Category: HAF Blog

Deprexiety Soup (Or, How Religion Can Hurt Those with Depression and Anxiety)

Depression and AnxietyIt’s currently two minutes ‘til midnight, but it might as well be 2 am…or 3 am…or dawn. It’s happened at all of those times and all times in between.

It starts with that skin-crawly feeling between my shoulder blades – a tickle, and then an itch, that no amount of rubbing or scratching can make go away. Once upon a time, I’d stay in bed, tossing and turning and trying to ignore the sensation until it was too late.

These days, I get up. I’m more experienced now, and I know that if I ignore it, I’ll end up wanting to claw my way right out of my skin. Because this creepy-crawly feeling almost always signals that my brain is about to try to devour itself and recruit the rest of my body into the fight.

This is what my anxiety disorder looks like.


I went undiagnosed for years, but if I really think about it, I’m pretty sure I’ve had this disorder since I was a child. The worst of the depression and anxiety (a lovely mixture I once dubbed Deprexiety Soup) hit me when I was in about 7th grade. That’s around the time my parents divorced. The actual divorce wasn’t too traumatic for me – my parents did a decent job of keeping us kids out of the shitstorm.

But we moved out of a school district for one semester, then back to the old school district when my mom remarried (yes, it happened that quickly). I started 8th grade back in the old school…but that was the year that 3 schools merged, and suddenly my class tripled in size. It didn’t go well for me.

The bullying really got into full swing in the second half of 8th grade. Miserable and ostracized, I was extremely depressed but didn’t have the experience or knowledge to put a label on it. I just knew that all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and stay there forever. And when I had to leave bed, my skin would crawl so that I felt like something inside me was trying to dig its way out.

That depression and anxiety lingered well into my adulthood; some of the darker times eventually helped steer me into, through, and out of faith. You can read that story here.

But why am I laying out this story here, and now?

I Do Have a Point, I Promise.

A couple weeks ago, I read an article on the Christian Post by Patrick Mabilog, titled “Can Christians Be Depressed?”.The title alone raises problems with the Christian worldview, but what I specifically want to address is Mabilog’s first paragraph:

It may seem impossible for a Christian to struggle with mental illness. After all, doesn’t the Bible say “whom the Son sets free is free indeed?” (John 8:36)  There are also some that think that Christians struggling with depression, mental illness or even suicidal thoughts can’t possibly be a Christian.

Now, Mabilog himself, to his credit, doesn’t seem to hold this view (though I have some pretty big disagreements with his takeaway). But plenty of Christians do.

“You just need Jesus.”

“I used to be depressed, too, but then I was born again!”

“I was suicidal until the Lord entered my heart. Now I’m free from those thoughts.”

The idea that, first of all, it’s possible to force yourself to believe something and that, second, forcing yourself to believe this particular something will magically take away your mental illness? Dangerous bullshit, to be perfectly blunt.

See, what I didn’t elaborate on in the deconversion story I linked earlier in this post was the enormous pile of guilt I felt when I said the Sinner’s Prayer with Helpful Coworker and…still felt depressed. She was of the “if you’re truly saved, you can’t be depressed” variety, so of course I must have been doing something wrong. I didn’t believe hard enough. I didn’t read the Bible long enough each night. I didn’t pray enough.

That guilt piled on top of a person with depression and anxiety is a damned dangerous mix.

Somehow, I managed to survive that time – but it was in spite of religious thinking, not because of it. And telling people who have a mental illness that they’re somehow not complete (because God hasn’t finished them yet) is one of the most unhelpful and unintentionally cruel things you can say.

We can’t choose where we come from, but we can choose where we go from there.

Love Yourself

Love YourselfTonight, we sat and watched one of my most favorite movies — The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Even though I’ve watched this movie several times, it’s still very hard for me.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, I won’t give too many details here and ruin the movie for you, but I will share one aspect of the movie that’s very difficult for me. As many of you know, I have a history of  being sexually abused, and this movie tackles this issue head-on.

