12 reasons to be happy

Let’s ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive and take a look at reasons to celebrate.

1. The FCC’s new rules requiring TV commercials to quiet down are now in effect. “This might very well be the only thing Congress did in the entire year of 2011 to improve our lives.”

2. Koran-burning “pastor” Terry Jones vs. The Beatles. No contest. Singing is good in such situations. It works, even if you don’t quite know the words.

3. A follow-up on my favorite pic from marriage equality in Washington State. These guys clean-up pretty good.

4. Frank James owns a pawn shop in Seminole, Fla., where he used to sell a lot of guns. But not anymore.

5. Leah Libresco shares “Three Stories of Forgiveness.”

6. Elizabeth Esther lists “Seven Gifts of Fundamentalism” — things she’s grateful for, despite the “harmful elements” of her religious past. I’ll second No. 2 on her list in particular — an intimate and broad familiarity with the Bible. Esther calls this “biblical literacy.” I think that’s probably overly generous, since literacy entails being able to see the forest and not just the trees, and fundies aren’t even aware that there is a forest. But I am grateful to them for encouraging me to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of the trees.

7. Some much-deserved praise and recognition for Balpreet Khaur and Glenn Stassen. People like them are liable to start giving religion a good name.

8. So are the 260 clergy in Illinois who recently signed a letter calling for marriage equality.

9. Juan Cole shares another encouraging story from the often-discouraging world of religion: “Muslims of Liberated Saraqeb, Syria, put up Christmas Tree for Local Christians.”

10. Some hints of signs of possible indications of good news about a decline in the death penalty in the US, from Amnesty International:

In 2012, death sentences and executions maintained their historically low levels, and only nine states actually carried out an execution. In fact, the majority of U.S. states have not carried out an execution in the last five years.

11. Check out the Mine Kafon, designed by Massoud Hassani based on toys he made as a child in Afghanistan. This wind-powered whatchamacallit can find and safely detonate landmines at a fraction of the usual cost.

12. A researcher has developed a new “cheap, easy and highly accurate paper sensor for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.” Pretty awesome. Oh, and by the way, this researcher, Jack Andraka, is 15 years old.

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  • EllieMurasaki


  • flat

    Holy shit that boy got brains.

  • Lori

    Plus he has something that’s at least as useful as flat out brains—a family that encourages and normalizes inquiry. Go Team Andraka!

  • Nice, re: Pancreatic cancer detector :)

    Also, the landmine destroyer sounds like a good device for any group of people who can’t afford a specialized mine-destroyer like the kind used by the US military. (it’s basically a big reinforced metal tank with front feelers to trick mines into exploding against its shell, which withstands the impact)

  • Nirrti

    The Quran-burning preacher was stupid enough to think he could take his hate to NYC, the most multi-cultural place on earth? He better be glad all he got was a Beatles’ song. If the crowd had been in a different mode, that joker would’ve took inspiration from that other Beatles tune, “Help!”.

    And Re: the two guys in Seattle getting married: Awwwwwwe

  • SisterCoyote

     I think it was Jon Stewart who pointed out once that the whole country loves to rally around 9/11 as a reason to be blindly, ragingly nationalistic, and they’ll go to New York to talk about the heart of America – but in fact, New York is kind of the opposite of their America, The Real America.

  • syfr

     I grew up in NYC, and I still get all ragey about the assholes who called it a Sodom turning around on September 11, 2001, and being all like, “I am in pain!!!11!!”

  • cjmr

    Unfortunately, the amazing 15yo inventor is being told, “It’ll take 10 years to bring this to market.”


    Because America has the best medical system in the world!  [/sarcasm]

  • banancat

    I wasn’t a fan of Elizabeth Esther’s list of gifts of fundamentalism. It seems like she still has some sexual hangups and still buys into the myth that people outside of fundamentalism are somehow unwelcoming of life. I also think she and I have far different definitions of hospitality because I don’t think it deserves a back pat when you only do it for your ingroup.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Re number 10–I guess it’s nice that the majority of US states haven’t committed judicial murder in the last 5 years, but it’s kind of a low bar for things to be happy about. Most of my family members haven’t been robbed in the past 5 years which is an improvement, but still…
    Texas executed 15 people in 2012, btw, including a man with an IQ of 61 and another who had been brain damaged since before birth due to Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. The governor of Texas has no right to call himself pro-life.

    Arizona also executed a man diagnosed with mental retardation this year. In hilarious irony, the state paid for his quintuple bypass operation three months before killing him.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Number 12 is brilliant, though. Thanks for sharing it; I’ve passed it on.

