A Dream Come True–My Guest Spot on This Week’s Everyone’s Agnostic Podcast

One of my favorite podcasts is Everyone’s Agnostic where every week Cass Midgley and Bob Pondillo interview people about their deconversion stories. I always wanted to be on their show, and a few weeks ago I got my wish. Our discussion is now online, and you can listen to it here.

Bi Any Means Podcast #89: Women Beyond Belief with Karen Garst

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My guest for today is Karen Garst, author and editor of the book “Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life Without Religion.” She also blogs about feminism and atheism at FaithlessFeminist.com. Today we’re going to talk about her backstory, her book, and how religion hurts women.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #89: Women Beyond Belief with Karen Garst” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #86: Autism, Bisexuality, and Fundamentalism with Mason Lynch

My guest for today is Mason Lynch. He’s a computer programmer who lives in Washington state, and he blogs at Casting Large Shadows. He has also contributed to the Patheos blog Removing the Fig Leaf where he wrote about his struggle with sex negativity and body shaming in a conservative Christian homeschooled environment. So today we’re going to get to know Mason and hear about his journey.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #86: Autism, Bisexuality, and Fundamentalism with Mason Lynch” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #85: The Hispanic Atheist with Luciano Gonzalez

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My guest for today is Luciano Gonzalez. According to his bio: “Luciano Gonzalez is a vocal atheist. He’s also Latin American. As a Latin American born in the United States, and raised in Latin America, he has had quite a lifetime of experience with the Church. By the time Luciano was halfway through his freshman year of college he had realized that he was an atheist. Shortly after realizing that he had gradually lost his belief (having been raised by Catholic Puerto Ricans, in North Carolina, Georgia, Honduras, Colombia, and Panama), he made the decision to become a vocal and open atheist, a decision which isn’t easy for many Latin Americans, especially given that he lived (and lives in) the Bible Belt. Luciano is a college student who is studying history at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He also runs the Honduras Report, a digital news group which translates news from Honduran sources (in Spanish) into English and presents them to 900+ people in Honduras, many of whom don’t speak Spanish, or aren’t native speakers and don’t feel comfortable with their level of Spanish who live in Honduras in places like Copan or Roatan. Luciano can be found on Facebook as The Hispanic Atheist and is a founder/administrator of the Secular Latino Alliance, a Facebook support group for Latinos who are no longer (or never were) religious and instead either don’t identify with any religious identity, or consider themselves someone who is irreligious. ” So today we’re gonna get to know Luciano and all that he’s doing.

Listen to “Bi Any Means Podcast #85: The Hispanic Atheist with Luciano Gonzalez” 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.

To Build A Bridge Or Burn It?

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Last week, two of my favorite podcasts–Angry Black Rant and The Thinking Atheist–did episodes about whether or not conversations with Trump voters are worth it. I won’t rehash everything they said, but it’s a question I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now: When is it appropriate to build a bridge, and when is it better to burn one?

Unfortunately I’m still figuring it out, but from my experience, it depends on the situation.

For example, it’s way too easy to write off everyone who voted for Trump as an alt-right neo-Nazi bigot, but that’s not always true. As Seth Andrews pointed out in last week’s episode of The Thinking Atheist, a lot of people voted for Trump because they were afraid Clinton would raise taxes and spend government money recklessly. I think they’re wrong, of course, and so does Seth, but I have met Republicans who say that’s why they voted for Trump. So in these situations, I prefer talking to them about it rather than preaching. In fact, the day after the election I briefly mentioned to my co-workers that as a queer trans person, I’m worried about the future of my rights. Surprisingly they understood, since my Republican co-workers are, for the most part, fairly LGB-friendly (I deliberately left off the T because they still need some work in that area).

The same goes for religious people. I know it’s a cliche, but I do have some religious friends, and they’re actually pretty cool. In fact, I recently made friends with a local barista who spent a year doing The World Race, and her mother is the pastor of the local Methodist church. We meet to chat about once a month, and I can tell she’s the kind of Christian who puts people before dogma. I still disagree with her on the whole God thing, but we agree on a lot of other things, like how so many evangelicals look past the Trump Tape. This is another situation where I ask her about her story, she asks about mine, and we better understand each other.

