Do we live in a post-racial society in the secular community?

People of Color Beyond Belief is hosting a webcast to debunk the notion that we live in a post-racial society. It is starting right now, and is moderated by Sikivu Hutchinson.  The panelists are Kimberly Veal, Black Freethinkers & Black Skeptics Chicago Donald Wright, Houston Black Non-Believers Raina Roades: Black Freethinkers – The RSS Feed & Rhoades to Reality.  They are having some technical issues, whicj I think may be related to a feedback loop with the speakers and the microphones. Hopefully, they can figure the problem out.

We finally pulled in to Skepticon

Only to be told we have been bumped from The University Plaza to the Holiday Inn because the event hotel is overbooked.  It is 2:00 AM local time here, and Aron is still fussing over his speech about Pterosaurs for tomorrow at 10:00 AM. Normally freethinking events are a respite for me from problems that come with being an Atheist Texan.

But this time, I feel a little bit of dread. Admittedly, PZ had more reason to feel dread with people threatening a walkout of his speech. The reason is I’ve gotten so many hateful youtube comments from anti-feminist atheists on the discussion I did about rape culture. I feel a little anxious that I might run into someone like that here.

Every year, Skepticon has been a welcoming haven to me, so the anxiety is probably misplaced. I always try so hard to be decent to people nearly to a fault, so I am a bit flummoxed by hostility. Even from people I know are going to be hostile like Ken Ham. Hostility within the community that has always been a safe haven to me is much harder to get a handle on.

Can we agree that an education is a basic human right?

In an information based society, undereducated children are at a disadvantage. Besides a mind is a terrible thing to waste, right? Here is my speech at The Houston Museum of Science hosted by Houston Atheists in defense of accurate science education for everyone. It had a pretty good turnout of 250 which was the capacity of the room.

It was part of a weekend of anti-creationism activities as a result of Ken Ham’s bullying and obdurate determination to sell creationism as science curriculum. At a creationism conference the same weekend, he boasted to 600 people that we had gathered only a handful of supporters. As if he had gathered even 6 billion people that would make him right. He mocked me to the crowd and they had a laugh at my expense.

Despite that, I’ve come a long way in my fear of public speaking. It is important to speak out against scientific illiteracy.

Underneath it’s all the same love

I was surprised to hear a powerful song on mainstream radio about LGBT rights for one thing. But then the song is also openly anti-religious too. When I thought about it how can a song about how harsh the world is to LGBT people be anything but anti-religious in order to speak the truth?

The steady stream of hate coming from the pulpits turns more people away from the church than any advocate of atheism ever could.

Same Love Lyrics
by Macklemore (bold emphasis mine)
[Verse 1: Macklemore] When I was in the 3rd grade
I thought that I was gay
Cause I could draw, my uncle was
And I kept my room straight
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like, “Ben you’ve loved girls since
before pre-K”
Trippin’, yeah, I guess she had a point,
didn’t she
A bunch of stereotypes all in my head
I remember doing the math like
“Yeah, I’m good a little league”
A pre-conceived idea of what it all meant
For those who like the same sex had the
The right-wing conservatives think it’s a
And you can be cured with some
treatment and religion Man-made, rewiring of a pre-disposition
Playing God
Ahh nah, here we go
America the brave
Still fears, what, we don’t know
And God loves all His children
Is somehow forgotten
But we paraphrase a book written
35 hundred years ago
I don’t know
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm [x4]
[Verse 2: Macklemore]
If I was gay
I would think hip-hop hates me
Have you read the YouTube comments
“Man that’s gay”
Gets dropped on the daily We’ve become so numb to what we’re
Our culture founded from oppression
Yeah, we don’t have acceptance for ‘em
Call each other faggots
Behind the keys of a message board
A word routed in hate
Yet our genre still ignores it
Gay is synonymous with the lesser
It’s the same hate that’s caused wars from
Gender and skin color
Complexion of your pigment
The same fight that lead people to walkouts and sit-ins

t’s human rights for everybody
There is no difference
Live on! And be yourself! When I was in church
They taught me something else
If you preach hate at the service
Those words aren’t anointed
And that Holy Water
That you soak in
Is then poisoned When everyone else
Is more comfortable
Remaining voiceless
Rather than fighting for humans
That have had their rights stolen
I might not be the same
But that’s not important
No freedom ’til we’re equal
Damn right I support it
I don’t know
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm [x4]
[Verse 3: Macklemore] We press play
Don’t press pause
Progress, march on! With a veil over our eyes We turn our back on the cause
‘Till the day
That my uncles can be united by law
Kids are walkin’ around the hallway
Plagued by pain in their heart
A world so hateful
Someone would rather die
Than be who they are
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start
No law’s gonna change us We have to change us Whatever god you believe in We come from the same one
Strip away the fear
Underneath it’s all the same love
About time that we raised up
[Hook: Mary Lambert]
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to
And I can’t change
Even if I tried
Even if I wanted to My love, my love, my love
She keeps me warm [x4]
[Outro: Mary Lambert]
Love is patient, love is kind
Love is patient (not cryin’ on Sundays)
Love is kind (not crying on Sundays) [x5]

Some Insights from Bridgett “Bria” Crutchfield and Alix Jules on being a Black atheist

Recently I had the opportunity to listen to Bridgett “Bria” Crutchfield and Alix Jules tell their stories about growing up in the black community which can be very religious and adjusting to the atheist community. Bridgett asked me during the discussion if I understood what they go through. For video link click on the title.

