Bi Any Means Podcast #82: Leaving Islam and Toxic Concepts with Farah Shah

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My guest for today is Farah Shah. She’s an ex-Muslim born in Pakistan who now lives in Canada, and she contributes to Kaveh Mousavi’s blog On the Margin of Error. Today we’re going to talk about her backstory, her writing, and why cultural appropriation is a toxic concept.

As a head’s up, the audio in this episode isn’t the best. Farah kept breaking up on her end—and yes, even with Zencastr—so I tried to salvage the audio as much as I could. You can hear about 85% of what she’s saying, but there’s about 15% that’s still hard to decipher, especially the part where I asked her about her about the article she wrote on cultural appropriation. Here’s a link to that article so you can fill in the gaps yourself.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #82: Leaving Islam and Toxic Concepts with Farah Shah” on Spreaker.

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Genderqueer Literature Review #1: Alternating Gender Incongruity

As you know, I’ll be speaking at this year’s American Humanist Association conference about what it means to be genderqueer/nonbinary. I’m currently doing research for my talk, and since most of the scientific papers I’m using aren’t available for the general public (or at least not for free), I’ve decided to do a literature review series for my blog summarizing these articles.

The first is a 2012 paper by Laura K. Case and Vilayanur S. Ramachandran published in Medical Hypotheses called “Alternative gender incongruity: A new neuropsychiatric syndrome providing insight into the dynamic plasticity of brain-sex.” In the study, Case and Ramachandran created an online survey posted in a group for people who identify as bigender. The study had a total of 39 participants, although they had to eliminate one participant for having Multiple Personality Disorder, and three for having Dissociative Identity Disorder. This was done, I assume, in order to rule out the possibility of confusing gender fluidity with something completely different.

According to the survey, 14 participants reporting involuntarily “switching” their gender identities daily, 9 said weekly, 6 said monthly, and 4 said several times a year. The study also reveals “21/32 bigender respondents reported experiencing phantom body parts and rated them as moderate in strength (mean = 2.9 on a scale of 1 = weak and 5 = very strong)” (627). Case and Ramachandran reiterate that these cases of gender fluidity and phantom body parts happen involuntarily, so it’s not just “wishful thinking” (628).

In conclusion, Case and Ramachandran theorize that being bigender–or as they refer to it in the report, “alternating gender incongruity (AIG)”–“to be a neuropsychiatric condition; we reject false dichotomies between so-called ‘‘neurological’’ and ‘‘psychological’’ conditions” (629). They also believe that studying bigender people can help us better understand the complexities of gender.

I should point out that, according to Gary Stix of Scientific America points out, Medical Hypotheses is a “controversial journal” that “only adopted a peer-review system in 2010.” Nevertheless, the article sheds a little bit of light on the Big Question that drive skeptics bananas: Is there a scientific cause for non-binary gender identities? We know there’s plenty of evidence suggesting one for binary transgender people, but so far (that I know of) none for non-binaries, hence the reason why so many skeptics scream, “There are only two genders, you special snowflake!” While this particular article doesn’t say either way, it speculates that there might be a scientific basis for non-binary gender identities.

What do you think?

The Biskeptical Podcast #16: Resisting Trump

Today Dan Arel joins Morgan and me to discuss how to resist the upcoming Trump regime. Is fact-checking enough? What about reaching across the proverbial aisle? Listen to find out!

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #16: Resisting Trump” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #81: Atheism and Music with Shelley Segal

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I’m kicking off 2017 with an interview with singer/songwriter Shelley Segal. She has five EPs under her belt, but is best known for the 2011 release “An Atheist Album,” which includes fan favorites “Saved,” “Gratitude,” and “I Don’t Believe in Fairies” (all of which I’ll play in this episode). Today we’re going to talk about her background, her music, and what to expect from her in the new year.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #81: Atheism and Music with Shelley Segal” on Spreaker.

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The Pros and Cons of Antitheism

Well, since every other atheist blogger is debating whether or not antitheism has merit, I guess I better throw in my two cents.

When I first became an atheist, I was in the Chris Stedman faitheist camp. After seeing so many angry atheist trolls online, I didn’t want to join their camp. Plus, shortly before deconverting, I was (loosely) involved with the liberal Christian scene, so I knew not all Christians were fundamentalists. In fact, I still have progressive Christian friends who are just as passionate about social justice as I am, like AnaYelsi Sanchez (for whose blog I wrote a guest post). So while, like Tony Thompson, I will never break bread with people who think I shouldn’t have basic human rights, I have no problem partnering with progressive believers for secular social justice work.

And yet when it comes to religion as a system and an institution, I don’t see any reason why we still need it.

Christopher Hitchens once said, “I challenge you to find one good or noble thing which cannot be accomplished without religion.” I tried, but couldn’t. Community? You can find that at a bowling league. Music? Go to a local Open Mic Night. Wisdom? Try the library. Wonder and awe? Look at the stars at night. Morality? Try either John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism or Virginia Held’s The Ethics of CareThere is literally no need for religion in the 21st century. That doesn’t mean religious people are fools; most of them just don’t know you can have a fulfilling life without a god.

