When you know you’ve butthurt the right people

It’s when they add you to their “Bigotry Map,” that’s when.

It is a well-understood and even tiresome habit of bigots and bullies that they adopt the language of those they oppress in order to make themselves seem righteous in thought and deed. Heck, even old Adolf got into the act with his famous justification for the “racial purity” platform that ultimately killed millions. “By defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord!” (Emphasis added, because why be subtle?)

Screaming baby Hitler

It’s not really Godwinning when it’s accurate, is it?

So this is how a noted and infamous hate group of hateful bigots, the American “Family” Association, can convince themselves that those who criticize them and who stand for equality and against discrimination are the true bigots. Because when self-righteousness takes up residence in very tiny brains, it must drag self-awareness into the trash to free up disc space.

And so you get the comical spectacle of the AFA condemning the Southern Poverty Law Center for labeling “Christian organizations who support the Biblical definition of marriage as ‘hate’ groups and falsely disseminat[ing] this information to liberal news media,” and they post that right next to a panel proving just what a hate group they really are (by describing LGBT marriage equality as forcing poor put-upon Christians to embrace “sexual perversion”). It would be a lot funnier if folks like this really weren’t so dedicated to hurting actual people.

Check out central Texas, and you’ll find the Atheist Community of Austin on their map, for which we are enormously proud. When the kind of people who call hate “love” and love “perversion” decide you’re the bad guy, you know you’re really on the side of the angels.

Oh…and which “Biblical definition of marriage” are they using again? Because that can get a bit confusing, you know.

Why are so many MRA’s among the religious “nones”?


“Because evolutionary psychology, that’s why!”

If you’ve been listening to The Non-Prophets in the past year (and if not, why not??) then you already know that we are no fans of the so called “Men’s Rights” movement.  Occasionally the MRA movement might support a worthwhile principle purely by accident, but in practice it is primarily a movement which is to gender as White Pride groups are to race. The civil rights activist organization Southern Poverty Law Center classifies several MRA sites as hate groups.

My wife and I were chatting last night about some statistics I saw recently. As this post on Stephanie Zvan’s blog notes, MRA’s [edit: surveyed on Reddit, so a heavily self-selected sample] are approximately:

  • 92% male
  • 87% white
  • 35% aged 17-20 (estimated overall median age 20)
  • 70% no religion

The fact that so many MRA’s are with us in the non-religion crowd should be, in my view, hugely embarrassing to atheists. Numbers higher on the page imply that the “no religion” number may be as high as 94%, but I’ll go with the reduced 70% number, which is still pretty disproportionate to the number of non-religious people overall. 16% of the general United States population consider themselves religiously unaffiliated.


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Rick Perry for Dick of the Year

There isn’t an official contest, but maybe there should be. I nominate Texas Governor Rick Perry for the Dick of the Year Award. Granted, Perry’s work was part of a team effort, with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, and a host of conservative Christian Texas legislators giving assistance. Rick and his pals have largely dismantled the Texas Women’s Health Program, a program for low-income women to get reproductive health care. The program has been about 9/10ths Federally funded. Part of the agenda there is to stop unwanted pregnancies as such pregnancies increase federal costs down the road to cover those pregnancies. It is good public policy. Or, rather, was.

The point of contention is that the program would fund Planned Parenthood to provide many of these services, much as it has done with public and private of funding. In the minds of Christians, though, “Planned Parenthood” is synonymous with “abortion.” Yes, Planned Parenthood does provide abortion services, but state and Federal funding are never used for this purpose. In fact, Planned Parenthood works very hard to prevent unwanted pregnancies through its education efforts and providing contraceptives.

Rick and the Christian chorus have argued that because money is fungible, giving any money to Planned Parenthood is effectively funding abortions. By that logic, tax breaks to or public funding of any Catholic organization is equivalent to government funding of an international pedophilia ring.

To make his point, Perry barred funding of Planned Parenthood from the Texas Women’s health program. Planned Parenthood sued, but lost.  Perry’s lawyers argued that to be acceptable to the state, Planned Parenthood would have to change their name and distance themselves from any abortion services. So this is a case of Christians using the power of the state to screw over an organization they have unjustly vilified.