  • ReverendRef

    Re: the Illinois clergy signing that letter — I saw that in the NYT when it came out.  One of the priests quoted, Kara Wagner-Sherer, was in the class ahead of me at seminary.  She’s a good gal with a surprisingly Jon Stewart-ish sense of humor.   She and her family also have the honor of being the only people to get locked INSIDE of their apartment on campus.

    Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute said, “Their views are informed not by careful exegesis, but by personal desire and political convictions.

    Um . . . I could say the same thing about her and the IFI et al.  First, you can’t tell me that all of those christian hate groups are not driven by personal desire to remain the dominant cultural force; nor can you tell me that their agenda is not driven by political convictions to see that their personal desires become/remain the law of the land ensconced through political activism.  (Did all that make sense?)

    Second, and more importantly, how DARE she say that my view/position is not informed by careful exegesis.  When I went to seminary I was decidedly right of center (and the above mentioned Kara Wagner-Sherer wrote an anonymous article about the “last remaining white conservative male at seminary”).  By the time I graduated, I had shifted left.  This was due in no small part to my study of scripture, listening to other interpretations, debating, thinking, writing and having multiple conversations with gay classmates and professors.

    I would wager that the pro-equality clergy of Illinois have done much more exegesis and study than their conservative, anti-equality counterparts.  This is do to one very important point:  If we are going to move to allow SSM after umpteen years of only allowing DSM (Different Sex Marriage), then those of us pushing for the change must do the exegetical work of explaining and upholding the change.

    That is much harder to do than to simply say, “It’s not allowed because we’ve never done it that way before.”

  • Lliira

    Her #4 is something I see as a horrible, vile curse, not a blessing.

    I am deeply thankful for all the sex I had before I got married. I had amazing connections with wonderful men. Also: great sex. The idea that it was something lesser simply because I had it with more than one person is utterly repugnant, nauseating, and vile. Besides being insulting, it is both factually and morally incorrect.

    “Yes, a no-divorce culture had its downsides (ie. women in abusive marriages had a tough time getting out).” Anyone who puts women being trapped in an abusive marriage in parentheses as some kind of side issue needs to seriously re-evaluate their worldview. Because it is wrong, and they are wrong. Deeply, horribly, scarily wrong.

    #6 is deeply insulting. Like Fundamentalists are the only people who value hard work? That’s not a religious, national, racial, or gender trait. That is a trait of any human beings who were not born into wealth. Period.

    #7 is also deeply insulting. And she shows that she’s still prone to believe ridiculous things. First, fundamentalists have no more self-control than anyone else, and I would argue they have significantly less. When you cannot do anything, everything looks the same, and so rape looks the same as masturbation. Plus fundamentalist cultures encourage rape.
    #7 is also just plain foolish. I learned time management in college. It does not require religion. It most certainly does not require misogyny, sex-hating, no-divorce, pumping-out-babies, we’re-better-than-everyone bullshit.

    Just… this woman disgusts me. She is a prime example of someone who thinks she deserves backpats for not being as-bad. She does not deserve them. She still needs serious help, and I worry for her children, particularly any female children she has.

    I expected happiness and got slapped in the face by someone who insulted me instead. Thanks a whole lot, Fred.

  • Like Fundamentalists are the only people who value hard work?

    And they’re the only ones who value having babies.  And they invented hospitality.  Sheesh!

    Obviously, a sense of perspective isn’t one of the gifts of fundamentalism.  I don’t see how her post is a reason to be happy.  We could have had this instead.

  • Jessica_R

    Yeah instead of the L’eau du Smug of that list, I posit something like this instead, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/25/jack-klugmans-secret-lifesaving-legacy/

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Thanks for the link, Sue. The lion pic in particular cracked me up.

    But at the bottom of the page was an ad for “Christian Mingle”, promising to find God’s match for me (which is apparently a trademarked promise). Judging from the picture, I’m pretty freaked out about the possibility that God’s match for me is a woman who looks like Barbie. So plastic I can’t cope…why God, why?

  • Michael Pullmann

    Someone should nominate that kid for a Nobel Prize.

  • … and it’s an infinite improvement on the standard Third-World low-tech landmine clearance methodology (22 lids and a ball).

  • Jim Roberts

    See, I’m getting absolutely no vibe of, “Only fundamentalism could’ve taught me these things,” from what she’s saying. Nevertheless, they are things that fundamentalism CAN teach, and have been taught to me as well. I do agree that number 4 is exclusionary at best, though. Still, given that I know I’m not done learning, I’m comfortable assuming the same about her.