In the movie, one of the main characters spends some time in a mental hospital after suffering a mental blackout. On his way out of the hospital, his doctor tells him, “We can’t choose where we come from, but we can choose where we go from there.”

There are many people inside the secular community that have a very brutal past. The more I talk with people, the more I realize that no matter how bad I had it in the past, there is always someone who had it worse than me. I’ve had my heart broken many times by the stories people have shared. Even though it hurt like hell, I felt fortunate that they were comfortable enough to tell me about their struggles. In most cases, I’ve found great strength behind their words. They’re no longer held captive. They’ve tapped into the inner strength that everyone has – but not everyone has the ability to find.

It’s true that we can’t choose where we come from, but the most important thing for people like us to remember is we do have a choice.  It’s very easy to say, “That which does not kill us only makes us stronger,” but to find and tap into that strength is a different story altogether. It’s so easy to sit back and wallow in our own self-pity, but that doesn’t get us anywhere in life. We find our real strength when we refuse to allow our self-pity to get the best of us. I know it’s easy to sit here and type all of this, and I know these words are useless if I don’t give some insight on how to overcome our self-pity.

I’m not a psychologist, nor do I have any formal training in psychology. I’m an abuse survivor who can only share what worked for me over the years. First, one of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything to deserve the treatment I received. Realizing this was a huge step for me. I walked around for years with a great amount of guilt, wondering what I did to deserve the abuse. But I hadn’t done anything – my abuser was the sadistic fuck!

Second, I had to learn that I deserve to be treated well. I deserve to be loved and respected. My abuser stripped me of any hope of truly being loved. He made me feel worthless, less than nothing. I truly felt no one loved me, especially God! If he truly loved me, he wouldn’t have let these things happen to me. You deserve to be loved and respected. You deserve to be adored. You’re worth it!

And finally, learn to love yourself. Not in the Justin Bieber kind of way, but really work on loving you. You can’t expect to work through the self-pity if you don’t love who you are, just as you are. You’re going to make mistakes, but whatever you do, don’t let those mistakes determine your self-worth.

You’ll still have bad days. You’ll still (to use a Christian word) backslide. It’s completely normal. What is NOT normal is to stay in that backslidden state. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to find a professional to talk with and get more guidance than I could ever offer here.

You are worth it. You have value. You deserve happiness. You deserve to be loved, and you deserve the very best that life has to offer. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

The N-Word

The N-WordI recently came across my kindergarten class picture from 1976. I don’t remember much from my younger years, and I was shocked to see that I was the only white kid in my class. One white boy in the midst of twenty-two black kids. Even my teachers were black.

My parents were proud racists. They’d never admit to their racism, though – because, after all, they had a black friend. The n-word was used regularly around my parents’ house, and I hated it. It always made me so uncomfortable. When I would bring up my hatred for the word, they always had a way of justifying it. According to them, a n***er was a low-down, dirty person – and even a white person could be a n***er. Funny, though – they never used that word to describe any white person we knew.

As I looked at my class picture, I remembered all the times I ran and played with all of my classmates. The color of their skin was never an issue. I didn’t see them as black kids. I saw them as my friends. I remember the many times that my teacher would wrap her arms around me and tell me how proud she was of me, and how she knew I would grow up to do great things. She never made me feel like an outsider or different from the other kids, even though there was plenty of racial hatred going around at the time. While other adults during tossed around racial epithets at every opportunity, she told this little white boy just how special he was to her.

I was the only white student in several years’ worth of class photos, and I credit my many friends and teachers for my love of others, regardless of the color of their skin.
I began speech therapy in the sixth grade. To my dad’s surprise, my speech therapist was a black lady. I loved Mrs. Carter deeply. I remember thinking that she was the nicest person on the planet. She always had such encouraging words. Maybe it was her job to encourage, but to this boy who could barely say two recognizable words, her positive reinforcement was worth more than its weight in gold. When my dad found out that she was black, he gave me a message to give to her. He said, “Tell her no n***er could ever teach a white boy to talk.” I never delivered that message, and I thank Mrs. Carter for the multiple hours she spent teaching me how to talk.

