Why I Love Dadabhoy and Rad

I tool around the atheosphere at least a bit each week and see and read lots of cool stuff. This week two unrelated things struck me. This is where I gush about two of my favorite artists and thinkers, who achieve awesome without a Ph.D.

First the Rad

I have always been very impressed by Cristina Rad’s vlog. It’s pretty much the only one I watch (so I was very sad when she went on hiatus). This was not because all the others suck, of course, but because I have so little time to spare for that luxury, and I always know hers will be a virtuoso performance that I’ll learn something from. Rad’s work is always smart, informed, thoughtful, meticulous, and funny. And for her, constructing a video is art. And as an artist, she has an admirable talent that sometimes just leaves me in awe (I suspect most people just take her editing and design and informal scripting for granted, and don’t notice how clever it is, and how hard it would be for most to do well, and how above the curve for the medium it is, without fancy tech).

Photograph of Cristina Rad speaking at a conference, in front of a transparent podium, with a high end microphone attached, all against a black background, with long curly reddish hair pushed back and stylish jacket; she gestures to make a point.One thing I also love most in life is when someone makes an argument better than me. So all I have to do is point people there, confident it covers all bases, and I have no more work to do. They have all their ducks in a row, they hit every point, they anticipate every objection, they actually researched the matter, and they nail every fact and step of reasoning, leaving nothing more to be said. And they do it so tightly and engagingly you want to follow it all. And you are kind of in awe at how well the point is made. Matthew Ferguson’s take-down of the 10-42 apologetic is an example: something I wanted to argue but never found the time, yet not only did he do all the work of researching and composing it, he also did it better than I would have. It was a great day.

Cristina Rad also does that for me a lot of the time. And she did it again this week.

You may be tired of the whole Elliot Rodger debate, having read a zillion things on it already. That was one reason I never weighed in on it: others here at FtB and Skepchick and beyond already said everything there was to say, and I didn’t feel like there was anything more I could contribute of any quality. But I still had some thoughts on the matter. When Jaclyn Glenn went on her rant over it, and then notpologied for it, I immediately had arguments in my head against what she was doing, but I failed to think of any useful or productive way to articulate them.

Well, guess what. Cristina Rad just produced a response to Glenn that is everything I was thinking and more. She argues the case I had in mind, but way better than I would have. And it’s a paradigmatic example of Rad’s genius, as a communicator, editor, researcher, thinker. And artist (though this video has a more straightforward style). You definitely won’t be bored with this one, no matter how much Elliot Rodger stuff you’ve mulled through by now. Definitely watch her video. It’s packed with good information and analysis and insight. Not a second wasted. And it’s a pleasure to view and listen to: ELLIOT RODGER: MADMAN vs. MISOGYNIST (a response to JaclynGlenn). And hey, she’s a starving artist, too, so also upvote it if you deem it worthy. I believe you will.

Thank you, Cristina Rad. You are awesome. Don’t ever stop doing what you do best!

Then the Dadabhoy

So, while still being impressed by that, I noodled around the atheosphere some more, and almost right away happened on the latest by one of my favorite bloggers, Heina Dadabhoy. I also have so little time to spare for reading blogs that I have to be incredibly selective there as well. Dadabhoy’s blogging is always so well written, concise, witty and smart, and always teaches me things, something I didn’t know or hadn’t thought about, often both, that it always bears reading. I was struck by how paradigmatic an example of all that her most recent entry was, just like Cristina Rad’s latest vlog was for her. And that in a one-two punch in one sitting, by pure chance. So I’m praising her here, too. I’m sure you can cope.

Photograph of Heina Dadabhoy in a cute black peasant dress, looking thoughtful and happy in a power pose, with her short, lovely, curly dark hair and light brown skin (her family hails from India).I’m talking about Fellow Atheists: Quit Bragging About Our Prison Underrepresentation. I thought maybe it would be a quick but deserved winge about the fallacious trope of claiming atheists must be more moral than Christians because so few prisoners are atheists, maybe by calling up the usual problem with that: that declarations of faith are often highly motivated, and thus hardly indicative of honest belief, in a prison environment dominated by patriarchal Christian authorities. You pretty much need to be a Christian (or of some “God-fearing” faith) to get parole, or good treatment. And you are a captive audience to Christian evangelization (which gets favoritism from the authorities far over any hypothetical humanist evangelization there could have been but obviously totally isn’t). And you are in a population under extreme stress, poverty, and despair, whose everyday welfare is frighteningly unpredictable–a toxic mix of conditions so suited for causing religious belief that a sociologist could hardly design better conditions for it, short of a theocracy. So how on earth can we draw any conclusions about the population outside prison from underrepresentation of atheism in prison? That’s case enough, I thought.

Well, Dadabhoy surprised me. She didn’t go there (though she could have). She came at it from a completely different perspective, one also obviously correct, which adds a great deal more understanding to the problem, yet that I had not really thought much about before. And she expresses it in an amazingly brief, thought-and-information packed way. And even has time for a few related, context-clarifying digressions. Wow.

