Michael Shermer’s Harassment

A piece has just been published about misogyny in skepticism and atheism, and particularly about Michael Shermer, that includes me as a named source who has experienced inappropriate behavior from Mr. Shermer.  It’s worth pointing out that my story is merely a supporting story to the larger overall story of Mr. Shermer’s behavior, and not nearly as awful as some others.  I have never told it in public, though many people have heard it in private, because of a fear of litigious reprisals and hate mail; it never seemed worth it until I was asked to comment on this story.  To the extent that it’s useful and people would like to have full details on what happened, this is my full story.

In 2010, I went to the Orange County Freethought Association Conference after reading about it on PZ’s blog.  You could pay $50 to eat dinner with PZ, which struck me as a good deal.  I was in LA and didn’t have a lot of friends and I was a big fan of PZ’s blog.  I was, at the time, an atheist but not really aware of the larger skeptic and atheist communities.  Which was a shame.  As I later learned, if you were part of the movement before you went to events, you’d get warnings on who to avoid.  The number one person I was told to avoid was Shermer, but I didn’t hear that until months after I met him.

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Find me at CONvergence and SSA East

Ashley

Picture courtesy Amy Davis Roth

Hello all

I will be speaking at both CONvergence and SSA East, and I’m getting an awful lot of stage time! This is a preview for anyone interested.

CONvergence

You can start looking out for me at about 1pm Friday at CONvergence.

FRIDAY, July 4th

5pm Paranormal Romance vs Urban Fantasy

With the popularity of paranormal romance, has romance become a fixture in most urban fantasy to a degree? What about the combo of romance, action, and magic keeps drawing readers? What’s out there for readers who want less kissing and more butt-kicking? Panelists: Ashley F. Miller, Cetius d’Raven (mod), Emma Bull, Melissa Olson, Rory Ni Coileain

7pm Coming Out Atheist

Join us to discuss what it’s like to come out as an atheist in various parts of the country, with different religious backgrounds, and the intersection for many of us with coming out in other ways, such as in sexual orientation and gender identity. Panelists: Ashley F. Miller, Heina Dadabhoy, PZ Myers, Debbie Goddard, Brianne Bilyeu

SATURDAY, July 5th

11am Evolution of Disney Princesses

They started out helpless (Snow White), and now they’re shooting arrows. What changed, and why? Panelists: Ashley F. Miller, Kathryn Sullivan, Michelle Farley, Windy Bowlsby, Madeleine Rowe, Greg Guler

SUNDAY, July 6th

9:30am Skepchick and FreethoughtBlog Readings

In room 2201

11am Protofeminists in Shakespeare

Shakespeare portrayed several intelligent, independent, and self-aware women–Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Katharine, Beatrice, Viola, Rosalind. We’ll discuss the problematic and the remarkably (for the era) fleshed-out aspects of their representation. Panelists: Elizabeth Bear, Ashley F. Miller, Greg Weisman, Joseph Erickson, Alexandra Howes

12:30pm Loving Problematic Media

Social justice doesn’t have to ruin your fun! We’ll discuss ways to be a literate fan of problematic media, from reality TV to video games, recognizing (rather than rationalizing) its problems, and still finding ways to enjoy it without getting defensive. Panelists: Rebecca Watson, Ashley F. Miller, Emily Finke, Courtney Caldwell, Amanda Marcotte

I will be leaving for the airport as soon as there are no more people with questions for me after this panel.

 

 

SSAEast

I will be at SSAEast for the entire program, I’m speaking in one of the 45 minute slots in union.

SUNDAY, July 13th

10:30am Feminism, Atheism, and Welcoming Women to Your Group

More hate from racists – Coalburner edition

chimpoutlogoIn case you have ever wondered whether I continue to get racist comments for having, of all terrible things, dated someone who was not white and discovered that my DNA was not 100% white, the answer is yes, I still get hateful shit.

My number one incoming link for the last couple weeks has been from a site called Chimp Out which I have no interest in linking to, but I’m happy to just give you a taste of how awful these racist white people are.  Interestingly, these people also hate atheism+ (something I’m not particularly involved in).

 

Coalburner discovers she isn’t 100% white and says daddy is wrong for disowning her

http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymi…not-100-white/

Free thought blogs, despite the name encourages anything but free thought. It’s your typical hive of brain dead left leaning shit streaks all circle jerking their respective brand of victimhood(racism, feminism, homosexuality) It hosts a number of writers including the truly odious Richard Carrier of Atheism plus. Atheism+ is basically an attempt by the far left to attach their pet causes like nigger coddling, radical feminism and so on to atheism in an attempt to make them look rational. The atheists don’t care enough about people’s feelings you see. 