I share these stories because earlier today, a complete stranger walked up to me explaining how the “n***ers inside the warehouse were useless and what should we expect from a bunch of useless n***ers?” It bothered me that the man saw another white person and automatically assumed that I would share in his racism. This man didn’t know me from a hill of beans, yet felt completely comfortable using such a hateful word.

It’s no secret that the south has a very brutal past, and to some extent, it has improved. However, every day I, a proud southerner, am given a reminder of how much more work we still have to do. I’m not ashamed of where I was raised, but I am very much ashamed of my heritage – and the hatred it teaches for those people who are “different,” especially the black community.

Can Nonbelievers Be Moral?

 

Can nonbelievers have morals?This is a question we nonbelievers get a lot from Christians. Most Christians (notice I said most, not all) feel that we can’t have morals without a belief in a God. What does it mean to be moral? What is morality, and who’s to say what is morally right or wrong?

A lot of terms get tossed around in discussions about morality between believers and nonbelievers. I don’t completely understand some of these terms, so I looked them up on philosophybasics.com. Hopefully you and I will both learn something from this post.

Moral Definitions

Morals (or ethics): is concerned with questions of how people ought to act, and the search for a definition of right conduct (identified as the one causing the greatest good) and the good life (in the sense of a life worth living or a life that is satisfying or happy).

Moral Relativism: the position that moral propositions do not reflect objective and/or universal moral truths, but instead make claims relative to social, cultural, historical or personal circumstances.

Moral Absolute: is the ethical belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of the context of the act. Thus, actions are inherently moral or immoral, regardless of the beliefs and goals of the individual, society or culture that engages in the actions. It holds that morals are inherent in the laws of the universe, the nature of humanity, the will of God or some other fundamental source.

Moral Universalism: The position that there is a universal ethic which applies to all people, regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexuality or other distinguishing feature, and all the time.

I realize these aren’t the only terms used for morality, but they’re the ones I hear the most often. Looking at those definitions in comparison to what I believe about morals, I find myself leaning toward calling myself a moral relativist. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing doesn’t matter to me at the moment. What is important is my understanding that the way I perceive morality dictates the standards for how I live my life and how I treat others.

Moral Nonbelievers?

Secular Humanist MoralsSo, can nonbelievers have morals? Absolutely yes! As a nonbeliever, I do not anchor my morality to any specific deity or holy book. My morality comes from my community, my family and friends, my sense of empathy for my fellow human beings, and from consequentialism. (Consequentialism means that the consequences of your actions determine the true morality of those actions. So a morally right act (or inaction) is one that creates a good outcome or consequence.)

I resist hurting others because I know how it feels to be hurt by someone else. My morality stems from my desire to do the least amount of harm to other human beings. It goes much farther than living according to the Golden Rule presented in the Bible, which I find to be absolutely ridiculous. The concept of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31) is absurd.

What if I am a masochist – a person who derives sexual gratification from their own pain or humiliation? Am I expected to cause pain to others simply because I enjoy experiencing pain? Isn’t that essentially what the Golden Rule is implying?

I would rather present something I call the Platinum Rule – treat others the way THEY wish to be treated. Living according to this simple rule significantly decreases physical, psychological, and verbal abuse; racism; and discrimination between races, genders and sexes. If we all lived according to this rule, we would not see the horrific legislation discriminating against the transgender community all over the country. We wouldn’t see racially motivated hate groups forming in many communities. Instead, we’d see a decrease in the nationwide murder and suicide rate.

But, again, that means tossing out the Biblical vision of pseudo morality and replacing it with real morals based on the principle of doing no harm.

So once again, can nonbelievers / Secular Humanists have morals? You’re damn right we can, and we manage it without a God.

