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Apr 22 2014

Big Win! ‘Humanists’ Now Recognized by the US Army

Are you a nonbeliever in the US Army or know someone who is? Let them know you can now identify as “humanist” on dog tags and military records. Unfortunately the other four services still don’t allow this (absurdly), but you have a chance to change that if you or someone you know are serving in the other forces, because they can now make a request and cite the Army as precedent. And maybe those forces will change to recognize that humanists exist, too, and have the same rights as Christians, Jews, Muslims, or anyone else.

This is a major accomplishment by the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (in coordination with the ACLU). An official “Religious Preference” is important to military personnel not only because it allows their beliefs to be recognized on equality with any other belief system (and be counted in military statistics), but also because it can affect which chaplaincies get created and funded (and other related rights, such as access to chapel facilities, and everything else the religious get in the military), which is crucial for men and women in the service, who need these things in ways ordinary civilians do not.

The religious have the right to counsel from a chaplain, for example, to discuss problems or seek moral advice, and this comes with several privileges–such as, conversations with a chaplain are confidential (whereas, for example, albeit perversely, conversations with a psychotherapist often are not, even though that increasing lack of confidentiality destroys the medical efficacy of therapy). Chaplains can also act as advocates throughout the chain of command (most important for adherents of minority belief-systems facing discrimination or being ignored, but again just to be on equality with believers: believers can avail themselves of chaplain advocacy; atheists and humanists should have that same right). Chaplains can also facilitate requests for access to literature or family communications on the front lines. Everything they do for Christians can and should be available equally to atheists and humanists. And getting humanism recognized is the first crucial step toward that goal.

The MAAF is working to have a humanist chaplaincy finally created in the military to serve the military atheist and humanist community. There is no reason for the military not to do this, other than prejudice and immoral opposition from religious leaders. In other words, discrimination. One way to ensure the military cannot claim to be a religious body is if it officially recognizes non-religious chaplaincies. That’s precisely why religious leaders oppose this. Even though it would be an expression of fairness and equality under the law. So this recent victory with the Army, Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 18 2014

Time to Buy Greta Christina’s Awesome New Book!

Greta Christina’s new book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, is superb. I am confident it will be the definitive read on its topic for decades. She researched the hell out of it and covers nearly every conceivable angle. For example, there’s a chapter discussing the problem from the perspective of atheists in the military, and it’s very thoughtful and useful. And that’s just an example. An amazing number of awesome leaders and thinkers in our movement have given this book powerful endorsements, for a variety of reasons you can read about (Greta covers a lot of them here, and tons are included on her book’s Amazon page under editorial reviews). There are also electronic and audio editions (for a full list of editions and links, including for buyers who don’t want to use Amazon to get the print edition, go here).

Apr 17 2014

Help Ed Brayton Battle a White Supremacist

Our colleague Ed Brayton is being sued by a white supremacist for calling him a white supremacist. It’s a case that Ed is sure to win. But the guy attacking him has minimal expenses (since being a lawyer, he is representing himself) and Ed needs to cover enough of his own costs to answer him capably. Read all about it in Please Help Me Fight a Lawsuit, where you can also send Ed some bucks to help. It’s worth a little dosh at least. Because this is yet another case of our backwards legal system disadvantaging the non-rich by making them pay for justice.

Apr 16 2014

A Note for My Transgender Fans…

Are you a trans woman? (Or otherwise gender queer or trans feminine?) Then you might be interested in supporting our colleague Zinnia’s petition (if you agree with her), to have your voice counted. See her Open Letter: 100+ Trans Women Stand Against Calpernia Addams and Andrea James. Her analysis is sharp and thorough.

 

 

Apr 14 2014

Major Godless Chicago Conference: Last Chance to Get Discount Rate!

From Ed Brayton: The Foundation Beyond Belief, the nation’s largest humanist charitable organization, is holding its first national conference, “Humanism at Work,” this July 18-20 (2014) at the Hilton Rosemont in Chicago, Illinois.

This conference, the first of its kind in the freethought community, centers on how nontheists can put their compassionate humanism to work for a better world. It will include TED-style presentations on philanthropy, volunteering, and community building, as well as practical workshops, panels, and hands-on volunteer opportunities.