Anyway, not sure if this has been shared but this woman discovers a STAGGERING 0.5% of her ancestral composition is sub-Saharan nigger and states her old man is wrong for disowning her for dating a buck. It’s a sad read because you can see her pathetically obvious attempts at trying to twist the science to fit her views and her angst over daddy rejecting her.

 

she is a confirm nigger, if you out yourself to have nigger dna than you are a nigger. no human should touch her.

 

Why would you even want to pay $100.00 to this site which will sell your information to others including handing it to the government, people are so stupid, as far as that coal burner, if your mammy is white, you pappy is white and grandparents are yt, then why push the issue? Now as far as your pappy disowning you, that’s your fault for for being a coal burner, but you went and fucked a nigger! Now you are damaged goods.

I confess that I’d never heard the term coal burner before, but Urban Dictionary was happy to help me out.  Not all of this makes sense, but it was written by a guy named proud white man w/big dick.

A “Coalburner” is a white girl who is spoiled rotten and rebels against her wealthy or middle class parents for some imagined affront sometime in their short lives. This rebellion manifests itself in the form of fucking any sloppy pussy-ass fake gangbanger nigger they can get their nasty dick-skinners on. Also see “Mud-Duck” punishing parents by giving them 4 grandchildren from 4 sperm donors with cream-colored skin, red afros, big lips and flat noses.Also see dumb bitch riding in the passenger seat of her own car , pumping the gas and paying for it. Also see treated like shit by any white man who could have ever been an equal co-habitating partner and possible non-financial sponge, not because he’s a racist but because only someone with absolutely no self respect would confine themselves to random sexual partners of a different race who’s self- imposed disenfranchisement and liberal suborned laziness only furthers their own deep self-loathing and constant rape of the english language. example- see the names of coalburners offspring, stupid-ass names made up by people unable to spell real names correctly, ie. “spell it like it sounds”, Shawon (shawn), laqueesha (?????).

 

To those of us fighting the good fight

I wrote this, originally, to console someone who was sick to death of her efforts being met with rape threats and death threats and inaccurate accusations.  I debated posting it, knowing it would undoubtedly bring with it some backlash.  I spend my free time volunteering for atheist, humanist, and skeptic causes only to be constantly met with people telling me that I am not a “real” activist.  There are other things I could be doing. It is hard to watch all of the misogyny and sexism go on in this movement.  It’s hard to watch people as wonderful as Pamela Gay be torn down for coming forward with her story.

It’s exhausting to know that there are people who hate you and believe ridiculous, untrue things about you, no matter how clear and unoffensive you have tried to be. I am tired of being accused of being in it for the money when being involved in atheism costs me loads of money every year — travel costs I don’t ever expect to see returned by my blog. I’m tired of every post being a target and rage commenters trying to tear me down for my appearance, education, and family. I have never been targeted by religious people the way I am by atheists. And how much worse is it to be targeted by a group of people you spend your free time working to help.

I am tired of being worried about legal threats and hackers, people who have targeted me as “collateral damage” to others as well as those who’ve directly targeted me. I am tired of getting flooded on Facebook by people I don’t know whenever I post something vaguely in the area of things they label social justice warrioring. I’m tired of everything being a fight. I’m tired of trying to be the bigger person. I’m tired of feeling like all the abuse is pointless because there’s no movement. I’m tired of people with power laughing or shrugging off sexual assault and harassment. I’m tired of people making value judgments about those who’ve been harassed — demanding you have had certain experiences to be able to comment on them and then mocking you if you come forward with those experiences.

I am, in short, very tired. And I don’t have it the worst, by any stretch of the imagination.

But then, sometimes, strangers come up to me or email me and thank me. They thank me specifically for talking about things that get me the most bile. There are people who hear what you say and change their mind, but they’re usually not very loud, because changing your mind is hard and takes a while and is difficult to talk about when you’re in the middle of it. I have many friends who became not very close friends for a little while because I was on the SJW side of things and they weren’t sure which way to go who are now among my strongest allies.