An Atheist’s Hope: We Don’t Need Faith for Hope

An atheist's hope“Without faith, hope is dead.”

So began a lengthy discussion on my Facebook post. Admittedly, the discussion devolved quickly, and both sides cut it short rather than descend further into disrespect-land. But the assertion that an atheist’s hope is impossible is so common among believers, I feel motivated to address it further.

The Believer’s Hope

For a believer, hope comes from a creator, and from the belief that they’ll go to a happy place when they die. This place will have no more pain, no more death, no more sadness. And, depending on which belief system we’re talking about, “bad” people will get what’s coming to them – either in a lake of fire, or just not existing anymore and, therefore, missing out on all that lovely stuff.

It’s a nice thought, and I do see the appeal. I clung to that myself when I was a believer. Whatever happens in this life, at least you know you’re going to get lots of better stuff after you die.

But I’m afraid I find that to be a hollow hope. It’s also a hope that, for some people, takes away their will to make a better life for themselves right here on Earth. I’ve heard variations on the theme, “This is just what God has given me. He’s testing me so I can be truly worthy of my eternal reward.”

Believers also have a general sense of hope that comes from thinking a supreme being is in charge of everything and whatever happens is “part of God’s plan.”

An Atheist’s Hope

Many believers seem baffled by the very idea that an atheist could have hope. And they’re downright dubious of my claim that I have more hope now than I did when I was a believer – but that is absolutely the truth.

I don’t have false hope in some immortal life after I die; nor do I think I’m going to live in some fabled utopia where nothing bad will ever happen again.

I do have hope in tangible things, like human ingenuity, and the power to shape our own destinies rather than being helpless to the whims of an invisible hand.

I have hope in the fact that my actions, and not my ability to believe in any storybook, determine what kind of person I am.

I have hope in the knowledge that when bad things happen, they are not due to some slight I knowingly or unknowingly committed against a stern and often capricious father figure.

I have hope in the knowledge that when good things happen, they are usually the result of hard work, talent, and skill – either mine or another person’s.

I have an atheist’s hope in knowing that I was not born “sinful,” that I am not inherently damaged and in need of salvation or fixing, and that I am a whole person. I have worked through struggles, and fears, and doubts, and came through all of them on my own – which gives me a strength and assurance that I would not have if I had to attribute all of those survivals to some outside force.

And finally, I have hope in humanity – that even when times are dark, good people working hard and sticking together can overcome them.

And I don’t believe for a moment that they need the help of a supreme being to do it.

Are You In the Arena?

Constructive vs Destructive criticismEveryone’s a critic. We all experience some kind of criticism, whether it’s constructive or destructive. It reminds me of the saying, “Opinions are like assholes – everyone has one and most of them stink.”

There are two main types of criticism: constructive and destructive. The difference between the two is who delivers them and how they deliver them. One is helpful (constructive), and one is hurtful (destructive). As a podcaster and voice in the secular community, I expect to receive criticism from listeners. Most of that criticism has been constructive, but there’s always one or two people who feel the need to give destructive criticism.

In my ten years in the military, I often received constructive criticism from superiors. Their intention wasn’t to knock us down, but to help build us up and help us improve. But even constructive criticism can be a hard pill to swallow. That’s especially true if the criticism is about something that you’ve put a lot of time and energy into creating. You can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time, but I always try to please every listener.

So what’s the best way to deal with destructive criticism? I’m not proud of it, but most often my first instinct is to go into attack mode. I slip into that defensive, “if you attack me, I’ll attack you back” mentality. This is the most unproductive response you can have.

Former FLOTUS Michelle Obama said it best during the Democratic National Convention: “When they go low, we go high.” It’s very easy to lower yourself to an unhelpful critic’s level. But it’s far better to make them raise to your level if they want to communicate with you.

I recently watched a video by Dr. Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. In the video, titled Bravery & Authenticity in a Digital World, Dr. Brown discusses how to respond to destructive criticism.

