Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blogging Fatigue and Some Writers Worth Reading

I haven't written new posts for the blog as often as I would like to. I haven't gotten around to writing, because I simply haven't had anything to say. Blogging is getting kind of tiring, and old.

 I've haven't had new topics to discuss in depth, and even when I do, I haven't had the time to go into them as deeply as I would like to. I'm kind of a perfectionist in that way, I want a post to be the best writing that I can do, and if I don't feel I can do that, then it kills all the motivation to write.

For instance, I've had a guest post that I need to finish for the blog for the site Homeschoolers Anonymous, it's a great site, they have already re published  a post I wrote several months ago for the blog Reason Being, and the creator of the site said that he thought it would be a great idea for me to write an original guest post for them.

I've been working on that post for several weeks now, and I've got writers block. I think in many ways it's important for former fundamentalists like me to share our stories with the world, but it gets tiring. Rehashing the past, bringing up all those old memories again, and then struggling to find a way to keep the writing fresh, and to keep from repeating the same thing over and over. However, at the same time, that's what people want to hear about the most often, my story, my past. Such is the paradox of being a former fundamentalist blogger.

Oh well, I should quit complaining..... Though I haven't been able to write recently, there's a few items of note in the blogging/commentary world that I want to share with everyone in the meantime.

Turkish sociologist thinks there's a link between atheism and autism, and that's not a good thing to him:

From My Secret Atheist Blog, written by my good blogging friend, Godless Poutine. (Read full story here):

A Turkish sociologist, Fehmi Kaya (pictured at left), sincerely believes that that autism and atheism are one and the same, and that autistic children "lack a section for faith in their brains"

A few quotes from the post by Godless Poutine that I really love in response to this, he has a son with autism, and has personally experienced some of the more bizarre beliefs regarding autism and "cures" for it that have been floating around both in the outside culture, and within the autism community in Canada:

This, naturally, caused a great deal of outrage among autism associations around Turkey. Now, I find it outrageous because there appears to be no credible scientific study to back it up.  And if it is true that people with autism are statistically more likely to be atheists, then what's the problem?  In this sense they likely see the world more clearly than many neurotypical people who's brains seem to fall prey to superstitious mumbo jumbo. 
But I suspect many people in Turkey (and pretty much everywhere outside of Sweden) find it downright threatening.  Because being identified as an atheist there is unlikely to help anyone who already has the sufficiently burdensome challenges of being on the spectrum or caring for someone who is autistic.  It's more than likely going to compound any problems you would already have navigating the healthcare system trying to find plausible treatments.

 If people in a highly religious nation like Turkey start thinking of autistics as atheists, that's just going to make discrimination and misunderstanding more prevalent, since atheists  aren't viewed in a highly positive light in predominantly Muslim nation.

The idea that autistics are more likely to be atheist, or have a hard time grasping religious concepts is something I have seen before, I saw that in reactions to my guest post at The Wartburg Watch. I would like to see more studies done to see if autistics actually are more likely to be atheist, or otherwise non-religious. It would be interesting to see if this is true, and if it is, why.

HSLDA's campaign against homeschooling regulations and child welfare protections:

From Libby Anne of the Patheos blog, Love, Joy, Feminism, latest installment in the series can be read here, all posts related to HSLDA can be found here.

Micheal Farris (pictured at left), founded the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) both as an activist organization to promote the legalization of homeschooling in the early days of the movement in the US, and as a legal advocacy group for familes, should they ever find themselves in situation where legal help was needed.

Libby Anne's recent series on HSLDA goes into their lobbying tactics, and the advice they give to families when they get into an encounter with state social services investigators or local law enforcement. HSLDA is opposed to all state regulations of homeschooling, and they feel that the only legal obligation that homeschool families have to their state is to merely inform their local school district of their intent to begin homeschooling, if the student was previously a student in that public school system.

