She Called Abortion a “Blessing”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation has announced that co-founder Anne Nicol Gaylor died last night at age 88. She ran the foundation for two and a half decades. She was “out to destroy Christianity”. She was a polemicist in the very best sense of that word. She wrote thousands of checks to fund abortions through her Women’s Medical Fund and made sure there was always someone to answer the phone when someone found themselves pregnant and desperate.

She is also, as a female atheist activist of a prior generation, always in danger of being written out of history. Yes, even having done all that.

Don’t let her be forgotten. Take a moment to celebrate a life devoted to making a difference. Read an appreciation of her life, and recognize the quotes that are used so often and attributed to her so rarely. Read her writing (including her book Abortion Is a Blessing) and share it with others.

This kind of legacy is the only form of immortality we’re offered. If anyone has earned it, Anne Nicol Gaylor certainly did.

Mock the Movie: Michael Bay Ate My Pizza, er, Childhood Edition

This Wednesday, we’re running a Mock the Movie overtime. We’re picking up in the middle of the month because Jason wanted, for some inexplicable reason, to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. More understandably, he didn’t want to be alone as everything light and silly from his childhood explodes around his head.

This is available on Netflix on a kind of sketchy ad-supported site we’ve used before to no ill effect. Just watch where you click. [Read more…]

SSA Week: On Criticism, Improvement, and Asking for Help

We’re in the middle of SSA Week right now, the Secular Student Alliance’s annual major fundraising push. It’s unusual for a fundraising drive in that the SSA often concentrates more on the number of donors than on the amount raised. This is particularly true this year, when their challenge grant isn’t a matching grant but $20,000 in donations that will kick in if 500 people donate by June 17. Small donations mean even more this year.

Text banner for SSA Week: "Secular students week, June 10th-17th, 2015. Help us get to 500 donations!",I know a lot of people are burnt out on atheist organizations after the last few years. I am less so than most people I know, but even I feel it from time to time. Still, the SSA is one of the groups that continues to regularly receive the revenue I make from this blog. Let me tell you a little bit about why. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Three Voices

I maybe like stories about the creation of art. You know, just maybe. This story from Lisa Bolekaja is enthralling and devastating. It manages that despite a viewpoint character you’re not going to like very much, which is always a challenge.

“Hey, Tye.” He embraced her and she melted into his arms. He felt solid with her, like they were meant to be fused this way. He wiped away her tears and held her face.

“Snot doesn’t look good on you, girl. Doesn’t match your hair color this week.” She laughed and he smiled.

“This fucking song is getting on my nerves,” she said.

“I told you it wouldn’t be easy.”

“I thought I could find my way into this bitch, but now…it feels like I’m trying to climb up a mountain with roller skates on.”

“Let’s quit for the night,” he said. She nodded. He didn’t want to let her go, so he held her a little longer. Pressed her head onto his shoulder and rocked her.

“When we finish this thing, I’m going to compose a song just for you. Something light and easy—”

“And with words, for God’s sake,” she whispered. She sounded better. She pushed away from his arms and sauntered over to one of the theater seats. He sat next to her. She leaned in towards him.

“I spoke to Bethanny. I know why she could never finish Three Voices,” she said.

Andre drew in a deep breath and let it out slow. Tye watched his face with intense scrutiny. When Andre didn’t respond, her eyes narrowed.

“She told me she developed throat polyps after training with you. She never had throat problems ever until she started singing Three Voices. Even after throat surgery, she wasn’t able to sing professionally again—”

“That had nothing to do with the song, Tye. Many singers develop throat nodules when they overuse their voice.”

Tye reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out her cell phone. She opened up an App page and Andre winced when he saw the picture of the woman on the screen.

“What about her? I remember this woman, Andre. I always wondered what happened to her.”

Andre took the cell phone from Tye’s hand. He stared at the picture and the text from a news article from three years prior. The woman, Nelia Cardoso, was a Brazilian singer from Pernambuco who had shot to stardom performing dance club hits, but had been classically trained in Portugal and New York. The article described her bout with throat cancer which ultimately led to having her vocal cords removed. She had been under Andre’s tutelage to bring Three Voices to life in Manhattan prior to developing cancer.

“First Bethanny, and then Nelia. How many others before them, Andre?”

Keep reading.

“Science Debate in 2016!”, Sheril Kirshenbaum on Atheists Talk

We don’t need our presidential candidates to be scientists, although many of us wouldn’t complain too much if it were so. We do need them to have an understanding of how important science must be in forming public policy and informing our leadership in resolving vital issues. ScienceDebate is a drive started by several scientists and science communicators in an attempt to hold at least one debate focusing on science in 2008’s presidential cycle. The demand is growing for a debate in the 2016 cycle, with more than 43,000 signers.