The video includes an excerpt of a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt. The excerpt is called The Man in the Arena:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

This quote completely changed how I will respond to future destructive criticism. If the person doing the criticizing isn’t in the arena, their criticism doesn’t matter. I know this seems harsh, but if the critic isn’t sitting at the same table, why give any thought to what they have to say? If another podcaster offers criticism, their words hold weight with me because they’re in the same arena and sitting on the same side of the table as I am.

The next time criticism comes your way (and it will), ask yourself, “Is this person in the same arena?” If not, don’t give them the satisfaction of your response.

Be Brave

Humanists must be brave. When I became one of Jerry D’s Patreon supporters, I received a rubber bracelet with WWJerryD printed on it, along with a reminder to “Be Brave…” What does it mean to Be Brave? If we’re going for a dictionary definition, then “brave” means “Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.”

It’s easy to say the words “Be Brave,” but actually putting those words into action is a totally different story. If we were to take the definition at face value, we would think that bravery starts with the willingness to face any uncomfortable situation. But I’d argue that bravery starts before the willingness to face the situation. Bravery begins with a mindset.

We’ve all been in an uncomfortable situation that was detrimental to our well-being. On the extreme end, let’s look at domestic violence: the victim often endures a great amount of abuse until they’ve finally had enough and can endure no more. It’s after reaching this point that their mindset changes and bravery takes over. They muster the bravery to remove themselves from the dangerous situation. They now have the mindset to endure the possible dangers they may face by leaving. The benefits of getting out of the situation far outweigh the danger.

As a society, we now live in the most volatile time since the Civil Rights Movement. Protests are taking place all over the country. People are starting to stand up to their elected leaders. They are showing the courage to go against the status quo; to swim against the stream. “Be Brave…” means putting up the fight of your life, taking risks and enduring that which seems impossible. It means pushing all fear and anxiety aside and standing for what you believe. We see this bravery throughout the LGBT community as they continue to fight for equality and their right to marry the person they love.

Recently, hundreds of thousands of women converged on Washington DC for a protest march. These brave women stood against a president that, by his words and actions, has shown his disfavor for women. These brave women stood up to show their strength and solidarity. This action is the epitome of being brave.

What does “Be Brave…” mean to you?

Maintain Your Activism Without Losing Your Mind

Last week, I talked about a variety of resources to help you figure out what, exactly, to do to resist the Trump administration’s odious policies. Many of us are passionate about choosing our “battle stations” – the causes we will fight to protect – and spending all of our energy on them.

But all of that fighting is exhausting. Activist burnout is a common problem…and we’re only a couple of weeks into the battle. So I’ve put together a little guide on maintaining your sanity and energy while you’re out there defending your chosen piece of American values.

The Crazy We’re Resisting

First, let’s take a look at what we’re up against, courtesy of this video by Keith Olbermann:

This video illustrates the sheer chaotic nature of the administration – and the importance of point number one:

Choose Your Battles Carefully

Most of us have a lot of causes we hold dear, from women’s rights to LGBTQ rights to church-state separation and more. And sometimes it feels like every one of those causes is being attacked, all at the same time, which makes it hard to focus your energy. This chaos can start to make you feel like you’re coming apart at the seams.

Breathe. Take a step back. Regroup and reorganize. Recognize that you’re one person, and you can’t fight every single battle. Pick a couple of your most important hot-button issues, and find ways to divide your attention between them without becoming exhausted.

If you try to stand up for everything, you’ll spread yourself too thin and won’t be as effective. By taking time to prioritize the causes you’re most passionate about, you’ll be better able to direct your energy.

Recognize the Signs of Burnout

I have anxiety disorder. Because of that, I am keenly aware of how the stress of activism affects a person, both physically and mentally. You can start feeling isolated or irritable, and building anxiety can lead to fatigue, insomnia, and even physical pain or illness.

