I talk to Jamila Bey about “Black Folks Don’t”

This Monday I had the great privilege of appearing on Jamila Bey’s “Sex, Politics, and Religion Hour” radio show. As you may remember, I have appeared there once before, where we discussed the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). This time around, we brought the topic a bit closer to ‘home’ (so far as this blog is concerned) and discussed the “Black Folks Don’t… Do Atheism” film. I was lucky enough to be invited alongside series creator Angela Tucker.

The audio from the interview is available below the fold, along with some of my own thoughts: [Read more...]

Scratch a racist statement, get a dose of ignorance

This morning I went on a bit of a tear of a Mitt Romney advisor who said this:

In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.

And I paused from finding new and creative ways to call Mr. Romney ‘boring’ to point out how insanely and overtly racist it was to say that being white made you more qualified to be President (actually, technically speaking, how being non-white made you less qualified, if you’re willing to split hairs). Having had a bit of time to think the situation over, I’ve reconsidered my opinion a bit. Not about the racism of the statement, but the intent of the speaker.

Back in 2009, a newly-elected President Barack Obama nominated Sonya Sotomayor to the Supreme Court of the United States. During her vetting process, she was taken to task (by idiots) for a comment she had made in a speech a few years earlier: [Read more...]

Because I am an atheist: NathanDST

Today’s contribution was submitted as a comment by NathanDST, who blogs at “Occasionally, I Think

Because I am an atheist…

…when my best friend, my true brother in every way that matters, suddenly collapsed at home on Monday, May 7, I didn’t pray. I took his wife to the hospital to be with him and babysat their daughter. And when he was stabilized, I looked for something to do to help him, and his family. I started communicating with our mutual employer, so his wife didn’t have to worry about that. I made sure someone was dealing with his responsibilities. When another friend of ours started a fundraiser online to help cover his medical bills, I donated what I could, and wrote a blog post to tell the world what kind of a man he is, and beg for donations.

Because I am an atheist, I couldn’t simply tell myself that he would make it, and it would all work out, so I started thinking of ways to honor him, if the worst happened (or happens, though it’s now looking good for him). I’ve been watching how his friends, family, and total strangers have responded, and my heart has swelled with pride and delight that humans are coming together to help humans, and not just relying on prayer and their god. I appreciate all the more the efforts of the hospital staff and doctors, and am pondering ways to thank and honor them. I understand how incredibly fortunate he is at how it worked out: if he hadn’t taken a half-day to watch his daughter while his wife was at a meeting, he would have been on the road coming home when it happened; if his wife hadn’t realized he wasn’t joking around almost immediately, and dialed 911; if the paramedics hadn’t been so fast in responding to the call; if modern medicine was less advanced, if the doctors weren’t so skilled, if if if . . . I understand that it’s all coincidence, and there was no plan or destiny, and I think this makes my relief so much more palpable, if that makes sense.

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Scratch a Republican, find ‘a racist’

I have a friend who dates women who are… to put it bluntly, they’re plain. I don’t mean plain-looking (whatever that means) – some of them have been remarkably attractive; no, these women are just the personality equivalent of stale Wonderbread dipped in lukewarm water. They have no real personality characteristics that make them stand out, and are not even interesting enough to be shy – they aren’t afraid to speak, they just don’t have anything to say. They are the “regular” flavour of Jell-O. They are the white noise at the end of a cassette tape. They are the living avatar of the colour beige.

The United States seems to be deep in the throes of bland passion with their own featureless paramour: one Mitt Romney. The man is so boring that when sex tapes of him and his wife were discovered, the MPAA rated them ‘ZZZ’. Tostitos has made its famous salsa available in ‘hot’, ‘medium’, ‘mild’, and ‘Mitt’ (where ‘Mitt’ is just a can of tomato sauce that has been lightly rubbed against an onion). Homeopaths have described him as a ’30C human’.

He’s boring, I guess, is what I’m saying.