  • Baby_Raptor

    The comment I left on the “12 good things about Fundie-dom” article: “Wait, you think that having kids before you’re ready to raise them is a good thing?

    And women having a somewhat easy out of abusive marriages is a bad thing?
    But you didn’t have sex before you got an arbitrary piece of paper, so you’re good morally.
    I don’t even…”

    This lady is either severely twisted or…Or…I don’t know. But she’s NOT a good person to listen to for advice. 

  • Isabel C.

    Yep, exactly.
    Also? The first guy I slept with was *exactly* the guy I should have slept with when I was seventeen and a virgin–and in no way the guy I should be sleeping with now. People’s needs, desires, and tastes change with time; while some people marry their high school sweethearts and are happy and monogamous for sixty-five years (my grandparents) (as far as I know) that doesn’t work for a lot of people.

  • Thank you. I remember feeling…let’s say “excluded” when I read her list as well (although I couldn’t quite vocalize why), and it’s nice to know I’m no the only one.

  • Thank you. Please see my previous comment to Lliira

  • banancat

    Thanks for explaining that more clearly than I did. The whole thing came off as very condescending and seems like she left almost nothing of the lifestyle behind when she left. I tried to be generous and vague it as her meaning that you can get those good traits of hard work and self control in multiple ways and fundamentalism is just how and personally got them, but I really can’t overlook the shut shaming, especially when it is prioritized over stopping abuse.

  • Jim Roberts

    Agreed. #4 is just a deeply flawed argument from conclusion. I’m glad to see that she got #5 – hospitality – from her fundamentalist background, though. I honestly think part of the problem with a lot of right-wing fundamentalism is that hospitality is not taught as a laudable thing. It’s easy to hate an Other you never meet, but when you have a pastor telling you, “bring these people into your home,” it’s difficult to sustain. My local church, which is still pretty conservative, has recently taken a very strong pro-hospitality stance, and it’s been remarkable how few conversations I’ve had about the evil of the Other since that began.

  • banancat

    She’s not done learning but that’s no excuse for her horrible views. Judging by your username, I assume you are male. And because of this, a lot of her points don’t apply to you as much. You are less likely to be the victim of domestic abuse and you are less likely to face slut shaming. You are unlikely to ever need an abortion and in the hypothetical that you were half of a young het married couple who wanted to delay having children, you would likely face less pressure and judgment about it than your female partner.

    You are less likely to be accused of being unwelcoming of life. You are less likely to be accused of not treating sex as “sacred” and less likely to face shaming when you truly don’t believe that sex is sacred. You are less likely to have a hard time getting out of a marriage where your partner is abusing you.

    I know you’re a thoughtful commenter here and I hope that you will see my comment as something to think about and not just a mean hand-slap. But some of us don’t have the privilege to be so patient with this person. While she is still learning, she’s also contributing to cultural narratives that are harmful to me.

  • Jim Roberts

    Reading what I wrote, I can see how you’d see it as my criticizing people who, as you say, “don’t have the privilege to be so patient with this person.” I get that, and I’m sorry if came across as defending her. I have to be patient for her because to do otherwise would be hypocritical – without people who were patient with me, I’d be vigorously defending her as a courageous free-thinker and not regarding her as someone still seeing through a glass rather darkly.

    There is no one approach that can fix the problem of a church fixated more on appearing righteous than on being righteous. It will take voices within and without, and speaking in different tones, to effect the changes that need to happen. I respect you (and, in case it need be said, Lliira and the rest of the pro-feminist community at Slacktivist) for what you say and do.

  • The first guy I slept with was *exactly* the guy I should have slept with when I was seventeen and a virgin–and in no way the guy I should be sleeping with now.

    Exactly my experience. (Though I was 18.) 

    The one regret I have regarding sex with a guy is that I did not have sex with a certain wonderful, gorgeous guy I could have had sex with, because I had yet to get rid of my hang-up about wanting to be in a committed relationship first and I did not want to be in a committed relationship with him. It would have been amazing. 

  • But she’s NOT a good person to listen to for advice.

    Most definitely. Personally, I would stop after “she’s not a good person.”

    She might be someday, but anyone might be someday. Good people can also become bad people. Who knows. Right now, she is still a bad person. She’s self-hating, and she’s making a lot of excuses for things she didn’t choose, and that’s sad, but she gets no points for inspiring pity. 

