Why I work late

Oy. Tonight was a long one. Deadlines aren’t always as flexible as one might hope, and science sometimes does not play by human clocks. But it’s all worth it for a chance to piss off the anti-science, pro-God set. One of my secret atheist coworker friends (we have a secret handshake okay no we do not but I’d totally learn one because who doesn’t want to be part of a club that has secret handshakes), gave this to me today:

2014-07-29 13.15.51

Text on a small scrap of paper says: “SCIENCE: The study and investigation of phenomena based on rigorous study and experiment, conducted solely for the purpose of pissing off those who think God did it all.”

Yup. As Fox News has known for years, science-ing is actually part of the Atheist Agenda. I do what I can. You’re welcome.

Celebrating Our Dead

Today I had a strong urge to visit someone’s grave. She was a coworker who I worked with for about five years. She retired a year or two ago, and passed away in 2013. We shared an enjoyment of photography, and because we knew each other’s politics, we avoided discussions of that sort. She was a kind woman, always quick with a smile and a laugh. She liked to tell stories of her family and vacations. She was a hard worker, and knew how to care for all of the little details that keep a lab running. She was happy to teach what she knew, and taught me a lot of what I know about this place.

I don’t know where she’s buried, and as I toyed with the idea of seeking out her grave, reality began to intrude. I know that nothing exists after death. I will return to earth and sky and stardust, as did my coworker, and so I mused over this strong desire to visit “her”. I flipped through the logic: I don’t care about visiting her physical body – because eww. I don’t really want to drive a gazillion miles to find the physical cemetery in which she’s buried. I want to remember her contributions, the happiness that she brought me. I want to grieve that she won’t contribute anything new, and I want to mourn that I no longer have this particular source of inspiration physically present in my life. In short, I miss her.

Going to her final “resting place” – seeing the literal and figurative concreteness of her headstone seems like a good way to put firmly in my mind that she is gone, and standing in front of a grave perhaps gives me permission to indulge in a moment of reflection, joy and sorrow. Where else do we have to celebrate our dead after the initial ceremonies, the potlucks and goodbyes? Only among those who shared the experience of knowing them, or in our own minds – in those moments of quiet and stillness that come too few and far between.

*****

As a sort of related-aside: Cemeteries and burial grounds take up a lot of space on this planet. This is a funny thing to one who sees nothing inherently special in flesh and bones not connected by consciousness. As I was about to post this, I saw a link on Facebook about cool things to do with your body when you’re dead. I think I’d like to be a coral reef.

The Weekend of Unbelievable Fun: The Second Coming

Hey…guess what’s coming up fast? It’s The Weekend of Unbelievable Fun: The Second Coming!

mna-conf-aints-1

Image is an advertisement showing the Mr. Paul Aints logo with information about the baseball game and conference (detailed in text below), and a photo of the Minneapolis Skyline.

This will be the second year that I attend. Last year’s baseball game was a blast, and the conference had inspiring speakers presenting novel and timely information about atheism and the secular movement.

This year the Mr. Paul Aints will take the field again on Friday August 9th to play the Sioux City Explorers at Midway Stadium in Saint Paul. The party starts at 5pm with tailgating in the parking lot and the game begins at 7pm. The meetup description for the event promises between-inning atheist-themed antics (hmmm…devil worshiping in the infield and baby tastings, perhaps?), and there will be an auction of Mr. Paul Aints jerseys with proceeds to go to a local charity.

The next day – Saturday – Minnesota Atheists and American Atheists will hold their second consecutive Twin Cities-based regional conference. The conference takes place at the Ramada Plaza in NE Minneapolis, and the lineup is exciting (I’ve taken out the breaks in the list below – for the full schedule, visit mnatheists.org):

9:15-10:15 Hector Avalos: “How Archaeology Killed Biblical History”
10:30-12:00pm Breakout Sessions & Workshops
1:45-2:45 Greta Christina: “Coming Out: How To Do It, How to Help Each Other Do It, And Why?”
2:45-3:45 Amanda Knief: “Ten Legal Issues Atheists Need to Know”
4:00-5:30 Annie Laurie Gaylor: “The Religious War on Women”
7:30-9:00 All-Star Panel Discussion: Atheism and Religion: Confrontation or Accommodation – Annie Laurie Gaylor, Hector Avalos, Greta Christina, Amanda Knief, PZ Myers, and Kelli Clement. Moderated by Stephanie Zvan (Author of Almost Diamonds blog on Freethought Blogs).

