Give to the Max: Atheists Talk Radio

I have been volunteering as a host, interviewer, producer and social media hyper for Atheists Talk Radio since 2011. The first show that I was part of was as a host with Carl Hancock. He was speaking with David Eller about his book Cruel Creeds, Virtuous Violence. Since then I had participated in some truly memorable interviews with guests such as Shelly Segal,  Neil deGrasse Tyson, Katherine Stewart, Rebecca Stott, Howard Bloom, Seth Andrews, Dale McGowan, Victor Stenger, Greta Christina, Adam Lee, Keith Lowell Jensen, Amanda Knief and Baba Brinkman – to name a few 😉

A recording studio - carpeted walls, microphones, and a table filed with electronics. Me and Scott Lohman are sitting in two of the chairs.

Me and fellow interviewer, Scott Lohman, in the recording studio at KTNF AM950.

Atheists Talk touches a lot of lives -mine  and those of our listeners. It’s a pretty amazing, well-established project. We have:

  • A seven-year history. Our first show was Richard Dawkins in January 2008.
  • 335 shows and counting available on our website, iTunes and SoundCloud
  • 932 likes on our Facebook page (there shall be much hip-hip-hooraying when we hit 1000!)
  • Twitter account that allows us to promote guests and increases our visibility
  • People behind the scenes doing web support, fundraising, amd promotion, and supporters giving recurring donations to help us fund our not inexpensive air time.

It’s a pretty awesome project, is what I’m saying. So I shall join in the chorus of voices asking you to consider using Give to the Max Day to financially support our project if you find it worthy of support. You can learn more by clicking the image below (it redirects to the Give to the Max website)



Happy Atheist Moments

I’m an atheist.

Those words used to be difficult for me to say to people in casual conversation. I grew up believing that God is a fact, and that everyone believes in God. Even after I made a conscious decision that gods aren’t real (except for Thor. Thor can be real. As long as Thor is Marvel and Chris Hemsworth), even after being an Atheist On The Internet, those were some deep feelings to shed. And knowing that “atheist” is a naughty, eye-widening word for many people, a word that gives some a warped sense of justification to judge, that can also make it a hard word to claim in mixed company. But it’s gotten easier* and I find myself coming out as an atheist more often and in more types of situations. I’ve stopped minding that people might not want me – an atheist – around them and settled into the comfortable space of not wanting them if they don’t want me for such a crap reason.

[Read more…]

Thank you for your not belief!

Well, how lovely is this?

Minnesota Atheists, my local atheist organization, sponsor of Atheists Talk, receiver of my annual membership dues, promoter of volunteer opportunities, supporter of awesome conferences like the upcoming Secular Women Work, received a thank you note from Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota for our recent holiday donation. I like to imagine that the letter-writer had a good laugh at our dedication. Their reply certainly had me smiling.

A rote form thank you note from Children's Hospital to Minnesota Atheists. Relevant text is typed below this image.

Image shared with permission from Eric Jayne, Minnesota Atheists

Relevant portion of the text reads: “Please accept our heartfelt appreciation for your generous gift given in memory of not believing in Jesus to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. Your support ensures that every child who comes through our doors receives excellent medical care in our family-centered environment.”

“We are grateful for donors like you who believe in our mission. Your dedication means that we can offer the best possible care to children and families in our region and across the country. On behalf of the Children’s community and the patients and families you have supported, thank you for your generosity.”


FTBCon3 is Up and Running!

We’re stocked up on Mountain Dew and Funyuns (no seriously…I’m going old school this weekend), I’m in my official FTBCon uniform:

Me in a bathrobe and slippers, big grin and hands on my hips

…all of the tech seems to be in place and opening remarks with Stephanie Zvan and Debbie Goddard are a go!

Debbie Goddard speaking in a Google Hangout

Treating the Brain: Skeptics Talk Therapy and Therapists just started at 5:30pm CST. A full schedule is located on Lanyrd:

You can find the link to the Google Hangout (and YouTube from there) by clicking on the link in each Lanyrd event page, here:

Shows an Lanyrd page for "Treating the Brain" panel and a red arrow pointing to the "official session page" located in the right sidebar.


