John Oliver’s sex ed video is better than anything I watched in school

I grew up in northern New Brunswick, where there’s a heavy French Catholic presence and a bent toward school districts setting their own curricula. I have vague recollections of some sex ed video where the girls got shuffled out of the room to another room to watch another video. I don’t remember the content of it, but I remember some years later being surprised by all the nuance it left out — like that sex wasn’t just about getting married and trying to have kids. And I’m sure it was picked specifically because it was the closest to sex ed that the French Catholics could manage to tolerate being shown, and because there was a requirement for there to be at least SOME component in their curriculum.

Thankfully I don’t recall there being a focus on abstinence, just a general glossing-over of sex as though it’s not particularly important or relevant to the idea of going through puberty. I keenly remember a heavy focus on what it’s like to enter puberty, and how your pits would suddenly start smelling, and some talk about penises that met with nervous giggles from our class, and some brief discussion about girls getting periods that elicited more than giggles, and very little about what might happen if a couple of kids decided to start spelunking the concept of sexual congress on their own.

If I was growing up today, and saw this “sex-ed video” that makes up the back few minutes of John Oliver’s piece, I would have felt a lot less uncomfortable learning that there was more to it than what little my parents and my school were willing to tell me. I would have had to do less searching in libraries and encyclopedias for adequate reading materials that could fill in the gaps, and I would have had a less rough acclimation with social interactions with girls.

Also, HUGE props to Oliver for explaining consent in such simple terms that nobody could ever possibly misconstrue or rules-lawyer against them without looking like a potentially rapey asshole. If anyone argues back against what he’s said about no meaning no, or about only sleeping with people who want to sleep with you, they are fucking creepy.

Secular Students Week: Ferris State

Guest by Corrine Staten of Secular Student Alliance, raising funds for the organization from June 10th through 17th.

I’m Corrine Staten, the Vice President of the Secular Student Alliance of Ferris State University in Michigan. Last semester, our group held an Interfaith Panel at the end of the semester that featured representatives from Christianity, Islam, and atheism. These sorts of interfaith events are so important to destigmatize secular people.

It was our flagship event for the semester, with multiple speakers, so we were prepared for it to be awesome, but it blew away our expectations. We had over 250 people show up! It lasted over two hours, which was as long as we had the room for, and would have gone longer but we were forced to leave.

Not only was it an excellent opportunity for our group in terms of exposure, but it also let us form bonds with the Muslim Student Organization and Real Life, both religious groups on campus. In fact, after the event, we were able to take all the panel members, our group members, and the Muslim Student Organization to dinner, where we spent over two hours chatting. We are now on great terms and are planning to keep working together on events in the future.

Without the national Secular Student Alliance, we wouldn’t be an organization on campus. The services and resources they have available are crucial for our group’s successes, especially their Mideast Regional Campus Organizer, Jessika Griffin. I am so proud to be a part of such a great organization!

But the SSA needs your help, too. Almost all of these great resources, from the Speakers Bureau to their Campus Organizing team, are provided to students like me for free. They need you help so groups just like mine can be successful secular advocates on their campuses. In fact, until June 17 it is Secular Students Week, and if the SSA gets 500 donations it will unlock a challenge grant for $20,000! That money could have a huge impact on groups like mine.

Give today as part of Secular Students Week and help students like me!

Mock The Movie: God’s Not Dead transcript

Superman and Hercules square off in a battle of who can be the biggest asshole straw-atheist in this blockbuster that likely resulted in no appreciable increase in text messages despite the imploring at the end to text all your friends.

We watched this on April Fool’s Day. Yes, that was intentional.

Oh yeah, and dude from Duck Dynasty is in it because… uh… JEEEEZUS
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Tribalism, empathy, atheism, and Chapel Hill

In the rush most Big Name Atheists are making to disavow or diminish the role Craig Hicks’ atheism played in his murdering three Muslim students earlier today, I am not shocked at all that some — most, even — of these Names are the same people who demanded that every Muslim disavow the actions of the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre or else be judged complicit. Nuance goes right out the window when viscerally reacting to a traumatic event, and doubly so when your instincts incline you toward protecting The Tribe. Nor am I shocked at the need by some to attempt to perform contrafactual judo in order to attack the intersection of identities that they most easily consider The Enemy Tribe, pinning it on Them, Not Us. Even when the “Them” doing this are more proximate to the problem, insofar as they are the ones advocating against the pluralists and the tolerant liberals and the “Social Justice Warriors” who want people to stop being assholes to one another. All in service of defending The Tribe of Atheism against the heathen Religious who are trying to sully our good name by holding us to account for an antitheist murdering some religious folks.

I’ve said innumerable times that knowing only that someone is an atheist is insufficient information to make the determination as to whether or not they’re a good person. Dictionary atheists — those who staunchly defend the idea that Movement Atheism should be solely about antitheism and must not let our mission creep — reacted quite astonishingly antipathetic to the idea of Atheism Plus. They were evidently quite put out by the idea that one should be more than just atheist, that people who also cared about humanism and feminism and anti-racism anti-ableism and LGBTQ rights might want to find one another, befriend one another, and provide one another with support.