The conference organizers did a good job of packing in a wide variety of topics in a few short hours – one day conferences are hard! I’m especially excited by the 10:30-noon workshops, which are being led by local atheists. Topics include science, family and raising kids in atheist households, treatment of (nonhuman) animals, mental health, addiction, and shame. For descriptions of the panels press the big red button on the frontpage of the Minnesota Atheists website.

If you’re interested in joining us, the information for signing up for the baseball game and/or the conference can be found at the MN Atheists website. The cost for the game starts at $10 and the conference starts at $30 (if you’re 25 years old or younger AND a student, you can buy a discounted conference ticket for $10). These are early bird prices, and early bird sign up ends on July 31st – in just three days! After that prices for the conference goes up to $40 (student admission stays $10).

And if there is any doubt that you’re going to have a good – and occasionally goofy – time, check out these lyrics that Paul Heffron and Jerry Rauser wrote for the Mr. Paul Aints game:

To the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game

(Verse 1)
Let’s all go to the Aints game.
Let’s all show who we are.
The big red A says a lot about us.
We’re here for fun, so please don’t make a fuss.
So we’ll root for the Mister Paul Aints team.
For they accept us by name.
So it’s hip, hip, hip, hip hooray
At the Aints ball game.

(Verse 2)
Let’s have fun at the Aints game,
Tail-gate party supreme.
Hamburgers, hot dogs, and drinks for all.
Under our banner we’ll all have a ball.
We will root, root, root for the pigs’ race.
In Pig’s Eye town there’s no shame.
For it’s one, two, pick up the pace
At the Aints Ball Game!

Saturday Escorting Stories

Note: I’ve tucked one weird image from the abortion protesters below the fold. It’s morbid, but in a fantasy violence kind of way.

I was the only escort this morning! Usually we have at least three to four escorts on the weekend, but sunny summer Saturdays are precious in Minnesota, so c’était tout moi aujourd’hui!

There were “only” thirteen protesters, but they always seem to adopt a bit of mob bravery when the ratio is that off; there are a few more pointed remarks, upturned noses, snide statements. Most of them walked up and down the sidewalk praying their odd prayers to God, asking him to please baptize the unborn children before they are to be murdered so that they might enter the kingdom of heaven and sit at the right hand of…

And I do heartily beg your indulgence for the impending side rant, but isn’t that bending the rules? Doesn’t the person – or the person’s proxy – have to do the whole asking for baptism thing? Is that the point? If God is willing to baptize people without their (or their proxy’s) asking, why require baptism at all? Just baptize everyone, God, you big jerk. And if all you have to do is pray for God to baptize someone else, quit spending shitloads of money to go on expensive “Come to Jesus” missions to foreign lands. Just get on the phone with God and take care of all that, and then send all the monies to humanitarian efforts that might stand a chance of making a difference in the lives of those you want to save. Sheesh. It’s mental acrobatics of the highest order when it comes to justifying what particular tenet of the mythology one wants to believe or ignore.

And back to our story.

[Read more…]

Thank you, Representative Mendez!

Pheonix News Times Blogs reported about Arizona Representative Juan Mendez‘s secular humanist delivery during today’s opening session:

From PNT:

Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” Mendez said. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.

A visible atheist in Arizona politics??? A visible atheist in American politics??? Praise FSM!

He also quoted Carl Sagan’s “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Thank you to Rep. Mendez from this secular humanist atheist. Thank you for the god-free invocation, for being a role-model for other politicians who might wish to be more open about their lack of religion but who feel unable to do so in our current religulous political climate, and for upholding the constitution of the United States.

If you feel like thanking Representative Juan Mendez for his support and representation, his email is jmendez@azleg.gov

Godless and grieving about Boston

Hi! My name is Brianne, and I’m godless!

I have something that I want you to know, and then to deeply and fully understand and accept: “godless” doesn’t mean “evil”.

The idea is that to know God means to know love. And that must mean that if you don’t know God then you don’t know love. And “love” means “good” in this version of the story.  And if God = Love = Good, then Not God = Not Love = Not Good, i.e, Godless = Bad.

All of which is bullshit…and poor logic to boot. But these ideas about the relationship between god, love and goodness abound in our culture, and “godless” gets rolled out every time people do bad things, with the Boston Marathon bombing being no exception.

