Because I am an atheist: Big Ugly Jim

Today’s contribution was submitted via e-mail by Big Ugly Jim, who blogs at Meddling Kids.

Because I am an atheist…

…I am burdened with a need to understand. I don’t have the luxury of simple answers to questions that the faithful possess. There is no “God did that” or “It’s a part of His plan” for me. Instead, when curiousity strikes me (as it often does), I have to seek out a valid answer.

But that’s a good thing. I grew up with the simple answers, but I found that they left me wanting. My desire to understand is what led me away from my faith. The more I learned about things, the more I wanted to learn about them, and the more I knew I could learn about them. Now, when I look at those who prefer the simple answers, I feel awful for them. Not because they are deluding themselves or because I’m so much smarter than they are (I’m not), but because they don’t allow themselves to see the amazing things I’ve seen.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing? Only because a little knowledge is a gateway drug to a whole lot of knowledge.

Consider submitting your own statement, by e-mail or as a comment!

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Well THIS should be interesting

So yeah. Me = HUGE policy dork. I view public policy as an expression of democratic and social values, for good or for ill. The kinds of policy that a group enacts is, generally, reflective of their beliefs and their collective will to solve problems. Do they believe that problems resolve themselves, or do they need specific intervention? Do the needs of minority groups garner more interest than their numbers would suggest, or is it a ‘majority rules’ kind of deal? Do we empower individuals to find their own solutions, or do we envision government as a problem-solving apparatus? I find these questions fascinating.

Another part about public policy that I think is really important (but doesn’t get the level of attention I think it deserves) is this: does the policy work? It is all well and good to spend public funds or pass a law or build a program, but if you fail to measure whether or not you’re actually solving the problem you’ve set out to tackle, it quickly turns from government “expenditure” into government “waste”. It is partially (but primarily) for this reason that I went into the career path I’m in now.

With that in mind, I am really excited to see the outcome of this policy: [Read more…]

Because I am an atheist: Kate Donovan

Today’s contribution comes from Kate Donovan, who blogs at The Heresy Club, where this post first appeared.

Because I am an atheist…

I have but this one short life. Though it would be nice to plan to live to a ripe and grouchy old age, it could end tomorrow. Or next Tuesday. Life has this terrible habit of behaving unpredictably, you know.

Though I am extraordinarily clumsy, I will likely, as do the vast majority of people, fade out of existence quietly. Five, ten, fifty years from then, I will have become nothing but curled pictures and retold retellings of stories.

These are facts, and they are cold. We atheists hear a lot about the chill of disbelief, about what we miss without a sense of the supernatural, the oceans of unseen, unmeasured universe we just have to have faith in. We are asked if it isn’t just a little bit lonely, to have nothing but ourselves and the neurons between our ears? With so little meaning to our lives, what motivation can we have?

Quite a bit, really…

Go read the rest at The Heresy Club

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Real life race trolling

For whatever reason (I suspect a combination of relative anonymity and a general distaste for overt racism), I don’t get too many racist trolls here at the site. I thought for sure when I started I would get all kinds of “race realists” and would-be white supremacists and all sorts of slime crawling out of the woodwork. Instead, I’ve found my life sorely lacking the high-quality and high-cognition contributions of those who believe, for whatever reason, that you can tell something meaningful about someone based on the flawed genetics behind the arbitrarily-assembled social constructs we call ‘races’.

That being said, just because they’re not here, doesn’t mean they don’t exist:

A Hawkins man is claiming his civil rights and religious freedom were violated earlier this year when a black man sacked his groceries and a Big Sandy grocery store owner banned the customer from the business. DeWitt R. Thomas filed a federal lawsuit in July against Keith Langston, owner of Two Rivers Grocery & Market.

Yeah, read that over again. You weren’t wrong – the guy who did the racist thing is suing the guys who employ the victim of the racist thing. Do not adjust your internet. This isn’t even the crazy part of the story. Are you ready for the crazy party of the story? [Read more…]

Because I am an atheist: M

Today’s contribution comes via e-mail from M.

Because I am an atheist…

I was one of those kids who believed in ghosts, but only at night. During the day, they were an absurd idea. Invisible people? Yeah right. At night, though, I would cower under my duvet imagining I could see them.

