What is decency? Is it subjective or objective? Is it absolute or relative? Is it universal or pertains only to a few? Is it merely the absence of arousal, of feelings deemed sinful or is it based on something less basic?
As of now, I’ve made more than fifty posts on my blog. I thought that I would make a little celebration for the fiftieth post but then I remembered that I deleted about fifteen posts that I made when this blog’s tag-line was, ‘bible bites that go well with tea.’ So there is no easy way for me to tell when my fiftieth post was. I must have posted almost seventy times since I started but I can’t know for sure because all those posts are gone. Nonetheless, we must celebrate somehow, mustn’t we?
So over the next two weeks, I will be re-blogging every day some posts from this very blog for nostalgia’s sake. First, I will post some of the five articles that were most read/seen by you as per WordPress statistics. Then I will post five that I personally had the most fun writing and finally, I will lend a second chance to five that were least read/seen. Please bear with me as I crowd your emails and social media notifications with old stuff because it actually means a lot to me that you have stuck with me for so long. Thank you and I wish you better content on the tea break site.
Featured image from here
I want to put a pause on this series about religion. A pause because I will definitely come back to the subject since it is so relevant and interesting and because I don’t want you to think that I am all about religion. After all, this is ‘life with a twist of medicine.’ I know it would be best if I did more series but I don’t have much time to be so intentional with this blog. It’s more like a place for me to vent and I am always happy to have you around as I rant about whatever is going wrong in my world.
I was talking to my best friend the other day when she said that she thought of me brave to come out as a skeptic and especially on Facebook. Which had me a little confused because I didn’t think it required any bravery to do so. Then I remembered how much I tried to hide my views on religion (Christianity) before I came out. How scared I was of people’s reactions. So I thought to myself, have I been sloppy? Is this something I am going to regret?
Probably. Because I am opposed to so many things in Christianity that are rather central to the faith. For starters, that God has sufficiently revealed himself to us, that the Bible is a good moral standard and that we shouldn’t challenge anything that’s written in it. Now that doesn’t sit well with many people. I could actually be thought to be nuts by some, a fact that I have already made public as well when I wrote about my depression. And the ways in which people who hold these views will respond to people like me is rather unpredictable. I have heard of fathers cutting off support to their children that left their faiths, and then there are those families where the father is Catholic, the mother is Muslim and the children are Catholic, Muslim, and Seventh Day Adventist. I don’t know how they do it.
What if my father found out (if he hasn’t already)? What if my family found out (if they haven’t already, and I have already mentioned that there is a good number of clergy in my family)? How will I relate with them now that they know that I question their beliefs? I don’t know! So why take the risk of being kicked out of my father’s house and being alienated by most of my family?
For two reasons. Firstly because it is really important to me that I live authentically. Many times I have lied on matters of religion. Over time, I got exhausted by all that acting to fit in when it probably wasn’t worth all the harm it caused. To please people that were probably not worth it. Which leads me to the second reason.
I want to be with authentic people. I knew this guy that was an evangelist. He was telling me a story of how he’d befriended his classmate so that he could preach Christ to her. So I asked him, would you befriend her for any other reason other than converting her to Christianity? And he said no. That is when I began suspecting that I probably had much fewer friends than I’d thought. If I have no value to you when I disagree with you on matters of religion, then I am probably not all that valuable to you anyway. There is so much more to me than what religion I subscribe to or that I don’t subscribe to any religion.
However, I appreciate the importance of religion in shaping our relationships with individuals and communities which is why there are no hard feelings when I fall out with my religious friends. But I will admit I feel much better now with all these heretics, heathens, and atheists around me. Not that they are better people or even more honest people but that at least I know that religion plays a very small role in how I relate with them.
I am yet to see the full extent of repercussion from my actions over the past few weeks. I don’t even know whether or not they will play a role in whether or not I get a job in the future, get married or die by public execution. So far though, I can say I am in a much better place because I came out.
Featured image: a guillotine 3D art
During one of the many arguments I have had on religion with my Christian friends, Christian looked me squarely in the eyes and with deep concern on his face asked, “Why are you so angry?” And I replied, “But I am not angry. Isn’t it obvious? There is no way two of each animal species could fit in a boat and survive there for a whole year with only eight zookeepers. There is no historical evidence that the Israelites were ever enslaved in Egypt and Jesus was not born of a virgin!”
