Dan Arel’s support is much appreciated. (Thanks for everyone’s support)

Since Aron launched his Patreon, he has been overwhelmed by the by all of the support he has gotten. The support has given him more time for new projects. These are a few of the new things he has been up to in the last 2 months. Like Dan Arel wrote, he has already put 4 podcasts together with his co-host Mark Nebo. This is the latest one with Deb Biennan and Vic Gettman, volunteer Humanist celebrants acting as chaplains at an American Air Force base. They talked about being persistent in providing support for Humanist airmen in the face of the opposition they get on base. The next episode will be live from Apostacon on Sept. 19th. There is an Evening of Scientific Inquiry with Neils Degrasse Tyson during the event also. Hope to see you there in costume! People think Aron is wearing one even when he doesn’t dress up.

Aron has also made  a new series called Living Science Videos with my help.  The mission is to provide teachers and students an introduction to biology based on the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards are opposed by Intelligent Design Creationist Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute and the Heartland Institute. In a nutshell, their opposition is based on the standards including evolution and climate change. (so accurate science basically) Aron and I are often asked about alternative science curriculum for home schoolers, as it is currently dominated by propaganda mills like The Discovery Institute.

Science advocates often focus on textbook wars and standards adoptions, and these are worthy battles to keep pseudoscience out of classrooms. However, as a teacher, I know a good science teacher doesn’t just use a textbook. In fact, Texas skipped their obligation in 2010 to update textbooks, and is only now starting to update outdated books. Most of the books, I’ve been issued still had Pluto as a planet.  That is why we are producing science educational supplements, to aid teachers and students, who want accurate science and promote science literacy. The last video we made was about how hypotheses are formed and what a scientific theory is.  It answers the question that a lot of people ask, “How do we know?”

He is also finally able to go testify at a textbook hearing even if it is during the weekday now that he is a full time activist.  According to the Texas Freedom Network…

There are numerous issues spread across the dozens of social studies textbooks submitted by publishers this year. These include problems with the way religions are portrayed; endorsement of anti-government, Tea-Party ideology; denigration of affirmative action — to name just a few.

This is the link to find out more about the hearing on Sept 16th. Other projects are in the works, and we’ll update you when they bear fruit.

Secular Pro-Life Same Old Scare Tactics

If I were to tell you that a purportedly secular anti-abortion group was engaging in the very same fear mongering and harassment of abortion providers that the largely Christian dominated pro-life groups do; would you be surprised? The True Pooka’s final report on Secular Pro-Life’s tactics is posted.

In addition to the other tactics Pooka documented, the group is promoting a campaign against abortion providers in the guise of concern for the safety of women. According to Pooka, in addition to making stuff up about the safety of abortion to women…

The site also doubles as an intimidation tool to be used against doctors. It doesn’t matter what type of doctor you are, if you’re a family health doctor and abortion consists of 1% of your medical activities, they’ll label you an ABORTION DOCTOR and list your name next to numerous other doctors who secularprolife have judged to be unsafe doctors ( judgment passed using their hard earned degrees in Looking Shit Up On-Line from Internet University).

I know there are people reading this who are not at all surprised by the sliminess. I hope that they haven’t also grown, so calloused by this group and other anti-abortion groups’ relentless assault on the right to choose whether a person gives birth, that these tactics are working.

However, I don’t think this group’s presence at atheist conferences, a group that misrepresents both science and the truth, can be totally explained by its relentless tactics wearing people down.

How did it get past the smell detector?

The group’s members have the appearance of fresh faced kids. Ex-Christians like myself or people with well meaning anti-abortion friends may be mistaking what they are doing with the mistakes we made as Christians. In my Christian past, I have actually given diapers and my daughter’s bassinet to a Christian pregnancy counseling center in hopes of helping women, who wanted to give birth and keep the child.

Looking back on it now, I was misguided. These groups main function is to guilt women with ultrasounds of their fetuses. I remember the tour, and the center’s pride that they had received an ultrasound.

Would you be surprised to learn that the Secular Pro-Life website directs people with crisis pregnancies to Christian counseling centers? This is the picture posted on their resources page…

The group’s defines its secular mission thusly…

Secularism. SPL seeks to increase the inclusiveness of the overall pro-life movement by creating space for pro-life atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other secularists.

I don’t think directing the atheists, agnostics, etc. to a Christian pregnancy center agrees with their purported mission to create a safe space for them. Particularly if they survived spiritual abuse.

