“Atheists in America”, Melanie E. Brewster on Atheists Talk

Dr. Melanie Elyse Brewster is a professor in counseling psychology who studies the mental health effects of marginalization, including marginalizatoin of atheists. In her new book, Atheists in America, Dr. Brewster collects more than two dozen stories from atheists across the country, illuminating both what atheists have in common and how atheism interacts with other aspects of our identities.

From the publisher’s description:

These narratives illuminate the complexities and consequences for nonbelievers in the United States. Stepping away from religious belief can have serious social and existential ramifications, forcing atheists to discover new ways to live meaningfully without a religious community. Yet shedding the constraints of a formal belief system can also be a freeing experience. Ultimately, this volume shows that claiming an atheist identity is anything but an act isolated from the other dimensions of the self. Upending common social, political, and psychological assumptions about atheists, this collection helps carve out a more accepted space for this minority within American society.

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Watch Your Mouth

Things are disappearing. Facebook posts calling people “pussies” have vanished! People with the clout to speak to Richard Dawkins and be heard are leaving some of their thoughts unsaid and unwritten for the fear (no exaggeration) that they’ll be arrested and tortured and punished, maybe even by death! Or because they’re not prepared to deal with being criticized. Either way.

Welcome to my world, guys, or at least a pale approximation of it.

It’s no secret that I’m a feminist and use my blog as a platform for activism, particularly on issues surrounding sexual harassment. What some people, particularly guys with jobs that give them some amount of power, don’t seem to understand about this is that I and everything I say are under constant scrutiny. Not only do people hold me accountable for every individual word I write, but they hold me responsible for every half-assed “gotcha” misreading of those words.

Is that fair? Well, it’s not charitable. It’s not diplomatic. It’s frequently anything but civil. It certainly doesn’t happen through private channels. Yet I never see any of the people who are now afraid going after the people who do this to me. [Read more...]

TBT: Summer Fruit

Hmm. We haven’t done this yet this year. Going over your own archives is, as it turns out, a helpful thing. This was originally posted in July 2008.

My husband asked me last night what I wanted for dinner. We’d both just walked home in dark clothes under an insistent sun, and I had no appetite. I looked at him and said, “Ice.”

Then we grinned at each other. He headed for the basement freezer while I checked the juice pitcher in the fridge.

Every year, when the trees bow under their fruit, the melons drip with ripeness, and you start having to fight the wasps for the raspberries, we collect the sweetest, juiciest fruits we can find and take them home. We don’t eat them. Well, we pick at them a bit as we’re chopping them up–you would too–but these are destined for the freezer.

Nectarines and plums with their skins on, honeydew and musk mellon, pears, pineapple, raspberries, grapes–all fresh–plus frozen blueberries and cherries and whatever else looks good. All go into the biggest bowl we have and get tossed together. Then we stash them in the freezer in gallon bags. Some will come back out on the hot days before fall settles in. The rest will wait until the next summer, when the weather is oppressive but nothing is ripe yet.

Then, on those days that are too hot for solid food, we chop off hunks of our frozen fruit, throw it in the blender, and cover it with juice. It takes an amazing amount of juice, because none of the fruit liquifies as it blends down. But the end result is a brain-freezing mix of pure, sweet, icy fruit.

Uh, unless we add rum. Rum is good, too, although it gets harder to claim it’s dinner then. Either way, they’re the best fruit smoothies I’ve ever had. It makes those hot days something to look forward to.

Yes, Richard Dawkins, I’m Emotional

Am I emotional? Why, yes. Yes, I am.

I’m annoyed. I had plans for today that had nothing to do with addressing Richard Dawkins’ self-serving justifications for his Twitter trolling. But no, he chose today to brand consequence-based ethical arguments about how he should shape his public messaging as “taboos”, as though they were based in religion or tea-table politesse. That means I get to take time to address that today. You can’t let that sort of thing sit around. It starts to stink up the place. [Read more...]

The Reading List, 7/30/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

The Wider Web

Sexual Assault Plus

I don’t usually do reposts so soon after the original publication. This was originally posted last fall, when Dawkins was talking about “mild pedophilia. He’s ranking rape again. It’s worth pointing out that Dawkins isn’t doing this because no one provided him with any better information. He’s been told this is inappropriate and why, in great detail.

Yesterday, Richard Dawkins issued an apology. In talking about his own sexual assault at a young age, he had generalized their experience from his. He was relatively unaffected by the experience and expressed his opinion that the same was true of “all of us”. He apologized for doing so.

Dawkins’ apology was very welcome, if incomplete, as was his admission that he should not speak to the experience of other victims of sexual assault. Alex has a pretty good take on what it missed. I don’t agree 100%, but I’m close enough not to quibble. Instead, I’d like to dig into this idea of degrees of assault. What Dawkins has had to say on the topic isn’t entirely wrong, but his naive take on the topic obscures as much as it reveals.
[Read more...]

What Happened After I Reported

This is a guest post from Elise Matthesen. It is a follow up to her post from last year, “How to Report Sexual Harassment“. Find more background and reactions on the situation with WisCon here.

