Another Way to Fleece the Flock

On the way to a meeting last week, I saw a Christian billboard. I see a lot of billboards, but this one caught my eye as being rather unusual. I didn’t get a picture, but since I followed up on the billboard, the advertising is now following me around on the internet too. Here’s a sample.

Banner ad with text: Making Good Bolder. Actors Models & Talent for Christ. plus contact infoYes, boys and girls, God needs your talent to…uh…well….

So I got curious and checked out the website to figure out what was going on. Was there another company like Faith Films that was going to produce unintentional, painful hilarity? Were they looking for unknowns to help them keep their budget, oh, so low?

No. As it turns out, they weren’t looking for people they could pay very little. This group is looking for people to pay them, all for a chance at stardom! [Read more…]

Investment, Disclosure, and Skepticism

As you read this, you may want to know that I’ve been accused of falsely accusing someone of rape. In fact, I’ve been accused of falsely claiming a consensual encounter was rape. You can read all about it here.

You may also want to know that I’ve previously reported on the incidence and profile of false reports. When I did, I was careful to differentiate between false reports and other types of cases that don’t end in prosecution. While I did use examples, I grounded them not just in statistics from the scientific literature, but also in the factors that affect how those statistics are produced. You can read all about that here.

A rendered picture of an unbalanced set of scales.

“balance scales” by winnifredxoxo. Some rights reserved.

After reading those, you may decide I have a vested interest in keeping people from being believed when they accuse someone else of making a false report of sexual assault. Or you may decide that I have an interest in making sure the scientific evidence on the topic is examined and understood. Or you may come to a different conclusion. In any case, you’re informed about where I stand as you read.

I asked my social media lists this morning, “Q. for the hive mind: If I were to write a skepticism piece on an issue that affected me personally, would you expect/want me to disclose?” The answers varied considerably for reasons including how specifically or directly I was affected by the issue and whether this would require me to disclose something private. I didn’t ask anyone for permission to quote them by name, so these are all anonymous here. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Home by the Sea

Science fiction has a long and noble past as the fiction that explores what it means to be human, that wonders how much of our inevitable coming change humanity can endure and still be what we are. This story by Elisabeth Vonarburg lives well within that tradition.

«Is it a lady, Mommy?»

The small girl looks at me with the innocent insolence of children who say out loud what adults are thinking to themselves. A skinny, pale, fair–haired child of five or six, she already looks so like her mother that I feel sorry for her. The mother gives an embarrassed laugh and lifts the child onto her lap. «Of course it’s a lady, Rita.» She smiles excuse–her–please, I smile back oh–it’s–nothing. Will she take advantage of it to launch into one of those meaningless, ritual conversations whereby neighbors assure each other of their mutual inoffensiveness? To cut her off, I turn towards the window of the compartment and look purposefully at the scenery. Heading to the north the train follows the system of old dykes as far as the huge gap breached four years ago by the Eschatoï in their final madness. The scars left by the explosions have nearly disappeared, and it almost seems as though the dykes were meant to stop here and that the waters had been allowed to invade the lowlands as part of some official scheme. We cross the narrows by ferry, and are once more in the train, an ordinary electric train this time, suspended between the two wide sheets of water, to the west rippled by waves, to the east broken by dead trees, old transmission towers, church spires, and caved–in roofs. There is a mist, a whitish breath rising from the waters like a second tide ready to engulf what is left of the man–made landscape.

Is it a lady? You obviously don’t see ladies like me very often in your part of the world, little girl. Cropped hair, boots, army fatigues, a heavy jacket of worn leather; and the way I was sitting, grudgingly corrected when you and your mousy mother came in — a real lady doesn’t sprawl like that, does she, even when she’s by herself. The lady actually likes to be comfortable, believe it or not, and in her usual surroundings she doesn’t have to worry much about what people think. The lady, little girl, is a recuperator.

But she couldn’t tell you this; she didn’t want to see your big, stupid eyes fill with terror. All the same, you don’t get to see a real live bogeywoman every day. I could’ve told you a few things. Yes, I know, If you’re not good the Recuperator will get you, and he’ll say you’re not a real person and put you in his big sack. As a matter of fact, we don’t put human specimens in our big sacks right away, you know; only plants and small animals. Big animals are injected with tracers once they’ve been put to sleep for preliminary tests. If the Institute researchers discover something especially interesting, they send us back for it. I could’ve told you all this, little girl, you and your mother, who would probably have looked at me with superstitious fear. But who cares what recuperators really do, anyway? They go into the contaminated Zones to bring back horrible things that in other times might have been plants, animals, humans. So the recuperators must be contaminated too, mentally if nothing else. No, no one apart from the Recuperation Agency cares what the recuperators really do. And no one, especially not the Institute, wonders who they really are, which suits me just fine.

