Camp Quest Fundraising Contest Ends Soon — Last Chance for My Singing Pledge!

The deadline for the Camp Quest fundraising contest ends September 3! So I’m re-posting this piece — to remind you that the contest is still happening, and my singing pledge is still on. Remember: the more money Team Awesome wins by, the more songs I’ll sing!

Raise money for Camp Quest — the kids’ camp for children of atheists, freethinkers, humanists, and other non-supernaturalists — and watch me make a singing fool of myself! Plus there’s a matching offer on the table from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation — so all your donations, up to $50,000, will be automatically doubled!

Last year, about eighty zillion bloggers teamed up against PZ Myers in an epic battle between good and evil, to be determined by who could raise the most money for Camp Quest. PZ was crushed by the Army of Awesome — and this year, he seeks revenge! So we’re doing it all over again. (This year’s Army of Awesome includes me, Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist, Jen McCreight of Blag Hag, JT Eberhard of WWJTD, Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism, Sikivu Hutchinson of Black Skeptics, Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience, Cuttlefish of Digital Cuttlefish, C. L. Hanson of Letters from A Broad, The Chaplain of An Apostate’s Chapel, Phil Ferguson of Skeptic Money, and Dale McGowan of The Meming of Life.)

Now. You may remember that, in last year’s fundraising contest, several members of both teams made assorted wild promises about ways that we would make public spectacles of ourselves if our team won. Team Awesome prevailed, as the good and the righteous always do… so as a result, Jen McCreight learned to ride a bike on camera, JT Eberhard shaved his head and waxed his legs, Adam Lee grew a beard, Matt Dillahunty did an episode of The Atheist Experience in drag.

And I did karaoke. For the first time.

I’m not going to do that again. (Shudder.) However.

I was completely inspired by Crommunist’s songfest in the Secular Student Alliance blogathon. For every $10 donated to the SSA during his round of the Blogathon, Ian recorded a song requested by the donator — and wound up performing a total of 22 songs. (What can I say? Guy is hardcore.)

Now, of course, Ian can actually sing, which puts the whole thing into a different perspective. I can only sing okay. But I was inspired… and when I was thinking what wild promise I could make for this year’s Camp Quest Fundraising Battle to the Near-Death, I decided, “What the fuck.” (Also, I would like a second shot at this, and would like y’all to know that I can actually sing okay when I’m not singing through a shitty microphone in a noisy bar at the tail end of a weekend-long conference when my voice is shot.)

So I hereby make this pledge to you.

If Team Re-Defeat PZ — a.k.a, Team Awesome — wins the Camp Quest Fundraising Contest, I will sing, and video it, and post the video on this blog.

I’m not going to do karaoke again. Fuck that noise. But I will sing, on video, a capella, in the privacy of my own home. And I will post the video to this blog.

And I’ll go further than that. [Read more...]

The Comet Song: Theme from “Cat Over the Fridge Up High,” by ReasJack

Comet on fridgeEver since we got Comet, Ingrid and I have been trying to write a song for her, to the tune of the Colonel Bogey March. Otherwise known as the tune from “Bridge Over the River Kwai.” Otherwise known as the “Comet, it makes your teeth turn green” song, beloved by children across this great nation.

Now we have one! It was posted in a comment by ReasJack, in response to my latest Catster piece about Comet, Hell’s Kitten: Learning to Love Our Play-Aggressive Cat. And it’s beautifully done. The art of the song parody is a delicate one, and many people don’t get it quite right — but this one rhymes, and scans, and has all sorts of inventive little bits. We love it. Thanks!

Here, by ReasJack, is Theme from “Cat Over the Fridge Up High.”

Comet!
She’ll bite like a machine
Comet!
Your feet she’s in between
Comet
Your stuff she’ll glom it
She’ll chow down on it
And vomit todaaay
badum badum
bum
bum
bum
COMET!
She needs some more play time
COMET!
She thinks “That LEG IS MINE!”
COMET!
She’ll jump upon it
So play with Comet
Get on it
Today

Greta Speaking in Denver This Weekend!

