if it will hurt your voice, but I just wanted to say you've been a great inspiration to me and it's an honor to meet you." He clasped my hand in both of his and said (something to the effect of), "No, no, you're not a bother at all, it's things like this that keep me going, so thank you." He then added, "And just remember, if you can't be good, be careful." He then had to go inside, and I stood there, simply awestruck, knowing that I just had an incredible opportunity. I relish that moment, and am so grateful that I had the opportunity to meet him.

He spoke for quite a while, and allowed questions. I had been working with Camp Quest Texas kids all day, and one of the girls stood up to ask a question. She told him she was 8 years old and wanted to know what books he would recommend to her. He asked if her mother was around, and her mom stood up. He said "Good, because I didn't want to ask you to come see me if your parents weren't around." The crowd laughed. He then said, "Come see me after the speech and I'll make you a list of books." After the speech, he spent 15-20 minutes talking to her. 

What a touching, genuine guy. I'll never forget him.

I'm raising  a glass of Johnny Walker Black for him tonight.

(Oh, and people like Rick Warren can kiss my fucking ass.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can I Hate Catholism Any More? You Bet.

I made a post recently about my defection from the Catholic Church, and apparently Catholics are on a rampage to make me hate them even more.

There exists a group called the "Catholic League." The Catholic League exists to "to safeguard both the religious freedom rights and the free speech rights of Catholics whenever and wherever they are threatened." As we all know, it must be difficult being a member of the largest denomination of the largest religion in the world. What next, an organization defending white men? (Oh wait, we already have that.) 

The Catholic League also "defends the right of Catholics – lay and clergy alike – to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination." 

Are Catholics really discriminated against? According to the CL's website....

Harvard professor Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. once observed that prejudice against the Catholic Church was “the deepest bias in the history of the American people.” Mount Holyoke College professor Peter Viereck commented that “Catholic baiting is the anti-Semitism of the liberals.”
And today’s brand of anti-Catholicism is more virulent and more pervasive than ever before in American history. While it is true that Catholics as individuals have made progress in securing their rights, the degree of hostility exhibited against the Catholic Church is appalling. Quite simply, Catholic bashing has become a staple of American society.
 So....what you're saying is, you want to be able to profess your beliefs in public without discrimination? Huh. Which makes this next part really interesting.

The CL is launching a campaign called "Adopt an Atheist."

Here’s what our campaign entails. We are asking everyone to contact the American Atheist affiliate in his area, letting them know of your interest in “adopting” one of them. All it takes is an e-mail. ...
If we hurry, these closeted Christians can celebrate Christmas like the rest of us. As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.” [emphasis mine]
So a group that supposedly stands to stop discrimination is...openly discriminating? Cool! Where do I sign up? Oh, they're even kind enough to link to the American Atheists page-- oh wait, no, they didn't, they just copied all the state directors and hosted it on their own page. Well, here's a link to the AA page of directors, whom you can contact and talk to so you can let them know they're doing a bang-up job. You can also go here to donate to AA for Christmas!

Anyway, this campaign is obviously silly and patronizing. I have no specific empirical evidence to support this assertion (but if you do, I'd love to have it), that there are more Catholics becoming atheists than there are atheists becoming Catholics currently. 

The CL directs these evangelical Catholics to  "Let them know of your sincere interest in working with them to uncover their inner self. They may be resistant at first, but eventually they may come to understand that they were Christian all along." Right, except for the fact that WE KNOW MORE THAN YOU. Atheists know more about religion than do religious people. In fact, Catholics scored pretty low.

Catholics don't even know about their own religion. According to the Pew study, "More than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ." That is because if they knew that, they would probably leave their ridiculous religion. That's why the Catholic church deters people from reading the Bible and making their own conclusions about it; because if they did, they would realize how messed up the Bible and church teachings are and leave. You expect me to believe that this stale cracker is literally the body of some dude who died over 2,000 years ago? 

But of the whole campaign (which has already been destroyed by JT), I think the thing I find most patronizing is this picture:

Seriously? If any Catholics go through with this (and dear FSM, I hope they do), it will not be like taking a young child to a park and holding them up in front of a sunset. It will be a fight, and we will win. There are no atheists out there thinking, "You know, I wonder if there's someone who loves me so much that he cast original sin upon me, then exempted one woman from that, who he then magically impregnated to raise a kid who would then die in a torturous and horrible way, only to come back to life and have people write four confusing and contradicting gospels about. Yeah, that makes sense." Here's how I envision a conversation between me and a Catholic going about the Immaculate Conception:

Catholic: "Mary was born free of any sin!"

Me: "Well of course she was, all babies are, how can babies commit sin?"

Catholic: "Well, babies don't commit sin really, but we're all born into's called original sin, and it's from Adam and Eve's first sin of disobeying God."

Me: "So wait, we're all born with original sin, even though we didn't do anything wrong?"

Catholic: "Well, yes. But Mary was born free from that! God exempted her!"

Me: "So why doesn't God just exempt all of us?"

Catholic: "Well, we don't deserve it. [Insert more blather about god and forgiveness and blah blah blah.]"

Me: "God sounds like kind of an asshole."

The long story short is that Catholicism is ridiculous dogma, and the Catholic Church is an evil organization that hates women, children, and anyone not-straight. I hope Dave Silverman over at American Atheists really capitalizes on this and invites the shitty Catholic League to, ahem, bring it. Because guess what? We can take it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Reason Rally!

