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Announcements: Greta’s New Book & My Work on Mine

The incomparable Greta Christina’s new book, Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, goes on sale today. In case you’re feeling a sense of deja vu: it’s not a glitch in the Matrix, as I mistakenly plugged it a few days too early due to some publisher miscommunication.

As for me? I promised my Kickstarter backers to turn in my due-two-years-ago manuscript for A Skeptic’s Guide to Islam sooner rather than later, so I’m taking a blogging and social media hiatus to focus on that. Unless something happens that I just have to talk about, I’m going to be off the radar until next week.

Everyone & Everything Will Die — & That’s Okay

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of Greta Christina’s Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, which goes on sale today.

This is what I had to say about my experience reading it.

When I was very young, I lost someone close to me in a car accident. Almost more painful than the loss was the way by which those around me attempted to find meaning in the senseless death of a young person. This is the book that seven-year-old me needed instead of the endless religious tracts that assured me that everything happens for a reason.

Here is the story.

It was in England, circa early 1990’s, that I first dealt with death. The memory stands out to me as the first time I deliberately disobeyed what I had been taught. It also belies the notion that religion is universally comforting in the face of tragic loss.

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Two Things That Unexpectedly Prolonged My Theism

There are a lot of things that kept me in the faith that aren’t surprising: inspirational speakers, science-y sounding authors, the love of my family. That I was a practically born poet and loved The Matrix prolonged my theism? A little more unexpected.

If you’re a former theist, feel free to share anything that you used to justify your faith — wackiness not required, but definitely encouraged.

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That iERA Is Wrong About Ex-Muslims May Be a Good Thing

Thanks to EXMNA, I have been able to meet many ex-Muslims, something I could only dream of a few short years ago. One of them, who only left Islam a year ago and is mostly closeted (for now?), asked me why I am so adamant about being publicly out as an ex-Muslim atheist. My personal reasons have to do with who I am and who I used to be, but those only explain why I initially declared my apostasy from Islam to those who know me. I continue to talk about it to the general public for many reasons, one of which is a pet theory of mine based on observations of the changes that have occurred within my own community: that open defection from a group drives reformation and progress within it.

Also thanks to Ex-Muslims of North America, I have found that there is some vindication for my theory. It comes via a highly unlikely source: a group that EXMNA’s British counterpart, the CEMB, has criticized as a hate group: the iERA. [Read more…]

It Shouldn’t Have to Be So Hard to Be a Queer Atheist

There is a line between encouraging religions to reform and become more progressive, something in which I deeply believe and that I personally strive to encourage, and leaving non-religious people behind, which has become a problem in Western queer spaces in recent years.

It’s not that I think that religious LGBT folks shouldn’t be included in queer spaces, rather that the effort within queer spaces to be inclusive towards religious people is disproportionate and can be downright exclusionary towards non-religious people. As Greta noted, being an atheist in queer spaces means receiving far less encouragement and acceptance than being queer in atheist spaces.

I’ve personally experienced queer-religious intersections that have made my atheist self rather uncomfortable. When I volunteered for the No on Prop 8 campaign, the local dispatch center was a church. At on-campus LGBT events, many of the speakers were religious and talked about their god as if everyone believed in that sort of deity. It seems that it has become more important to appease the  “we’re Not All Like That!”s, straight or queer, than it is to accommodate the approximately half of all LGBT people who aren’t religious.

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The Rapist “Lesbian Hero” That Wasn’t

Content Notice for mentions of sexual assault and rape

Anti-feminists types often take a very curious approach to trying to create false equivalencies. If a feminist argues that feminism benefits men as well as women, the anti-feminist response is “but noted feminist Andrea Dworkin said all penis-in-vagina sex is rape!” In order to combat feminism, they pull what they think is a quote from a book older than I am from a feminist with whom many feminists, past and present, disagree. Even if we were to accept that Dworkin’s views reflect feminist consensus, anti-feminists fail to engage Dworkin’s actual argument as per Dworkin herself; all PiV = rape” wasn’t what she meant to say at all.

Unsurprisingly, anti-LGBT types engage in very similar arguments.

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Resisting the Cult of Forgiveness

Though I had read about it yesterday, actually hearing Esaw Garner’s response to her husband’s murderer’s “condolences” this morning was downright inspiring. You can hear it (or read it) for yourself. It included choice phrases like “Hell no!” and “No, I don’t accept his apology.”

The top search result for the story:

the top Google search results for Esaw Garner's response  to the "apology" she was given as of 12/4, 10:48AM PST

Thanks to the cult of forgiveness, murdering an unarmed man on camera doesn’t count as “lashing out” or “fury”, but not accepting a lukewarm fauxpology does. Between the ostensibly secular self-help industry and the influence of Christianity, Americans have a society-wide obsession with forgiveness and total disregard for actual atonement.

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Can Someone Explain the Santa Fetish to Me?

Ah, it’s that time of year again, when I change one of my car’s radio presets to some random station so as to avoid all the music that’s so nostalgic for many but mostly obnoxious and meaningless to me.

My history with Christmas isn’t a pleasant one, for various reasons. The aspect of it that makes the least sense to me is the obsession with creating and maintaining a belief in Santa Claus in children. As an outsider, it has always and will always strike me as absurd. [Read more…]

More Voices? Yes Please!: Diversifying the Ex-Muslim Experience

A photo of a woman with her head and face veiled reading "Saudi Arabia outlaws tempting eyes", followed by an image of Pakistani singer Taher Shah captioned "Well Fuck You Too"

The guy at the bottom is Taher Shah, who has made his love of eyes very well-known.

Although it’s not the most racially diverse secular group (for obvious reasons), one of the reasons why I am so happy and proud to be part of EXMNA is its internal diversity of experiences and viewpoints. Our secret discussion group is full of thoughtful people who enjoy conversing on matters ranging from a bizarre Saudi eye ban that would presumably make Taher Shah very angry to Tajikistan’s religious laws to Junaid Jamshed’s misogyny (and beard).

Two members of the org recently did an interview on Dr. Darrel Ray’s Secular Sexuality podcast [Content Notice for Abuse] that’s very much worth a listen. Their experiences are quite disparate from mine in that both of them face a lot of physical danger from their families.

Embeds of both the podcast and my Skepticon talk below the jump.

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