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Feb 15 2012

Target Audiences And Playing Nice

There’s been some really interesting discussion in and around FTB lately about the issues of different approaches to blogging and different kinds of target audiences. A lot of this came up in response to our new blogger Libby-Anne (of Love, Joy, Feminism) making a post in which she requested that the FTB natives maintain an extra level of civility when commenting on her blog as she feels the people who will most benefit from her work, and a group she is specifically trying to engage, are those who are still involved in religious and patriarchal communities and beliefs. She feels (and I agree) that if the same take-no-prisoners approach that’s adopted at a blog like Pharyngula were applied at her’s, it would intimidate or drive away most believers, or simply shut down the dialogue and make it impossible to communicate with them. This would be directly detrimental to Libby-Anne’s goals for her work.

I’m completely and totally with Libby-Anne on this. It’s her blog, her house, her rules. If she has certain goals, and needs to set a certain tone in order to pursue those goals, she has every right to ban or moderate commenters who aren’t willing to adapt to that tone. See, one of the main things that bugs me about accommodationists like Chris Stedman is their insistence that there is only ONE possible way to go about atheism… their way. The rest of us, to them, are doing it wrong. I believe our movement is strongest when we recognize the value of multiple approaches, multiple specific goals or priorities, and multiple perspectives. Even if we focus strictly on the micro-issue of attempting to deconvert individual believers, different believers are going to respond best to different kinds of approaches. It’s kind of like how a bio-diverse ecosystem is a whole lot more likely to survive than a homogenous one if there’s a significant change in the environmental conditions.

It’s one of the things I love about Freethought Blogs. We have an extremely diverse set of writers, each coming to this from different angles, with different backgrounds and specializations, different identities, experiences and perspectives, different priorities and interests, different skills and styles and tones, and each doing certain things particularly well in particular ways. It’s like a good, functional Dungeons & Dragons party. You’ve got your fighter, your wizard, your thief and your cleric, each playing different roles… killing goblins, lighting darkened passages, picking locks, and healing the goddamned fighter.

So why am I commenting on this, if this is just one of those little happy things I’m totally cool with? Well, lately things have gotten kind of strange. John Loftus, former FTB blogger, has recently written a number of vague and somewhat nasty (in the JREF Steve Cuno “sea monkey” kind of way) comments over at Camels With Hammers about the “mean-spirited” atheists back here at FTB and has openly threatened to “turn his guns” on such atheists. This is where things stop being cool for me.

Basically, Loftus is moving in the Stedman direction; assuming his approach is the best and only and ideal approach. His comments contained several references to how much he’s “making a difference” and implying that directly reaching out to a theistic audience is the only way, or the only good way, or the best way, of doing this. It’s rather insulting in that the implication is therefore that those of us who aren’t attempting to directly address a religious audience aren’t making a difference, that our efforts are pointless or wastes of time. Just preaching to the choir, so the insufferable cliché goes.

It wasn’t long after hearing about Loftus’ comments that I started bristling with all kinds of little questions and things. I mean, even if we leave aside the presumptuousness of assuming that deconversion and interfaith dialogue is the ideal form or goal of atheist activism and writing, do all of us even have the luxury of being able to reach a religious audience? Loftus has the benefit of coming from a background of having been a protestant minister, and that steeps him the language and thought, making him especially well-suited for this approach (just to make it extra super clear: I have no problem with this approach, I only have a problem with assuming it’s the only worthwhile one). It’s a bit suspiciously convenient that he’d claim supremacy of the methodology he happens to be best suited for. But beyond his background, there’s the whole Older Straight Cis White American Guy thing. Like… let’s assume that I did believe deconversion and engaging in dialogue with theists were the best approach. Or easier, let’s just assume that I personally prioritize that approach and want to pursue it. So I adopt a somewhat accommodationist approach, play nice, make it an explicit part of my comment policy that atheists are not to be uncivil towards believers, and adapt my writing style and subject matter to reach out to believers and get them interested in my blog. Do you think they’d be willing to take me seriously, given who and what I am? Given my own background? My gender, my experiences, the myriad little stigmas I carry around with me?

And although someone like myself may be an extreme example, I think this could apply to many atheist writers and activists. It’s hard enough to be accepted as a blogger even within a left-leaning and more or less socially progressive community like skepticism, atheism or humanism when you have some kind of tick against you in terms of identity: female, black, queer, transgender, young, ex-muslim, not-from-the-USA, spent-twenties-doing-drugs-instead-of-grad-school, etc. We’ve all seen the enormous difficulties that come with these kinds of things, and the uphill work that is required in order to be taken seriously when you aren’t coming from a “neutral” / “objective” (read: privileged) subject position. Now, when you’re attempting to address a community that has codified sexual, religious and ethnic bigotry (amongst other variants), typically leaves them unquestioned, and is directly complicit in various forms of discrimination and oppression (perhaps most notably against women and LGBTQ), it becomes a very serious problem. For many of us, the failure to be accessible to a religious audience is a foregone conclusion, regardless of the tone we adopt.

Then there’s the fact that there isn’t some enormous empty gap between those who are committed atheists who have invested themselves in the value of our community and movement and people who are still religious believers. There’s an immense population of people who are on the fence in some way. There are people who still identify as religious and go through the motions but don’t really care all that much. There are people who don’t have faith but still believe that religious institutions do more good than harm. There are people who are agnostic and have opted out the issue. There are atheist accommodationists and apologists. There are nihilists who’ve given up. There are people who’ve rejected religious beliefs and structures but haven’t embraced the value of skepticism and freethought. There are post-modernists who beautifully and fully understand how to ask the right questions but don’t yet believe in the possibility of answers. There are atheists who haven’t yet grown to the point of trying to construct new dialogues and are still just caught up in laughing over God’s corpse and picking the low-hanging intellectual fruit. And there are too many others to name. All of these people are just as worth reaching out to, and engaging in discussion, as anyone else.

And which religious believers are you going to reach out to? Even if we accept and embrace Loftus’ approach as The One True Path, how is it possible to simultaneously engage all forms of religious belief, or even all forms of theistic belief, and engage all the various arguments, in terms that will be meaningful to all of the disparate, individual members of your audience? The presumptuousness of his comments, and the assumed supremacy of his own priorities and goals, is reflective of exactly the danger that exists in building our movement only around ex-Christians and only in response to Christianity. You start thinking religion just has one, simple, directly addressable form. It. Does. Not.

And is religion the only issue that needs to be discussed and better understood by the atheist movement and community? Not really.

It’s not like the question of accessibility is totally lost on me. When I do writing that isn’t interested in accessibility, and is just for my own sake, it tends to look like this:

The duel position is not the relation.
Adorned to be in ideas of relation.
Organisms disorganize and desire.
You can offer up your camaraderie in the circling about.
Double to loveliest enmity.
(Actual articulation would not be achieved,
Except feeling cute and sexy for the sake of your thoughts on it.)
To compare to only worlds of ornament.

*

place an image: whole arms and torsos in adoration so adornment falls apart.
place an image: tools by which adornment comes to be, also subject to decay.
place an image: tool is useless while the object of its use is absent.
image: the ocean. It can be placed everywhere.
all now:
in their home they slept naked on blue sheets.
specific in skin.

*

regarding—
pull it all apart again and look at the sky.
prairie scope of the grass, all directions to family
running home.

(as in it tends to look ludicrously pretentious…. if it eases the pain at all, you should know I wrote that five years ago.  I no longer butcher the english language in that particular way)

*ahem*

I pride myself very much on working to help bring people who are interested in gender theory and trans-feminist stuff into skepticism and atheism, and make the importance of those things to trans-feminism and the progress of that movement, or at least just the value of critical thought, apparent. And while I do that, I also try to help atheists and skeptics better understand trans issues, and feminism, and gender theory, and queer issues. I try to help them understand how those are important and worthwhile pursuits.

And I try to get everyone to love My Little Pony and Doctor Who, of course.

I feel very proud of having been able to help cis people learn more about trans stuff and trans people learn more about skepticism. I really am. And to see that disregarded, the value of this kind of work dismissed, to see someone imply that I’m not making a difference because my goals and approach aren’t just the same as his… even if they could be… well, that gets me mad.

If this is the path you want to take, and you want to begin publicly shaming others for not sharing your precise approach and values…if you want to “turn your guns” on us, we will reciprocate the attitude you’ve adopted and not hesitate to return the criticism. I may not have the experience, stature, influence or power of men like Loftus within this community, but I do fairly well with what I have.

Or we could point to some of Loftus’ less flattering public remarks lately and let him do that work for us. I’m pretty narcissistic myself, but at least have the courtesy to balance it against some good old fashioned insecurity and self-loathing.

I’m happy to have Libby-Anne here, really, and fully support the work she does and her decisions about tone (and I’m a bit disappointed in those commenters who’ve shown so much disrespect for her request). And I’m immensely happy to be part of such a wonderfully diverse and awesome group of bloggers. The diversity, the varying approaches, priorities and goals… that’s an asset, not a liability. It’s one of the best things we’ve got going for us.

204 comments

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  1. 1
    Anders

    (in the JREF Steve Cuno “sea monkey” kind of way)

    Could someone enlighten me on Steve Cuno and his sea monkey ways? You are too terse, Natalie. Write more!

    It is said that platoons in Vietnam always had a color-blind guy with them, because he could see right through most camouflage. Perhaps it’s something similar with atheists – we never know what someone with a different point of view can see.

    And if Pharyngula is a D&D party, you are the wizard. A Transmuter, in case you wanted to know. Unoptimized, but there it is.

    1. 1.1
      Megan

      Heh…as someone who always plays wizards in D&D, I think I now know why I like Natalie’s blog so much!

      1. Anders

        The alternative is bard, of course. Constitution is probably dump stat (as I said, not optimized). Alignment is Chaotic Good. She has 6 skill points per level (Int 16, +1 for being human), and places them in Craft (blog posts), Concentration, Gather Information (cc), Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (gender theory), Spellcraft. Opposed schools are illusion and necromancy. She loves divination spells, especially those that allow her to see through falsehoods and get to the truth of things. Her most prized magic item is her Belt of Sex Change, and she laughs with scorn at those who call it ‘cursed’.

        1. Natalie Reed

          I always saw myself as more of a rogue, what with my many years spent in the “seedy criminal underworld.”

          But I guess that fits with Bards, who are sort of wizard-rogues.

          1. Anders

            Actually, that list was for your wizard self. The bard skill list would be considerably longer, and I don’t know what skills they get. Also, I don’t know if you can sing (I once planned a mime bard who would cast all his spells with Somatic components; my DM did not approve).

            Your time in the seedy underworld was represented by Gather Information, which is sort of Streetwise for D&D.

            Your GURPS character sheet would be longer, of course, and I don’t think I have nearly the information required.

  2. 2
    The Lorax

    If FtB is a D&D game, Pharyngula is the min-maxer who gets on everyone’s nerves because he gloats about beating monsters (which he does, handily) but can’t role play for shit.

    My guess is Ed would be the DM, offering little tidbits for others to feed upon, Physioproff would be the dude in the kitchen grabbing the Cheetos and Mountain Dew, Zingularity would be the quiet nerd who offers the best solutions, but only when everyone else has argued to a standstill, and Cuttlefish would be the bard.

    Metaphors aside, I agree that diversity without accommodation is good, and that FtB has a good diversity

    1. 2.1
      William Burns

      The trouble with turning FtB into a D & D party is that no one, not even Loftus, is going to want to be the cleric.

      1. Natalie Reed

        lol… wellllllll, in a campaign world where divine beings actually ARE real, presumably skeptics would happily embrace them as fact? So we just need to think of the FtBer who has the greatest sense of awe, wonder and humility, and could reasonably fit into a healer/support role.

        1. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

          So maybe I have a fear-fanatical obsession with the 2nd ed. Planescape. It was, for those who are not quite that nerdy, mostly about warring philosophical factions because belief is acknowledged to actually play a huge part in reality. One of the factions, the Athar, are more or less Gnu Atheists. They acknowledge that the gods tromping around exist, but view them as just very powerful creatures, pointing out that they die when they run out of believers. Unsurprisingly, they get along poorly with clerics of all sort, had their HQ blown up by a deity for pointing out those facts and generally are AWESOME.

          1. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

            Way to type, self. *near*-fanatical obsession.