Here’s the funny thing though: even the most boring and soporific of Republicans can always be relied on to be secretly really fucking racist: [Read more...]

Send in the clowns

There are, as I tried to illustrate this morning, intelligent ways to respond to tragedy. They involve spending time thinking about not only how to understand what has happened, but to come up with reasonable and perspicacious ideas of what to do next. Smart is not the only way to respond to tragedy. For those with an aversion to ‘smart’, there’s always the ever-popular ‘stupid’:

In particular, [radio hosts] Doyle and Downs were having difficulty understanding just how and why Ford was drawing a connection between Monday’s Danzig Street shooting and Canada’s immigration laws, especially given that there is no reason to believe any of the people responsible were immigrants. “Well, he seems to be drawing a link between immigration and gun crime,” Downs said. “So, how is that link being drawn, why is he drawing that link? It just seems extremely bizarre. So it’d be great if he could explain himself on that one, I’m curious to know if other people are not a little confused as to why he is calling on the prime minister to clarify Canada’s immigration laws so we can crack down on gun crime.”

Who is ‘Ford’, you might ask? Maybe some other right-wing commentator? A Rush Limbaugh figure? Maybe a prominent Toronto businessman or other person whose name carries some recognition but otherwise has little knowledge or influence with respect to the situation at hand?

Yeah… if only. Rob Ford is the mayor of Toronto. Canada’s largest city. To put Toronto’s population and national importance in perspective, if you added together the populations of Washington, D.C.; Boston; Miami; Atlanta; and Salt Lake City, you’d have a city roughly the size of Toronto. Fully one sixth of the population of Canada lives within an hour’s drive of Toronto. Rob Ford is the mayor of that. So why is it that he thinks that gun crime is an immigration issue? In his honour’s most illustrious words: [Read more...]

Because I am an atheist: Heather McNamara

Today’s contribution comes from Heather McNamara, who blogs at “The McNamara Report

Because I am an atheist…

…I am no longer burdened with acquiescence to the moral superiority of an entity created by men from an era that loathed my gender, my orientation, and most of all, my autonomy. I can now understand my feelings for what they really are. They are not bogeymen or sinful desires of the flesh that seek to draw me away from anyone’s true purpose or plan for me. My feelings for women are no more or less supernatural than my friends’ feelings for the opposite sex. I am free to pursue relationships, love, and sex with whomever I wish so long as I treat them well. My heart and my bedroom are now happy, restful, pleasurable places instead of battlegrounds. I can now experience the kind of love and ecstasy my friends always have without guilt or fear of having disappointed my Father.

I have learned that I’m a better, more powerful person than I thought I was. Each accomplishment, talent, and triumph for which I previously felt unworthy and attributed to the graciousness of a higher power were in fact my own. When I have overcome poverty, depression, and severe anxiety, it wasn’t because a higher power finally saw fit to have mercy on me. It was because I fought valiantly and won. With my new confidence, I feel better equipped to handle the difficult situations such as the inevitable divorce and subsequent poverty that life has thrown at me since coming out. I don’t have to wonder whether a god will see fit to help me through this one or accept bad situations as my just desserts for straying from its path. I knew I would get through these things just like I got through everything else. And I have. I’m quite capable. [Read more...]

A shooting, many questions, no answers

Shortly after midnight on Friday, July 20th, a heavily-armed man burst into a movie theatre and opened fire on the crowd, killing twelve people and wounding nearly 60. This latest act of mass violence in the United States sparked yet another national conversation about the need for gun control, and questions about what could prompt a person with an otherwise-bright future to commit such an atrocity. I lack the necessary knowledge (and the energy) to comment much further about this particular shooting other than to say that I obviously wish it hadn’t happened, and that something must be done to make such events more rare. I do not believe that more guns are the answer to the problem, but that idea appears to have some serious currency in the United States, so I guess take that for what it’s worth.