I am not satisfied with the answer I gave her. As a person of color, I do understand what it feels like to be the ethnic odd man out. Growing up in Texas, I went to an upper class high school where the majority of students were white. I was often mistaken for the only other person with Asian ancestry that anybody could tell from their appearance -the Japanese exchange student. A girl once whispered in homeroom class, “she’s Chinese”. Nevermind we had the same Germanic last name because I’m Eurasian. That fact escaped her notice.

Anyways, I was basically invisible at that school invisible except for the passing curiosity about whether I was an exchange student. Again, never mind my English was sometimes more fluent than many other native speakers. I’ve also had experiences in a lower class elementary school where my ethnicity caused more overt racism like hair pulling and mock Chinese taunting in the hallways. I could go weeks without speaking to another child. Even as a young woman, a woman at a cosmetic counter told me my acne was a reason races shouldn’t mix. More often people keep their ugly thoughts hidden away like fangs behind a polite smile. If you wanted insight into what it is like to sometimes be an ethnic outcast because of being bi-racial or what it is like to be a person that doesn’t neatly fit in anywhere; I would be the person to listen to.

However, I can’t really say that I totally get what it is like to be a Black atheist. The only people, who can say what that is like are Alix and Bridgett. I haven’t had to live through many of the things they are forced to endure. I can’t say that I have ever had security called on me at an atheist conference like Alix has at a conference he was speaking at! Asians are generally not profiled as security threats by racist white people simply for their phenotype.

Although that incident is ugly it is easier to identify than being politely ignored like Bridget shared in the discussion. She told us that often when she goes to atheist conferences no one speaks to her. Then after she finishes a speech more people notice her and start talking to her. (American Atheists convention Austin was an exception she said) Cultural awkwardness like I pointed out to her can’t explain all of this behavior. It should go without saying that we are all human beings at this conference and can relate on some level. And we are all atheists, for no god sakes!

Having listened to her tell her stories and Alix’s, I have a few pieces of the puzzle to understand what black atheists go through. I genuinely want Black atheists to feel welcome in our community. Most well meaning people want the same thing. If that is going to happen a whole lot of well meaning folks need to start being better listeners.

My friend and Nones co-host Shanon Nebo just happened to finish editing the discussion yesterday. Yesterday, I also happened to notice a kerfuffle between my facebook friends some of whom are real life friends. It seems that some people are criticizing Bria for becoming angry at an insensitive question from a white person during a speech given by Mandisa Thomas. One person even labeled Bria’s reaction as “cruel” and “inappropriate” and suggested that she had the intent of shaming the person.

I have to reserve final judgment until I see the video of what happened. However, the question as posed reeks of cultural insensitivity. Why ask Mandisa about what blacks are going to do about black on black crime? That topic is a racist talking point. Let me pose this question to people, who think this person was merely ignorant and not deserving of being dressed down for it.

If a gay atheist had the podium and an audience member asked them what homosexuals were going to do about AIDS and you were homosexual too would you not be livid as well?

Would you wait and compose a calm response on your blog later, or try to calmly educate this person later in the hallway?

Would anyone expect you to?

Or more likely, wouldn’t you be stunned at the inherent stereotyping in that question that is an oft repeated homophobic talking point?

Would your shock give way to shame in a place you had thought was a social haven from prejudicial cognitive biases?

Or maybe you didn’t think that, and thought this community still had strides to make before homosexuals truly feel welcome there? Just maybe that is why you were there in the first place because you hoped that you could break through the ice and people would see a fellow human being.  A fellow human being -not a person they had prejudged and decided they wouldn’t socialize with. Only to be reminded in front of the group that you are not a human being to be judged separately, but must somehow make valiant efforts to stop the unfair stereotypes that other people perceive about your minority community? The stuff you had heard your entire life. The same stuff you have had to bite back responding to for fear of reprisal such as a loss of your job. The stuff you have had to smile politely back to, as there was no other reaction that would remedy the situation.

Would the shame give way to anger?

After you struggled to calm down through another speech would you stand up in front of the group and set the record straight or let it drop?

Even without watching the video of what happened, it needs to be said that the atheist community is just going to have to do the work of actively listening to the stories of Black atheists if they want to understand what makes them feel welcome and unwelcome.




I can’t believe I shook Eric Hovind’s hand

I also thanked him for being polite, while he interviewed the group. Evolution supporters had gathered to demonstrate in Houston against creationism being taught as science. I consented to Hovind interviewing me on the condition he didn’t cut the video. However, he weaseled out of his promise by posting the entire interview and then cutting my part of the interview in a separate video in such a way to make it look like I was saying something I wasn’t.

This is the cut interview (click on the title of this post if you can’t see the video links)…

He asked me if truth is the same as real or reality. I said I don’t know if truth equals real. He cut it there before I explained that truth is an umbrella term meaning it can’t be simply interchanged with the term real. He then added a part where I said that I am a science teacher.

