Foundation Beyond Belief and the Nepal Earthquake

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The Foundation Beyond Belief’s Humanist Disaster Recovery program is raising funds to help with the recovery effort underway in the wake of the Nepal Earthquake.

In case you haven’t heard, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal overnight. The Capital and Kathmandu valley have faced the brunt of the impacts while an avalanche was triggered on Mount Everest. The government has confirmed over 1000 deaths.

Please support the Foundation Beyond Belief’s fundraising drive. Donate if you can, and spread the word on all the social media that you can. Be good without gods.

(Transparency note: I’m on the Foundation Beyond Belief’s board of directors. I don’t get any money for it, though.)

Condemning the Chapel Hill Murders

It horrifies me that we should have to say this. But I will say it anyway:


DO NOT FUCKING WELL KILL PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU DON’T LIKE RELIGION.

I will quote myself from Why Are You Atheists So Angry?:

So yes, I would like to see religion eventually disappear. I would not, however, like to see this disappearance happen in any sort of coerced or enforced way. I would not, for instance, like to see laws passed against religious beliefs or practices. I absolutely don’t want violence done to people because of their religion. I don’t even want social pressure exerted against religion or religious believers, except to the degree that arguments constitute social pressure. I want believers to be free to practice their beliefs however they choose, as long as that practice doesn’t unreasonably impinge on my life or the lives of others.

Context, in case you haven’t heard: Three young Muslims were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The man arrested for the murders, Craig Stephen Hicks, is a self-described atheist and opponent of religion. So I will spell this out, as clearly as I can: I unequivocally condemn the Chapel Hill murders. They were unspeakably vile. Killing people because you oppose the harm done in religion’s name — do I even need to explain how repugnant that is, and why? It is repugnant. I unequivocally condemn it.

Radical

(Content note: mentions of racism, rape denialism, domestic violence, homophobia. Also some use of mental illness language used as insult in quoted passage.)

I’ve been thinking about the word “radical.”

Lore Sjöberg recently posted this on Facebook (reprinted here with permission, not linked to by his request):

Here’s a thought experiment I’ve been mulling over. Say I was transported back in time to the 1950s. I’m surrounded by a culture that contains all the sexism and racism on display in Mad Men, and more on top of that.

I would be surrounded by repulsive things, ranging from cartoons about buck-toothed “Chinamen,” ads making jokes about smacking the little lady if she gets out of hand, rolled eyes at any implication that a woman could be raped by her husband, and the cultural certainty that gay people are, at best, just plain crazy.

How could I live with this? If I speak up about a tenth of the terrible things I saw, I’ll be seen as a bizarre radical if not an outright loon. Even if I become an activist, I’ll probably be the activist that everyone points at to say “Well, at least I’m not as extreme as HE is!”

(And all of this is not even addressing the question of what it would be like to actually BE a woman, or a person of color, or a gay man in that era.)

All of this is to say that sometimes I feel like I’m already in the Fifties. One of the complaints leveled against feminists, and feminist women in particular, is that they see sexism everywhere and they make a big deal out of things that everyone, even most women, think is just fine.

Well, yeah! There IS sexism everywhere, and a lot of the things that aren’t a big deal today are nonetheless sexist, just like naming a sports team “The Redskins” in 1932 was racist even if it seemed like good fun at the time. I certainly don’t agree with every statement by every progressive activist — that would be impossible anyway, progressives don’t agree on everything — but a lot of times I find myself reading about controversies and thinking “Yep, that’s radical, and it’s extremist, and it’s unreasonable. But it’s also absolutely correct and in another few decades it will be considered common sense.”

I’ve been thinking about this. And I’ve been realizing what an empty, lazy insult it is to call someone, or someone’s ideas, radical.

Rules_for_Radicals coverLore is absolutely right. Many ideas that were once seen as radical, and not that long ago either, have survived vigorous criticism and the test of time, and are now entirely mainstream. It was once considered radical to see black people as fully human, deserving of all the dignity and liberty and rights as any human. It was once considered radical to think that gay people weren’t morally corrupt or mentally ill, and to see same-sex love and sex and relationships as even remotely acceptable. (In fact, I remember seeing an archival TV interview with a gay activist in the late ’60s or early ’70s, who said that of course gay people weren’t advocating for marriage or adoption rights — that was ridiculous.) Until the 1970s, it was legal in the United States for husbands to rape their wives, and it took until 1993 for marital rape to be a crime in all 50 states. I could come up with a long list of many more examples, right off the top of my head. (Suggestions for others are invited in the comments.)