At the age of four, at Christian daycare, I was sitting on a swing next to a classmate who said, “Do you believe in god?”

He asked it in the same tone older children used when they said, “Do you believe in Santa?”

Suddenly, the correct answer occurred to me.

“No,” I said. “Do you?”

“Sometimes,” he said.

I knew exactly what he meant. During the day, his god was an absurd concept, but at night, he cowered under his sheets not daring to move lest god should see him. [Read more…]

Cool stuff is happening!

There are two very nifty things happening this week that may be relevant to your interests.

Edwin appears in Meatspace

Co-blogger Edwin is giving a talk entitled “Digital Hatred: White Supremacy in the Information Age” this Friday night at the Oakridge Library in Vancouver (41st and Cambie):

The Internet has been something of a double edged sword for most of its existence. While offering people all over the world access to information they might never have seen otherwise, modern communications technology also proved to be a boon to racist organizations desperate to get their message out. To a great extent, their attempts have been successful; there are now more than 1000 known hate groups present in the United States, and their numbers continue to grow. These groups are religious, secular, white supremacist, black supremacist, anti-Semitic, anti-government, and many other flavours besides, with the vast majority hewing to one form of explicit (and violent) white supremacy or another. How has their message been adapted to fit into the digital age? How do they recruit? Who are their leaders, and who joins their causes? How does one counter an idea that can spread around the world in the blink of an eye? How can a person recognize racist speech – especially when it has been specifically tailored to appear non-racist?

If you’ve never heard Edwin speak before, you should know he’s an almost ludicrously eloquent and engaging speaker, and is abundantly knowledgable about this topic (as well as many others). The event is free and can be easily accessed by public transit, so if you’re looking for an opportunity to interact with some other Vancouver skeptics with an interest in social justice topics, this is your chance. I will be in attendance at the beginning of the event (my band has a gig that night so I will have to sneak out early), so keep an eye out for me.

Register either at the page, or on Facebook.

Bad Science Watch launches WiFi project

You might remember that some colleagues/friends of mine have launched a new Canadian scientific skepticism activism organization called Bad Science Watch. In addition to their inaugural project looking at the federal government’s policies towards homeopathic “medicine”, they’ve released this today:

Bad Science Watch has announced the launch of a critical investigation of the state of anti-WiFi activism in Canada. The independent non-profit plans to document the motivations, funding sources, agendas, and any conflicts of interest for those groups and individuals promoting misinformation about wireless networking technology (WiFi). These activists claim WiFi and related technologies can cause a variety of adverse health effects, and are attempting to convince city councils, libraries, and school districts across the country to remove or restrict the deployment of WiFi networks.

“While many of these activists are well-meaning yet misinformed, others are profiting from the uncertainty and doubt that has been manufactured.” said Jamie Williams, Executive Director of Bad Science Watch. “Some of the most prominent anti-WiFi scaremongers are tied to the sale and promotion of bogus products to ‘block’ WiFi, or promote sham medical diagnoses and treatments for false illnesses.”

Many activists blame WiFi’s low level radio signals for a broad variety of medical problems, from mild headaches and fatigue to chest pain and heart palpitations. When someone using or living near WiFi networks experiences these or other symptoms, they are told they have ‘Electromagnetic-Hypersensitivity’, or EHS. The existence of EHS is not supported by rigorous science, and has not been accepted by the medical and scientific community as a real condition. This distraction can lead to greater anxiety for parents who are worried about the well-being of their children, and may instead serve to delay the diagnosis of more serious and treatable medical problems like anxiety disorders or heart defects.

Bad Science Watch will use the findings of this investigation as a starting point to counter misinformation in the public sphere, and represent sound science to public officials who are confronted every day with requests to act on it.

Individuals who would like to support this and similar projects are invited to visit, subscribe to the mailing list, and make a donation to Bad Science Watch.

It’s a good week to be a skeptic in Vancouver! Please consider making contact with us and letting us know you’re out there!