Hi, all! I’m speaking in Denver this weekend, at the Atheist Alliance of America “Ascent of Atheism” conference! It promises to be a humdinger — other speakers include PZ Myers, Taslima Nasrin, Dan Barker, Jamila Bey, Jessica Ahlquist, Hemant Mehta, Tony Pinn, Eugenie Scott, Matt Dillahunty, AronRa, Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C., Mikey Weinstein, Victor Stenger, Avelina Espinosa, The Godless Bitches, and more.

My own talk is on “What the GLTB Movement Teaches the Atheist Movement.” Plus I’ll be doing a live podcast interview with the Godless Bitches! Here’s the details.

CITY: Denver, CO
DATE: Friday Aug. 31 – Saturday Sept. 3
TIME: All day conference
LOCATION: Grand Hyatt Hotel, Denver, CO
EVENT/ HOSTS: Ascent of Atheism — Atheist Alliance of America conference
OTHER SPEAKERS/ PRESENTERS: PZ Myers, Taslima Nasrin, Dan Barker, Jamila Bey, Jessica Ahlquist, Hemant Mehta, Tony Pinn, Eugenie Scott, Matt Dillahunty, AronRa, Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C., Mikey Weinstein, Victor Stenger, Avelina Espinosa, The Godless Bitches, and more!
TOPIC OF MY TALK: What the GLTB Movement Teaches the Atheist Movement
SUMMARY: The atheist movement is already modeling itself on the LGBT movement in many ways — most obviously with its focus on coming out of the closet. What else can the atheist movement learn from the LGBT movement… both from its successes and its failures?
PLUS: I’ll be doing a live podcast interview with the Godless Bitches!
ALSO PLUS: Child care will be provided for all children, with Camp Quest available for kids over 6.
ALSO ALSO PLUS: On the Monday after the conference proper, there’ll be a mountain picnic and hike, with both adult and kid’s levels of hiking. Transportation provided.
COST: $25 – $325. Student rates available. See website for details. Open to the public.

The Ascent of Atheism conference has a cool promo video, too:

Looks like a great time. If you’re in the area, I hope to see you there!

Atheism+’s First Project: A+ Scribe!

One of the questions people have been asking about Atheism Plus is, “What exactly will it do”? Which is a very reasonable and fair question. A bit premature, perhaps, given that less than two weeks ago this was just a germ of an idea about wanting a new wave of atheism, and the actual tangible thing is, as of this writing, less than four days old. But still, a fair question.

And one which now has its first answer: A+ Scribe. A project to transcribe videos, podcasts, and other media in the atheosphere that aren’t accessible to the deaf and hearing-impaired hard of hearing. From their mission statement:

The mission of A+Scribe is to help improve the accessibility of resources in the A+ sphere (and eventually beyond) to Deaf and Hard of Hearing readers. We will strive to honestly, accurately, and completely transcribe as many inaccessible resources as we can.

Accessibility for the disabled is a major social justice issue. And accessibility on the Internet, where so much atheism activism and organizing gets done, is a major issue for the atheist community. I am delighted that this A+Scribe project is happening. And I’m tickled pink that it’s happening less than two weeks after this germ of an idea about Atheism+ was floated, and less than four days after the actual tangible thing was launched. If you have a podcast or video you want transcribed, let them know. And if you want to help, they would love to hear from you

And can I just say: I can’t wait to see what else comes out of this! As of this writing, the Atheism+ forum already has over 700 members, with over 2500 posts on over 300 topics. (I think I’m beginning to see the real peril of this thing: it is a huge, much too tempting time-suck.) There’s been a lot of controversy and debate over this idea, at least some of which is understandable — but I think it’s obscuring the fact that what this is, basically, is a community. A community of people who share some common values and goals, and who want to work together on those goals. If something this concretely useful has already come out of it just in its infancy, I cannot wait to see what else we are going to do.

