D.M. Murdock Battling Cancer & Needs Support

Photograph of D.M. Murdock.Fellow Jesus myth advocate D.M Murdock, widely known as Acharya S, is dealing with a particularly vicious onslaught of cancer. Given the fact that the U.S. is just about the only first world nation left that doesn’t cover its citizens’ non-elective medical bills, the best we can do is try to help each other pay for our very survival. Murdock and I don’t agree on a lot of things (and not just on the methodology or mythicism issues). But I’m pretty sure we do agree on this. And I believe she deserves a leg up. If you want to help her survive, both literally and financially, send a little her way. Her fundraiser is ongoing here.

Help Win Secular Students Week; Play a Board Game with Richard Carrier

Photo of a game in play of Star Trek Catan, which Richard Carrier took while playing with his family.Okay, so. The Secular Student Alliance, one of the best run and most important atheist community organizations we have, is running a fundraiser this week. They want to reach 500 new donors by June 17th. I asked them what minimum donation would count and they said $5. And I said “phhhhllllt!” to that. For my haughty self will only count donors who give at least $35, the minimum to become a supporting member for a year. Because, hey, You Should Join the SSA (At the Very Least!). I mean, if you want to cultivate the best future for atheism, or do not want to live in a world where Campus Crusade for Christ outspends us tenfold on winning over college students. So I’ll ask the SSA after the 17th if they got at least 500 donations of at least $35. And if they do, this is what I’ll do…

I will play a board game with the top five donors who want the pleasure of my gaming company. In person. (Or via live feed if they prefer.) That is, the five who (1) gave the biggest donations and (2) want in on my offer. If you score (1) and (2) on that (and ties will be won by chronological order of donation: s/he who donates first, gets the prize!), then you will get to choose one of the following two options:

  • We can schedule a live feed game anytime that suits us both (I can do Skype, Google Hangout, and Facetime), and you can invite as many other players as you want to join in on your end. This option presents some technical challenges we’d work out in advance (possibly requiring you to also invite one non-player attendee to be my physical proxy for holding cards and moving pieces and whatnot).
  • Every time I will be in your city for any other reason (and you might be able to cajole some local organization(s) to create that reason) I’ll check ahead of time with you if we can arrange a game date, with you and again as many others as you want to invite, until it happens.

The upside of the first option is that it can happen as soon as we have a mutually open schedule. Because the downside of the second option is that it may be a very long time before I pass through your town. The offer is good until fulfilled, though. It is also good for encounters in other cities, but you’d have to let me know about that well enough in advance to see if we can make that work (e.g. if you’ll be attending a conference I’ll also be at, and you bring the game you want to play, etc.).

What board games? Pretty much any tabletop game you have and can teach me to play. Including most card games. I’m already well familiar with various sets of Catan, for example. Depicted above is a photo I took of the state of play of a fun game of Star Trek Catan I enjoyed with my parents and sister recently. I also like some really obscure and complicated things you’ve probably never heard of, like Iron Dragon, Titan, Merchant of Venus (original set; never buy the new one, which they dumbed down to stupidville). Talisman of course. Love Shogun (now known by the stupid name Samurai Swords because a certain novelist was a dick). Oh, hey, and, you know, the game I invented when I was a teenager. Back then I actually used to play Squad Leader a lot, too (and still have an old ASL set). I own some version of Axis and Allies and Conquest of the Empire (sort of a Roman Empire version of Axis and Allies). Various other stuff. Yes, I know how to play Cards against Humanity. And poker. And Scrabble. And traditional Mah Jong. Etcetera Etcetera. But you can teach me stuff, too! Someone recently taught me the delightful game Gloom. So, you know, it can be almost anything you want. (But no Role Playing Games. I’m reserving that get for a special future fundraiser. For this get, it’s board games only, or any card games that aren’t collection based, e.g. I won’t play Magic: The Gathering).

Even if you aren’t into gaming. Help the SSA out and make me proud. To hit their target of 500 donors, and my dream of 500 donors at $35 level or more, tell lots of people about this post, spread the word, especially to any friends you know are into tabletop gaming. And donate yourself. And if you want to try for winning a game meet with me, try to donate a lot!

