Loaded question

So I got the following email from a financial adviser in New Zealand:

Hi.

As you strike me as an honest and sincere authority in the atheist worldview, could you please help me by advising me:

How can I be an intellectually honest atheist when it seems to me that atheism itself, logically demands that I distrust my brain, because it’s merely a cosmic accident –  evolved from a random, mindless and unguided process in the 1st place?

I’ll donate $10,000 to a mutually agreeable charity for the 1st person who can answer my honest dilemma.

Your help would mean a lot to me.

Thanks in advance.

So I replied:

It’s not an honest dilemma for two reasons.

(1) Being a product of undirected incidents and natural processes is no indication that you shouldn’t trust your brain.  On the contrary, your ancestry of survivors of life-and-death struggles is one good reason why you should trust your brain.  There are two basic perspectives here, those with a deep-seated emotional need to believe impossible nonsense, and those who have a desire to understand reality. The latter group has a very different way of judging information. The only value any claim can have is how true we can show it to be. If you can’t show that it’s true at all, then it has no value at all; it is only an empty assertion unsupported by anything, and therefore beneath serious consideration.  The fact that no one can show that religion isn’t just a product of human imagination is further exacerbated by the fact that there is so much that we can show religion to be wrong about. Then there is the point that the only way to improve understanding is to seek out the flaws in your current perception and correct them.  You can’t do that if you believe anything on faith.

(2) Religion is the only thing telling us not to trust our brains. Faith is an unreasonable assertion of complete conviction which is assumed without reason and defended against all reason.  You’re supposed to believe things that are not indicated by any evidence, and you’re supposed to maintain that belief despite all evidence to the contrary.  It is already dishonest to assert as fact that which is not evidently true, yet that’s what all religions do. They pretend to ‘witness’ things they’ve never seen, saying they know things no one can honestly say they know, and they claim facts that are not facts.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, faith also requires an unreasonable resistance to reason itself, in the form of apologetics.  This is the practice of making up excuses to rationalize, justify, or dismiss all the arguments against your position.  That’s where your challenge comes from, prompting you to misrepresent the situation as if there was ever any reason to distrust our own brains.   That’s also why you won’t really donate $10,000.00 to Médecins Sans Frontières.  You never intended to do that.  Instead your goal was to pretend to present an unanswerable dilemma and arbitrarily dismiss every perfectly good answer you get -without any transparency. So there is no way for anyone else to see all the answers like this one that you actually did get.

So I’ve decided to post your question to my blog, just so that people have some way to know that I did answer it.

CNN: Chattanooga Tennessee shooting today possible “Domestic Terrorism”

It is some progress that it is being correctly identified as domestic terrorism rather than a deranged gunman, although the situation is grim.  4 Marines and the shooter are dead. At least one of the official in the video of Mayor Andy Berke’s press conference in the feed on the article, is saying it is being investigated as domestic terrorism.  Although in the same video the banner says “terrorism was ruled out”, that could mean international terrorism and the banner writer is conflating international terrorism with all terrorism.

I grew up in the South, and I have childhood memories of the KKK terrorizing Vietnamese American shrimpers in Galveston, TX.  It makes me sad to see domestic terrorism prominently erupting in the South again.

I wonder how Fox News will report this?

 

 

Monster on Sunday

There’s a new hard rocking atheist band called Monster on Sunday

On Friday, August 7th at 7:00pm, they’ll be at Ramona Mainstage with my friends, recording artist Shelly Segal and comedian Steve Hill. Seth Andrews told me he saw the band live in their home town of San Diego, and said they were amazing.  Steve and Tally Cass are something new, sort of a mom & pop metal band, and they’re strident atheists.  I’ve had a chance to listen to their new album, and I’m happy to review my favorite tracks.

The vocals in the title track, Baby Eater pick up strength as the song progresses, and the guitar is strong throughout, classic hard rock.  The 2nd track, Stardust harkens to episodes of Cosmos.  I featured a clip of that song at the end of my video presentation from the Imagine No Religion Conference in Vancouver Canada -since I was talking about, you know, the cosmos.

