Freethought Friday

Late Free-Thought Friday: Duke Bonanza

Today’s late Free-Thought Friday post comes from a friend on twitter, Duko Bonanza. I think you’ll find his story compelling, interesting, and emotional. More of duke can be found on his blog Dukebonanza.com.


 

My Atheist Testimony

When I was young I loved Jesus. I thought he was the fuckin’ bees knees. I was passionate about Christianity, and lived my life as a devout Independent Baptist. I believed the earth was 6000 years old, and created in a literal 6 days. I believed every word of the Bible was God breathed into the minds of the men who wrote it without any input from them at all, and the only English translation of the Bible that was relevant was the King James 1611.

So what happened Duke? Why’d you decide to join a group of baby eating, amoral, heretics reviled the world over?

I’m often asked by concerned believers: “What happened? Did someone die?

I’m glad you asked that, because that’s just what we’re going to talk about today.

I began having doubts in my mid 20’s. Those doubts did not come to fruition until my late 20’s early 30’s but somewhere in the depths of my brain was a small voice saying: “you know this is bullshit, right?”

I’m often asked by concerned believers: “What happened? Did someone die? What caused you to be so bitter towards God?” It wasn’t anything so dramatic as that. For me it was a simple lack of his presence. It was the countless nights of crying out into the darkness, and getting no reply.

And the voice started getting louder everyday:

“8 million species of animals in groups of 2 and 14 on a fucking boat? For how long?”

“The majority of the stars we see are way further than 6000 light years away.”

“Dude you’ve read the Old Testament, you know God’s a viscious cunt right?”

I had no idea where to look for information, but I was looking at Penn’s Wikipedia page…

At 32 I had moved to being a deist, which quickly progressed to agnosticism before the year was out. Around that time I discovered Penn Jillette. I had no idea what being an atheist meant. I had no idea where to look for information, but I was looking at Penn’s Wikipedia page (I don’t remember why now) and saw that he is an atheist, so I googled his name, came across his YouTube channel, and started watching.

Through him I found Hitchens, and through Hitch I found Sam Harris, and I rather quickly became an atheist. I heard arguments I had never heard before, and they hit on all of my points of concern with pinpoint accuracy.

I did, however, still talk to God. Mostly when I was angry at him about something.

That’s an interesting part of my atheist journey. I was so used to just talking to God when I was hurt, scared, or just plain pissed off that I just kept doing it. Then one day, I was just about to start up when I said to myself: “Why are you doing this? He’s not there.” And a thousand pounds was lifted off my shoulders.

Up until that point I had been in abject misery over the loss of my faith and I desperately wanted it back. My marriage was falling apart. I was mostly hiding my beliefs for fear of reprisal. I felt betrayed and lied to by every person I loved, and worse I had led quite a few people to Christianity (including 3 confirmed atheists).

In that one moment all of that disappeared. My fear, and anger melted away and for the first time in my life I felt saved.

I went straight home and changed my Facebook status to atheist, and confirmed the fears of everyone I knew.

That was the beginning of the end for my marriage. It resulted in one of the worst fights my ex and I ever had. We were never the same. It took about 5 years to finally end. We fought the whole time, and if I’m honest I don’t really miss her. I miss having my daughter, but not my ex. I remember her looking me dead in the eyes the night of that fight and saying:

“Now all my friends are going to know they were right about you.”

And I suppose they were. I learned that day that love, perhaps, can’t conquer all.

Since then I’ve been an out of the closet atheist. I don’t necessarily broadcast it where I live (bum-fuck Florida) but everyone who knows me, knows I don’t believe.  And I wouldnt change that for the world.

So that my story, or I should say the short version of it. One life saved from an existence of meaningless servitude to a God that’s not there, and not a moment to soon.

Duke’s bio:

High priest in the church of the Risen Macho Man Randy Savage
U.N. ambassador for Gay Jesus
Lives in rural Florida
Surrounded by Baptists

Freethought Friday

Free-Thought Friday: The Bible Used to Justify Abuse

Today’s Blog is written by Rob of @therobblog_rob. Thank you for the submission Rob! For the last Free-Thought Friday, click here:Free-Thought Friday: Losing My Christianity: Part 3. Enjoy!


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For fifteen years I was a part of a very strict Pentecostal church. During this time I was not “allowed” to grow a beard, watch television or listen to non-gospel music. Once I became a preacher, short sleeves and coming to church in anything other than a white shirt and tie became a sin. My wife and two daughters did not cut their hair, wore skirts to their ankles and make up was out of the question. Let’s not forget, if you make two dollars you better pay twenty cents in tithes and give another 10 to 15 cents for offering (after God will provide).

