Question of Atheist Scruples – real life edition

June 20, 2016

An ex reaches out with this suggestion — what would you think of donating sperm?

A bit of anonymous backstory —

Relationships can be complicated and long lasting, even if the participants aren’t really in each other’s social circles anymore. A ten year anniversary apart, in this case, with several years in there of little to no contact at all.

But, this girl’s been involved for some years with a guy who has a history of putting off (and continues to put off) the notion of starting a family due to work or education or whatever may be the reason of the day. They’ve been rocky for this and other reasons from the sounds of things. It also sounds like the girl may just cut her losses and go on alone.. sort of.

She texted the 10 year anniversary guy to pose the question. The Man, being the sweet and honest man he is, let me know what had been going on in his messages yesterday regarding this. We had a good discussion.

I knew the girl briefly; we’d worked at the same place for a while. Saskatoon is smaller than it seems. I didn’t know she knew the Man until I’d known both of them for a while. Different social circles.

Life is fun.

Anyway, obviously nothing of this magnitude should be – or would be – agreed to in 5 minutes by text. It seemed more like “what if” kind of thinking, a contingency plan maybe.

On the topic of thinking, he already has one son from a previous relationship but we have no plans on adding a sibling ourselves. Anything he and the girl may decide to do winds up being between them as an arranged and legal contract agreement stipulating to whatever rights or the waiving thereof that they collectively would agree to.

There’d still be their folks and the Little Man to consider, though. Not that they need parental permission, being in their thirties, but would anything be said – or need to be said – to LM about his big brotherness here? It’d be shocking to discover later that a half-sibling’s in the world, though, wouldn’t it?

I’m reminded of some family history now, of a cousin whose kids learned their dad had a second family in town because those kids were going to the same damned school. The cousin didn’t know about it either but she was married to (or at least living with) the Sperminator at the time. It sounded like a hell of a mess, though.

The girl got her Master’s degree in some kind of biological science, I think, which doesn’t matter per se, except in terms of demonstrating her ambition. She’s no slouch. I’m sure she’s thought about what kind of impact single parenting would have on career prospects. Or at least, easy opportunities. She also has a history of “issues” to use a description that isn’t very explanatory. I can’t elaborate since I have no details, and should just leave it out, actually, but won’t. Everyone has issues that affect how they think or behave in certain situations. Thinking things out in this Q of S kind of way can’t prove you’d behave that way if that situation really happened to you.

I’ll leave it here. Thoughts?


Question of Atheist Scruples – trust in the workplace

June 20, 2016

You think you are a trusted employee. But after a theft, you are asked to submit to a lie detector test. Do you?

The point of a polygraph machine is to measure physiological changes. It’s not catching lies so much as it’s measuring reaction based on previously established baselines for heart rate and other things. Via Live Science:

When you’re taking a polygraph test, the machine first registers the baseline of your vital signs. Examiners then trick you into lying by asking you a series of “control” questions that are only distantly related to the issue they’re investigating, such as “Did you ever lie to get out of trouble?” or “Have you ever committed a crime?” Most examinees will answer “no” to such questions they’re trying to come across as honest but examiners assume that the answer to at least one control question will really be “yes” (after all, you’ve probably lied at some point or another, and jay-walked). As soon as the examinee tells such a white lie, it puts a blip on the polygraph machine that serves as a signature of that examinee’s lies.

Must be a pretty big theft to be bringing in experts. I’d probably wind up admitting to bringing a pen home and maybe not paying for a bit of personal photocopying (yet), but whatever kind of big ticket thing went out the door.. wasn’t me…

But now I’m reminded of my Walmart days. Fuck, I hated that job. (Meeting the Man there is the highlight of the years of long service.) Well, more I hated it after I got booted out of Electronics into Fashion. Why was I moved? I suspect it was (partly) because of this:

The video games were kept in cabinets for obvious theft reasons — although personal DVD players weren’t and many empty boxes were found in Infants’ Wear, a popular spot for people to hide their thieving because many days/nights nobody would be working in there. I digress…

I’d opened the Playstation cabinet (I think it was) to get a system for a guy and (yes, this was against store policy) handed it to him while I locked the case, probably because someone else needed into another one, but I don’t remember anymore. The game area was always busy.

He wandered off and I, Honest Minion, assumed he took it to the till to pay for it. Most people would. I find out later that he actually did a runner. Huh. How ’bout that.

I get called into a meeting with my assistant manager a few days later, having already forgotten that happened, and he asks me if I know why I’m there. I say I don’t know. He reminds me. “Oh, that,” I said. I guess I wasn’t contrite enough. I didn’t grovel enough or flog myself or kiss his boots and beg for mercy.

