The Biskeptical Podcast #34: #TakeAKnee U Bum!

On today’s show, we talk about the controversy surrounding #TakeAKnee. We talk about Trump being his usual dickish self, all the racist backlash, surprise allies, and why the hell Steven Seagal is chiming in. We also take a look at news stories from the past two weeks, including Russian hacks, private email servers, psychic vampires, and why Trump’s ignoring Puerto Rico.

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Should I Stay Or Should I Go? When Your Activist Community Becomes Toxic — My Latest For Ravishly

I didn’t start out in activist communities, but everything changed in 2013. Up until then, I was — to the best of my knowledge — a straight cis moderately liberal Christian blogger who only had a handful of readers. By the time I was 29, though, I finally figured out I was bisexual (it took me another two years to figure out I was non-binary), and started a Tumblr blog to connect with other bisexuals. What I didn’t expect was following a trail of social justice blogs that taught me about the systemic racism and misogyny that are still operating in the early 21st century.

Around the same time, I was deconstructing my faith to the point that eventually God just disappeared in a puff of logic. I was quickly evolving from a straight cis moderately liberal Christian guy to a queer trans atheist/humanist with a passion for social justice, and so I obviously had opinions. I decided to start a new blog called Bi Any Means and a podcast with the same name, and that, in the words of Robert Frost, has made all the difference.

I hoped that my blog and podcast would connect me with other activists spreading the good news of humanism. I didn’t expect to find family, but that’s what happened. As I interviewed more activists in the movement for the podcast, word about me quickly spread, and before I knew it, prominent atheist activists were sending me friend requests on Facebook. For some reason, people liked what I had to say. Fellow podcasters started inviting me to be a guest on their shows. Friends shared my blog posts. People I admired walked up to me during last year’s Reason Rally to say hello. All my hard work was finally paying off.

As clichéd as it sounds, I felt welcomed into a community for the first time in my life.

The pinnacle of this sense of community was this year’s ReasonCon in Hickory, NC. Not only did I reconnect with everyone I met at Reason Rally, I also made new friends and met more fans of my show. The talks were great, but the highlight of the conference was the amazing sense of community. We were in an environment where we were welcome to take off our masks, to laugh about the good times, mourn the loss of loved ones together, and open ourselves to the possibility of creating a lasting community. I started crying uncontrollably when I got home. I saw so much beauty that weekend — from meeting new people to sharing meals together to even witnessing a wedding proposal — that I couldn’t process it. I finally found a home.

Lately, however, my happy safe place is getting more and more toxic. The atheist movement has always had problems (remember Elevatorgate?), but I was under the impression that we’ve since moved on. Boy, I was wrong! For starters, after finding out one of my friends in the movement had been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior, I wrote on my Facebook wall, “Are there any atheists that aren’t racist or sexist?” A prominent member of the movement, who I generally respect, chimed in to basically say, “Not all atheists.” That led to several friends asking him if he’s doing anything to address racism and sexism within the movement, but he just tip-toed around the issue to my disappointment.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #117: Life in a Pentecostal Cult with Devyn Lennex

My guest for today is my friend Devyn Lennex. They are 20-something non-binary person who grew up in an extremely conservative Pentecostal cult where they had to wear skirts and couldn’t go anywhere that served alcohol. At 17, they were in what was basically an arranged marriage, but got out at 19 and began their journey to self-discovery and self-agency. So today we’re going to hear Devyn’s story.

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When “Free Speech” Silences Marginalized Voices – My Latest Ravishly Article

Contrary to popular belief among certain YouTubers, I’m a social justice warrior who actually loves free speech. In fact, the main reason I write is to use my free speech rights to challenge people’s preconceived notions about gender and sexuality and create conversations about complex social justice issues. One of my favorite philosophers, John Stuart Mill, summarizes it best in his 1859 classic essay On Liberty:

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race, posterity as well as the existing generation, those who dissent from the opinion still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

Of course this opens up a wide variety of questions regarding free speech in the 21st century: Is it censorship when a private organization disinvites a controversial speaker? Would racist slogans like “Blood and soil” be considered hate speech that directly leads to violence? Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to answer all these questions right now. I do, however, want to point out a disturbing trend I see:

Those who advocate for free speech the most vocally tend to be silent when marginalized people are censored.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #116: When Colorblindness Isn’t the Answer with Anthony Pinn

My guest for today is Dr. Anthony Pinn. He is a professor, author, and public intellectual working at the intersections of African-American religion, constructive theology, and humanist thought. Pinn is also the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He has a new book called, “When Colorblindness Isn’t the Answer: Humanism and the Challenge of Race.” Today we’re going to talk about the book and how humanists can be better advocates for racial justice.