If you want to know more, the SSA this week is collecting a number of special guest blogs and interviews of am.azing students they’ve helped who have inspiring or fascinating stories about it. Check those out.

* Plus, be aware! If the SSA meets their goal of 500 new donors, they unlock a $20,000 challenge grant! So you have even more incentive to give just something. Even just five dollars! *

Myths of Charity: The Enduring Sham of Arthur Brooks

Photo of an actual Louisiana Disaster Assistance debit card or automated benefit card, produced by the department of social services.Six years ago Arthur Brooks published Who Really Cares (which has gone through several subtitles, from America’s Charity Divide to Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters to The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism). This book is still triumphantly cited by many conservatives and libertarians as proving various dubious things, but especially two in particular: that atheists are less charitable than religious believers, and that privatizing all social welfare would improve social welfare.

But this book is largely a sham. It cooks the numbers and uses devious logical tricks to make it seem as though its conclusions are true, when in fact they demonstrably are not (or at best are demonstrably undemonstrated). A good skeptic doesn’t just believe what she reads; she checks the facts and the logic to make sure she’s not being snowed. Sadly, libertarians (usually men) who cite this book at me (as happened last year in a private communication) are bad skeptics. Because they don’t treat this book skeptically. At all. It just corroborates their ideology, so obviously it can’t be incorrect about anything, and one shouldn’t even think to check if it is.

This struck me the moment that exchange happened: a notable man claimed to me that data in Who Really Cares proves that “the working poor” give “three times more” to charity than anyone “on public assistance” at the same income level, and therefore public welfare makes people less charitable. Of course, right away I was suspicious, since it seems absurd to think someone who can only survive by receiving charity should be expected to give anything to charity. (Can you imagine badmouthing a disabled homeless person dependent on your soup kitchen and group home for not giving anything to charity…that lousy miser!)

But more importantly to today’s lesson, I was immediately suspicious of the statistic. [Read more…]

Help Rescue Our Colleagues from Murderers

Profile photo of Bangladeshi author and activist Taslima NasrinThis is a big one. We’ve been working secretly on rescuing our own Taslima Nasrin from a hit list in her own county and have now gotten her to safety at some continuing expense that we could really use your help with. We would also like to save several other atheist bloggers on the same death list. Perhaps more in similar future circumstances if we can. We’ve worked with the Center for Inquiry on this and they’ve established the Freethought Emergency Fund. CFI has released a detailed press release with everything you need to know about that. And Ed Brayton has now provided more of the back story for those curious about what we did and whom to thank for making this possible.

But here is the gist of what’s needed now and why:

We must take these threats very seriously. Three writers have been viciously murdered in three months, with the last death, that of Ananta Bijoy Das, occurring just a couple of weeks ago.

Because of the very real danger to her life [the murderers are now naming her as their next target], Taslima has decided to leave India. For the indefinite future, to preserve her life, she will need to stay in the United States— where she currently has no job or home.

We at the Center for Inquiry are doing all we can to keep her out of harm’s way. But we need your help.

We’re asking you to Donate Now so Taslima can remain safe in the United States. We will need to provide assistance with food, housing, and the means to get safely settled.

If we raise more than is needed for Taslima, we will use the remainder to establish an emergency fund to help assist other dissidents in similarly perilous situations. Without going into detail, CFI has already been contacted by other writers on the subcontinent who have received threats against their lives and who have requested assistance. We are withholding their names for their own safety.

Donate if you can. Any amount helps, especially if you also spread this around and convince many more to give as much as you did or more. Let’s help save fellow atheists targeted for murder if we can, so they can continue writing and agitating for change in their country through the safety of the internet and a secular society humanist enough to protect them.

