I’ll Be at the Atheist Film Festival This Weekend

I believe there are still tickets available for attending this Friday’s director’s party as well (which I will also be attending, among other folk many might like to meet or chat with). All the details here. The festival itself will be all this Saturday. I’ll be hanging out for most of it. I’ll probably head home after the premiere of Hug an Atheist, which I donated a small amount to fund and have been looking forward to for some time. If you bring any books you want me to sign while I’m there, I’ll be happy to oblige.

Thank You for So Many Books

Some people who like my work occasionally buy things for me from my Amazon wishlist. The package I get often doesn’t say who sent them or how to reach them. So I’d like to extend an open thanks to everyone who has done that over the years. What especially prompted me to say something today is that I received one such package last week, amidst controversial blogging and an exhausting home renovation project (Jen and I finally did something with our bedroom, which had looked like a moldy, stained, style-less, colorless disaster area since we moved in…you know, as for example, the previous owners had strange ideas about what was an acceptable “repair” to holes in the ceiling or wall…anyway, all sorted; its a beautiful and functional room again).

This time the package I received was filled with some of the more expensive items on my list, and a lot of them. Someone was extraordinarily generous, and I am very grateful. Thank you! Some of the items will help me with my next books (my books on ancient science have been at an academic publisher in search of peer reviewers for ages), some will give me an excuse to learn a little more about Islam (maybe next year), and one in particular is the two volume set by Keener that desperately tries to insist miracles are real, which I may find time later this year to read and review on my blog (since that’s kind of one of my long standing specialties).

Now back to work.

Two More New Bloggers

We have two more new awesome bloggers at Freethought Blogs. Kate Donovan (of the US) joined us in July, and now Alex Gabriel (of the UK) joins us this August.

Kate is blogging here at Gruntled & Hinged (“A Blog about Madness and Mental Health by Your Incorrigibly Optimistic Narrator, Who Is Neither Disgruntled Nor Unhinged”). As she describes herself…

Kate Donovan's Gravatar pic. Illustrates her best snark face.Kate is a psychology student at Northwestern University who runs on coffee and snark. At some point she’d like to make people sit on couches and tell her about their feelings, but right now she writes on the internet and makes silly faces when she doesn’t know what to say. An incorrigible optimist, she likes to knit, juggle, and will devour any book in reach.

In Which Our Narrator Strikes Out on Her Own is her inaugural post. If you missed it, check it out to get even better introduced. She’s been blogging cool things about psychology and mental health from an atheist and skeptical perspective.

Alex is now blogging here at Godlessness in Theory (“Queer Left Politics, Pop Culture and Skepticism”). As he describes himself…

Alex Gabriel's Gravatar pic. In which he looks curious, whimsical, and ready to warrior his keyboard.Alex Gabriel is a twentysomething British graduate. He writes from a theoretical perspective on religion and how to leave it, popular rhetoric and political dissent, secular, nerd and LGBT cultures, sexuality and gender or whatever else crosses his mind. His main pursuit is blending frameworks of secularity and social justice – more than just intersecting actions, he yearns for synthetic secular thought. When not putting sacred cows to slaughter or training with the PC brigade, he can usually be found somewhere online.

Secular Synthesis and Why We Need It – or, Hello Freethought Blogs is his inaugural post. Definitely check it out to get even better introduced. He blogs insightful, thoughtful, and detailed things about politics and culture from an atheist and skeptical perspective. And as he says, “I’m 22, secular, British, poly, queer, tall, ex-Christian, left wing and long-winded, a nerd, a graduate and a keyboard warrior.” Indeed. He’ll fit right in.

Enjoy the juggernaut!

Nixing Offensive Ads

How do you stop an offensive or inappropriate ad at Freethought Blogs? Here’s a brief on how.

Our ad service at FtB is automated. We don’t actually choose who advertises on our site, and in fact what ads you see will differ from what ads others will see (like me, for example, even when I look at exactly the same page on FtB that you are), based on barely logical algorithms and cookies and IP geographic locations and whatnot. But we can choose to block certain ads. And if you want to help us do that, here’s the skinny on how.