Speakers include:

  • Evidence-based giving expert CAROLINE FIENNES
  • Nigerian humanist and human rights activist LEO IGWE
  • Atheist homelessness activist SERAH BLAIN
  • HEMLEY GONZALEZ, a humanist at work with the poor in Calcutta
  • Atheist authors HEMANT MEHTA and GRETA CHRISTINA
  • Social psychologist DR. BRITTANY SHOOTS-REINHARD
  • THE PATHFINDERS, three humanists just returned from a year of global service

To register, go to the Humanism at Work website. We’ve worked hard to keep the conference affordable at $129 up to April 15 and $149 after that date. Included in that price is a formal dinner at which we will give away the Heart of Humanism awards to those who have put humanism into action in their local communities and around the world.

This is definitely worth attending! Especially if you–or any atheist, humanist, or secularist group you are a part of (and thus can report back to)–want(s) to get more involved in humanitarianism and philanthropy, or community or other charitable work, or just engage with that realm of activity more as atheists.

If you can afford to go, I recommend it!

Even if you miss the deadline tomorrow, the price bump after that is only twenty dollars.

Apr 12 2014

I’ll Be at ReasonCon: North Carolina

Photo of the Crowne Plaza Hickory Hotel. Looks like a one-floor but fascinatingly modern structure, including a beautuful glass-enclosed arched walkway at front..Although it’s almost sold out already, I will be the keynote speaker at ReasonCon in Hickory, North Carolina, in early May. Details here (also tickets and wait-list options there). As I write, there are only VIP tickets left, and those include the VIP launch party Friday night (9pm, May 2, 2014). [Update: They got a bigger venue after I originally posted. As of 16 April, ninety new free tickets became available. Snatch those up while you can!]. Otherwise, the option exists to submit your name to a wait-list for a free spot at the one-day con on Saturday (9am-5pm, May 3, 2014, with an after-party that night for all, starting at 7pm).

If you still want to attend the conference, and can’t afford the VIP ticks or even they get sold out [and if you find the new free tickets are all gone, too], it can’t hurt to submit a wait-list request to tell them what the demand really was, so if they do this again next year they might be able to accommodate more people, or (less likely but a dim possibility) they might find a way to make room this year and let you know you can get in after all. They also might succeed in streaming it live or recording it for YouTube (that is still in development), but they could still benefit from hearing how many wanted to go but couldn’t. Otherwise, there is some VIP access still available. As I look this moment there are 26 of those left at $65 and 22 more at $100 (the latter comes with free booze, if you are of legal age to take advantage of that). I’ll be at the launch party if my flights meet no delays (although, all told, I will be arriving at the party almost exactly when it starts, after traveling the whole day, so I’ll be on my second wind!).

This event is being put on by the MythUnderstood Alliance, and is the brainchild of Atheists on Air with Cash and Love. It will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hickory (1385 Lenoir Rhyne Blvd SE).

What’s unusual about this event is that I am going to do a marathon Q&A on the historicity of Jesus (up to 90 minutes, unless the audience runs out of questions first), after another 90 minutes of presentation (or near to…don’t worry, there are some breaks in there). I shall be endeavoring to make the latter at least as engaging and entertaining as a bad movie. So it won’t just be dry lecture. I’ll be playing up as many of the funny bits of the bible and modern scholarship as I can. My focus won’t just be on the historicity question, but on the whole broader question of the origins of Christianity: its context, but also what it looks like really happened, what its founding Jews actually thought they were doing by inventing it, and what they invented it for.

And I’m just the keynote! Also speaking that day will be Tracie Harris (of Atheist Community of Austin, Atheist Experience TV show, and Godless Bitches podcast fame) and Ryan Bell (of A Year Without God fame) and teen cult escapee Phoebe Cahours (who has an amazing story of getting away from the Amish, the Mennonites, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses–it seems her mother dragged her through several infamous Christian cults). Cash & Love will also have some things to say to the crowd. Overall it sounds like a very interesting and engaging day.

Apr 10 2014

Online Course on Naturalism in May

Back by popular demand, I am teaching my online course on naturalism as a philosophy and worldview this May (just a few weeks away). Learn about all aspects of naturalism as a philosophy of life, and how to use it in practical ways and improve on it. In the process you will learn many of the basics of college-level philosophy.