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Quitting: a reason for optimism

Because I live in the same city as Natalie Reed, I occasionally have the opportunity to bump into her and talk about stuff outside the medium-constrained environs of the internet. Our most recent encounter happened the afternoon before she posted her hard-hitting piece about the casual ease with which cis-privileged assholes can dehumanize a trans person. I suspect it happened after our chat, because she didn’t say anything about it to me. Instead, the subject of our conversation that day was the thesis of the article that would appear the next day:

Let them have The Movement. Let it be a club for entitled little white cis straight dudes to get together and tell each other how fucking smart they all are to know that John Edwards is lying, and there’s no bearded sky daddy doling out favour on the basis of how rarely you eat shellfish or have hot queer sex. Let them go right on thinking of themselves as the few insightful rebels who could see through The Matrix and now fight against the evil machinations of Andrew Schlafy and Jennifer McCreight. Let them live in their mythologies. Let them sink, bit by bit, into self-congratulatory, insulated irrelevance, while the rest of us get on with actually trying to help make the world a bit less of a mess.

Natalie expressed, in her inimitable way, her exasperation over the seeming intractable assholery of the atheist movement and offered some potential explanations for why these problems not only keep resurfacing, but why they may be a feature (rather than a bug) of who the movement is and how we interact. The most compelling hypothesis she offers is that atheism may serve as a civil rights issue for those who otherwise have no fight with which they can identify – middle-class cis white men have finally found something they can get outraged about, and can do so without having to confront any of their own privilege or sloppy thinking when it comes to non-Bigfoot-related subject matter. [Read more…]

Because I am an atheist: PZ Myers

Today’s contribution comes from fellow FTBorg PZ Myers, who blogs at Pharyngula. By order of the blood-signed contract wherein I pledged my unwavering fealty to a biology professor from Minnesota (I am not a clever man), I am obligated to not only post this, but to tell you it’s the greatest thing ever and also the iron-clad proscriptive truth that must be followed without question.

Because I am an atheist…

Identifying the consequences of my atheism is a difficult thing for me, because I’ve really been an atheist all my life. Yes, there was a period in my childhood when I went to church every week, but I can’t say that I ever really believed, and my slow awakening as I grew up involved an increasing awareness that because my mind worked in a particular way, I was therefore an atheist. Because I liked science, I was led to material explanations of the world; because religious explanations were so shallow and useless, I turned away from them. I was an atheist long before I realized it, so the arrow of causality always pointed to and not from atheism. Atheism is a consequence not a cause for me.

And also, I have to be honest about this: many of my principles are not at all incompatible with theism. I am politically liberal and progressive, I support labor unions and the peace movement, I oppose inequity of all forms, I value education highly and want everyone to benefit from it, I feel my greatest accomplishment in life is to have built a strong family of good people I can love and trust without question. There is nothing in that that I can say is a necessary consequence of a disbelief in gods, since those values are shared with many Christians and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus, and also I know far too many atheists who do not share them. There are deep, strong motivations driving my positions on these kinds of issues, and I simply can’t say that my intellectual stance on the existence of a deity is the wellspring. There isn’t much where I think, “Well, I’m an atheist, so I should adopt position X.”

But I discovered one thing. [Read more…]

A tremendous loss to us all

Some day soon I will detail some information about the kind of mansplaining douchebro I used to be in the not-too-distant past. It will have to suffice for now when I tell you that I have said just about everything that those who use the term “feminazi” feel comfortable saying (with the exception of rape threats and the use of the suffix ‘Nazi’, because I was an asshole, not a goddamn moron). As a result, I understand where they’re coming from, and because I managed to claw my way out (thanks to a lot of help from some of my fellow FTBorg), I know where the handholds are.

That being said, it’s also a constant source of shame to recognize my old self in asshattery like this:

A letter written on an OKCupid profile to all women

Yes, someone has become so infuriated by his repeated rejection on a dating site (I am told it is OKCupid) that he has placed an MRA manifesto in place of a self-description:

Hello ladies(1).

I am no longer looking for any female companionship. Infact, I have abandoned the idea of women all together(2). Instead, I have decided to go my own way(3).

I am now officially a M.G.H.O.W(4) and a political activist for the Mens Rights Movement, known as a MRM.

I am actively standing to go on a marriage strike(5) and to fight the evil hate cult known as feminism(6), condeming all males for being.. male(7).