Yesterday Michael Sullivan, a Massachusetts Senate candidate, was reported as having described the bombing as a “horrific, cowardly and godless act”. After the news hit social media, his campaign quickly offered a clarification that the would-be Senator did NOT say “godless”, but rather “gutless”. A quick glance through the comments on that FB status update show that a lot of people support the originally-reported “godless as synonymous with evil” label.

You don’t have to believe in God to be a good person (hi!), and you can feel that you have a devout and healthy relationship with God and still do horrifying, cowardly things. Belief in a god or lack thereof are not strong predictors of one’s behaviors or attitudes. So let’s stop using “godless” as a negative term, k? 

Grieving and Interfaith Services – A note to those advocating for interfaith services in times of tragedy.

Atheists in Boston (and across the state, nation and world) are grieving, as are people of many different faiths. Most people would agree that after a tragedy of the type and scale of the Boston Marathon bombing, we need a place to gather, to share our grief across many shoulders, to heal. That place, for me, would not be an interfaith service. When it comes to grieving and honoring our dead, interfaith services leave me cold. Here’s why:

A major part of being an atheist is coming to grips with the idea that we are mortal creatures and that there is no afterlife. Because of this belief I feel that when people say things like, “they’re in heaven now, they’re with the angels, they’re with god” we trivialize our loss. As an atheist I believe that after death a person is very much gone, erased from existence, never to reappear. There is no do-over in heaven or through reincarnation. There is no silver lining to an unfair death from cancer, accident or intentional violence, or from a death of old age for that matter. Upon someone’s death, we have well and truly lost that person. Many atheists hold this life to be so very precious and strive to make it better because we believe there is no afterlife. This is the only chance we get to have a fulfilling life and a positive influence on the world around us.

When people are robbed of their lives through tragic circumstances, I don’t want to join in at your interfaith service if the congregation will be singing praises to god (who via his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence could prevent all tragedies), and listen to sermons about god’s divine plan and afterlife and how victims are in a better place.  It causes me pain to realize that I am suffering what I perceive to be a permanent loss, while others have the confidence that the loss is merely temporary (this happens anyway, but when the person leading the service is authoritatively talking about heaven and such, it makes it worse. It draws a line – believers on the comforting afterlife side, me feeling like I’m on the cynical side refusing to be comforted) . We’re on different wavelengths, and we are grieving differently.

What we do have in common is our shared grief over the suffering and tragedy that has befallen us, and that we have lost friends and family and community members who are no longer with us in this life. This is the shared human experience to which we can all relate. And together we can mourn our losses, and remember and celebrate those lives. But I have a hard time doing that at a religion-based service that praises your god and thanks him for “calling them home”.

And I’m not saying don’t have interfaith services. If you insist on following a religion, I implore you to do your damnedest to reconcile the conflicting views and attitudes that you have with other religions, as they do with yours – for all of our peace! Join hands in prayer to your various gods and take comfort in the fact that you all believe that your loved ones live on somewhere else (and try to avoid banding together against those who don’t). But don’t make your interfaith service the only service. Don’t make your interfaith service a government-sanctioned service. And don’t make it the PRIMARY service, with a little secular vigil tossed out as a bone to those of us who don’t believe in gods or an afterlife. As a representative government, let’s make the primary, official memorial be a secular recognition of the loss in our community, so that all people can gather to share our grief and to unite against the darkness of our own eventual mortality.

Atheists Anonymous

“They couldn’t be free in the United States of America to say that they were atheists! I thought that was just terrible.” – Bridget Clarke-Smith speaking about the group, Atheists Anonymous, that she founded at her retirement center. This video highlights some of the challenges older atheists face. You rock, Bridget.

Hat Tip to Steve Peterson in the Minnesota Atheists Facebook group.

JT and JTs Videogameathonapalooza!

The first game system I played was the Atari 2600. I have memories of playing E.T., Berzerk, Pitfall, Asteroid, Space-Invaders, Frogger and DigDug.  I still remember the pain of Atari Thumb.

Breakout was my favorite game for a long time.

Remember this bad boy? And unlike some of the other games, this one used the paddle rather than the joystick controller.

After Atari my parents picked us up a Nintendo (NES), and then we upgraded to Super Nintendo when I was in Junior High. I was a HUGE Mario fan. We conquered Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 and 3. I even got the cheat guide for Super Mario 3 so I could find all of the hidden flutes, learn the trick behind scoring five 1-ups at the end of every three levels, and memorize the grids of the memory cards bonus levels.