This group is not simply misguided. A former member of theirs glibly showed all of us including children in the audience a video of abortions during a debate with Matt Dillahunty. She most definitely had the fresh faced, well meaning look down, even when she showed us the video without batting an eye. She also argued that abortion should be criminalized and prosecuted as murder. Matt’s recent debate with an SPL member showed the same callous lack of regard for women. The Christian debater argued that a woman shouldn’t be allowed to abort a pregnancy that would cripple her.

I don’t ever remember being that inhumane and judgmental at the height of my Christian years, and there is difference between some misguided person that you know or the pro-lifer you may have been and SPL.

As of this moment,  Pooka and I plan on seeing them at The American Atheists Convention in Salt Lake City this weekend. We hope the information we provided helps people to make informed decisions. I can’t help picturing a Reed Warbler unwittingly nurturing an imposter Cuckoo chick.

 

What really matters…The So-Called Secular Arguments Against Choice

It is often difficult and awkward to move disagreements forward to where they become productive in the insular, organized atheist community. Especially for a family that is as actively involved as the Ra family, because a lot of times we know and like and often respect the people involved on a personal level. And to make matters more awkward so do our other atheists friends. So basically, we all collectively cringed about Dave Silverman’s comment to conservatives about abortion rights, because we really like him and we respect his professional accomplishments in the secular realm. Of course, many of us were also chagrined because we are part of the super-progressive reproductive rights community. This is the comment for reference although you mostly likely already know what he said…

“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”

There have already been many criticisms from the fiercely, liberal secular types including PZ Myers, Sarah Moglia, Steve AhlquistOphelia Benson, and Jason Thibeault. And too, there has been support for Silverman from no less liberal sources such as JT Eberhard and my personal friend, who I can testify is actually a ray of Secular Sunshine Shanon Nebo.  Silverman clarified his comment on her blog.

Sure Shannon.
I was talking to a lot of press this week – I mean a LOT of press, and most of it hostile. When I was talking to Raw Story I gave them the same pitch I’d given so many times before: Conservatism is basically divided into two parts, fiscal conservatism, which is real conservatism, and Social conservatism, which is Christian theocracy masquerading as conservatism, with the latter holding down the former. Is the fiscals dropped the Christian social bullshit, I said, real conservatism would benefit from the influx of conservative atheists who avoid the movement due to the theocratic aspects.

I said that all of the social conservative agenda was religious in nature, to which the reporter eagerly countered that there was a secular argument for abortion. He clearly knew he was right, and so did I – there is a secular argument (one with which I firmly disagree) whose existence I cannot deny.

Rather than take the road to discussing abortion, I acquiesced to his correct counterpoint, returned to my point, and said that school prayer, LGBT equality, and Death with dignity were better examples of purely Christian positions (“it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage”), and we went on with the discussion on why American Atheists was there.

There’s my scandal. The rest of what you may have read is reckless “positing” by people who didn’t do what you did – ask me. Thank you for being responsible.

So there it is, Silverman says that even though he disagrees with secular anti-choice arguments, he couldn’t deny that they exist. As many of you already know there are secular arguments against gay marriage and euthanasia that are just as bad as the ones against a woman’s right to choose. You really don’t have to scratch too far beneath the surface of all of these supposedly secular arguments to smell the stink of repressive Christian culture.

In fact, I just did a presentation in February for the Secular Humanists of Southern California on how thinly veiled secular anti-choice arguments are. I don’t want to belabor the point but here is a photo from Secular Pro-life‘s website to just show you how they basically just spin religious arguments into secular ones.

That poster could just as easily be posted because the Bible tells me so...

That poster could just as easily be captioned because the Bible tells me so…

I have seen this group tabling at atheist conventions. If the Discovery Institute were to table at an atheist convention with their supposedly secular arguments like aliens seeded life on this planet; it would be a sideshow. Yet secular arguments against a woman’s right to choose are not self evident to some of us that they don’t have some sort of merit. We scoff at canards like “Teach both sides of the controversy” and try to be more than fair to religious based arguments like the one in that poster.

I first became aware of Secular Pro-Life through the work of Godless Bitches Beth Presswood and her husband Matt Dillahunty. Matt debated one of their members at a Texas Freethought Convention.

In the debate, she had the audience sit through a graphic video of abortions.. Nobody in our community puts reproductive rights on the secular agenda more than Matt and Beth do.

And even though Silverman didn’t intend to be dismissive to all of us, who are fighting the Religious Right’s relentless efforts to deny access of a safe and legal abortion. Groups like Secular Pro-Life, that openly cooperate with and have members from the Religious Right, can rightly claim that he said there is a secular argument for their cause. One already has. (As Jason Thibeault predicted, so it has come to pass) I appreciate his clarification that they are bad arguments, but secular pro-choicers can’t catch a break especially here in the South. We need help and are just as under fire as science advocates are from creationists down here.

