Busy Bee Roundup of Bizarre & Shocking Things

Texas votes Nazi. Sam Harris exposes his sexism. Michael Shermer gets investigated. Richard Dawkins vomits all over the internet. I can’t keep up.

Alas, I have been doing nonstop traveling and events and work-catchup for weeks. I haven’t even been able to get to my comments queue, so I shall soon just be clearing everything to post, probably most without response or very little response, as I have no time. I’m getting caught up on backlogged work in preparation for two events in Canada that I have to travel to later this week. I apologize for the comments delay. I had hoped to find time for it in transit, but alas I couldn’t, and likely won’t (this grueling schedule shall continue for months).

But for those who haven’t been already getting the skinny, all this happened between when I got on an airplane Thursday and landed yesterday… [Read more...]

And Now Aoife O’Riordan Joins FtB!

Photo of Aoife O’Riordan, close up, Irish girl with slightly curled brown hair and blue eyes behind classic rimless glasses.I said two more. And here’s the third! Aoife O’Riordan (that’s ‘eefa’, like Eva with an f; and of course, oh-reer-d’n) has now brought over to FtB her more-popular-than-she-thinks blog Consider the Tea Cosy. See her inaugural post for an intro to what she’s about. But for the gist:

Aoife is located in a small town in Ireland, and she won’t let you forget it. She gets paid to teach, but will default to roller derby and social theory if given half a chance. She’s quite likely (but not guaranteed) to be writing about: feminism, queerness, wheelyshoes, Ireland, what she cooked last week, or any combination of the above.

Awesome.

Now Heina Dadabhoy Joins FtB!

Self-pic of the Beautiful Heina Dadabhoy.I promised two more awesome women would be joining FtB this week, and lo, here is the second: my good friend (and one of my favorite bloggers) Heina Dadabhoy (and that’s “hee-nuh dad-uh-boy”), also a queer poly ex-Muslim (though her background is interestingly different from Krisht’s). She’s migrated a year of stuff to her new blog Heinous Dealings. And now just launched her provocative inaugural post on her perfectly respectable exhibitionism. She has always been delightfully frank about this before in my company, so no surprise to me, but she has the audacity to defend the philosophy of it…hence my assessment of the awesome. Definitely challenge yourself by reading more of her stuff!

Hiba Krisht Joins FtB!

Photos of Hiba Krisht side-by-side, at left her past Muslim self fully covered in a hijab, only her face showing, at right her new godless self showing glorious curled hair and bare shoulders. A queer, poly, ex-Muslim woman has joined our blog network. Formerly pen-named Marwa Berro to blog confidentially, she is now going public with her real identity, Hiba Krisht (and that’s hib- not heeb-), and moving her blog here. Check it out: Between a Veil and a Dark Place. Her inaugural post is a must-read. It will get you fully up to speed on this remarkable woman and what she’ll be contributing here that you might want to keep up on. She also does freelance Arabic translation (to or from English) on contract, so if you have need of that service, check her out for that, too. She has an impressive resume.

Two more groovy women will be joining our network this week. Stay tuned!

Dawkins Takes a Positive Step

“Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.” — Richard Dawkins

This is part of a new statement Dawkins issued this weekend, on his own website and elsewhere, denouncing the horrible way many (usually anti-feminist) atheists have been behaving the last few years. Greta Christina for the full scoop.

This is a remarkably positive sign. Dawkins has up to now been insensitive and out-of-touch on the treatment of women inside the atheism movement (the worst example being now a named trope, Dear Muslima). So my opinion marker is being moved a little back to favorable by this.

For those who aren’t sure what this is all about, see coverage by Alex Gabriel, Greta Christina, Stephanie Zvan, and Ophelia Benson.

[I apologize for not being clearer, but in my original posting of this information I expected people to read Christina's coverage for the full scoop, but some may not have and thus may have missed key facts of the story: this was a joint statement proposed and written by Ophelia Benson in consultation with Richard Dawkins and agreed to and signed by Richard Dawkins.]

The Curious Case of Jaclyn Glenn

Screencap of Jaclyn Glenn speaking in her video warning atheists about extreme feminismI’ve been watching the foot-in-mouth implosion of Jaclyn Glenn of late, and some might want to know my take on it, because some people have asked, given that she kind of sort of but really doesn’t criticize Atheism+.

Atheism Plus More Than Just Whatever

Atheism+ is just a name sometimes used (and rarely anymore) for the growing and ongoing movement to unite atheism, humanism, and skepticism. Hence the “+” in Atheism+ means simply “Atheism + Humanism + Skepticism.” (See all my past writing on the subject, especially my American Atheists convention talk in 2013, a transcript of which I have just now made available, along with a non-animated edition of my slideshow. I have also just published an essay on it in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism 21.1 [2013], pp. 105-13, which you can now read online as Atheism…Plus What?)

There are generally only three kinds of people against Atheism+ (apart from people who don’t actually know anything about it): people who love and support the goals but hate the name (and I’m all for them…because as I’ve said from day one, I really don’t care what you call it); people who realize humanism entails feminism and hate feminism (and these are often in my experience either awful people or the cultish fans of awful people); and people who realize skepticism means skepticism of claims they like, and hate it when people tear apart their own cherished beliefs (and these are ironically usually the people comprising the SkepticTM community, yet they could take a lesson from the actual Rationality Community: if you aren’t questioning your own beliefs, you are just a dogpile of cognitive biases…like, pretty much every religious person ever).

There are also people who hate the Atheism+ forums, but since I’m not aware of any major Atheism+ advocate having anything to do with those anymore, I really can’t help you if they are eating your babies and skeet shooting kittens. They no longer have official ties to any of us, and are just doing their own thing. Which was, and for all I know still faithfully is, to create a safe space for discussion among advocates of A+ ideals…in other words, a space just for them…so if you are annoyed they won’t let you into their club, usually because you are breaking their rules and aren’t a support advocate, the only people the space was created for, then check your privilege and just accept the fact that you don’t get to disrupt other people’s meetings. If, on the other hand, you are annoyed they said something awful (so far every time someone has said this to me, it turned out not to be true, but whatever), just remember they aren’t me, or any other major advocate of Atheism+ or its goals. Some atheists are horrible people. That doesn’t mean atheism is horrible. As for atheism, so for Atheism+. See Hasty Generalization Fallacy.

Okay, end digression. Back to Jaclyn Glenn.

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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.

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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.