All these ideas were considered radical — until they weren’t.

In other words: An idea can be radical, and still be right.

In other other words: Insulting an idea (or a person) simply because they’re radical is an empty insult, devoid of any actual critical content. [Read more…]

Death and Injustice: How Can Humanists Respond?

Protests

(Note: the following contains references to racist, transphobic, and misogynistic violence.)

In the face of unjust death—what can humanists say and do?

I have a new book out called Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, a short collection of essays offering secular ways to handle your own mortality and the deaths of those you love. [It comes out December 11 in ebook and audiobook; print edition will come later.] In it, I talk about some humanist ways of coping with death and highlight philosophies that might provide some consolation and meaning—including the idea that death is a natural part of the physical universe; that mortality makes us treasure our lives; that we were all astronomically lucky to have been born at all; that religious views of death are only comforting if you don’t think about them carefully; and more.

But when Michael Brown was killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, and when his body was left in the street for over four hours, and when a grand jury decided that the questions about his death didn’t warrant a jury trial and declined to indict his killer on even the most minor charges—I found myself with very little to say. And when, a week after that grand jury announcement, another grand jury in New York City declined to indict another police officer (Daniel Pantaleo) in the death of another unarmed black man (Eric Garner)—I was almost speechless.

Of course I’ve had plenty to say about racist policing, about prosecutors deliberately tanking cases, about how over 99 percent of grand juries indict but less than five percent will do it to a cop. (Although mostly what I’ve had to say about that has been, “Go read these pieces by black writers, they know a lot more about this than I do.”) But when it comes to any consolations humanism might have for people grieving for Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the injustice surrounding their deaths, I’ve been coming up largely empty.

So, in the face of unjust death—what can humanists say and do?

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for The Humanist magazine, Death and Injustice: How Can Humanists Respond? To read more, read the rest of the piece.

(Note: Some of the comments at the link are okay, but some are appalling. The next time someone says, “You shouldn’t call yourself an atheist, if you care about atheism plus social justice you should call yourself a humanist” — or the next time someone says, “Humanism already means caring about racism and sexism and all that, so why should I call myself a feminist or anti-racist, I just call myself a humanist and that covers it” — I’m pointing them to these comments. Self-identified humanists can be total fucking assholes.)

Ferguson Links

Here are some posts about Ferguson, Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, and related stuff, which I think are worth reading.

It’s Incredibly Rare For A Grand Jury To Do What Ferguson’s Just Did

Fake Michael Brown case pathologist: ‘If they want to think I’m a doctor, that’s their issue’

Structural and Institutional Racism Exists Within Police Forces

When Force is Hardest to Justify, Victims of Police Violence are More Likely to be Black

Ferguson: 5 Points We Need to Understand

St. Louis police officers’ group demands Rams players be disciplined for ‘hands up, don’t shoot’

Charges Dropped For Cop Who Fatally Shot Sleeping 7-Year-Old Girl

The Talk (cartoon by Steve Sack)

the talk cartoon

‘Racism without racists’: White supremacy so deeply American that we don’t even see it

Self-Segregation: Why It’s So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson

12 things white people can do now because Ferguson

6 Things White Parents Can Do to Raise Racially Conscious Children

Ferguson Public Library (you can make donations)

Ferguson Defense Fund

BlackLivesMatter Bay Area Legal Fund

No, No, No, No, No: Ferguson, Michael Brown, and the Failure to Indict Darren Wilson

No.

No, no, no, no, no.

When major world events happen, I don’t always comment. I have a tendency to not say anything unless I have something unique to say, something I haven’t seen anyone else say yet.

But sometimes, that doesn’t matter. Sometimes, I just have be one more voice. Even though other people will no doubt have things to say that are more perceptive, more informed, more eloquent, sometimes I have to add my voice to the chorus. This is one of those times.