Be mindful of these signs of burnout, and take time for self care before your stress turns into an all-out breakdown. Which leads me to:

Develop a Self Care Plan

It may seem kind of obvious that you need to take time do do something enjoyable now and then, but when you’re caught up in activism (or even just caught up in the latest anxiety-inducing news on your Facebook wall) it’s easy to forget.

That’s why you need to plan for self care now, before you get past the point of breakdown. Create a routine that balances your activism efforts with hobbies, relaxation routines, spending time with friends and family, and anything else that helps you center yourself.

You also need to take a break now and then – and don’t beat yourself up for doing so. Passion for a cause can make us feel guilty anytime we’re not actively fighting for that cause. But by not allowing yourself to take time off, you’re pushing yourself more quickly toward the point of burnout.

Only you can decide what kind of break you need – whether you just need to stop and breathe now and then, or take a full vacation from activism.

Being passionate and resisting the erosion of the things we hold dear is admirable. But if you don’t take time to focus on your own needs, your energy and enthusiasm will fade.

Take care of yourself, and you’ll be better able to take care of others.

A Humanist’s Guide to Meditation

In recent episodes I touched briefly on meditation, but never took the time to really explain how to do it. Several people have asked that I do a teaching on meditation, so I thought I would to do a short post to share a few ideas to help get you started.

It’s not my goal to help you become an expert at meditation. I’m not sure there is such a thing. However, if you are interested in beginning a meditation routine, this will get you started on the right foot.

Meditation is taking a few minutes a day to sit in silence and calm your mind and body. I often use meditation to focus on things I want to change or make better in my daily life. We live in such a fast-paced world, and it’s important to take the time to work on the most important person in your life – yourself.  Find comfortable, loose-fit clothing, and let’s get started.

Five simple steps to successfully start a meditation practice

Sit for just five minutes. One of the biggest misconceptions about meditation is that you must sit for hours. This is not true. When you’re starting out, it’s best to start small. I know five minutes a day doesn’t seem like much, but it’s very important to take it slow. Start with five minutes a day for seven days. If it goes well that first week, increase your time by one minute and do that for the next week. You will quickly build to sitting for 10 minutes. Remember to congratulate yourself each day for a job well done.

Designate the same time every day for meditation. I know that’s easier said than done. I recommend setting a reminder every day to sit in meditation. Something as simple as a sticky note on your computer monitor or an alert on your phone will do the job.  Overcome any desire to put it off. Dedicating yourself to developing a habit will make you more successful.

Set a timer.  At the beginning of each meditation session, set a gentle alarm for the amount of time you plan to sit. I usually put my phone on vibrate and place the phone under my leg. When I feel the vibration, I slowly open my eyes and take a few seconds to reflect and appreciate my accomplishment.

Don’t worry about whether or not you are doing it correctly.  Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, and what kind of cushion to use, but none of this is important to get started. It’s okay to start by sitting on a chair or on your couch if sitting cross-legged on the floor is too uncomfortable. What’s most important is sitting somewhere quiet and comfortable. You will experience many internal distractions when starting a new meditation practice. Don’t get discouraged. Try to eliminate as many outside distractions as possible.

Count your breaths. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. I place my focus on the air as it moves past my nostrils. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one. When your mind wanders (and it will), gently return to your breath. Count “one” again, and start over. It’s common to feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to lose focus; we all do it. Remember, it’s called a meditation practice. Be patient with yourself. The more you do it, the better you will get.

A Humanist Guide to Resist Trump

A Humanist Guide to Resist Trump“I normally don’t write long posts or any kind of political or religious comments.”

So began a Facebook post by Nazanin Zinouri, a data scientist who traveled to Tehran on January 22 for her once-yearly visit with her family. By Wednesday, her happy visit was already starting to crumble, as rumors about possible executive orders changing immigration rules started floating around. When the rumors started solidifying and she realized she might be banned from coming back to the United States – a country she’s lived in for 7 years – she cut her visit short and booked a flight back.

