Come as you are, as you were, as you wanted to be

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On nice weekends my husband and I take the kids and walk around downtown visiting local shops, getting ice-cream, and generally enjoying getting out of the house. The children love to visit bookstores (they’re more likely to get a new book than a new toy), and we’re quite fortunate, our town has two.

The other weekend while perusing the bookstores my husband slipped Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life into the pile with the explanation of “It looks like something you might find interesting.” I rolled my eyes a bit, the bright pink cover was slightly off-putting, but he generally has good taste in books so it came home with us and was added to the pile of books on my nightstand, next to my partially ready Steiner and Dennett.

A few days went by, and curiosity got the better of me (and Steiner got a bit esoteric and Dennett got dense), so I climbed over my mental barrier (it has sex in the title!) and decided to give it a try. Three, maybe four, days later, I was done and I felt like a huge weight had been lifted.

This is probably one of the best books I’ve read all year, and if you’ve been following along on the blog, I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading. Using the example of a garden and a sleep hedgehog (as well as some other fabulous anlogies), Emily Nagoski guides the reader through anatomy, biology, physiology, chemistry, etc. in a way that is accessible to the average person.

I think it helped that I didn’t take it too seriously, it is about sex after all, and I happen to feel sex should be fun (and consensual and enjoyable), and reading about it should be fun too. I found it to be unintentionally hilarious, overly-obvious at times, and all-around enjoyable, your results may vary.

After I finished it, I handed it to my husband to read, he asked what I’d learned from it:

me: I learned we all have different gardens, some are arid and grow aloe vera, others need more water and grow tomatoes! Different gardens need different care, and I get to decide what I want to plant. Also, don’t upset sleepy hedgehogs.

him: But you don’t water your garden, that’s why I spent a lot of money to put it on a drip system, so you don’t kill all the plants.

me: Exactly.

I really like the garden analogy, quite a few years ago, my garden was choked with weeds: weeds from the media, weeds from “morality” (thanks Christian Science and deep south “morals”), weeds from awkward/traumatizing medical moments (thanks again CS!) I’m still in the process of uprooting weeds, and I’m sure some will attempt to grow back, but I’m going to be mindful and patient with myself, and remember that garden’s just don’t grow overnight, and sometimes gophers come eat them, or there’s a nasty frost.

I wish this book had been available sooner, like 10+ years ago, before I got engaged (or even earlier), but I don’t think I would’ve been as open to reading it during my Principia years (sex is distracting and unnecessary!), and giving it to my high-school aged self would not have ended well either (southern morality, sex is icky!).

My perspective has changed (sex -in the proper context- is fun!), and in the years since leaving Prin (and Christian Science) I started pulling these figurative weeds a few years back (I’ll spare you the details), but it would’ve been helpful to have this books a reference point for the process. Yes, I am being vague, this blog is not about sex, it’s about other things! So yes, if you want to read a fun, nonjudgmental book about sex, based on science and biology (yay science!) I highly recommend  Come as You Are

Weeds in the Garden (thanks Christian Science!)


Breaking the Spell

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support of

This may not be the greatest book review/summary as I am in the process of recovering from one of many viruses that have been circulating the school yard. My apologies in advance. 

A while back an exchange with Matt of Jerico Brisance (check out the impressive bibliography page) led me to picking up a copy of Daniel C. Dennett’s book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. The book arrived and then sat on my desk. I started it enjoyed it greatly, got part way in, put it down (I think the holidays happened), and then it sat some more, somewhat overlooked on a shelf.

I have the hardcover edition of Breaking the Spell which feels a little intimidating and very authoritative. It is not a light read to be skimmed in an afternoon, even the dust jacket makes for heavy, thought provoking, reading:

In a spirited argument that ranges widely through biology, history and psychology, Dennett explores how religion evolved from folk beliefs and how these early “wild” strains of religion were then carefully and consciously domesticated. 

In an effort to more clearly define my reading goals, I put a book mark at the end of the book just before the Appendices start (cutting the reading down to 339 pages from a total of 448), in doing so, Dennet’s central policy recommendation jumped out at me:

[My recommendation] is that we gently, firmly educate the people of the world, so that they can make truly informed choices about their lives. Ignorance is nothing shameful; imposing ignorance is shameful. Most people are not to blame for their own ignorance, but if they willfully pass it on, they are to blame. (p. 339)

As I am on a quest to educate myself, I decided I really should start at the beginning and dutifully flipped back to the Preface where Dennett begins by openly acknowledging his bias as an American, and offers insight into why he has chosen such a “provincial” focus — namely, religion in America. I like his style.

Breaking the Spell is neatly divided into three main sections, then divided into eleven sub-sections, that are further broken down into 3-7 sub-sub-sections, rather like a the outline for a history paper. Throughout, Dennet poses thought provoking questions to the reader and provides brief summaries of what is to come in upcoming chapters.

