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.

Click here to read the rest.

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.

Click here to read the rest.

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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Accepting the Absurd–My Latest for Splice Today

I’m writing on the 16th anniversary of 9/11. Rather than tick off the obvious: where I was, changes in American culture and discussions about religion, I’ll relate how 9/11 first brought me face to face with the Absurd.

I first discovered existentialism shortly before 9/11. A friend at the time had a blog called “On Being and Nothingness,” and while she said there was no real reason for the title, I went to the library and started reading Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Soren Kierkegaard. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness was too much for me at the time, but I instantly connected with Camus’ more approachable style. It was Camus who first taught me about the Absurd: humankind’s futile attempt to find meaning in a life that has none. I was a Christian back then, so I thought Camus was just a nihilist and didn’t take him too seriously.

Then came 9/11. In the days following the attacks, I felt this deep unease in my stomach, as if all illusions of a moral arc bending towards justice suddenly disappeared. It didn’t help that 9/11 happened during my second week of college. Childhood was over, and I was entering an adult world full of violence and chaos, one falling apart underneath an apathetic sky. Maybe Camus was right all along, I thought.

Click here to read more.

“It” Scared The Shit Out Of Me!

CN: Disturbing things and possible slight spoilers

When I first heard they were making a new movie of Stephen King’s novel “It,” I was skeptical. Mostly remakes are crap, and I didn’t think anyone could do Pennywise as well as Tim Curry did in the ’90s TV miniseries. In the weeks leading up to its release, though, all the Hollywood insiders were buzzing about the film, so I went with my friend Courtney to see it last night.

And HOLY SHIT IT IS GOOD!

For full disclosure, I haven’t read the book, but I watched enough YouTube videos about what was in the ’90s miniseries and what was in the book to know the gist of what to expect. The newer movie does leave some stuff out of the book (thankfully the sewer orgy scene was one of them), added some new stuff (the film takes place in the ’80s instead of the ’50s), and added stuff from the book that wasn’t in the ’90s version (Eddie’s first encounter with It in the form of a leper). Overall, though, the movie is faithful to the spirit of the book, or at least according King.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s about seven misfit preteens (a.k.a. the Loser Club) who encounter a shape-shifting monster–mostly taking on the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown–that comes to their small town of Maine every 27 years to steal/kill children. After It gets Georgie, one of the kids’ brother, they decide to go after It. Of course, 27 years later, after believing they killed It, the monster comes back so they all come home to Maine to kill It once and for all.

This movie only focuses on the Loser Club as children, while the sequel will follow the Club as adults. All the original characters are there: Bill the stuttering boy who lost his brother Georgie to It, Bev the girl with an abusive father, Ben the fat kid who loves to read, Richie the smart-ass (played brilliantly by Finn Wolfhard from “Stranger Things”), Eddie the hypochondriac with the overbearing mother, Mike the Token Black Kid, and Stanley the Jewish kid. (Yeah, the last two aren’t as fully developed as the others, but at least they’re still likeable characters.) Also returning is the sadistic psychopathic neighborhood Harry Bowers, who is scarier than It in a way.

And then there’s Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. Now remember when I said I was worried he wouldn’t be able to fill Curry’s shoes? He didn’t need to; he made his own shoes! Skarsgard is so creepy and scary as Pennywise that even seeing him for just a few seconds is enough to make one need diapers.

Of course, I know a lot of my friends have PTSD, so I’m hesitant to say, “Everyone should go see it.” For those that do want to see it, here are your trigger warnings:

[POSSIBLE TRIGGERS AND SPOILERS BELOW! SCROLL QUICKLY TO AVOID BOTH]

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Child dismemberment, buckets of blood, the almost murder of a cat, Bev’s father (although not shown) is obviously sexually abusive, Harry carves an H onto Ben’s stomach, fat shaming (not meant to be taken as a good thing, of course), a goat is slaughtered with one of those air guns they use in slaughter houses (Mike lives with his grandfather on a farm, and they sell goat meat to the local butcher), a creepy painting comes to life (trust me, it is creepy!), and pretty much any scene with Pennywise is a guaranteed jump scare.

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[END OF TRIGGERS/SPOILERS]

The bottom line is if you like a good horror story, then you’ll love “It.” Because in the end, THEY ALL FLOAT DOWN HERE!