Thursday, August 23, 2012

Going Off the Rails on the Crazy Train

My book club, Ex Libris: A Book Club With Brains, has lately attracted a sort of "crazy" that I have never experienced before.  It's the kind of "crazy" that, at first seems like you are dealing with a sane, rational, person, which then evolves into a sort of mania that leaves you confused, disoriented, and frankly, a bit like you just peed your pants.  Who can forget my first instance of this type of "crazy" a few months ago, when a member went batshit upon 1. being asked to pay the required membership dues and 2. discovered we were reading a controversial book reserved mostly for Tea Bagging idiots and Republitards. If you didn't see that gem of an interaction, you can find it here.

Well, it happened again.  I was visited by this morphing type of sane/crazy last night upon returning from our August meetup, One Hundred Years of Solitude.  The meetup, as usual, was a rousing success.  It's so amazing to read a book, not really enjoy it, then go and discuss it with some amazing people only to discover these hidden gems in the prose.  A book that I thought so sad, was actually filled with humor, dark humor nonetheless, but humor.  I seriously love Ex Libris and its members.  We are all so different and that is such an asset. 

Anyhow, when I got home, I went to the meetup site to register dues that had been paid and then alter the "attendance" of the members who did not show up to the meetup.  In most cases, people will RSVP and not show up, so I will remove them after the meetup is over so as to reflect the correct number of attendees (and also give me an idea of who participates and who doesn't).  It's a simple click of a button and I, as the Organizer, has the ability and the right to do this.

A few hours later, I get this in my email:

Hi Alessia:

Sorry I could not make the Meetup! My mom decided to pop in from Montreal on short notice and I forgot to change my rsvp in time. Please refund my $8.00 however. I have not even met you and you were asking me for the fee without even giving me a chance to attend the first event! And now you are marking me as not going for some reason. No one but me should be able to change my RSVP status. And if Meetup allows this, then I want no part of it.

So please, refund the money to xxxxxx@xxxxx.com. Sorry for the gruff tone.

I wish you all the best in your group.



Ok, not really crazy yet.  She seems sane and rational (a little demand-y), but apparently unaware of my group's rules and policies so I sent her this in reply:

I am sorry you were unable to attend the meeting tonight.

As per your request for a refund: It is clear in the rules and guidelines that your $8 membership dues are due within the first three days of joining the group and that they are non-refundable. This information is not only readily and easily available on the website, but it is also sent to you in your "welcome" email when you are accepted into the group. It is automatically sent to each member when I click the "approve member" button. There is no way you didn't get it. The membership dues are used to pay the fees needed to host this group on Meetup.com and are required by each and every member of Ex Libris in order to be a member of this group.

I changed your RSVP because you did not attend and I prefer to edit my attendance to reflect the ACTUAL people that showed up to the meetup. Changing your RSVP and having control of my own group and its settings are options that I have as group Organizer and do not violate any Terms of Service with Meetup.com. If a member does not attend a meetup, their status will be changed and it will show they did not attend. It's part of running a group on Meetup, of which I have been successfully doing for over four years now.

Looking at your records, I see that you joined Ex Libris on July 24, 2012. There is no reason why you would not have familiarized yourself with the Member Rules and Guidelines mentioned on our home page or read the "Welcome Email" sent upon your approval. You also paid dues on August 8, 2012 after being sent a reminder in the mail that also stated our group's dues and refund policy. Here it is once again for you:

3. Dues are to be paid within 3 days of joining the group. The Dues can be paid by clicking the PayPal link on the home page. If you do not wish to use PayPal, please contact me to arrange another method. Dues are non-refundable. Non-payment of dues will cause you to be terminated from the group. One reminder will be sent. After that, unless other arrangements have been made, you will be removed from the group.

It is clear that dues are non-refundable. Clearly, if you had just joined the group within a span of a couple of days, I would break my policy and offer a refund, but you have been a member for a month. It is not my fault that you did not read the "fine print".

I am a little confused as to why you would send me an email "demanding" a refund simply because you were unable to attend one meetup. Life happens and sometimes plans change at the last minute. I know full well as I have two small children and have had to miss meetups at the last minute myself. I would consider rethinking your stance on leaving the group altogether since we have some great books coming up for the rest of the year. Yet again, if you do decide to leave Ex Libris, because of the reasons stated above, I am unable to issue you a refund.