HSLDA also has a major persecution complex when it comes to state social services/child welfare agencies. HSLDA loves to promote fear and mistrust of such agencies, and portrays themselves as protecting innocent homeschooling families from unjustified visits and legal action from these agencies. Libby Anne points out how their advice on how to stonewall social services actually hurts families who are not abusing their children (it turns a simple inquiry/open and shut investigation into a court case dragging on for years), and makes matters worse for children who are being abused, since they won't have an opportunity to have an interview with the social services agent.

HSLDA also seems to have their head in the sand about the fact that it is in fact possible for abuse to happen in homeschooling families, just like in any other group. HSLDA campaigns against various aspects of child welfare laws, and laws that make it easier to report abuse, such as anonymous tiplines and mandatory reporter laws, which allow people to report cases of abuse anonymously, and require adults in certain professions (members of the clergy, healthcare workers, teachers, etc) to report case of child abuse to law enforcement, prosecutors or state social services.

Going undercover inside right-wing events:

One of my favorite bloggers, Ahab of Republic of Gilead, has a regular practice of going inside various religious and right-wing political events, (often the two overlap), and giving his observations. His last event was a Christian fundamentalist Hilltop Conference (read his report on the event here), promoting "pro life" activism.

His blog is full of his accounts of infiltrating such events and conferences, as well as links to various blogs and web sites keeping watch on the Religious Right. What would be interesting is if he would infiltrate a fundamentalist church long term, blend into the congregation, attend services and Sunday School classes, much like I have had to do as the Undercover Agnostic. His blog really is a great read if you are not familiar with the fundamentalist mindset, it can be a great insight into that world.

I Fired God:

It's the rather ironic (since as best I know, she's still a Christian), title of Jocelyn Zichterman's new book on her time in the Independent Fundamental Baptist  cult from her childhood, up until the time she left.

She has been a vocal critic of the IFB, she started a popular Facebook page for survivors, when very few people were talking about the IFB, or had ever heard of them, and has made media appearances on 20/20 and  CNN to expose the IFB.

I haven't had a chance to get a copy of the book and read it, if anyone out there in the blog audience has read it, let me know what you think of it in comments or by e-mail at ramblingsofsheldon (at) gmail (dot) com. If you would be willing to write a review of it for the blog, let me know.


  1. That did not look like fatigue to me; that was a great post.

    If you are really in a fatigue zone, rest is good. Then may I encourage you to look into the causes of our behavior ... I keep seeing a lot of argumentative material on why theism or atheism fails, but I can't find much on why humans actually do what they do. Just a thought. Keep writing.

  2. "....atheists aren't viewed in a highly positive light in predominantly Muslim nation."
    Perhaps we Muslims are forgetting that both Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and Prophet Abraham (pbuh) were atheists---they rejected the Gods they were brought up with!!!
    .....which is why the Shahada begins with the negation "there are No Gods"....


    1. It's good to see you come back, CM!

      Yes, I do find it interesting that the predominant religions of the world in our era are monotheistic, and reject the existence of any other gods.

      I've heard it said that atheism is merely believing in one less god than everyone else.

  3. Every blogger has to figure out what pace he or she can produce content. What I always say to bloggers (as well as comics) is that you're playing the long game, and that means adapting a long game strategy.

    1. It's like running a marathon, long term planning, don't burn out.

  4. Especially if it is largely because of being busy in real life, a little break from blogging might be in order, just don't make it for too long :)

    As for not having much material to blog about, I might suggest a long term project. I know you recently started reading the Koran. That's something you can always fall back on. I might suggest that you cut the length back a bit. Especially since you are having time issues, it might be a little less overwhelming if you do them in smaller pieces.