Unfortunately, by the time her flight left, it was several hours after Trump had signed the order. In Dubai, she made it through to the boarding area for her connecting flight…but then officers informed her that, for security reasons, her boarding was denied.

“No one warned me when I was leaving, no one cared what will happen to my dog or my job or my life there. No one told me what I should do with my car that is still parked at the airport parking. Or what to do with my house and all my belongings. They didn’t say it with words, but with their actions, that my life doesn’t matter. Everything I worked for all these years doesn’t matter.”

Nazanin’s story is just one of many heartbreaking tales of families separated, lives uprooted and left in limbo, and fear and confusion.

Trump’s Immigration Ban: Cruelty at Its Finest

So here’s what Trump’s immigration ban does, in a nutshell:

First, it suspends the Syrian refugee program in the United States, indefinitely. It also halts all refugee entry for 120 days, and all citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from coming to the US for 90 days.

The order also gives preference to refugees from “minority religions” – which Trump has stated pretty much means Christians. While Christians are a minority in the Muslim-majority countries targeted by the order, Trump’s reasons for giving them preferential treatment have been largely debunked.

Trump’s order lowers the total number of refugees to be admitted to the United States this year to just 50,000 – less than half of Obama’s 110,000 per year. And finally, it calls for “extreme vetting” of immigrants and visitors to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks. Never mind the intense vetting process that immigrants already have to go through in order to get visas.

Poorly Executed Plan, Major Fallout

Thanks to the rushed nature of the executive order, mass chaos reigned over the weekend. Officials in charge of admitting or denying entry to travelers from the affected countries didn’t get proper instructions – so they detained or turned away basically everyone, including green card holders. Saturday night, a federal judge granted an emergency stay for people who were already in the US or in transit and have valid visas.

Unfortunately, many people had already been turned back – and because there had been no warning, people like Nazanin had no chance at all to make arrangements. People who were just traveling abroad suddenly found themselves unable to return home.

A Humanist Guide to Resist Trump

If you’re outraged by the ban, or terrified of what such a poorly vetted overreach of power means for the future, you’re definitely not alone. And believe me when I say I understand being overwhelmed and feeling frozen by the mountain of crap spewing from the White House every day.

But the good news is, there are lots of people organizing, resisting, and providing advice on how to resist. Here are a few excellent resources that provide concrete steps you can take to help minimize the damage Trump’s administration is trying to do:

The Resistance Manual. A wiki-type manual created by seasoned protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement. This site separates resistance plans by issue, such as the ACA, LGBTQ Equality, immigration, and women’s rights. Each of these pages provides a comprehensive overview of Trump’s proposed or expected policy, how it affects people, and what you can do. And because it’s a wiki, it’s also open-source – so you’re getting advice from a wide range of protesters representing all walks of life and all levels of experience.

Daily Action. This site asks for your cell number and zip code, and then sends you one action alert via text message per day. These alerts give you one concrete action – calling your senator or representative to protest an issue that’s urgent in your area. You tap the phone number in the text message to call in, listen to a recording explaining the issue, and then you’re automatically routed to your elected official to express your objection.

Indivisible Guide. This guide was written by former Congressional staffers who understand how Congress members think – and what strategies work best to get them to listen. The guide provides excellent information on how grassroots movements (like the Tea Party) worked to undermine Obama, how to organize a local group in your Congressional district, and local advocacy tactics that are proven to work.

In addition to these guides, you have a few other steps you can take:

 

Above all, try to avoid becoming overwhelmed. I definitely don’t recommend trying to consume ALL of these resources or trying to support ALL of these causes. For sanity’s sake, you need to choose your battles and find ways to make your stand within those movements.

Next week, I’ll dive a little deeper into keeping your sanity while resisting Trump. If you’ve got ideas/suggestions for groups to support or actions to take that I haven’t listed here, please leave them in the comments. We’d love for this post to grow into a resource of its own for the Hope After Faith family.

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