«Why did they break the dyke, Mommy?» asks the small girl. She’s sensed that it would be a good idea to change the subject.

Keep reading.

“Christian Nation”, Fred Rich on Atheists Talk

What do people like Sarah Palin mean when they say the U.S. is a “Christian nation”? What would their vision look like if it were made real? Could they ever really succeed in taking control of the country? Author Fred Rich tackles all these questions in his recent book, Christian Nation: A Novel. From the publisher’s description:

In the spirit of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, one of America’s foremost lawyers lays out in chilling detail what such a future might look like: constitutional protections dismantled; all aspects of life dominated by an authoritarian law called “The Blessing,” enforced by a totally integrated digital world known as the “Purity Web.” Readers will find themselves haunted by the questions the narrator struggles to answer in this fictional memoir: “What happened, why did it happen, how could it have happened?”

Join us this Sunday as Rich talks about his book and the plausibility of the threat it presents.

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 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.

So You Want to Brave a Blizzard

I fully understand if Minnesota folks don’t want to travel in tonight’s weather. However, if you’re tired of letting winter dictate your plans, you can come see me and a great panel of people at CASH’s meeting at the U tonight. Here are the details:

Feminist Atheist Activism: Women’s Experiences in the Secular Movement.

7:00pm until 9:00pm

Folwell Hall 112

CASH will be hosting a panel of both popular atheist bloggers and local students to promote the growing female presence in Atheism and Secularism. We’d like to draw in a good audience for the panel, so we hope you’re as excited about this as we are!

Our wonderful panelists will be Brianne Bilyeu, Stephanie Zvan, Olivia James, and Nicki Massey!

I’m already hearing that the panel makeup is changing, presumably due to the weather, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the final lineup, whoever is on it. Having a lot of good, local talent is a luxury.

Today in Christian Persecution

Yesterday, Hemant wrote about a student group that came up with a brilliant way to advertise themselves while getting others to think about the flaws of Christian apologetics. They studied up on an apologist who was coming to their school and turned all the bad arguments and logical fallacies into a bingo card, which they then handed out to people entering the talk. It made it easier to focus on the bad arguments instead of their good delivery, and the back of the card provided information on the student group itself. As I said: brilliant.

So I tweeted the article. Then this happened. (The Storify is here if the embed doesn’t work for you.) [Read more…]

How to Suppress Writing Women

Last night I saw the most recent anonymized culling of quotes from a science fiction and fantasy forum populated by some of the genre’s malcontents. The occasion of this particular outbreak is (long story short) a petition by a non-member of SFWA on the topic of the potential future actions of a non-existent review board with which the yet-to-be-hired editor of the SFWA Bulletin might some day have to work. I would tell you what the petitioners were asking for if I knew, but the petition itself is a bit of a “First Amendment”, “bikinis”, “tyranny” mess. The people who signed the petition don’t seem to agree what the point of it was in their statements elsewhere, merely that it’s very important and there are some bad people around. Also, as it protested something that wasn’t happening, it’s moot.

I will note, however, that as the associate president of a non-profit organization, I have a tiny bit of experience on this. We’re currently working to hire a new volunteer editor for our monthly newsletter. Not only will this person work closely with an editorial board, but for the first couple of months of their tenure, they’ll be sharing content-acquisition duties with the board so they can get a feel for the priorities of the organization. We’re currently deciding between two very good candidates, neither of whom has expressed anything other than eagerness over the arrangement.

But this isn’t about the petition. This is about the responses to the petition and to the news that the petition wasn’t met with joy and gratitude. You see, when I looked at those quotes last night, I noticed that many of them centered around one woman, Mary Robinette Kowal. (Full disclosure: Mary is a good friend of good friends of mine. I’ve met her in passing at a couple of cons and been part of a couple of email chains she was also part of. I also happen to like her style.)