That said, I’ve had a hard time blogging lately because, on top of all the drama of day to day life, it’s so infuriating and upsetting to deal with the internet assholes. It’s hard to find the reward. Every post is a constant decision to put up with attacks.  I have to remind myself that it’s worth it.  And sometimes, it’s just not.  Sometimes, I am just not in a place where I can deal with the abuse.  Ultimately, while changing minds is a lofty and important goal, it’s also not our responsibility. If you’re tapped out, you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no reason to subject yourself to this if you don’t find it rewarding. And there are less hostile audiences within the movement as well.  The SSA, for example, has been nothing but wonderful to me.

I don’t know if that helps at all, just know I feel what you’re feeling an awful lot.  You’re not alone.

Vote for project about Fox News Brainwashing

There’s a project up for project of the week on IndieWire and it’s about how Fox News brainwashes people and how to fight it.  Let’s go Pharyngulate it so this important work gets more attention!

http://www.indiewire.com/article/vote-for-project-of-the-week-will-it-be-of-by-for-brainwashing-horror-or-water

 

Atheism as Social Justice

Social justice is the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities.

Sarah Jones wrote a post yesterday about why, despite the fact that she’s an atheist, she is not a secular activist.  This made me think long and hard about how our movement receives wonderful activists who agree with us on the God question, and how we sell what our movement is doing.  I have a lot of problems with the atheist movement, and I’ve struggled with engaging with it recently. The level of hostility towards women and hatred for the social justice framework, especially online, makes it really unappealing at times, and almost always exhausting.  But Sarah, sort of ironically, reminded me that I got involved with atheism because of the social justice imperative.

Sarah says:

I care more about social justice than I do about atheism, and I think a person can be a strong ally for social justice causes without being an atheist. Your belief in God matters less to me than your position on gender equality. I don’t strive for a godless world. I would rather see a world defined by respect and tolerance than by spirituality or the lack thereof.

I very much respect Sarah’s greater interest in gender equality and agree with her that respect is a better goal than ending all theistic leanings.  She also has an interest in social justice in the south (particularly Appalachia), which is also close to my heart.  And there is nothing about being an atheist and an activist means you have to be an atheist activist, there’s a lot of causes that are worthy.  If you are someone who cares a lot about equity, racial and gender justice, and you don’t see religion as the primary root of these problems (which I do not), addressing individual issues nothing directly to do with atheism might be more appealing or important to you.  So I have no problem with Sarah’s choice of focus and I think it’s got nothing to do with how secular/atheist she is, and anyone who accuses her of being not atheist enough is being absurd.  And I think it’s a shame that she, justifiably, feels the need to define herself against atheism as a movement.  But I need to push back against the idea that social justice does not or cannot include atheism as a cause.  (The rest of this is not about Sarah, just inspired by her post.)

Atheist equality is very much a social justice cause.

Atheists are not treated as equals in the US.  I know that for my friends and colleagues in various causes I’m invested in, especially those who live in blue areas and big cities, this isn’t always as transparent as it is to those of us from rural, red, or very religious areas.  The amount of social isolation and judgment the non-religious face is shocking.  We are the most reviled group in the US, below Muslims and gay people, on par with rapists.  There’s a reason we borrow the term “coming out” to describe letting people know our non-religious status — because there’s a lot stigma involved in the label and family, work, and social strife comes with openness.

Religious people get special tax consideration. You functionally have to claim religion to be elected to public office.  There are states (including my own) with unconstitutional and unenforcible laws on the books to prevent atheists from holding public office as small as public notary.  We have prisons where only Bibles are allowed as reading material (also South Carolina).  Under God in the pledge, God on the money, court mandated religious drug/alcohol treatment, child custody being determined against non-religious parents because they’re necessarily seen as immoral, discrimination and forced religious events in the armed services, religion being pushed into public schools, inability for non-religious to get credentialed to perform marriages or funerals, and it goes on in ways big and small.

There are a lot of places in the US where it really sucks to be an atheist.  Where your boss will fire you if he finds out.  Where you can’t get jobs if it’s known.  This is not oppression olympics, a lot of people have it worse.  And it’s much harder when you are on the receiving end of multiple systems of oppression.  But a truly intersectional examination of these systems of oppression reveals religion as an important source of injustice, socially, politically, and legally and atheists as victims of the cultural majority.  I think a lot of the anger in the movement is drawn from feeling disenfranchised because of minority status and the evangelism comes partially from wanting people to also be “freed from the shackles of religion” but also so that there are more people like you to be around.