This is the full interview with what I said about truth in context in the last few minutes of the video…

The way he misrepresented what I said ironically shows that the truth is not really important to him. How about bearing false witness as well?


The only minority Juror B29 leaves justice for Trayvon up to god.

As if the George Zimmerman acquittal is not galling enough already. I wonder if there was a secular jury, if we would have had the same result? At least they wouldn’t be pointing to an invisible deity hoping to absolve themselves of responsibility for justice for Trayvon Martin. And I quote

“George Zimmerman got away with murder, but you can’t get away from God. And at the end of the day, he’s going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with,” Maddy said. “[But] the law couldn’t prove it.”

Get your barf bags ready if there is a book deal.

Get your barf bags ready if there is a book deal.

That’s right lady pawn your responsibility for justice for Travyon Martin, and his family, and the community off on your god. I want to yell at the screen.

“You don’t really know if anything will actually happen to Zimmerman after he dies. No one does!”

Let’s play Devil’s Advocate here, what if there is a god?

1. If that god was concerned about justice then it wouldn’t have an excuse for why people are still dying because of the color of their skin. While we are at it; how about the millions, who have died because of religion?

2. But if we can conveniently forget what we don’t want to know, let’s just say that this god does care about justice. How do you think it would feel about someone that might have done something just, but pawned responsibility for that on the afterlife? How do you think that god will feel, if it cares about justice, not just about how many more blacks have died without justice, but how many more will die as a result of this ruling and further abuse of Stand your Ground Laws?

• Defendants claiming “stand your ground” are more likely to prevail if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.


• The number of cases is increasing, largely because defense attorneys are using “stand your ground” in ways state legislators never envisioned. The defense has been invoked in dozens of cases with minor or no injuries. It has also been used by a self-described “vampire” in Pinellas County, a Miami manarrested with a single marijuana cigarette, a Fort Myershomeowner who shot a bear and a West Palm Beach jogger who beat a Jack Russell terrier.

If I still felt any sort of sympathy for her being on the jury in a tough case, it’s gone after reading this (Bold emphasis mine)

“It’s hard for me to sleep, it’s hard for me to eat because I feel I was forcefully included in Trayvon Martin’s death. And as I carry him on my back, I’m hurting as much [as] Trayvon’s Martin’s mother because there’s no way that any mother should feel that pain,” she said.

At least your child is still alive, don’t thank god or the state of Florida for that.

The Asian Panel at FTBCon has spawned a group for Secular Asian Americans

Our panel was composed of East and South Asians, and Hemant Mehta joked we were the only Asian freethinkers. We wondered why we didn’t see more Asian faces active in the freethinking movement. Yau Man Chan‘s theory is that culturally many Asians don’t want to rock the boat, and prefer to keep their heads down. Many may not want to clash publically, and put themselves out there opposing theism.  It was a great discussion, we had a great panel in addition to the people we already mentioned with Vic Wang, Cindy Cooper, Razib Khan. Shanon Nebo joined me as a fellow Nones co-host, which was brave of her. Some might be intimidated being the odd person out with that many Asians. It is so easy to make a misstep, and inadvertently offend on sensitive cultural topics.

Speaking of that I can’t resist saying that I was actually correct on one of the points of contention with Razib Khan. A viewer asked a question about women’s issues getting more Asians involved in secularism. My response was that Asians tended to vote Republican due to financial issues until relatively recently. Khan disagreed. He did add a lot of interesting points about the history of secularism in East Asian governments like China. Many Asian governments don’t have the entanglements of theocracy, for good reasons. The major Eastern religions don’t tend to be as dogmatic as Abrahamic religions can be. It was an interesting discussion, Damian Torres Reinhard of Background Probability did a fair review of the panel,other panels, and FTBCon’s room for improvement.

Some Asian freethinkers were interested in starting a group to continue the discussion. You can join the Secular Asian Americans even if you are not an Asian American in solidarity with what they face trying to have a voice in a society dominated by religion. There were people, who aren’t Asian, but curious about Asian freethinking issues and culture who joined too.

Where are the Asian Faces of Freethought?

This quote from John Xu…
“I have often remarked how little interest people of my ethnicity have for secularist and freethought issues. My theory is that this is because they are the product of very complicated and difficult social, political, and intellectual turmoils of the 20th Century. Most Chinese people I know are brought up with a single-minded concern about generating wealth and a general apathy about philosophical matters. This is likely because their parents lived through such hard times.”

It inspired the idea for the panel discussion tonight on at 6:00 PM CST. Unfortunately, for us John can’t make it tonight because he is getting married today. We taped his part of the discussion, since his quote inspired curiosity about why this so.

We will be talking to Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist, Yau Man Chan of Skeptic Blog and Survivor Fiji, Razib Khan of Gene Expression of Discover, Vic Wang of Houston Atheists, and Cindy Cooper of Camp Quest Oklahoma and Texas. The topic is “Where are the Asian Faces of Freethought?”

Freethought is an ancient Asian tradition.

Freethought is an ancient Asian tradition.