Holy freakin' balls you guys. I am on tv. Well, not really. I'm on YouTube. Which is BETTER than TV!

It's just me talking about the Reason Rally, but still. It's pretty cool. I also look wide as a whale because it was uploaded at a weird ratio, but OH WELL. I'm still famous (not really). 

Anyway, the video is here.

You gonna be at the Reason Rally??

Monday, December 5, 2011

Reflections on Thanksgiving

I took this image from Postsecret, which is a fantastic website that I love to check every week. I thought about doing this post on Thanksgiving, then decided not to, then I saw this PostSecret today and changed my mind again. So we'll see how this goes.

Now, as you read this, I want you to keep in mind that I love my family, dearly. They are all good people, so this isn't a dig at them. They just don't understand sometimes.

I'm the middle of three children. I have an older brother and a younger sister. My brother and sister are both tall, blonde, and popular. They're both rockstar athletes (my sister made varsity track her freshman year, my brother was a basketball superstar) and were the cool kids in their grades. And I'm...this weird little brunette who likes school. So I kind of stand out already.

I got weirder. I liked books and didn't dress in cool clothes and I had nerdy friends...and then, the real blow. I did something against the Catholic church. I joined the Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school. That created some waves, and then even worse...I decided to do my first real act of activism. A gay couple at my high school told the GSA that they weren't allowed to buy prom tickets together, so the GSA was looking for volunteers to try to buy tickets to the next dance with a same-sex partner. So of course I volunteered with my friend Danielle.

My parents were not happy about that. We had a few really big fights about it, and they told me that didn't want me making waves, that I would get made fun of for doing it (except I was already being made fun of for everything else, so this wasn't a huge concern of mine), and they wanted to know why I had to be so different from everyone. Why couldn't I just be normal? (By the way, we were allowed to buy tickets together, and here's a PG rated picture of us at the dance together. I was 15 at this time, so don't be creepy.)

This became a recurring theme in my life. Why was I so different? Why couldn't I be more like my brother and sister? My parents weren't excited that I had straight A's, or that I volunteered on a regular basis all throughout high school, or that I was getting ready to be the first person in my family to go to college (well, it didn't seem that way at least). We just argued about how "out there" I was.

Now that I'm an adult with a college degree, and pay my own bills, am gainfully employed, they...still think I'm out there. It really sucks that I can't really talk about my work to my family, because they think I'm radical. I really don't think I'm that radical, but even if I were, the only things I talk about are helping students (because, you know, that's what I do)...and yet my family still thinks I'm radical.

It's weird, because my dad has admitted to me that he thinks the Bible is bunk, and he doesn't really believe in a Judeo-Christian god...but he calls himself a Christian because it's "easier." He thinks I should stop being "out there" and just "go with the flow." I think he's mostly a deist (even though he claims not to be). I felt really left out at Thanksgiving dinner when we prayed. I felt almost...targeted, because we haven't said a prayer before Thanksgiving dinner in years, and now that I'm a professional atheist, we have a prayer to our "Heavenly Father?"

It stinks, because you always hear about how standing up and being different is good...unless you're an atheist. Simply not believing in a deity and thinking we should have a separation of church and state is radical enough that my family doesn't want to hear about my work. That kind of sucks. :/

Anyway, that's why I think secular groups are important. Even if my family isn't excited about my job, my friends can be. I have my biological family, and I have the family I've built here in Columbus and online. My coworkers are all fantastic (like JT, he's so fantastic that I put his stuff in jello) and the people I've met at conferences are so kind and supportive.

I know there's no invisible sky daddy watching me who's proud of my accomplishments, but I can at least rest easy in the fact that I'm making a difference in the world and actually helping people...and there are people out there who are proud of me. 

And shit, I'm proud of me. That's pretty important.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My defection from the Catholic Church

That letter is my formal defection from the Catholic Church. Like many people, I was baptized as a baby, and since water was dropped on my head before I could talk, that means the church owns me forever!

Not anymore. I got my copy of a defection letter from here (PDF) and found the address of the church diocese that I was baptized at here (for US only). I filled out my info, and since the church doesn't want to lose me as a member, I wrote on the back "I request confirmation of my defection from the church sent to [address]. Thank you for your prompt attention." I then wrote my name and email underneath it. (Many thanks to my coworker JT for being my witness.)

It may seem stupid or unimportant to some of you. That's fine. For me, it's a big deal. I was a Shi'ite Catholic (to quote Jim Gaffigan), so to officially renounce it...feels good, man. Also, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has  over 600,000 members-- which is outrageous when you realize the metro population of Milwaukee is approximately 1.5 million. The Catholic Church is also the largest denomination of Christianity in the world, exceeding 1 billion members.

I don't want to be counted in that number. I don't want them to pray for me. I don't want them to keep sending requests for money to my parents' house for me. I don't think I need to go through the details of why the Catholic Church is a horrible institution. If for some reason you don't know why the church is so awful, I highly suggest you watch the Intelligence Squared debate with Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry. If you ever needed more reason to dislike the Catholic church, this will do it (or if you don't hate the Catholic church-- this will make you).

And considering it only takes a few minutes to do (I mean, the letter is already written for you and everything) and the cost of a's worth it to me. I feel good about it. If you do it, leave a comment and let me know! Stop supporting this homophobic, misogynistic, and pedophilic organization. I'll post an update when I get a response from them.

(By the way, if you're in the mood for a laugh, definitely watch the Jim Gaffigan clip about Jesus and religious people. It's hilarious.)