This is what really matters. It is now virtually impossible for rural Texans to get a safe and legal abortion here, because religious crackpots like Rick Perry run the government and have passed unnecessarily draconian restrictions on abortion clinics that only 6 clinics in Texas are currently up to speed on. Two more clinics have shut down just last week.  How is passing more restrictions on clinics and on women’s reproductive choices fiscally conservative? Legislating the hell out of women’s uteruses and fighting tooth and nail regulations on guns and other businesses doesn’t make sense.

Most importantly, where are rural Texas women going to go when they have a crisis pregnancy when the nearest clinic is 6 hours way. And there will be more of those because Planned Parenthood clinics that provide access to contraception have been shut down by the Texas government too.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church where Planned Parenthood was stigmatized. As a young woman, who didn’t yet have the resource to raise a child, I avoided the Planned Parenthood clinic that was in walking distance from my apartment. I didn’t even own a car and walked or took the city bus everywhere. I still had more privileges than millions of rural women have right now.

I wound up raising a child as a single parent because poor women often have relationships with poor men and the economic stresses that go along with that. Most of the girls in my youth group had unplanned pregnancies due to the stigma of seeking contraception and impractical Christian advice about staying a virgin until you are married. In every state that advocates abstinence only sex education even though it is in a secular manner, the teen pregnancy rate is the highest. The funny thing is that advice is do as I say not as I do because 85 percent of evangelicals have sex before they are married. Our culture still has Christian hang ups about sex, and they are largely unnecessary due to low cost contraception, which would reduce the number of abortions.

Maybe reproductive rights is not a battle that American Atheists has the resources to fight like school prayer and the cross at the Ground Zero museum. However, religious-based regressive social policies including anti-choice are hurting millions of families nonetheless. And I think it has already been shown that if you advocate for women that more women will join your community. That is more volunteers and donors to help fight religious policies that restrict the freedom of women to choose what is best for their families not the government. Most certainly not pro-life groups of any stripe that don’t have to live with the consequences of another woman’s unplanned pregnancy. My hope is that Silverman will use the opportunity this has created to show strong support for reproductive rights and to denounce religious regressive policies.

[notice] If anyone reading this would like to help maintain access to a safe and legal abortion, especially for low income women please support The Lilith Fund and Planned Parenthood. I also will be talking about secular arguments for abortion to do my part on making pro-choice a more self evident secular position on The Magic Sandwich Show on March 23. I may see if I can enlist a fire breathing pro-choice friend too.[/notice]

 

 

Breaking Love and Reproductive Rights Out of the Christian Frame

I have been pleasantly surprised that the youtube comments on my speech on The Heart of Humanism at The Southern California Secular Humanism Conference are mainly addressing the topic.

We joked that now James Croft could add it to his CV that he spoke at an event with me.

We joked that now James Croft could add it to his CV that he spoke at an event with me.

Especially because I addressed how secularists need to examine where their beliefs about love in particular may be influenced by Christian culture such as ideas about purity. I used a rather pointed example by looking at the Secular Pro-Life Movement. Their stance is not categorically different from Cathy Ruse of The Family Research Council’s advice on making secular anti-choice arguments. Ruse’s Christian influence is clearly seen in her advocacy for state’s rights on marriage equality as discussed in my speech and her advocacy against buying Girl Scout cookies on the basis of their support of Planned Parenthood. Cuz unplanned parenthood is so much better, right?

One commenter though accepted the challenge to produce a secular anti-choice argument.

My concern isn’t from a Christian purity standpoint, it’s an issue of the meaning of human rights. We used to believe that people of different skin colors didn’t deserve legal protection because the ‘rights’ of rich white people were more important. I worry that abortion is not dissimilar.
It is a bit incoherent.  I also asked the humanists there what they thought of the anti-feminist canard
“I am not a feminist; I am a humanist.” We were short on time, but a few people afterwards said that the word feminist is like identifying as an atheist; it has taken on very negative associations over time.  I wish I had thought to record some responses afterwards.
Anyways, I hoped in this speech to help people see that sometimes the culture we are raised in can still affect how we see the world and prevent us from being better humanists. Just like I would like to help re-appropriate the word atheist from atheist bashers; I would like to help re-appropriate the word feminism from feminist bashers.
More important than the words themselves are the ideas that left unquestioned get in the way of progressing to a better society than the overtly Christian one we now live in today.