The Obama Administration declined to have its Women’s Health Program hijacked by a bunch of Texas dicks and de-funded TWHP. Miffed, Perry and Abbott sued in Federal court to have the funding restored. Just this week, a Federal court ruled that their attempted exclusion of Planned Parenthood violated Health and Human Services guidelines and threw out their claim. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has won a temporary Federal injunction from being barred from TWHP funding. I’ll bet someone’s feeling a little blue in the balls over this.  Thankfully, for Rick there will be little political fallout.  His conservative Christian base is cheering him on.

For now, Texas is left to fund the program on its own. Given Texas’ history of ideological sex ed in schools and state funding of Christian-based crisis pregnancy centers that provide manipulation instead of information, I’d be very surprised if Texas properly funded an effective program. Meanwhile, they are doing an effective job of dismantling women’s reproductive health in Texas.  Many smaller clinics have already shut their doors over funding uncertainties.

So Perry deserves the Dick of the Year award.  In a mad quest to prevent abortion, Perry and his Christian pals have sabotaged a public health organization (Planned Parenthood) and a Federal program that would have prevented unwanted pregnancies and women seeking abortions to end those pregnancies. It is well documented that legal restrictions on abortion do not reduce abortion rates, but they do increase the health risks associated with those abortions. Thus, abortion laws mostly serve to increase suffering and death under the pretense of morality. Perry clearly lacks compassion for the women involved, many of whom are poor.  About 3/4ths of women seeking abortion say that they lack the resources to raise a child.

I know of two solutions to the abortion problem. The first solution is to take the claims of Christians at their word and address the lack of resources. Christians say they have a special relationship with an all-powerful god who answers prayers. They also claim to care deeply about the welfare of the unborn child (at least until birth). They claim to follow Jesus, who cared for the poor. Churches even get tax breaks for their alleged charity. So the solution is simply set up a registry where pregnant women who lack the resources to have a child sign up to get financial support for themselves (as care giver) and the child until the child graduates from college or vocational school. In the case of a disabled child, care should be funded until death. Churches and their members would be taxed to provide the necessary funds. Think of it! Poverty would be reduced instead of increased. Christians would have a compassionate way of demonstrating the courage of their convictions. Children would have church and state support instead of the church using the state to punish them and their mothers.  Christian leaders could even offer up one of their own to be killed for women who die in childbirth (i.e. Exodus 21:23). They should want to be held to their God’s laws as an example to their flock.

How would churches find the money for such a program? Simple. They can pray and God will provide. Each Church’s petitioners would pray to God for reimbursement and there would be no net loss to the church. Churches promoting false religions or out of favor with God would not be reimbursed and their assets would be liquidated to cover their share of the program. The ministers of such churches could go out and make an honest wage that go toward the expenses. If that weren’t enough, members could be taxed. I can’t imagine a Christian wanting to have a child that they brought into the world starve or otherwise suffer due to their moral failings.

We know that this is not a viable solution, simply because Christianity is a fraud. We all know there isn’t a god that someone can pray to to get the things they want, despite Jesus’ claims to the contrary. If prayer worked, Christians could simply pray abortion away and not have to hijack the government and uteruses to make future tithers. Everyone knows that God can’t. God also can’t make more sycophant believers, so women’s reproductive organs have to be co-opted to perpetuate the fraud.

The only tools Christians have in their arsenal that really works are manipulation and thuggery.  If they can’t manipulate women into keeping their unborn child (such as through guilt, ultrasound baby pictures, or lies about mental health harm), they can always rely on thuggery, such as vindictive abortion laws, trans-vaginal ultrasounds, intruding in personal and medical decisions, forcing women to bear children they don’t want, risk their lives with child birth, and commit many of them (and their child) to a lifetime of poverty.  Rick Perry and his Christian pals are completely on board with this manipulation and thuggery, making Rick my nomination for dick of the year. To end the year, Rick Perry vowed to outlaw all abortion in Texas.