  • Fred? I was thinking I was going to get happy times from an article you linked promising happy times, and instead I got slut-shamed and degraded. Instead I got someone treating domestic abuse as a side issue.

    This is seriously not okay to do to your readers. I know you want to encourage certain things, and that you have more hope for certain people than I do, and that’s fine. But doing it in a way that is harmful to many of your readers is not okay.

    You have posted in vigorous defense of trigger warnings. I generally go into online links expecting awful stuff. But when someone I trust posts “yay happy!” about a link, I expect yay happy. I was not prepared to be degraded, demeaned, and insulted. What you did was an anti-trigger warning. You said “here be kittens” and instead it was “here be a woman who thinks the same things as those street preachers who scream you’re a slut”. 

    Since you have not acknowledged this, you are giving me two choices. Either I can brace myself for being horribly degraded every time you post any kind of link, including the ones you say are happy, or I stop following any links you post. Which means I no longer trust you. 

  • Isabel C.

    I hear you. I was never so much into the committed relationships, but while there’s nobody I regret sleeping with–even the ones who were “meh” make great stories ten years later–there are quite a few guys I regret not fucking when I had the chance, or might have had the chance. Damn my adolescent awkwardness!

  • Lordy McLord, do I hear you on the reticence thing.

    They say youth is wasted on the young, and there are times when I certainly think mine was. :P

  • Jessica_R

    Yup, another voice for the “I’m more ashamed/upset by the times I *didn’t* go for getting laid” crowd. 

  • Jim Roberts

    I don’t mean to trigger anyone here, and my apologies if I don’t, but those who say they miss the times they didn’t have sex with other people think that it’s possible for someone to sincerely believe that they have a better relationship with their SO specifically because they didn’t have sex with other people, without judging others? I’m honestly curious because, as a personal fan of my monogamous relationship (not my first, but the only one I have no regrets over), I’ll admit that at times I feel like I’ll be accused of accusing others of being slatterns just by being vocally monogamous.

  • Launcifer

    Weirdly, I was in a conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness a few days ago (fifth or sixth time they’ve been back: I think the poor blighter reckons he can grind me down or something) and, at some point, he asked me what one thing I’d tell teenage me from ten years ago. My response to him was a specific instance of this. The conversation got strange after that.

  • Lori


    but those who say they miss the times they didn’t have sex with other
    people think that it’s possible for someone to sincerely believe that
    they have a better relationship with their SO specifically because they
    didn’t have sex with other people, without judging others?   

    I absolutely think it’s possible. IME it isn’t common, but it’s possible. “This is true for me and that has nothing to do with what is or is not true for you” is a tricky position for a lot of people to hold. In fact Id say everyone struggles with it at least some of the time.

    IME those most likely to believe that their relationship is better because they never had sex with anyone else  tend to have more difficulty with it than most, because they’re more likely to be fundamentalists of one sort or another and fundamentalism by definition doesn’t have much room for “to each their own”.

  • I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for the last twenty years, in an extremely poly-friendly social environment, so this comes up a lot.

    My usual approach to this is “Yeah, I’m just not that sociable. When I go through insular phases, I barely can manage to be present enough in my relationship to give one partner the attention he deserves; I have no desire to try to split that among several partners.” Which is true, and does a decent job of signaling my lack of moral condemnation.

    This is a special case of “it’s not you, it’s me.”

  • So long as you’re not saying *I* would have a better relationship with my husband if I hadn’t had sex with other people, then I’m happy you’re happy. I might have a bit of doubt about someone saying they have a better relationship now for not having had sex before, but it is seriously none of my business. Until they make it my business by claiming their way is better than others. 

    I know that I am happier for having had sex with multiple people. I also know that I am happier for being monogamous now. I’m not built for polygamy, and I truly enjoy monogamy. Polygamy would not work for me; monogamy would not work for others; and there are people who have no sex drive whatsoever. I only want sex with one certain man, but I’m not about to tell other people they should want sex with him. 

    I’ll get all up in other people’s business over consent (and honesty, as it is directly tied to consent). Other than that, have at it, or don’t, however you prefer.

  • Lori

    “Yeah, I’m just not that sociable. When I go through insular phases, I
    barely can manage to be present enough in my relationship to give one partner the attention he deserves; I have no desire to try to split that among several partners.”  

    This is one of several reasons that I am not poly and tend toward scoffing annoyance at those folks who try to prove how sophisticated they are by announcing that deep down everyone is naturally poly and monogamy is strictly the result of the constraints of artificial morality or whatever.