          2. Natalie Reed

            Fear-Fanatacism sounds kinda awesome, though.

          3. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

            Hmm, that it does. My other fandom obsession is Scarecrow from Batman. :D But yeah. At least one person has successfully worked atheism into official D&D.

            The Mr. got me one of the limited-edition con-only Athar faction buttons a while back. Because he’s awesome.

        2. Sas

          It would be kind of neat to have a cleric character who views their interaction with their deity in the same way as wizards do with their spells; say the right prayers, go through the right rituals, get results. Someone who views the deity as just someone to convince to help you and doesn’t go in for the awe.

          Skyrim kind of has something like that in the Nightingales, a group of thieves pledged to a night goddess. They specifically say their relationship to the goddess is a business relationship, not a religious thing; in return for pledging themselves to serve her in life and death, they get a lifetime of good fortune at thievery.

        3. caravelle

          I don’t know about a sense of awe, wonder and/or humility (it’s hard to pick one person…), but I vote Greta for cleric. With all her writing on atheist perspectives on death, wonder, sex, transcendence… really, who else ?

      2. Svlad Cjelli

        A Cleric is essentially a kind of Warlock. If you refluff the language it would be hard to tell the difference.

  3. 3
    eric

    I also admit to being baffled by the ‘my way or the highway’ approach. Secularists have a looooong way to go before a person being an accommodationist takes away labor from the non-accommodationists (or vice versa). We are still in the “get the base to participate” stage. A group in that stage is benefited by having both PZs and Libby-Annes.

    A smart company doesn’t just make one commercial. It makes several, targeted at different groups, and airs them in different markets. PZ and Libby-Anne are our different market advertising campaigns, if you will.

  4. 4
    John W. Loftus

    No, no, no. I am the very last person to say my way is the only way, that my strategy is the only one that works. I emphatically deny that. When it comes to changing the religious landscape I endorse most if not all approaches, ridicule, activism, academics in various disciplines.

    If I do anything I will adamantly defend that position of mine. You misunderstand it.

    1. 4.1
      Natalie Reed

      Then why on Earth are you making these public threats to “turn your guns” on all the “mean-spirited” atheists who don’t adopt an outreach model?

      1. John W. Loftus

        Natalie, if I learned anything while being at FtB it’s that the atheists here take potshots (again a metaphor, just like turning one’s guns) at other atheists with the power and prestige that PZ and Ed gave them. I just wrote a post about it. Up until now I have hardly ever criticized any prominent atheist who shares the same goals as I do. Why should I? We’re on the same team. I support people on the same team. Well, I’ve decided to join in the fray. Hey, why should I be the only one trying to provide a united front. It doesn’t exist.

        1. Natalie Reed

          Well, good luck with that.

          Your attempt to attack me on the basis of having a “readership of about a hundred” though is both incredibly petty and incredibly inaccurate. If you’re going to play this game, try not to base your position on such shaky ground.

        2. Natalie Reed

          Also, “the hard way”, really? Do you really want to argue that your efforts to get where you are were so much harder and more legit than my own? That’s a dry and brittle limb to go out on.

          Likewise the insinuation that we all only have readership via proximity to PZ.

      2. NFQ

        I’m a long-time subscriber to Debunking Christianity (even though as an atheist I appreciate the fact that I’m not in John’s main target demographic). I check FTB on occasion but I’m not currently subscribed to anyone who blogs here, I think (though I follow several on Twitter). I only heard about this post when John linked to it from his website … and I have to say, I’m just completely confused. I tried to find some example of him making these extreme and threatening comments on Camels With Hammers, because that sounds really really unlike his style, but the only thing I turned up was a weird and frustrating conversation with someone who accused him of moderating his comments (gasp!). Natalie, could you maybe link to these comments so we could see something more than a reference to the idiom “to turn one’s guns on”?

        1. Natalie Reed

          I think that’s probably the same thread I’m referencing. It sounded like someone was saying some kind of weird, silly things towards John in regards to him moderating his comments and setting up an outreach model, but then John responded with some weird, angry statements about the general mean-spiritedness of FTB and threatened to begin turning his ire towards us, all with this general tone implying that he’s this mighty, powerful blogger who’s making a difference while the rest of us are just aimlessly frittering about in PZ’s shadow. It’s a really petty, unprofessional and insulting tone to take, and he’s now doubled-down in his response on Debunking Christianity, implying that we’re all a bunch of nobodies who aren’t doing REAL work like he is and only have any readership (“a hundred or less”) at all due to proximity to PZ. False, arrogant, rude, insulting, presumptuous, petty and far more “mean-spirited” than anything we’ve done.

        2. Natalie Reed

          Okay…here. The stuff near the beginning is the most important:

          John: Daniel, on my present blog I’m getting a steady influx of Christians that I didn’t have here at FtB. You should thank me for going back since our common shared goal is to change the religious landscape. I took a pay cut to do so. Will anyone at FtB chip in for my decision? ;-)

          I didn’t share publicly all my reasons for going back, but another one of them was the mean-spirited nature of just a few of the bloggers in how they treat people, even other atheists. They exhibit, in some cases, a mean-spirited atheism and I’m not talking about the fact that people disagree with me.

          grungor:

          The secret conspiracy of mean atheist bloggers who meet in smokey rooms to figure out how to keep your book from becoming a best seller continues apace, I see. Perhaps telling them one more time about how only you are qualified to analyze theology will help!

          John:

          This is why I left. I’m making a difference, that’s what I know.

          grungor:

          What is why you left? You left because a commenter on a different blog then your own derisively paraphrased you? That seems…silly, to say the least.

          John:

          Again, idiocy. The post you linked to had nothing to do with it and I feel no reason to tell you.

          grungor:

          You “don’t have to tell me”(no “you’re not my mom!” or “your not the boss of me!” thrown in there for good measure?)? I’m not 100% sure what it is you don’t have to tell me since the subject of your post changes mid-sentence(it seems that it’s not only your psychology that drops to an elementary school level when challenged), but I agree, you don’t have to tell me(I’m not your mom).

          Still, if the thing you don’t have to tell me is why you left freethought blogs, you might want to consider changing that policy. Not only is it rude to level charges against one part of a larger group without naming names, it is cowardly in the extreme. I guess we shouldn’t except anything less though. Your intellectual cowardice has been demonstrated enough times to put it beyond doubt.

          John:

          Sheesh.

          Why do I bother responding to people who ARE cowards who hide behind anonymous names and who are not making a comparable difference who have probably never read much of anything I have written? If it weren’t for the vile and/or disingenuous nature of their comments I wouldn’t.

          I think at some point I will turn my guns on these atheists. At this point it wouldn’t take much.

          grungor:

          Holy shit dude. It’s always been obvious you respond incredibly poorly to criticism, but this is beyond the pale. You need to take that shit back, and right quick. Even if you meant it metaphorically(which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense frankly, given that argue with us atheists all the time), it sounds REALLY bad, especially after complaining that people are cowards for hiding behind anonymous names. You could get in serious legal trouble for that comment. I would rescind it as quickly as possible.

          John:

          I’m serious. I just may turn my guns on atheists, really! At this point I no longer care. Some of them don’t care. Why should I?

          John:

          Actually I’ve already decided to do this. It’s just a matter of timing.

          Echidna:

          John Loftus was dishonest. He deleted and even edited comments of mine, among other people, that he disagreed with. Especially those that pointed out his editing practices after he explicitly denied it.

          John:

          Echidna comment #2-

          It’s too bad my response is 99 comments later but one of the problems when I was here at FtB was that I found myself arguing with atheists when I was trying to reach out to Christians. I defended William Lane Craig from being dishonest or evil. Doing so is helpful for my target audience (evangelicals) to see that there are some skeptics whom they would think of as reasonable people. What I dislike more than arguing with Christians is arguing with atheists. They usually waste my time for various reasons. They don’t understand what I’m doing. And you persisted when I thought it was time to stop. I even warned you and you persisted. And so now you are on a campaign to smear me without telling the whole story.

          John Morales:

          If atheists don’t understand what you’re doing, then either you are not an atheist, or you don’t understand what you’re doing.

          John:

          John, an overwhelming number of atheists do not even know who I am.

          Echidna:

          John Loftus,
          Of course you are going to come across atheists rather than Christians on Freethought blogs. What were you thinking? Tell me how I misrepresent you? Show evidence or back off.

          You claimed that you did not censor comments, and yet you censored comments that claimed you did. You were dishonest. Some of it is documented: http://furiouspurpose.me/john-w-loftus-needs-to-review-his-commitment-to-blogging/

          You dismissed me by calling me an ignorant high-school boy.

          What you don’t seem to understand is that many atheists, myself included, value truth and honesty over playing nice. Perhaps this is because many of us have spent too many decades believing well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) lies. Some of the scariest lies I heard were part of a Catholic priest’s (thankfully foiled) attempt to groom me decades ago. You can guess that I don’t take too kindly to being told that I am dishonestly representing a man who claims one thing and does another, and makes me out to be some kind of liar in the process.

          John:

          echidna, I came here for the money since I am the proverbial starving artist. You seem to be ignorant about what it means to censor comments. Blog owners have the same legal and moral rights as a newspaper editor. Having already learned that I probably cannot convince you of anything I will not try again. Chalk it up as a victory if you wish.

          Cheers.

          John:

          echidna, you’ll be pleased to learn I laid down a challenge to WLC:

          http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/02/is-william-lane-craig-dishonest-with.html

          Echidna:

          You claimed I was misrepresenting you, but when called on it just call me ignorant and mean-spirited once again. It’s not about winning, it’s about being honest. Something you seem to struggle with.

          Glad to see the challenge to WLC’S. Personally, I would have taken remarks if his that appear inconsistent, and ask him to resolve them. One thing that a mathematical/scientific education does for you is that progress depends on seeking out inconsistencies, and resolving them. Not everyone appreciates the power of this approach.

          John:

          Echidna, you don’t know me. I don’t suffer fools gladly and you argued like a fool and wasted my time. I know you don’t think so, but in order to teach an ignorant person that she is ignorant I’d have to educate her to see that she is one, and I don’t have the hours it would take to teach you a critical thinking class. Give it a rest. I mean it, whoever you are. You go around blasting people like me who are on the forefronts of these religious debates who use their real names and have a reputation at stake from behind the wall of anonymity, and that I find reprehensible no matter what your motivations are for remaining anonymous. Give it a rest. As an anonymous person you have no reputation at stake.

          Echidna:

          Evidence-free bashing again. Get lost.

          John:

          Likewise, I never denied deleting a couple of your ignorant comments. I also expect civility. You are not a civil person.

          Echidna:

          One of the “ignorant” or perhaps “disrespectful” comments you deleted said “Now, John, you know as well as I do that you censor people who disagree with you. It seems that you may be equating respect with agreement.”

          An honest person would have replied with something like: “I do delete comments on occasion. I don’t consider it censorship if the comments fall within the scope of XYZ. Your comment fell inside that scope because of ….”. But you didn’t. You just deleted it, just as you deleted other comments that weren’t falling in line with the story that you wanted to tell.

          Listen, I’m not telling you to go to take critical thinking classes without even hinting at what logical fallacy I might be making. I’m not telling you that you are ignorant with giving you the slightest hint about what, nor have I called you uncivil. But I’m not going to allow you to make those claims against me without asking you to back them up with evidence, as I have been doing for my assertion that you are dishonest.
          John, let others be the judge of who is being civil around here.

          John:

          I don’t longer care. There is a context you’re leaving out leading up to this and afterward. You didn’t even quote the entire comment.

          I’m out of here.

          Echidna:

          Describe the context, then, if it is important to your argument. And I did quote the entire comment.
          http://furiouspurpose.me/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/photo.png

          1. Ace of Sevens

            http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-must-people-always-personally.html

            Now I’m really confused. I had figured the problem was snide Pharyngula commenters mocking his theist readers. This prevented the robust debate he was used to and drove off part of his target audiences. (Had he laid down the law in a clear manner like Libby Anne, this probably would have solved things.) Now, he says Natalie in somehow exemplary of mean-spirited atheism when it appears that she, at worst, misunderstood his vaguely-worded complaints. I have no idea what the problem is. He’s under no obligation to tell us, but if he’s going to talk about it publicly, I’d like to know exactly what his complaint is.