Shit went missing there all the time. There wasn’t proof that I was in cahoots with the dude. I honestly assumed he’d gone to pay for the thing.

Anyway, back to the question. I’d probably be annoyed to be wired up but hopefully everyone else would also be getting questioned, that all the suspicion wouldn’t be centered on me. That’s all I got, really.

Pop culture stress and theft — Sliding Doors did a neat thing as a movie, featuring a scene where Gwyneth Paltrow’s character gets fired for “stealing a bottle of wine” she intended to replace. The movie is set so that the audience can watch two futures unfold, one where she catches the train home after getting sacked, thus catching her boyfriend in bed with another woman and one where she misses the train and has no idea what’s going on without her knowledge. I thought it was pretty well done.

The from The IT Crowd:

Question of Atheist Scruples – family ties

June 12, 2016

When you had a baby out of wedlock, the father and his family cut you off. Later, the father died in an accident and now his mother wants to know her grandchild. Do you allow it?

Was this a one night stand situation where I barely knew the guy, or someone I’d been involved with for a while who bailed at the thought of fatherhood?

How many years have gone by? How old were we?

Who was the driving force in pushing me out of the picture? If Mom’s part or most of the reason the guy did a runner, I’d be pretty reluctant to create a relationship with her. If I wasn’t good enough for your baby, what makes you think you’re good enough for my baby? And that sort of thing. Callous, maybe, but seriously. Unless they’re rich.. Kids cost money… but wealth shouldn’t excuse bad behaviour.

If the kid’s 10 by now or something, I’d sit her down and explain what’s what. Your dad had his reasons for leaving before he met you, and his mom seems to feel bad about that now, do you want to meet her? And yes or no we’d go with her feelings about it. She wouldn’t meet the woman by herself, though.

Family medical history is a good reason to get to know the mother, though. Get a heads up on any chronic or known risks of depression or heart disease and other things that can be problematic.

If it’s genuine interest in wanting to be a grandma, that’s mostly fine, but maybe I’d want to lay some ground rules down about visiting frequency and what they can and can’t do, depending on the age of said kid here. No, you can’t fly her to your condo off the coast of Mexico for two weeks, yes you can go to a movie downtown on Saturday and then buy her some jeans… but what’s wrong with the jeans I .. oh whatever…

And if she’s going to lay down a bunch of “You should”s and “Well, I never”s and criticize every parenting move I make, I’ll be tempted to rescind her invitation to be part of her granddaughter’s life. But, I suppose it would not be unexpected.. it’s a thing some parents do to their kids.

I guess that’s my answer to this one.

Question of Atheist Scruples – Teach your children well

June 10, 2016

You are an English teacher. A student who is failing your subject needs the credit to get into nursing. Do you pass the student?

Of course not. I’d remind said student that if s/he approached the nursing courses with the same half-assed approach used in this English class, people will die. Knowledge of English – or any other language required/desired – is important. Being able to explain yourself in writing and understand what others have explained in writing is a necessity for a lot of jobs, certainly for nursing. They don’t need to finish the class as an expert in grammar or poetry or whatever the course happens to cover, but they can’t fail it and think it doesn’t matter in the long run. It will and it does.

I’m reminded now of a story coming out of Yale this month about some students having a fit mandatory starting a petition to spread concern over the mandatory English poetry courses focused solely on the old white CIS men of European history. Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, various other dudes.

They’re complaining that the English course isn’t diverse enough — except it is. Beyond the mandatory English courses that form the core of the degree, students are welcome to take classes on lesbian literature, black women writers, and whatever other options are available that will fill their credit requirements.

They still have to take and pass the courses about the straight white men of literary history because where we are now has everything to do with what they started and why they wrote what they did. They had the money and the power and the privilege to get their ideas out into the world at a time when the gays, the women, people of colour did not.

Maybe the university could make a couple diversity courses mandatory if they haven’t already, but otherwise a student’s education is completely up to the student. Be well rounded, or focus energy on something/someone weirdly specific. Take it up with a course advisor if you need help picking a direction for your degree, or spend your money/loan however you see fit and decide later if you wasted your dollars and sense on it all. Only you can know that.

Question of Atheist Scruples – Walk on by?

June 8, 2016

Late for an important engagement, you spy an old acquaintance who is down on his luck and often drunk. Do you cross the street to avoid being detained?


Next question?

Am I heartless?

Maybe a little.

What kind of acquaintance is this? Someone I used to be really close to until we drifted, or just someone I’d see around and chat with in that small talk kind of way when running into each other at a bus stop or the park?