Sheril Kirshenbaum is the Executive Director of Science Debate and will be talking to Greg Laden about progress being made and prospects for finally putting science on the table as a topic for discussion in the election.

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.

The Vox Day Status Principle

Posited: Helping Vox Day get anything he wants cannot improve his status, but it can sure as hell hurt yours.

We’ve seen it before with the Sad Puppy organizers. We’re seeing it again with Tom Doherty, publisher of Tor, and rightly so.

There are two things about Vox Day that make this true:

  1. He really doesn’t offer anything to build his status on. He aspires to be this guy but lacks the skills–and the charisma.
  2. Since what he wants is to get back at a world that rejected him while embracing others, helping him necessarily means shitting on good, talented people who are well-loved.

That isn’t a recipe for accolades. It’s a recipe for being seen as the minion of a wannabe cartoon supervillain. Of course, if that’s what you want, by all means, don’t let me stop you.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Finding an Audience for Longer Work

It seems that even when I write about starting a Patreon, a little screed about the value of women’s writing pops out. Hmm.

I’ve been blogging for more than eight years. For the last four of those years, a lot of my blogging has necessarily been reactive. I don’t regret that work in any way, but it has changed how and what I write.

I used to write more long-form posts, posts which took a step back from the events of the day to examine issues from multiple perspectives. I used to write more about science, divorcing questions from the single studies of news cycles and putting them back into context. I used to do more noodling on culture and the complex relationship it has with our lives. I used to play more with format. [Read more…]

On Nail Polish and Looming Trivialities

This didn’t go in yesterday’s post because I only saw it the once, but while we’re on the topic of the terrible arguments that happen when cis feminists insist on using trans people as their springboard for gender theorizing, let’s talk about this:

Bruce Jenner told Ms. Sawyer that what he looked forward to most in his transition was the chance to wear nail polish, not for a furtive, fugitive instant, but until it chips off. I want that for Bruce, now Caitlyn, too. But I also want her to remember: Nail polish does not a woman make.

That’s from that horrible New York Times article that I don’t feel like linking again. Instead, have a link to a piece by a trans man who does a good job of bringing many of the assumptions buried in that article to light.

Why is this argument bad? [Read more…]

Let’s Stop Exercising Our Gender Anxieties on the Backs of Trans People

Note: Before thinking I’m talking about any specific person in this post, understand that I made a deliberate choice to read almost entirely commentary by trans or genderqueer people on Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out, both before and after the Vanity Fair cover. The exceptions would be this piece by Alex on affirming people’s looks, which I quite enjoyed and tend to agree with, and this mess from this morning that several people were shaking their heads about on Twitter, plus a couple of points I’ve argued on Facebook. While I’m not linking specific examples here, any behavior or argument I talk about I’ve seen from at least two sources. No one is uniquely bad at this.

This is a “we” observation, where “we” are cis feminists, mostly female for reasons that are probably obvious, mostly white for reasons I could only offer unhelpful speculation on. We’re people who see a trans person in the spotlight, usually a trans woman, and discover that we have things we must say right now about gender.

I understand the impulse. We already have a good bit of data and theory on gender. It’s a huge part of our lives. It’s a hobby horse for many of us. Trans people talking about being trans makes gender very salient. A trans person can feel like an amazing data point: how they’re treated, how they express gender, or even how they conceptualize their gender in opposition to all the messages they receive from society.

I get it. I’ve been there. Really, when I say this is a “we” observation, I very much mean myself. Still, as I reread that old post, the most important words it contains are “Then I told myself to shut up.” I’d like to encourage others to join me on that. Here are three big reasons why. [Read more…]

Google Doodle for Raif Badawi

There isn’t one yet, but one atheist activist (who is choosing to keep their name out of things) recently started a push for one. If successful, it would mean both direct PR pressure on Saudi Arabia and encouragement to Google users to talk to their own governments about the problem.

If you’d like to encourage Google yourself, here is the sample email being shared.

Dear Google Doodlers,

On June 17, Raif Badawi–the world-renowned Saudi blogger–will have been in a Saudi prison for 3 years. He was publicly flogged and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” What he really did, though, was to speak up for human rights in Saudi Arabia.

I’m writing to ask you to please create a Google Doodle in honor of Raif Badawi.

June 17th would be an ideal day for it to run, but any day would be good.

Sincerest regards

Send it or your own letter to proposals@google.com. If you want to see more of a call to action from them than a doodle, you can include a link to this information from Amnesty International on how to help.

If a Google doodle feels frivolous to you? That’s fine. We all decide where to put our limited energy. In that case, however, maybe check out the Amnesty International suggestions or figure out whether your local atheist group is doing anything for June 17. Badawi won’t be getting any help from Saudi Arabia without intervention. Their courts just upheld his conviction and sentencing.