Help Make Secular Women Work

Logo for Secular Women Work, an interlocking series of multi-colored gears.Heina Dadabhoy spells it out far better than I could at Urgent Final Push for the Secular Women Work Conference. Only two days to go. And this new conference deserves to get closer to its kickstarter goal. It has superb people putting it together, it has an important theme, and it will have a lot of excellent speakers–some of whom talk about what makes this conference special and how it will help people change the world. There are benefits to claim at many levels of support in the kickstarter, such as getting to run your own ad in the conference program, or sharing a VIP dinner with a speaker of your choice (their consent required, of course).

The official description of the conference’s goals spells it out well: [Read more…]

Here’s a Fun Way to Help Camp Quest

Get in on the action: vote with a donation to decide the Camp Quest Famous Freethinkers Faceoff! (You can also like their campaign’s Facebook page, and spread the word by any and all social media.)

Why?

Because then, you will actually get to affect who gets on the Ace cards in a deck of famous freethinkers. (Just FYI, not thought leaders are meant; just fame is the criterion.)

Do you want Richard Dawkins there? Or Elon Musk?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Or Elizabeth Cady Stanton?

And so on down a select bracket.

Check out the website link above. Make your choices with a donation. And take part in creating an interesting deck of cards, one that will likely be played by godless kids all over the U.S. for years to come. All in support of the cause of Camp Quest, the only nationwide organization of summer camps serving nonbelievers. (Here’s just some of what they do that’s awesome.)

 

Help Get Justice for Michael Brown

smalldervishmemeYou can help see justice have its day. You can make a real difference standing up against state corruption and tyranny. You can make a difference toward ending, by exposing and shaming, the wanton and deadly racism so common among the men with guns we ask to police our streets (and it is indeed usually the men). This is how.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave (!), you should know by now the story of Michael Brown, an unarmed college student gunned down by Ferguson police, in circumstances so incredibly suspicious and tinted with racism and shocking abuses of police authority, as to horrify anyone paying attention. This isn’t new (we’ve heard this story sadly too many times: see some examples of this being pointed out here and here and here). But this is becoming the last straw. And now his family wants to fight. And they are incurring expenses pursuing legal recourse (they have already had to pay for their own autopsy, because the city’s has suspicious omissions and appears to be covering up the facts…you know, as for example). And fighting for their fair day in court will only get more expensive here on out, as the corrupt city authorities appear to be circling their wagons and will do everything in their power to stonewall them and mount their expenses in the hope they will give up for lack of money.

Indeed, Anonymous has just exposed the fact that, apparently, the chief of police [now heading the investigation] in Ferguson, or else his son, hangs a confederate flag on his living room wall!! Brown’s family is not likely to get honest justice from the authorities.

The police have even resorted to physically attacking and arresting the press, gassing and assaulting people in their own backyards, and charging into the streets to shoot and beat down peaceful protesters, even camera crews from major news organizations (so much for the first amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”). They are even dragging pregnant women out of their cars and smashing them to the ground for no good reason. The timeline shows some protest rioting and looting has occurred. But the police then use that as an excuse to assault completely peaceful protests, and deny people access to public areas, even their own homes (Ferguson now looks like the streets of any tyrannical nation). The police are literally shooting people with rubber bullets, gassing them, bombing them, and beating them. And using the mini-riots in other locations as an excuse. But think about this. The cops are now the Redcoats. And this is a real tea party. Or, rather, more like the 1766 New York riots over the quartering act…when the people were answering the unjust use of force against them by yet another haughty and unanswerable imperial power. The quartering act riot of 1766 (assault on the state police). The tea party riot of 1773 (destruction of property). The Ferguson riot. What, really, is the difference?

But no matter. This is about starting to put an end to all oppressive and tyrannical abuse of power, by supporting a peaceful family that is being denied justice.

Help the Brown family bring the truth to light and have a fair trial of the facts. They have raised so little so far, barely three grand. For a case like this they will need fifty to a hundred grand. I want to see an outpouring of support. Send what you can to the Michael Brown Memorial Fund. Please do this. If not for Brown and his grieving family, do it to show you believe in opposing corruption, abuse and oppression in your own country. Do it to show you are fed up with police getting away with the murder of black men every month. Do it to show this must stop. And the people are now paying attention.

