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…

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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!

Why I Don’t Always Trust Israel

Does Israel resort to war crimes, and then lie about it, to gain its ends? It has in the past. Which is why I have a hard time believing Israel’s claims now that it isn’t targeting schools and hospitals, which are UN-observed civilian refugee sites. That would be a clear and horrific war crime under international law and the Geneva conventions. I also have a hard time believing what they also in the same breath say (see previous link), that they actually are targeting those sites because they are storing rockets for Hamas. (Yes, those two claims directly contradict each other; yes, it’s absurd to think sites observed by UN personnel are storing rockets–in fact, they clear any rockets found at sites set up as refugee centers).

To get up to speed on this, read this and this and this.

Hamas, of course, is evil and insane, if ever those words had meaning. They lie and kill all the time, in vile ways and without any rational sense. They also try to manipulate the public with false claims. But this isn’t a claim coming from Hamas.

There is a difference between responding justly with necessary force to legitimate terror and danger, and using that legitimacy as cover for trying to get away with evils even greater than those achieved by the enemy you are answering. Because of the Christian Armageddon Lobby, Israel does get away with quite a lot, and getting a free pass is a form of power, and power corrupts. If Israel is beyond all criticism, then it can slip in any evil and play the same get-out-of-jail-free card. If they are allowed to get away with anything, then they will in the end do anything. (So do we. Consider Tuskegee.)

Why am I doubtful that Israel is telling the truth this time? Because neutral observers confirm it. And Israel has done this before. In the most appalling way. And I want to share with you the example I mean. You can’t understand the world without it.

As a historian, I wonder at all the things people don’t know about our own history, and yet history repeats itself when we don’t. So let me recount something you probably have never heard about. It will sicken you. Especially the most patriotic, ra-ra, pro-military folk among you. Yes, especially you. [Read more...]

And Now I Breathe Easier as I Venture on to Seattle

Thank you, everyone, for the amazing help and support that came through. Yesterday I was crestfallen at a $2000 loss. As of now, amazingly generous patrons, supporters, and fans have sent me a total of almost $5000. So I am well above what I needed for a financial recovery. I have updated my original post. Anyone who still wants to patronize my work like the old-school way of supporting artists and scholars certainly can. And you can always support me in the usual ways of commerce. But the loss has been recovered.

I am going to apply the difference (the additional $3000) to offset the cost of arranging speaking engagements (most likely early next year) in the cities donors asked for. So that means, everyone who helped, you will all have made those trips possible and saved local organizations some expenses–and helped them get a speaker they might not otherwise have afforded. (Or two! If they could have fully afforded to bring me out, now they can apply some of that budget to getting another, for some other occasion.)

Again, sincere thanks to everyone. This was far beyond what I expected. It quite caught me by surprise.

Tomorrow morning I fly to Seattle to visit old friends for a week and attend and engage in a formal debate at the Atheist Alliance of America convention. I will be away from the office (and most email) all that time, so I may be out of communication for more than a week. I’ll try to blog from my away location once or twice at least. I was going to be really down on this trip. But now I feel energized and supported. Still violated and annoyed (thefts do that). But breathing easier. And I have you all to thank for that.

So I’m good. As I said in my update to yesterday’s post…

Now go forth and battle the dragons of the world!

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 [email protected]).

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…

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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.]

James Lindsay on the Historicity of Jesus

Philosopher James Lindsay (not to be confused with CFI Director Ron Lindsay), author of God Doesn’t; We Do has written an interesting piece about my book, On the Historicity of Jesus, but tangentially, i.e. he isn’t reviewing the book but responding to the way some people might use it. See Why I Really Don’t Care If Jesus Existed or Not.

Notably I have long agreed with his overall thesis: objectively, the historicity of Jesus is no more important than the historicity of Socrates, and is really only an interesting question in history. It’s not an earth-shattering thesis in counter-apologetics. It would be only if we had smoking-gun scale evidence against historicity, and we don’t, due to the paucity of evidence survival and its hugely compromised state (OHJ, chs. 7 § 7 and 8 § 3-4 and § 12; also chs. 4, Element 22, and 5, Element 44). For example, if Christianity were based on the belief that a flying saucer was found at Roswell and alien bodies recovered from it and autopsied by the government, the evidence against that even having happened would certainly be exhibit A in any refutation of Christianity. But we have in the Jesus case nothing like the survival of evidence we have in the Roswell case. Hence I’ve made the point before: Fincke Is Right: Arguing Jesus Didn’t Exist Should Not Be a Strategy.

My interest in it is because I’m a historian, whose specializations include ancient religions and the origins of Christianity, I was paid with a research grant to study the issue, and the way Christian dogma and faith beliefs have infected even secular study of the subject is a serious issue long overdue for a correction. Exactly as happened for the Patriarchs: Christian dogma and faith beliefs infected even secular study of that subject until a serious corrective effort was launched in the 1970s which has resulted in what is now a mainstream consensus among non-fundamentalist experts that the Old Testament Patriarchs are mythical persons who almost certainly never really existed. Christianity was not thereby overthrown. But the shift was nevertheless necessary to maintain the respectability of biblical history as an honest profession. The same is now true of the debate over the historicity of Jesus, as even historicity advocate Philip Davies has said.

The end result has been, I believe, a lot of increased clarity and discovery concerning many issues in the origins of Christianity, and not just the target issue of how certain we can be that Jesus was even a person. Readers of my book will notice that every chapter has wide utility for counter-apologetics without even having to mention much less affirm the non-existence of Jesus; you will recognize a lot of cherished Christian apologetical shibboleths being demolished there, and the citations of sources and scholarship extremely useful to anyone taking them on. But even apart from counter-apologetics, our understanding of ancient religion, ancient culture, ancient politics, and earliest Christianity, is significantly advanced and made more coherently clear by the effort. Which is as it should be. That’s a historian’s job.

So some corrections are still warranted to Lindsay’s analysis.

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