No. This is not acceptable. It is not acceptable that millions of Americans live in a police state because their skin is black or brown. It is not acceptable that police can shoot unarmed black men who have their hands in the air, and not even fucking get indicted. Forget about getting convicted — Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, and did not even get fucking indicted.

I do not consent to this decision.

I may say more later. Right now, I need to say this:

No. No, no, no, no, no.

NO.

no

Why, Despite the Incredibly Discouraging Crap That’s Been Going On in Recent Weeks and Months and Years, I Still Have Hope for Organized Atheism

Cologne_Germany_Cologne-Gay-Pride-cheerleadersI know. Here comes Greta, the eternal optimist, the relentless Pollyanna cheerleader, always holding out for hope. Stay with me. I really think I’m right about this.

Yes, the recent weeks in organized atheism have been incredibly discouraging, disheartening, disillusioning, demoralizing, dis- and de- just about every good thing that keeps people engaged in activism. Heck, the recent months and years in organized atheism have often been discouraging. Our most visible representatives are saying and doing horrible things: they’re perpetuating horrible sexist and racist ideas, they’re trivializing rape and making excuses for it and blaming the victims of it, they’re apparently committing sexual assault. The online hatred and harassment squad has been in full force. The defenses, denials, rationalizations, trivializations, and victim-blaming about all of this have been in full force. And in the last few weeks, all of this has been in overdrive. I can totally understand why some people, even people who have been in organized atheism for years — strike that, especially people who have been in organized atheism for years — would be losing hope. I’m feeling it, too.

And I’m not going to say for a second that the awful shit isn’t awful. I’m certainly not going to say that we shouldn’t talk about it just because it’s giving people a sad. I’m not going to tell anyone else that they’re bad or wrong for being disheartened — or even that they have any obligation to stay in organized atheism.

What I’m going to say is that I have hope. And I’m going to explain why. [Read more…]

Michael Brown, Entirely Normal Teenager, Is “No Angel”

Are you fucking kidding me, New York Times?

Michael Brown Spent Last Weeks Grappling With Problems and Promise

Michael Brown was “no angel” — because he got frustrated with his family, sometimes used vulgar language, dabbled in drugs and alcohol, got into one scuffle with a neighbor, wasn’t the best student, once took money meant for shoes and bought a PlayStation, and as a child climbed fences and scribbled on the wall.

None of which makes him an ENTIRELY NORMAL TEENAGER.

Also he “had taken to rapping in recent months.” OOOOOOO! No! Not rapping!

Oh, and he was accused of stealing an iPod, but actually didn’t. Which is relevant how?

Seriously? Are you fucking kidding?

Missouri GOP Chief: Registering Voters “Disgusting” and “Inappropriate”

By Eric W. Dolan at The Raw Story:

The head of the Missouri Republican Party said Tuesday that efforts to register voters in Ferguson, Missouri, were “disgusting” and unhelpful.

“If that’s not fanning the political flames, I don’t know what is,” Missouri RNC executive director Matt Wills told Breitbart News. “I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”

Wills was responding to reports that Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and other civil rights activists had set up voter registration booths following the death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old unarmed black teenager who was killed by a Ferguson police officer.

Right. Because encouraging people who have been grossly mistreated by their government to take peaceful, legal action to change that government — that’s disgusting and inappropriate. But they’re also not supposed to protest loudly in the streets. So what are people supposed to do when they’ve been grossly mistreated by their government?

Oh, right. Nothing. They are supposed to do nothing. This is not their government, and they are not supposed to push for it to change in any way.

Just in case we needed any more evidence that the Republican Party is the party that is actively opposed to the very idea of democracy

Fuck you, Republican Party.



Coming Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina’s books, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why and Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, are available in print, ebook, and audiobook. Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More is available in ebook and audiobook.

Michael Brown and Ferguson: My Greatest Fears for My Friends

Please note: This blog post has a different comment policy from my usual one. It appears at the end of the post.

I keep not writing about this. I keep saying to myself, “This isn’t a good day — I have a deadline; I’m traveling; I just got home from traveling.” I keep saying to myself, “I don’t know enough about it; I haven’t been following it closely enough; other people are already saying what I want to say about it, more eloquently and with better information.”