Okay, yes, I could drop everything I was doing, contact whoever I was supposed to meet, apologize for having to reschedule and then spend the rest of my afternoon coaxing an old friend off the street and into a coffee shop for a long talk or into a shelter to sleep it off. Maybe that one intervention, one person giving a damn, would mean the difference between a suicide attempt today and motivational speaking engagements 10 years from now.

But I’ve got shit to do and I don’t really want to get involved…

And then I feel some level of guilt for not getting involved, even in this hypothetical situation.

Question of Atheist Scruples – student atheist edition

June 7, 2016


Your 15-year-old refuses to stand and repeat the Lord’s Prayer at school. She says she is an atheist. Do you support her right to refuse?

Fuck yeah.

I’m reminded of a news article from earlier this year here in Saskatchewan regarding this very thing:

Dusti Hennenfent’s children go to Lindale Public Elementary School in Moose Jaw. The school plays the Lord’s Prayer over the PA system every morning.

Under the Education Act, Saskatchewan schools are allowed to have mandatory prayers for students, even in public schools.

Should prayers be included in classroom time in public schools?

“I’m concerned that it really doesn’t have respect for the individual beliefs of the students,” said Hennenfent. “I don’t understand the purpose of having religious worship for one religion at a public school.”

Exactly. If a public school can’t or won’t give equal time to acknowledge the religions of other students, it’s unfair. Better to remove the prayer rather than give preferential treatment to one group of kids over the rest. It’s not like those Christian kids can’t pray on their own without an official prompt. Nobody’s saying kids can’t pray in school. The problem comes when the teachers and principals and other people in authority positions force kids into praying and possibly/likely create an uncomfortable feeling for those of other faiths, or none.

“When I originally called the school and discussed this, at the very initial part of this process, I called the principal and she said that kids did have the option to leave the classroom [during the prayer],” said Hennenfent.

However, she said she was never made aware of that option, nor were her children. She also canvassed parents from seven different classrooms and learned that none of those children had been told that they had the option of leaving the classroom during the prayer.

The school has said that it will continue with the Lord’s Prayer because the majority of parents, about 90 per cent, are in favour of it.

I hate to counter with, “Well, a lot of people were in favour of slavery, too, but it’s still wrong.” It’s true, but it’s trite.

David Arnot, head of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, said Friday that he agrees with Hennenfent.

“What you can’t do is choose one religion over another,” Arnot said. “A dominant religion, like Christianity, doesn’t get preference to other religions.”

He added that, in his opinion, the section of the law that allows for prayers in schools is outdated (it dates to 1995) and would likely be re-written if challenged in court.

There was a similar story in 1999 – “Saskatchewan told to pull prayer from schools” – but since it was a Commission making a recommendation, no one was under any obligation to change anything then. There was an earlier one from 1996 regarding bible readings in public school in 1993 The Board of Education was very pro Bible then, as well as now, apparently.

I haven’t found any updates on the current story, unfortunately. I thought I did, but it turned out to be a different prayer problem – Saskatoon’s public prayers at civic events. “The city has since decided not to adopt a prayer policy at civic events.”

Whatever that winds up meaning.

Now, to throw two book suggestions in – The Young Atheist’s Survival Guide: Helping Secular Students Thrive and The Young Atheist’s Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life without God. Buy copies for your kids if you can or want to and then put in requests for your local library to own copies as well for those families that can’t afford to buy books but can still benefit from the information.

Question of Atheist Scruples – how much does it cost to find yourself?

June 3, 2016

Your son wants to drop out of college for a year “to find himself.” He asks you to subsidize him. Do you?

I think not. If he wants to go and work in some other country or travel the world in search of meaning, it’ll have to be on his own dime. I’d chip in a bit if I could afford it but if any money had been saved for his future prior to this decision, it probably would be locked into an RESP or something rather than a general savings account, thus inaccessible for whimsical ventures and adventures.

I’m well aware that college isn’t for everyone. Taking a year off to try something else isn’t a bad idea, so long as it’s a productive year – be it from a money standpoint or experience. I felt kind of forced into finishing my degree… not by my parents, but my own sense of accomplishment. I’d started with Elementary Education but my grades were poor enough in my courses that I was facing a probation year if I tried to stay with it. I could have quit then but I opted to change my major to Sociology instead with a minor in Philosophy. Great to have the degree, I suppose, but it was also 10 years worth of student loan payments later because I wasn’t smart with saving money and paying it off quickly.

I don’t know what I would have wound up doing had I quit school early.