What Is Marriage?

As you probably know by know, Minnesota votes this fall on a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as one man and one woman. Minneapolis’s First Universalist Church produced this ad, which features Albatross, whom you’ve probably seen in the comments around FtB now and again.

This is one of those cases where our liberal churches and our atheists are ganging up standing together on the same side of an issue. We’ll disagree about this or that again later, but for now, we work together.

I’m Gonna Tell on You

Yesterday morning, I received an interesting comment from a fellow named Sig on my second post examining the claim used by MRAs (as documented here, and seen in current usage to shut women up here) that prison rape means more men than women are raped in a year.

Stephanie as Im not allowed to comment here… Im going to be making multiple posts about the false assertions you have made relating to rape about myself and everyone else in the mens movement.

I figured it was going to be hilarious, as this is the guy who was trying desperately and illiterately to prove I was wrong based on the fact that I’m a feminist. What I didn’t anticipate was just how funny the results would be.

It starts with the fact that Sig’s idea of publicizing how evil I am is to put four posts up on Reddit. No, really. [Read more...]

Saturday Storytime: Adaptation

Martha Wells‘ book, The Cloud Roads, has been very well reviewed indeed. Of course, her books usually are. She just released this prequel on her website for those who can’t get enough. It’s very different in tone from the book itself, which it should be, as its protagonist comes from a very different background (covered here, in another prequel).

He woke lying on his back, blinking up at the worried faces that hovered over him. Braid was here now, and Rill, and Petal, as well as Balm. But the person crouched next to him was Jade, the young daughter queen, the soft blue of her scales vivid against the gray walls. He stared at her, startled. She watched him with worry and some other emotion he couldn’t quite place. Fear? What’s she afraid of?

“What happened? Did I fall?” he tried to ask, but his voice was a strangled croak. He was in his Raksuran form and he could feel the gritty stone floor under his scales. He started to lift a hand to his head.

“Just lie still.” Petal caught his hand. She was leader of the teachers’ caste, and she and Chime had been friends since the nurseries. He had never seen her look this disturbed. Her voice tight and tense, she said, “Flower’s coming.”

Chime stared at her. He cleared his throat. “Am I hurt?” He didn’t feel hurt; stunned, maybe, and a little sore in the back. Nobody answered, they just looked at each other, like…like he didn’t know what. Fear made his heart pound. “What is it? Tell me!”

They all looked at Jade. Jade took a sharp breath, as if about to plunge into something unpleasant. “Chime, something happened when you shifted. You don’t look like yourself. I mean, we can still tell it’s you, but it’s you…if you were a warrior.”

He stared up at her, incredulous. “That’s not funny,” he said weakly, but no one was laughing. “That can’t… What? That’s not…” He pulled his hand from Petal’s grasp, stared at it. The scales of his shifted form should be gold-brown, a common color for Arbora in his line. But the light fell on dark blue scales, catching a gold undersheen. The blue was close to Jade’s shade. There were blue Arbora, but it wasn’t as common… “Oh, this can’t be happening.” Chime pushed away from them, shoved himself to his feet. He staggered; his balance was off, his body oddly light.

Someone must have carried him out of the central well; they were in one the smaller side rooms, the one with a fountain pool fed by a channel in the wall. Chime almost swayed over backwards, stumbling to the pool. Catching himself on the rim, he stared down at his reflection.

He was looking at a Raksuran warrior, tall, lean, with blue scales. Horrified and fascinated, he raised his spines to see if they were longer, and something else extended out behind him. It took him a moment to realize he was looking at the edges of his wings as they unfolded from his back. “Oh, no.”

Jade said sharply, “Chime, don’t.” She stepped up behind him to press on a spot between his shoulder blades. Some reflex he didn’t understand made the wings fold back in at the pressure. “There’s no room in here. If you extend your wings, you’ll hurt yourself.”

Your wings. That was why his back felt heavy, why his balance was gone, why his body felt light. Warriors had lighter bones than Arbora. He turned to Jade, saying helplessly, “What happened?”

She spread her hands. “I wish I knew.”

Keep reading.

Atheists Talk: Thomas Riskas on “Deconstructing Mormonism”

Note: This show was originally scheduled for January 8, 2012. Our guest was unable to join us that day. We are happy to be talking to him this weekend instead.