 

 

 

 

Reaching the choir

Much discussion has focused on bringing women and minority groups into the secular fold.  Considering the gender gap in secular communities (these numbers are from America) this is a laudable goal.  Conversely, in religious communities there is an inverse relationship in the ratios of women and ethnic minorities. From Protestant communities where there are 8 percent more women than men to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Historically Black Churches where there are 20 percent more women than men. There is a real disparity in the secular community between gender and ethnic minorities and white males. In fact atheists equal the Mormon Church, a racially segregated community until the 1970s, in disproportionate ratios of whites to ethnic minorities with 86 percent white adherents to 14 percent ethnic minority adherents.

Why is there a gap between women and ethnic minority participation in the secular community? That’s the million dollar question.

Some charts with data collected by the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey…

table-gender-by-tradition

table-ethnicity-by-tradition

Unfortunately often when these sorts of questions are asked; there are superficial answers that affirm the status quo rather than brainstorm solutions to the problem. To paraphrase some have speculated that women are less likely to be secular because they aren’t “intellectually active” enough. On the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities; I’ve sat in presentations where whites have asked black speakers why blacks are Christian because of slavery in the Bible. There is a bit of lazy thinking that comes with stereotyping and overgeneralizing going on. Especially by secularists who aren’t members of these groups, and lack the personal experiences or they haven’t taken the time and thought required to educate themselves to understand a different point of view.

One often neglected piece of data on the topic of secular diversity is income.

table-income-by-tradition

Christians still hold an eroding majority at 78 percent of the US population. About 30 percent of Protestants and Catholics, the largest sects of Christianity, live under the poverty line. In comparison atheists and agnostics are about 4 percent of the population, and about 20 percent of them live under the poverty line. If you look at the numbers for historically black churches the number jumps to 47 percent. Another church with a high level of minority participation are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Half of the JWs are black and latino and 42 percent of their members live beneath the poverty line.

It’s true that at about 40 percent college graduates atheists and agnostics are better educated than the average Protestant and far exceed churches with majority minority populations. Education is definitely a factor in religiosity. However the list of most educated adherents also reads like which groups have better access to education in this country by culture or income. Not just for women and minorities, but for everyone affected by poverty including whites. So you still can’t tease income out of the equation.

Religious institutions have traditions in place that support the poor. However, the support can often come with ideological beliefs that trap their adherents in the cycle of poverty. The Catholic Church’s stance forbidding birth control is a good example of this.

My experiences growing up in both the Catholic and the Southern Baptist Church doctrines limited my choices as a woman. I was told early and often that my role in life was to be subservient to a man. These doctrines condition women to accept patriarchal authority without question. Looking back on it now deciding who’s in charge of important decisions by genitals rather than critical thinking was not a good idea. Studies have shown that educated, empowered women make better life choices that fight the cycle of poverty.

Some organizations in the secular community are working to close the income gap by offering childcare and low cost and free admissions. Skepticon every year is supported by donations. It is an example of an organization that saw a need and stepped up to fill it. Low cost regional conferences like FreeOK help to alleviate problems caused by the cost of travel. Internet conferences like  FTBCon and internet resources like podcasts, blogs, and youtube help to close the income gap too.

One of the most interesting findings of the Pew Forum’s study is that the “Religiously Unaffiliated” is the fastest growing population of them all. The Catholic Church is losing the most to attrition, but they are staying even by immigration. Although Protestants still have the most adherents in the US especially in the South, it too is in decline. The young are where churches are losing the most adherents to us. If the trend continues most people will be unchurched. Secular organizations will hopefully rise to the occasion and welcome the newcomers.

One group that interests me that could use more focus is evangelicals. They are most often from the South. I live in the South, and was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. So I have had a front row seat to the havoc they wreak on public policy in education, reproductive rights, poverty and so on. Can they be reached? The answer sometimes is surprisingly yes. Matt Dillahunty and Beth Presswood of the Atheist Experience and Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist are examples of evangelicals gone rogue. Their media outreach has helped other evangelicals to see the light of reason.

It is one area where me and Aron Ra are different. He doesn’t understand why believers believe because he never really had strong religious beliefs. There is a disconnect between unchurched and lifelong disbelievers and former believers that gives rise to generalizations just like with any group that is prone to being misunderstood. The secular community can always find new ways to welcome former believers, and that can only be improved with greater understanding.

Towards that goal, I have asked Tasa Proberts, former believer and musician for the GUTS megachurch In Oklahoma to chat with me and Shanon Nebo on The Nones about her deconversion from evangelical Christian to atheist. Part of what helped her deconvert is the outreach of The Atheist Experience. We’ll be joined by the Atheist Experience’s Russell Glasser and Jen Peeples. We will also have Recovering from Religion Tulsa facilitator Rhonda Dorle on. It should be interesting if you want insight into former believers to have a greater understanding of them, or if you are a former believer too and want to help, or if you are an evangelical looking for a way out.