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

bible
These people actually believe they are correct and that the Bible means exactly what they think it does because God has given them a special revelation because they are his chosen people ( 1 Peter 2:9). They seem to think that if they can find a scripture that could possibly be interpreted as what they believe then that is a god reason to create a holiness standard or make a heaven or hell rule to dictate the behavior of the church. A perfect example of this is when 1st Corinthians 11 says that it is a shame for a woman to be shaven or shorn, hence Pentecostal women do not cut their hair. Could it possibly be that since temple prostitutes shaved their heads that Paul was advising women not to be mistaken for prostitutes? This is an example of Pentecostal and fundamentalist in general taking what was actually good advice and using it to exert the fear factor over their congregations.

glory
They also believe that God should get the glory for everything and that we should be” hid in Christ” (Colossians 3:3). What happens here is that God gets all the glory for anything that you accomplish and your self-confidence is shattered because you are taught that without God you are nothing and can do nothing on your own. As a matter of fact you were born into sin (Psalm 51:5) and in order to enter the kingdom of heaven you must be born again ( John3:5) because obviously you were not born good enough the first time.
Overall, these” Christians” use scriptures to explain why their ways are above your ways (Isiah 55:8-9).

 


Authors Bio

When I was twenty-six, I attended an Apostolic Pentecostal Church service attempting to find some meaning and order for my crazy addiction filed life. At first it was great, I was welcomed in the fold and began attending every service, Bible study and prayer meeting. About a year later, I met and married a woman from church and started a family. I was told I was called to be a preacher and the journey began.
Long story short, the more involved we became the more we realized that we were nothing but Pentecostal Pharisees and that unless you were one of us you could not be saved ( and some of us were in question ). It took fifteen years but we eventually left that church in search of something more genuine.
After trying a couple of different churches and preaching a few times, we realized that the life we were trying to hang onto was based on people interpretations of things that had little to no evidence of being true.
After cutting all ties with the church world I returned to school and received my BA and Communication Studies and I have realized that the world is a whole lot bigger than any religion allows it to be portrayed.

Freethought Friday

Free-Thought Friday: What Atheism Means To Me: Marcia

Hello, I’m Marcia Wallace and I’m an atheist. I’m a former English teacher, lover of literature and medievalist. I’ve also been a police dispatcher and a travel agent in my life. I live in Michigan with my husband, a dog and cat who runs the house.

I won’t bore you with my story of how I came to be an atheist. It’s similar to so many others. I left Christianity searching for some truth. I explored other religions, found out none of them were true. I became an atheist. Education and critical thinking were the culprits.

What I do want to talk about is what atheism means. I say that atheism is a conclusion, not a belief. I don’t believe no gods exist, I have come to that conclusion through research and logic. It seems simple. No evidence for a god, whatever one you choose, would lead any skeptic to the same conclusion. The idea that multiple gods are worshiped throughout the world and each culture believes theirs is the true deity is evidence enough for disbelief. So why are believers so dedicated to their belief in a god?

I think believers, even those who aren’t fundamentalists, rebel at the thought that humans aren’t special. They want to think that the universe was made for the purpose of supporting human life, specifically a small group of believers in a particular god, theirs. I find this particularly arrogant and one of the worst harms of religious thought.

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The universe wasn’t made for us. We fit into this little corner of a huge, and mostly hostile universe because we won the evolution lottery, and that is a hard concept for deists to understand. The idea that we, as humans, are separate from this earth, from the rest of life on this planet, has led to abuse of life and the planet itself. The religious, even mildly religious, will deny humans are animals, that we are a species just like apes and butterflies. They want to believe humans are “special”.

Being separate from the rest of life, because of the mistaken belief that this planet and everything on it is put here to be ours for the taking has led us to overpopulation, drought, plague, war, pollution and climate change. We have a total arrogance when it comes to our place in this world. The religious believe that humans are not part of life, but above it because that’s what religion teaches. Religion says  we were put here to be masters of the earth, that the animals, the plants and the very rocks are human’s for the taking. It teaches that other life isn’t to be respected, but used. It teaches that humans are different from the other life on this planet, that humans are the only animals that feel, only human places count, only human life is important. That could be positive for our survival as a species, but religion further divides and deceives.