As far as I can tell, Dennett is not arguing that religion is good or bad, he is arguing that region should be studied, questioned and examined. Religions make extraordinary claims, that should be looked at critically, tested, and studied. Sadly, as Dennett points out, there is the time-tested argument against this:

If anybody ever raises questions or objections about our religion that you cannot answer, that person is almost certainly Satan. In fact, the more reasonable the person is, the more eager to engage you in open-minded and congenial discussion, the more sure you can be that you’re talking to Satan in disguise! Turn away! Do not listen! It’s a trap!

Christian Science replaces “Satan” with “error” or “malicious animal magnetism” but the idea is the same. It’s a trap!  Issues, with “Satan” (or “error”) aside, religion influences too many people for it not to be studied. It should not be immune.

I don’t recommend reading this book while you’re sick. It requires you to think, which can be tricky when your head feels like it is wrapped in wool and there is unbearable pressure behind your eyes.

I look forward to reading the other book in my pile by Dennet: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

Update:  I have since attempted to read Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, and I’m having a hard time grasping the concepts as completely as I’d like. Eventually I hope to finish reading, and review the book in question, but for now it has moved to my “come back to it later” stack.

Carl Sagan & Christian Science


Someone shared above quote in a facebook group, and someone else pointed out that it is misattributed to Carl Sagan, but I like it anyway. Ms. Eddy often went off at length about The Truth, and her vision of Truth was Absolute. I find prefer Sagan’s views on the truth.

“The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth — never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.”

Carl Sagan on Christian Science & God

Carl Sagan’s last interview, part 1 ( – shout out to Christian Scientists begins around the 3:00 minute mark.

Christian Science, the Affordable Health Care Act & Congressional Lobbying

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 9.33.45 AMThe Christian Science Church has a special Committee on Publication’s U.S. Federal Office:

Located in Washington, DC, this office works with U.S. Congressional, executive, and regulatory offices to help them and the public gain a more accurate understanding of Christian Science. We follow developments in health care and insurance, and we work to ensure that spiritual health care services and the public’s access to them are not adversely affected by any law.

I was always under the impression people were welcome to pray for themselves at any time — separation of Church and State, the State can’t tell me not to pray, so I’m really not sure why the Christian Science Church feels they need to be involved. The State can, and does, request that I pay taxes, our taxes go to schools, roads, public services (police, fire, etc.), and that we have insurance (car, house, etc.). Render unto Caesar and all that good stuff.

Ms. Eddy was clear that Christian Scientists follow the laws established by the State, which is interesting, because The Christian Science Committee on Publication’s U.S. Federal Office has been hard at work — again, lobbying Congress for health care exemptions — this time for an exemption to the Affordable Health Care Act. I’m NOT saying the Affordable Health Care Act is the answer, but health care in the United States is a mess, and the reforms with the ACA are a step towards at least doing something about the problem. Perhaps that is a little over-simplified, but if Christian Science prayer worked as well as the Christian Science lobbying machine we’d have a peaceful, disease-free utopia.

A few things to keep in mind:

The Christian Science Church has an EXTENSIVE ACA FAQ at My FAVORITE of the FAQ:

Isn’t there a religious exemption from the ACA’s requirement to purchase health insurance?

Yes, but it applies primarily to the Amish and certain Mennonites. This is because the current exemption (on page 326 of the linked PDF) has the following requirements:

  • The individual must be a member of a religious group whose tenets and teachings establish that its members are conscientiously opposed to receiving any insurance benefits, including Social Security and Medicare benefit
  • The individual must waive all Social Security and Medicare benefit
  • The religious organization must pay for the health care and disability costs of its members.

I don’t see Christian Scientists giving up their Social Security or Medicare benefits any time soon. If anything, they actively encourage members to seek out Medicare assistance to cover the cost of treatment at Christian Science Nursing care facilities.

The EACH Act (HR1814 & S.862) should be opposed for many reasons (via CHILD)

  • It’s unenforceable. There is no way the IRS would be able to accurately determine what a person’s religious beliefs are, much less how “sincerely held” they are. Therefore, ANYONE, whether they really refuse medical care or not, will be able to say they have religious beliefs against medical care and use that as an excuse to be exempted from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to buy health insurance. It would gut the Act.
  • Many sincere religious people object to only SOME kinds of medical treatment. Christian Scientists, for example, have broken bones set, get pre-natal and birth care, and often end up rushing to the emergency room when their prayers fail to heal them. If they are not covered by insurance, taxpayers must fill the gap.
  • Even those objecting to ALL medical intervention will still receive it when they are unable to refuse it, say, after a car accident, and taxpayers must then pay the entire cost of that care also.
  • The CBO has just released a fiscal analysis indicating that the bill could increase the number of uninsured by 500,000 persons each year and cost $1.5 billion over ten years.
  • The House bill has been pushed forward without due process, with no public hearing, no committee markup, no fiscal analysis
  • Parents who send children to religious schools are not exempt from taxes that support public schools. Religious people shouldn’t be exempt from this tax either.
  • Children in uninsured families are particularly at risk. It’s one thing for an adult to refuse medical treatment for himself, but children should be insured and therefore able to receive lifesaving care until they are old enough to decide for themselves