    There is no way I could manage to do decent relationship maintenance with more than one person at a time and I also don’t have the kind of energy needed for having multiple, non-committed relationships. I don’t get out enough or meet enough people for that, for one thing. I know that there are poly introverts, but on a personal level I just don’t get it. I don’t judge it, but I don’t get it.

  • banancat

    It makes me sad to find out that some poly people really think everyone should be poly. I’m not officially poly, but still non-standard. I prefer to have an open relationship with one main partner (possibly two in theory) and a couple of sex partners that I am less close to, sort of parallel to friendships where I have one best friend and several other friends of varying closeness. But I have always considered myself a sexual minority and most of the monogamous people I know are happy with it. But even if monogamy were rare, it’s still perfectly fine to practice it and I would think poly people would be the first to understand how important it is to not pressure others about their sex lives. I guess it just an example of no group being immune from presumptuous people.

  • Lliira

    I’ve been mulling over what to say about your defense of this woman, and it does certainly come across as defense. Here is what it feels like: you pass someone in the street slapping someone else. You say, “good job, you’re not punching them!” The person who was slapped says, “wow, that hurt.” And you say, “oh, they didn’t mean to hurt you. I used to go around punching people too.” That is the best way I can put how this feels.

    Also, you are focusing on the perpetrator’s feelings rather than the victims’ feelings, and that never ends well. Except for the perpetrator.

  • Lori


    But even if monogamy were rare, it’s still perfectly fine to practice it
    and I would think poly people would be the first to understand how
    important it is to not pressure others about their sex lives. I guess it
    just an example of no group being immune from presumptuous people.  

    I think the people I’ve heard say that sort of thing fall into two categories. One group was basically being defensive–“I’m not the unnatural weirdo, you are.” I understand feeling that way, even if I think the response is 100% wrong both factually and on principle. The other group was, as I said, trying to appear More Sophisticated And Worldly Than Thou, which is just pathetic. I find both of those things annoying, but can’t work up more than annoyance over them.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Even if we take as read that everyone is polyamorous, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with practicing monogamy. Because there would always be a certain subset of the population who have yet to find a second true love.

  • banancat

    I’m not “officially” poly, but I think it’s possible to be poly but still have one or zero partners. The difference would be how open you are to finding additional relationships.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Or how picky one is about partners and how that maps to the local pool of people looking for partners. Or how much time and energy one has to go looking for partners. Or a bunch of things. (Hello, social anxiety!) Point is, even if we make the (entirely unwarranted) assumption that everyone can have and should have multiple partners, there will be people who don’t, and there is nothing wrong with being one of the people who don’t.

  • AnonymousSam

    Yeah, same thing happened with John Kanzius, who developed a method of treating cancer which had some extremely promising results (100% success rate with only superficial damage to cells immediately near the treatment site and no side-effects otherwise). He made a test model in 2005, was approved for “preliminary research” in 2007, and at last notice the researchers had gotten around to turning the  machine on and looking at it a bit in 2010.

    And he died in 2009. Of cancer.

  • AnonymousSam

    The television commercials are even worse. They make it sound like God really really wants you to find your soul mate, but just can’t make it happen until you visit their website.

    God is computer illiterate, apparently.

  • I’ve also run into people who are More Sophisticated And Worldly Than Thou about being bisexual. Claiming they were deeper than monosexual people, and that they were attracted to the ~true person~ and not the ~superficial casing~. Yeah, I understand feeling the need to defend yourself when there are assholes like Dan Savage in the world claiming you don’t exist, but doing it like that isn’t gonna get you anywhere.

    It also occasionally crops up among people into BDSM. No, people who do not like spanking (for instance) do not necessarily have boring sex lives or closed minds. They just do not find spanking a turn-on. It’s basically “I’m rubber and you’re glue”, and while it’s not nearly as prevalent or harmful as people not into BDSM calling those who are abusers and/or abused, it’s still extremely irritating.

  • Lori

    When it comes to people’s reactions BDSM is all too often just a world of FAIL. Vanilla is not synonymous with boring. Consent is a thing and it makes a difference. These should not be difficult concepts and yet they apparently are.

    My list of reasons that the huge popularity of 50 Shades gives me an eye twitch, let me show you it.

  • vsm

    I’ve always wondered how polygamous people do that. I did some counting and realized I’ve now spent half a decade without getting to know a single person I’d want to be in a romantic relationship with, and I do regularly meet new people.