Religion teaches that only certain people, those who believe in their god, are important. They are the special ones, the chosen ones, the favored by the correct and true god and all others are false. We all know what differences in religions leads to. How many wars have been due to religious differences? Of course we call all see the absurdity of old fights in other lands about other religions, but never the absurdity in their own religious differences. Why the disconnect? Because they want to believe they are the special ones, the ones who have been given the gift of god’s favor in return for their faith and worship. Because they want to be special, separate, uncaring, unconnected, and not responsible for the treatment of this world and those in it.

nature.JPG

What is troubling about that thought is that believers miss the beauty of not being special. We, the human species, is part of this earth, related to every living thing on this planet. We are made from this earth, from the stuff of stars. We are part of the earth, part of life and part of the universe. How is that not amazing? If we would only think of ourselves as what we are, a human animal connected to everything on this earth, perhaps we could realize being special isn’t special. It’s a disability.

When we realize that we are a species, the human one, and we are all related, it changes the perspective. Humans are all we have, our survival and success as a species depends on helping one another, on taking the wide view and rising above religious differences. We need to understand and accept that we are part of this earth, made of the same stuff as this world, part of the amazing web of life that has evolved in this little part of the galaxy.

What is special, what needs to be protected, is life. All life is precious. We don’t know of any other life in the universe as yet. We hope that there is other life out there, but we haven’t found it. For all we know, life is rare in this mostly hostile universe and a planet such as ours is unique. We, as the human species of great ape, are a part of this haven of life, not apart from it. We have a singular opportunity to understand, respect and protect life and this living world, the only one we know of. We are special in that we, as humans, know all earthly life is connected. We know it’s a fact through our DNA research. What might be possible if we left our imaginary gods behind and instead looked to what is important, what is real, what is the basis of everything, life and the world that produced it? What if we believed in our connection to everything? What if we believed that the universe wasn’t made for us, that we were privileged to be part of it, connected to every other bit of the universe through the atoms that we’re made from, like every other thing we see, smell, touch or know of. But only we can say the words. Only humans can tell each other they are made of star stuff and know what that means.

No, we’re not special, we’re much more than that. We’re the universe learning about itself. We’re the stars expressing themselves. We’re part of the most amazing thing in the whole known universe, life. The best part is that this is not a statement of belief, but a statement of fact. Compared to what is real, religion seems so small.


Marcia Wallace is 65, retired and living with her husband and a dog and cat in Kalamazoo, MI. She is a former teacher, police dispatcher and travel agent, currently an artist. She is active in volunteer work for her neighborhood association and in an international medieval recreationist group.  She is a logical atheist, meaning atheism is a logical conclusion given the evidence or lack thereof for any deity at any time in history.

Freethought Friday

Free-Thought Friday: Losing My Christianity: Part 2

For part one of Jennifer’s journey, click here.


 

We arrived home, shaken up, but alive, and went to bed. The next day, I told mom I had enough of this shit, and if we didn’t leave, someone was going to die, and I wasn’t kidding. She told me to be patient, and she had a plan – a remark that I had absolutely no faith in, but I nodded and told her she’d better follow through with it, because the situation with dad was getting so far out of hand that our lives were risk. A month passed before the plans actually fell through, which mom later told me was a tactic to assure that dad didn’t realize what was happening. She was on disability for a severe back injury she had suffered for over a decade, so every year or so, she had to be evaluated by a doctor to confirm she was still disabled. She told dad she had one of these appointments, so she and I were going to go to Texas so she could see her primary doctor. He didn’t seem to suspect any foul-play with this explanation, so it seemed things were going well. Mom gave me instructions to pack enough stuff to last us a while, but not too much that he would find it suspect, placing it little by little into the truck on the days before our trip. On the day we left, I couldn’t stop smiling. We loaded up into the truck, said our goodbyes to dad, before taking off. At some point between our getting in the vehicle, and pulling out the driveway, he seemed to realize we were leaving for good, and began to run after us like a madman. I turned around and gave him a nice, big smile, then waved like crazy at him. I never will forget the stunned look on his face. To this day it makes me giddy, which may be odd, but I really don’t care. I was free from the hitting, the degrading name calling, isolation, paranoia, and authoritarian household that had me in chains for my entire life. Things were looking much better, and I finally had a chance to be happy.

On the way, mom and I discussed many things, one being my doubts about god because of what we had been through. She assured me that god was still with us, and if he hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have survived or had one another. Now, he had given us the opportunity to be happy, and it was her and I against the world. I heeded her words, and thought she had a really good point. I never forgot when she said, “It’s you and me against the world…” I considered this evidence that god was real, and with us, holding us together against all odds and struggles. Such a wonderful new beginning! I prayed to god and thanked him for having helped us get away from the tyrant, and swore I would never doubt him again as long as he kept mom and I together.