[important]The show will be on Thursday December 19th on our youtube channel. I will also post a link to watch it here on the day of the show. Visit our facebook for updates.  You can also PM us there with story ideas or questions.[/important]

[notice] This is the link to watch the show directly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IExEG9dKzdg[/notice]

The Trouble with Religious Bullies

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Sometimes it must be hard for religious bullies to punch down as hard as they would like to on despised minorities like nonbelievers and LGBT especially when they’re asked to stop.  It seems no matter how politely you phrase it; the mere act of the mildest resistance to their authority is met with denials, outright fabrications, back peddling, character assassination, and even counter-accusations rather than a decent apology and an attempt to make amends.

I won’t go into the shenanigans Aron and I have been faced with pleading with the Rowlett City to stop using public meetings to promote Jesus in this post. That is a separate post related to the same sort of trouble with Christian privilege as this one. They don’t get that their religion doesn’t give them special authority, and sacred immunity to criticism. It is because of these conflicts with the religious majority that I am posting in solidarity with Amanda Brown and her father Roger Gorley.

Not all domestic partnerships are respected equally.

Not all domestic partnerships are respected equally.

She writes here about her father’s run in with hospital authorities and his partner’s family for simply wanting to hold his gay partner’s hand. The family had no authority to ask him to leave as he has power of attorney. Gorley should have the same rights as heterosexual domestic partner to care for an ailing spouse. The reality of the situation is that that only works when people respect those rights. He was eventually handcuffed and dragged out of the hospital by the police.

You may have already heard of Amanda Brown from her work on We Are Atheism. A project that encourages nonbelievers to come out. She also helps organize Reason Fest every year in Lawrence Kansas.  Reason Fest is going on this weekend if you can make it. I’d like to say a brief thank you to Camp Quest for providing children’s activities. It helps my family make this trip more doable. Kudos to the people that sponsor Camp Quest.

Many of us are already aware of this story through social media or blogs. In this digital age, the hospital’s inappropriate actions in interfering in a patient’s legal wishes brought them unwanted attention. Did they own up for their discriminatory actions and apologize?  Heck No.

Instead they blamed the victim whilst claiming their own fairness, which is not demonstrated by their actions.

Research Medical Center was one of the first hospitals in Kansas City to offer domestic partner benefits, which have been in place since 2005, and we have had a policy specifically acknowledging domestic partners’ visitation rights in place for years.

This was an issue of disruptive and belligerent behavior by the visitor that affected patient care.  The hospital’s response followed the same policies that would apply to any individual engaged in this behavior in a patient care setting and was not in any way related to the patient’s or the visitor’s sexual orientation or marital status. This visitor created a barrier for us to care for the patient. Attempts were made to deescalate the situation. Unfortunately, we had no choice but to involve security and the Kansas City MO Police Department.”

 

Amanda has already made a good defense of her father on her blog detailing what has been going on. I can’t imagine my reaction after caring for Aron for years being forced to leave his side against his wishes. It wouldn’t happen, because we are a heterosexual married couple with a marriage that is recognized by the state. Despite the assurances, legal partnerships do not get the same respect as a legal marriage.

I’ll be seeing Amanda this weekend, and will podcast from Reason Fest with Youtube Atheist Shayrah Akers formerly of Dogma Debate.  We are hoping to connect with her to help her spread the word of this injustice. She is raising money to help with her father’s legal fees. Hopefully, she can find some time while she is helping Reason Fest run smoothly. We Are Atheism is also promoting Atheists Giving Aid‘s efforts to do something to help the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing. At this time they are 4 dollars shy of 12,000 dollars.

This will be our first podcast of “The Nones“. We are shooting for Sundays at 12:00 PM. Our goal is to talk about issues that concern the 25 percent of us that are nonreligious. Right now, the nonreligious are practically ignored despite our numbers in this country. We are also hoping the show coming from the point of view of women will add more diversity to our community’s discourse.

 

 

Showing Solidarity with Black Nonbelievers when you aren’t Black

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram. Read the comment policy before posting.

Last weekend, Aron and I went to a presentation about the history of Black Freethought by Alix Jules hosted by Houston Oasis.  Right now the Houston Atheists boast the largest group of freethinkers in Texas with a population of 2,078.

Salute!

We happen to know Alix from being members of DFW’s Fellowship of Freethought the largest group of freethinkers in Dallas at 1,127.  If you have never heard of him, he is in charge of DFWCOR Diversity Council.

This billboard placed in a historically black section of Dallas earned Alix much scorn. It started a dialogue about how atheists don't really do good things like the neighborhood churches. In response to a pastor's challenge Alix and friends picked greens for the needy.

