MN Atheists in the Local Press, Good and Bad

We’re still gearing up for Minnesota Atheists’ conference and “Night of Unbelievable Fun: The Second Coming”. (Early bird pricing on the conference ends today!) Since one of our ongoing missions in MNA is making sure that atheists in Minnesota know we’re here, and another is promoting a positive image of atheists, it’s really good to see both the game and the conference in our local press.

Eric Jayne is the president of Minnesota Atheists and the guy behind those atheist billboards that featured a baby and text in Chalkboard (not Comic Sans!). While a lot of people from outside Minnesota didn’t care for the billboards, the folks around here, who put up with a lot of bad Pro-Life America billboards, generally found them funny. The St. Paul Saints management found them very funny and contacted MNA about partnering up. As a big baseball fan, Eric sold the board on the idea, last year’s Mr. Paul Aints game was a big success for us and the Saints, and thus was the “Second Coming” born.

It’s only fitting therefore, that Eric talk about what the game means to him and to local atheist families in the Community Voices section of MinnPost: [Read more…]

Oh, But This Is Different

By now, you may well have seen that Ashley Paramore put up a video describing a sexual assault she was subject to at TAM last year. I’m very happy to provide a spoiler now and tell you that things were handled well when she reported the assault. Her video:

Me being me, I dug into the comments, wondering what Ashley was dealing with in the immediate aftermath of posting the video. I found something interesting. I present this screen shot because it entertained me that these comments were right next to each other.

Screen shot of two comments. Text provided in the post.

illuminator83: Contrary to some other harrassment accusations (like ‘elevator gate’) this is actually a real one. I don’t think you will see any negative feedback …

zarkoff45: You’re not going to get a backlash on this because saying “he touched the no-no parts on the doll” is clear enough — it’s not like you said “he asked up for coffee while we were alone on an elevator.”

Anyone want to take bets on this? [Read more…]

Very Different Objections to Talking Abortion Rights

Tomorrow, StopPatriarchy.org’s Abortion Rights Freedom Ride comes to Minneapolis. This morning, we had Sunsara Taylor on Atheists Talk briefly to tell us about this and about why organizing people around abortion rights is important, even in a state where they’re not being immediately threatened. It’s the first segment in our show.

This afternoon, I sat down to my computer to see two very different reactions to the piece. One was on an atheist, feminist discussion group I’m part of. The other came directly through our radio show email. The difference between the two struck me as incredibly characteristic. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: The Man Who Walked Home

James Tiptree, Jr. was the pseudonym of Alice Sheldon and possibly something of an alter ego. Tiptree shared much of Sheldon’s early life but went on to do things that Sheldon seemed unable to do in her own name, like write stories like this.

It was not a large crater; just over a kilometer in width and lacking the usual displacement lip. Its surface was covered with a finely divided substance which dried into dust. Before the rains began it was almost perfectly flat. Only in certain lights, had anyone been there to inspect it, a small surface marking or abraded place could be detected almost exactly as the center.

Two decades after the disaster a party of short brown people appeared from the south, together with a flock of somewhat atypical sheep. The crater at this time appeared as a wide shallow basin in which the grass did not grow well, doubtless from the almost complete lack of soil microorganisms. Neither this nor the surrounding vigorous grass were found to harm the sheep. A few crude hogans went up at the southern edge and a faint path began to be traced across the crater itself, passing by the central bare spot.

One spring morning two children who had been driving sheep across the crater came screaming back to camp. A monster had burst out of the ground before them, a huge flat animal making a dreadful roar. It vanished in a flash and a shaking of the earth, leaving an evil smell. The sheep had run away.

Since this last was visibly true, some elders investigated. Finding no sign of the monster and no place in which it could hide, they settled for beating the children, who settled for making a detour around the monster-spot, and nothing more occurred for a while.

The following spring the episode was repeated. This time an older girl was present but she could add only that the monster seemed to be rushing flat out along the ground without moving at all. And there was a scraped place in the dirt. Again nothing was found; an evil-ward in a cleft stick was placed at the spot.

When the same thing happened for the third time a year later, the detour was extended and other charm-wands were added. But since no harm seemed to come of it and the brown people had seen far worse, sheep-tending resumed as before. A few more instantaneous apparitions of the monster were noted, each time in the spring.

At the end of the third decade of the new era a tall old man limped down the hills from the south, pushing his pack upon a bicycle wheel. He camped on the far side of the crater, and soon found the monster-site. He attempted to question people about it, but no one understood him, so he traded a knife for some meat. Although he was obviously feeble, something about him dissuaded them from killing him, and this proved wise because he later assisted the women to treat several sick children.

He spent much time around the place of the apparition and was nearby when it made its next appearance. This excited him very much, and he did several inexplicable but apparently harmless things, including moving his camp into the crater by the trail. He stayed on for a full year watching the site and was close by for its next manifestation. After this he spent a few days making a charmstone for the spot and then left, northward, hobbling, as he had come.

More decades passed. The crater eroded and a rain-gully became an intermittent steamlet across one edge of the basin. The brown people and their sheep were attacked by a band of grizzled men, after which the survivors went away eastward. The winters of what had been Idaho was now frost-free; aspen and eucalyptus sprouted in the moist plain. Still the crater remained treeless, visible as a flat bowl of grass, and the bare place at the center remained. The skies cleared somewhat.

After another three decades a larger band of black people with ox-drawn carts appeared and stayed for a time, but left again when they too saw the thunderclap-monster. A few other vagrants straggled by.

Keep reading.

Dig Deeper

Julia Burke, of Secular Woman, asked me what I thought of Katie Englehart’s Salon piece asking where the women of New Atheism are. My first thought was the article suffered from a certain disjointedness that made it difficult to have much in the way of coherent thoughts about it, but I went back and read it again to give it a fair shake.