Such acts are incredibly rare here in Canada (especially compared to our southern neighbour), and yet Toronto has recently been visited by a pair of public shootings that have sparked our own national conversation. The first shooting occurred at the beginning of last month in the food court of the city’s largest shopping mall. Two people, the apparent targets of the shooter, were killed. The motivation appears to be related to gang activity. At the beginning of last week, Toronto was once again visited by the spectre of violence at the hands of armed gunmen: [Read more...]

Science vs Philosophy

Recently, a number of people have opened their mouth to deride Philosophy. Notably, they tend to be people who are well-placed academics such as Krauss and Dawkins. Likewise, Atheistlogic has stuck their oar in too, though much more articulately. Atheistlogic spells out the general objection quite well, I think, so I’m going to focus on their comments as a stepping off point.

[Read more...]

Because I am an atheist: The Uncredible Hallq

Today’s contribution comes from fellow FTBorg Chris Hallquist, who blogs at The Uncredible Hallq.

Because I am an atheist…

…I can view religion honestly.

I was raised a liberal Protestant, Congregationalist to be exact. I’ve joked that our family was one step away from being Unitarians and this made becoming an atheist not much of a leap, but this is a total lie.

The truth is that when I finally admitted to myself, “yup, I’m an atheist,” it had a couple immediate, beneficial effects on my life

As a young, liberal Christian teenager, I had no problem ignoring the scary stuff in the Old Testament, letters of Paul, and well everything except the stuff about Jesus. And the stuff about Jesus included some good stuff, “judge not least ye be judged,” the parable of the good Samaritan, giving to charity, the parable of the sheep and the goats (a good rebuke to fundamentalists who say it’s all about whether you believe in Jesus), and so on.

The problem was that not everything about Jesus was good stuff. Greta covers this really well in her “The Messed-Up Teachings of Jesus,” but one thing I’d highlight is the thought crime stuff. That messed with my head, especially since it was right there in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, mixed in with the “blessed are the poor” stuff and stuff about not taking an eye for an eye.

The other immediate change once I started thinking of myself as an atheist was that I no longer felt any need to make excuses for fundamentalist Christians. Don’t get me wrong, part of me thought they were scary, but I also had it in my head that Christian = good so sometimes I felt obliged to think good thoughts about them. Once I stopped identifying as a Christian, I could see them for what they were, and see that the correct response to their quoting the Bible to support their views was not to argue interpretation but just say, “OK, if that’s what the Bible says, the Bible is wrong.” It’s really refreshing to be able to be honest about things like that.

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The one-way mirror of racial privilege

One of the most powerful tools we have when trying to parse an argument is the analogy. We can take the elements of a position, plug them in to a different context, and then press ‘play’ to see whether or not the argument still logically follows. So when a religious apologist talks about the perfect love and perfect mercy of YahwAlladdha, we can ask if it would still be considered ‘loving’ to lock your children in the basement and torture them (for any amount of time, let alone eternity) if they disobeyed your rules. We can point out the absurdity of demanding that atheists ‘play nice’ or ‘leave well enough alone’ by pointing to the similarities between ours and other civil rights movements, and show how active engagement in the public sphere is vital to progress.

Accustomed as we are to the incredible usefulness of this tool, there are cases where it goes horribly awry – namely, those cases in which privilege plays a significant role. At once, argument by analogy becomes completely derailed, and to the person drawing the (flawed) analogy, it seems as though the “privilege card” is being pulled out of nowhere. The argument seems to be, to them, that one is wrong simply because ze is white, or male, or cisgendered, or whatever dominant group identity is germane to the conversation – that the mere fact of being in the majority immediately disqualifies your arguments. Then out come the waterworks: “you’re just as bad as those you criticize – my opinion is being dismissed as you complain about people dismissing yours!”

Animated .gif of a Decepticon laughing and shooting lasers

Let’s just jump ahead a few paragraphs to the end of the argument and state unequivocally that your argument is bad, and you should feel bad.

Now that everyone who needs to learn this lesson has stopped reading, let’s forge ahead, shall we? [Read more...]