Plus, even though I’m happy to work with progressive believers for secular social justice work, progressive religion still has a lot of fucked up theology. For example, a lot of my progressive Christian friends love to quote the parable of the sheep and goats, and while it’s a nice story on the surface, I’ve seen way too many progressive Christians turn it into another form of shame. I can’t tell you how many blogs posts I’ve read from Christians flogging themselves because they deliberately walked away from a homeless guy on the street. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve lied to homeless people and said I didn’t have any spare change, and then felt guilty about it. However, Christians don’t see it as failing to help a fellow human being; they believe they actually failed the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Talk about extra pressure!

So does that make me an antitheist? I don’t know, and I really don’t care. I find labels like “antitheist, “faitheist,” “firebrand,” and “diplomat” to be superficial. I just do whatever I can to make the world a less shitty place. Sometimes it includes calling out religion’s bullshit, and sometimes it’s working with a religious person for a common goal. Sometimes it’s having conversations with people who disagree with me, and sometimes it’s telling them they’re full of shit. Make of it what you will.

Go High or Go Low: What’s the Best Way to Resist in 2017?

CN: Ableist language and transphobic comments

We all remember Michelle Obama’s famous “When they go low, we go high” quote from earlier this year. It was a rallying cry to all of us disgusted by the Right’s racist, sexist, and queerphobic rhetoric. However, I can’t help but wonder: what does going high instead of low look like?

A few days ago, I think I went low.

On Wednesday I tweeted “.@MsBlaireWhite is the Ben Carson of trans people.” Blaire White then retweeted it, called me a moron, and . . . well you can look at all the responses yourself. (READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!) At first I was thrilled to piss off so many Twitter assholes, but then I talked to some Facebook friends and I realized I kinda went low. Don’t get me wrong; I still think Blaire White is fifty shades of wrong about . . . everything! Yet, as Michelle pointed out in the video, technically I used the same trolling technique the Twitter trolls use. I issued an apology on Twitter, but as a friend pointed out, we keep losing whenever we try to go high, so what can we do?

At first I thought, “Well, since I’m a skeptic, I’ll just continue to debunk bad ideas.” But then I came across this article from The Christian Century called “Fascism Can’t Be Stopped By Fact-Checking.” In it, Daniel Jose Camacho says debunking propaganda with facts and data sounds like a good idea, but . . .

The problem is a particular vision of the world supported by people with power to carry it out. This kind of political project can’t be fact-checked away. As the profoundly undemocratic conditions in the state politics of North Carolina have recently proven, conciliatory attempts to compromise with this project are absorbed and outmatched by those wielding power. In such cases, our American fallacy of bi-partisanship is exposed because there are certain things that cannot be met halfway and there are times when both parties fail us.

In other words, the Alt-Right doesn’t care what a nobody on the Internet like me thinks.

Camacho’s suggestion instead is:

The important thing to keep our eye on is the power we do possess and the various avenues by which we can resist. What can resistance look like? I think we will have to utilize all of the legal, political, economic, activist/organizing, artistic, and religious means available to us.

Naturally, being an atheist I don’t use religious means, especially since theology plays a huge role in oppression. However, I think what he’s trying to get at is it’s not enough to simply write blogs and do podcasts debunking Alt-Right propaganda. Don’t get me wrong; I think those are great forms of activism, which is why I do what I do. Also, as Cody Charles of Everyday Feminism recently pointed out, some people literally do not have the means to march in the streets. So I interpret Camacho’s suggestion as this: whatever means you have to resist the Trump regime, use them!

And maybe that’s what Michelle meant by going high.

What do you think?

Bi Any Means Podcast #80: Top 10 Bi Any Means Episodes of 2016

Today I’ll be counting down the top 10 Bi Any Means episodes of 2016. These are the most played and downloaded episodes from the past year. I’ll play clips from each episode, and give my thoughts about that particular interview.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #80: Top 10 Bi Any Means Episodes of 2016” on Spreaker.

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The Biskeptical Podcast #15: Festivus Airing of Grievances

Today’s episode is our first annual Festivus Airing of Grievances. In the tradition of Seinfeld, we’re gonna tell the world all the ways it has disappointed us throughout the year. We’ll also hear some grievances from our audience, so stay tuned because we got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re gonna hear about it!

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #15: Festivus Airing of Grievances” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #79: A Very Bi Any Means Christmas

For today’s episode, I’m spending Christmas with some of my friends and fellow podcasters. I’ve got Jeremiah from The SJW Circle Jerk, Ris McCool from the Inciting Incident, Chris from The Podunk Polymath, and Uber4ortyse7en from The Secular Barbershop. We’re going to talking about celebrating the holidays as atheists, and I’ll cap off the discussion with Shelley Segal’s cover of Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun.”

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #79: A Very Bi Any Means Christmas” on Spreaker.

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