The second solution to the abortion problem is to make them safe and rare, through reproductive education, contraceptive availability, and family planning.  First world countries do this and they are successful at keeping their abortion rates down without being dicks to the women involved. Rick and his pals would never think to use a proven effective means of reducing abortion. Instead, U.S., Christian conservatives seemingly work to increase unwanted pregnancies, and then wonder why U.S. abortion rates are so high. They are all dicks, in my opinion.  They want the power to make a decision for someone they don’t’ know but they run away from the responsibility of such a decision.

It’s hard to understand these small minds and hearts.  If men like Rick want control over a vagina, they should have a sex change operation. Their god clearly knew they couldn’t handle control over even one.  Perhaps they’re so insecure over their own manhood that they have to cause women to suffer to feel good about themselves.  Perhaps Rick and his pals get some sort of sexual pleasure out of controlling other’s reproduction.  Regardless, he is nothing more than a dick and everyone should know that fact.

Atheism+: Social interaction in atheist communities and elsewhere

Yep, it’s another post about Atheism+.  Just because Jen McCreight is on vacation to take a break from being trolled and harassed, doesn’t mean the rest of us still aren’t interested.

First things first: There’s a new episode of Godless Bitches.  Have you heard it?  You should hear it, it is made of win.  Beth, Tracie, and Jen were broadcasting in front of a sizable live audience at the Atheist Alliance of America national convention in Denver, along with special guest Greta Christina, who as far as I’m concerned ought to be on every week.  Tracie had some inspired commentary on how she became interested in being more than a dictionary atheist and take on these issues.  I can’t sum up in a way that does it justice, go listen.


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I’m pretty sure the ACA has been an Atheism+ organization for years

I was in a very slow line for Master Pancake (an Austin comedy group) the night Jen McCreight posted her brainstorm about a movement called Atheism+.  And it was spot on — despite the fact that I was standing in a crowded space, I had to keep reading and pointing out excerpts to my wife.

I noticed I haven’t been blogging much, and I feel extra guilty that I haven’t contributed anything to the current inter-blog discussion about what a good idea Atheism+ is.  Ultimately I don’t really have a lot to say.  For as long as I can remember being involved with the Atheist Community of Austin there have been discussions about how to keep events from being overwhelmingly populated by white guys like me.  We’ve spoken many times about how atheism doesn’t necessarily extend philosophically to anything other than “not believing in any Gods”; how technically Raelians are atheists; and you can be an atheist and still believe in all sorts of supernatural woo as long as it’s not God.  That’s all still true.

Technicalities aside though, we’ve also been bold about taking on issues that are outside the minimal scope of atheism, and worked to present a strong front of core values from our community.  The ACA has had a booth at the Austin Gay Pride festival for several years running, and put out press releases denouncing politicians banning equal marriage rights.  We’ve had many on-air discussions with concerned atheists from minority groups.  We’ve spoken for women’s rights to choose, and defended that position despite the fact that anti-abortion atheists exist.  Our TV show has a fairly diverse cast, and we’ve been producing Godless Bitches for a year and a half now — a show hosted by prominent female voices and promoting outreach on behalf of atheist feminists.  More recently, the ACA board began drafting a formal anti-harassment policy for members as soon as the issue started gaining discussion where conventions were concerned.

Our group strives for a diverse, welcoming environment.  There’s an argument that comes up a lot where tolerance is concerned, but should not be taken seriously by anyone: that you can’t be truly tolerant unless you tolerate intolerance.  Or alternatively, if you identify and condemn bigotry, you are being bigoted against the bigots.

Hopefully people get the point through my rambling, but this is a roundabout way of saying that I think “Atheism+” is a welcome new label for an old concept, it’s something that many groups have already been striving for before Jen bothered to give it a new name, and I’m all for spreading this particular meme.

For more excellent posts on the subject, please see:

Louis C.K., still pretty cool (probably)

Louis C.K. was on The Daily Show today.