This billboard placed in a historically black section of Dallas earned Alix much scorn. It started a dialogue about how atheists don’t really do good things like the neighborhood churches. In response to a pastor’s challenge Alix and friends picked greens for the needy.

We happened to be in Houston because Aron was giving a speech for the Humanists of Houston, another sizable group of Texas freethinkers, about the supposed coexistence of dinosaurs with people. Yes. People still do seriously believe that.

If you’re from Texas, you know that many freethinking Texans are actively interested in seeking the community of other nonbelievers because we can feel isolated and lonely. Two words…Rick Perry, if he’d been elected president -you’d all be feeling our pain right now. However terrible the pain freethinkers feel here, it can’t be directly compared to being a black freethinker.

As many of us already know, African-Americans are the most religious ethnic group.

While the U.S. is generally considered a highly religious nation, African-Americans are markedly more religious on a variety of measures than the U.S. population as a whole, including level of affiliation with a religion, attendance at religious services, frequency of prayer and religion’s importance in life. Compared with other racial and ethnic groups, African-Americans are among the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, with fully 87% of African-Americans describing themselves as belonging to one religious group or another, according to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Although black nonbelievers exist somewhere in the 12 percent of the African American population that is religiously unaffiliated, they earn the distinction of being triple mavericks from the American status quo as they are not white, religious, and disproportionately economically disadvantaged. Few people really set out to alienate themselves from society, but black nonbelievers are often double alienated. As Alix says

I remember the feeling of abandonment when grappling with the realization that it was my belief (or lack of it) that caused the rift in my relationships. I recall receiving a text: “write back when you’ve found Jesus.” There’s no more belittling feeling than being told that your lifelong congregation had been asked to pray for your safe passage and deliverance from Satan, yet watch the church say nothing to condemn priestly pedophilia.

 I noticed during the Q&A that non-blacks can have difficulty identifying with what black nonbelievers go through. More importantly, they struggle with how to help support blacks coming out of religion. The first question for Alix was why blacks are Christians because of slavery in the Bible.  Alix had a good answer that they identify with the bondage of the Israelites.  I want to add that black slaves like the poet Phillis Wheatley took an unintended lesson to heart from their white slave owner’s religious indoctribation.

But how presumptuous shall we hope to find

Divine acceptance with the Almighty mind

While yet o deed ungenerous they disgrace

And hold in bondage Afric: blameless race

Let virtue reign and then accord our prayers

Be victory ours and generous freedom theirs.

How could they be worthy of salvation, but unworthy of their own freedom? Unfortunately. Wheatley fell prey to the rationalization that salvation was the purpose of slavery that still exists today.  It is exactly the same type of rationalization that plagues women believers of any race.  How can women be believers with the overt misogyny in the Bible? Anyone can cherry pick among the hateful verses in the Bible to try to find a higher purpose.

Another questioner asked how one could help when for example their attempt at volunteering to register black voters was met with seeming coldness from the local black community, In some ways a better question is how can I as a non-black show solidarity or support with black nonbelievers?  The greatest voices of  African Americans have been black voices like Martin Luther King.  Alix was a bit dismayed that even today many prominent black voices are reverends.  And too, he pointed out that he originated from Haiti, a colony with a rich, cultural history of Black Freethinkers before Christian regimes governed there.

It should be self evident that Blacks are perfectly capable of speaking and leading themselves.  As an Eurasian, I would find who already has a strong voice in the community and support their efforts.  When, I was a child I went to a predominately black school.  I could sing along with the “Black National Anthem” and learn black history because it is the history of fellow human beings. So, we can join our fellow human beings in Solidarity this weekend and support them as freethinkers because their feelings of stigmatization from leaving religion are not of an unrelated category to our own. “Out of the many one” is definitely a better motto than “In God we trust”.

Aron and I will show our solidarity this weekend at an event where Alix Jules will be speaking at to kick off the newly formed Black Nonbelievers of Dallas. This is a post by Mandisa Thomas that might help you hook up with a local event.

Finding courage to keep the darkness of ignorance at bay Part I

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character.  In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned.   My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.

While there may be places on Earth that equal the darkness of Mordor of Middle Earth in terms of the very real evil of ignorance more than Texas this year; that won’t be from a lack of effort on the part of the Texas Legislature. Secularists here are already beleaguered trying to stamp out the encroachments on the separation of church and state and the religious-based war on women and science.

The amount of ignorance that sees the light of day all over the country’s state legislatures is a bit daunting. The real trolls are becoming quite bold. They have been sighted organizing even in overwhelmingly progressive states like Oregon.