Make a Believer has a Mötley Crüe sort of ring to it -if Crüe knew how to pwn the anecdotal testimony of religious “witnesses”.  The 4th track is the new single, Just Like You.  This tune illustrates how everyone’s god tends to hate exactly the same things as each believer claiming a personal relationship with that deity.  I featured a clip of this song at the end of my video presentation at the Oklahoma Freethought Convention.  It was appropriate because that speech was about all the religious hate just prior to the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

Pain is a bluesy old school metal tune, appropriate to the title.  The namesake song, Monster on Sunday is a slower sort of a dark ballad, again as might be expected by the title.  Believe in Yourself shifts from softer girly vocals to power ballad style, reminiscent of both ’80s glam and ’90s grunge. I will probably feature a clip from Christian Terrorist on an upcoming video too, especially for the spoken monologue between the riffs.  Influences from Bad Religion and Alice In Chains are evident; the latter especially in Shunned, which is a heavy ballad of lament, heartbreak, and abandonment, again just as one would expect from the name.  This leaves the 10th and final track, and my favorite of the whole album.  God is Dead sounds to me like old original Black Sabbath, dark and creepy, and a bit eerie; that’s more how I like it. [Edit: Foolish me. God is Dead is a Black Sabbath cover. ]

Show Flyer 1 copyGet tickets here:

Actually my favorite metal either sounds like the background score of a Godzilla movie, or it sounds like Godzilla himself, with heavy plodding drums and growling guitars.  Obviously, I never listened to music with the intention of dancing to it.  Never did understand dancing.

 

The Purple and Blue People of Texas

Someone in Scotland was asking me, “We have all heard that Texas is a Minority Majority state, and that it is going purple then why are you still having problems with theocratic legislation?” (Paraphrasing it was a while ago) First this: people in Scotland know many more details about our state’s politics than we do about theirs. Just to give you an idea about how people in other countries watch Texas not just for the buffoonery, but also out of genuine concern for the people doomed to ignorance by regressive education policies. Also, Texas has an unfortunate tendency to churn out presidential dynasties that invade other countries over oil and mess those countries up worse than they were before at the drop of a cowboy hat.

In retrospect, that declaration was a bit premature.

In retrospect, that declaration was a bit premature.

[Read more…]

Debatable

I used to get a lot of challenges from anonymous internet nobodies wanting to debate me; not just to argue with me online, but to “call me out” in some public forum where they thought they could ‘win’ me.  I’ll already argue with pretty much anyone as long as there is some indication that that person is being somewhat sincere and not just a troll out to waste my time. So how do you weed out the trolls?  I came up with this rule that I wouldn’t debate anyone who nominates his or her self.  I’ll only do it if some collection of people nominates someone else to represent them, someone who will debate me on their behalf.  That way, if I beat that person, I’m effectively beating everyone that person represents. That is also the only way to force accountability, something creationists consistently lack, and which is the biggest hurdle when debating them.  Disingenuous willfully obtuse or childish behavior may work for an individual, but not so much when representing a group of other people; because some of their own following are likely to call them out for that.

I don’t need to debate anyone, because most of the time, it’s pointless.  There are few instances where debates can determine the truth of a matter, and science is never in that situation.  So if I’m going to debate at all, I need to get some value out of it.  You’ll never change the mind of your opponent, which is why debating an individual is a waste of time; but it is possible to show the audience what the facts really are.  So I’m never going to consider invitations from random people who may only be trying to promote themselves, but who don’t have any real following to motivate me.

Consequently I’ve never had an actual live moderated debate. I had a moderated written debate back in 2005. That was against a couple ministers and a couple people on the Texas State Board of Education. Complete records of that debate no longer exist. The archive was hosted by someone else, and the data was lost when that dot-com went out of business.  Only fragments of it remain, quoted by different forums that were discussing it at the time.

I’ve also ‘debated’ a handful of famous fundies on the radio, but each of those shows wasn’t an actual debate as much as two guys arguing with each other on someone’s podcast.  Matt Dillahunty and Dan Barker and a few others have formal debates with a live audience all the time, but not me; never once; and if it never happens, I’m fine with that too.

I did agree to debate Ken Ham once. I was invited by the Houston Atheists, the world’s largest geographic atheist meet-up group, with over 2,000 active members at that time, but Ken Ham refused to debate me. Nor would he let any of the PhD minions on his payroll face me on stage.  A few months later, he debated Bill Nye instead.  It seemed to me that Bill Nye was my replacement.  Either of us would have beaten Ham of course, but AnswersInGenesis ministries wouldn’t have made tens of thousands of dollars by having Ham debate little ol’ me, because I’m nobody. I’m not even on Wikipedia. I also wouldn’t have done it in Ham’s own venue where he gets to charge for tickets. Instead it would have been a neutral location, and it have cost him. That was my goal.

I was asked to come to a high school in east Texas, to debate some local preacher there.  Interest was so high that they were even going to move the event to a church, which had a bigger stadium than the high school, (how sad is that?).  That fell through when each of their ministers looked me up.  “Oh that guy?! Nevermind, not in our town.”  Suddenly both venues retracted their offers.  The school who issued the challenge suddenly decided that to have one of their clergymen debate me would have been a violation of the 1st amendment. Religion is full of little ironies like that.

