The Unbelievers

Next week, Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss will tour the US to personally host special screenings of ‘The Unbelievers’.

A few months ago, Krauss and I were having breakfast in Oklahoma City, and he was telling me about his new movie.  I remember remarking that when Dawkins and Krauss are in a movie, it’s produced in Hollywood, but almost every professional documentary film I’ve been in was released straight to YouTube. Of course that’s because he’s Professor Brilliant PhD, and I’m just some guy with a web cam.

But this is a unique idea, not just to show the film, but in a sense to premier it at different locations like a concert.  To have the world-famous physicist and the evolutionary zoologist presenting their own film -live in person in different venues; it’s a great idea.

There will be guest speakers at different points too. Depending on the site, it might be Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller. Filmmakers Gus Holwerda, and Luke Holwerda of Black Chalk Productions. These people will be available to take questions from the audience.

Scheduled appearance-screenings are:

– April 2, 2014, at 6:00 p.m.
The UC San Diego RIMAC
9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla CA

– April 3, 2014, at 7:30 p.m.
The Cox Pavilion at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 S Maryland Pkwy, Las Vegas, NV 89154
Hosted by magician Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller

– April 7, 2014, at 7:00 p.m.
The Mershon Auditorium at The Ohio State University
1871 N. High Street, Columbus, OH

If you’re in range of any of these three venues, you can buy tickets here.  You can also get free the first chapter of Richard Dawkins’s autobiography, An Appetite for Wonder, by signing up for news from the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s fight for reason and science! See http://richarddawkins.net/.

This sort-of traveling show, as it were, promotes a movie which is itself about a road trip of sorts, with footage shot at various locations from Australia to New York.

Several celebrities appear in the film to support Dawkins and Krauss on their journey to promote reason and science, including Woody Allen, Stephen Hawking, Stephen Colbert, Cameron Diaz, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Werner Herzog, and Bill Maher.

Personally, what I found most exciting about the footage in the trailer were the scenes I remember, like from the Reason Rally in Washington DC and the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, because I’m happy to say I was there.

Courtney Caldwell and Sarah Moglia joining me to discuss secular anti-choice arguments withMSS

So I won’t be the “token woman” on this round of discussion on the Magic Sandwich Show.  Sarah Moglia has already weighed in on her opinion of secular arguments against abortion. Also Courtney Caldwell will be joining the discussion . I first became aware of her when she liveblogged the Wendy Davis filibuster.

Should be an interesting discussion on this topic with well informed women on the topic of reproductive rights. Hopefully we can persuade more people to get off the fence and support reproductive rights and reject irrational anti-choice arguments. This is not an easy discussion for most of us to have, and I hope it will be valuable.

[notice]Magic Sandwich Show at 2:00 PM CST[/notice]

 

 

Secular Pro-Life “Holocaust Baiting” Post 2

The second post looking at Secular Pro-Life’s tactics is up. I hope that informing the community about what they advocate will provide information about SPL for our community to make up their own minds. This series will show that the people at SPL aren’t critical thinkers and haven’t earned the title “freethinker.”

To that aim, the True Pooka, whose family was directly affected by the Holocaust, breaks down the numbers on SPL’s “Are You One in Six Million?” Campaign. The campaign is targeted at how many people they have calculated are secular and anti-choice.  The numbers include all of “The Nones”, including the religious but unchurched -the largest group. He also shows you how the campaign is borrowing persecution from the Holocaust.

What troubles me the most about this group tabling at conventions is that were they advocating another form of woo such as natural cancer cures or Intelligent Design; it would be apparent to an overwhelming number of attendees that they aren’t an acceptable ally. However, we have prominent secularists, stating that while they don’t agree with them that they are suitable allies.  The comments on secular arguments against choice are littered with this sentiment. For a comparison I have not seen an equal sentiment in our community that the creationists that are demanding equal airtime to Cosmos deserve a platform. To borrow a phrase, do we have to be so open minded that our brains fall out?

To remind you this group doesn’t work on anything else other than anti-choice.  It is troubling that it isn’t self evident that abortion rights are a strong secular position.

[notice] I will be on the Magic Sandwich Show tomorrow at 2:00 CST discussing the secular arguments against abortion, and I am confirming two fierce pro-choice feminists to join us. I will announce it once it is confirmed.[/notice]

Secular Pro-Life “Fetus Worshippers”?

Should we defend freethinking spaces from anti-choicers like Secular Pro-Life? I wanted more information on this organization as I have seen them at conventions.  Lucky for me, I know you-tuber True Pooka, who as he will tell you, shares the same concern. He has more experience investigating anti-choice groups than I do. He has shown me things I wouldn’t have seen; even though SPL hides them in plain sight. So I asked him to help me gather information in order to share it with our community. I don’t have faith in anything, but I trust in the people I have communed with at gatherings that they are an intelligent bunch, and can make up their own minds. So here is his first post in a series on what he found when looking at Secular Pro-Life…

We report, you decide, right?