Periodically we get offensive ads on here, which you may find inappropriate or just plain wrong, for all manner of reasons (from psychics and bullshit alt med, to sexist crap of various kinds, to fundamentalist seminaries, and so on) and you might want to stop them or just help us out by helping us catch and block them. To do that, what we need is the actual click-through URL for the ad (right-click or control-click the ad and copy the URL/link). It will be a crazy long weird URL code.

We can’t block ads by just being told what the ad was for or what it looked like, because there are millions of ads and the only unique identifiers our service lets us use to set blocking is the click-through URL. So we need that URL.

You can send that to us by pasting it into our tech service form here. (You can report all kinds of technical problems with the site there, too, of course, not just this. That link is also at the top of every page at FtB as Tech Issues.) In addition to pasting that URL in there, also politely explain what was offensive about the ad, or why you think we should block it. We may or may not agree. But a decision has to start with our being made aware of it. Since, odds are, we won’t even know about it otherwise.

Regular offenders can theoretically change their ads and thus keep bypassing our block, so if you see an offensive ad or advertised product again, feel free to report it again, just in case that’s what has happened. Although give our tech staff a week at least to purge an ad you reported once already, before reporting it again.

This will be a constant gardening, of course, since new ads and advertisers crop up daily (literally). But any garden has to be constantly gardened. So you’re welcome to give us a hand with pulling the weeds every so often.

CFI and WiS 3

Women in Secularism 2 I haven’t voiced an opinion on the Lindsay apology and subsequent resolution of the insulting behavior from CFI (which came after voices of outrage were finally heard) because I have been waiting to see what panned out, especially if CFI was going to produce a third Women in Secularism conference.

In every other respect I concur with Greta Christina (Accepting Ron Lindsay’s Apology and Working with CFI) and am back in as a CFI supporter. I have renewed my membership and remain on its speakers bureau. Although I have lost a lot of confidence in Ron Lindsay’s leadership (and would still prefer someone better), he at least is now handling the situation correctly. He isn’t treating us with contempt. And CFI has voiced a commitment to doing better. After a few epic failures, they are now demonstrating responsiveness to discontent in their actual and future membership. We might still consider them on probation (Rebecca Watson’s take on this is apt) but I’m hopeful, and they need to see that we will support them if they continue in this direction. So I think it’s time to start working toward that.

Because CFI has just announced they are indeed working on WiS 3 (last paragraph here). I recommend that anyone willing to reconcile with CFI renew any canceled ties, and maybe even send donations earmarked for WiS 3 so they know they are getting support for this. Let us all shepherd CFI into the 21st century.

My Favorite Scotch

Bottles of Glenmorangie (a fine Scotch whiskey)These three days I’ll be enjoying the FtBCon from my desktop, sipping Scotch or Irish whiskey. A lot. Because I like Scotch. And Irish whiskey. I’m pretty much a Scotch and Irish whiskey man, you see. Beer, dull (even when it doesn’t taste like piss). White wine, eh. Red wine can be remarkable if it’s not crap (and “not crap” does not mean expensive…if you ever pay more than $20 for a standard bottle of wine, you’re a dupe…or suffer a needlessly expensive curiosity…it’s the label that counts, not the price). American whiskeys (especially bourbons) are mostly too sweet (I’ve recently been introduced to only one I like, because it happens to taste a lot like Scotch: Basil Hayden’s…thank you, Phillip!). Vodka is a mixer (oxymoron intended). Ditto gin. Tequila, when you get the right kind (the kind you have to know to ask for, the kind that doesn’t pay for TV commercials). Mixed drinks, sure, whatever. Saphire martini on the rocks, dirty, three olives. [Read more...]

FTBCon Tomorrow!

Richard Carrier in service uniform as a Petty Officer (1991)The massive, amazing, totally free online conference hosted by Freethought Blogs starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday. We have over 100 speakers and 33 sessions. Many names you’ll recognize and love. Many names you might not know but will be glad to have been introduced to. There will be topics you might not have heard discussed at an atheist conference before. And so many! I’m already sad that I won’t be able to see everything myself, but I’m going to be spending the whole weekend drinking scotch and watching as many sessions as I can.