Thank you, Heina Dadabhoy. You are awesome. Don’t ever stop doing what you do best!

Another Humanist Running for Congress in a Red District!

Photo of Barbara StockerCheck this out. And give her some help if you can. Barbara Stocker, an atheist and dedicated humanist, is running for US Congress…in Missouri! She’s the Democratic Candidate for the 8th Congressional District, and will be first on the ballot, the only woman against a field of three conservative men, and the only progressive in the race.

Stocker is a retired scientist (having worked in safety and environmental health for major corporations) and a “believer in a government that works for the people,” defending “Social Security and Medicare, cooperation in Congress, and investment in infrastructure.” She’s pro-growth for the economy, anti-austerity for the government. She is interested in protecting or promoting good regulations, and eliminating burdensome ones. And she has made a special point of concern for improving every aspect of how we treat our veterans.

Stocker has also been an active member of several freethought organizations, having published with the Council for Secular Humanism and the International League of Non-Religious and Atheists and participating in the Rationalist Society of St. Louis, where she accepted an award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union on behalf of the Atheist Centre (of India) at an Atheist Alliance International convention. She has also represented AAI at meetings of the Coalition for the Community of Reason. So she’s no idle humanist.

Find out more (and how to donate to her campaign if you are keen) at StockerinCongress.com (see also her campaign Facebook page). There may be many ways to help (e.g. as a campaign volunteer, podcaster, etc.), so if that sounds interesting, you can contact her there. I blogged about another progressive atheist candidate running for Congress in a conservative district in Arizona earlier this year (and his campaign could use help, too…he, too, has a remote but plausible shot at winning). Let’s hope this is a trend. The mere fact that they made the ballot is a sign of progress. Eventually, if we keep supporting them, atheists will actually start getting elected, too.

I Interview a Groovy Atheist Running for Congress in Arizona

Facebook photo of Arizona congressional candidate James Woods, looking smart in short blond hair, in dark suit, white shirt, dark red tie, dark glasses and holding his mobility cane just in frame.James Woods is running for US Congress. (No, I don’t mean the actor, nor the dead guy from Virginia. I mean this guy.) What’s so special about that? He’s an atheist. An out atheist. In fact, a humanist active in the movement. Who actually asked atheists to interview him about his campaign. And blog about it. Now I feel like I’m living in the 21st century. He is not hiding from his membership in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, or Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. He’s making it a focal point of his campaign: it’s what makes him a better representative of the people. He is representing the people who don’t usually get represented.

Woods also happens to be blind. And part of his campaign is about representing the disabled, and minorities of all stripes, who usually don’t have a voice in Congress. If elected he would be the first blind person in Congress in nearly a hundred years. His politics are progressive. He has a good head on his shoulders. He sounds like he’d be perfect for the job. But alas, though a native Arizonan, he is running in an Arizona district that is predominately Republican. He has his work cut out for him. I’d vote for him if he were in my district. You can see what he’s all about at his Facebook page.

He’s running against a Republican incumbent (Matt Salmon, the same buy who ran for governor in Arizona a while back) whom the Secular Coalition for America gave a grade of F on his secular report card. The kind of guy who supports bills barring homosexual couples from adopting, denying equal marriage rights, stopping the government from providing information on comprehensive reproductive healthcare. Yes, he even voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act. The kind of guy who shouldn’t be in Congress. Because he spends his time opposing the rights of American citizens and harming our country and its people.

Woods wants to be the one to replace that guy. And his campaign asked me to interview him because Woods wants to reach out to underrepresented voting blocks, including the secular, atheist, and humanist communities. He is planning similar press days for other underrepresented groups, including the transgender community and people with disabilities. Topics we at Freethought Blogs have been trying to give some visibility to as well (see the video lineup at our last FTBConscience online conference).

I asked Woods six challenging questions to see how he thinks and where he stands on a sample of keystone issues. His answers are well worth reading. You won’t usually hear this stuff from a real Congressional candidate. It’s the kind of bold honesty we actually want from our elected leaders, but rarely get.

[Read more…]

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.

 

 

Help a Leading Skeptic Fight Her Sexual Harasser

Photo of Karen Stollznow wearing a necklace by Surlyramics.Karen Stollznow has been harassed for years by an ex-boyfriend, who was eventually disciplined by his employer for it (CFI), and she finally wrote about her experience, and apparently to harass her further, he is suing her. It looks like he is counting on the fact that defending herself in court will bankrupt her and has used that to try and intimidate her into issuing a retraction, but she refuses to retract what she says is simply the truth. If you think this is appalling and want to help her, I would very much like you to. I am donating to her defense fund, and am ready to give more if it’s needed. Their target is $30k but legal experts say a case like this could cost $40k, and in any event, all money not used for the case will be donated to Colorado’s Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center, so no matter what, your donation goes to a good cause. I want to see this fund grow to equal what he is spending. So she can have her day in court, effect discovery (and thus get a hold of documents he and CFI may have been keeping from her, and depose witnesses under oath), and be fairly represented and not unfairly trumped by wealth.