Other important links:

We hope you can join us sometime this weekend!

Atheism: It’s Not All About Atheism

This morning I was up early to do the live radio show, Atheists Talk. My guest was Keith Lowell Jensen, a stand-up comedian who incorporates atheism into much of his work. We spent a portion of the first section (about seven minutes) discussing his religious upbringing, when he started including atheism into his material, and the purpose of doing so. Then we moved on to talk other things like his new album, Atheist Christmas, Keith’s work with Stand Up! Records, his comedic style and influences, etc.

This did not sit well with Roger from Saint Louis Park.

[Read more…]

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.

FtBConscience TONIGHT!

It’s here! Yay!

Oh crap – it’s here!

You’ve read about it! You’ve chatted excitedly on social media about it! And now the wait is over! Tonight is the start of FtBCON

This is very exciting. I LOVE attending conferences. They’re little nuggets of energy-packed, inspiring, information-sharing. They’re like a triple shot of caffeine! A jump start to the engine of my skepticism! Okay, I may not have gotten much sleep last night. And speaking of caffeine: I’ve had a lot already this morning.

FtBConscience is FREE and ONLINE. It’s nice not having to pack an overnight bag, make hotel reservations or find couch space, take a long car ride or navigate an airport and get groped by theTSA, or budget for meals and gas and all of the little expenses that come with traveling. And FtBCon has an incredibly laid back dress code for attendees and presenters alike (PJs! PJs!)

Another really cool thing about being online: We have booked speakers from all over the world. We have booked ONE HUNDRED AND NINE panelists, according to Lanyrd! Many of our speakers are in North America, but we also have panelists from Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe. I’m not sure if we have any South American-based speakers… Hmmm… Next year we need to go for FULL world domination. We are, however, anticipating audience participants from all four corners of the globe (I love the contradictory nature of that statement. You know what I need right now? MOAR COFFEEEEEE!!!)

You can view the schedule of this weekend’s events on our Lanyrd site, the official FtBCon website, or on Google+. We have a Facebook page, and the Twitter hashtag is #FtBCon. To learn about HOW TO PARTICIPATE as an attendee, check out the front page of the FtBCon website.

I’ve listed the panels that I’m going to be on below. Hope to see you there!

Reproductive Rights

Satuday July 20th – 2pm CST – Official Google+ session page

A panel of reproductive rights activists come together to discuss access to abortion in current events, clinic escorting and some common religious and non-religious arguments against abortion. Our panel consists of clinic escorts – including one panelist who volunteered before FACE laws went into effect (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances), health care professionals, an author and several bloggers who write about reproductive rights. Our panelists hail from Minnesota, Kentucky, Virginia and Ireland.

Atheist Music

Saturday July 20th – 9pm CST – Official Google+ session page

Join us to hear a few songs and have a casual chat with ukulelist and FtB blogger Ashley Miller, classically trained singers Ania Bula and JT Eberhard, and Australian singer-songwriter Shelley Segal. At conferences you can sometimes catch JT belting out musicals or warming up a mike with a bit of opera. Shelley Segal published An Atheist Album in 2011, and she has played at the Reason Rally, the American Atheist Convention, Women In Secularism and other events. Ashley graces YouTube with her ukulele stylings and Ania will wow you with her clear, heady soprano. Seanna Watson, director of CFI-Ottowa, and Steve Watson – a former church guitarist – will also be joining us. We’ll discuss issues relating to music and religion, the role music plays in our lives as secularists and some our favorite atheist songs and artists. Panel facilitated by Brianne Bilyeu.

Video Games, Religion and Morality

Saturday July 20th – 11pm CST – Official Google+ session page

Religion and morality systems in video games are often grossly oversimplified, to the point where choices are entirely binary and you’re often forced, as a gamer, to do things that you might otherwise find appalling, like working in service of a god or gods. How are these heady topics handled in the slowly-maturing video game industry? Who’s already doing this stuff right? How can these topics’ treatment be improved?

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

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.