More from CHILD: Christian Science bills endanger children (, and statements from organizations opposing prayer-based treatment of children:

More on the Legislation in Question

More on the Christian Science Church’s efforts:

Other concerned Parties:

From the blogs:

UPDATED: Calling your Congress People on Religious Exemptions

As a general rule, I try not to get involved in politics, but I don’t feel that religions should be exempted from anything — they should pay taxes, they should have to enroll in health care. As Jesus reminded them, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Jesus also said “suffer the little children” (Matthew 19:14) but he didn’t mean from untreated osteomyelitis.

Christian Science has a long history of lobbying congress to get their way, and of carefully controlling PR pieces to put them in a positive light.

While The Mother Church and Christian Science may be more carefully controlling their story, there are other religious groups that are using legislative loopholes lobbied for by Christian Scientists. The one currently making the rounds in the news are the Followers of Christ Church, and thy are already making an impact: in May of 2011,

the Oregon state Senate voted to end legal protection granted to parents practicing religious faith healing. The legislation ends legal protection for parents who choose faith healing to the exclusion of modern medicine in treating their children’s health. (1)

I don’t think Christian Scientists — or any religious group — should have special exemptions. They should all be treated fairly under the law. Would non-religious parents who let their child die similar circumstances be held accountable under the law? Yes. Why should religious parents be held to a different standard? Either the child is healed INSTANTANEOUSLY, or the child should get medical attention. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, ignorance of the need for medical attention should not be be not one either.

More on the Followers of Christ Church

More on Faith Healing & Legislation

What YOU CAN DO to make a difference — March 11, 2014

Dear CHILD Members and Friends,

The Christian Science church has scheduled a “national call-in day” on March 11 and is asking all members to call their federal legislators that day and urge votes for HR1814 and their bills exempting everyone with “sincerely held religious beliefs” against “medical health care” from the mandate to buy health insurance.

HR1814 has 216 co-sponsors; S.862 has 31. They are in the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees but have not been scheduled for hearings. With so many co-sponsors and with this national call-in day, they may get pushed through Congress.

We urge you to contact your Congressperson and Senator in opposition to these bills either on or close to March 11. There are 177 minor children and stillborns buried in one cemetery used by the Idaho Followers of Christ. We believe that at least some of those children would have gotten medical care if their parents had been required to carry health insurance for them.

These bills will be a great burden for governments to enforce and may involve the state in unconstitutional investigation of a person’s beliefs—whether they’re really religious, whether they are sincere, and whether he objects to all medical care or just some forms of care. Maybe the state will just accept anyone’s word that he has sincere religious beliefs against some medical care, which will be financially convenient for many people to claim.

It is likely that some will claim the religious exemption to save money but later get medical care at the public’s expense. While the law provides that doing so forfeits the exemption, the provision will be hard to enforce and the cost of the medical care they get may be more than the penalty for not having insurance. Furthermore, they can claim the exemption again for the next year after forfeiting it for one year.

Please voice your opposition to HR1814 and S.862. They increase the risk to children in faith-healing sects and the cost to the state if the children do get medical care.

Sincerely, Rita Swan

UPDATE (March 10, 2014) This came out this morning!!

Dear CHILD Members and Friends:

We’ve just learned that HR1814, the bill to give everyone an exemption from buying health insurance if they have “sincerely-held religious beliefs” against medical care, will go to the House floor tomorrow under suspension of the rules. It is bypassing the House Ways and Means Committee.

Wikipedia says “suspension of the rules is a procedure generally used to quickly pass non-controversial bills [such as naming of post offices]. . . . Once a member makes a motion to “suspend the rules” and take some action, debate is limited to 40 minutes, no amendments can be offered to the motion or the underlying matter, and a 2/3 majority of Members present and voting is required to agree to the motion.”

“A suspension motion sets aside all procedural and other rules that otherwise prohibit the House from considering the measure—but the motion never mentions the specific rules that are suspended.”

This is not right. This bill is not a non-controversial bill. No fiscal impact analysis has been performed. There is obviously a cost to allowing a substantial number of people to opt out of getting health insurance. And there is the cost to the children, who are permanently harmed or lose their lives because their parents did not get health insurance for them.

The Christian Science church has scheduled a national call-in day tomorrow, so there will be thousands of Christian Scientists calling their members of Congress on March 11 just as HR1814 goes to the floor.

Please call your U.S. Congressperson and urge a vote against HR1814.

Thank you.

Rita Swan

The Legislation in Question


Update: fellow former-CS blogger Emerging Gently has a great piece about this issue as well!