I think it is a fundamental injustice in this country that people have to pay for their own legal representation in courts. This is not only the case in civil trials, but contrary to popular myth, you even have to pay for your own legal defense in a criminal trial–if the government “decides” you can afford it, you have to pay. This is appalling. It thus turns especially civil cases, but even many criminal trials, into a plutocracy where the one with the most money wins (and in criminal cases, that’s the state), rather than the one with justice actually on their side. But alas, this is the system we are stuck in. So please support the justice our government won’t: help someone get a fair trial. And in the process help fight sexual harassment: because if the precedent is set that harassers can intimidate their victims into shutting up by exploiting the injustice of our wealth-based justice system, well, I’ll let you do the math on that…

Read Karen’s explanation and appeal here.

Donate to her legal defense fund here.

And for backstory on the case, read this (and this).

FtBCon2: Free Online Conference Next Weekend!

Remember when we had this amazing free online conference one weekend last year, with dozens of talks, panels, and speakers, that people all over the world could watch live? And ask questions in real time. And watch the recorded events ever after on YouTube. Well, get ready. Because we’re doing it again–in precisely one week.

Our complete calendar for the weekend of January 31 to February 2 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) will be finalized and go live over this weekend. As will our complete list of speakers and panelists (and its huge! and spans the globe!). For both speakers and schedule, bookmark our page on Lanyrd and check it tomorrow night (as a backstage planner, I can tell you that we’ve scheduled over 30 talks and panels throughout the conference, featuring over 80 speakers and panelists altogether). For everything else, bookmark FtBCon.org and also check that Saturday night.

(We will also have a YouTube collection of everything that you can view if you miss the live events, facilitated by our own Miri Mogilevsky; right now over there you can view all of last year’s talks and panels–you can also read up on last year’s event here and peruse its Lanyrd page here. This year will be organized similarly, and have a similar diversity of topics.)

Last year I attended many of the talks and panels as a viewer and it was awesome. I gave one talk myself, on “What the Military Taught Me about Feminism.” This year I’m doing one talk and one panel, and helping facilitate and introduce a few more (including panels featuring members of the Secular Student Alliance, The Black Freethinkers Network, and the Filipino Freethinkers…who will actually be streaming in live from the Philippines!). [Read more…]

Help D.M. Murdock Get Her Facebook Account Reinstated

Jesus mythicist D.M. Murdock (aka Acharya S) has had her Facebook account terminated (permanently, FB claims) merely for posting a picture calling attention to religious child abuse. She documents the story on her own website here. My email box received a request to sign a petition over the weekend, and I signed. I recommend everyone do so. Our own Ophelia Benson has also written about this fiasco. She concurs.

There is no sound reason for Facebook’s action. The most they should have done is requested modification of the image to blur offensive sections of it (which Murdock would have been happy to do). Although even that is childish on their part (unless they are genuinely concerned about privacy issues, which would be a first), it would not be as absurd as killing her entire Facebook account. One might ignorantly argue any picture of naked children being sexually abused in a religious ritual is “child porn” and thus intolerable, but even that (which ignores the distinctions between porn and legitimate journalism and activism and the documenting of crimes against humanity…indeed, the image came from a news magazine) would have been solved by simple modification of the image to satisfy the prudes (as Murdock demonstrates) or victim’s advocates (whom Murdock would likewise be happy to oblige).

Everyone should voice their opposition to Facebook’s action in this case and demand a reversal.

Is Attacking Rape Apologetics Rape Apologetics?

It’s strange to see even atheists convert hyperbole into fact in the span of just hours or days. That’s supposed to be what religious people do. When I wrote an article attacking rape apologetics in the discussion of the allegations against Michael Shermer, I was accused of engaging in rape apologetics (examples cataloged here, here, here, and here). But only by making false claims about what I wrote in my article.

This has started now to become lore. In comments on Stephanie Zvan’s recent article on the BlockBot I was weirdly even accused of “victim blaming” in an article against victim blaming that actually defends victims from being unfairly blamed (lest this not be believed, I will document the actual contents of my article below), and a scenario I explicitly described as reprehensible and as victimization and worthy of condemnation, one commenter said I described as “kinda cool” and “what a rapist would like to believe,” which is the exact opposite of the actual facts in the case, yet this version of events is then endorsed by another commenter. Meanwhile, in comments on the same article described as “what a rapist would like to believe,” I had to debate actual rape apologists (or at least folks who didn’t know that’s what they were doing). Which in context is surreal.

It’s unclear how the myth arose that something I condemned I called “kinda cool.” And perhaps the lore varies from person to person. But throughout, from what I’ve read, I have found there are some failures of fact and reasoning to address. [Read more…]

Michael Shermer: Rapist or Sleaze? (Unless Box Checked for Other)

Presumably you’re aware by now that accusations have been made that Michael Shermer did something bad (if not, you can catch up on current events here). There are some things atheists need to consider about this, philosophically and personally.  [Read more…]