My other favorite game was Trog! Frickin’ green Trogs were the worst. This was the heyday of my video gaming; we played Duck Hunt, California Games, TMNT, Contra Force, Legend of Zelda, MegaMan, Kid Icarus, Paperboy, Donkey Kong, Tennis and Q*bert. My mom kicked all of our asses in Dr. Mario and Tetris, and my dad and I liked to play one of the casino games, Bases Loaded and Black Bass. The Nintendo was downstairs in our unfinished basement, so often times we would drag over the space heater and play Nintendo while we did laundry.

I completely missed Sega and didn’t pick up a console again until Thanksgiving 2011 when I bought a WII. I rock the new Mario Kart, the Hubby and I like to hunt each other down in Goldeneye 007, and I’m smitten with this one diving game called Endless Ocean. But one of the first things I did when I plugged in the system was download the old SNES Super Mario Bros and Dr. Mario.

Ah memories.

And do you know what starts in, like, NOW? Jason Thibeault and JT Eberhard’s 24 hour Gamers For Godlessness Gameathonapalooza! They’re going to be playing all sorts of retro videogames. For CHARITY.

I KNOW, RIGHT?!

GO HERE TO START WATCHING THE LIVESTREAM

What’s a gameathonapalooza? I’ll let JT explain:

Jason Thibeault from the Lousy Canuck blog and I are going to be playing retro games for 24 straight freaking hours on Saturday!  We’ll be live-streaming our lovely faces along with our games.  We’ll be talking about all kinds of interesting stuff from atheism to politics to gaming history, and we’ll be taking call-ins, email questions, etc.  We’re doing this to raise money for Camp Quest and theWomen in Secularism conference.

 They’ve got all sorts of crazy challenges, stunts and guests – including me at 10pm EST – set up for today and tomorrow.12PM EST today through 12pm EST tomorrow (Sunday). Check out this post by JT for some last minute updates. It’s also the thread for comments, questions and challenges at Chez WWJTD. Click that link/visit that blog post at lot, because JT’s donating all of the money from hits to that post to the cause.

The hashtag for the event is #GDLS

See you over there!

Student Atheists on the Radio

On Sunday I had the pleasure of interviewing two members of the University of Minnesota’s Campus Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists (CASH), Bryan Carver and Joshua Brose. The interview was a live, in-studio chat for Atheists Talk on KTNF (AM950). Carver and Joshua were good sports and agreed to take a photo with me, even though it was before 9am on a Sunday morning.

From the left: Joshua Brose, me, Bryan Carver

During the interview we discussed Joshua and Carver’s background, how they as students found CASH, and what their involvement in the group is. We chatted about the role that CASH plays on campus and in its members’ lives. We discussed some of the events that they’ve already held this year including the Brother Jed counterprotest and Everyone Draw Mohammed Day. They shared information about upcoming CASH events (which are usually open to the public), including a mentalist in November and SkepTech, a conference that they’re hosting next spring which will feature some pretty big names in the secular community (whoever is first on the list is the coolest speaker ever. Truth.). And to close the interview, they each shared what they believe is the one of the most important issues affecting young atheists today.

I had a very good time doing this interview, and I love working with Atheists Talk radio as a host and interviewer. I like knowing that there is a weekly atheist radio in my area that not only delivers awesome interviews (In the past couple of months alone we’ve have Alex Bezerow, Howard Bloom, Chris Rodda, Rebecca Stott, Guy P. Harrison, Matt McCormick, Herb Silverman, Teresa MacBain, David Niose, Jessica Ahlquist…well, I could go on, but now we’re all the way back to July), but also information about local atheist events and activities individuals and families.

You, uh, know we primarily fund this radio show with donations from listeners and supporters, right? *cough* Anyone, any donation amount, anytime. Go ahead, click the link. You know you want to. We have the best tagline ever: “Atheists Talk: It’s good radio without the Good Book.” That’s worth a few bucks just for sheer awesomeness, right?

You can listen to the CASH interview with Joshua, Carver and me in several places: the Minnesota Atheists radio page, in the KTNF archives, or you can search on iTunes for the podcast “Minnesota Atheists Atheists Talk”. Or maybe even here if the player embeds correctly:




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