Regards,
Alessia Lane
Organizer, Ex Libris


 I thought that was fair and to the point.  I explained to her that the dues were non-refundable, that she shouldn't just leave because she missed one meetup and to not worry about it.  I thought that would be the end of it, get an email that said, "Oops I thought the $8 was per meetup, I'll see you next month!" or "Ok no problem, I'm paid up for the year, so I'm just going to stick around and come at a later date".  Nope. Instead, I got these two responses in a row:

Number One: Being a member of your group is just too much work! What a long response! Over $8.00! What a legal nightmare! Perhaps you might consider making it a bit more FUN and encourage participation rather than reading someone the riot act! And I have not even attended one meeting and I have this impression of you!!! I guess life got in the way and I just did not get into the rules and regs thing. I might have if I was doing it for credit. I just got to Florida from another state within the last 4 weeks and I was hoping to make some brainiac friends. But you have ruined it for me, at least as far as meeting folks in your group. Great gatekeeper job! Have a great time at Book Club with Brains and little heart. See, to me, being a bookworm does not have to be a chore. I enjoy reading books very much. This does not mean I need to be anal about it! Take care. I expect my refund immediately (which I reluctantly paid after your last ridiculous email about paying up or else). If I don't receive it, you will not get the riot act from me, a visit from an attorney or Uncle Lou. It will just be your karma you'll have to deal with. Ciao!

Number Two: By the way, you might reconsider your atheistic views. I believe God exists and He is watching. Always has, always will. If you don't believe me, just ask yourself, "What if he exists? Then what?"

I do not mean to offend. It's just that your spiritual position shows in how you handled your response to me. So it's just as well that it didn't work out. Thanks for keeping literature alive in South Florida though. Too bad I will not enjoy the good company of your group. If they don't believe in God, though, perhaps I did the right thing in pulling out. Perhaps a book by St. Augustine would be a good future book to generate some interesting discussion among your group.

PS I do not mean to bother you so I will not respond to any more emails from you. And I do apologize for the tone of these two emails. I just couldn't help how your email made me feel, all of them. And your rules and regs. Bye.


I was going to let it all go after reading the first reply, seeing as that suing me for $8 is ridiculous and that my refund policies are clearly stated on the site, but when I read the second reply in which she somehow blames my Atheism for her not getting her way, I couldn't shut up.

So I replied:

First and foremost, my atheism has nothing to do with my book club. My members come from all walks of life. I have Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Buddhists, Wiccans, you name it in my group. Some of my most active members (and greatest friends) are a Presbyterian Pastor and an Episcopalian Minister. Ex Libris has no religious/non religious affiliation and again, if you had bothered to do any research into the group, would have seen that we have covered a vast array of topics, including those involving religion.

Please do not blame your ignorance of the rules and guidelines for Ex Libris on my atheism. It reflects extremely poorly on your character and really makes a sad case for the mind of the theist. I would never dream of singling out a person for their religious beliefs, nor would I have the blatant nerve to proselytize to them, insult them, and then condescend to them simply because I made a mistake. Own up to your error and simply let it be.

While I am always sorry to see a member leave the group, in this case, I will agree that you probably would not have been a good fit for Ex Libris. We pride ourselves on being a welcoming and open group for people from ALL walks of life, and it seems that with your closed-minded and judgmental attitude, you would have just been a detriment to Ex Libris rather than an asset.

I would prefer you refrain from contacting me further as I have no need for your inane "spiritual guidance". If anything, I would suggest you seek inside yourself for the reasons why you are so threatened by people who are different than you.

Regards,
Alessia Lane
Organizer, Ex Libris

You'd think that the whole "please do not contact me any further" would be an indication to not contact me any further, but I should have assumed that this person doesn't know how to read considering she did not read the rules and guidelines sent to her to begin with.  So yes, I was contacted AGAIN.....and AGAIN.....by this idiot. 

Number One: Sorry, I just re-read your email (remember, I love to read) and noticed that you said something about owning up to my error. I purposefully did not pay within 3 days because I make it a personal policy not to pay for goods I have not seen. I pay after I attend the first meeting regardless of anyone's precious rules and regs. So, no error on my part. You are mistaken.

The graver error is your spiritual error. Yes, I proselytize. Because I used to be an atheist like you. Until recently. If you ever want to hear my story, since you are so open to people of different walks of life, I will welcome communication from you, apart from your role as Meetup organizer. I did not originally set out to say anything. But I could not help but see the irony of your firm stance on "dues" and your religious affiliation. These are, whether you see it or not, very related topics.

Have a great night. I do hope I go to bed now so that I can refrain from writing to you again.


Number Two: You really don't get my point. I was trying to gently show you a spiritual truth, but you did not pick up on it. You are very smart. One day you will be very wise, but not today. Or perhaps you will be spiritually blind all your life. That would be a travesty. My comment was personal. It had nothing to do with dues. I really don't care for the $8.00. Again, you just didn't get my point. At least I tried!! Can't blame me for that.

Please do not respond, or I will respond. I do not wish to respond anymore.

Have a good night. 





It was at this point that I realized I was dealing with a crazy person.

I love how my stance on dues is somehow related to my Atheism. 

People like this give sane, religious people a very bad name.

People like this give me a headache.

People like this are a perfect example of  "sane to crazy is 0.3 seconds".

And strangely, the world still turns.













Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reality Bites

With the recent violence in Aurora and Wisconsin, the secular community has once again come under attack for our godlessness and our insistent stance on separating church from state.  Congressmen and women have claimed that "god is angry" with America because the "atheists" have taken "god out of schools and our lives".  The always jovial and friendly televangelist Pat Robertson, you know, the guy who spews this kind of crap constantly, has now blamed "satanic atheists" for all that's going on.



Lovely right?

And, of course, the Twitterverse and Facebookland are filled with the whole "it was probably an atheist that committed those crimes because they don't have any morals or ethics and they eat babies and hate god and punch old ladies and kick puppies and think killing is awesome".  Maybe not in so many words but that is the general gist of the comments and conversations I have been witness to.

The most common statement I have come across lately is the "how easy it is to be an atheist because you just don't care about anything and don't have to worry about god judging you".  To this statement, I cry a loud and resounding "BULLSHIT".  Being an atheist is fracking hard and trust me when I tell you that I have tried with every ounce of my body to "believe" but simply cannot find the logic behind it.

"Ha!"You say. "The atheist wants to believe because deep down they know there is a god!" No. Sadly, deep down inside I am 99.999999999999% sure there isn't.  There reason I try to believe is because, face it, reality bites sometimes and I don't have the lovely cushion of security and comfort religion provides.  When a 6 year old is gunned down in a movie theater I don't have that "she's with Jesus now" mentality.  I have reality telling me that a 6 YEAR OLD is dead and her parents will never see her again. She will never grow up. She will never have a boyfriend, smile, eat, play, hug or kiss anyone, and she will never have the luxury of being alive that everyone seems to take advantage of.  The theist has the blissful advantage of being sad for this tragedy, but then actually believing that this little girl is now crowned with a halo and fluttering around Heaven with Jesus and all of her dead relatives and pets.  Her parents are comforted in their beliefs that when they die, they'll "meet up" again and everything is hunky dory.  How nice.  Really, I don't mean that in a snotty way.  There is no snark behind that statement.  To have that belief that someone you love is "waiting for you" in the next life, makes these horrible things well, a little less horrible.

Let me tell you. If one of my children were killed or died of a disease or something horrible like that, I would die myself.  Because, as an atheist, I don't have that belief of them "watching over me" or "in Heaven" or that I will "see them again".  My reality is that my child is gone.  Forever.  And I will never, ever, ever, be with them again.  So when tragedies like Aurora and Wisconsin happen, or I read about a baby with terminal cancer, or children starve to death, I'm not thinking they are in a "better place". I cry because they are dead and gone forever.  And that is a hard pill to swallow. A very very hard pill.

There have been only a handful of times that I tried very hard to put myself in the place of a religious person and try to "believe".  The biggest one for me was my grandmother's death.  I couldn't fathom that one minute she was here and the next not.  I would give both my arms and legs to see her for just 5 more minutes.  The theist has the comfort in believing that they actually will. The reality that my grandmother is gone forever is devastating, even after almost 20 years.  Death, at least for this atheist, is terrifying, and I don't want to face it.  The reality that my life, my parents' lives, my children's lives, my husband's life and all the lives of the people I care about are fragile and temporary frightens me to no end.  There are nights I wake up out of a sound sleep so afraid that I am going to die that I can't fall back to sleep.  It's horrible. 

It frustrates me to no end when people say they are "living for the next life".  Why?  Life is so amazing and wonderful, why would anyone waste it waiting for the afterlife.  It boggles the mind.  And it frustrates me even more when I'm told I "have it easy" with "no responsibilities or consequences" for my actions because sky daddy doesn't exist.  That's a scary statement.  It implies that the speaker is only decent and good because they fear repercussions from "god".  That, if in fact they did not have god in their lives, they would be on murderous rampages.  How absolutely frightening.

So let me tell you, an atheist doesn't have it easy.  Apart from being blamed for all the crap that goes on in the world, blamed for corrupting the childre, and moral fibers of society (I think we are tied with gays and lesbians on that one), blamed for being "intolerant" and general "meanies", we also carry the huge burden of seeing things as they really are.  There's no "he's dead but...." in our little world.  There's no "satan", causing people to do evil.  There's no "god's will", determining who lives or dies. There's no notion that we are this amazingly special creature created in the image of a deity who rule the planet and the Universe.  As the amazing Bill Nye, the Science Guy said, "I'm this guy standing on a planet. Really I'm just a speck. Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck. To think about all of this, To think about the vast emptiness of space.There's billions and billions of stars.Billions and billions of specks".



It's pretty humbling to be a speck.

But reality as an atheist isn't all doom and gloom.  I have the wonder of the Universe to marvel at and realize how absolutely amazing it is to be here at this moment right now.  The landing of the Mars Curiosity puts everything into perspective on how marvelous it is to be a human being.  No deity or supernatural forces needed.  Reality may bite when dealing with "the hard stuff", but in the end, it is really awesome and it is what makes this little trip around the sun so much more worth it.  I don't have the promise of an afterlife running around my head.  I have the promise that this life is all of I've got and I've got to make it worth something to myself and the people around me.  What a waste to do otherwise.