Hell’s Kitten: Learning to Love Our Play-Aggressive Cat

“Comet! Damn it, no! Comet, get down from there! Comet — yowch! COMET!”

These words probably come out of my mouth five times a day. Aimed at the cat who’s on the spice rack, or who has gotten into the liquor cabinet, or who has attached herself to my leg with all four sets of claws and is hanging on like it’s the last lifeboat off the Titanic. Aimed at the cat who, as I have acknowledged to the world, is my favorite.

I have never known a cat like Comet. Throughout my life, I’ve had 16 cats. I’ve been close friends with countless more: office cats, family cats, friends’ cats, neighbors’ cats, lovers’ cats. And I have never known a cat who was this disruptive, this adventurous, this much of a troublemaker, this adept at getting into places she absolutely should not be, this fearless, this intractably bitey, this frantically demanding of attention. I’m used to having to rearrange my life and my space around my cats, and having to tailor these rearrangements for the specific cats who are in my life. But I have never had a cat who has been anywhere near as high-maintenance as Comet. Not even in the same ballpark.

Comet on spice rack

*

Thus begins my latest piece for Catster, Hell’s Kitten: Learning to Love Our Play-Aggressive Cat. To read more about her acts of terrorism hijinks, and how we’ve been learning to not just cope with them but admire and love them, read the rest of the piece. (Lots of pics.) Enjoy!

Atheism Plus, and Some Thoughts on Divisiveness

Note: If you haven’t already read this FAQ about Atheism Plus, please read it before you comment on this post. It answers many of the most common concerns and most frequently asked questions about Atheism Plus. What with it being a FAQ and all.

Atheism plus logoIs Atheism Plus divisive?

Is it divisive to create a subset movement of atheism that focuses on atheism plus social justice — an “atheism plus” wave that explicitly focuses, not just on atheism, but on the intersections between atheism and racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other social justice issues? Externally in what issues we take on, and internally in how we deal with our own stuff? (Background here, for those who haven’t been following this.)

I’m going to say this right from the start: If you’re wary about Atheism Plus and want to see where it’s going before you decide whether to get involved… that’s fine with me. If you understand the motivations behind Atheism Plus, but prefer to align with another segment of the godless community, such as secular humanism… that’s fine with me. If you can see why people would want to form Atheism Plus, but personally prefer to keep your activism focused on more traditional atheist issues… that’s fine with me.

But if you don’t want to get involved with Atheism Plus — and you don’t want anyone else to, either? If you’re vociferously objecting to Atheism Plus and are actively trying to talk people out of it, because it’s “divisive,” because it will “weaken” the community and “splinter” us?

Listen up.

For the sake of clarity, the examples here will be focused on women, gender, and sexism — but the basic concept can be adapted to include people of color, trans people, poor people, working class people, the mentally ill, and other marginalized people. (Trigger warning for rape threats and other forms of threats and harassment, and for the dismissal of same.) [Read more...]

I Kill Sperm in My Vagina With My Mind

Just my mind kills sperm in my vagina…

James Taylor fans everywhere are dying a thousand deaths. But this is both one of funniest and one of the most savage bits of commentary on the Todd Akin “legitimate rape” travesty that I’ve seen.

It’s the Kinsey Sicks, America’s Favorite Dragapella® Beautyshop Quartet, singing “I Kill Sperm in My Vagina With My Mind.” (Captioned for the hearing-impaired.)

I know, right?

Eight Non-Believing Scientists Who Can Inspire Anyone

This piece was originally published on AlterNet. Note: When I originally posted the link to it, some people apparently misunderstood the intent of the piece, and thought it was supposed to be the eight best, or most famous, or most important, or most something else, non-believing scientists. It’s not. It’s just eight. Selected based on assorted personal criteria, some idiosyncratic, some not, and with a big heaping dose of random involved. Hope that clears things up.

It’s common knowledge — or it should be — that atheists are among the most reviled and mistrusted groups in America. We consistently come in at the bottom of polls about who Americans would vote for, who they would trust, who they want to marry into their families, who they think shares their view of how the world should be.