After about 7 hours, we arrived at my granny’s house in Texas, which was exciting because I hadn’t seen her in years! My aunt was also living there to take care of granny after she had a stroke. It was so awesome to be around family again! Things were fine for a while, and I began school a couple of months after we arrived. It was scary to go to public school, since I had been homeschooled and isolated for so long. Lots of bullying went on, because I was socially odd, and didn’t quite fit in. All of that really didn’t matter much, as long as I knew mom and I were free and could spend quality time together. So I would walk home from the bus stop each day, expecting to see her there when I arrived, but for one reason or another, she rarely was. I would ask granny where mom went, and she said she didn’t know. At times my mom would show up, late at night with the smell of alcohol on her breath. I inquired where she had been, to which she replied she had been at the bar hanging out with friends she knew in town. This went on for about 6 months. Me going to school, and her arriving home late and drunk. I started smoking cigarettes at school due to the stress and lack of guidance at home. My granny caught me, and told me it wasn’t good for me. I asked her why it mattered? No one really cared. Then mom found out I was smoking, she pretended to be upset for a few months, but after a while, she began buying them for me, since she had begun smoking herself, and figured it would be hypocritical for her to tell me to stop rebelling in that way.

About January the next year, mom told me that she had found a place to live where dad wouldn’t find us, and it was a college town, so she had signed up for classes there. How wonderful! Maybe being away from her bar friends would allow for her to spend more time with me! I thanked god once again for helping us find a place, and giving us a real chance to grow closer together. I began school there, and actually started making friends. I loved the new place, but mom seemed very stressed when she was home, and on the weekends, of course, she still frequented various bars. She loved being back at college, and spent a lot of time studying, but we were fighting quite a bit. I began to feel as though she didn’t like me at all. It hurt my feelings, but at least she was actually there, and I had some friends to talk to. After her first semester ended, and to my utter dismay, she started spending more and more time at bars. By this time, I had turned 14, and was already quite rebellious and angry – especially after she brought home guys from bars that wouldn’t seem to go away. We had two different guys move in with us, one of which was a complete control freak that wouldn’t give me any privacy, and as ALWAYS drunk or high on something. One day, they left for the bar, and didn’t come back for a full month. There was barely enough food in the house for me to survive, and I had no idea where she had gone until she called me on the phone a week after they had left to let me know they were staying in Arkansas, and she didn’t know when they would be back, but would let me know. To say I was hurt by this would be a complete understatement. The woman abandoned me to vacation with a drunkard. I prayed and prayed for them to come home, at least before the food ran out. They finally did, so I assumed god answered my prayer, but there was still the matter of the additional drunkard flopping at our house.

 

He lived with us for 5-6 months, and after a couple of really bad, drunken fights between them, I advised mom to take that bastard back where he came from. She agreed, and he packed his stuff and they went back to his town. I waited for her to arrive back home until 3am, and to my utter dismay, she arrived with guy #2, whose name was Thomas. I was absolutely infuriated with her! I prayed to god that night that she would stop drinking. I pleaded with him, and bargained my life to him if he would just help me have a real parent that cared about me for once in my life.

A few days after Thomas had arrived, mom decided she wanted to vacation to Arkansas once again. I insisted that this time, they take me with them. She disagreed, saying she wanted to spend quality time with the guy she had just met. To my surprise, the guy agreed that I should go with them, and he was looking forward to the opportunity to get to know me as well. So off to Arkansas we went, and aside from my mom’s drunkenness, I actually had a good time! Thomas loved to drive FAST on the narrow highways alongside the mountains. It was exhilarating, and he was funny, smart, and quite an interesting character. One night after my mom had passed out, we spent some time talking about everything from life to music, only interrupted by the occasional animal that glowed their eyeshade with wonder at us as we tried to guess what species it was. I really liked this guy, and as I prayed later on that night before going to sleep, I thanked god for him coming into mom’s life, despite how they met. He actually was nice, and seemed to actually care about my feelings and well-being more than my own mom. Perhaps it would be a good influence for her, I thought.

To continue on to part 3, click here: Free-Thought Friday: Losing My Christianity: Part 3

Freethought Friday

Free-Thought Friday #5:

For last Weeks Free-Thought Friday, click here.

