We Are African Americans for Humanism

I am very pleased to provide my modest signal boost for a new campaign called ‘We Are African Americans for Humanism’ launched by my colleague and (new) friend, Debbie Goddard:

Today I’m proud to announce the new African Americans for Humanism campaign, just in time for Black History Month!

Billboards and transit shelter ads fearing historic and contemporary black humanists are going up—in black neighborhoods!—in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington DC, and Durham NC. The ads highlight historic black humanists Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston, as well as eight contemporary activists and organizers representing local AAH-affiliated groups in each city.

I’m very excited to see how this campaign takes off. There is a chance that I will become a contributor to the project’s blog (I’ve already expressed my interest), so I will keep you updated if that happens. For now, go check out the website and say hello.

Incidentally, it has not escaped my notice that this announcement comes right on the heels of Be Scofield’s completely moronic swipe at “New Atheists” for promoting racist ideology. I am deliriously happy that Frederick Sparks over at Black Skeptics is on the case and does a great job blasting a hole right through Scofield’s central straw-man. The timing of these two events is entirely coincidental, but it’s nice that the ground for this discussion came pre-softened.

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Empowered Health: Week 2

So the Vancouver Sun is still forging ahead with it’s largely useless feature called Empowered Health. The general bent of the pieces seems to be that a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are good ideas (whoops, spoilers!), but as is the pattern with woo-friendly journalism, they sneak in a bunch of counterfactual nonsense in there as well under the guise of “alternative” practices. They are an alternative – an alternative to stuff that might actually work.

Let’s forge ahead, shall we? [Read more…]

#Occupy: Not down, not out

One might think, based on the much-diminished news presence and the absence of physical encampments, that the movement known as Occupy has ended, or at least lost some steam. After all, they’re not really ‘occupying Wall Street’ anymore, and the police have chased away all of the physical presence of the protests here in Canada. We haven’t even heard a decent “mic check” make the news recently.

Of course, we must remember that most of the media attention has been focussed on the ongoing Republican presidential circus, and it takes a decidedly uncharacteristic (un-Occupy-like) debacle to warrant any media attention:

Officials surveyed damage Sunday from a volatile Occupy protest that resulted in hundreds of arrests the day before and left the historic City Hall vandalized after demonstrators broke into the building, smashed display cases, cut electrical wires and burned an American flag.

Police placed the number of arrests at about 400 from Saturday’s daylong protest — the most contentious since authorities dismantled the Occupy Oakland encampment late last year.

For the record, Occupy Oakland is telling a very different story than the police are. Of course they would, but there’s no reason to believe that they are any less biased than the cops, especially given the shockingly bad behaviour that the Oakland Police Department has displayed in the recent past. [Read more…]

Wrong per se

So this might be a first, but I am hoping to crowdsource some resolution on this topic. Last week I posted about the clear evil that I saw in abortion for sex selection. I thought for sure that the readership would join me in condemning such a barbaric and nakedly misogynistic practice.

What I got instead was a surprising amount of tacit “aww shucks” support for the right of someone to choose to abort a pregnancy because the child is female. Nobody thought it was a good idea, but there were very few people who gave it the kind of blanket condemnation that I had initially approached it with.

This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem for me. After all, any given post might yield a few or a lot of dissenting opinions. I consider it a mark of honour that I have engaged, intelligent and thoughtful readers who may disagree with me on any number of topics. It forces me to become better at defending my ideas, or to learn to change my ideas in places where it is clear that I am wrong. [Read more…]

Hate the belief, not the believer

There’s a post that I come back to on this site again and again. It’s something that I frequently link to when having discussions with believers and non-believers alike whenever they start getting their back up and feel that they are under attack when I’m pressing on their beliefs: we are not our ideas.

However, I’ve not always been comfortable with it in it’s entirety. I mean… ‘Hate the sin, not the sinner’ is clearly crap, but is there a significant difference between that and Crommunist’s ‘hate the belief, not the believer’? (my paraphrasing)

If I were confronted by a believer on this point, the apparent double-standard, could I respond effectively? [Read more…]

Trying to tread privilege

One of the most frustrating phenomena in the realm of talking about out-group discrimination, whether that be racial or gender or otherwise, is the common appeal to “some”.

“Why do you say ‘white people’ have privilege? Not every white person has racial issues! Shouldn’t you say some white people?”