But it’s also the case that non-believers — not atheists as a group, but certain individual atheists and other non-believers — are among our most respected and beloved heroes. Not everyone knows that these people aren’t religious, of course… but they aren’t. And scientists are among the most admired of those heroes. Maybe it’s because scientists are more likely to be non-believers than the general population… and the more advanced in their field they are, the more true that becomes. Or maybe it’s because great scientists — American or not — embody the old-fashioned American values of exploration and curiosity, the willingness to question and the passion for truth, persistence in pursuing dreams and courage in the face of adversity. (These values aren’t uniquely American, of course — but when people gas on about the American character, these ideals do tend to turn up in the conversation.)

So here are eight non-believing scientists, whose work and lives and stories can inspire anyone — atheist, religious, or other. [Read more...]

Atheism Plus Website/ Library/ Resource Guide – Crowdsourcing!

IMPORTANT NOTE: This post has a different comment policy than my standard one. It’s at the end of the post. Please read it and respect it. Thanks.

Atheism plus logoAs many of you know, there’s this new game in Atheism town, called Atheism Plus. Started as a germ of an idea about wanting a new wave of atheism that focuses on atheism plus social justice, it has now crystallized as an online forum — a safe space for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime. The forum has a main forum, the place for on-topic discussion about atheism, humanism, skepticism, and social justice — and it also has an educational forum, where introductory questions about social justice issues will receive civil responses. (Important note: In internet discussions, when people are asking the same 101-level questions about basic social justice issues that have been asked and answered a thousand times — and you’re not sure if they sincerely want to know or are just JAQing off, and in either case you don’t want the conversation derailed to discuss the 101-level stuff — you can now redirect people to this forum! Neat, huh?)

But one of the key ideas from the beginning about Atheism Plus — or at least, about an Atheism Plus website — has been that it would contain a resource guide and library of information about social justice issues… especially as they intersect with atheism and skepticism.

I’ve taken this task on. Or at least, I’ve taken on the task of getting it started. And since I definitely don’t know everything there is to know about social justice, or even a fifth of everything there is to know about social justice, I thought I’d crowdsource a good chunk of it.

We are looking for:

* Lists of support and advocacy groups. (Example: Black Atheists of America.)
* Evidence-based research and data about social justice issues and marginalization. (Example: Psychological research about unconscious sexism.)
* Core writings (or videos, podcasts, whatever) with education about social justice issues. (Example: The Spoon Theory, on But You Don’t Look Sick)
* Probable subset of that: Core writings (or videos, podcasts, whatever) on privilege. (Example: The Male Privilege Checklist.)
* Core writings (or videos, podcasts, whatever) with practical how-to’s on diversity.
* Core writings about Atheism Plus itself: its inspiration, ideals, a FAQ, etc.

Any other categories that I’m missing?

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT COMMENTS: The comment policy for this post is different from my standard one. In this post, comments debating the general validity or value of Atheism Plus are not accepted. There are lots of other places to debate that, in this blog and elsewhere. This comment thread is for people who are already on board with Atheism Plus — or with its core values, regardless of whether they identify with the label or participate in the forum — and who want to share ideas about what should go in the library. Debates about the value or accuracy of particular items are okay (although if they start to derail or get unproductive, I may step in). But the focus of this comment thread is to pull this library together. Digressions from that topic will be firmly moderated: persistent digressors will be banned.

Thanks for understanding. Your time starts… now!

Update: The Original Oolon is Not the Culprit!

Update on the #mencallmethings: “whining, annoying, cunt.” post:

The “oolon” who wrote the “whining, annoying, cunt” comment cited in this post is not the usual “oolon” who comments on FTB. The writer of this comment sockpuppetted the existing blogger’s ‘nym.

I am distressed — although hardly surprised — to learn that the misogynist element has sunk to the low of smearing other commenters’ reputations with their own toxic waste.

I am. however, delighted to see the good name of Oolon restored.