So last week, someone finally tells me that he’s part of some group of people who all want me to debate some other guy, someone they’ve nominated to represent them and debate me on their behalf.  I’d never heard of that person, but that doesn’t matter, and I told them so.  Then I inquired as to the when and where, who would moderate, and so on.

As I waited for my answer, I looked the guy up.  Turns out he’s an underling of Ray Comfort, and promoted by Matt Slick.  I’ve already argued with both of those people and neither one warrants any further attention.  So if I’m already prepared for them (and who isn’t?) then I’m prepared for this guy too.

This is where it gets funny. I get an email back from the person who invited me, and I’m expecting him to give me a city and a venue and a schedule, perhaps sometime in December.  Instead, he doesn’t have any of that because their representative won’t answer their calls.  Turns out he never even accepted their nomination either.  They issued the challenge to me and named him as their champion, but without his knowledge or consent!  So they asked if I would contact this guy out of the blue and challenge someone I’ve never heard of, and who probably never heard of me either, and I should do this because he won’t talk to his own followers otherwise.  Why should I do this?

So I refused.  I said I’m not going to do this backwards, and it took six more email exchanges to explain to that person why you can’t put people on the spot like that.  If that guy hadn’t accepted their nomination, then it isn’t a sincere challenge. They shouldn’t already have me ready before they let him know what they’ve gotten him into.  They didn’t even give him any way to refuse discreetly without losing face. With friends like that, who needs enemies, right?

So the next time some organization (that I can actually confirm) asks me whether I will debate whoever your nominee is, make sure that person already knows who I am, and has agreed to debate me anyway.

More Good News from SCOTUS for Pro-Choice Advocates

Good News for Pro-Choice Texans and the rest of states affected by Draconian abortion clinic regulations. The Supreme Court has granted a stay to allow Texas’s 18 remaining clinics to stay open until it decides whether it will hear testimony on how Texas HB2 puts an undue burden on the ability to obtain a safe, legal abortion. In some of the poorest parts of the state like the border with Mexico, there is no abortion clinic open within half a day’s drive.

The fight to keep abortion access available to those who need it has been long and arduous.  Texas Republicans were unable to pass the bill in the regular session of the legislature causing the taxpayers to spend millions more in 2 special summer sessions. The bill was finally passed over heroic efforts by Democrat Wendy Davis to filibuster and thousands of Texans flooding the Capitol building in opposition with a second special session. (Another reason that the Democratic party is definitely not exactly the same as the GOP)

She went to be defeated in a bid for Governor in a race where only 40 percent of Texans voted.

She went on to be defeated in a bid for Governor in a race where only 40 percent of Texans voted.

If SCOTUS decides to accept the application and rules in favor of striking down HB2, it will invalidate similar TRAP laws in 44 other states that seek to:

limit the provision of care only to physicians; force practices to convert needlessly into mini-hospitals at great expense; require abortion providers to get admitting privileges; and require facilities to have a transfer agreement with a local hospital (with nothing requiring hospitals to grant such privileges)

Thousands of people have worked long and hard against these unfair regulations that target abortion providers disproportionately over any other medical procedure.  It goes without saying that the opposition to choice has been spearheaded by the Religious Right to drive a wedge between voters.

Battle Journal: The Great Shushing of Atheist Feminists on Youtube Continues

One of the few atheist feminists on youtube Steve Shives posted a joke about that today:

The name “Steve” comes from the Greek word meaning “5th or 6th most popular non-misogynist YouTube atheist.” ‪#‎LittleKnownFact

 Aron is gratified that Steve considers him an exception to the rule.  

I responded:(few edits for clarity)

The weird thing is how popular anti-feminism is with a lot of  youtube atheists. I’ve watched this pattern even with people I respect on other matters. It seemed to originate at Elevatorgate with avid discussions of basically “Rebecca Watson is a cunt” or some variant thereof.  Now a few years later even “Anita Sarkeesian is a fraud” is starting to become dull. As if, even if those statements were true and also throw in as many individual feminists, whose style people don’t like, and together that would not invalidate the axiom that -feminism means equal rights for women.

There were also a few popular arguments that circulated like “online harassment of women is trolling or grow a thicker skin”, and who could forget the piss poor arguments about rape? And remember folks patriarchy doesn’t exist! Only said seriously and defended with shifting goalposts that could bend space time.

Now the argument seems to be defending the goalposts that Islamic women have it worse, so Western Feminism is trivial. I’ll remember that the next time I go to a rally in Texas for the millions of women that are now unable to obtain a safe, legal abortion because the Religious Right shut down all but 8 of the 40 abortion clinics.