I was watching one of my best atheist YouTubers when he pointed out this accusation as one of the most common against atheists. That we are angry and that that is why we attack religion. That something bad must have happened to us to make us so bitter. To which he also responded that no, we are not doing this out of anger. We are simply pointing out the inconsistencies in your faiths and somehow you find us bitter for doing so.
But what if I was angry? Does that weaken my arguments against religion? Couldn’t I be honest and angry at the same time on matters of religion? Picture this, a teenage girl, daughter of a bishop is forced by her parents to have an abortion to protect her father’s reputation and it scars her for life. Is she allowed to be angry? A woman is sexually, verbally and physically abused by her reverend husband but the church won’t so much as look into the matter because it will cause too much unrest in the church. Can she be angry? A man loses his entire family in a suicide bomb attack. Is he allowed to spit on the bomber’s ashes?
I won’t deny it anymore, I am angry, and I am allowed to be. But I can see past my anger. I can still see the weakness of your arguments for the wonderful qualities of God. I can consider the plausibility of some of your good arguments and yet still not be convinced. And I am not simply making this stuff up only to discredit an otherwise good and rational belief system just because it did not work for me.
How about you Christian, why are you not angry? Is it because nothing bad ever happened to you? How could you possibly see beyond your perfect world and come to consider the genius in my arguments? Do you now see the hypocrisy in asking me why I am so angry? And I know your world is not perfect. I know you struggle like me to get by. You’ve probably had it worse than me and yet you still find comfort in religious beliefs. Honestly, I envy you sometimes. But don’t assume that just because I can’t learn the same things you did from adversity I am somehow disqualified from engaging in constructive discourse.
This is the point I am trying to put across; atheist, stop apologizing for being angry. You have good reasons for feeling that way. Only remember to be impartial in your judgment no matter how hard it may be. You can do it! That way you will only become wiser with every exchange you engage in because then you refine your arguments with whatever new knowledge you gather from the other side.
Then there is this accusation, that we are only angry at God because deep down we know that he exists. After all, you can’t be angry at someone that doesn’t exist! True, many atheists are willing to consider the possibility that there are deities. It’s not always and is, in fact, rare that someone will say they are 100% sure that there is no God. But ultimately, we are not angry at God, we are angry at the ways in which he has been presented to us; the ways in which we have interacted with him/her/them in religion. Say the tooth fairy didn’t leave me any money under the pillow when I left them my tooth. I would be pissed even if the tooth fairy had nothing to do with it. But if I discovered that there is, in fact, no such thing as a tooth fairy, I’d want to tell all my friends to take a chill pill the next time they didn’t find any money from them. Cos there is no such thing as a tooth fairy. It is just that their parents forgot to put the money there while they were asleep.
The idea of God isn’t always so glossy or harmless as it is often portrayed in religion. We know it and that is partly why we left. But by denying this fact and the fact that we are so angry we are no more honest than those that do just that but decide to stay religious. Now let religious people take what they want from their life experiences you as an atheist reserve the right to be angry.
If you have been following the news in Uganda lately, you know that we are fighting a big battle over the constitutional age limit to who can stand for the presidency. And despite my greatest wish to not be concerned, I am concerned; because I am a Ugandan. And this affects me so I haven’t been watching the news or reading the papers. It’s not just a reflection of how concerned I am or of how medical-school stacks up against constitutional matters but rather on my lack of hope in our leaders, fellow Ugandans.
I mean that we’d waste so much time and money deliberating on something that seems rather straightforward really baffles me. That a few individuals would send our country to the dogs, and for what? So that their children can attend European universities and go for vacations in Dubai! It baffles me really that anyone could be that simple, or bad! I mean if the facts are clearly laid out before you and you still choose the bad over the good then you must be a bad person, right? So I will not spend what little brain I have left after an excruciating day in the hospital on trying to understand the technicalities under which our country will finally be sold to the highest bidder when even the commonest of us all know that senility comes to us all. So why do we have a retirement age for other jobs anyway? Does a president’s biology suddenly change when he/she becomes the president or do you think this is one of those countries where all the head of state has to do is smile and wave? This is really bad and these are really bad people who are pushing for this amendment.