Some people have been kinda pissed at Louis for an apparent Twitter blunder he made. It’s relevant because the subject of this tweet has been causing some discussion here at FTB, but a lot of people may not have heard about it, so I’ll try to catch you up.

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Social graces, who needs em?

Russell here. I haven’t really thrown myself fully into the Watson / Dawkins dust up, apart from a Facebook thread and a few choice remarks in comments. Rest assured, though, that I and pretty much every Atheist Experience participant I’ve seen in email agrees (as far as I can glean) with the main thrust of Martin’s post on the subject, to wit: “Dawkins is wrong, Rebecca is right.” We’ve gotten email trying to insist that we should inject some fake balance into this discussion, saying both sides have blown it out of proportion. Nope. IMHO, they haven’t, all the proportion blowing out of has been in one direction.

A thread that is pushing towards 400 comments probably doesn’t need more people repeating what’s already been said, but I want to take some time out to address one of the most… confused… comments that I saw thrown out and repeated a few times in there. It’s this:

This is embarrassing. I feel the need to comment on this because Martin, Tracy, and Matt are clearly being hypocrites here.

“Lets make a TV show where we call all religion false. People will feel offended/threatened/fearful for viewer’s salvation, but in the name of free discussion, its worth it. After all, people don’t have right not to be offended.”

And now look whats happened. “Its good for Rebecca to set incredibly subjective social rules for all men (applying to all women as well) because she might be frightened.”

Of course people don’t have the right not to be offended.

And by the same token, people don’t have the automatic right of association with people that they’ve offended.

Look, I don’t spend time talking about atheism because I think it’s naturally fun to offend people. I talk about atheism because I feel that it’s an intelligent point of view which has been unfairly misrepresented by a large number of religious people. When I’m on the show I have different goals depending on who I’m talking to. The three most common goals, for me, are as follows:

  1. Hello, fellow atheist! Don’t feel bad that you’re an atheist, because many other smart people agree with you and have good reasons for doing so! We support you and appreciate what you’re going through.
  2. Hello, theist! We may disagree with you, but we’re not a danger to you. We have values, we don’t harm people, and we aren’t on a mission to destroy your freedom to believe what you want. We think your beliefs are wrong, but we’d like to discuss why rather than drawing the knives. Yay for pluralism, am I right?
  3. Hey, audience! Get a load of this guy! His religion has caused him to have an extraordinary number of obviously false beliefs, so hilarious that they are transparent even to his fellow religious people! Let’s all enjoy him for entertainment value, since it would obviously be a waste of time to try to convince him of anything.

That’s the formula in a nutshell, and all three types of caller are valued. Caller #3 is the most likely to be “offended” by our topics, but that’s okay with me. He is free not to watch, and if he watches anyway, well, offense is part of the package deal.

But I also don’t expect to hang out with those people. I usually don’t come into their church, tell them things from their pulpit that will offend them, and then get angry because they don’t immediately hire me as the new pastor.

So the question is: do we, in fact, give a crap about having women like Rebecca and Tracie and and Greta and Jen Peeples and Jen McCreight feel comfortable as a part of the atheist activist and outreach community, or don’t we? If several of our existing activists explain what it is that is making atheist conventions a potentially uncomfortable environment, are you gonna say “Suck it up, babe, I have the right to offend you”?

Well, yeah, you have the right to do it. But you’re kind of like a guy who is sitting in a public place for hours making armpit fart noises. It’s not illegal to make armpit farts, it’s probably not “threatening behavior” per se, but you can rest assured that the vast majority of people will find you annoying and stay far away from you. Some might even approach you and say “Please stop doing that, it’s obnoxious.” As Richard Dawkins might point out, the amount of discomfort it causes people is quite trivial compared to what oppressed women in the Middle East have to go through, but it doesn’t change the fact that it will cause a lot of people not to like you.

So if I say “Please stop with the armpit farts,” I am not curtailing your free speech. And if you insist on your “right” to do it, and then as a result I choose to avoid you, I am also not curtailing your free speech. And if I later throw a party, and I say “Don’t invite him, that’s the armpit fart guy,” I am still not curtailing your free speech. I’m just exercising my freedom of association because I don’t like you.