Today’s article comes to us from the UK. Alan Solomon has been a reader of my blog for some time now. He has shared with me his interest in my journey from the perspective of someone who was never a believer. Here is his ideas on how to improve the healthcare system in the USA. I find it interesting, his take on our healthcare and the possible fixes that he proposes.


Repeal and replace Obamacare.

Trump.jpgThis is the Holy Grail that Trump promised (and he said he had a cunning plan during the electoral process). The cunning plan turned out to be “dump the problem on Congress”. And it all went downhill from there. They called it the “American Care Act”. The Democrats voted solidly against it, so it only took a few Republicans to think it didn’t go far enough, or it went too far, and the plan ended up in the “too difficult” drawer.

But it can be done.

First, a few prelimiaries. 

Medicare is a healthcare program, paid for out of taxes, that covers people who are 65 or more, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease, which sounds pretty dreadful and I hope I never find out what it is. Medicare comes in four parts; A is hospital coverage, B is … well, read it here. Part A costs you $451 per month = $5412/year. To get part B (which also gets youC and D), you pay $105 per month = $1260 per year. So the whole package is $6672/year.

But there there’s “deductibles”  (you pay extra if you actually go to hospital), and there’s coinsurance (co-pay). Yes, it gets complicated.

55 million people are on Medicare. The Medicare budget in 2017 is $709 billion

Medicaid is for anyone who is low-paid, if you feel low-paid, then google for details, maybe you qualify. 74 million people are on Medicaid; Obamacare expanded Medicaid as of 2014. Oh, and 9 million are on both Medicare and Medicaid. The Medicaid budget in 2017 is $553 billion.

And then there’s Obamacare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also called the Affordable Care Act or ACA. After you’ve read that explanation, maybe you can explain it to me, because it’s much too complicated for my tiny brain, which probably means that it’s *far* too complicated for politicians, who often struggle to comprehend how arithmetic works. Obama said it would cost $94 billion per year, this is disputed. And I can’t work out who pays what. No wonder there’s controversy. The CBO, which is supposed to be non-partisan, say $134 billion per year. I’ll take that figure.

And finally, if you’re a Veteran, you can go to The Veterans Health Administration (VHA).  The Veterans (VHA) budget is $68 billion

So I added all these up. It comes to $1464 billion, which works out at $4531 per head, since there are 323.1 million Americans (I’m ignoring the detail that some Americans are older than others).

So that’s what the government pays – that means that this much comes out of taxation. In addition, there’s all the co-pays and deductibles, and additional insurance paymens made by people in these plans, and I haven’t even tried to estimate how much that adds to the total, because it’s just too complicated. And to that, you should add the money spent by Americans on the various privately-run insurance schemes. Aetna, for example has a revenue of $63 billion, Anthem takes in $85 billion and Met Life gets $70 billion. And that’s just three companies of many. I could have included those in my total, but I didn’t.  I don’t need to dip into the healthcare insurance company revenues to make the case I’m making.

How good is American healthcare?

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How do you measure how good a healthcare system is? I don’t care how many CAT scanners you have, or how much profit is made by the healthcare companies. What matters to me, and what should matter to you, is the outcome. Are you healthier? But it’s difficult to measure “healthiness”. Do you live longer? Ah, now that we can measure. So I will.

It’s always tricky to compare countries, but there’s a few things that are comparable. The first of these is the mortality rate for under-fives. In the USA, that’s 6500 per million, in the UK it’s 4200. Please try to imagine a pile of 2300 dead toddlers.

And there’s also infant mortality; deaths per million live births. USA is 5800, UK is 4300. So now imagine a heap of 1500 dead babies.

My older daughter is about to have a baby. It’s all very exciting, and eagerly anticipated, but a couple of weeks ago we had a family discussion about “what if”. Because giving birth is not without risk. In the USA, there’s 21 mothers dying of pregnancy or complications, per 100,000. In the UK, that’s 12 per 100,000. So that’s 75% more in the USA – I’m glad that my daughter is in the UK!

And life expectancy in the USA is 78.8 years. In the UK that’s 81.1, that’s 2.3 extra years. Nice!

And on average, 643,000 Americans declare bankrupcy per year owing to medical bills. You break a leg – you lose everyting you own. And each of those 643,000 has a family.

I’ve compared with the UK, but if you follow the links, you’ll see just how poor US health outcomes are compared with a great many countries. Look at the rankings, and ask yourself, why isn’t American healthcare the best in the world? Because it really ought to be. Because the USA is a highly educated, prosperous and technologically advanced society, that spends a lot more per head on health care than any other country.

