Kiva Now or Never!

Okay, time to do some good. The Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and Non-Religious team at Kiva is just a few hundred members away from winning a $10,000 bonus matching fund. Let’s get them that bonus! It only costs you $25. (And maybe not even that yet…for a while, due to another matching grant, your first loan can be free for awhile.) That’s the minimum venture. But when you see the results, you might end up putting more in just because you think this is really cool. Join now. (Before the end of March! The deal ends then.)

For those not in the know, Kiva is an international charitable organization that specializes in providing cheap micro-loans to people around the world, especially in third world countries, to help them in their business and job ventures and just quality of life. The loan gets paid back eventually, and when that happens, you can redirect your $25 (or whatever you’ve put in) to someone else. And so on. So the same $25 keeps helping more and more people. You might lose it eventually, though the risk is extremely low (less than 1%), and hey, it’s just $25; you can easily afford to put another in and start again.

The double bonus is that if you join through our own Crommunist’s campaign (which I’ve linked to above but again it’s here), he gets a matching $25 credit to put into Kiva loans, so you are helping twice…or actually three times, if you count what your money does, plus what that bonus does, plus what the $10,000 will do if the AASFSHN meets its target member count. I just joined and helped a Mongolian truck driver get new brakes (possibly saving lives), as well as a couch and some clothes. And I upped the profile and success of the atheist team at Kiva.

You can do that, too! I mean, honestly. It doesn’t even cost you much of anything to start, or to continue (if you want to keep going at the minimum buy-in of just $25). The low risk shows the recipients are very diligent in repaying these loans (these are not freeloaders) and the benefit can be relatively huge. You can really make a difference in the world for almost nothing. Why not?

For more, see Crommunist’s post on this new development and his past diaries of how his own loan has been recycled over the past year and more to help lots of different people.

 

Status Report

Two notes today, one to readers of my blog and another to the donors who funded Proving History and On the Historicity of Jesus Christ:

(1) Today I shall begin recording in studio for the audiobook edition of Not the Impossible Faith. Two other books have already been done and are available on Audible now (Why I Am Not a Christian and Sense and Goodness without God), and NIF will be the last of my own books to be turned into audio (though we will try to get audio rights for Proving History, too). That project will occupy me most of this week, in fact, leaving me little time to manage my blog. Then, next week, is the American Atheists convention, for which preparation, travel and attendance will again keep me too busy to do much else. So my blog will likely be on hiatus and comment moderation greatly delayed over the next two weeks. Just so you know. (Although I have one post already completed that I might throw up at some point amidst all that, and if I do find time I might do more.)

(2) I have sent an email today to all the donors to my historicity project. If you are an official donor to that project and did not receive that email, please email me right away so I can update my contact information for you. Then I can also send you that same email, which offers an advance look at the current draft of On the Historicity of Jesus Christ (which will differ from the published text, since it will likely be revised on advice from peer reviewers and editors before publication, but it will likely not differ in any radical way).

To everyone else who may be interested, note that OHJC has now entered the stage of peer review and contract negotiation, after which will be the publisher’s official editing and production phase (which can itself take many months). I am hoping peer review can be completed by July, which will likely mean an October or November publication–depending on how much revision needs to be done; if very little, it’s possible the book will be out even sooner. My ultimate target is to have copies for sale at this year’s Skepticon. Donors of course will eventually receive free copies by post just as with Proving History (except any who opt out of that benefit).

 

Record-Breaking Atheist Charity Drive

Last year I blogged about the national atheist community’s engagement with the Light the Night charity drive to fund Leukemia research (see This Is Atheist Charity and Charity Legend Update). Well, it achieved remarkable results. The atheist movement officially raised nearly half a million dollars (and may yet meet or exceed that target: see how to get involved again this year; in fact, read the whole letter from Todd Stiefel on why you should). The atheist charity hosting this drive for the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Foundation Beyond Belief, raised “the largest amount ever raised by a first year non-corporate team” and “the 4th largest amount raised by any team in the nation in 2012, including corporate teams.” For this year’s drive, our own cancer-survivor Greta Christina is an honored hero with the FBB, and they are there seeking nominations for other honored heroes (see previous link).

All of this would have been unthinkable even ten years ago, much less twenty. The atheism movement, and its humanist moral conscience, is becoming an unavoidable contender in the interfaith community. You can help keep that momentum going. Because with it will come greater recognition and influence for us all.

 

That Christian Nation Nonsense (Gods Bless Our Pagan Nation)

This is a transcript of my speech at this year’s convention for the National Atheist Party (minus spontaneous asides and ad-libs). Though this was an oratorical adaptation and rearrangement of my previous work online (Christianity Was Not Responsible for American Democracy), it is also much improved and contains new material, and I received multiple requests from the audience to make a transcript of it available. This is my cue text, so it is not in every respect word-for-word what I spoke at the convention, but it is very near to it. I began with a quotation… [Read more…]

Sense and Goodness without God Now an Audio Book

Cover for AudioBook edition of Sense and Goodness without GodMy flagship defense of a naturalist worldview (and of philosophy in general), Sense and Goodness without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism, is now available as an audio book, through Audible.com. It’s a fairly faithful reading, so even things I’d probably change now (mostly minor stuff) is still in there (I didn’t want to deviate too much into creating a second edition just yet), but I still had to leave out many of the internal cross references and all the bibliographies.

To get those bibliographies in audio, you still have to get something like the kindle edition and run voice-to-text on them. They frequently appear at the end of each section, and there are a lot of them. So to make that task easier, I’ve compiled a single PDF file on my website (Bibliographies for the Original 2005 Edition) that just has the bibliographies, one after another, on which you can then run text-to-speech (so you don’t have to try and search the book for where the bibliographies are, a tedious task for the visually impaired).

Do note that those bibliographies are obviously ten years out of date (I completed the book in early 2004, and it was published in 2005), but I wanted to make speech-conversion available for the original edition of the book. Even if I were to update these bibliographies, I would usually just be adding the most recent best works. The ones in there now are still relevant to their respective topics and represent what I was working from at the time. And there are still a lot of crucial readings and good recommendations in there. I have found that leading works published after 2003 (which I have been keeping track of) almost always further confirm my conclusions, or provide better and more up-to-date explanations of why the facts I was relying on are correct.

Appearing in Texas: American Atheists 50th!

I shall be one of the featured speakers at the American Atheists convention this month, in Austin, Texas, March 28-31 (2013). And I’m just one among a huge array of awesome folk presenting there: just look at this lineup! Yes, that’s Jay Jay French from Twisted Sister and recent United States congressman Peter Stark on the roster (at an explicitly atheist convention!)–along with a zillion other hoopy froods. Read all about this convention, who will be there, and how to get in and get accommodations, at their convention website. It’s their 50th anniversary, so this one is special. So many people will be speaking and performing there it’s mind boggling. If you can make it, do!

I’m currently slated for the 5:15pm slot that Friday (March 29th), but be aware that can sometimes change. My talk will be “Atheism…Plus What?” Yes. That’s right. Shock. Horror. I’ll summarize the backstory and aims and values of what we’ve been calling Atheism Plus and explain why I think it’s important (whatever we choose to call it) and how we can have reasonable critical discussions about it (instead of emotional kneejerk reactions). No Q&A is scheduled, but you can chat with me at the nightly afterparties.

They will be selling my books Proving History and Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith. If you can find me anywhere at the convention without interrupting a speaker, I’ll happily sign anything you have (whether bought there or something you brought with you).

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.”