But the resistance to unfairness that drove me to fight for LGBT issues, to fight for women’s rights, to fight racial injustice, to fight economic injustice, to work for progressive causes, to work in reproductive justice, is the same drive that brought me to atheism and keeps me here, despite the high level of pushback from a vocal minority in the movement who are more interested in being mean and boundary policing than effecting change.  I can’t blame anyone for leaving, I can’t promise never to leave myself, but it’s good to know why I am here.

Really Cool Megachurch Infographic

I have been a member of this site http://myblogguest.com/ for a while, but it very rarely yields something on topic for my blog.  But today I have a doozy for you.  An infographic all about Megachurches and how much money they take from people.  The best part, though, is that it still appears to be associated with a Christian mission — to get people to go to Christian colleges online. There’s a nice little “MegaBenevolent” section with quotes from several pastors, including the illustrious Rick Warren.

Megachurches, big business, christianity

Although religion is still prevalent in today’s society, small American churches around the country are slowing and shutting down at a rate of 1%, whereas megachurches are continuing to grow at a rate of approximately 8% each year. Many megachurches use more corporate marketing and advertising techniques to help draw viewers and attendees to the actual church gatherings, meetings and even conferences that are hosted.

In just 1970 there were less than 10 mega-churches altogether. As of 2011, more than 1,611 mega-churches exist. The largest megachurch in the entire world to date is the Yoido Full Gospel Church, owned by David Yonggi Cho which is located in Seoul, South Korea. The church has an annual budget of $200 million and currently has more than 850,000 members actively enrolled.

U.S. MegaChurches

The biggest megachurch in the US today is the Lakewood Church, owned and operated by Joel Osteen in Houston, Texas. Each week, the church receives about 43,500 attendees and has a $70 million budget annually. The church itself is located within the Compaq Center, which was purchased in 2010 for $7.5 million.

LifeChurch.tv is another church that is located in Edmon, Oklahoma and it is considered the second largest megachurch in the US. LifeChurch.tv was founded by Craig Groschel and has approximately 42,782 weekly attendees. In 2012, the church had about $45,754,000 in expenses but took in about $71,338,000 from donations and charities. More than 100,000 unique viewers tune in to watch LifeChurch.tv each week from more than 120 countries altogether.

The third most popular megachurch in the US is North Point Community Church, owned and operated by Andy Stanley out of Alpharetta, Georgia. More than 27,000 members attend the church each week and the church has a total of $38.5 million for their annual budget.

In the US, the state of California has the most megachurches with 218. Texas has 207 megachurches with Florida following in third with 120 megachurches. Additionally, Georgia has 91 megachurches and Tennessee, 66.

Understanding how megachurches affect small-town American and religion today is a way to gain insight into the business while also finding a church that is right for you and your family. Megachurches continue to grow steadily, leaving the future of small churches unknown in America.

Source: www.onlinechristiancolleges.com

Fall Schedule / SSA Reminder

speakingBelow you will find my schedule for the fall.  If you are a reader or group organizer and want to meet me or host an event, maybe this information is useful to you.

A reminder to my friends who are in SSA groups, I am available to speak to you about many interesting topics.  I am currently mostly located in and around the DC area, but I’m happy to travel with sufficient notice.  And if you happen to be a group who wants me to speak while I’m in the area for other reasons, let me know.  I’m happy to speak about anything (spending the night at the Supreme Court!), but there is a list at the bottom of this e-mail with topics I’m fond of.

 

September 27-29th — New Orleans at the AJHA Conference, presenting a paper about the Rural Purge.  Aside from Saturday at 3:20, I am free.

October ~1st-2nd — Boston for work.  I’m pretty busy and it’s a quick turn around, but might be in the night before.

October ~24th-27th — Miami for work.  Not sure exactly when I’m arriving and leaving, but I could have much free time if I want.

November 7th — Charlottesville, VA (more information soon).

November 15-17th — Springfield, MO for Skepticon, where I will be hosting a critically reading media workshop 4pm on Friday.

The end of November and much of December I will probably be in Columbia, SC a great deal and briefly probably in Kentucky, but almost certainly too late in the semester to be of interest to anyone.

And at some point in there I’m going to write a dissertation.  No big deal.

 

Ashley would love to speak on the following topics:

  • Atheism and diversity
  • Introduction to feminism
  • Media literacy and how to work with the media
  • Religion versus women, minorities, and LGBT
  • Using Social Media effectively
  • Film, Television, Young Adult Literature
  • Blogging, Podcasting, Vlogging
  • History of Christianity
  • Coping with burn out

Future Doctor Miller talks Karaoke

Photo by Amanda Walczesky DanielsonI know I’ve been close to radio silence here on the FtB lately.  I’ve found a lot of the fighting going on in my pages about Shermer a bit triggery, but mostly I’ve been getting ready for and recovering from the oral defense of my Comprehensive Exams.

