Open thread: Talking to religious family over Thanksgiving

It’s a big cliche at this time of year that people get together with lots of family members who have very different opinions, and they get in terrible arguments around the dinner table. I wanted to write a blog post about coping with this situation, but since my family isn’t religious, I have limited personal experience with this (mainly with some in-laws, but not for several years). One friend with a fundamentalist family (she may identify herself if she chooses) told me that you should never engage with your religious family about your atheism on Thanksgiving. And if they insist on talking about religion or politics, leave the room.

So instead of writing a real post about my opinions, I thought I’d just sit back and listen. For people with religious families of any kind, whether fundamentalist or liberal: In your personal experience, has it ever been productive to let yourself be drawn into a religious discussion with your family, particularly on Thanksgiving? I’d love to hear your anecdotes about this, whether it is about moderate success or comically catastrophic failure. Any strategies for shutting down discussions that aren’t welcome?

Call to action: What is Islamic State’s motivation, in their own words?

Update: I think this question has been answered. See end of the post.

Yesterday on “The Non-Prophets”, we spent some time discussing the fact that we don’t entirely know or understand what the “Islamic State” terrorists claim as their motivation. The group has claimed credit for the recent attacks in Paris, but the news articles we reviewed had a hard time clearly representing why they do things like this. What is their game plan? What specific beliefs do they have about God, and how do they say committing terrorist acts will further these religious goals?

I do a regular segment on this show called “Shit Internet Apologists Say.” In it, we read and discuss/ridicule the unfiltered rants that religious extremists have written online. I would like to find material that was written by or transcribed from somebody who claims affiliation with IS or al-Qaeda, and who appears to sincerely believe that violence is an effective and justified way to achieve goals that further their specific Muslim sect’s beliefs. The reasons don’t need to make sense, obviously, but they need to be genuinely presented. I’m not looking for the intelligence community’s explanation of what IS thinks, and I definitely don’t want a satirical or sarcastic representation of their beliefs. I want a legitimate link to their real beliefs, in their own words.

If you can find something like that, please post it here, private message me, or pass it along on Twitter while mentioning me (@RussellGlasser) or using hashtag #NonProphetsNews, so that I will notice it. I will read the most useful link on the next show and credit the person who sent it to me. Thanks for your help.

Updated: James Billingham on Facebook has provided a link with the full text of a letter from the Islamic State. Unless something better comes along, I will probably use it. But I think I am definitely going to need to edit it in order to get the good bits.

#RichardDawkins #Awkward

Like a lot of you, I look back wistfully upon a time when Richard Dawkins was a name to inspire admiration, and not one whose mere mention immediately triggers an “Oh shit, what has he said this time?” response. Over on Twitter, where he’s cultivated a reputation for (to put it politely) shooting from the hip and being nearly as reactionary as any Teabagger, his latest gem goes something like this:

Hmm, okay. And yet, oddly, in 2013 (*corrected posting date), the Richard Dawkins Foundation website was favorably reporting on this:

‘Secular safe zones’ offer campus shelter to atheist students

The small sticker on professor Robert Schmidt’s office door isn’t just a decoration — it’s a beacon of safety for students who feel they are being singled out for their lack of religious beliefs.

The blue, green, yellow and pink rectangle signals that Schmidt’s office at Utah State University is a “Secular Safe Zone” — a place where students who are atheists, agnostics or just questioning their faith can go for advice about dealing with bullying, discrimination and other forms of aggression.

“Being an ally to ‘create safe spaces in which secular students can question, criticize, and discuss topics and issues important to them’ feels right to me,” Schmidt said from his Logan office, quoting the goals of the Secular Safe Zone program. “All students should feel safe on campus.” [Emphasis added.]

Yeah, this is one of those moments best addressed by a Fillion GIF.


Addendum: Sadly, it didn’t take me long to find another example of Dawkins being a bit two-faced. I noticed this tweet exchange…

…and remembered that, in the wake of Elevatorgate and “Dear Muslima,” Dawkins got some personal revenge by demanding Rebecca Watson be disinvited from Reason Rally. #Awkward.