You can browse the schedule at Lantyrd: see FtBConscience. More information about the conference is available at FtBCon.org, including our conduct policy and how to attend (see here and here) and how to submit questions for Q&A (through our chat room).

My talk, What the Military Taught Me about Feminism, will go live this Sunday (July 21) at 11am Pacific Coast Time (the online schedule is all in Central time, so subtract two hours for Pacific; the official page for watching that session is here). I’ll be telling some embarrassing and personal stories about my time in the service twenty years ago as a young naive man, and reflecting on how they changed me and contributed to what I know and how I think today. There will be a moderated Q&A. Please bring questions. Warning for Viewers: Some of my stories will be about the sexualization of women, and I will be repeating sexual slurs and other things I saw and heard that can be quite shocking.

For more backstory on my Coast Guard career see Atheists in Foxholes. The photo here (above right) is my last service photo in full uniform and cap, as a Sonar Tech, Third Class (which means Petty Officer, Third Class, the equivalent of a Corporal, which is an NCO, or Non-Commissioned Officer), with two marksmanship ribbons (pistol and rifle) and the National Service Medal (indicated by the more colorful ribbon).

Combs-Port Interview

Chris Combs and Daniel Port interviewed me recently on my life and work, as well as my thoughts about cinema as an art medium and on specific films they asked about because they’re my recommendations in my video store (like Pulp Fiction, the Cohen Brothers, my taste in teen films and romantic comedies), and various other related topics (from William Lane Craig to Jesus, philosophy, racism, the Coast Guard, and 80s movies and arcade games). It’s mostly me just rambling on about myself and my thoughts about things as they asked me to do. There was some sound editing that I think removed or compressed some breath pauses, so it sounds a little more frantic than it actually was when we recorded. It’s almost an hour long, and it kind of sounds a lot like an NPR radio interview. If you’re interested, the audio is here on YouTube.

Give Just a Little to the SSA, MAAF and MRFF

I was just filling out some checks and realized I should mention what I’m doing, because I think a lot of you might want to do the same. Last month I renewed my annual support for the Secular Student Alliance. I’ve long been promoting them, as an organization making a huge difference in supporting the growth of atheism and secularism and changing the future of this country (see The SSA Is Our Future and You Should Join the SSA). The SSA only asks from supporters a minimum of $35 a year (or just $10 from students). If you haven’t become an annual supporter already, I highly recommend you do.

But today I’m sending checks to two other organizations that are literally on the front lines doing battle for atheist freedom and against real vestiges of Christian tyranny in America: the Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers (MAAF) and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). They each only ask for a minimum of $25 in support each year. I’m giving $35 to both. But even if you can only afford the minimum, it helps, a lot more than you might think. Not only do they do great and important things with the money (and these small donations add up to a lot, when a lot of us send them), but they also have a more influential voice the more people they can report as supporting them with actual money. So giving even the minimum is giving them a lot more power than just the dollars alone. You make a difference on very little expense.

I’ve written about the importance of such organizations before (in support of the MAAF: see Atheists in Foxholes). I’m a veteran myself, as are others here at Freethought Blogs (e.g. Justin Griffith of Rock Beyond Belief has worked for the MAAF and Chris Rodda of This Week in Christian Nationalism has worked for the MRFF). So, too, are several prominent figures in atheism and skepticism, from Harriet Hall of Science Based Medicine to Kathleen Johnson of American Atheists. The abuse of power by Christians in the U.S. military, against the rights of atheists and other religious minorities, is intense and appalling, and not many people are willing to stand up against it. The MAAF and MRFF do, legally and in every other way they can. They also provide a community, a resource for commiseration and advice, and a haven of sanity for oppressed religious minorities in the armed forces, a service much needed. Those who haven’t served or haven’t been culling the news for reports on all the abuses power by the Christian Right in our military might not realize how bad it is, and how much the MAAF and MRFF are needed (you can explore their websites to get up to speed on that, or read the many related posts here in Griffith’s and Rodda’s blogs, or get Mikey Weinstein’s book: see below).