The course begins May 1 and ends May 31. You study and participate at your own pace, as much or as little as you like, and you get to ask me any questions you want about the course topics all month long, and read and participate in online discussions with me and other students. I will direct and comment on readings each week and give weekly course assignments which consist of answering questions about what you’ve learned and what you think about it. The course text you have to buy is Sense and Goodness without God. All other readings and media will be provided to students free of charge (all you have to provide is access to the internet).

Course Description: This one-month course builds the foundations for practical philosophy. Learn how to develop and defend your own naturalistic worldview from studying a model example, and how to employ it in your daily lives and your understanding of the world. Learn the basics of how to develop and test a philosophy of epistemology (theory of knowledge), metaphysics (theory of existence), ethics (theory of morality), aesthetics (theory of beauty), and politics (theory of government), using logical, evidence-based reasoning. Based on assigned readings, lectures, and weekly class discussion online with Dr. Carrier (Ph.D. in the history of philosophy).

Tuition: $59

Must register by April 30
. And the course could fill quickly so register sooner rather than later. It may be a year before I offer it again.

More details here.

This time I’ve signed up with a new educational project, SecularActivism.org. As a growing consortium of teachers and experts, we will be offering an increasing array of college-quality mini-courses in many diverse subjects for the benefit of the secularist, skeptic, humanist, and atheist communities. We aren’t offering this for college credit (so it’s not for pursuing a career). We are offering this for the mere benefit of making this kind of knowledge and learning accessible to more people, in an age when college is becoming prohibitively expensive and inaccessible to a hard working public, and yet precisely when sophisticated knowledge needs to be more widely available.

SecularActivism.org lists several other courses of interest taught by other experts this May (and soon for June and so on), and those offerings will increase in coming months. The site link also contains an option to join a dedicated mailing list that will notify you of new course offerings as they are announced. My own courses I will announce on my blog here.

Participating is not only a good way to add to your learning and exploration of philosophy (and naturalism in particular), it is also a way to help support my continued work in all fields. If we can keep this educational project successful, it may finally bring me some income security. And do our community some valuable good in the process, by making courses of all kinds available to more and more people who most want to keep learning, for their own good and the good of the world.

Apr 09 2014

Appearing in San Luis Obispo

On Saturday, April 19 (2014), at 4pm (until 6pm), I will be presenting my case that a historical Jesus probably didn’t exist for Atheists United of San Luis Obispo (California), and taking questions from the audience. They say seats are limited, so it would help to join their meetup group and RSVP or let the organizers know you are coming (details for either here). Donations will be greatly appreciated (they rely on them to cover expenses). This will be held at the Senior Citizens Center-San Luis (1445 Santa Rosa Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401: map).

I will be selling and signing copies of Proving History and Hitler Homer Bible Christ. (Unfortunately On the Historicity of Jesus will not be printed until June.) Of course I’ll also sign anything you bring. See you there!

Apr 02 2014

I Support the SSA, MRFF and MAAF. So Can You, So Easy to Do!

Today I renewed my support for the Secular Student Alliance as a Bronze Member. Just a mere $35. Many of us in the US can afford that per year for the things we value most. So everyone who can do even so little as that, and believes in what the SSA does for our future, please Bronze up! (Or even more, if you can.) If you aren’t already jumping to, please check out why I think the SSA is important and why everyone should be supporting them even if only modestly.

I give small amounts like this to a large number of organizations, because every little bit helps. Two others I support that often get overlooked are the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF). I just gave each $35 as well. As I try to do every year. And I hope many of you can do something along the same lines. They also do extremely important and much needed work. As I’ve explained before (including why we need them both, because they do different things). If you want to join me in their support, you can donate here (MRFF) and here (MAAF). They request only $25 a year. I give a little more. But if you can only give the minimum, it helps.

Apr 01 2014

Scripture Index Madness

For the moment I am afflicted with SIM (Scripture Index Madness). And I’m only up to Matthew. For a 684-page book mainly about the New Testament. Bible geeks will get the joke. And nod their head in commiseration.

What’s SIM? A thing that doesn’t exist that I just made up.

Read the rest of this entry »

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