These people have decided that “The Movement” should only be about atheism, and that we should be a granfalloon Big Tent and we should all overlook the nasty behaviour of certain quarters of atheism. Given that said behaviour makes the environment generally toxic to various underclasses and makes the movement inaccessible to all but the whitest, dudeliest, most “un-PC” jackasses whose idea of “edgy” is telling racist or rape jokes as though nobody’s ever said shitty things about women before, this functions as entitlement over an environment.
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FtBCon 3: Confirmed Participants

Cross-posted from FtBCon:
Here’s a preliminary list of confirmed participants for Freethought Blogs’ FtBConscience 3. This list is subject to change, but at time of writing, all participants have confirmed their availability for panels and talks for the conference.

FtB Bloggers:

  • Alex Gabriel
  • Heina Dadabhoy
  • Jason Thibeault
  • Miri Mogilevsky
  • Richard Carrier
  • Russell Glasser
  • Stephanie Zvan
  • Tauriq Moosa

Invited Guests:

  • Adam Lee
  • Amy Boyle
  • Amy Davis Roth
  • Ben Blanchard
  • Caleb Harper
  • Cerberus
  • Chana Messinger
  • Cindy Cooper
  • Dan Fincke
  • Dan Linford
  • Dan Williams
  • Danny Samuelson
  • Debbie Goddard
  • Donald Wright
  • Ed Cara
  • Elizabeth
  • Erin
  • Franklin Veaux
  • Harry Shaughnessy
  • Hiba Krisht
  • HJ Hornbeck
  • James Billingham
  • James Croft
  • Jared Axelrod
  • Josiah “Biblename”
  • Karen Hill
  • Karen Stollznow
  • Kaveh Mousavi
  • Kay Vee
  • Lauren Lane
  • Leigh Honeywell
  • Lilandra Ra
  • MA Melby
  • Mai Dao
  • Maria Greene
  • Matt Lowry
  • Michael Damian Thomas
  • Michael Nam
  • Michelle Huey
  • Misha Greenbaum
  • Misty Taylor
  • Monette Richards
  • Muhammad Syed
  • Neil Wehneman
  • Nick Fish
  • Nick Geiger
  • Niki Massey
  • Olivia James
  • Raina Rhoades
  • Razib Khan
  • Reem Abdel-Razek
  • Rich Wisneski
  • RJ Redden
  • Sakeena Almulhida
  • Sastra / Sue Strandberg
  • Scott Lohman
  • Shelly Henry
  • Susan Porter
  • Tim Farley
  • Trina Gardinier
  • Tristan Miller
  • Valerie Aurora
  • Vic Wang
  • Vivian
  • Vyckie Garrison
  • Wesley Fenza
  • Yau Man Chan

We hope to add more to our roster as panels are finalized in the run up to the convention. Hope to see you there!

Brief thoughts on Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech

Satire depends heavily on the cultural context in which it was made. Charlie Hebdo is certainly a leftist rag, and certainly satire, and certainly understood as such within France’s cultural context. However, there are some universals about satire that people, time and again, forget.

The first and most important thing to remember is that satire can damage just as much as the original offense, and sometimes more. Charlie Hebdo’s satire was about taking some aspect of the news cycle — some politician or celebrity who held racist and sexist views — and illustrating the logical end result of those views. In a context where a great deal of damage has been done by outright propaganda by outright racists and sexists, where “Evil Banker Jew” and “Monkey-Like Black Person” are well-worn tropes, depicting them as though you’re resurrecting the trope in order to scandalize the person who still holds those views is fraught and potentially more damaging to the person who’s damaged by the original racism.

The second thing to remember about satire is that it is a powerful weapon, to be wielded carefully so as to avoid splash damage. Attacking a class — or being perceived to be attacking a class — that is already under siege by society, is “punching down”. Even if you’re trying to shame the person who’s holding an antisemitic or anti-black or anti-woman view, you could very well legitimize or normalize attacks on that class of person by increasing the number of instances where it’s perceived to be acceptable. Increasing the frequency of a meme does not NECESSARILY legitimize it, but it CAN.
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Hail Seitan!

I love this from the bottom of my black heart. It does figure that a black metal vegan chef would have to make seitan at some point, and he’d have to make the obvious pun. Just so you know though, it’s pronounced “say-TAN”, emphasis on the second syllable. Won’t affect your delivery in a metal voice though!

MAMelby linked that video to me in response to a thread on Facebook where I asked for some of your favorite seitan recipes. Here’s some of the ones that were sent my way:

Surly Amy apparently makes a mean shiitake mushroom seitan, and I’m not just saying “mean” because she’s a fellow feminazi bully.

And Josh, Token Spokesgay has an all-purpose basic seitan recipe, which apparently can be made in 20 mins in a pressure cooker. One of these days I’ll get a pressure cooker, and it’ll be all Josh’s fault. This is almost certainly what I’ll use as a base for my own experiments.