If you don’t want the Christian Right to take over the military and influencing its procedures and decisions, if you don’t want atheists in our armed forces to feel oppressed and alone and forced to hide and put up with Christian rules and proselytizing, then you definitely should support the MAAF and MRFF. Just $25 a year for each is really affordable. The MRFF has a campaign on now that will give you a digital brick on their wall of separation between church and state for just that minimum of $25. Membership dues at the MAAF are the same, but you don’t have to join to donate every year.

The MAAF specifically serves atheists and nonbelievers and does a good job at that. Supporting the MAAF will directly benefit atheists in the military, most especially in providing them with a functioning and reliable community that can help atheists in the service in every way possible. The MRRF serves all religious minorities. They’ve fought cases against discriminatory practices affecting Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans…and they just as fiercely fight for atheists as well, not only directly, but in their general effort to promote religious neutrality and freedom in the services altogether. I’ve met Mikey Weinstein, the MRRF’s lead bullfighter, and he’s a delightfully terrifying badass with incredible principles. It’s partly due to his tenacity and unyielding fight for what’s right that the MRFF has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize–several times. His latest book No Snowflake in an Avalanche is the book to read if you want to learn all the ways the Christian Right is aiming to take over the military, and all the abuses of power they are all too often getting away with there (as well as to see how important the MRRF has been in fighting back, and thus why it definitely deserves your support).

So please join me, if you can, in sending all three organizations a little money their way each year, and give them one more person to add to their reported count of supporters. The SSA, MAAF, and MRFF all have convenient donation links on their websites.

Indelible Nirmukta

Two new blogs have launched at FtB over the past few weeks and as usual they are fascinating additions. (FTB’s front page has also been cleaned up a bit–more improvements to come).

The IndelibleAvatar for Tauriq Moosa on FTB Stamp by Tauriq Moosa [that's TAR-rik, not tar-REEK] surveys culture and ethics from an international atheist perspective, touching on all manner of issues in the area of “practical ethics, focusing on subjects like free expression, killing, sex, and religion in public life.” See So It Begins and On the Blog’s Name, and his bio at BigThink. He is currently a tutor in ethics, bioethics and critical thinking at the University of Cape Town, South Africa while pursuing a graduate degree at Stellenbosch University. His bio here says it all:

Tauriq Moosa writes on ethical matters in the news. He writes a regular blog at BigThink.com [Against the New Taboo] on so-called “taboo” issues, like incest, infanticide and cannibalism, examining whether evidence matches outrage. He has tutored bioethics and critical thinking. His writing has appeared in io9, New Humanist, Skeptic, Free Inquiry, and 3QuarksDaily.com. He has been recommended by The New Yorker, The New York Times Opinionator, and the Huffington Post. He debated Desmond Tutu for a BBC documentary, but lost due to a cup-cake interception. He hates dolphins, will never have children and loves good writing – whether as a novel, comic book, or TV series.

Avatar for Nirmukta on FTB.Nirmukta on FTB, meanwhile, is a joint blog for several writers affiliated with the Nirmukta community, which promotes science, freethought and humanism in India and South Asia (see Nirmukta.com). Their objectives include “provid[ing] a platform for the freethought and secular humanist community in India and South Asia,” advancing “a naturalistic life philosophy as a moral and fulfilling alternative to religion and spirituality,” “promot[ing] secular humanism, equality, social justice, communal harmony and human rights” as well as “scientific literacy,” supporting “the fight against pseudo-science,” and “work[ing] towards building a culture of secularism” and “a secular public policy keeping with our constitution [in India].” They explain that “nirmukta” is “a Sanskrit word that means freed [or] liberated” because “we are freed of dogma, orthodoxy and prejudice” and “uphold and celebrate freedom of inquiry and expression, guided by scientific temper and humanistic principles.” Like Moosa, they will be contributing an international perspective on politics, morality, culture, and belief from a perspective of atheistic humanism, and opening another door for FtB readers to hear about the thoughts and issues of South Asian peoples and cultures.

Check them out from time to time!