New MexicoHouse Bill 206 was introduced by Republican lawmaker Cathrynn Brown.  The bill would make rape victims and the doctors, who help them obtain an abortion, felons for tampering with evidence.

Arizona: Rebecca Watson notes that Arizona Representatives Bob Thorpe, Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, Jeff Dial, David Livingston, Chester Crandell, and Steve Smith were each a bit hasty in including the phrase “So help me God” in a mandatory oath recited by graduating high school students. I disagree a bit with Watson over whether the bill as is can be characterized as simply stupid.  As a teacher, I have seen these types of pledges turn into litmus tests to ferret out non-christians  Rep Thorpe will be giving it a second look for revisions perhaps at the suggestion of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.

The last bit of news from Arizona is a bit encouraging that shining the light of reason on figurative trolls like the Arizona Tea Party reps will stop them dead in their tracks.

"Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!"

“Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!”

 

On that note, I have a bit of encouragement for those of you who posted your opposition to the “Merry Christmas” bill on Texas Senator Dwayne Bohac Facebook page. The bill would allow religious symbols such as mangers scenes and menorahs to be displayed in public schools by religious minded school authorities.  Before some of you posted on his wall in defense of the minority religious views that would be crowded out by the Christian majority in this state; Bohac was getting unopposed comments like these…

Thank you for standing up for our freedom and our children’s rights to talk about Jesus publicly. If more politicians would stand for what is right the way you have, our country would not be in a mess the way that it is right now. Thank you for your heart for God and for this country

Now that excellent comments like this one are also posted…

Fiona Albini Jallings I feel sorry for my relatives and friends in Texas. We’re not Christians, and it sounds like you’ll be forcing them to participate in religious events that aren’t part of their own tradition or religion. It doesn’t matter if you have the majority, you’ll still be trampling on others’ right to free expression of religion by forcing them to express yours. Please rethink this bill.

This bill all of a sudden may not sound as much like a great idea as previously thought by this representative. In fact, it may not make it out of committee to see daylight on the house floor. However, in a more sobering bit of news there are two initiatives founded in religious ignorance that have stronger support that have already been taking a grievous toll on public education and women’s health and reproductive rights.

In order to do these two important pieces of legislation justice, I have decided to put them in a second post.  Also, if you have been wondering about my metaphorical references to The Hobbit, if you indulge me a bit further I will wrap that up in the conclusion of Part II.

In the meantime I appreciate your comments on Part I, and if you are so inclined you can follow me on Twitter.  Perhaps, it will improve my writing’s succinctness to work within a word limit.

 

Morton’s Dementia

Back in the days of Usenet, one of the posters to Talk.Origins was a former creationist named Glenn Morton.  He is the author of a meme, Morton’s Demon which explained the sort of confirmation bias at work in the religious mindset.  This he had witnessed from within and without, and his story is an interesting one.  His career as a petroleum geologist forced him to an epiphany -wherein undeniable facts persistently refuted erroneous beliefs required by his prior association with dogmatic propaganda groups like the Institute for Creation Research.  During his slow transition from Young Earth Creationism to theistic evolution, there was a period where he was somehow able to understand how the earth was billions of years old Monday thru Friday, but he was still able to pretend it was only thousands of years old on weekends.  Eventually his mutually-exclusive dichotomy came into focus as an inevitable consequence of overwhelming evidence.

Empirical rationalists like myself once turned to him as an inspiring example of intellectual honesty, illustrating the importance of evidential analysis over whatever fraudulent fantasies one might prefer to believe.  My own perspective at that time was that it didn’t matter whether one believed in gods or spirits or fate; the important question was whether one would accept or reject evident truths that might challenge those beliefs.  It seems I had underestimated the extent of cognizant detriment which religion still has even in a diminished state.

My own experience with Morton was deeply disappointing to say the least.  At first he was open to share useful and interesting data with me in a very rational and intelligent manner, and I appreciated his time and knowledge very much.  Then in 2005, I invited him and two other Christian scientists to moderate a debate between me and an ‘ex-Darwinist’ now claiming to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution.  My opponent was busily courting certain members of the State Board of Education who had already become infamous for their rejection of science.  So I invited a couple of the worst ones at that time to co-moderate our debate and see which side the science really backed.  My opponent selected a 3rd moderator from another fundamentalist creationism ministry, a man who gave a face to the phrase, “bewildering inanity”.  I balanced the equation with three professional scientists, a geneticist with the human genome project, a famous paleontologist involved with Jurassic Park, and of course Glenn Morton.  All of these respected scientists were experts in their fields.  My thought was that any false claim my opponent made would be immediately refuted by at least one of them.  They were also each devout Christians, chosen in an attempt to keep the focus on the science, and not let our discussion degrade into theism vs atheism.