But guess what, they’re not all atheists. In fact, I’d be pleased to find out that any one of them is a vocal atheist because it would mean that finally, people can judge a person’s character beyond their faith. Granted, it would be a poor judgment but at least they dared consider an atheist for public office. I mean if you want to lose an election fast, just call BS on all religions by declaring that you are an atheist. Because that’s how most people will take it, that by not agreeing with them on matters of faith you are actively opposing those that do.
This is the point I am trying to make, we can be good. Yes, we can be good without religion. And though I struggle to find a person who is completely unadulterated with religion that is good, I think there are many that have left religion and remained good, like myself. And then there is Elon Musk! He is a good man, isn’t he? He obviously isn’t a saint but at least he tries to save the planet and gives to the needy.
Let me share with you a little secret. Most times we want to teach morals, we instinctively know what the right thing is then we seek justification for it so as to lend more weight to it. But we knew all along that killing was bad and that we shouldn’t rape our neighbors or that we should not say mean things to others. We know these things somehow even though I am not entirely sure why.
You’d probably say that most of us have had a little religious-morals taught to us here and there growing up which is why we are such civil adults and I couldn’t disagree with you entirely on that. But then I wouldn’t agree with you even a little bit if you said that that is the only reason why there are any morals in this world. I mean a lot of good we’ve done has had nothing to do with religious teaching. In fact, religious teaching is directly opposed to many of such good. For example, we don’t stone to death girls that are found not to be virgins on their wedding night. Somehow we figured out that it is more loving to pardon them and encourage them on a path of righteousness instead.
Again, I don’t intend to make this about me arguing for atheism over theism but I just have to make a point sometimes. Rather, this is about helping us find peace knowing that we can be good after we’ve deserted religion. And by religion in all my articles I mean any such claim that there is a God and/or gods and that we know how to respond to that God and/or gods. Atheism in this post is anything other than that. Be it the classic atheist, or the agnostic, or “I don’t care” group. Even if you believe there is a 90% chance that there is a God but do nothing to respond to him/her, I’ll just go ahead and call you an atheist for simplicity’s sake.
So if you are an atheist, this is my message to you today, you can be good. In fact, you are just as good and just as bad as everyone else who has the sense to acknowledge the facts before them. That it is wrong to sacrifice a whole country for one’s personal gain.
Featured image: Elon Musk from here
Let me warn you first that for some of you, this is going to be a really boring post because in most places I think the case for female doctors has already been made. However, there are still a few scenarios that make me cringe which is why I still went ahead to post this boring article!
One time a passenger passed out on a plane. A young black lady doctor offered to help immediately but was dismissed by a flight attendant because she (the attendant) didn’t believe that she (the young black lady doctor) was a real doctor. After she’d stated her credentials and much other unrelated information (mark you this is an emergency), an older white male came up also claiming to be a doctor and so she (the young black lady doctor) was finally passed over for this older white man that had just showed up and hadn’t been subjected to the “required” due diligence before he could attend to the passenger.
One time during a ward round, we were led by a female attending and a female resident. Besides us was a patient, and he tugged onto the resident’s coat calling, nurse. She jeered at him and went on her way. Another time a similar incident occurred to another female resident, she wasn’t amused either but went on to explain to us that it was rather disrespectful to put her with her five years training and more as a doctor at the same level as a nurse. And I agreed with her, but I’d like to add a bit to her argument.
Where I come from, all nurses were female and all doctors were male. Consequently, male nurses are called doctors and female doctors are called nurses. Male nurses wear white coats and female nurses wear nurses’ uniforms. In fact, nurses’ uniforms are too awkward for male nurses to wear that everyone else just sympathises with them and lets them wear the white coats.
Medicine is hierarchical and conservative. I guess that is how we maintain order in the hospital. It is imperative that you know a person’s title and address them as such or accord them responsibility likewise. It completely upsets the order of things and compromises patients’ lives when roles and responsibilities are not well outlined. Which is why I agree with the female doctors that will not have anyone refer to them as nurses.
