December 14, 2018

Secular Options Needed for Suicide Hotlines

old telephone with dial

Reasonable people can disagree on the topic of suicide and whether someone who wants to take his or her life in this manner should be permitted to do so. That is, there is room for disagreement around whether there is (or should be) a right to end one's life for various reasons. And even if we decide that there should be such a right, that does not necessarily mean we would agree about the circumstances around which it could be implemented.

Still, I think that most of us would probably agree that the suicide rate is a concern in the sense that a high suicide rate probably reflects an unhealthy society and that at least some suicides are likely due to treatable mental health problems. Some of those who kill themselves probably would not do so if they were able to receive the help they needed. And so, efforts to improve mental health services around suicide seem like a good idea.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has shared some interesting recommendations regarding the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018.

The secular group highlights the need for any hotline system to support religiously unaffiliated individuals, individuals facing a faith crisis, and individuals who have faced religion-based trauma.
I agree that suicide hotlines should support these groups; however, I think that most of them already do. Personally, I'd be far more concerned about the referral options provided to these callers. Specifically, we need to make sure that people who contact these hotlines have secular and evidence-based treatment options they can access no matter where they live.

December 13, 2018

Exploring the Smart Home

Light bulbs

I am old enough to remember television sets before there were remote controls. Yes, we actually had to stand up, walk over to the TV, and change the channel manually. Of course, televisions were small enough in those days that we usually weren't sitting that far away to begin with. I remember my dad's reaction when televisions with remote controls started coming out. "Are you telling me people are so lazy they can't be bothered to get up and change the channel?" He viewed it as an unnecessary gimmick right up until we bought our first television that came with a remote. I think it took him no more than an hour to become completely hooked on having a remote, and that hasn't changed. We all have remotes now, which comes in handy because most of us also have more than three channels.

There were two Black Friday deals I was unable to resist this year. These were items I had been eyeing for some time but had kept dismissing as overpriced, unnecessary, and much like my dad all those years ago, the sort of gimmicks that nobody really needed. And like my dad, I was wrong...mostly. First and most extravagant, I finally decided to pick up some of the Philips Hue smart bulbs I've been eyeing since at least March. Best Buy had one of the starter kits with 3 color changing bulbs, a dimmer switch, and the hub required to make the system work on a good sale. I also found a good price on some of the basic white bulbs. Even though these white bulbs don't do that much, they are far less expensive than the other bulbs and function just as I wanted for my main overhead light fixture.

December 12, 2018

Even Freethinkers Need People

woman hiding face in sweater

I recently found myself in a situation at work where I had to make a difficult decision quickly. I thought about it and decided on the course of action I would take. Fortunately, I was interrupted and had to set everything aside for a while to focus on something else. In the meantime, I mentioned the situation and my planned course of action to a co-worker. I expected that she'd express support for what I had decided. To the contrary, she challenged what I told her I had decided to do. I must have seemed surprised or even defensive because she stopped me at one point and said, "I'm just playing devil's advocate here."

As she explained why she thought I might be making a mistake, I realized that she had a point. I still thought I was right, but I couldn't deny that what she was saying made a lot of sense. I had been so sure of the decision I had made, but I was now wondering whether I needed to give it more thought. Maybe I had been too hasty. I figured I had a day at the most to delay taking action. There didn't seem to be any harm in using that time to collect some additional information and reconsider my decision.

As I thought more about what she had said, I realized that she was right. My decision had been motivated more by emotion than reason. While I could still defend my initial decision, it now seemed like more of an over-reaction. I didn't like to admit that to myself, but that was indeed the case. Now I felt stupid.

December 9, 2018

The Other War on Christmas

Christmas angel

Christmas is coming! If you have been out of your home or turned on your TV in the past couple weeks, you already knew that. It is coming whether you have any interest in it or not. You are sure to hear a lot about what others are doing for Christmas whether you want to or not. And if you are in the United States, you might even hear some Jesus-related references whether you want to or not.

If I was going to complain about Christmas this year, which I don't particularly feel like doing, I'd undoubtedly refer to this article by Lux Alptraum for NBC News. It captures much of what I don't like about Christmas without disparaging those who choose to celebrate it. As I read it, I found myself thinking how nice it was to find that there is at least one other person out there who sometimes feel like this about Christmas.

Much of the author's beef involves the lack of religious inclusiveness and the message this sends to religious minorities. I can relate to this as an atheist, and I think she's right to point out, "...a holiday whose name commemorates the birth of Jesus has, at the very least, some intense Christian heritage..." even if how it is celebrated today often looks secular. Here's the part of the article that most resonates with me:

What I do object to, however, is the culture that’s been built around Christmas, that has elevated one religious faith's year-end festivity into an inescapable, weeks-long period of compulsory celebration for nearly everyone. If you’re Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or otherwise uninterested in participating in a Christian holiday, you can personally opt out of Christmas Day by declining to get a tree and spending December 25 at the movies — but all bets are off should you choose to leave your house (or even turn on the TV) at any moment between Thanksgiving and Christmas.