If you think you’ve learned all you need to know about Mormonism from South Park episodes and the Broadway musical, Book of Mormon, you must join us this Sunday! Atheists Talk will be interviewing author, lecturer, and secular humanist, Thomas Riskas about his book Deconstructing Mormonism: An Analysis and Assessment of the Mormon Faith, which is introduced in the forward by philosopher and professor Kai Nelson.

Thomas Riskas converted to Mormonism as a young man and spent 20 years in the Church. He rose up through the ranks of leadership, acting an Elder, Seventy and High Priest. He was a missionary, a mission leader and mission president for seven years. He had a family and raised his children in the Church. Years later he came to believe that the claims made by Mormonism – and by all religions with similar belief systems – are not only untrue, but an empty nonreality. In Deconstructing Mormonism, Mr. Riskas examines in detail the Mormon concepts of God, the “Plan of Salvation”, and faith in God and Christ, and then breaks down these ideas by illuminating the contradictions in Mormon faith and examining the psychosocial effects of the faith on its believers.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Oh, Look, Baby Foxes

Want to know what I think about today’s attacks on women’s reproductive freedoms? Let me put it this way. I was visiting a friend in the hospital this evening. She’s recently had a hysterectomy after radiation treatment for cancer put her into menopause several years ago. She needed some cheering up.

I told her, “Well, it’s a good day to be sterile.”

Aside from that, I’m not particularly coherent. Go read Jen or Jason or Ophelia or Crommunist if you want more. If you don’t, if you want some soothing, as Crommunist does, that I can offer. Have a handful of baby fox.

Or a sleepy kit just a bit older.

[Read more...]

Oh, the Drama

If you haven’t read it yet, check out Holly Pervocracy’s recent post on “The Geek Social Fallacies of Sex.” There’s lots of food for thought, there, but my attention was caught in particular by this section:

GSFS 4: Drama is always worse than the thing the drama is about.

I guess the xkcd comic has a little bit of this one.  Drama’s never fun, but it beats the fuck out of suppressing real issues.  In my time in geek circles, I’ve seen reports of sexual harassment and even outright assault silenced with “well, I don’t want to make drama” or “but whatever, that’s just drama.”  A woman in the group is a sexual predator? Gosh, I don’t spread gossip.  A man needs to be disinvited from parties because he’s repeatedly threatened people at them? No, kicking him out would make a scene, it would make drama.

In geek sexual communities, the illusion of smooth functioning and of everyone being bestest friends with everyone can supersede people’s needs for comfort and safety.  A lot of this has to do with the “Ostracizers are Evil” non-sex GSF, but it gets worse when you add sex to the mix, because defensiveness about our non-traditional sexuality suppresses important issues even further.  Like, if you admit that people violate boundaries in BDSM circles, then you’re admitting that BDSM isn’t a perfect haven of consent and negotiation, and that’s just going to play right into the mainstream idea that BDSM is abusive!  So we end up defending abusers to prove BDSM isn’t abusive.

“Drama” is a trivializing word.  Let’s try “conflict,” instead.  ”I don’t want to treat him any differently just because he gets a little handsy with women, that would cause conflict.”  It doesn’t sound so superior and level-headed now, does it?

I’ll be using this as an explainer on the topic of drama for some time, I think. There are a couple of things I want to add as well. Drama is one of those things fiction writers (are supposed to) build, so we know a little bit about how it works.

[Read more...]

Voter Fraud? Wanna Bet?

The Minnesota chapter of the ACLU is ready to do just that.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota today offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who prove a case where someone in the state has been charged or convicted of impersonating a voter.

State ACLU Executive Director Charles Samuelson said his organization put up the bounty to show that a Republican-proposed constitutional amendment to require voters to show a photo identification at the polls is not needed.

Samuelson said ACLU attorneys have not been able to find in single case of voter impersonation during the past 10 years.

The sponsor of the bill says this proves nothing.

In response, the sponsor of the voter ID bill, Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, noted the U.S. Supreme Court has found that “voter impersonation is incredibly hard to detect and it nearly impossible to prosecute, yet it has said we know for a fact that it occurs.”

In Minnesota? “Of course,” Kiffmeyer said.

Actually, no, and that’s the point the ACLU is making. We don’t know for a fact that it occurs. [Read more...]