Sadly that attempt failed with my own selected moderators turning against me instantly.   The geneticist dropped out at the onset when my opponent’s mod accused my chosen mods of not being ‘true’ Christians.  The paleontologist (who was also a Pentecostal preacher) told me initially that creationists were simply ‘bigots’.  Yet he ignored everything that was being said by either side, and instead used my forum -at my invitation- to soap-box his own bigotry against atheists.

Morton did the same -only worse.  Turns out he hates atheists, HATES us simply because we are atheist -even though he was once very nearly atheist himself.  That is until he found some way to rationalize his continued belief, -something I couldn’t do, and wouldn’t do as a matter of honor.  How does Morton justify his unreasonable hatred of atheists?  By accusing us of being bigoted.  Theism seems to thrive on irony and projection.

So during our debate, he openly criticized me with complete contempt.  I had the impression that he was negotiating support of my opponent behind the scenes, because Morton revealed that he didn’t care how accurate the claims of either side actually were.  To Hell with education, facts be damned; he said he just didn’t want an atheist to win a debate against a Christian.  That’s how little accuracy or honesty matter whenever they confront religious biases.

To prove my point, he has done it again.  On my 50th birthday, (coincidentally) Glenn Morton deleted all his files from his own web-page.  His explanation, ‘Why I left Young-Earth Creationism‘ is still available on other websites, but no longer on his own.  His explanation for ‘Why I took my creation web pages down‘ is a disorienting decent into madness.  In it there are many lines of cascading failure, including this gem:

“I watched the leftist party vote 3 times to drop God and Jerusalem and then watched their leaders steal that election on national TV and everyone knows that election was stolen.”

Wow.

Sorry Glenn, but there is no ‘leftist party’.  Many normally conservative registered Republicans voted Democratic this time either because they didn’t want to be associated with religious insanity, or because they didn’t want to be ruled by theocracy, or they voted for a host of other socially, environmentally, or financially conscious reasons that might have nothing to do with religion.  Nobody, NOBODY voted to “drop God’ or Jerusalem.  As for ‘stealing’ the election, according to Global Research, all the vote-stealing machines were owned by Republicans, if not by the Romneys specifically.   So maybe we don’t all really ‘know’ what Morton obviously doesn’t know either.

Worst of all, he considers it acceptable to teach children alleged facts which we can all prove -and HE can prove- are certainly wrong.  He says religion has a right to be wrong, and that means it’s OK to lie to children in the guise of ‘teaching’ them.  He says creationism is factually wrong, and a detriment to his religion, but he still prefers that to atheists NOT indoctrinating other people’s children.  He says that offering only an actual factual education instead is somehow tantamount to a totalitarian forced conformity.

(shakes head in wide-eyed bewilderment).

It occurs to me that Glenn Morton’s notoriety -and all the respect he has ever rightfully earned- was based on a single honest reflection, a period of clarity -which his religion has since found a way to retard and reverse; much the pity.

I should have promoted this event better than I did

I very much enjoyed the Secular Rally this weekend in Tallahassee, Florida.  I thought it was very well arranged.  There were plenty of good presenters, several tents and tables representing secularism, atheism, and aspects thereof.  They provided porta-potties, two food wagons, lots of amplification and recording equipment, and everything one should have considered to put on a fine event, and it was a very good event.

The only thing they didn’t have was a crowd; very few people turned up.  Now part of that is that it was Tallahassee.  Northern Florida is the really red part -where the Hovinds and their ilk are.  Southern Florida is much more blue.  Many of the folks who did show up came in from out-of-state.  The locals who would normally have supported us might have been distracted by Bill Clinton’s appearance at another rally on the same weekend.  Tallahassee apparently isn’t big enough to host the both of us.  Another problem was likely a lack of promotion.  On Sunday I looked for the sites advertising the event, and found one that -at the time when I saw it- said it had been posted 19 hours ago, but was advertising what was ‘going to happen’ 27 hours ago.  That probably wasn’t the most effective way to get the word out.

Skepchick blogged about it, as did I, Jessica Ahlquist tweeted about it, and I know one person who drove over three hours on that notice alone.  It was the first time Zinnia Jones had ever spoken in a live venue before, and she may be the only speaker who made a promo video.  I should have done that too, because I reach a lot more people that way than I do on this blog.  So I may as well blame myself and take it as a lesson for next time.  I will personally promote whatever future events I intend to attend, and assume responsibility myself when the turnout is poor.

By the way, Skepticon 5 is this coming weekend, November 9th – 11th in Springfield Missouri.  It’s always a good event, and it’s free, but they run on donations, and they need some right now.  So try to help out if you can, and I’ll see you there.