How to submit news for The Non-Prophets

People often email The Atheist Experience to ask if we’ll be covering a specific current event or relevant topic. The answer is usually no, because The Atheist Experience isn’t that kind of show — we may discuss brief topics to fill time, but mostly we are driven by callers. But guess what? The Non-Prophets is a current events show, hosted by me, Jeff Dee, and Denis Loubet, airing every other week. We do an audio broadcast live on Ustream every first and third Wednesday of every month, and you can also listen to the show as a podcast.

If you come across a piece of news worthy of discussion at any time, you are invite to post a link in a tweet with the hashtag #NonProphetsNews. No need to post it at any specific Twitter account, although I am @RussellGlasser if you have a general message. I always scan the complete list of tweets using that hashtag since the last show aired. Using the hashtag is absolutely the most reliable way to bring it to my attention as weekly news; emailed links tend to get lost in the shuffle. If I read your story, I will usually try to mention your name or Twitter handle on the show as credit.

Here are some guidelines for stories that are likely to be used:

  • I’m looking for direct links to written stories about interesting or unusual events that have some kind of significant religion, science, or civil rights angle. We will be reading and discussing interesting stories on the air, not necessarily your comments about the story.
  • Please don’t send videos (I can’t read a video!) or vague references to a topic of interest with no link.
  • I prefer articles with minimal editorial slant. We prefer to do our own editorializing. In other words, New York Times > RawStory > Some guy’s blog.
  • An exception to the above rule is that we do a weekly segment titled “Shit Internet Apologists Say.” I’m looking for the silliest, most outrageous example of the online community making bad arguments or being bigoted and ridiculous. If you’re submitting a story as SIAS rather than news, mention that.
  • As a guideline, I have a sporadically maintained document with the following categories: Atheist Data, US Politics, International, Social Justice / gay rights, Science, Religious Outrage, “Just Silly”, and of course, “SIAS candidates.”

(No need to post any news in the comments of this post; this is a general information post that I will be linking people to if they have questions.)

Stop being surprised that the pope is not your friend

All last week I had to listen to reporters falling all over themselves to praise Pope Francis’s performance in front of Congress. And then Francis had a private meeting with prominent anti-gay activist Kim Davis, and all of a sudden everyone is feeling confused and betrayed.

I feel the need to remind people occasionally that you should be listening to The Non-Prophets, because we’ve talked plenty about Pope Francis’ “progressive” persona, and we’ve been openly skeptical of him since the beginning. So here’s your reminder, because even Bill Maher used to gush about this guy:

I think the pope might be an atheist like I think Obama is. He said this week, ‘Pope Frank’ said the Lord has redeemed all of us, not just Catholics, even the atheists. And I was like, I’m going to book my flight to heaven right now.

The fact is that the Catholic Church was not ever becoming as progressive as anyone media seemed to think. On day 1, the pope hired a PR guy who used to work for Fox News. No, seriously, read all about it here. Francis was really good at saying platitudes that sounded like forward movement on certain issues, but were really just repackaging of traditional Catholic dogma.

[Read more…]

The annual bat cruise is TODAY

Lecture by Heina Dadabhoy begins at  2:00 PM at Trinity United Methodist Church, at 40th and Speedway (4001 Speedway, Austin, TX 78751).

Cruise leaves at 6 PM, don’t be late. Meet at 5:30pm at Capital Cruises’ dock, on the river, behind the Hyatt Regency Hotel, on the South side of the river. That’s between the Congress Ave. bridge and the 1st St. bridge, on the South shore. The number for Capital Cruises is (512)480-9264 if you need last minute help, or see their web site.

Heina will also be cohosting The Atheist Experience show tomorrow.

Tracie will be speaking at River City Reasonfest this weekend

Hey folks!

I forgot to mention this past Sunday on the show that I’ll be talking at River City Reasonfest this weekend hosted by the Humanists, Atheists, & Agnostics of Manitoba. If you’re interested and able to attend, you can find information at the convention website online. The event brags a lot more speakers and presentations than just me and mine–so check it out!