I’ll be speaking in Dublin this Thursday!

I know I have some Irish readers who were wondering if I’d be doing a meetup while I’m in Dublin, and I have good news! The event will be a double-header: I’ll be giving my talk “God’s Lady Problem” on the intersection of atheism and feminism, and David Horgan, writer of http://www.jesustheremake.com, will talk about the portrayel of Jesus in movies.

Thursday, June 21
7:30 pm
Bankers Pub on Trinity Street, Dublin 2
Everyone welcome, free
Hosted by Atheist Ireland
Facebook event here (delightfully titled “Jesus and Jen”)

It should be interesting. I’m landing at 8am that morning, so I might be delirious from jetlag. It’s also my first time attempting to give this talk without any slides… How will I ever survive without internet memes?! But regardless, it should be a lot of fun. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

We’ve lost an atheist blogger…to Catholicism

Leah Libresco, atheist blogger behind Unequally Yoked, has just announced that she’s converting to Catholicism.

…Um…what the fuck?

I love Leah, and I’ll continue to be friends with her and have fun discussing Harry Potter genetics over dinner. But being friends with someone doesn’t mean you stop telling them when they’re wrong, so:

Leah, you’re wrong.

I’m seriously disappointed. Of all religions to join, you choose Catholicism? One of the most despicable, nonsensical, homophobic, misogynistic religions on the planet? Because of its system of morality? I could understand saying you’re converting to deism or unitarianism or maybe even buddhism, but Catholicism?

I know some people will say I’m an asshole for not being supportive of her personal decision…but that’s not how friendship works in my mind. When my friends make terrible decisions, I don’t shut up about it.

What’s really scary is how dozens of Catholics are flocking to the comments of her posts, gushing about how happy they are that she’s come home. Providing social incentive to adhere to certain beliefs? Nope, nothin’ culty about that. Seriously grosses me out.

EDIT: Please no “She was never a True Atheist” idiotic arguments.

Video: Susan Jacoby at the Women in Secularism conference

Susan Jacoby had the difficult task of taking on the 8:30am slot during the Women in Secularism conference…and she rocked it. It’s a long talk, but worth the time:

One of my favorite parts was when she talks about how some men have responded when people ask why more women aren’t involved with secularism… “Because women are stupid” they told her. We looked around the Women in Secularism conference wryly, wondering why the audience was mostly women. Obviously using the same logic, it’s because men are just stupid.

Pro-tip: That logic is terribly wrong.

This is post 16 of 49 of Blogathon. Donate to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Secular Student Alliance makes benign appearance on CNN…receives death threat

Jesse Galef, Communications Director for the Secular Student Alliance, appeared on CNN this morning discussing the recent Pew survey that found a growing number of Millennials are doubting the existence of God.

Get Jesse signed up for the Jedi Academy right now. I have no idea how he kept his cool during such an inane, biased interview that accused the SSA of “indoctrinating children.” You know who indoctrinates children? Every religion on the planet. I guess all those people who were baptized as infants and forced to attend church throughout their childhood don’t count as being indoctrinated…but teenagers voluntarily wanting to discuss God’s existence? Indoctrination!!!

Despite Jesse smiling his way through the interview and being polite where I would have popped a vein, people are still upset. Jesse and JT at the SSA office immediately received angry phone calls from an individual who called them faggots, threatened to “shut them down,” asked how they’d feel sweeping their teeth into dustpans, and said he’d come to their office at 1pm to tear his head off.

Christian compassion, everybody. Thankfully the guy never showed up.

This is why what the SSA is doing is so important. We’re assisting students who are organizing on their own, and we’re seen as indoctrinating the youth. We appear on the news to amicably talk about that support, and we receive a death threat. Our existence is threatening to the religious because our existence says “You’re wrong.”

Remember, SSAweek is still going strong. Donate here.

Seattle’s proposed solution to their gun problem: God

Seattle is brainstorming ways to deal with the recent increase in gun-related violence in the city…and I’m a little skeptical of the idea proposed by Seattle City Council member Bruce Harrell:

Harrell says he’s spoken with a number of pastors about putting together a gang outreach program that would combine clergy members with other mentoring organizations to get gang members off the streets and in work or education programs.

The program is tentatively titled, “Saving the Streets and Saving Souls” (SSS).

Harrell pictures clergy members and mentoring organizations offering at-risk youth paths to education and job training, and a spiritual safety net. He imagines setting up anonymous gun drop-offs to get firearms off the streets. “We have to have safe drop-offs where grandmothers, aunts, uncles, friends, can turn in guns without inquiries or questions,” Harrell says. “Then change the culture by messaging in all communities that we need to get these guns off the streets.”