“Why do you say that men objectify and abuse women? Not every man does that! Shouldn’t you say some men?”

“Why do you say that atheists have to be more welcoming to women? Some atheists are women! Shouldn’t you say some atheists?”

It is a particularly stubborn and tedious argument to have. A large chunk of it is people’s failure to distinguish between universal and general statements. This is a very superficial explanation, though. After all, we have no problem when someone on the news says “New Hampshire went to the polls today.” There aren’t any pedants who jump up and down screaming “don’t you mean some people in New Hampshire? Not everyone in the state votes!” [Read more…]

Petition: Make stupid American school stop being morons

COMMENTER UPDATE: The preamble now says (presumably an update):

“I’d like to thank everyone for their support. I never imagined that the petition would gain so much attention. However, this whole situation has been a large misunderstanding between myself and the administration. I never meant to shed Paradise Valley in a negative light. PV is an accepting community of diverse students and staff. I have met with my principal and this situation has been resolved. The misunderstanding was completely on my end of things. Again, thank you all for your activism and support.”

That doesn’t sound coerced at all, but whatever.

Ugh. I know how incredibly awful it is to say that someone is “asking for it”, in light of how often that canard is used to excuse horrible violence against women, but really… these guys are asking for it.

The administration at Paradise Valley High School in Arizona has apparently asked students wanting to start a secular club to get signatures in support before they’ll allow the club.


This is, of course, illegal as all hell.  Under the Equal Access Act, if your school is an open forum (a status achieved by having a single non-academic club) you must allow all clubs.  The signatures are irrelevant.

So fly, my moderate number of minions! Sign the petition and teach the administrators what it means to fuck with the godless. Show them that young atheists seeking to organize have a shit-ton of backup, even if they live in Arizona. Show them that this kind of stuff can’t be swept under the rug anymore.

Dear Arizona: We see you.
Signed, people you DON’T want to fuck with

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Movie Friday: In the Flesh

Since we talked about Republicans and their famous political strategy of demonizing minorities to gain the votes of the ignorant and bigoted, I’ve had this little ditty buzzing around my head:

Now I hope it is quite clear to everyone reading this that I do not consider the Republican party a violent white supremacist fascist group. They are not there yet, and I doubt they ever will be. As long as there can be free press and media in the United States, there will be enough people who can see through the darkest parts of the GOP (irony intentional in the word ‘darkest’, of course).

However, the threat of fascism to the USA will undoubtedly come from that party. For all their hysteria about “socialism” and fetishization of “small government”, it is the Republican party that has been committing the greatest crimes against democracy over the past decade, and who have been wielding government as a cudgel against those who don’t qualify as “real” Americans.

Anyway, I will try to find some happy things to write about next week.

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Republicans, Racism, Religion, and Revulsion

You may not find it odd that I haven’t yet said anything about the ongoing race for the GOP primary, but I do. After all, I talk about politics all the time, and every media outlet has something about the nomination fight up on an ongoing basis. I don’t know if there’s any particular reason I haven’t felt like writing about it – I’ve certainly been following it. If anyone’s curious about my thoughts on the whole situation, I’ll try to provide them to you briefly.

1. Everyone in the race is the worst human being I’ve ever seen

I have a strong dislike for conservative ideology. I have an even stronger dislike for whatever you call the Republican ideology. The Republican party resembles to me a wholly-owned subsidiary of feckless pandering to the worst and least informed instinct in all of us, and naked avarice. While it has become fashionable to say “well both parties are bought and paid for”, the fact is that the Republican party is far and away the most egregious sinner. [Read more…]

Religious tolerance

We are led to believe that religion makes people better. That following the moral instructions laid out in this holy book or that one will provide us all with the information necessary to live decent, ethical lives. We are even told – most of the time through blind assertion – that the existence of any kind of human morality requires a deity. That without religious instruction, the world would quickly descend into amoral anarchy full of murder and sex acts so bizarre, Rick Santorum would need 5 or 6 additional surnames just to describe them all.

We also know that racism is fundamentally wrong. Prejudice based on something as arbitrary and biologically meaningless as socially-constructed ethnic groups is part of a dark chapter of the human experience that we are all working feverishly to finish and close forever.  Thanks to great strides we have made as a society, we can be confident that anyone can recognize the simple moral truth of the need to treat each other as equals, regardless of their heritage.

As a result, we might have a tough time explaining this: [Read more…]