Travel Fund Outcome

If you want Richard Carrier to visit your city, for any organization you are a member or officer of, check this out. Thanks to generous donors covering my losses from a burglary and exceeding that request by several thousand dollars, I have some money I will apply to the cost of visiting other cities to speak next year (mostly in reducing my honorarium, covering book procurement for resale, and some transportation costs). I promised I’d give these benefits to the cities the donations came from, by proportion. Although unfortunately, as I also noted, I can only do this for North American donors. I received generous support from such countries as Norway, Japan, Poland, England, Germany, and Australia, which I will just count toward recouped losses. Thank you so much, all of you. (But one island nation, which donated unusually generously, might prove an exception–private negotiations for a possible visit are underway; I can’t say more just yet.)

Many cities are receiving the benefits. I have some small discounts, and some large discounts. I’ll describe them in that order (lined out items have already been claimed!)…

[Read more…]

And Then a Burglary Sets Me Back $2000

Update: As of now, amazingly generous patrons have sent me a total of almost $5000. So I am well above what I needed for a financial recovery, and I am going to apply the difference to covering the cost of arranging speaking engagements in the cities donors asked for (so you will all have made those trips possible and saved local organizations some expenses!). Thank you so much, everyone. This was far beyond what I expected. It quite caught me by surprise. Now go forth and battle the dragons of the world!

I’m hoping to get some small financial help from fans and supporters to help me recover from a setback. My own income ranges between $15,000 and $25,000 a year. So losing $2000 in one burglary hurts. A lot. And that just happened this last weekend. I am fortunate that I combine my income with Jen’s, but she is moving to part time work and going back to school, so our combined income will get us by (tuition and all, plus she has to buy a second vehicle to manage her new schedule without conflicting with mine), but two grand is still a sore loss.

So I’m hoping some awesome folk out there who like my work might help me make up the loss. There’s a tiny perk for anyone who does. More on that shortly.

If you prefer to devote money to a more alarming charitable cause, I quite understand. The Foundation Beyond Belief is representing the atheist community in helping child refugees get legal representation (they have no right to an attorney, so the state is not providing them any…literally, these kids have to advocate for themselves in court). That’s an excellent example of what I had called for several weeks ago. It’s a huge crisis that needs a lot of help.

But at the same time we all have to make a living. And as an independent scholar, I depend on funding from supporters of my work. I sell books, collect small speaking fees, do some online teaching and contract work, earn tiny amounts from blogging and various other sources (to see a complete list of all the ways to support my work through commerce and beyond, see my official support page). But I also take fan-funded research grants. Any money sent in support helps keep me going, and keeps me hopeful that I’m making a difference that people appreciate. So anyone who does appreciate all I’ve done, and wants to see more, I would be so moved if you can reward me with your patronage this coming week.

(Of course you could give a little to both causes.)

If you want to help me make up my loss, or just show your appreciation and support, please send me any amount you want through PayPal (my account is rcarrier@infidels.org).

And when you do, when it lets you add a message to me, say what city you’d like me someday to speak in.

I’ll then rank the cities named by the amount of money backing them, and get to work trying to set up a speaking engagement at each one, starting at the top. I can’t promise to succeed, but I will contact all the organizations there that might be willing to pool together the expenses of bringing me out. Unfortunately this means probably just destinations in the U.S. and Canada will come through. You can certainly name overseas destinations. But the cost to fly me to them is prohibitive to most interested parties, so I’m unlikely to succeed at it. Advice on that is welcome, though, which you can include in your message (whom to contact, for example). But if I am inspired to get a gig in a city you name with your donation, that’s a tiny perk you can claim (“I set that in motion!”).

Meanwhile, here’s what happened, if you’re curious…

[Read more…]

Grief Beyond Belief Now Online

Grief Beyond Belief, a support group for nonbelievers dealing with the loss of a loved one, has now launched its official website. They are no longer just a FaceBook group! Check them out. Look over what they do, and see if there is any help they need. And spread the news. There are a lot of us who would want to find a site like that, and the resources it provides, but might not know it’s there.