Because I am an atheist: budkuenzli

Today’s contribution was submitted as a comment by budkuenzli

Because I am an atheist…

…I have no fear of death. All the blasphemy, all the sodomy, all the bestiality, all the coveting, all of the murdering and all the making of craven images and worshipping of idols (I’m just making stuff up here because I lead a pretty boring, simple life but you get the point) I do is of no real concern. I don’t worry one whit about hell.

Because I’m an atheist I lead a moral life due to my own thoughtful consideration. I don’t bother with blasphemy, sodomy, bestiality, coveting (much :) ) or making craven images (is that really a christian worry? sounded right) because it’s either just not part of my personality or I have given thoughtful consideration to such acts and chosen to not engage in them. I’m not sure what all the other christian rules are but you get the idea; I don’t act good because of threats, I do it based on my own moral compass or simply due to my own personality.

Because of my atheism I don’t fret over my gay friends going to hell. Or my atheist friends going to hell. Or my muslim friends going to hell. Or -anyone- going to hell. To hell with that nonsense.

Because of my atheism I lead a more peaceful, truthful life.

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Racism a la Canuck

I’ve had a few e-mails and tweets and comments over the past handful of weeks asking me some version of the following question: “is racism as bad in Canada as it is in the United States?” Many people have heard of Canada as being a place where racism is not really that big a deal, and people like in relative peace and harmony. Then they come to this blog and read about all the horrible racist shit that goes on here, and it shatters the illusion.

I hope you’ll forgive me for skipping ahead to the end of my long-winded and professorial answer when I tell you that I would much rather live just about anywhere in Canada than just about anywhere in the United States. While neither country is perfect, and I have only anecdotes to inform my opinion, I can say that despite Canada’s flaws, the kind of racism we have here is, on the whole, far less violent and extreme than our southern neighbours. And when something racist does happen, it is cause for national consternation: [Read more…]

A legitimate Republican

Trigger warning for rape dismissal, extreme misogyny.

So I’ve been walking around angry for the past couple of days. Undoubtedly you’ve heard the latest pearl of idiocy to drop from a member of God’s Own Party:

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”

Republican Congressman Todd Akin has decided to impart his second-hand medical wisdom on the rest of America, and undoubtedly legislate based on it. First of all, no Mr. Akin you absolutely did not get this ‘understanding’ from doctors. Nobody who has had a conversation about reproduction with any medical professional who isn’t deep in the anti-choice* camp could possibly walk away believing that the human body can recognize rape and stop conception from happening. One would think that nobody who has taken a high school sex-ed course could possibly believe this kind of mythology, but since Todd Akin is likely opposed to sex education as well, there is no inconsistency. [Read more…]

Because I am an Atheist: Northierthanthou

Today’s contribution comes from Daniel, who runs the site Northier Than Thou.

Because I am an atheist…

…I know that there is no justice but that made by humans. There is no karma, no Heaven, no Hell, nor any other means by which the universe will right the wrongs we commit, reward us for our good deeds, or even the score for those who’ve been short-changed. Because I am an atheist I will not accept religious excuses for mistreatment of other people. Because I am an atheist, I will not comfort myself when those I have failed anyone who passes away in suffering. They will receive no compensation on the other side, because there is no other side. If no-one here can help, then those in need will receive no help. This life is the only one any living thing will ever have, and if we don’t make it right, the cosmos will not make good on the difference.

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Special Feature: Crommunist does alternative medicine

Many of you will remember that I attended the Imagine No Religion 2 conference in Kamloops, BC in May of this year. It was my first ever atheist meeting/convention, and I had a really positive experience there. I was asked to me a somewhat last-minute addition to a panel on alternative medicine, based (I imagine) on my background in health sciences, my experience public speaking, and the fact that at least a handful of people would recognize my name.

And so it was that I found myself sitting next to Skeptically Speaking host Desiree Schell, and Dr. Ian Mitchell (a local physician), talking about the wild and wooly world of alt-med. Long-time readers will know how irritated I am by the term “alternative medicine”:

These “alternative medicines” are not alternative in any way – if they work, then they aren’t alternative, they’re just medicine. The other side of the problem is the ones that are truly “alternative” aren’t medicine! They don’t work any better than voodoo or augury or invoking ancestor’s spirits.

I’m also irritated (clearly, as you will see from the video) by the doggerel: “cancer cure” and the associated conspiracy theory that pharmaceutical companies are hiding cancer cures from the public. I tried my level best to apply my own personal brand of smackdown to this odious and ludicrously nonsensical claim, with all the humour and aplomb that I could muster at 9 am after a night of drinking. I also made reference to a couple of things that the local chapter of CFI had done – debunking Deepak Chopra and staging a homeopathy workshop. Both were examples of skeptical activism, or as we coined it, ‘skeptivism’.

The full video from the event is available below the fold. [Read more…]

Because I am an Atheist: The Digital Cuttlefish

Today’s contribution comes from fellow FTBorg The Digital Cuttlefish.

Because I am an atheist…

Because I am an atheist
The world is mine to fix.
No god prevents the plunderers,
The hypocrites, the dicks.
No god rewards the good we do
Or punishes the bad;
No afterlife awaits us,
Just the single life we’ve had.

Because I am an atheist
It’s up to me to change.
The world is what we make it,
Not some god’s to rearrange—
To recognize a problem, means
To seek solutions, too;
Because I am an atheist
I’m watching out for you.