    Another thing I would recommend is to branch out into other topics, you said
    " that's what people want to hear about the most often, my story, my past."
    I think that's true, but it certainly doesn't mean you can't also blog about other stuff. There are basically 2 ways I go with this:

    1. things I have expertise in. I have a doctorate in math, so whenever I see someone butchering some math concept I will write a post about it. Largely just because it drives me crazy, but is also because it is something I can contribute that many people wouldn't be able to. I will also occasionally stumble across some mathy thing that I think is cool and write a post about it. It doesn't really have anything to do with atheism at all, but it is neat and writing the post was fun.

    2. things I want to learn about. An example, I'm fascinated by evolution and want to learn more about it, but I have no expertise. I figure what better way than to learn together. I have a wikipedia page bookmarked that has tons of evolution stuff on it. I figure if I'm struggling for ideas I can always scan that page for something that catches my eye, read about it and whip up a post.

    I also want to reread a book about the brain by ramachandran because I really found it interesting when I read it a decade ago. I figure next time I am out of ideas I can read a chapter and whip up a post. I've had plenty of things to write about, so the last time I did that was a while ago, but it's on my back burner.

    I also get ideas while reading other blogs or arguing with people in comments or on twitter or wherever. I have a word document that I make a quick note in, sometimes I don't get back to it for months.

    Anyway, I guess my point is, you shouldn't feel restricted about what you can write about. People come back because they like your voice and are interested in what you have to say. I imagine most of those people would be interested in your thoughts on other topics as well.

    1. The Quran Project is something I have wanted to get back to, but a good post in that series take a hell of a long time to write. I really want to do the issue justice, because there are so many complex issues to be considered there.

      I have a thought, maybe I could talk about my favorite authors. I know my post about Khaleed Hossieni didn't do so well in blog ratings, but it might make for good posts none the less.

    2. That sounds like a good idea to me. I wouldn't worry too much about the analytics, I like to keep track of mine to see how many people are reading and what-not, but I try not to obsess over it, and I definitely don't let it affect what type of stuff I write about. I always just figure I should write a blog that I would want to read and let the chips fall where they may.

    3. I try not to obsess over it, but I keep getting drawn back into it.

  5. Sheldon -- Thanks for the shout-out! I'll have more posts on the Hilltop Conference soon, but I'm traveling for work right now, so there's not a lot of blogging time.

    I agree with C. Emerson -- this doesn't look like writers block. It's a perfectly good post.

    1. Good. What do you think of the idea of going undercover in a church? ;)

    2. Me personally? If you're talking about a one-time thing, it would be interesting, but I doubt that I could pull off a long-term infiltration.

    3. Because a long-term infiltration would involve people getting to know me, which would increase the chance that my infiltration would be revealed. First, I don't speak Christianese fluently, so my poor grasp of the lingo would be a red flag. Second, when people learn where I work (a progressive nonprofit) and where I volunteer (pro-LGBTQ and pro-choice organizations), they'll realize my values don't fit with fundamentalism. If the church in question is a Charismatic/Pentecostal church, I DEFINITELY know I couldn't pull off the ecstatic prayer and speaking in tongues as an act! It's much easier to do one-time infiltrations of conferences or special events, where I can blend into the scenery and disappear afterwards.

    4. Ah, doesn't sound like you could pull it off if the church is in your area.

      If it were just the Christianese, I could put you through fundamentalism culture boot camp. I've been surprised at how easy it is to pull off myself, but then again I have the credentials to go along with it, people have known me for years, and have no reason to suspect any differently.

      If you were ever to want to try it, I would suggest playing the "seeker", a guest who is curious about Christianity.

  6. I need to do a round-up of every decent blog I read to give my audience something to do when my posts slow down.

    Don't worry, you're decent. ;-)

  7. Sheldon, you've been so prolific on Google+ lately it is no wonder you haven't had time for anything else!

  8. Jerri Massi stated the other day that she had been asked by the publisher to read and review "I Fired God" by Jocelyn Zichterman. She posted her take on the book:


No spam, proselytizing, or personal attacks, such comments will never see the light of day around here.

Disagreeing with me is fine (I encourage it), but have some decency when writing your comment