Someone invited me to a discussion of basically Sarkeesian makes bad arguments and is hurting the cause on youtube. As if I would throw her under the bus (not that I think she argues perfectly) and play good feminist/bad feminist to get a pat on the head from anti-feminists. Anti-feminists, who trolled the science education videos Aron Ra and I make together that aren’t even about feminism. It’s like they see the videos as less important than their petty ax to grind. An opportunity to talk about their favorite obsession instead. The truth doesn’t matter.

And look at what a great pay out it has been for anti-feminists -clicks, sympathy, attention, subs, patreons, crowd funded poorly executed takedowns of the “bad” feminist of the week.



No feminists allowed

No feminists allowed

It’s like some kind of Great Shushing of feminist atheists for the past few years.

It is stunning how a people, who pride themselves on rationality, can argue for the male dominated status quo. A status quo that hurts men too.

 

Here are some more goalposts from posters to Steve’s thread that atheist youtube anti-feminists have defended:

  • Steve Shives Personally, I see the tantrums of anti-feminists like that (who do the same sort of things on my videos, posting irrelevant and off-topic comments on videos that have nothing to do with gender equality, and endlessly try to bait me to respond, like children desperate for attention) as encouragement. The worse they behave, the more selfish and petulant and utterly without shame they show themselves to be, the more determined I am to seem them pushed off to the fringes where they belong, so that the online atheist community can be defined by truly humane humanists, not people who try to twist that term into a euphemism for anti-feminism.
  • Nate Franklin theres like a checklist for these folks:
    -call people manginas
    -claim that women in the west have it good and should focus on third world countries

    -hate anita sarkeesian
    -say “its a joke” whenever they say something remotely offensive
    -viciously defend the MRM but claim not to be an MRA
  • Michea Bonilla -Say women fake rape reports
    -Mention male rape or male victims of domestic violence to devalue rape and domestic violence conversations. Make sure to ignore any feminists who try to say that they are working towards helping male victims. Call them l
    iars.
    -Make sure to call women whores, bitches, cunts, liars, and sluts whenever mentioning feminism.
    -Use the term “feminazi” whenever possible.
    -Talk about male genital mutilation (circumcision) and how women are pushing for it.
    -Talk about how feminists are making men pussies.
    -MASCULINITY!!!!! RAWRRRRR!!!!!
  • Steve Shives The male rape charity, SurvivorsUK, that had its funding cut to the total indifference of the MRAs, followed me on Twitter the other day and thanked me for the support. It was one of the proudest moments of my online life.
  • Michea Bonilla Oh! Don’t forget to take credit for things that feminists have done that help men. Remember, they weren’t real feminists since they were helping men, so it’s ok to take credit for their work.
  • Nate Franklin make fun of people going through hard times, but get upset when others do the same thing!
  • Michea Bonilla Unless it’s women going through hard times, then it’s ok to shit on them no matter what, because they’re learning their place.

Comparing Secular Conferences

I’ve been booked for a different conference or convention or similar function almost every month for the last few years, and sometimes a couple in the same month.  Of the bigger, better ones repeated annually, I’d say the most ‘posh’ would be the American Humanist Association, particularly regarding their elegant banquets and choice of lavish hotels.  I’ve attended two of their national conventions, (in New Orleans and San Diego) but they never invited me to speak.  That’s how posh they are!  Not far behind is American Atheists. Their conventions seem to have the most peripheral activities going on outside the formal scheduled events.  Skepticon is a ‘must do’ at least in that it is free and informal and favored by college kids.  Apostacon is probably the most fun one, or at least the silliest; because it’s hosted by devotees of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and everything they do tends to be a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, meeting the big stars may require an additional ticket.  It’s not like the Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas.  I’ve never been invited to speak there either, but when I went anyway, the leading skeptics’ conference had all their celebrities hanging out in the hallway. The bacon and donut party was fun too.

That’s the run-down of heathen gatherings, divided into humanists, atheists, skeptics, and pastafarians.  I’ve been to a couple secular conferences too, but they were at the state level rather than national, global, or world events. I’ve also been to those as well, but they’re usually not annual, or not hosted by the same group every year.

To my experience, the best of the international infidel conventions overall is Imagine No Religion in Canada.  I’ve been to that one twice, and was so involved in the event that I didn’t take time to get out and see the surrounding area; which is too bad because British Columbia is among the most beautiful parts of this whole continent. On the coast, there’s a majestic mountain range on one side and a lush archipelago on the other.