          2. echidna

            The problem, as I see it, is that people who came to JWL’s blog from scienceblogs (precursor to FTB) have a ruthless approach when it comes to evidence and truth. It would cost a scientist his career to be found to have lied, the same is not true for a theologian. Because lies, even mistakes, are so terribly costly to scientists, in scientific circles, correcting people when they are ambiguous or straying from the facts is actually a polite and considerate thing to do, especially when backed up with evidence. This seems to be a terribly threatening approach to someone like JTW, who does not prioritise truth as highly, and who construes disagreement as a personal attack.

          3. Natalie Reed

            That’s an interesting point. I mean… I’m well aware of the fact that people correcting your mistakes can be embarassing and hurt, but it’s SOOO much better than being permitted to continue making that mistake over and over again. If someone corrects a mistake in a courteous way, I’m usually embarassed and hurt for a couple seconds, but I pretty quickly come around to being grateful for the correction.

            Also, if one isn’t open to those kinds of corrections, than you lose the opportunity to have blogging being a means of PERSONAL growth and education. Like, for me, I prefer this not to just be a one-way street. From my commenters and readers, including those who disagree with me (I honestly can’t say enough times how much I love my readers, really…you guys are fantastic, and SO kind, intelligent, insightful and supportive), and from the other blogs I read and link to and stuff, I also learn new things myself, and learn to look at things in new ways. Like the video from Ariel and Aiofe I posted yesterday… I found out about it because they both read my blog, but their video allowed me to start thinking about the “choice” / “born this way” thing in a whole new light. My perspective grew a little bit because I was open to learning from my readers.

            But it seems like Loftus (and many other bloggers) take a far more didactic approach, where the sole priority and goal is educating others, and persuading them towards your perspective. That’s fine, I suppose, but it does seem like one is willfully cutting oneself off from some of the most rewarding and valuable aspects of doing this kind of work. I’ve ALWAYS preferred the idea and model of conversation in terms of how I approach most things (literature, art, philosophy, sociology, activism, science, blogging, etc.) to didactic models of one-way communication or lectures, or competitive models like debate where the “best” view or art or strategy or whatever wins. I like the idea of human beings participating with one another, sharing and learning and growing forward through that dialogue and collaboration of minds. So to cut oneself off from correction and disagreement, and to view blogging as just this sort of outwardly directed flow of one’s own position with the aim to convert (or deconvert) people to your own view is just… I don’t know… kind of ugly, a bit sad, a bit lonely, and not something I myself would ever want to do.

    2. 4.2
      JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

      John W. Loftus said:

      When it comes to changing the religious landscape I endorse most if not all approaches, ridicule, activism, academics in various disciplines.

      I’m quoting this because it’s important that it not get lost in the press of other comments. I’m really glad to see it. It’s as clear a rejection of my-way-or-the-highway as I’ve seen, and I would like to see Natalie acknowledge this.

      And I do think there is an important distinction between “maintaining a united front” and “appreciating the value of a multitude of approaches”. I also agree that most of the folks at FtB certainly don’t do the former, and do support the later. I’m glad that Mr. Loftus has recognized this, and I don’t particularly have a problem with him participating in internecine arguments/potshots. I’m sorry he’s doing it out of what seems to be a sense of emotional frustration and injured dignity, but, honestly, I suspect that underlies a lot of such potshots — which doesn’t make them necessarily invalid, or inappropriate.

      1. Natalie Reed

        I appreciate him stating that, but so far his other words and actions have clearly indicated a sense of supremacy. Maybe it’s just ego rather than a disregard for other approaches, but I’d have a lot more respect for that comment if his reaction to this post hadn’t been to double-down over at his blog and start taking petty snipes.

        1. JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

          I suspect the distinction may be between approaches and people. I read the conversation as follows: That Mr. Loftus doesn’t think that his way of doing atheist activism is better than (or in conflict with) other approaches, but rather that he is better (more effective, larger audience, longer history of success, etc.) than (many other) atheist activists. This is an important difference.

          1. Natalie Reed

            Regardless, it’s still insulting, easily misunderstood as a statement about his approach being better (since that goes part and parcel with HIM being “better”, since the Bestest Of The Atheist Bloggers would clearly choose the Best Approach, and the distinctions would get very fuzzy the instant questions start getting asked as to WHY, exactly, he is supposedly so much better and making so much of a difference than the rest of us), and still would be something over which the appropriate response is an apology and clarification, not a doubling-down and “the only reason anyone reads you is because you’re on PZ Meyers’ [sic] website” attacks.

            By the way, not even everyone at FTB is even principally interested in Atheist Activism. I identify far more strongly as a Skeptic than as an Atheist, for instance. Atheism is just a subset of my skepticism.

          2. JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

            (in reply to Natalie, but that makes too much nesting)

            I fully agree about Mr. Loftus’s comments being insulting and easily misunderstood, and your reasonable expectation of an apology. Mr. Loftus is clearly in a snit, and (IMO) digging himself in deeper, pretty much independent of what anyone else says. Which is unfortunate, but doesn’t excuse the insults or the errors.

            As for skeptical vs atheist activism — that was simply my mistake in wording, for which I apologize. I tend to over-use the term atheism, as a way of normalizing and countering its stigma — but the more correct word for that which draws all the FtB bloggers together is, of course, “free thought”. As you said, atheism (at least as understood at FtB) is a consequence of skepticism, which (IMO) is a part of free thought, the purpose of this blog network.

            (And, regarding the posting of visitor numbers; I find them interesting and informative (if a little intimidating — (Hi, thousand people!)), and fully appropriate to publish in response to a false claim about your readership.)

          3. Natalie Reed

            Oh, don’t worry, that bit about skepticism being a thing here as well as atheism wasn’t directed at you as a correction, it was just an aside I thought would be helpful to the conversation. Don’t worry, no apology necessary. :)

          4. Pteryxx

            to JesseW:

            (And, regarding the posting of visitor numbers; I find them interesting and informative (if a little intimidating — (Hi, thousand people!))

            Oh, to reassure you, probably most of them don’t read the comments. Mostly.

            >_>

  5. 5
    Anders

    ^At William Burns: It’s just a matter of finding the right goddess…

    Natalie, Goddess of Transsexualism
    Queen of Queer, Our Lady of Transcending Boundaries

    Demipower
    Symbol: Circle with an arrow projecting from the top-right, as per the male symbol, and a cross projecting from the bottom, as per the female symbol, with an additional striked arrow (combining the female cross and male arrow) projecting from the top-left.
    Home Plane: Olympus
    Alignment: Chaotic Good
    Portfolios: Transgender people, transgender rights, skeptics (especially TG skeptics)
    Worshipers: Transgender people, allies
    Cleric Alignments: NG, CG, CN
    Domains: Chaos, Good, Skepticality, Trans*
    Favored Weapon: Barbed tongue (dagger)

    Natalie was a born in the body of a man in Ancient Greece in the 14th century B.C. All of her life she felt alienated by her own body, and secretly longed to be a woman.
    One day when she was out walking, she saw two snakes copulating. She poked them with a stick and suddenly found herself transformed into a woman. She remained a woman for seven years before once again seeing two snakes copulating. Upon striking them with a stick, she found herself not only transformed back into a man, but facing Zeus and Hera.
    As it turned out, the divine two had had an argument regarding which sex got the most out of copulation. So they had decided to leave the matter in the hands of the cleverest mortal they could find. Natalie looked them in the eye and told them that according to her experiences women got nine times more out of sex than men. This answer enraged Hera and she immediately turned Natalie back into a woman and departed. Zeus apol-ogized for his wife’s behavior and vanished as well.
    But all this had been Natalie’s plan ever since she heard about the divine argument. She had absolutely no intention of going back to her former, male body. She wrote a poem about her victory over the Queen of the Gods, and this song – and the ruse – so impressed Hermes that he took her with him to Olympus and made her into the Goddess of Transsexualism.
    Natalie appears as a young, lithe woman with glasses and brown, wavy hair. She is dressed in whatever fashion is common among the nerds of the area.
    Clerics of Natalie pray for their spells at 6 a.m. (Vancouver time). Her Holidays include the local Pride parade and 20th November, when she mourns those of her followers who have been murdered over the last year.
    Relationships: The Queen of Queer is on good terms with most of the Olympian pantheon. The only real exception is Terminus, the god of boundaries, who feels that Natalie has transgressed against the sacred and should be punished.
    Dogma: Strive to make the lives of transgendered people easier, especially by furthering civil rights and combating the or-dinary, low-level prejudice present in every-one. Maintain a good relationship with allies, but remember that transgendered people have a perspective they cannot understand. Science and reason are the best tools for in the struggle, for men fear that which they do not understand. Question all dogma, even this. Protect bats, for they are the messengers of the goddess.

    :D

    1. 5.1
      Anders

      Skepticality domain gives a +3 (sacred) bonus to Sense Motive and +1 to all saves versus Illusions. It includes spells like Detect Lies and True Seeing.

      Trans* domain gives the power to change sex of one person per level per week and a +2 (sacred) resistance to spells that change your body. It includes many specific variants of spells like Bane and Doom; these spells involve temporarily inflicting the victim with gender dysphoria and are not effective against enemies that do not have a sex.

    2. 5.2
      Anders

      Another example of integrating Trans people into a game world. This one would suit for a GURPS game with Ritual Path Magic or Path/Book Magic (both use the concept of True Names):

      Among the Bolmanai, a child is taken to the village shaman on the ninth night of the child’s life. The shaman sits with the child all night long and meditates. When the morning comes he reveals to the father and the mother what the child’s True Name is. That name reveals the essence of the child and what the child’s destiny is.

      Or that’s what happens most times. Sometimes the spirits mumble and sometimes the shaman doesn’t listen as well as he should. He gives the child a false name, and the result is a conflict in the child. He will be more susceptible to possession by evil spirits, he will have bad luck and he will believe* that he actually is a woman. And the same for women, except they will believe they’re men.

      When it is discovered that the child has ‘a Troubled Name’ the village will gather to discuss what should be done with the child. Often the child is burned or put out into the wilderness to die of exposure. After all, who would want a conduit for evil spirits in the village?

      But there are stories of Troubled Names who have been loved by their village. These children will inevitably leave the village when they’re 15, to search for their [I]real[/I] True Name. Maybe they will have to ask the oldest dragon in the world for it. Or maybe they will have to seek out the cottage of the three Weavers, who dictate men’s fates. And when they find their true name, something glorious happens. The power of the name is so strong that it reshapes their bodies into the image they have carried with them for so long. Some of the greatest heroes of the Bolmanai have been Troubled Names.

      *That is how it’s described by the Bronze Age Bolmanai, who are not big on queer theory.

      1. Natalie Reed

        Nicely done, but kind of sad in how much the real world doesn’t work like that… self-acceptance isn’t enough to become yourself. You have to deal with all the pills and lasers and scalpels and dilators.

        1. Anders

          What we need now is for a trans woman writer to write a 200-page novel about a Troubled Name woman’s quest for acceptance. I mention no names.

  6. 6
    Natalie Reed

    DM- Ed Brayton

    Ranger- Hank Fox
    Bards – Digital Cuttlefish, Stephanie Zvan, Ian Cromwell
    Barbarian – PZ Myers
    Paladin – JT Eberhard
    Fighters – Chris Rodda and Justin Griffith
    Clerics – Libby-Anne, Dan Fincke
    Druids – Jen McCreight, Brianne Bilyeau
    Rogues – Maryam Namazie, Chris Hallquist,
    Wizards – Greta Christina, Jason Thibeault, Mano Singham
    Dual-Class Wizard-Rogue – Me
    Customized Munchkin Class – Physioproffe

    1. 6.1
      Libby Anne

      Do I get to be a cleric simply because I know the lingo and sort of have the training of one? If so, I guess I’ll be a bit of a rogue cleric! :-P

      1. Natalie Reed

        Mostly just because you seem really kind and interesting primarily in helping other people, so you’d fit the healer role. Dan is a cleric because he’s got an especially philosophical tilt, and would have high wisdom score.

        1. Libby Anne

          Oh, clerics do healing? Sign me up! I’ve never played D & D … clearly. Growing up I was taught it was straight up demonic, and it’s just not something I’ve gotten around to since. :-P

          1. Natalie Reed

            It’s pretty fun, if you play with the right people! Sort of a lot of improvisational theatre / storytelling, if you do it right. Like a combination of collaboratively creating a big, intricate story but with a game thrown in to make it more fun and unpredictable. But those elements are a non-competitive, cooperative game, so it ends up being more of a bonding, get-to-know-eachother thing rather than a get-to-hate-eachother thing like Monopoly.