Now we get to the fun part: When to burn bridges!

While it’s true that not everyone who voted for Trump is a neo-Nazi, neo-Nazi Trump supporters do exist, and it’s impossible to reason with them. Believe me, I tried! They’re so poisoned by White Nationalist Kool-Aid that they’ve become to immune to the antidote of reason (wow, how poetic!). When I try to use Street Epistemology and ask them why they believe they’re right, they hurl insults and YouTube talking points. They’re obviously not interested in having a discussion; they just want to be right.

It’s the same for religious people. I tried to reason with fundamentalists, but to no avail. Like the alt-right, religious fundamentalists cry “Free speech!” when you try to explain to them why they are wrong. And just like the alt-right, religious fundamentalists literally make a living off of using scare tactics to make their audiences afraid of The Other, whether it’s LGBTQ people, Muslims, atheists, people of color, feminists, liberals, or anyone else they don’t like. I literally have no patience for these people.

This is why I hate that meme of the rainbow pride person hugging the Confederate flag person. It’s not that I don’t believe in forgiveness; it’s that I hate the idea of breaking bread with someone who thinks I should be punished for being queer and trans. When I was involved with the Emergent Church, I heard so many “progressive” pastors say homophobes and LGBTQ need to sit at the communion altar together for the sake of church unity. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to play nice to someone who is actively trying to take away my rights! I tried breaking bread with people who think my humanity is invalid, but I only ended up with table scraps. Call me an SJW, but I’d rather break bread with Meghan Phelps-Roper than her mom Shirley.

So yeah, that’s where I’m at right now. Like I said, I’m still trying to figure it out.

The Biskeptical Podcast #14: Black Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Today on the show, Morgan and I look at this year’s War on Christmas. From Black Santa to Festivus Poles to Starbucks cups, we give you the rundown on how we godless heathens are taking away Christmas.

Listen to “The Biskeptical Podcast #14: Black Santa Claus is Coming to Town” on Spreaker.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #62: Street Epistemology with Anthony Magnabosco

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My guest for today is street epistemologist Anthony Magnabosco. For the past couple of years, he’s been making YouTube videos where he asks religious people questions about their beliefs in a way that’s both non-confrontational and thought-provoking. So today we’re going to talk about what street epistemology is all about, and how to have better discussions with religious people.

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The Atheos App is . . . Actually Pretty Good!

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It’s no secret that I am not a Peter Boghossian fan. As I’ve written several times, he tends to say asinine things on Twitter and then cry foul whenever he’s criticized. He also loves to strawman feminists and social justice activists as dogmatists who think all straight white cis men are bad. Yet the whole street epistemology thing intrigues me. I never liked the whole “You’re an idiot because you believe in a magical sky daddy” approach to debating religion because, let’s face it, it doesn’t work. It only makes believers push us away even more. With street epistemology, though, it’s a conversation where, instead of strawmanning the other person, you simply ask what a person believes and how they arrived at that belief. You don’t always have to be in your face in order to get people to think.

Which is why, despite my criticisms of Boghossian, I downloaded the Atheos App the other day. And it’s actually pretty good!

The Atheos App is divided into ten levels based on Plato’s cave analogy, from “The journey begins” to “Freed from delusion.” Each level contains a series of arguments believers make to justify their beliefs, and you have to choose the best way to respond. (Hint: it’s always the question that asks the believer how they reached that conclusion.)  These multiple choice questions help the budding Street Epistemologist ask the questions that get believers to think about why they believe in what they believe.

One of the first categories is “Time to flee,” which tackles the best way to respond to extremely emotional situations by backing off. For example, if someone says, “I was just diagnosed with cancer, but I know God will heal me,” DO NOT respond with, “Didn’t God give you cancer to begin with?” Instead, you should respond with, “I’m sorry you’re sick. Is there something I can do to help?” Being diagnosed with cancer is scary enough without adding a faith crisis on top of things!

The only drawback is that to unlock premium content, you need to pay $4.99. You get the first level for free, but the second level requires money. Hopefully that’s the only time you have to pay (I’m on Level 2 now, so I don’t know).

Overall, though, the Atheos App is a great way to teach you how to have a conversation with someone who disagrees with you without having it turn into a shitstorm. I recommend it!