Following Mary and the petition kerfuffle both on Twitter, I knew Mary hadn’t gotten that involved in it. Some work to get all the facts. A certain amount of time spent reminding people that this petition was something launched against SFWA, not by it. She retweeted some snark, but she added next to none of her own. She also retweeted people linking to non-hyperbolic, if implacable, posts like this one. Over on Facebook, she shared what is easily the most sympathetic post about the whole thing. But on the forum, Mary was the face of evil and the orchestrator of all the…oh.

That was when it clicked. Somebody had a case of Watson Derangement Syndrome, except that Rebecca Watson wasn’t the center of the delusion. Mary was. And everything they were saying sounded so damned familiar.

Yesterday, I saw a link to the actual forum thread. The similarities continued to mount. So, with apologies to Joanna Russ over the fact that I’m doing far less work than she did, here’s how you go about suppressing the women who are doing that terribly inconvenient writing. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Fire Above, Fire Below

Garth Nix is well-known as a prolific writer of young adult fantasy novels, his Old Kingdom and Keys to the Kingdom series in particular. It’s always nice when he finds time for shorter works.

“What’s this about, Hansen?” growled the mayor.

“The Oldgate building fire,” replied the chief. He pointed at the small shed over on the corner of the roof. It had chicken wire walls and a corrugated iron roof, and pigeons were roosting on top of it. “Let’s go over there.”

“What’s the Oldgate fire got to do with a pigeon house?” asked the mayor suspiciously.

“Nothing directly,” said the chief. He led the way, shooing some pigeons off so he could open the door. “But there is something you need to know about the fire.”

“Listen, your people said it was some kind of one-in-a-thousand gas main explosion. We told the media it was a gas explosion! Why do you need to drag me up to a pigeon house to tell me anything different?”

“I wanted to show you something,” said the chief. “Which happens to be here, with the pigeons.”

He brushed the straw from the floor to reveal a trapdoor fastened with a big brass padlock. He opened this with a key he wore on a chain around his neck. The key was iron, big and old, and the mayor thought it must be damned uncomfortable to have it hanging around your neck. He began to wonder about the sanity of his fire chief.

Then the chief opened the trapdoor, and the mayor began to wonder about his own sanity. Under the trapdoor was a cavity, and curled up on a bed of gold twenty-dollar pieces, there was a small dragon.

Keep reading.

“This Week in Skepticism” Minnesota Skeptics on Atheists Talk

There are many different forms and presentations of skepticism, but for many it implies a constant seeking of answers, evidence and a demand for rigor in studies and investigations. Skepticism involves asking questions and exploring all of the probable alternatives, and it involves an unwillingness to accept claims based on hearsay or faulty logic. Skepticism and atheism are closely aligned; we can apply skepticism to arrive at atheism, and questioning religion can lead to a more in-depth appreciation of skeptical inquiry.

This Sunday we are joined by Travis Peterson and Erica Mahlum, organizers for the group Minnesota Skeptics. Listen in as we discuss what Minnesota Skeptics is all about, what they’ve been up to, and then we’ll chat about recent events of the past week, including the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate, Darwin Day and how camels totally disprove the Bible. Sorry, Bible.

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 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.

People of Color Beyond Faith Online Conference This Weekend!

I just found out about this today. I can’t see all of it live because of other meetings this weekend, but yay for YouTube!

Please join us for our LIVE Webcasts February 15-16, 2014, Saturday and Sunday!

Please note the times below are listed PST (Pacific Standard Time).

February 15, 2014 (4 panels)

10:00-11:00 am PST Blacks Folks DO Do Atheism

11:30-12:30 am PST Using Social Media for Social Justice Activism

1:00-2:00 pm PST Sex, Sexuality, & Gender Politics

2:30: 3:30 pm PST Black Diasporic Perspective


February 16, 2014 (1 panel)

1:30- 3:00 pm PST Radical Humanist Traditions in Communities of Color

Our Guests will include: Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Donald Wright, Dr. Ben Fiore-Walker (Quaker), Minister Meredith Moise, Dr. Chris Cameron, Danielle Monique Whitelow (Blogger), Émelyne Museaux (BFT Host), Bougie Black Girl (Blogger), Mc Brooks (BFT Host), Lauren Lawrence (Educator), Sesali Bowen (Writer at Feministing), Reggie Beloved, and more!
Please tune in both days.

This is a LIVE Youtube event!

“The LIVE link is created the DAY OF THE BROADCAST!”

Please subscribe to our Youtube channel for the latest updates and watch the LIVE Webcast.

The Facebook page for the conference is here.