            The Chic Tract on D&D is one of the funniest things in the universe. :)

          2. Pteryxx

            *waves to Libby Anne* I was also taught D&D was Satanic, along with a lot of other things such as dinosaurs and rock music, but fortunately for me I was a horrible student.

            …I would heartily endorse an FTB D&D online campaign. And probably sob into my pillow if I couldn’t get in!

          3. Natalie Reed

            OMG!!!

            First you give me the idea for the My Little Pony marathon, now this? Jeez Pteryxx, I may have to hire you as my personal Fun Stuff For Reeders consultant.

            Anyone think it would be fun to throw an SNR D&D campaign?

            Also: “You must remember the tentacles!”, me as a D&D Deity of Transgenderism and now Satanic Dinosaurs? Today is full of awesome comments!

          4. Pteryxx

            *blushscuffle* Oh, I’m just really good at writing checks with my mouth that the rest of me can’t cash.

            Also, didn’t you know that dinosaurs are totally Satanic? My Seventh-day Adventist school taught that fossils were fakes crafted by Satan and put in the earth specifically to trick weak-minded scientists into disbelieving Creationism. Oh, and children like dinosaurs (along with music, cartoons and D&D) because Satan built evil temptations to be as attractive as possible to little kids. But I was a rotten student… *points to ‘nym and avatar*

          5. Anders

            @Natalie – next time I’ll do your superhero self, fighting against foes like The Kyriarch, Dr. Normative and the dreaded Lord of the Cis…

          6. Natalie Reed

            The De-Transitioner would definitely be the scariest supervillain.

          7. Anders

            That would be Dr. Normative. He has a normalizer ray that is temporary and a Prokrustes Machine that is permanent. It renders you normal. In all aspects. Average. And when it comes to sex, it goes by karyotype. Because Dr. Normative is a scientist, and we all know that scientific sex is done by karyotyping.

    2. 6.2
      Richard Carrier

      Hey, Natalie, you forgot about me. Can I be a universe-hopping sorcerer from Call of Cthulhu with only 15 sanity points left and a mythos score of 55? My Summon Star Vampire spell could come in handy. Plus I have a pistol.

      Okay, failing that, I guess I’ll just be a stupid wizard.

      (Didn’t anyone here play Palladium? Remember when that was kickass way better than D&D? Ah, good times. Palladium!? Yes. That means I’m freakin old. Hey, I once played Empire of the Pedal Throne. That’s how old I am. Go ahead. Google it.)

      1. PZ Myers

        It’s Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne. I played it, too.

      2. Pteryxx

        Holy moley Richard, I didn’t think anyone even knew what TSR stood for these days.

      3. Anders

        I’m more of a GURPS fan myself. There’s actually a GURPS My Little Pony PBP campaign over at Gitp. I’ve been thinking about asking to join.

      4. leftwingfox

        Oh we were hardcore into Palladium. They had some great game worlds.

        Unfortunately, looking back on it now, Palladium games were a lot of “Great ideas, lousy execution”. Character creation took forever, balance (especially in Rifts) was shot, and the combat system looked good, by really bogged everything down in practice.

    3. 6.3
      Pteryxx

      Ooh, what about Greg Laden and Ophelia Benson? I’m thinking Ophelia’s a fightery sort.

      1. Natalie Reed

        Yeahhh… I think Greg might be another cleric, since he’s often in a sort of support role, watching everyone’s back. Ophelia? I’m thinking Rogue/Fighter dual class!

        1. Greg Laden

          As long as a cleric doesnot have to know what you’all are talking about, fine. But really, I’m a Time Lord.

          1. Natalie Reed

            Psssh… you haven’t even had a regeneration. I, on the other hand… ;)

        2. Svlad Cjelli

          So many clerics. Mix it up a little!
          There are four whole editions worth of class-permutations by now.

    4. 6.4
      Ophelia Benson

      What am I, chopped liver?

      1. Natalie Reed

        You’re a fighter-rogue dual-class! Read the rest of the comment thread, Ophelia! :)

      2. 'Tis Himself

        What’s wrong with chopped liver? Just cast resurrect and healing spells on it and it becomes a magnificent and useful organ!

      3. Svlad Cjelli

        I don’t know if that’s a valid racial choice, to be honest.

        Anyhow, I get a bit of a Warlord vibe from Ophelia Benson. With the classifications of the fourth edition, that would be a Martial source and a Leader role.

    5. 6.5
      Jen

      JT totally isn’t a Paladin, he’s chaotic neutral, not lawful ;)

      And the one time I played D&D I was a druid, so you totally called it.

      1. Svlad Cjelli

        Druids are pretty awesome, actually.

      2. JT Eberhard

        I am so chaotic good!

        Yes, not very paladinny with the chaotic, but atheist paladins are a whole different breed. :P

        1. Svlad Cjelli

          Ah, a Cavalier. Pick a virtue instead of a deity.

    6. 6.6
      JT Eberhard

      HO. LEE. CRAP.

      Fucking yes! I have to know though, what did you think made me a paladin? :)

  7. 7
    Eric Sweeney

    Loftus is an admitted liar (in his book WIBA he talks about the crimes, including ASSAULT) that the committed in his younger days.

    Further, he has talke about drinking himself to sleep during his divorce process last fall (its all on his blog) so I would not mess with this guy.

    That remark about turning his “guns” on people crossess the line.

    I wouldn’t have anything to do with him if I were any of you.

    1. 7.1
      John W. Loftus

      Eric Sweeney is a Christian poser who stalks me relentlessly because he fears my influence.

      Tell us this Eric, deny that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior.

      Then maybe you would have some credibility.

      Go ahead, Do it.

      1. Natalie Reed

        “Fears my influence”???

        1. John W. Loftus

          What other reason would he stalk me relentlessly for several years on a daily basis? What is your theory?

          Over at Chris Hallquist’s blog I asked him the same question but he never denied Jesus.

          1. Anders

            He could be a loony, like David Mabus.

          2. Natalie Reed

            Did you really expect him to? What’s the point of making a challenge like that?

      2. echidna

        Why not reply to the actual point he made? I remember you writing about the drinking on your blog, so Eric is correct there. Have you assaulted someone?

  8. 8
    Berior

    No no no, PZ is clearly a wizard with an alienist prestige class. You’ve got to remember the tentacles !

    1. 8.1
      Natalie Reed

      “You’ve got to remember the tentacles!” is possibly my favourite sentence anyone has ever left on this blog.

      1. JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

        I do want to say, just to clarify my position — the FtB D&D discussions are AWSOME (sic). *squeeeee*. Etc. ;-) (Just so folks don’t mistake me for someone unduly serious.)

    2. 8.2
      Svlad Cjelli

      Certainly some sort of alienist.

  9. 9
    karmakin

    I’m always a bit gunshy about tonal debates, or debates about tone or however you want to put it. The main reason for this is that tone is something that’s in the eye of the beholder. Now, this isn’t an excuse to run off and be a jerk or anything. I actually think one should avoid that, even if for our own self-benefit (too much negativity can get one down, I think).

    But still. Tone is really in the eye of the beholder. It doesn’t matter how we state it, the statement of “I am an atheist, that is, I lack the belief in gods, and I think that gods probably do not exist” to many is offensive in and of itself.

    It’s usually not that black and white, but the idea remains, we can and do be offensive without even trying, and depending on the content, even the harshest tone can be seen as soft as a kitten, and vice versa.

    1. 9.1
      Svlad Cjelli

      Ah, yes, the eye of the beholder. Tone is a Death Ray. Or an anti-magical cone.

  10. 10
    Natalie Reed

    Oh, btw, I’ve been trying to stifle this because it seems so petty, but really, I can’t help it:

    Regarding my readership of “less than a hundred”? My daily average is 3650 hits, thankyouverymuch.

    1. 10.1
      Ace of Sevens

      Maybe your audience is like me and sits around refreshing all day.

      1. Pteryxx

        Hey you, get out of my computer! >_>

      2. Anders

        Yeah, that would be me.

    2. 10.2
      echidna

      No, it’s not petty. It’s a direct evidence-based refutation of a slur made against you. The initial slur was petty.

    3. 10.3
      Christianne

      My daily average is 3650 hits, thankyouverymuch.

      Please pardon my insane envy.

      True story: I once set a Call of Cthulhu campaign at Miskatonic U in the 1960s, where Nyarlathotep came to campus in the guise of a Timothy Leary-ish acid guru peddling a super-acid that let the victim see to the edge of the universe. Good times.

      When I played D&D, I was usually a wizard. I was once killed by my own party because they thought I was too evil.

      1. Megan

        True story: I once set a Call of Cthulhu campaign at Miskatonic U in the 1960s, where Nyarlathotep came to campus in the guise of a Timothy Leary-ish acid guru peddling a super-acid that let the victim see to the edge of the universe. Good times.

        That’s just awesome! I want to play that campaign in the worst possible way!

        1. Cubist

          It’s Call of Cthulhu. By definition, “the worst possible way” is *exactly* how you play it…

  11. 11
    keith

    I’m a new a reader. I read all the freethought blogs here but PZ is my favorite thought now I have a new 2nd favorite. :)

    I liked playing an atheist wizard and would alwasy say that the gods are just magical construct that people in bleive therefore are real, but have no innate reality to them. Alwasy made the DM so happy, you know DM they LOVE to beat up the PC.

    K

  12. 12
    Savant

    Just wanted to say that I’m one of those daily 3650 visits! If you do a FtB D&D game, I hope that you do some sort of audioblogging / transcription so that we can all participate in the nerdery.

    Clearly, you’d be a wizard/rogue with a magical pony familiar, by the way :)

    1. 12.1
      Natalie Reed

      Not a bat? :)

      1. Savant

        Well, maybe a bat that plays musical water-filled glasses. That would fit too. Or is that too much of a stretch?

        1. Svlad Cjelli

          For music, it’s hard to beat a Hurrum.

  13. 13
    Emburii

    I’m all new-fangled and indie; I run FATE System. Or Changeling: The Lost, first group game happening this Friday. I’m a little worried about it, since one of the players is a tragic example of a real-life privilege-denying dude (he can be taught, but it takes effort and time) and I don’t know if he’ll respect me enough (a girl! GMing!) for the game to really gel.

    I’d actually love to hear your thoughts on sexism and prejudice in gaming, Ms. Reed, and whether or not it’s been an issue for you. Have you run a game and, if so, did you have problems with the players and their reactions to you? If so, what did you do to handle the situation?

    1. 13.1
      Anders

      I don’t know much about sexism in gaming, being a man, but I am a GM and has played RPGs since… actually I got my first RPG for Christmas 1984. Time passes. :eek:

      Anyway, I’ve been faced with recalcitrant players – both rules lawyers and setting lawyers – and my experience is you have to break such habits immediately.

      First of all, stop the game.
      Second, declare your ruling and that you will listen to counterarguments after the game, so as not to bog the game down.
      Third, after the game (and a suitable cool-off period, so you don’t have to do it the same night – the purpose is that everyone should be calm). Don’t be afraid to yield, but always explain that your ruling is final while the game is going on.
      Fourth, if the behavior continues, give fair warning that the player is risking the boot.
      Fifth, if the behavior still continues, give the player the boot.

      All this assumes that kicking the player off the group won’t ruin the group (maybe he’s the one with the apartment you’re all playing at, or he’ll take half the group with him, etc.)

      1. Emburii

        Game is today, I’ll keep your advice in mind if trouble happens. Thanks!

        1. Anders

          Good Luck!

          When you’re dealing with a store like this, they’re insured up the ass. They’re not supposed to give you any resistance whatsoever. If you get a customer, or an employee, who thinks he’s Charles Bronson, take the butt of your gun and smash their nose in. Everybody jumps. He falls down screaming, blood squirts out of his nose, nobody says fucking shit after that. You might get some bitch talk shit to you, but give her a look like you’re gonna smash her in the face next, watch her shut the fuck up. Now if it’s a manager, that’s a different story. Managers know better than to fuck around, so if you get one that’s giving you static, he probably thinks he’s a real cowboy, so you gotta break that son of a bitch in two. If you wanna know something and he won’t tell you, cut off one of his fingers. The little one. Then tell him his thumb’s next. After that he’ll tell you if he wears ladies underwear. I’m hungry. Let’s get a taco.