Compare that with the UK.

UK

So that’s public healthcare in the USA. And I’d like to compare that with public healthcare in the place I know best, the UK.

The NHS budget is £124 billion, which is $161 billion, and works out at $2453 per head.
For that cost, UK citizens get healthcare, period. And pretty much everything is free (meaning, paid for out of taxation). A medication prescription costs $11, and if you’re getting a lot of pills, you can pay $38 to cover all the charges for three months. But there’s a lot of people get presciptions for free; I do, because I’m over 65 (also cancer patients, pregnant women, and so on). You also pay extra for dental work; $27 for routine stuff, $73 if you need a filling or root canal. Hospitals are free – I’ve never paid for any hospital visit. And there’s a thing called the “Small injuries unit” which I’ve been to for a nasty scalp cut and before that for a splinter under my fingernail that I just couldn’t get out. A nice nurse cleaned up the scalp cut and then glued it (apparently they prefer to use glue for small stuff). Another nice nurse got the splinter out while I shut my eyes and tried not to scream.  In my experience, you turn up and they just deal with it, 24/7. I get free spectacles and have for the last 60 years, although I can pay extra to get designer frames. And when my free biennial vision test discovered excessive pressure in my left eyeball, diagnosis and treatment has been free (a drop in my eye each morning seems to have fixed it).

Oh, and doctor’s appointments are free. And I don’t see how anyone in the UK could be bankrupted by medical bills.

And I don’t think that the UK is exceptionally good. Yes, the NHS is good, but I’ve heard very good reports of the French system, and Germany was the first country to move to universal healthcare, in 1883.

The American Health Service  

healthcare

So right now, Americans are paying twice as much as people in other countries, for an inferior health outcome.

So let’s imagine a service which I’m going to call the American Health Service, AHS. It’s free at point of need (with maybe a few exceptions, as above) and it’s paid for out of taxation. If it costs the same as in the UK (I’ll discuss this later) then that would be $2453/head, $793 billion per year. Which is a saving of $671 billion per year, and if you put that back into the pockets of the taxpayer, that’s $2078 per person, which would be $8312 for a family of four. Tax cuts!

So all Americans would get healthcare to a high standard, wouldn’t have to raid their income for health insurance, no co-pay, no deductibles, no cap on spending (sorry, you’re only covered up to $1m, your insurance ran out, please die quietly now). And no “pre-existing condition”. The way it works is, if you’re sick, then you get treated.

Sounds good. Sounds very good. In fact, it sounds too good to be true! So where’s the catch? How can you get univeral healthcare at cost of about half of what you’re already paying?

There’s two reasons why universal single-payer healthcare is so much cheaper.

The first is the cost of medication. 

medicine

A recent Trump tweet said “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council,he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!” When Trump thinks that drug prices are too high, then maybe they are. Also, drug prices for the same drug in Canada are much lower. But why should Frazier lower drug prices? If there are people willing to pay his high prices, he’d be a fool to lower them.

The reason is monopoly and monopsony. If a company has a monopoly on something important, you can be sure that the price of that thing will be somewhat higher than a situation where there are several companies competing for your business. And, of course, that works the other way round – if there is only one buyer of a product then that buyer has tremendous leverage; that’s called a monopsony. So the American Health Service (which doesn’t exist, but ought to) would A) be buying in bulk, and that’s always cheaper, and B) would be the only buyer, so you sell your Epipen to us, or you you don’t make many sales. And here’s the price we think we should be paying … see above.

healthcare2

The second reason is insurance companies. 

In an UK NHS hospital there is no team of administrators working out the costs of treating each patient and filling in the necessary forms to claim on the insurance (and the insurance companies are not eager to pay unless it can be shown that the claim is valid). That team of administrators is matched by equivalent teams in each of the insurance companies, checking those forms. The entire cost of the processing of insurance claims is avoided, as is the profits made by those companies. You see, they aren’t non-profits working out of the benevolence of their hearts.

The pharmaceutical companies are, of course, aware of this threat and they will fight tooth and nail to avoid having to face a monopsony. No tactic will be too underhand, no “sponsored research” stone will be left unturned. But, you might ask, why doesn’t Medicare use its buying power to negotiate better prices? Because your congress won’t let them. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) included a ban on price negotiation. The pharma companies spend more than $100m on lobbying, seeking to persuade lawmakers by hook or by crook to maintain their high (or as Trump puts it, “RIPOFF”) prices. That $100 million is a wise investment of a small fraction of the $374 billion that Americans spend on medication per year.

