Harriet Hall Redeemed

Getting back to things I missed this past week and a half while I was away, I have good news to report on the infamous “big rifts” front. In my original post for Atheism+ I included what appeared to be the grossly callous behavior of leading skeptic Harriet Hall (although without naming her), which really shocked me and led me to conclude she must be rather heartless. I had then linked to a description of that and other actions against Surly Amy and the Skepchicks at the same event, and made these general remarks of outrage (though of the behavior of numerous people as a whole, not Hall specifically):

[A]s the Surly Amy story shows, there are clearly many of us who disregard the happiness of others just to hurt them, mocking or insulting (or even threatening) them merely to please one’s own vanity or self-righteousness, in complete disregard of the pointless misery it causes another human being. That is fucking cruel. And if you are complicit in that, or don’t even see what’s wrong with it, or worse, plan to engage in Christian-style apologetics for it, defending it with the same bullshit fallacies and tactics the Christians use to defend their own immorality or that of their fictional god, then I don’t want anything to do with you. You are despicable. You are an awful person. You disgust me. You are not my people.

Even the most rudimentary application of The Golden Rule would have caused any of the people who treated Amy as they did, or Rebecca Watson, or any of the many women and men who have been targeted by this shit, to stop themselves well beforehand. “Wait. Would I want people to treat me this way?” No, you fucking wouldn’t. So alas, you are a hypocrite.

Well, I am now glad to report I can (and will) add a retraction regarding Dr. Hall. I was quite wrong in her case. She has since apologized and explained that she didn’t realize the context of what she had done and how it had been misconstrued. She and Surly Amy have had an excellent correspondence over this, and Hall comes across as a great person and very concerned and on board with our goals and values (and not, as she had erroneously given the impression of, mocking and deriding them). Indeed her image is fully redeemed for me. She says she had no idea the harm she had caused, and would have behaved otherwise if she knew. That’s the behavior Atheism+ wants to promote and wants to see more of: recognition of moral responsibility, learning, and improving ourselves and our movement. And above all, listening and communicating in a reasonable fashion.

Surly Amy has written an excellent post on their reconciliation, with quotations of their correspondence, which is all very well worth reading: Chicks, Tough Old Hens and Roosters. Oh, and T-shirts at TAM. It explains a lot, and dispels a lot of myths, especially the notion that Hall has any sympathy for the people who were using her t-shirt protest as proof she was on their side. She quite clearly explains she was not then and is not now.




Shermer vs. Pigliucci on Moral Science

Ophelia Benson summarized Michael Shermer’s latest foot-in-mouth in his row with Massimo Pigliucci over whether and to what degree moral philosophy should become a moral science instead. Reading their exchange, I find Shermer is more inclined toward ideological biases and superficial worldview declarations than actual, sound, self-critical, well-thought analyses in this matter.

As a result, Shermer is doing a really awful job of defending what I actually agree with: that it’s high time moral philosophy began to be folded into the sciences (the same way philosophy of mind became psychology and cognitive science, for example). And that’s annoying. It’s like when awful Jesus myth theorists make it harder for me to argue that Jesus might not have existed after all, by their constantly using terrible arguments that then get falsely imputed to me. My case then gets judged by their failures. I now worry the same will happen here. So let me try to nip that in the bud.

The General Point

Pigliucci already exposes Shermer’s lack of understanding in this latest matter generally, so I won’t rehash all that. [Read more…]

Appearing in San Francisco: NAPCON 2013

Banner for the National Atheist Party Convention (NAPCON 2013).I’ll be speaking at an event held by the National Atheist Party in two weeks time. So sorry I’ve been absent from my blog for over a week. Traveling and speaking at two events last week in North Carolina and then bills and taxes (a several day job for me, as my wife and I work three jobs, two of them self-owned businesses) have kept me from getting back to my blogging. I’ve got a few things in the queue, but for now, just a quick announcement of my next event…

I’m an invited speaker for the one-day National Atheist Party conference. See a quick video promo for that. You can buy tickets and get more information here (and definitely read their webpage which has a lot more info). This will happen Saturday, March 9 (2013), 8am-5:30pm (followed by the afterparty, which you also have to get tickets for). There is a special fundraising luncheon as well (separate from the afterparty). It’s all being held at the South San Francisco Conference Center. A lot of cool speakers and performers are featured.

As a frequent denizen of San Francisco, I have to admit this conference center is a bit difficult to get to, so plan ahead for that. It’s not in downtown. Nor next to the airport. No BART station comes near it. But there are lots of hotel accommodations nearby and the facility is respectably highfalutin. My talk:

“Separation of Church and State: Pagan Style”

Dr. Carrier, a historian of antiquity, discusses some of the ways state and religion interacted in ancient Greece and Rome, and how the American Constitution is far more a product of secular pagan thought than Christian.

You know, some “ancient history” perspective on the whole idea of political atheism. Back to my roots.

Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers

Picture of Kimberley Veal of African Americans for HumanismThis February 24th (2013) is going to be a Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers. For an explanation of what that means and how you can participate, read the great piece by its organizer, Kimberley Veal (writing as a guest on Greta Christina’s blog): “Come Out and Join in.”

I’d also love it if you scheduled yourself to throw some financial support to the educational charity drive run by our own Black Skeptics Los Angeles, who are providing scholarships to poor families sending their first generation to college: see Secular Community Steps Up for South L.A. Scholars. For more on the details of that 501(c)3 charity (which is an awesome idea), see Black Atheists Step Up. If they get a bunch of donations on that day, it will make a valuable statement.

But at the very least, make this February 24th a day to look up something to read online about the history of black atheism and nonbelief, and talk about it (online or elsewhere). You can watch a video at BlackAtheistsAmerica or google one of the prominent black atheists currently in our movement (Greta Christina’s list will soon be updated, but it’s a great place to start, with further links on minority atheism generally: see Atheists of Color; in fact, if you know any active black atheist speakers not on that list, let her know), or google up what you can on one of the prominent historical figures listed at the Black Atheists website. Not all on that historical list were atheists, but all have sternly questioned aspects of religion.

Picture of Frederick DouglasMy favorite, and actually the historical person I most admire (and that’s person, of any race), is Frederick Douglass, whose first autobiography everyone should read. It’s inspiring, astonishing, and superbly written, and today barely costs more than a dollar: see Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. That’s right. He was an escaped slave, who secretly taught himself to read when it was a death penalty offense. His book tells the tale. He never renounced belief in God or Christianity, but he was well known for his harsh criticisms of religion, and for such witticisms as “I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”

On religion in general he once declared such words as we never much hear from top Christian leaders today:

I love that religion that is based upon the glorious principle, of love to God and love to man; which makes its followers do unto others as they themselves would be done by. If you demand liberty to yourself, it says, grant it to your neighbours. If you claim a right to think for yourselves, it says, allow your neighbours the same right. If you claim to act for yourselves, it says, allow your neighbours the same right. It is because I love this religion that I hate the slave-holding, the woman-whipping, the mind-darkening, the soul-destroying religion that exists in the southern states of America. It is because I regard the one as good, and pure, and holy, that I cannot but regard the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. Loving the one I must hate the other, holding to the one I must reject the other, and I, therefore, proclaim myself an infidel to the slave-holding religion of America.

Even this atheist says “Amen.”

Appearing in NC: Greensboro & Raleigh

I’ll be speaking at two venues in North Carolina later this month (February 2013): first for the Triangle Freethought Society at NCSU in Raleigh (details here), then for the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics at Greensboro (details here).

Raleigh: Wednesday (February 20) at 6:30 pm in the Walnut Room of 4115 Talley Student Center at North Carolina State University (2610 Cates Ave., Raleigh NC 27606). Open to the public. Parking is free after 5:00pm in the Coliseum Deck (directly east of Talley). My talk will be “Why the Gospels Are Myth: The Evidence of Genre and Content,” with Q&A. I’ll be selling and signing some of my books afterward.

Greensboro: Thursday (February 21) at 7:00pm in the UNCG Sullivan Science Building, Room 101 (301 McIver St., Greensboro, NC 27403). Open to the public. Not sure about parking. My talk will be “Why I Think Jesus Didn’t Exist: A Historian Explains the Evidence That Changed His Mind.” I will be talking about some things I haven’t mentioned in prior talks about this subject, but also summarizing some of my past talks on the same subject (and only minimal overlap with the Raleigh talk), and of course taking Q&A on the topic. And then selling and signing some of my books afterward.

Sexual Objectification: An Atheist Perspective

Picture of Caroline Heldman, Ph.D.A recently excellent TED talk by Caroline Heldman about sexual objectification is a must-view. It will just take you thirteen minutes of your time, and I guarantee every minute is informative–things you should know, if you don’t already (and don’t assume you do). She correctly defines and identifies a real problem, identifies from empirical and scientific findings why it’s bad, and lays out what you can do about it, and everything she suggests is doable without much expense (the only resources required: just your attention and concern, and what it motivates you to say and think and do) except one thing, which is producing better art, advertising and media yourself (which we need not all do: that’s a recommendation for artists, marketers, and media people).

To watch that video, and read yet another disgusting example of how the women in our own movement are being treated, see Rebecca Watson’s post on it (Reminder: I Am an Object). Her post is short but to the point and she gives the evidence of what she’s talking about (in her case, something far worse than what Heldman is talking about, but on the same arc). Why so many men in our movement (and even some women) are not taking this seriously as a problem to speak out against and fight I don’t know. Anyway, the Heldman video is embedded at the end of her post, so if you don’t care about the latest harassment of Rebecca Watson, you can just skip to the end and watch Heldman (or click on her picture here above). Indeed I dare you to.

In the meantime, I have more to say on this subject as an atheist, a humanist, a feminist, and a philosopher… [Read more…]