    2. 13.2
      Natalie Reed

      I could try to do a post about that sometime, maybe?

      1. Pteryxx

        Sure! …Has that giant page of blog post ideas for the next 50 years got any space left, or did you just start writing on the back?

        1. Natalie Reed

          Teensy bit still left, if I write really really small between other entries. :)

      2. Emburii

        Only if you have the time and the interest, of course; it’s a small thing, especially compared to the life and death situations that more severe forms and venues of prejudice can instigate. Thank you for considering it!

  14. 14
    Alice in Wonderland

    Hi Natalie! I just want to say, for the record, that I love your blog. Sure I found it via Pharyngula, but then I only found Pharyngula via Greta Christina, who in turn I found because a religious friend of mine was upset by one of her posts. :-) And currently, YOURS is the first blog I check every day, because you’re talking about stuff that I find interesting and important and that I knew so little about (and because your writing is so beautiful and readable!). FTB is clearly not only about affirming and explaining our lack of belief in any deity or supernatural powers; it’s not like, once we’ve put God behind us, all our problems are solved. I really, really appreciate the work you and many other FT bloggers are putting into fighting sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and more.

    1. 14.1
      Pteryxx

      I know! Natalie’s even pulling my attention away from Stephanie Zvan, and that’s saying something. She might be highest on my go-to FTB list now, if PZ doesn’t hear and strangle me with his virtual tentacles.

      FTB’s so big now I’m starting to lose track of who’s blogging about what. I’d like some sort of cheat sheet beyond my own memory as to who’s who – the D&D character class comment’s actually very helpful in that regard. I’m thinking maybe, FTB blogger trading cards? Maybe with skill sets and spheres of influence… or maybe a blogroll-within-a-blogroll, there’s the Feminist core, Religion core, Diversity core, International, Recipes, Humor, and of course Natalie’s all alone under the MLP banner for now. *cough* Then there’s frequency of posting, wordiness, in-depth analysis, consciousness-raising, righteous rants, inclusion of meme references (that’d be Natalie and Crommunist)… Ooh, it’d be fun to have an FTB survey where commenters could vote on the three FTB bloggers who best fit each category! Even seeing everyone’s favorite bloggers would be entertaining. Like, for a week or so, everybody change their avatar to reflect their fave blogger.

      Looks like the one-year anniversary of FTB will be sometime in July. HMMMM!

      …Yeah, I’ll go calm myself down now. >_>

    2. 14.2
      MaNonny

      I also want to add my support to the thread. I try to skim FTB as a whole when I have the time, but I’ve actually been trying to cut back in order to spend every possible moment on a big project recently. Now, there are only 2 FTB blogs that I try to keep up with every post on, and yours is one of them. Although your posts are a bit long (ha! not necessarily a bad thing, but bad for me NOT being distracted from work!), I find the content to be insightful and deeply explored. I am happy to be some of your daily hits!

  15. 15
    Cynthia

    Only here can I find such a great discussion of a 1. a blogger I don’t bother with (Loftus), 2. a wonderful lineup of D&D players, and 3. a way to keep your D&D game in control and enjoyable.

    There is nowhere else on the web I’m gonna get that awesome a package!

    Although, knowing that so many people hit your blog every day makes me even more fearful of leaving comments. Totally hoping most don’t read down!

    1. 15.1
      Natalie Reed

      Imagine how I feel!

  16. 16
    Marshall

    The level of awesome in this thread is intense.

  17. 17
    1. 17.1
      'Tis Himself

      Let’s give it a rest shall we?

      You first.

  18. 18
    John W. Loftus

    As I said, I know I’m making a difference.

    http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/02/reviews-and-emails-like-this-keep-me.html

    Cheers

    1. 18.1
      'Tis Himself

      That’s nice. Now give it a rest. You’re going from making a difference to being a bore very quickly.

    2. 18.2
      Emburii

      And she isn’t?

      No one argued that you aren’t making a difference and that you don’t make worthwhile contributions, if that’s you’re worried about. I choose to take that as your meaning, since it’s far more charitable than the other interpretation; that, after saying ‘have done’, you’re attacking her all over again by implying that she doesn’t.

      You’re not helping your case here, Mr. Loftus.

      1. John W. Loftus

        Emburii, all I know is that I am making a difference:

        http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/02/dr-james-east-recommends-wiba.html

        If people don’t like me and want to make a public display of it then they ought to at least acknowledge that all they’ve got on me is that I don’t suffer fools gladly.

        Socrates was bombastic. Read the ending of the Euthyphro Dialogue and see for yourself. You realize that after the Athenian senate condemned him by a narrow margin he was given a chance to plead his case and blasted them, even saying they ought to pay him a pension for what he does. That didn’t help his case for after his speech they voted overwhelmingly that he should die. While I’m not worthy to be in his presence so what if I might be like him too. Nietzsche was, as was Marx. Big fucking deal.

        Sometimes it’s personality types like ours that get things done. Natalie just might have the same personality type, but I don’t know. Kudos to her if so! But it has little or nothing to do with whether or not we are effective in that which we do.

        1. Emburii

          Speaking of things that have nothing to do with or bear no relation to, your reply has nothing to do with what I actually said. It doesn’t address my point, that (once again), no one was accusing you of not being able to make a difference, and you also seem increasingly intent on painting anyone who disagrees with you as…anti-intellectual at best, murderers at worst maybe? That’s the best I can get out of your reference to the Athenian senate sentencing Socrates to die despite his eloquent defense. Do you really see this polite disagreement with people over the Internet on how your words were interpreted as analogous?

        2. Natalie Reed

          This is what’s creating a problem, John. You keep parading around your insistence that you’re making this enormous difference and are this totally awesome badass super-atheist (and comparing yourself to Socrates?!) while implicitly implying that other bloggers aren’t. Occasionally directly suggesting that we’re piddly little nobodies. And then in your last paragraph of this post you imply that the only way I could possibly make a difference or “get things done” is if I’m just like you. Which brings us back to my OP, and the original criticisms, which apparently weren’t all that mistaken after all.

          And on top of all that you have this way of suggesting that the ONLY reason anyone has criticized you is because you’re an “apostate” or they “fear your influence”, you keep asking other people to drop it but keep diving back in for a last word, and you interpret all criticism as only coming from a space of mean-spiritedness.

          It’s just… it’s not helping your case.

  19. 19
    John W. Loftus

    Natalie, you continue misrepresenting me. You don’t know me. You’ve probably never read much of what I write. I am making a difference. Embrace it. I never said I was making an “enormous” difference, or that you need to be just like me to make a difference, or that others are not making a difference, or that the only reason people like you have criticized me is because I am an apostate, or that it’s all motivated by mean-spiritedness. No, I was not comparing myself to Socrates except in one narrowly defined sense, that people would say the same things of us. People who were friends of Socrates would say the same things of him they are saying of me, that he wasn’t helping his case. Christian DO fear my influence. Just today Christians have started praying that I would die. Have they ever asked others to pray that of you? The reason I keep revisiting this is because you keep spouting off ignorance. Have you ever taken a critical thinking class? I have taught them.

    You picked the wrong battle out of ignorance. Now give it a rest, please.

    1. 19.1
      Natalie Reed

      Do you really not see how statements like “Have you ever taken a critical thinking class? I have taught them” come across?

      1. Ace of Sevens

        I’m going to have to second Natalie here. John, I love your blog and you’ve done a lot off good work, but you’re coming across as a petty dillweed here.

        1. Natalie Reed

          John, I think you’d find people a lot more sympathetic if rather than continuously trumpeting your own exploits and accomplishments, only deigning to acknowledge the value of others via comparison to yourself, and presenting this persecution complex thing, you were to maybe just take a moment to recognize the larger and diverse movement you’re a part of, and without which none of us would be able to make any difference at all.

          Also, you’ll notice the pattern here has been my responding to your comments, not the other way around. So let’s not pretend the only reason you’re saying anything is because I keep harping on about it.

          1. John W. Loftus

            Natalie, I don’t care if people like you, who speak out of ignorance, are sympathetic toward me. Answer me, don’t deflect, have you ever taken a critical thinking class? A simple yes or no answer will suffice, because you need to. Rail against me for asking this, but answer the question. My claim is that atheists do not have better critical thinking skills then the general populace. That’s what I think. Doing so would increase your effectiveness.

            And for the record, I don’t care how I come across when personally attacked, and you did just that.

          2. Ace of Sevens

            John: I’m not sure what Natalie said that you’re construing as a personal attack, but to me it looks like you are primarily upset that people aren’t paying you enough deference. You’ve been coming across as a classhole with this kind of comment.

            I stuck up for you when you were being bizarrely accused of being a spree-shooter, but you’re not doing much to deflect criticisms of being thin-skinned.

          3. Ace of Sevens

            Ignorance and knowledge aren’t about credentials, though. Knowledge certainly helps gets them, but trying to pick on Natalie for lacking your credentials doesn’t demonstrate her ignorance. It just demonstrates your ego and maybe classism. I’m unclear what she’s even being accused of being ignorant of.

  20. 20
    John W. Loftus

    Emburii, ditto with you.

  21. 21
    John W. Loftus

    Ace of Sevens, you really don’t understand, do you? Ignorance is ignorance. I’m fucking tired of getting shot at from both sides out of ignorance. I will fight back <– metaphor for ignorant people. I really do not care what you or anyone else thinks at this point. Consider me a pit bill.

    1. 21.1
      Emburii

      What ignorance? You keep saying she’s ignorant, but you haven’t established what facts she’s missing or ignoring. You haven’t once in any of these comments made a cogent case for her fault.

      If you don’t care, then LEAVE. Climb up on your cross and hang there as the martyr you want to be, rather than bothering us with your ranting.

  22. 22
    John W. Loftus

    Natalie, critical thinking class or not? A simple answer is all you need to give me, or give it a rest.

    1. 22.1
      Natalie Reed

      I don’t owe you a damn thing, John, and you don’t get to issue commands.

    2. 22.2
      Natalie Reed

      Additionally, acting like this is some kind of pivotal question is just silly. Whether or not I’ve taken “A Critical Thinking Class” (never even heard of them until now, nor am I going to just take you at your word that they’re particularly valuable) has no bearing on whether or not I possess critical thinking SKILLS. It’s also another act of assuming that YOUR particular background, YOUR particular credentials, YOUR particular way of being an atheist is The Best Way and everyone else’s backgrounds, credentials, abilities don’t matter. That we’re all ignorant fools compared to the Mighty John Loftus. This isn’t what you’re saying directly, but it’s REPEATEDLY been present in implication.

      Maybe some of us just didn’t have the same opportunities you did?

  23. 23
    John W. Loftus

    Natalie, you are ignorant. I have never heard of a single person who railed against an education except people who don’t have one, and I have never heard of a single person who railed against a critical thinking class except people who have never taken one.

    You continue spouting ignorances and you don’t even realize it.

    Sheesh, and to think you’re here at FtB’s. I guess it doesn’t matter what one’s credentials are to be here, now does it? After all diversity is much more important.

    1. 23.1
      John W. Loftus

      Oops, my mistake, you didn’t rail against a critical thinking class, sorry.

      1. Emburii

        No, she didn’t rail against the idea of critical thinking courses, and she hasn’t ‘personally attacked’ you. She’s quite clearly explained why she disagrees with you and never once denigrated your credentials or your influence, instead you’re implying she’s only here for ‘diversity’? Who’s insulting who?

        Mr. Loftus, you are being bigoted. Your behavior is reactive and insulting. You take pride in the idea that people are praying for your death and then ask a transgender woman if she’s ever been threatened, if people have ever wished death on her vocally or in their hearts…do you even KNOW the statistics on the risks and violence that transgender people face? Or do you care? She doesn’t have the same Christian background or the same formalized logic, so she doesn’t matter? Once again you bear out her observation that she doesn’t seem to be worthy of your respectful engagement because she’s not enough like you. That is why I call you bigoted, because you keep saying ‘let’s finish this’…in between calling her ignorant and misrepresenting her position, trying to get that last word because you care more about winning and cutting her down than actually even considering that you might be even a little off-target.