And what of the insurance companies? They will see most of the reason for their existence wiped away. In the UK, there are a few medical insurance companies, but nothing like the American behemoths. And they too will fight like cornered leviathans to maintain their lucrative business. Currently, they’re spending over $10m per year.

So that’s why it’s possible to have a single-payer, universal healthcare system at around half of what the government is currently paying.

BUT … 

“But this is socialism”, I’ve heard people say. Yes, it is. And? It’s a service for the whole population, paid for out of taxation. Just like the fire service, the police service, the public school service and the military. I don’t hear cries from the anti-socialists “stop taxing us to pay for the military, we’ll defend ourselves”.

“But it’s unfair, I’ll be paying for a service used by other people”. That’s right. The rich will help the poor, the healthy will help the sick. If you’re a Christian, then you’ll probably approve of this because that’s what Jesus wanted. If you’re an Atheist, you’ll definitely approve of this, because it’s the Right Thing To Do.

“But taxes” you might say, if you’re Republican. Or also if you’re Democrat – no-one actually likes being taxed. Um, no. Because the AHS would cost half of what’s currently being spent out of taxes, that leave room for a tax cut once the system is in place. TAX CUT!

“But it’s untried, untested, how can we know if it would work?” Look at the 58 countries that already have a universal healthcare system. And these aren’t just Western countries like the UK, France, Germany and Italy. They include Burkina Faso, Ghana, Bhutan and Sri Lanka  (and I bet many Americans won’t be able to find any of those on a map).

The taxation will fall more percentage-wise on the rich; the sick will consume more of the healthcare that the healthy. And that’s a good thing.

So I do support the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, but only if it’s replaced by something like the American Health Service that this essay proposes.

And there’s even something for you, Mr Trump. You can call it “Trumpcare”, because as long as Americans get the healthcare that they need, I don’t care what you call it.

 

Freethought Friday

Free-Thought Friday #4: Losing My Christianity: Part 1

Remember, guest bloggers are always encouraged to submit articles for Free-Thought Friday. For last weeks post explaining the expectations, click here.


Jennifer is the love of my life. Though she practiced New Age Spirituality as an adult, she was raised in a very fundamentalist form of Christianity. I think you will find her story interesting, heartbreaking, and definitely eye-opening.

The following story is one of abuse and heartache. If you know of any child that is being abused, please be their advocate, speak out for them. Some of Jennifer’s pain might have been lessened if someone had picked up the phone and actually done something.

To report child abuse call the national child abuse hotline 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453)


 

I was raised as a Christian in the deep south by two very strict fundamentalists. My dad was the stricter of the two, and did not allow me to cut my hair, pierce my ears, go to public school, listen to secular music of any kind, or wear blue jeans. He dressed me up like a cliché pentecostal girl, and it was quite embarrassing to go out in public. My mom was pretty much the stigma of the passive good wife, submitting completely to a husband who was emotionally and physically abusive. This man was a tyrant, and had ridiculous notions of reality. This was during the 80’s and 90’s, so the AIDS scare was in full force, and my father has fallen for the rhetoric of stupid the entire time I’ve known him. He was full of hatred for gays, and I recall an occasion where we had visited a fast food place where the server seemed slightly effeminate. This sounded alarm bells for my dad, and despite the fact that he, having been a mere cashier, didn’t even touch the food, dad threw the bags immediately in trash. Since we hadn’t had anything to eat that day, we were starving, so it was quite the outrageous overreaction. Before this, I hadn’t really questioned theism much, but having finally reached the age of reason (I was 11 at the time), I began to wonder if these beliefs were worthy of holding if they led to such irrational hatred for others who were different.

After having spent years being beaten and emotionally scarred by this man, mom and I started to feel as though the relationship wasn’t working out, so we made plans to leave him behind and go out in the world on our own. Still the good little god-loving girl, I prayed and prayed for mom to leave, and for him to be with us during these struggles so we would be safe. Well, that didn’t work out so well. We would leave, and she kept falling for his charms and empty promises of change. Each time they reunited, the abuse got worse for me. He felt I had betrayed him, and made his feeling clear every time I walked by with a pinch of my arm, a slap to the back of my head, or a hateful glare. He would do this to me, then go over to mom and whisper sweet nothings until she would giggle like a doe-eyed teenager. This made me utterly sick, and I didn’t understand why she had chosen to continuously to go back to him. I knew he would just hit, kick, and choke her again after he felt comfortable enough in the relationship to do so. In tears, I reached out to god, but it no longer felt as though he were present; instead there was a cold emptiness and sense of total abandonment, betrayal, and utter lack of regard for my life. I felt I had no one – for dad had isolated us both from other family members, and now it seemed there was absolutely no one in the world who cared about my well-being, especially my parents.