INR seems the best organized of all these events, with everyone reporting a positive experience, whether from the stage or in the audience; but then you have to consider who is in the audience.  There were respected scientists, politicians, and even a couple of TV personalities in attendance.  So this is where I want to give my best performance.

Bill Ligertwood, the event coordinator knows how to provide for attendees, and he knows how to take care of the speakers.  We were met at the airport by a huge stretch Limo, and that was just the beginning.

VancouverLimoOur suite was a fully-equipped apartment; it was the biggest and nicest room we’ve ever had.  That’s something when you consider how many hotels I’ve seen so far.  We were also hardly ever there.  There were special luncheons, and a dinner just for the speakers to meet each other, but we were also urged to be available to the patrons and to mingle with them.

This event is a more intimate gathering than most. At the same time, it is also a more comfortable atmosphere, with very good presentations covering the breadth of the irreligious perspective.  There wasn’t anything that wasn’t interesting, and much of it was inspirational.  It’s not specifically a promotion of atheism, or humanism, or skepticism. It’s not all about activism, and it’s not just a promotion of science either; its all of that, the full range of topics relative to the theme of the title. It’s a warm and intellectual meeting of the minds. Speakers come from diverse backgrounds all over the world, and the audience does too. I met attendees there who came from New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore and Japan. That’s quite a ways to go for a conference, but as I said, this is about the best gathering of its kind.

Fox: South Carolina Attack on Faith not Race

When are the major media outlets going to call Dylann Storm Roof a terrorist for killing and terrorizing nine Black people?

Fox News is appropriating this terrorist hate crime against a historic Black community church as an “attack on faith” instead.

Fox: proving Black lives matter less than spin

Fox: proving Black lives matter less than spin

“Extraordinarily, they called it a hate crime,” Fox News host Steve Doocy noted. “Some people look at it because it was a white guy apparently and a black church. But you made a great point just a moment ago about the hostility toward Christians — and it was a church — so maybe that’s what they’re talking about.”

Sure many people know that Fox isn’t actually news, but right wing propaganda.  However, this is a very popular example of media that attempts to delegitimatize real racial problems in America, and co-opt the narrative for its own persecution complex.  Basically Fox is being the bully in denial that wants to be the victim at the same time. It isn’t just Fox; it is everyone that buys their false narrative, and kids themselves that we live in a post-racial society.  Get ready for some head desk pounding because there is more to it than even that,  Ashley Miller is collecting right wing politicians’ appropriation of the murder of nine Black people to claim Christian persecution.  Worse than even that, it is people that live on a steady diet of negativity in our society and media against Black people, and act out in an entitled self righteous manner.

You can’t keep adding to the denial racism is a very real problem without contributing to racial tension that erupts into violence like this incident.

Update: If you would like to help the South Carolina Humanists have set up an IndieGoGo fund for the victims’ families.

Josh Duggar Redeemed?

CN Child Molestation

I didn’t want to weigh in too quickly on the molestation confession by Josh Duggar of TLC’s “19 and Counting”, but now the police report is available. Libby Anne of Love, Joy , Feminism has a good list of things that are not quite right about the way the Duggar family handled the problem. The response of course was to lean heavily on their god.

Back 12 years ago our family went through one of the most difficult times of our lives,” Jim Bob, 49, and Michelle, 48, said in a joint statement. “When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.

I don’t buy that Josh made “mistakes” molesting girls. He chose to molest girls. To be fair the Duggars did take some real world actions after waiting a year such as turn him in to a family state trooper friend. The result however was just a stern lecture, but no charges. The Duggars actions whether intentional or not kept Josh out of jail. In Arkansas, there is a three year statute of limitations on prosecuting this type of crime.

But Jesus has redeemed him, so he is off the hook right?

I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions,” says Josh. “I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church where youth leaders who were good people but happened to be women were dismissed, but male youth leaders were forgiven and “redeemed” by god. A lot of people buy this rationale that their god can forgive and redeem male leaders, but women they have to maintain their purity or earn scorn. One of my preteen friends was molested during a house cleaning fundraiser by the middle aged youth pastor. The blame was placed on the victim that she seduced him.  He continued as youth pastor and married one of my other teenage friends from the group.

In my experience, with molestation in the church, there is something creepy about the person to begin with.  They don’t get redeemed by their god, and sin no more. Pedophilia isn’t a casual mistake. Predators look for opportunities, and make choices based on a victim’s vulnerability. Children who are insecure and/or unprotected for whatever reason are singled out.  Invoking god afterwards, has always been a way to get trust they didn’t earn. I can’t be as quick to forgive and trust as they imagine their god is.

Please note: molestation is not the same as childhood exploration that went too far. Those things are not uninvited like molestation is.