        1. Natalie Reed

          You take pride in the idea that people are praying for your death and then ask a transgender woman if she’s ever been threatened, if people have ever wished death on her vocally or in their hearts…do you even KNOW the statistics on the risks and violence that transgender people face? Or do you care?

          Thanks. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there, but it’s definitely a really good point. Not exactly the best situation in which to play the “people want me dead, so I’m a badass” card.

          1. Emburii

            Thank you for not being mad at me mentioning it, I didn’t realize until after I posted that with my cisgender privilege it’s not my issue to wave around and it’s not my place to appropriate your life for my rhetorical point. It is a /valid/ point of argument, but still not mine to lead off with.

        2. Marshall

          John, you just lost a reader, and I hope others join me. What the fuck makes you think it’s appropriate to make such a profoundly insensitive and bigoted assertion? I haven’t always agreed with you, but I have enjoyed a lot of what you’ve written. This is another thing altogether. You should be ashamed, and you owe Natalie a HELL of an apology. This is just plain unacceptable, and is the last straw for me.

          1. Marshall

            Sorry, this is nested as a reply to Emburii in error, but I think the target of my comment is clear, so whatever.

      2. Josh Carter

        John, I am writing this in my real name and have taken a critical thinking class, even earning myself a degree in Philosophy along the way. I’ll even go ahead and deny Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior or whatever the fuck so that you can’t pretend to disqualify what I have to say based on the absurd criteria you’ve used so far.

        Now, I’m an atheist and have been for years now so I assume I am not your target audience, but when you blogged here I did make an attempt at reading it. You came across as a bit of an ass, but I assumed this was an error in my interpretation or just a personality quirk. I am remarkably disappointed to find that it is much worse than I ever suspected. You are acting like an elitist classhole and a self-important shit. To pretend that your academic credentials make you in any way more valuable than Natalie is nothing short of disgusting and pathetic, and makes it clear that you’re nothing but a privileged shithead.

        I considered myself fairly enlightened on the subject matter that Natalie discusses, and what I have learned in her short time at FTB I would easily rank alongside any of the classes I took when I earned my degree. Maybe she hasn’t taught any critical thinking classes, but she has educated me to a degree that I almost feel bad not paying for it.

        Further, I think you should be embarrassed that as someone who has taught one of these oh-so-important classes, you’re so fucking bad at realizing that one does not always develop skills (in this case critical thinking) from a formal class. As a professional in the matter, you should be ashamed of such a glaring weakness in your own critical thinking skill. Maybe you should ask Nat for some tutoring on the subject?

        And the implication that she is a diversity hire really doesn’t need to be debunked too much, though allow me to state that it’s patently false, completely ridiculous, and you should feel bad for even implying something so remarkably stupid. So I’ll just end this whole line of thought with fuck you, you sad little man.

        When you decided to leave FTB I’ll be honest I wasn’t too broken up about it, but was disappointed you couldn’t find your niche or whatever you were looking for here. I wished you luck in your endeavors. But after seeing the way you’ve behaved, fuck that, good fucking riddance.

    2. 23.2
      Ace of Sevens

      I took a critical thinking class (Philosophy of Science), so I guess I’m qualified to say this” Fuck you, you classist asshole. You aren’t competing with Natalie for a professorship, or at all. The only apparent reason you keep bringing up your credentials seems to be to show that you’re more important than her and she needs to show proper respect to her betters. What’s with the dig about diversity? She didn’t get picked over you. You quit, remember? What are you trying to say. People shouldn’t be able to write about critical thinking unless they have a PhD? Anyone who isn’t an old white guy and has no PhD is unqualified and just there to score liberal points?

      Education is laudable because it teaches us things, not because it gives us degrees to waive around, which is what you are reducing your credentials to. If you have a specific complaint about something Natalie said, just say it instead of rolling in your privilege and making vaguely cissexist insinuations about her being a diversity hire.

    3. 23.3
      Natalie Reed

      Wow, John. Just wow.

      I don’t think I even need to say another word further on this matter. You have just bared yourself for everyone to see.

    4. 23.4
      Gem Newman

      Holy crap. Well, that’s disappointing.

    5. 23.5
      Robert B.

      You are way over the line. That “diversity” remark was bigoted, cruel, and intellectually bankrupt. You know what Natalie’s credentials are? She is a prolific, engaging, challenging writer. She sees clearly, and writes clearly, on issues where most people are deeply confused. Either getting into angry arguments causes you to tell nasty lies; or you’re bigoted enough that you actually didn’t know how Natalie wrote, because you assumed from the start she was hired solely for being – actually, I’m not sure. Was it for being transgendered that you meant to denigrate her, or for being a recovering drug addict? A woman? A “My Little Pony” fan?

      The credentials of an intellectual are, always and only, the quality of hir thoughts. Neither lying nor prejudice would speak well for your credentials.

      I don’t much see the point of deconverting the religious if we give the impression, by having you represent us, that atheists are happy to endorse the sort of privileged, archaic, and irrational thinking which you have just demonstrated. You are giving the impression that having more atheists wouldn’t really be a good thing, if they thought and acted as you do. You never gave me this impression in your own blog, so I hope you can take a moment to realize where you’re standing, with that comment, and who you’re standing with.

    6. 23.6
      Anders

      Another person with philosophy classes behind him here. And yeah, that remark was bigoted, ignorant and just plain ol’ stupid. What matters isn’t whether you can talk the talk, but whether you can walk the walk – and you have just shown how bad you are at that. You talk about Socrates? And compare yourself to him? Remember, he was a humble craftsman who had never had a critical thinking class in his life. He earned his place in history through sheer brilliance and if we have to compare, Natalie is heaps closer to him than you’ll ever be.

      But we shouldn’t compare. There’s no need to. For me, her accomplishments stand on their own. Since I started reading Natalie’s blog I have had to re-evaluate my opinions about drug abusers and the so-called working classes and thoroughly work through my thoughts about what is proper and improper behavior around trans people. It’s difficult, sure. My cognitive dissonance from one of her posts was probably part of what sent me to the mental hospital. But the alternative is to live a lie and I’m not willing to do that.

      Maybe you find that work a little bit too difficult?

      1. Natalie Reed

        My cognitive dissonance from one of her posts was probably part of what sent me to the mental hospital.

        :(

        I didn’t mean to do that!

        I hope people don’t consistently walk away from this blog feeling all depressed and stuff. That would suck.

        I really should do some posts like “things that are kind of awesome about being trans” or “what overcoming addiction taught me about myself” or “seriously, everyone, I’m really really happy with my life right now” or something some time…

        1. Anders

          I know you didn’t, and I don’t blame you in the slightest. And TBH, you probably catalyzed something that was coming anyway – my medication was out of whack. My reaction to your posts was more a symptom than a cause.

          But my main point was that it was worth it. The truth is worth it. YOU are worth it. I would not stop coming here for all the world, because there’s a beautiful voice here telling me things I have to know.

          Anyway, your name is wrong. You are not a reed. Reeds are fragile and break in the wind. You are a wasp, emerging from your pupa beautiful and with a powerful sting.

          1. wrp

            Late to the party here, but I prefer to think of a reed as something which, when perturbed, makes interesting and occasionally beautiful noises.

            (It’s one of my own family names, so it has a particular resonance for me, but it definitely applies here.)

          2. Natalie Reed

            I think in terms of reeds being soft…

            In a strong wind, a reed will bend, while a tree will break. :)

        2. Anders

          You should read through this (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showpost.php?p=12739523&postcount=1131) post to see what I think about this blog.

  24. 24
    John W. Loftus

    Listen up, we all have our influences. Grant me mine and I’ll grant you yours.

    1. 24.1
      Daniel Fincke

      John, you are an insufferable human being. You belong in therapy, not on the internet burning bridges with everyone you vaguely suspect has looked at you funny.

  25. 25
    Daniel Fincke

    My reply to John’s accusation that Natalie is here less because of qualifications and more because of an over-prioritized concern for diversity.

  26. 26
    Anders

    I wonder if this a parallel case to Godwin’s law. Once a person says something like “You’re only here because of your “, that person has shown himself to be intellectually bankrupt and there’s no point in continuing the conversation.

    1. 26.1
      Anders

      That should be “You’re only here because of your [minority status].”

  27. 27
    Ed Brayton

    This is really just sad. I tried to find a way to put an end to this and John seemed to welcome that and acted as though he was going to stop it. But now he’s just being a petty, childish asshole. I think it’s clear now that FTB is far better off without him in the fold. He still does very important work, of course, that doesn’t change. But these haughty and immature attacks on Natalie just need to stop.

    1. 27.1
      John W. Loftus

      I value diversity, I really do. I am a black homosexual feminist as much as a white heterosexual male can possibly be. But if any minority blasts me out of utter ignorance then they must be treated with dignity not by patronizing them. Patronizing them victimizes them all over again as unworthy of the adult human beings that they are. Natalie clearly is ignorant about me, and argued in an ignorant manner, as I showed. Are we supposed to let ignorance slide because of diversity? I think not.

      If people don’t like me and want to make a public display of it then they ought to at least acknowledge that all they’ve got on me is that I don’t suffer fools gladly.

      Socrates was bombastic. Read the ending of the Euthyphro Dialogue and see for yourself.

      You also realize that after the Athenian senate condemned Socrates by a narrow margin he was given a chance to plead his case and blasted them, even saying they ought to pay him a pension for what he does. That didn’t help his case for after his speech they voted overwhelmingly that he should die. While I’m not worthy to be in his presence, so what if I might be like him too. Nietzsche was, as was Marx. Big fucking deal.

      Sometimes it’s personality types like ours that get things done. But it has little or nothing to do with whether or not we are effective in that which we do.

      If diversity means giving ignorant people the podium them I’m not for that at all. There can be found plenty of diverse people who are not ignorant and argue intelligently.

      Atheists do not, on the whole, have much better critical thinking skills than the general populace. We don’t see it until there is a disagreement, for until then it looks like we agree because we are good thinkers. Natalie also didn’t show me much respect. That too I demand as the adult person I am.

      1. John W. Loftus

        All I have asked, Ed, is that people give it a rest. Give it a rest folks. I’m trying to move on.

        1. 'Tis Himself

          Damn, you really do need to have the last word, don’t you? You’ve said “give it a rest” five times now in this thread but you don’t want to give it a rest.

          Here’s a suggestion, John. Why don’t you have a nice, tall, refreshing glass of STFU? (Note: This is a rhetorical question, an answer is neither required nor desired.)

      2. Megan

        Honestly, I’m not seeing this ignorance that you keep alleging Natalie to have. You’ve mentioned it several times, but unless I missed it among the many comments on this post, you’ve never actually stated an example of this supposed ignorance. Could you enlighten us on this, or are you just going to point at her and go “nya nya nya you’re so ignorant!” as if this were an elementary school playground?

        You complain about not getting the respect you think you deserve on FTB, but based on your behavior on this comment thread, I can’t say that I think you’re all that deserving of respect. You’ve consistently disrespected Natalie on here, and your snide little remark about her being on FTB only for her “diversity” value was way over the line. Seriously, at this point, the most you could do to get my respect would be to just flounce the hell on out of here and not come back.

      3. Ed Brayton

        John Loftus wrote:

        I value diversity, I really do. I am a black homosexual feminist as much as a white heterosexual male can possibly be. But if any minority blasts me out of utter ignorance then they must be treated with dignity not by patronizing them. Patronizing them victimizes them all over again as unworthy of the adult human beings that they are. Natalie clearly is ignorant about me, and argued in an ignorant manner, as I showed.

        Jesus H. Christ on a popsicle stick, John. Patronizing is exactly what you have been in this thread. You pulled out the “you’re nobody, just some inconsequential blogger who only gets 100 hits and only gets those because of PZ and the only reason you’re here is because they needed a token” argument. That is the very definition of patronizing. And it’s completely false (in fact, her hits are quite similar to yours while you were here, and she is here because she is a really good writer who brings a perspective that none of the rest of us could possibly bring). And it’s not just mean-spirited, it’s cruel. And now you’re trying to justify it. This combination of narcissism and a persecution complex is just sad to watch. You just cannot bring yourself to back down behave like an adult instead of a petulant child. You really should stop; you’re only embarrassing yourself at this point.

  28. 28
    Natalie Reed

    This comment thread really needs more fun geeky D&D talk.