WHICH I PASSED.

Yes.  I am All But Dissertation or, as I plan to sign only the most ridiculous things I talk about: Ashley F. Miller, almost PhD.  Of course, there’s that pesky dissertation thing between me and making everyone call me doctor.  And I’m starting a CAREER sort of job tomorrow, but I got this.

In light of the serious scholarly weight I’ve been carrying around with me this last month, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about something not terribly deep at all.  My love for Karaoke.  Consider this a love letter, of sorts.

I have been having a rough couple weeks, but I’ve had the opportunity to go to karaoke frequently with people I like a great deal, so that’s been good.  It occurred to me that the rules of karaoke and how I approach it are very different from the way I do most things in life.  There are unwritten rules, the most important of which is that Taste Doesn’t Matter.  This is really weird for me because I am highly critical, but when I go to karaoke that part of my mind almost totally shuts down.  I mean, I still notice when something I don’t like is happening, but it generally doesn’t matter very much.  No amount of anxiety meds or alcohol or CBT has ever been able to shut off my obsessive-compulsive noticing of flaws, but karaoke very nearly does.

Photo by Chris Bickel

Karaoke is about supporting people doing something they enjoy, whether you would normally enjoy it or not — in exchange, they support you when it’s your turn.  Don’t like the song or the genre of music?  Too bad, support them anyway.  Don’t think they can sing?  Too bad, sing along.  Think “Blurred Lines” is quasi-date-rape-y? Too bad, sing the “hey hey hey”.  They are butchering a song you wanted to sing later?  Too bad, clap for them and find a new song.  They’re too drunk to read the screen and don’t know any of the words? Sing along in the audience to help them out.

This rule applies to the performance as well.  You want to do something that’s fun for the room.  You’re not obligated to, you can sing whatever you want, and not all audiences are alike.  One group might be very impressed by your rendition of a slow Adele song while another much prefers over-the-top cock rock.  You can’t always know this, but when you do, aim for helping them have a good time with your performance.  Do you think “I’m Too Sexy” is a great song? Of course not — but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Many of the best karaoke songs are songs you’d probably be embarrassed to admit to liking. Want to do something weird?  Own it.  Someone having fun on stage trumps everything.

This is the only rule of karaoke.  Unconditionally love and support the singer, even and especially when that singer is you.  That’s the reason it’s fun, because it isn’t about being good, it’s about the shared performance of audience and singer.  Oh, it might be great to be the best singer in the room or give the most convincing air guitar, but, when done right, karaoke should be just as much fun when you aren’t singing as when you are.  And that’s my karaoke wisdom, do with it what you will — Ashley F. Miller, almost PhD.

Photo by Chris Bickel

Michael Shermer’s Note on the Legal Fund

On the legal fund set up for Michael Shermer there is now a note from Shermer himself, acknowledging the campaign.

People are asking me about this legal fund set up in my name, if I am aware of it, if it is legit, should they donate?, etc. For the record: I am aware of and completely support this legal fund and deeply appreciate Emery for setting it up and for the people who have donated thus far. I made it clear to Emery when he set it up that the money goes into an account that I have no access to, that my legal bills will be paid out of the fund directly to the law firm representing me, and that if there is any money left over after the case is finished that it be donated by Emery to a nonprofit organization of his choice. If anyone would like to email me directly for confirmation of the above, my email is mshermer@skeptic.com, which is posted on our web page www.skeptic.com. My reputation is all I have. I did nothing wrong–legally or morally–and I intend to defend myself and prosecute Myers until he issues a retraction and apology, as stated by my attorney.

And I would say something about that, but honestly one of my commenters, imnotandrei, really nailed it.

And, as a result, he blew whatever chance he had left of regaining credibility with me.  Because at this point, whether or not he’s done as was claimed, his actions *since* have demonstrated that I shouldn’t trust him.

When your fundraiser makes a rape joke, and asserts that people are out to “do harm to the institutions” and “have set their sights on atheism”, and your response is to say you “completely support this legal fund” — well, it’s clear that you are not only aligning yourself with people defending you, but the people who think rape jokes are OK and Atheism+ is some massive blight on the face of atheism.

And if you’re allied with them, you have lost all credibility in my eyes on these issues.