Because I am an atheist
I cannot simply pray.
I cannot wish a problem gone
And make it go away.
God’s promise of protection
Is just one of many lies;
Because I am an atheist
I cannot close my eyes.

Enough verse.  Because I am an atheist, I teach a course aimed at applying the best tools of my science toward making the world a better place.  Because I am an atheist, I donate blood instead of praying for sick friends or relatives.  Because I am an atheist (and an “out” atheist), I try to live as a counterexample to the “evil atheist” stereotype, and serve as a resource for others who are leaving a faith community and are unsure of what might lie ahead.

That’s what I do in meatspace.  Online, I write silly verses.  Because I am an atheist, they tend to be from a different perspective than, say, Hallmark.

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Internet notoriety and the blogosphere

I did promise to finish my thought process from last Friday’s post, so I will. After this though, I think I’m going to intentionally avoid blogging about blogging for a while – after all that’s really not what you’re here for and there are more important things to do.

Since joining Freethought blogs (and particularly since the whole #FTBullies nonsense started on Twitter), I have occasionally been accused of trying to gin up controversy in order to gain attention*, and/or expressing opinions for the primary purpose of winning the favour of PZ Watson (because let’s be honest – as far as most of the ‘critics’ are concerned, they might as well be the same fiendish mastermind of a person). My position has been dismissed as being irredeemably biased because of my assumed obligation to defend the FTB network at all costs. I have, in short, been accused of trying to ‘climb the ladder’ in order to sit at the cool kids’ table in the high school cafeteria that is the freethinking movement.

I can’t do anything except roll my eyes at these kinds of aspersions, for reasons I will attempt to flesh out in this post. [Read more…]

Traffic, sensationalism, and internet fame: a rambling omni-post

This morning, PZ Myers posted an examination of the evidence relevant to the claim that bloggers stir up controversy solely or primarily to garner attention and blog traffic. This is a relatively common claim from cynics who believe, for whatever reason, that bloggers are all craven, fame-hungry, unprincipled agitators. I myself have had this accusation thrown at me from time to time, and while I don’t like it, I also don’t give it much time or energy because hey, stupids gonna stupe.

PZ also said this:

What makes a blog grow is 1) regular updates, 2) consistent themes, 3) maintaining the attention of other blogs out there, 4) cultivation of an interactive readership that adds value to your blog, and 5) time (slow steady growth is best, and it can’t by definition happen overnight). Probably also good writing, but I wouldn’t know much about that, and I’ve also seen some gloriously well-written blogs that idle along with light traffic because they ignore my top 5 suggestions.

Which is fine as his personal opinion, but it’s not much more evidence-based than the claim that they’re built by constantly courting scandal. While PZ has built a juggernaut of a blog, and followed that up by helping to build a juggernaut of a blog network, I don’t know that he can really be cited as an authority on what it is that makes a blog successful. Considering that I’ve heard him on many occasions say that the blogging game is random and fickle, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was his own observation only, and not intended as a statement of fact.

The main reason why his post rubbed me the wrong way is because of this: [Read more…]

Movie Friday: Picking cotton on a racist field trip

On Wednesday my girlfriend and I went to a live comedy show at a place called Falconetti’s in Vancouver. The comedian was talking about babysitting his nephew (who is of Chinese descent) and hearing his wife sing to the toddler the kid’s song “I’ve been working on the railroad“, and expressing his comical shock and dismay at the idea of singing a song about railroad construction to a Chinese child in British Columbia*.

It reminded me of a summer job I had at Toronto’s Wild Water Kingdom where the inside parks (clean-up) staff was almost entirely black. We were working during the pre-season on resurfacing the stage, a job that we were nowhere near properly-trained or equipped to perform, when the park owner decided to try out some new “island” music. One of the songs that came on was “Pick a Bale of Cotton**”. I looked around and realized I was part of an all-black work gang, doing work that usually requires skilled workers, for which we were being paid minimum wage.

I made the owner throw out the CD.

I’m not the only one who’s had this experience:

While the story is funny, it does highlight the fact that racism often happens in an entirely accidental way, borne of lazy thinking and a lack of perspective. Understanding racism therefore requires the engagement of an active and informed mind, much like we hope to do in the skeptical and atheist world. We want people to be thinking about stuff rather than just patting themselves on the back for all the times they happened not to do something racist.

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*Although the joke misses the mark a bit, since “working on the railroad” actually means working as a porter. The song has racist connotations, but for black kids more so than Chinese ones (the Wikipedia article has the original lyrics – bonus points for noticing where it was originally published).

**Interestingly, I recognized this song from singing it in choir as a kid, at my nearly-all-white school. I didn’t understand what it meant then. If I heard it today, I’d throw some shit.

Fuck you, Florida

I went to Florida once. It was back in 2009, and I was exhibiting a research summary at a conference in Orlando. Because I was travelling partially on my own dime, and because I was too young to rent a car, I ended up staying at a hotel that was far away from the convention centre and took public transit to the exhibition hall. Living as I have in cities like Toronto, Mississauga, and Brampton, I was immediately struck by how brown the busses were. It was as though all of the lower-income people who had to get places, but didn’t make enough money at those places to afford a car, were black and/or Latin@. Everyone I met in a service position was dark-skinned, all of the management staff were white. Without exception. It was a surreal experience for me.

It would take a couple of years for me to finally wrap my head around what I had seen. It wasn’t an illusion or a clustering effect or just a weird coincidence – Florida was a seriously fucking racist place: [Read more…]