    1. 28.1
      Anders

      I could write up your Alter Ego – Iris, the Rainbow Avenger, who makes the streets of Vancouver safe for trans people.

      1. Natalie Reed

        Heehee. I think that would be cute. But of course Iris would also stand up for the rights of the homeless, the addicts, the sex workers, and all the other queer folk too! And protect them from corrupt cops, violent tricks, packs of drunk dudes, homophobes and transphobes, and all the other scum of the city!

        I AM COMPASSION. I AM THE LIGHT (BROKEN INTO ITS FULL SPECTRUM). I AM… RAINBOW AVENGER!!!

        1. 'Tis Himself

          Do rainbows need avenging? I don’t believe people are attacking, persecuting, or otherwise being mean to rainbows. Besides, can’t rainbows retaliate against anti-rainbow aggression? Why do they need a special avenger? Unless it’s because rainbows are lazy good-for-nothings, passively hanging around waiting for someone to take up their cause because they’re too idle to stand up for themselves.

          1. Anders

            Kids are attacking rainbows all the time to find the pot of gold they’ve hidden up their ends.

            On a semi-serious note: I once suggested that the ever-expanding LGBTA-QUILTBAG alphabet soup be replaced with “Rainbow people”. I think it has a nice ring to it.

          2. Natalie Reed

            Ack! But it’s so hippy-ish!

          3. 'Tis Himself

            I hope the rainbows are paying you well to avenge them. They can afford it, having all that gold lying around in pots.

          4. caravelle

            She’s not the Rainbow Avenger because she avenges rainbows, it’s because she avenges a whole spectrum of oppressed people.

            Come to think of it I do like “Spectrum”. It’s like “Rainbow”, but more geeky.

            Then again, the word can have a ghost/death connotation that would be more appropriate for the arc where she becomes evil. Or dies and comes back as a zombie. Or turns out to have a twin. Called Spectra.

            Rainbow’s better. It’s cheerful and happy like My Little Pony, and she could have an actual rainbow she’d shoot arrows of justice with. (oooh, now I want a whole thing linking the arrows to the double-slit experiment.)

          5. 'Tis Himself

            Thank you for explaining that Captain Obvious caravelle.

          6. caravelle

            Well gosh, sorry.

  29. 29
    Anders

    Iris – the Rainbow Avenger
    Real Name: Natalie Reed
    Background: Natalie discovered in her teens that she was a trans woman and has spent her life fighting the prejudice and hardships of trans people everywhere. When an experimental new super-estrogen gave her superpowers she took the fight to the streets of Vancouver.

    Powers
    Dazzle: This is a rainbow colored beam that can blind people, sometimes permanently.
    Dysphoria Ray: This ray allows Iris to strike an opponent with the full force of gender dysphoria. At its strongest setting, it has driven people to suicide so she’s careful with that, but it remains one of her most powerful weapons.
    Hermaphromorph: Although she is loath to do so, Iris can change into male form to go undercover. She really hates to do this, but it has saved her life.
    Martial Arts: Iris is a master of Jeet Kune Do and has won several tournaments.
    Strength: Iris can lift up to ten tons over her head.

    Weakness
    Name: If someone finds out her ‘boyname’ and uses it against her, that would be a powerful weapon.

    1. 29.1
      Anders

      Dr. Normative
      Background: Dr. Normative was a brilliant statistician and engineer at a major university when something… happened. He looked at the data that came pouring and decided that variation was ugly. In fact, it was downright offensive. It needed reducing. So he took the only logical step – built himself a powersuit and took to a life of crime to finance his plain to cast all of humanity in one… single… mold.

      Powers:
      Battlesuit: The Dr’s battlesuit is very much a work in progress. It always includes the Normalizer (see below) and formidable defenses.
      Brilliance: Dr. Normative is a brilliant statistician, engineer and inventor. He excels in several other fields such as biology, computer science, medicine, and nanotechnology. Given time and raw materials, he can build pretty much any gadget he wants.
      Normalizer: The Normalizer is a gray ray that changes a person’s form and capabilities to become the average of the population in all aspects. The Dr. has grudgingly accepted the need for two sexes, but the Normalizer ruthlessely changes all intersex people into one of the sexes, deciding on the end result by random chance if necessary. The Normalizer’s effect wears off after a few hours.
      Procrustean Bed: This is the Normalizer perfected. A room-sized piece of equipment, it permanently ‘normalizes’ the victim.
      The Gray Legion: The Gray Legion consists of ‘normalized’ people. Although this doesn’t sound very threatening, they are well-trained and equipped with various superscience weapons.

      1. Pat

        Dr. Normative (PL 12)

        Abilities: (28 PP)
        Str:
        -1
        Sta: 0
        Agi: 1
        Dex: 3
        Fgt: 0
        Int: 10
        Awe: 0
        Pre: 1

        Defenses (12 PP)
        Dodge:
        +9/5 (+1 Agi, +7 Shield, +1)
        Parry: +8/4 (+0 Fgt, +8 Shield, +0)
        Toughness: +15 Impervious (+0 Sta, +15 Protection)
        Fortitude: +12 (+0 Sta, +10 Enhanced, +2)
        Will: +9 (+0 Awe, +9)

        Offense
        Initiative +1
        Unarmed +5 vs Parry, DC 14 Toughness
        Blast +10 vs Dodge, DC 29 Toughness
        Normalizer +10 vs Dodge, DC 24 Fortitude

        Advantages (14 PP)
        Close Attack 5, Eidetic Memory, Favored Foe (Known GLBT), Improvised Tools, Inventor, Ranged Attack 5

        Skills (17 PP)
        Expertise (Science) 6 (+16)
        Expertise (Statistics) 10 (+20)
        Ranged Combat (Blasters) 2 (+10)
        Technology 10 (+20)
        Treatment 6 (+16)

        Powers (80 PP)
        Battlesuit
        -Removable (-20)
        -Impervious Protection 15 (30)
        -Shields
        –Enhanced Parry 8 (8)
        –Enhanced Dodge 7 (7)
        -Self-Contained
        –Immunity (Life Support) 10 (10)
        –Enhanced Fortitude 10 (10)
        -Blast 14 (28)
        –AE: Normalizer: Affliction (Fortitude; Impaired, Disabled, Transformed into “Normal” Bystander Archetype) 14 (1)
        —Quirk: Penalties from Impaired and Disabled conditions can not reduce modifiers below +0 (Average)
        -Flight 3 (6)

        Abilities (28) + Defenses (12) + Advantages (14) + Skills (17) + Powers (80) = 151

        The Gray Legion (PL 5 Minions)
        Abilities: (6 PP)
        Str:
        0
        Sta: 0
        Agi: 0
        Dex: 0
        Fgt: 3
        Int: 0
        Awe: 0
        Pre: 0

        Defenses (6 PP)
        Dodge:
        +5/3 (+0 Agi, +3 Shield, +2)
        Parry: +5/3 (+3 Fgt, +2 Shield, +0)
        Toughness: +5 (+0 Sta, +5 Force Shield)
        Fortitude: +2 (+0 Sta, +2)
        Will: +2 (+0 Awe, +2)

        Offense
        Initiative +0
        Unarmed +5 vs Parry, DC 15 Toughness
        Ray Gun +5 vs Dodge, DC 20 Toughness

        Advantages (4 PP)
        Improved Defense, Interpose, Ranged Attack 2

        Skills (3 PP)
        Close Combat (Unarmed) 2 (+5)
        Ranged Combat (Ray Gun) 3 (+5)
        Stealth 1 (+1)

        Powers (14 PP)
        Force Shield Belt
        -Removable (-2)
        -Sustained Protection 5 (5)
        -Enhanced Dodge 3 (3)
        -Enhanced Parry 2 (2)
        Ray Gun
        -Easily Removable (-4)
        -Blast 5 (10)

        Abilities (6) + Defenses (6) + Advantages (4) + Skills (3) + Powers (14) = 26

    2. 29.2
      Anders

      The Kyriarch
      The Kyriarch is the embodiment of privilege. His philosophy can be summed up in Plato’s statement that ‘the greatest principle of all is that everyone should have a leader’. A place for everyone and everyone in his place.

      Powers:
      Contacts: The Kyriarch knows everybody who is somebody. He can call in favors at a moment’s notice, making his opponents’ lives hell – and it’s all perfectly legal.
      Privilege: People who come close to the Kyriarch are struck by a sense of awe and worthlessness. They are nothing compared to him. He is the natural leader just because he’s the best – the wisest and the strongest.
      Wealth: The Kyriarch possesses enough wealth to buy a small country.

      1. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

        We need to get an FTB like or even a love button for comments here stat! :-)

        [Like - very much indeed.]

      2. Pat

        The Kyriarch

        Abilities: (56 PP)
        Str:
        7
        Sta: 7
        Agi: 7
        Dex: 7
        Fgt: 7
        Int: 7
        Awe: 7
        Pre: 7

        Defenses (0 PP)
        Dodge:
        +7/4 (+7 Agi, +0)
        Parry: +7/4 (+7 Fgt, +0)
        Toughness: +7 (+7 Sta)
        Fortitude: +7 (+7 Sta, +0)
        Will: +7 (+7 Awe, +0)

        Offense
        Initiative +7
        Unarmed +7 vs Parry, Toughness DC 22
        Privilege Dodge DC 23, Will DC 23

        Advantages (24 PP)
        Attractive 2, Beginner’s Luck, Benefit (Status, Wealth: Multi-Billionare) 7, Connected, Contacts, Diehard, Fascinate (Persuasion), Inspire 5, Jack-of-All-Trades, Leadership, Taunt, Uncanny Dodge, Well-Informed

        Skills (13 PP)
        Deception 8 (+15)
        Investigation 4 (+11)
        Persuasion 14 (+21)

        Powers (117 PP)
        Aura of Privilege (117)
        -Weaken 13
        –Very Broad (Abilities and Powers)
        –Area (Perception)
        –Concentration
        –Sustained
        –Continuous
        –Simultaneous
        –Selective

        Abilities (56) + Defenses (0) + Advantages (24) + Skills (13) + Powers (117) = 210

    3. 29.3
      Natalie Reed

      Experimental super estrogen!!! YES!!!

    4. 29.4
      Anders

      Lord of the Cis
      William Wrench was a Star Wars fanatic and a technological genius. When he was three he constructed the first Artificial Intelligence and he followed it up with a new and better mousetrap six years later. When he was 16 he met an older woman, Lowella, and two years later they had sex for the first time. But tragedy struck a week later when a friend informed him that Lowella was a trans woman. The shock was too much for his fragile psyche and he had to be taken to a mental institution. Fifteen years later he escaped, used his technological genius and the money he had gotten from his mousetrap to construct an actual light saber, and took to the streets – determined to rid the world of trans women.

      Powers
      Lightsaber: This performs pretty much as in the movies – an indestructible, annihilating force sword. Blue in color.
      Battlesuit: Modeled after Darth Vader’s suit, it increases his reflexes, strength and stamina to an inhuman degree, allowing him to lift 10 tons overhead. It also contains muscular controls that makes him into a world expert on martial arts.

      Weaknesses:
      Insane: William has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Among other things, this makes him vulnerable to too much stimuli. He is markedly less effective in, say, a disco club.

    5. 29.5
      Anders

      Forgot one of Iris’s powers:

      Tranny* Secret Vault of Wisdom: This is located in her secret base. The exact contents are hidden from the world, but in the past it has provided knowledge on a vast number of subjects.

      *This is a joke phrase that arose during Natalie’s interview on the Godless Bitches podcast. It is not meant as an insult and Natalie has been cool with it in the past.

    6. 29.6
      Pat

      I… I think I may want to write up Mutants and Masterminds stats for these characters.

      1. Anders

        I would LOVE that. Feel free.