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Will the Mythinformation Conference Destroy the Atheist Community? – Latest Splice Today Article

I’m relatively new to atheist/secular conferences, but the ones I’ve attended have been great. Last year’s Women in Secularism conference was a blast; I found family at this past April’s ReasonCon3, and made my conference speaking debut at this past June’s American Humanist Association conference. I love connecting with fellow humanist activists, making new friends, and meeting online friends for the first time at these conferences, and hope to do the same at next month’s PASTAHcon. However, there’s one I won’t attend, next week’s Mythinformation conference.

The annual Mythinformation event is hosted by Mythicist Milwaukee. Some of their past guest speakers include Dan Barker from the Freedom of Religion Foundation, Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist blog, Mandisa Thomas from Black Nonbelievers, and scholar Richard Carrier. This year’s conference, however, includes three infamous YouTube personalities: Armoured Skeptic, Shoe0nHead, and Sargon of Akkad.

Armoured Skeptic, aka Gregory Fluhrer, began his career debunking creationism and pseudoscience, but has since turned his attention to anti-feminism. Fluhrer makes a living stirring YouTube drama. His girlfriend Shoe0nHead, aka June Lapine, was always a YouTube nuisance who makes fun of everyone she doesn’t like, including non-binary trans people. Neither so-called “skeptic” cites sources for their claims and their rhetoric boils down to “No, you’re an idiot.” And then there’s Sargon of Akkad, aka Carl Benjamin, who’s anti-feminist, a 9/11 truther, a Brexit supporter, and a professional asshole. He’s also a hypocrite; he loves to critique safe spaces on campus, yet once started a Change.org petition to ban social justice college courses. Not exactly in the Christopher Hitchens range of intellectualism.

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So You Want To Be A Freelance Writer?

 

Freelance writing sounds a glamorous job, doesn’t it? You make a living telling stories. You set your own schedule. You don’t even have to put on shoes and leave your house! However, it takes time to really build a career as a freelance writer. Hell, I’m still trying to figure it out! But if you are serious about it, here’s how it works:

  1. Pick a topic. You’ve got all these ideas floating in your head, and so you think as soon as you sit at the computer it’ll all come out, right? Wrong! Most of my time is spent sitting in front of a computer trying to think of something to say. I have a list of ideas, but even then it usually takes me three days to pick a topic I actually want to write about. Once  you finally find a topic, then you have to…
  2. Find a publication that’ll be interested. If you have a specific niche, great! Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you’re interested in a lot of topics, so finding a publication can be tough. It also doesn’t help I’m interested in something new every day. One day I want to write about what it’s like to be a non-binary trans person for the millionth time, and then the next day I want to talk about John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism. Sometimes you can find away to combine multiple interests, like the science of gender identity or how Mill’s concepts of free speech and the harm principle factor in the free speech on campus debate. Now that you’ve narrowed down your topic and publication options, you’re ready to…
  3. Pitch your idea. Sounds simple enough, but it isn’t. You can’t just say, “Hey I want to write about this thing,  you in?” Instead, your pitch has to sound like a movie trailer that gets a million views on YouTube in just one day: “In a world where chaos reigns on college campuses, one person rises to restore reason and sanity.” Hopefully within 48 hours you’ll get a response saying, “Great, gimme 800 words by the end of next week, and we’ll give you $100.” And when that happens, it’s time to…
  4. Write your article. Seriously, write your article. Turn off all notifications on your phone, close the Facebook tab, and WRITE! Now that you’ve finally gotten around to writing the damn thing, its time to…
  5. Send it to the publication. They usually tell you when you it’ll go online. Sometimes they’ll send you proofs for edits, which I prefer because when I write, it’s totally stream-of-consciousness. Ain’t nobody got time for grammar! Now that your article is finally online and you’ve shared it with all your Facebook friends, it’s time to…
  6. Get paid. Each publication is different when it comes to sending out payments. Splice Today’s checks go out every two weeks, while Ravishly has a monthly pay period. If you’re lucky, everything will go through and you’ll be paid on time. Unfortunately that’s not a guarantee; the publication’s payroll department might have a nuclear meldown like Paste Magazine, and you might not get paid until 6 months after you’re published.

So there  you have it! That’s how you become a freelance writer.

The Biskeptical Podcast #33: Everything is Terrible

Today’s episode is a round-up of current news stories, including the DACA repeal, transphobic parents, Hurricane Irma, and Ted Cruz’s…special tastes. We also explain why playing piano in a public park is pathetic, why white Christians are getting angry, why the recent DOJ decision is just business as usual, and why it’s not a good idea to threaten Hillary Clinton when you’re already convicted for fraud.

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Bi Any Means Podcast #115: Reasonable Risks with Michael Schaffer

My guest for today is Michael Schaffer, host of the new Reasonable Risk Podcast. He also runs Reason Real Estate which uses skepticism and reason to help clients make better real estate choices. Today we’re going to talk about his backstory, his podcast, and why risk assessment is important.

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