Frequently-Asked Questions

What’s In a Name? Not Necessarily Religion.

Content Notice for ableist slur in tweet screencap

Spike the dragon from My Little Pony wearing a top hat and twirling a fake mostache

I imagine an extravagant mustache twirl accompanying the asking of “gotcha”-style questions.

“If you’re not a Muslim, then why do you have a Muslim name?”

Boy, do theists love them some cliche-as-all-heck “gotcha!”s or what? Well, so do atheists, but since there are more of them than there are of us, and I’m currently dealing with a fresh slew of smug believers on Twitter, let’s talk about name origins.

To start, my name isn’t strictly “Muslim”, per se[Read more…]

If Not Excluding White Male Authors, Then What? + Response to Secular Round Table

If there is anything I’ve learned from the backlash against reading authors who aren’t white men, it is that people have a fairly simplistic view of what equality looks like. According to the commenters who think it’s horrible that I’m taking two years to correct a reading imbalance that has persisted for two decades, including one of the members of The Secular Round Table, I’d be better off and more egalitarian by continuing to read mostly or even only white male authors as long as I never consciously discriminated against or in favor of authors based on their race or gender.

Frankly speaking, I see that as ludicrous. It would be unfair of me, however, to not allow for anyone of that persuasion to proffer an alternative. So here’s your chance, if you think me reading selectively for two years is a bad thing: What ought I do instead?

[Read more…]

When Discrimination Is Necessary to Achieve Equality

Attempts to correct unthinking prejudice with pro-active steps are always met with backlash. Science fiction author K.T. Bradford’s now-notorious “No White Male Authors” Challenge is no exception.

In an xoJane essay published last month, Bradford proposed that readers stop reading white, straight, cisgender male authors for a year, in order to focus on marginalized authors to support them and broaden readers’ horizons. The xoJane piece set off a firestorm of controversy from the moment it was published, starting in its own comment thread and quickly spreading to other platforms. Prominent support for her challenge came from fellow feminist genre writers John Scalzi and Saladin Ahmed, as well as from Neil Gaiman, the same white author whose book was featured with a large red cross-out sign on it in Bradford’s piece. Uncanny Magazine, a sci-fi/fantasy publication, offered free copies of its latest issue to anyone taking Bradford’s challenge.

Others in the literary world, however, were not so supportive.

Read more of my op-ed Is it time to stop reading books by white men? at The Daily Dot.

Main image via.

Why Progress Towards Equality Feels Unfair

With a view of the progress that has been made in the past century of the American struggle for equality firmly planted in mind, the notion that equality has already arrived is an understandably tempting one to espouse. In a society that often declares and considers itself to be post-feminist, post-racial, and generally post-discrimination, it is all too easy to be lulled into a sense of satisfaction — and even complacency — regarding social issues.

Comparisons to the past, along with our intuitive sense of what is and is not fair, often impede actual progress toward equality. [Read more…]

The Islamic Center of Irvine FBI Plant Story Keeps Getting Worse

As teenagers, my sister, mosque friends, and I would giggle about a particular mosque attendee who didn’t seem to know how to dress or act in order to blend in. She wore hats and caps instead of a headscarf or shawl and was very aggressive in attitude. At first, we called her “Hat Lady”, but later, someone decided that she was obviously a bad government plant and called her “CIA”; the jest stuck. I remember remarking that if the government did indeed have plants, I’d think that they would be a little better at blending in than CIA was. After I left Islam, I used to joke that I ought to go work for the FBI as a plant, since I could very easily pass as Muslim and was in definite need of the dough.

Both jokes turned out to be oddly prophetic. As it turns out, there was indeed a well-paid sore-thumb plant at our local mosque.

The tale of failed FBI Informant Craig Monteilh gets more and more revolting the more is known about it. The latest information makes it sound like the FBI wanted Monteilh to act like some kind of heterosexist capitalist pig, with how much they paid him and what they wanted him to do with female congregants.

[Read more…]

Some Things That Make a Conference, Convention, or Event Awesome

From Benny, via

What’s your favorite thing about conventions (or similar events)? What things do some cons do that makes them especially fun or rewarding?

I will be answering the latter question today.

As a relatively seasoned attendee, volunteer, organizer, and speaker at atheist, nerdy, feminist-y, and (once upon a time) Islamic cons, do I have some thoughts and feelings on this or what? Some of what I have to say might seem basic, but it’s absolutely untrue that all (or most) conferences have these things in place or in mind. It is my hope that organizers can use this to supplement their extant knowledge to craft an even better experience for everyone.

Feel free to add your own in the comments. [Read more…]

Is Religion Really a Choice?: An Ajar Thread

Take the atheist who says their deconversion was due to evidence yet that it is a lack of cognitive function and/or education that makes people religious. The Christian who claims to have freely chosen to have been Born Again but thinks all Muslims are brainwashed by and enslaved to The Devil. The Muslim who openly affirms the shahada without any claims of coercion as they sigh about how many people would convert to Islam if only they knew the truth about it.

Most people, religious or not, will claim to have selected their own belief system or lack thereof without compulsion or too much in the way of influence. At the same time, many (if not most) are ready, willing, able, and even eager to point out the environmental and other external factors that lead others to their disparate religious choices. [Read more…]

Beauty Level-Up #13: Red My Lips Campaign ( + Giveaways)

It’s the second Friday the 13th in a row this year, and this is my 13th installment of this series. This delights me to an irrational extent.

Red My Lips logo

image courtesy of Red My Lips

A few months back, I became aware of the Red My Lips campaign. It intrigued me because I usually save red lips for particular moods, situations, and contexts. This means that many of the people who see me in my day-to-day life don’t ever see my lips painted in red (though they might see them in more outlandish colors like violet all the time because beauty is boring and I do what I want). I’m sure at least a few of them might notice that I’d spent a whole month wearing and touching up red lip color.

What ultimately sold me 100% on Red My Lips is their awesome attitude towards people expressing concerns about potentially problematic language. [Read more…]

Being More Inclusive of Former Fundies: On Families

Consider the fraught relationship that many apostates of more-involved religions have with our families of origin. If the relationship still exists, it often is predicated on mutually-agreed-upon deception.

Though it may be expressed as a personal opinion, it is possible for “the way I see it” to end up sounding prescriptive or superior. This is especially true when that opinion reflects a more mainstream understanding and/or experience than the alternative. Specifically, in this case, assertions about why hiding anything from one’s parents or other relatives is always wrong can come off as exclusionary for those of us for whom the situation is more complicated.

[Read more…]