    7. 29.7
      Pat

      Iris – the Rainbow Avenger
      Real Name: Natalie Reed

      Abilities: (60 PP)
      Str: 9
      Sta: 5
      Agi: 3
      Dex: 1
      Fgt: 7
      Int: 1
      Awe: 3
      Pre: 1

      Defenses (28 PP)
      Dodge: +13/7 (+2 Agi, +11)
      Parry: +13/7 (+7 Fgt, +6)
      Toughness: +7/5 (+5 Sta, +2 Def Roll)
      Fortitude: +7 (+5 Sta, +2)
      Will: +12 (+3 Awe, +9)

      Offense
      Initiative +3
      Unarmed +11, DC 24 Toughness
      Dazzle +8, DC 22 Fortitude
      Dysphoria Ray +8, DC 22 Will

      Advantages (13 PP)
      Defensive Roll 2, Extraordinary Effort, Inspire 2, Ranged Attack 5, Takedown, Taunt, Well-Informed

      Skills (18 PP)
      Acrobatics 2 (+5)
      Close Combat (Unarmed) 4 (+11)
      Deception 6 (+7/27)
      Expertise (Gender Studies) 4 (+5)
      Expertise (Theology and Philosophy) 4 (+5)
      Expertise (Writing) 4 (+5)
      Insight 4 (+8)
      Persuasion 8 (+9)

      Powers (31 PP)
      Accurate Visual Dazzle 12 (25)
      AE: Accurate Ranged Affliction (Will; Dazed, Stunned, Unaware) 12 (1)
      Morph 1 (5)

      Abilities (60) + Defenses (28) + Advantages (13) + Skills (18) + Powers (31) = 150

      Complications
      Iris’s Dazzle and Dysphoria Ray powers can have permanent effects, particularly when she uses Extra Effort to boost the ranks and is targeting minions. While these victims can overcome the game penalties of the Dysphoria Ray as they become accustomed to the change, the psychological effects can not be overcome so easily.

      Note: Although this is ultimately based on a real person, this is not meant to accurately reflect the real Natalie in any way.

      1. Anders

        With 1 in Intelligence it better not.

        Hmm… I like it. Too bad there wasn’t room for SVoTW, but one can’t get everything.

        1. Pat

          1 is above average. That’s the thing with stats for real people; if the mental ability scores aren’t really high, somebody gets offended. Remember that 10 is the average attack of typical superheroes–a single number is a big different in MnM.

          I really thought Well-Informed about covered that. Make it an Enhanced Advantage if you want.
          Or if you really want a distinct power…
          Secret Vault of Tranny Wisdom (4 PP)
          Variable 1
          -Limited 2 (Only Expertise and related Skills and Advantages)
          -Slow

          …That comes out cheaper than just spending the points directly, and it’s obviously better. Well, that’s one of the quirks of the system. On an actual PC, I might say it can’t go below 5 points.

          1. Anders

            I guess I’m not familiar enough with the system. I have only played it once, as a female version of Balder (we were all reincarnated Norse Gods but I think I was the only one who changed sex in the reincarnation). I’ll bow to your wisdom.

          2. Pat

            Well, actually… I tend to give characters I build either high or low ability scores. They start out high, but I know that I do so if I need points they’re the first thing I trim.
            If a character is simple and doesn’t need too many points, or an NPC and I don’t care about points, high ability scores. Otherwise, low ones.

            Strength, Stamina, and Fighting are all directly related to her superheroine powers and didn’t get touched… most of the others started a point or two higher than they ended up.
            I kinda expected somebody to say something about the Intellect 1.

  30. 30
    Anders

    It was designed to undo the work of testosterone-puberty, but something went wrong. When it has been tried on other people there has been no effect. Maybe Natalie just had a weird genotype?

  31. 31
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Natalie Reed, I’ve stumbled onto this netstorm late (like just now) but I just want you to know I’ve been enjoying reading your blog & am cheering you on.

    Thankyou for sharing and talking and informing and enlightening people here. You definitely deserve to be here on merit in my view, for whatever that’s worth.

    [[hugs]] if you want them.

    PS. Loved your piece on Whitney Houston – well said there.

  32. 32
    JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

    I’ve found this comment difficult to write. From my perspective, Mr. Loftus is doing everything he can to incite people to isolate and disparage him — and I don’t want to support that desire for self-harm. But I don’t want it to be thought that I’m ignoring or disregarding the unjustified attacks that he’s been saying recently, either.

    I (somewhat) defended him earlier in the thread — and, as much as I’m sorry to say it, I’m not motivated to continue doing so. John — YOU ARE NOT AS FRIENDLESS AS YOU ARE TELLING YOURSELF YOU ARE. But you’ve successfully burned your bridges in this community. Good bye, and good luck.

  33. 33
    The Nerd

    I know I’m late here, but I wanted to add my support of Natalie. You’re an amazing blogger and I appreciate all that you give to our community.

  34. 34
    echidna

    Natalie,
    I love your writing; it is honest and insightful. I’ve been thinking hard about what qualities are valued on FTB, and it seems to me that the single most important thing is honesty. Bloggers and commenters who make up their own facts (e.g. 100 hits per day) are relentlessly challenged. Challenge promotes growth, as you pointed out earlier when I started this train of thought.

    Naturally, insight is next up, on my list, anyway. I can’t imagine too much disagreement on that score.

    Anybody who disparages you is likely to be far less of a decent person than you are. I want to comment on the charge of ignorance: it was baseless. It was code for “you are not sufficiently deferential.”. Don’t let anybody knock your confidence.

  35. 35
    beardofpants

    Oh wow… I guess I missed this one. I’d never read or heard of Loftus before now, and I’m pleased to say I’m glad. I won’t be reading any of his stuff now, that’s for sure. What a fucking douche-nozzle.

  36. 36
    TV200

    I don’t know if this helps at all, but you have definitely made a difference to me. Well, honestly, I doubt I will ever see the merits of My Little Pony, and I’ve already been a fan of Doctor Who for a bit over 30 years.(I’m in the process of building my own life size Dalek). But, as far as your main stated goal, you have succeeded. I have been ignorant about the difficulties that transgender people face, you have helped me to understand the difficulties a bit, and it is now part of my awareness of what is unfair and needs to be challenged.

  37. 37
    DLC

    Ahh. D&D players. knew there was a reason I liked this blog.
    my RP experience goes back a long ways. Never played Petal Throne though. probably walked past a game of it at a game con or two.

    Oh, and.. those supervillains sound more like Champions characters.
    Mine was a mentalist with martial arts. tele-locate 10, Martial arts 10, lethal martial arts 3.
    If I blogged here, I’d be the monk. Useless in a real medieval battle, but sneaky and hard to hit.

  38. 38
    nowoo

    ♫ Yes, “Socrates” himself is particularly missed; ♫
    ♫ A lovely little thinker, but a bugger when he’s pissed. ♫

    1. 38.1
      Alethea Kuiper-Belt

      You, sir, madame or pony, win ALL THE INTERNETZ!

  39. 39
    bspiken

    I really feel like I’m kicking someone when he’s down, but doesn’t Mr. Loftus (lest he feels disrepected and names me as an internet nobody)sounds quite a lot like William Lane Craig? The whole credentialism with the “you dont know anything about theology unless you’ve spent 4 years on getting a licence to speak about it” is glaring, but also the inability to name his particular claims and his insistance on being “obviously” right and thus not having to expand anything further, plus the self aggrandizing of being our “Socrates”.

    It was eerie, I kept thinking “is this what comes out from philosophy education” but then I read a bit of Daniel Fincke’s Camels with Hammers and realized it was only the “School of thin-skinned profsholes”.

    1. 39.1
      Ace of Sevens

      He studied under William Lane Craig, so it makes sense.

  40. 40
    1. 40.1
      Ed Brayton

      I assumed this was a sockpuppet, someone who started a fake blog to make Loftus look bad. It’s not. The comment above is actually from John Loftus, from the same IP address as all his previous comments (unless someone has managed to spoof his IP, which seems rather unlikely). I’m at a loss to understand what on earth he thinks it will accomplish other than confirming to anyone who reads it that he has gone completely off the deep end over all of this.

      1. Xanthë, Amy of my threads

        Wow, Ed. I’ve been reading FreeThoughtBlogs since Day One, and that’s just totally wacko.

        Resorting to cheap jokes by misnaming people also has quite a bit in common with other notorious detractors of FTB who claim it to be an echo chamber, freedom from thought blogs, etc, etc, etc. The last time I read Loftus I didn’t get the impression that debunking Christianity in the way that he does it entails that for example, PZ Myers’ approach – which could be summarised by his mocking of theology in his most well-known post, The Courtier’s Reply – was better or worse. Loftus’ responses in this thread and now the “venting” blog shows a bitterness and mean-spiritedness in him, not his atheist critics.

      2. echidna

        This is not consistent with wanting to give it a rest.

  41. 41
    James Croft

    First, I’m loving your blog.

    I find this a very interesting post for many reasons, but mainly because I entirely agree with the main point of the article – that many approaches are likely to be valid and that what’s effective will depend on the characteristics of the messenger and the audience. I’ve written a detailed post on this topic using communication science to support this view:

    http://harvardhumanist.org/2012/01/31/the-freethinkers-political-textbook-know-the-audience/

    But also find there to be some confusion about what motivates a lot of the criticism sent some people’s way be “accommodationists”.

    I don’t think the argument is that “only one approach is valid, and that approach is mine”. I would be very surprised to see that written in anything Stedman has posted, for example. Rather, I think the argument is “Let’s have a serious pan-movement discussion of strategy and accept that, while multiple approaches are certainly valid, some should still be ruled out on ethical grounds and grounds of effectiveness.” That’s a much more nuanced position.

    I STRONGLY agree that we should not seek to shame each other into silence, too. I would like to note, though, that such tactics have been common on BOTH ‘sides’ of this discussion.

    My view is we should base this discussion of communication on the best possible evidence from scientific studies, and take a much more proactive approach to seeking out the evidence which might support or speak against different communication strategies.

    That’s why I’ve been writing a series of posts which does just that over at the Humanist Community Project blog:

    http://harvardhumanist.org/tag/the-freethinkers-political-textbook/

    I think here, as in many contentious discussions, the truth will set us free. And the truth is found in the journals of psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience and political theory!

  42. 42
    geocatherder

    I quickly grew tired of the comments, and skipped over many of them. But you, Natalie, are my Goddess of understanding transgender. As a hetero woman, I want to be the best friend I can be to my transgender friends, and your posts help me avoid the inane stupidities that would be damaging to our relationship. They’re my friends; I want them to be the best people they can be, as I do with all my friends: homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, trans-gender, whatever. I don’t care about your sexuality — I do care that you know the way to the museum we’re visiting this weekend, or that I miss you because you retired halfway across the country, or that the directions to that really cool outcrop are good (geologists are often poor at giving directions).

    What on earth is wrong with wanting the good people of the world to be happy?

  43. 43
    Jason Thibeault

    Looks like cross-blog pingbacks are broken again, so, um, ping.

    Not one of us is a token.

    (Pardon the shameless self-promo!)

  1. 44
    Open letter to John W. Loftus | The Uncredible Hallq

    [...] from it. But even if you could, you’re not being attacked simply for leaving FTB. Rather, Natalie criticized you for some of the things you said upon leaving, in particular on a thread at [...]

  2. 45
    On the Qualifications of our Alleged “Diversity Hire”, Natalie Reed | Camels With Hammers

    [...] engagement with Freethought Blogs. But now he just crossed a line by charging that Natalie Reed is here as a special favor because of our concern for diversity and not because of any qualifications to be [...]

  3. 46
    Lazy Sunday: (insert subject here) | Sincerely, Natalie Reed

    [...] Carrier have made posts sticking up for me in the wake of John Loftus’ various attacks in the Target Audiences And Playing Nice comment thread, particularly his accusation that I’m unqualified to be here and was only [...]

  4. 47
    Thoughts From A Diversity Hire | Sincerely, Natalie Reed

    [...] of you who follow FTB as a whole, or were keeping up with the Target Audiences comment thread, are probably already aware of a rather nasty remark John Loftus made insinuating [...]

  5. 48
    Not one of us is a token | Lousy Canuck

    [...] John Loftus’ exact words, so I am not accused of taking this out of context: Natalie, you are ignorant. I have never heard of a single person who railed against an education except people who don’t have one, and I have never heard of a single person who railed against a critical thinking class except people who have never taken one. [...]

  6. 49
    More Than Men – Natalie Red: Thoughts From A Diversity Hire

    [...] of you who follow FTB as a whole, or were keeping up with the Target Audiences comment thread, are probably already aware of a rather nasty remark John Loftus made insinuating [...]

  7. 50
    Dungeons and Dragons and Delusions | Camels With Hammers

    [...] Natalie Reed thinks I should be a D&D cleric. I have no idea what that means. Click on the link to read her full casting of FtBers as D&D character types. [...]

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