This is his rationale for investigating SPL’s claims…

This is a topic that I’ve always found rather fascinating. I was raised in a strict Judaic upbringing so I’ve always considered the pro-life position on abortion law to represent a two-fold threat; a threat to not just the rights of women but to the right of my religious group of upbringing to practice their religious beliefs when it comes to abortion.
I was also once one of those young men who were placed in the unfortunate position of having to fight his way past protesters to help take a loved one to have a needed abortion, an abortion that she would die without. So I’ve always had a multi-faceted interest in the abortion issue and over the years have done a certain amount of study on the topic. I was genuinely curious because while I’ve heard quite a few arguments against abortion that claim to be secular in nature, as of yet none of those arguments that have been presented to me have been logically consistent. In fact the presentations of the majority of alleged secular arguments against abortion are distinctly religious in nature.

He will get to the meat of what he found this week in the next post.

Lucky for you, you can get a peek of what’s going on in their rationale because Matt Dillahunty is debating one of their openly Christian members this next week on March 25. His last debate with a former SPL member was more like debating someone, who argued like a Christian.

SPL has also taken umbrage at PZ, Greta, and Avicenna’s post on their blog.

22 questions for ‘evolutionists’ -answered

Ever since I saw that Buzzfeed article, ‘22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In Evolution‘, I wished I could talk to each of those poor, misguided people. I mean, many of them seem like nice genuine folks, but they’ve all been deceived by the charlatans of religion, and that is very sad.  What they think they know about science is usually completely backward.  They’ve been so misinformed that some of their questions and comments remind me of the famous quote from physicist Wolfgang Pauli, criticizing poorly composed research, “That’s not right, it’s not even wrong.”

Hopefully some of those people will see this video.

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]

 

 

The Place with the New Covenant Group

theplace

I was recently on two episodes of ‘the Place’ with Dr & Mrs Jones of the New Covenant Group.

First they talked just with me.

That went pretty well, so I joined the panel for the evening show.

I very much enjoyed participating in the show, and I applaud the effort behind maintaining an interfaith dialogue. It’s especially necessary now because there are two trends which need to be considered separately, and then comparatively.  One is that religion is in general decline in all fifty states.  Those who reject religious classification, those who have no interest or need of religion, and those who are coming out atheists and antitheists make up overlapping demographics accounting for at least 20% of the American population so far, and all charts indicate that percentage is rising fast.  However the percentage of believers who are creationist, those who (perhaps unknowingly) reject not only the conclusions of science but also its methodology -is actually on the rise, They account for almost half the nation’s population, and they’re the majority among those who still cling to faith at all.

Now it used to be -several decades ago, that most people believed in some sort of faith-based mumbo-jumbo; but those same people usually knew better than to mix religion and politics, and every sensible person knew that you’d better understand science regardless whatever else you might believe. But now, those who accept and employ science are abandoning religion completely, and those who praise faith are rejecting epistemology entirely, becoming religious extremists. In short, the US population is becoming polarized, and that’s not a good way to be.

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.

 

 

 

 

Happy B-day, Chuckie D.

ChuckieDI’m sorry to say I’m not doing any Darwin-Day presentations this year.  That’s too bad too.  I really enjoy those. For three years in a row, I had the honor of being keynote speaker in James Randi’s group in Fort Lauderdale Florida.  Here I am posing with the 205 year-old birthday boy.

There’s a very good Darwin Day event going on tonight (Wednesday Feb 12th) in London.  I so wish I could attend!  Dr. Alice Roberts is on my A-list of people to meet (along with Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson). I would love to have her on our show, Dogma Debate on iHeart Radio for just twenty minutes over a Skype call, but she’s always on the go, filming excellent science documentaries all around the world.

On this occasion, she’s giving an anthropological lecture, and sharing the stage with Prof. Richard Dawkins.

If tickets are still available, here is the link:

Darwin Day Lecture: How to Make a Human.

If you do get tickets, let me know, and tell her I sent you.

Speaking to San Diego Humanists

Every February when I’m starting to get tired of freezing temperatures every day, someone invites me to a warmer clime, and I welcome the escape.  (Yes I know, most of you live in lots colder places than Texas!) This weekend, my wife and I will participate in the Southern California Secular Humanist conference at the Mission Valley Resort Hotel in San Diego.  There will be many other speakers including, Margaret Downey, Dan Arel, James Croft, illusionist Jamy Ian Swiss, and comedian Steve Hill.  If you’re in that area (or want to be) please check the link to sdhumanists.org for other speakers you might want to meet, and please attend.