However, what is it to you that a patient in their ignorance addresses you inappropriately? Do you all of a sudden cease to be what you are? – a doctor? It’s not like when the patient called the female resident a nurse, the medical students were all of a sudden disillusioned and left the ward round because they had discovered that they were not getting proper guidance. Does it really matter that a person not professionally involved in health care gets the titles wrong?
I think it does matter which is why I started off with the story of one female doctor who was passed on for a male doctor in an emergency. But then again she was black and young so the question remains whether the attendant was racist or sexist or just didn’t trust young doctors. But I thought I’d lend it to my article anyway because like Tamika Cross (the young, black lady doctor) put it, “Whether this was race, age, (or) gender discrimination, it’s not right.”
If you pass on brilliant female doctors for male ones, you compromise health care as a whole because there are already few doctors yet you have a good number of them working at excess capacity simply because they don’t fit your backward stereotypes of what a doctor is like. And it’s not like you have to shut the doors of medical schools on women or deny them promotions in the work place but every explicit and implicit way in which you favour men over women in medicine. Maybe all you did was disrespect a female head of department in front of all her juniors because she is a woman and after all what can she do about it and thereby compromised the running of a whole department in the hospital because workers lack proper leadership. So yes, female doctors should stand up for their right to be addressed appropriately for the good of the entire healthcare system.
What I disagree with though is the reaction of the resident to the patient that called her a nurse. He might have meant no disrespect and was genuinely ignorant of her proper designation yet her reaction did not help solve this problem but only left him confused and probably compromised his health. I think we should all, male and female take it upon ourselves to calmly educate people on the shift in the paradigm of employment in the hospital. Female doctors should be addressed as doctors and male nurses as nurses.
Featured image: The cast of Grey’s anatomy
Many times when I sit down at my computer to write a blog post, it’s because I felt a nudge and sometimes even a compulsion to offer my opinion on something that I care about. Now since for the better part of the past year and a half I have been consumed with thoughts on religion, I have found it hard to resist writing about it. Unfortunately, many such posts I write never get posted and here is why.
I was raised religious, most of my family is religious and even some are clergy. I have experienced first hand the merits of religion and for this reason, have developed a profound respect for it. I don’t think I would have made it through my teens doing as I willed let alone make it to medical school without the discipline that I acquired in a religious context. Could I have made it another way? – probably. But that is how it happened and so I am grateful for that.
And it is not just me that has a lot to be thankful for from religion. A lot of goodwill I have seen came from religious people. The many schools and hospitals that were built by missionaries in my country, the scholarships for the underprivileged, the children’s homes and so much more good may not have been possible without religious people. But ultimately it was not all good, which is why I left. I mean I did not leave religion for all its merits but rather it’s demerits.
There is both good and bad in religion. The good may outweigh the bad or vise-versus depending what perspective you take. However, I fear that by overly pointing out the bad: the inconsistencies, fallacies, and evils in our faiths, we risk trivializing the capacity of these faiths to cause us to be good: patient, kind, selfless, humble, long-suffering, forgiving, just… (Read 1 Corinthians 13). At the same time, I don’t think it’s wrong to do so – to talk and write about the bad in religion even if one decided to only do that. I was helped a lot by good people that led me here by way of logical argument, mockery and outright dissing of religion for which I am also very grateful even though such may not be for me, at least not presently.
But there remains a caution to me and all skeptics or atheists or irreligious or “Nones”, consider religion and how we are to move on without it. It may be possible to be good without faith but that would require of us to consider all schools of knowledge that have existed and still exist including religion(s) and cherry picking for the bits that foster harmony and growth. And this requires of us to be more diligent, more studious and more open minded because now we are masters of our own fate in a broader sense. We don’t shy away from questioning our beliefs and having them questioned, we don’t get to blame anyone but ourselves and sheer bad luck for our misfortunes; we bear the responsibility of the world on our shoulders with no hand from the divine.
Featured image: Group photo at the opening of the new Mengo Hospital, Uganda in 1902 after its destruction by lightning. The hospital was established by Sir Albert Ruskin Cook in 1897 who was a medical missionary under the Church Missionary Society. Photo from here