Last year at WisCon 37, I told a Safety staffer that I had been treated by another attendee in a way that made me uncomfortable and that I believed to be sexual harassment.  One big reason I did was that I understood from another source that he had reportedly harassed at least one other person at a convention. I learned that she didn’t report him formally, for a lot of reasons that aren’t mine to say. I was in a position where I felt confident I could take the hit from standing up and telling the truth. So I did.

I didn’t expect, fourteen months later, to have to stand up and tell the truth about WisCon’s leadership as well.
[Read more...]

The Time Lord Was Fine, but Creation?

A friend of mine sent me a link to a news release from Big Finish Productions, producers of Doctor Who audio plays. They’re celebrating their 15th anniversary with some reminiscences, and this one made him think of me.

“One other thing sticks very closely in my mind from running Big Finish in 2001 – death-threats. The aforementioned Bloodtide was a brilliant script by Jonny Morris, his first for us. I asked him for a Silurian story, he opted to put the Sixth Doctor and Evelyn on the Galapogas Islands with Charles Darwin and thus emerged an amazing story about evolution of the species from both a human and Silurian perceptive, with the villain of the piece taking responsibility for genetically engineering mankind in the first place. And cue the complaints, every single one from certain areas of America known as the Bible Belt. And within these outraged letters came three death threats. I had apparently challenged these peoples’ belief in God, and they were going to make me pay.

“Having offended possibly the same group earlier in the year by not spotting that Clay Hickman had inverted a pentagram on the cover of Minuet in Hell (which we changed for later repressings and the music collection), I really had run out of patience so rather than cowering from their self-righteous wrath, I pinned the letters up in the Big Finish office and delighted in the fact that a play I had produced and directed (not written, mind) had caused such a bizarre amount of vitriol from people whose grasp on the fundamental concepts of fiction was shaky at best.

“Yes, what a fun year 2001 was :-)”

A time-traveling alien with two hearts is fine. A race of lizard people who have lived alongside humanity unseen is just dandy. But don’t you dare let your fictional creatures say anything about Creation or we’ll threaten to kill you.

The Reading List, 7/27/2014

I share a lot of links on Twitter and Facebook that I don’t blog about because I don’t have much to add. The reading list is a periodic feature where I share those links with my blog audience too. Of course, you’re still welcome to follow me on Twitter.

Around FtB

  • Inclusive Becomes Sexist, In One Easy Step–”What the research is telling us is what feminists have long realized: you don’t do your business any favors by excluding half of the potential brainpower.”
  • CONvergence 2014 panel audio: Alien Conspiracy Theories–”Come join us as we talk about some of the alien conspiracy theories that have entered into popular culture, what’s implausible, what’s impossible, and what’s just good OBEY clean family STAY ASLEEP fun.”
  • Do not tell me to stop fighting–”And Glenn herself of course is not above ‘infighting.’ She’s doing it right now. She’s doing it in her latest video about ‘Atheism + pussies’ (her blurb) and she’s doing it in this very post.”
  • Movement cohesion–”The surest way to earn my enmity, my directed criticism, is to ask us to stop other fights so we can pretend we’re all one big happy big-tent family.”
  • Shermer rides again!–”Pretending that climate scientists want everyone to be ‘swept away’ to deal with ‘one threat’ is simply dishonest. Reprehensibly dishonest.”
  • Depression and Self-Gaslighting–”What happens when you teach yourself not to trust your own perception? How many toxic people become ‘just difficult for me to deal with because I’m so insecure and oversensitive’?”
  • Atheism, love it or leave it–”And even when I was 9 years old I could see the deep logical flaw in the bumper sticker people.”
  • “I’m a strong woman and I don’t need help.”–”A friend of mine responded that, well, some of us aren’t strong, and some can’t set boundaries, and why do these people deserve to feel uncomfortable or even unsafe just because they don’t have the capability to be ‘strong’ in this way?”
  • Mystery Flora: Bitey McBiterson–”Some are subtle and devious jerks, drawing you in by seeming all tame and pretty, then giving you a stealthy stab.”
  • So close–”C0nc0rdance is basically making the same mistake (to a lesser degree!) this clown in his comments is doing, caricaturing the feminist position because he doesn’t have the slightest clue what it is, so he fills it in with garbage he heard on the internet.”

The Wider Web

Why This Matters

American Atheists’ official representative calls a group of people who’ve been harassed for years “pussies” and an American Atheists official posts it to Twitter and Facebook suggesting it’s a reason people should subscribe. The Friendly Atheist posts a video from the Amazingly Notorious Atheist and says, “Oops”, in a buried comment. Some random but persistent asshole spends hours “caricaturing” FtB bloggers, Rebecca Watson, and someone who dropped out of organized atheism after intense abuse—then some other asshole decides he has to send each one of these caricatures to their targets on Twitter.

What does all this mean? It’s time for one of those periodic reminders of exactly what it is those of us standing over here are arguing for.

Have you forgotten how all this started? [Read more...]