Every pastor I’ve spoken to has absolutely loved the idea,” he continues. “Church is a huge part of neighborhood culture, especially in the south end. This is a way to help kids get back on the right track while hopefully cutting down on gang and gun violence.”

Harrell is hoping for around 500,000 (tax payer) dollars for the project.

I understand that Seattle is desperate to solve their gun problem, but I can’t support a solution that boils down to “God! Jesus! Woo!” and a bunch of hand-waiving. How exactly are clergy members in particular more qualified to offer at-risk youths the support they need? Why target clergy instead of also involving secular organizations? Why does the city give a rats ass about a “spiritual safety net” and “saving souls”? What about the 65% of Seattleites that aren’t religiously affiliated? I don’t want my money going into a program that’s only funneled into religious organizations with vague, nebulous goals. It works on the assumption that religion is inherently morally superior or helpful…which we’ve consistently seen is not the case.

Maybe we should try to actually solve the socio-economic conditions that perpetuate these problems, instead of treating religion like a cure-all bandaid we can slap on after the fact.

Donate to #SSAweek and get a personal doodle from me!

EDIT: I’m closing submissions now so I can catch up on the doodles people have requested. I may make the same offer later in the week, so don’t despair!

So far #SSAweek and Blogathon are going strong. $54,337 has been raised, though $50,000 came from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation and the rest came from 86 other donors. I want everyone to know they can make a difference even if they only have $5 to give. That’s just one fancy coffee or beer you can skip in order to support a great cause. My mini-goal is to hit 100 donors by the end of today.

What’s in it for you? I’m sitting at home sniffling and hopped up on strong cold medicine. I’m a little loopy and a little bored. If you donate $5 or more to the Secular Student Alliance, I’ll draw you a custom doodle in EDIT: OpenCanvas, so it won’t be totally crappy! All you have to do is while making your donation, look for the “SSA Week 2012 Topic Suggestion & Mailing Information” header, fill out Blogger with “Jen” or “Blag Hag” and tell me what you want to draw with “Topic Suggestion.”

In case you need further encouragement, you should know I’m armed with a Bamboo drawing tablet and this is some of my past artwork (more examples in this link):

So, donate and give me things to doodle! Let’s reach 100 donors or more by the end of today!

Why you should support the SSA explained in a single graph

From the Pew Research Center’s recent survey where they asked people if they agreed with the statement “I never doubt the existence of God.”

As a Millennial, let me take this opportunity to say WOOOO! The under-30s are kicking ass.

It’s not particularly surprising that the under-30s are more skeptical of God’s existence. We already knew that age group had the highest proportion of “nones” – people with no religious affiliation. But this poll is exciting for two different reasons:

1. It directly measures skepticism of God’s existence rather than religious affiliation. There are lots of people who believe in God, souls, heaven, or new-age woo without affiliating with an organized religion. What percentage of nones aren’t actually skeptical? While this graph doesn’t break it down by religious affiliation, it does show that 32% of Millenials have questioned God’s existence to some extent. They may not all label themselves atheists, and some may still be religiously affiliated – but these are the young people we can reach.

It’s much easier to discuss the veracity and effects of religion with someone who is open to the possibility of being wrong.

2. Skepticism about God is not merely a side effect of age. This is a question I got a lot when the “none” stats came out – are the under-30s less likely to be religiously affiliated just because they’re younger? Did people just affiliate as they became older, and all young people start out looking skeptical of religion?

By the results of this current survey, it doesn’t seem like young automatically equals skeptical of the existence of God. Millenials as of 2012 are age 31 and under. Gen X’s 31 and under point would be 1996, but Gen X seems stable about their beliefs throughout polling. The Millenial generation is in a unique position of questioning religion and the existence of God itself, something we’ve never seen before.

This is why groups like the Secular Student Alliance are so important. Yes, Millenials are our future. The SSA helps train secular leaders who will one day be secular journalists, teachers, humanitarians, and politicians. But more importantly, Millennials are our present. They’re already skeptical and already speaking out. If we want change now and in the future, we need to support the SSA.

Take the religious Turing Test!

Leah of Unequally Yoked has a cool experiment going on:

In a conventional Turing Test, computer programmers try to write a computer program that can pass for human.  In the Ideological Turing Test, atheists and Christians test how well they understand each other by trying to talk like each other.  All the entries in the atheist round are collected below, and you can click on each link to read the entry to decide whether you think the author is sincere or shamming.

Voting on the “atheist” entries end tomorrow, and voting on the “Christian” entries end next week. Help contribute to her experiment!

Leah is also participating in Blogathon, so that should be motivation to show her some support!