Of course, as it always did, the abuse escalated to the point where our lives were put at risk nearly every other day. To make matters worse, my parents started traveling hundreds of miles to see a psychiatrist for ADD medication. They even coached me on how to tell the doctor my “symptoms” so they could get me on these drugs, which to this very day baffles me. So anyway, we were all now on legal amphetamines, but my dad took it to a whole new level – crushing up his meds and putting them in his coffee. Of course, he started seeing shit that wasn’t there, and going even more insane with the paranoia. He had always been paranoid, in fact, he had moved us to the middle of nowhere Arkansas, since he felt the “leftist government” was after him because he was a prophet who got messages from god. We bought tons of food (and of course, lots of guns) to prepare for the inevitable apocalypse that would come as a result of the government allowing gays and non-believers to take over the country. All of that was nonsense, but I wasn’t really aware of how crazy it was until he started going off on these rants about it while high on the meds. By this time, I was almost 13, and completely sick and tired of dad’s bullshit. I told mom we had to leave, and she concurred, but argued the timing wasn’t right, and if we tried to leave with him acknowledging our plans, we would kill us. In heed of her warning, and under the influence of the drugs, I began carrying a pocketknife – just in case.

A few months passed in this same manner, until we had to take the long trip to the doctor to get more meds to fuel dad’s insanity. We went to the appointment, then dad decided he wanted to check out the electronics store, but told us to stay in the truck. It was the month of May, in the state of Texas, so it began to get really hot after a few hours of him lollygagging around in the air-conditioned store. I was in the bed of the truck, which had a metal camper over it, and a beanbag chair for me to sit on. Despite how hot it was, neither one of us dared leave the truck to find relief. If we had, dad would lose his mind. We waited for 6 hours while he bullshitted with clerks inside, and of course, had nothing to eat the entire time. Finally, around dusk, he came out of the store with bags full of electronic parts he would never use. He drove to a catfish place in the city, and ordered a huge amount of food, and proceeded to head toward home eating his food while we both sat there patiently awaiting a morsel. After he had finished what he wanted, he finally offered me a piece of catfish, when mom made the horrid mistake of asking if she could have some. He became extremely irate, proclaiming that she was too fat to eat any, and screamed at her for hours about it. He would brake really hard to express his anger, and swerve all over the road screaming at the top of his lungs, “I WILL KILL YOU BOTH AND ASK GOD FOR FORGIVENESS LATER!!” My mom cried and pleaded with him to stop, but he wouldn’t. I sat in the back, with the sliding window between the truck bed and the front open, witnessing this whole thing in a terrified but angered state of mind, tightening the grip on my pocketknife, and waiting for the right moment to stab him in the neck so we could get out of this alive. There was no way I was going to do it while he was still driving, though. He finally pulled over, and I contemplated whether or not the situation merited a knife, but it seems he had finally calmed down after several hours of the tirade, so I put my knife away. One thing I noticed, I no longer was praying to god to save us, I was relying on myself for preservation instead.

Freethought Friday

Free-Thought Friday #3: Guest Bloggers Needed

For last weeks Free-Thought Friday, click here.

Free-Thought Friday is your chance to have your voices heard. I am looking for guest bloggers who something to say but maybe don’t believe they have a platform from which to say it. This article is all about you. Have something that you think fits any of the themes of this blog, let me know and submit an article. You can do that through the contact page on this blog or by contacting me either on Facebook or Twitter.

So what are some of the things that I am interested in? I would love to read about your journey away from faith or your life in general. Have something you want to rant about, this is the article to let you do it. Interested in sharing a story about your life, including maybe stories about your autism and how it has shaped your life? I’m interested in those stories as well.

Basically, if you have something that you think is important and needs to be said. Let me know and say it. I look forward to anything that you have and are willing to submit. Every time I read one of your stories I enjoy it and look forward to reading many more.

A few topics of interest:

Atheism
Agnosticism
Doubts
Former Faith
Autism
Asperger’s
Stemming
Sensory Overload
General Science
Physics
Evolution
Biology
Paleontology
Archeology
etc…

These articles are about you getting to have your say in the way you want to say it. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Thank you!