There’s this recipe, which is apparently vouched for by both Corrine Zimmerman and Steve Fritz, for barbecue “ribs”.

The recipes appear to be versatile enough to make sausage too. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this.

The common factors all seem to be beans and nutritional yeast. Some have vital wheat gluten, so if you have friends with Celiac’s or gluten intolerance, be careful. There are some variants to take care of different textures, too. Otherwise, everything else appears to be “season to taste”. And that, I can definitely do. For what it’s worth, my taste would likely entail garlic, smoke, onions, and soy sauce and/or worcestershire sauce. I would start there and add spices for different intended effects.

The curious case of a man named James who thinks the secular community should be in bloody civil war

A few nights ago, a post hit my moderation queue on movement cohesion, wherein I speculate that there is no single unified movement, and that as long as the introduction of other values into particular communities continues, “rifts” will only solidify where people have fewer common traits. In my post I further fretted regarding the requests frequently made of feminists, anti-racist activists, gays and trans folk, to swallow their other causes; to put their causes outside of atheism aside in order to cohabitate in a “big tent” with anti-feminists and anti-social-justice folks — who are themselves never asked to stop with their targeted harassment, their bullying, their hate speech.

Richard Dawkins and Ophelia Benson just released a joint statement that amounts to a request of our communities: stop doing all of that. Included in that request is a statement by Dawkins that he does not, even tacitly, support the people engaging in such tactics.

I’m certain that James In The West, who left this lengthy screed on my earlier post, has since seen Dawkins’ statement and wishes he could recant on his strange fan-fiction.
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CONvergence 2014 panel audio: Superheroes in our Modern Day Pantheons

This conversation ended up taking quite a few unexpected twists, including a lengthy interjection by a stalwart of the comic books industry that you’ll need to hear if you’re any sort of comics nerd. It was a small room, thankfully, and he was seated in the front, so it should be relatively audible. The panel also took a number of theological turns that I wasn’t expecting, mostly owing to ideological differences between myself and one of the panelists.

Nobody really worships Hercules or Thor as Greek and Norse gods anymore, but don’t despair, because now they’re both members of The Avengers. This panel will explore the commonalities and differences between our ancient and modern pantheons.

Panelists: David Schwartz, Jason Thibeault, Roy T Cook, Jonathan Palmer, Ryan Consell

Sincere apologies for the noise at about 20 mins — I tried to quiet it somewhat, but you may want to be careful with your volume then nonetheless. Ryan Consell dumped half a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper on my phone when he reacted to a comment by one of the other panelists. Luckily, the phone survived, and wasn’t even sticky thanks to it being “diet”. But boy did mopping it up cause a racket on the mic!

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(or download the Superheroes in our Modern Day Pantheons mp3 – 31.1 megs)

Movement cohesion

Movement atheism is not a cohesive entity. Heads of orgs like American Atheists, in full-throated promotion of people like Jaclyn Glenn — especially those videos that attack movement feminists for being too firebrandey and poisoning movement atheism with all their “social justice warrior” stuff — they’ve evidently chosen sides. Let’s not mistake that there are, in fact, sides to choose in what amounts to a fundamental division between feminists and antifeminists within atheism. AA has chosen, expressly, the side of the antifeminists, and they’ve framed the issue such that the antifeminists are the ones demanding we stop talking about feminist ideas and the toxic anti-woman environment that these antifeminists inculcate in our movement.

Feminists are told to stop fighting. Antifeminists are asked absolutely nothing — they’re the “reasonable” ones for demanding that the status quo be maintained.

Fuck that.

The surest way to earn my enmity, my directed criticism, is to ask us to stop other fights so we can pretend we’re all one big happy big-tent family. It’s what bugged the hell out of me about courting secular pro-lifers at CPAC, it’s what bugged the hell out of me about the ongoing, constant, concerted attacks of big atheist vloggers like Thunderf00t and The Amazing Atheist against feminists despite the absolute hash they make of logic and reason and empathy in doing so. It’s what continues to bug me about basically every organization demanding that we go big-tent and allow every atheist in so we can all talk about how much God don’t real, but don’t you dare talk about the social impact of how we treat half the human fucking race. Not to mention every other issue that gets derided under the umbrella of “Social Justice Warrior”, like trans rights, gay rights, race issues, and every other aspect of humanism that involves having a shred of empathy for your fellow human being.

The necessity of feminism is evidenced by the comments everyplace it’s mentioned in anything but a negative, straw-feminist casting (take Laci Green’s recent video’s comments, for example). Especially so any time it’s mentioned in atheist settings, because there are precious few that aren’t expressly antifeminist and expressly anti-any-social-justice-but-secularism in bent, thanks to the vociferous libertarian quadrant of our “community” demographics.

There is no one single community. This inter-atheist fighting is necessary because we have coalesced communities around shared ideals, and there’s a shit-ton of you atheists out there who share almost no ideals in common with me outside of “god don’t real”.

I will not throw my other principles under the bus to be part of your hideous granfaloon.