And I keep realizing that this is bullshit. I keep not writing about this because it’s painful. And that is a bullshit excuse. Any pain I might have about this is completely trivial. And it doesn’t matter that others have written about it. This is one of those times when it doesn’t matter if my voice is original. This is one of those times when being one more person saying, “This is not acceptable, I do not consent to this” is what matters.

*****

I keep thinking about the children in my life, and the young adults in my life. I keep thinking about what my fears are for most of them: global warming, gross economic disparity hand in hand with political corruption, loss of anything resembling privacy.

And then I think about the black male children in my life, and the young black men in my life. And I realize that my greatest fear for them is that they’ll get shot by a cop.

Howard University Mike Brown protest hands up don't shootMy greatest fear for them is that they will get into a car accident, go to a house for help, and get shot by a cop. My greatest fear is that they will pick up a BB gun in a Wal-Mart, and get shot by cops. My greatest fear is that they walk home from a convenience store with a bag of candy, and get shot by neighborhood watch. My greatest fear is that they will get into a fight on a train platform, get restrained face down on that platform, and get shot in the back by a cop. My greatest fear is that they will be walking in broad daylight, and get shot by a copsix times, when they have their hands in the air, and are pleading, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!”

Actually — that’s not even it. My greatest fear for the black male children in my life, and the young black men in my life, is that they’ll get shot by a cop — and will get no justice.

My greatest fear is that is that they’ll get shot by a cop, and that their body will be left in the street for hours. My greatest fear is that people protesting their death will be met with militarized police behaving like an occupying army — stalking the streets with drawn weapons, firing rubber bullets and tear gas, and screaming at them, “Bring it, all you fucking animals! Bring it!” My greatest fear is that reporters covering their death, and the protests against their death, will be arrested, and that cops will assault them and threaten them with macing or shooting.

My greatest fear is that they’ll get shot by a cop for the crime of existing while black, while elsewhere in the country, white people openly defy the law, threaten armed revolt against the government, and point guns at law enforcement officials — and the government fires no guns, fires no tear gas, and eventually retreats and concedes the ground.

My greatest fear is that, despite a well-documented pattern of unarmed black men getting shot by cops again and again and again, despite four unarmed black men being killed by cops in the last month alone, millions of people commenting on their death will contort themselves into hyper-skeptical pretzels trying to explain why their shooting had nothing to with race.

And my greatest fear is that nothing they do in their life will protect them from any this. My greatest fear is that they will play by every rule they’re told to play by — play sports, do volunteer work, get married, go to college — and that none of it will protect them.

A few days ago, a friend and colleague of mine — an African American woman with a young black son — was asking on Facebook where she should seek asylum. Canada? New Zealand? Sweden? No part of me even considered saying, “That’s ridiculous, the United States is as safe for you and your son as any place in the world.” I didn’t even ask her what she was talking about. I knew exactly what she was talking about.

Back when I was young and naive, I used to play a pointless game in my head of comparing and contrasting marginalizations. And when I was pondering homophobia, I would say to myself, “Well, there are certainly many ways that other bigotries are worse — but being gay is literally against the law. It’s never been literally against the law to be female, to be poor, to be black.”

I don’t say that anymore.

For all intents and purposes, it is against the law in the United States to be a young black man. To be a young black man in the United States is a crime — punishable by summary execution.


The comment policy on this post is the same as it was on my Trayvon Martin post: I am not willing to host a debate about this on my blog. I am willing to host many debates on my blog, about many issues. I am willing to make my blog into a place for people to express many ideas and opinions with which I passionately disagree. This is not one of those issues, and this is not one of those times. If you have anything at all to say about this that even remotely hints at implying that Michael Brown’s murder was justified or that the police response has been reasonable and proportionate — do not comment in my blog. Now, or ever. Do not read my blog. Do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Do not attend my talks. Do not buy my books. Get the fuck out of my life, now. Thank you.



Coming Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina’s books, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why and Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, are available in print, ebook, and audiobook. Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More is available in ebook and audiobook.