I still think it’s badly disjointed (which, admittedly, is sometimes an editing fault rather than a writing fault), but now my main complaint is that Englehart skimmed so lightly over the topic. [Read more…]

“Hope After Faith”, Jerry DeWitt on Atheists Talk

When it became known that Jerry DeWitt was an atheist, he lost the job he had been raised to do. He lost his community and his wife. But he gained his freedom and a new community of nonbelievers. In his book, Hope After Faith: An Ex-Pastor’s Journey From Belief to Atheism, DeWitt shares his story with us. From the publisher’s description:

DeWitt was a pastor in the town of DeRidder, Louisiana, and was a fixture of the community. In private, however, he’d begun to question his faith. Late one night in May 2011, a member of his flock called seeking prayer for her brother who had been in a serious accident. As DeWitt searched for the right words to console her, speech failed him, and he found that the faith which once had formed the cornerstone of his life had finally crumbled to dust. When it became public knowledge that DeWitt was now an atheist, he found himself shunned by much of DeRidder’s highly religious community, losing nearly everything he’d known.

DeWitt’s struggle for identity and meaning mirrors the one currently facing millions of people around the world. With both agnosticism and atheism entering the mainstream—one in five Americans now claim no religious affiliation, according to a recent study—the moment has arrived for a new atheist voice, one that is respectful of faith and religious traditions yet warmly embraces a life free of religion, finding not skepticism and cold doubt but rather profound meaning and hope. Hope After Faith is the story of one man’s evolution toward a committed and considered atheism, one driven by humanism, a profound moral dimension, and a happiness and self-confidence obtained through living free of fear.

Join us this Sunday as DeWitt talks to us about his astounding journey.

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 radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

#FtBCon: Of Spoons and Skeptics

On Saturday morning, a group of people with chronic pain got together to talk about how it affects their life, what is and isn’t helpful to hear from others, and their experiences with alternative medicine and skepticism on the same. It was an interesting session, and there were several points at which I wished I’d taken up the invitation to join, even though my pain issues are intermittent instead of chronic.

An hour wasn’t nearly long enough to tackle the subject, so expect ongoing hangouts to talk about various facets of the issue and to allow others with chronic pain to participate.

[Read more…]

I Get (Other People’s) Email

This letter has apparently been being sent all over the map, to organizations and (I think) mailing lists. I’ve had it forwarded to me several times because I’m mentioned in it, sort of. The poor fellow feels, despite this wide distribution, that he is being censored, so I thought he should get published at least once.

I was previously advised that my below response to the “Open Letter”, signed by a number of prominent figures in the freethought community regarding alleged sexual harrassment and the need for decorum among atheists and humanists, was to have appeared in the next edition of a major atheist magazine.

I assume the writer means this letter signed by the heads of several organizations.

The editor, who was in full agreement with the points made in my letter (printed in full below),  has just advised me that the group’s Board of Directors did not want to publish my letter or any other rebuttals to the claims made in the “Open Letter.”

I will do the editor, presumably the editor copied on at least one of these emails, the courtesy of allowing them to speak for themself. This editor is generally not considered someone who needs others to speak for them.

It is clear that the atheist/humanist movement is not immune to censorship and knee-jerk adherence to a feminist PC agenda.

Dennis Middlebrooks
FANNY (fFreethinking Activist Non-Believing New Yorkers) [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Get a Grip

Paul Park is well known for his Roumania Quartet series of novels, but this story, a 1998 World Fantasy Award nominee for short story, may ring some bells for readers as well.

He had lost weight, and his black beard was gone. In Russia he had worn a hilarious mismatch of plaid clothes, surmounted by an old fur cap. Now he wore a tweed suit, a denim shirt open at the neck. The cap was gone.

“Boris,” I said.

In Russia his English had been absurd. I used to tell him he sounded like a hit man in a Cold War novel, and he had laughed aloud. Now he spoke quickly and softly in a mid-Atlantic accent: “I think you’re making a mistake.”

And I would have thought so too, except for the strange expression I had seen. So I persevered. I pulled out one of the chairs and sat down—“What are you doing?” he cried. “My God, if they find us here. If they see us here.”

These words gave me what I thought was a glimmer of understanding. In Moscow, in the kitchen of his tiny apartment, Boris once had put away enough vodka to let him pass through drunkenness into another stage, a kind of clarity and grim sobriety. Then he had told me what his life was like under the Communists—the lies which no one had believed. The interrogations. When he was a student in the sixties after Brezhnev first came in, he had spent two years in protective custody.

Now maybe he was remembering those times. “My friend,” I said, “it’s all right. You’re in America.”

These words seemed to fill him with another gust of fury. He tried to get up, and I could see he was very drunk. “I don’t know you, I’ve never met you,” he muttered, grinding out his cigarette butt. But then the cocktail waitress was there.

“I’ll take a club soda,” I said. “And my friend will have a Smirnoff’s.”

“No,” he snarled, “that was the problem with that job. Get me a bourbon,” he told the waitress. Then to me: “I hate vodka.”

Which surprised me more than anything he’d said so far. In Moscow he had recited poetry about vodka. “Yeah,” he told me now, smiling in spite of himself. “Tastes change.”

Apparently he had reassured himself that no one was watching us. But he waited until the waitress had come and gone before he spoke again. “Boris,” I said, and he interrupted me.

“Don’t call me that. It was just a job, a two-week job. I barely remember it.”

“What are you talking about?

He smiled. “You don’t know, do you? You really don’t know. Get a grip,” he said. “It’s like candy from a baby.”

Keep reading.