Sometimes in the past I’ve talked about debating atheism as being a kind of competitive game, much like chess or poker or Starcraft II or football. In all competitive games, there is a certain amount of luck involved with the circumstances under which you play, but the main way to increase your skill is to play a lot. When you lose, you observe what your opponent did and see if there is anything you can specifically borrow from his style so that you improve the next time. When you win, identify why you won and keep doing that, but also review where you were weakest and how you can stop doing those things.

Being socially effective and well liked is no different, but this is a difficult thing for some atheists to get their heads around because a lot of us are — show of hands, please! — nerds. It’s not a coincidence that there are strong nerdy tendencies among a group that emphasizes intellect, rationality, and scientific literacy. It comes with the territory. I’m a nerd, I’m engaged to a nerd, I love talking to nerds.

But one thing that characterizes some nerds is that they care more about their chosen area of passion — whether it’s physics or Greek poetry or getting really good at Starcraft II — than about their personal interactions with other people. And that, of course, leads to frustration when they recognize that social acceptance doesn’t come for free; you have to work at that too.

Let me throw out a chess analogy here. I prefer to use chess rather than other games because I feel most people (particularly nerds) are likely to have at least a little bit of familiarity with it. At all skill levels, most players start the game by moving the king’s pawn. A smaller number move the queen’s pawn first, often as part of a queen’s gambit. It’s also possible to open with any other pawn or even a knight, but it’s very rare for good players to do this for a lot of reasons: you give up early control of the center, you delay your ability to move out key pieces on the board, etc.

Now suppose you’re just learning to play chess, and you decide that you want to open every game by moving your rook’s pawn, way over on the side of the board. After I watch your games a bit, I say “I think you should stop using that as your opening move, try something more traditional.” A player who wishes to improve at chess will seriously consider this suggestion and most will eventually recognize it as correct. This improvement comes in two stages: first unders
tanding the reasoning behind the strategy, and second, trying it out and observing that, yes, you win more when you do it.

But another reaction to this advice would be to throw a temper tantrum, saying “What an unfair demand! That’s the problem with this dumb game, it’s so rigid and has all these unspoken ‘rules’ that I’m expected to follow even though they aren’t part of the official rules of the game! I think you’re just imposing on my freedom to open with the rook’s pawn, and you can go fuck yourself.”

That player is always going to be bad at chess. He’s right, of course, to think that you “have the right” to make a rook pawn opening. But what he’s missing is that you don’t have the right to open with the rook’s pawn and then win the game. Being good at chess is not a right.

Forgive the incredibly convoluted analogy, but I do have a point. There is a way of acting which will be regarded as offensive and out of line by most people who give any actual thought to the matter. People who insist on their “right” to act this way do not have the right to be respected or appreciated for their independence, which would constitute “winning” the social game.

Periodically we’ll see discussions going on about why there are so many white dudes in the atheist activist movement. Atheist men would like to have more women around. Atheist women, minority that they are, would like to have more women around. Black atheists, and non-racist white atheists, would like to have more black atheists around. We don’t want that so that we white men can have more chicks to hit on, or so we can smugly say “I have some black friends!” It’s because we would like atheist activism to be an open and inviting community for all people of like minds to be comfortable congregating and exchanging ideas. We don’t want to be forever hiding our atheism because Christians are the only ones who know how to apply social pressure.

Because, see, Rebecca Watson does not presume speak for all women; but if you look around at the reaction to her story among female bloggers, you’ll see that she obviously speaks effectively for a lot of them. The atheist community is either going to be a place that welcomes and embraces guys being obnoxious douches for the sake of celebrating their freedom to do what they want… or it’s going to be a place where women like to be. It can’t be both. You can offend people if you want, but you can’t be aggressively, unapologetically offensive to people whom you then also hope will like you.

Those are the rules of the game. Sorry if it cramps your style. Learn to play or go find a different game that you’re better at.