I know writing this won’t ever convince you to care(8) and you can simpley pass me off as “gay”(9) since I won’t bow down to your vagina(10), but I am informing you of this for one simple reason(11).

This is reality. Men are standing up(12). And a wave of indignation for the damage of the female species(13) has finally hit the tipping point. Men are bailing out of the system, and when we leave, the entire thing will collapse(14), and your world of shoes and purses will follow with it(15).

That’s right, you caused it “ladies”(16). I have had enough.

No more entitlements, no more free presents, no more chivalry(17).

Our fathers, brothers, and sons are tired of dieing for you while you cower in your house all day(18) demanding us men go and die for your freedoms(19).

1. Look at your monitor. Now look at me. Now back at your monitor. Now back at me. I’m on a rant!

2. The idea of women! Not just removing himself from the dating pool, but the very idea that women exist! Something tells me the reason he’s having a tough time is because he’s been trying to stick his dick in his ‘idea of women’ rather than, y’know, dealing with a real person.

3. Make sure you use lube and clear your browser history afterward.

4. Man Going His Own Way. I Google these things so you don’t have to.

5. “You hear me? All these wedding rings you’ve been offering me? I will now begin to REFUSE them! See how you like THEM apples, women who won’t sleep with me!”

6. A line which reminds me of one of my all-time favourite Jet Li movies.

7. Being a man isn’t the same as being a misogynist. Feminism is anti-misogyny, and if you think that makes it anti-male, then you hate men more than any feminist does.

8. *Sniff*

9. Surprisingly, men who don’t sleep with women are not de facto gay. That’s not how that works.

10. Which is how all the feminist cult meeting start. The high priestess puts a camera on the end of a speculum, inserts it into her vulva, and the rest of us bow down and worship her vaginal canal. True story.

11. I have zero difficulty believing that any of the reasons this guy does anything are the definition of ‘simple’

12. “and we’re not putting down the seat afterwards! So DEAL with it!”

13. Saaaaaame species. Men and women are not different species. Between this and the “bow down to your vagina” comment, I think this guy might never have even met a woman before.

14. I smell Ayn Rand.

15. This is my favourite line. SHOES AND PURSES!

An animated .gif of a man on a boat, laughing

16. “By failing to adhere to my expectation of what it is that women are like (mostly an amalgamation of shoes, purses, and vaginas), I hereby ROB YOU of the title of ladies, and insert sarcastic scare quotes! Kneel before the awesome might of my sophistry!”

17. Chivalry, interestingly, is a fundamentally sexist concept that relies on an image of women as weak and requiring the aid of men.

18. “Sitting on the couch (that a MAN bought for you! Or better yet fashioned with his OWN BARE HANDS out of the carcass of a FREAKIN’ MOUNTAIN LION) and eating bon-bons!

19. Because women in the army (I assume that’s what he’s talking about) don’t exist. And also he serves in the army, fighting bravely for the freedom of women who won’t fuck him no matter HOW many pushups he did at basic.

So yeah… this is particularly painful for me to read not only because of the stupidity and various language errors, but because I can see myself bitterly ranting along much the same lines. It took a long time for me to stop “outsmarting” myself and realize that the problem wasn’t everyone else – the problem was my own fucked up expectations of what the world (and specifically women) owed me.

Also, letters like this are the reason I don’t take MRAs seriously, and while they will never elicit much more from me than mocking dismissal – y’all are silly! If a guy like this feels more welcome in your “movement” than he does among feminists, then y’all are fucking welcome to him. As far as the whole “marriage strike” goes, I hope that it is not too presumptuous to answer on behalf of straight women:

An animated .gif of a woman saying "okay" sarcastically and giving a thumbs-up

You’ll be sorely missed

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Why I am atheist

I run a blog that is for the most part dedicated to skeptical matters. I write about the problems with ‘ancient aliens’ hypotheses, or why chiropractic is a poor use of one’s money, and every now and again I write about skepticism with regards to social movements, philosophies, or belief systems. It’s fun, it gives me a chance to exercise my critical thinking skills, and it allows me to interact with people I might never otherwise deal with.

Running a blog also opens me up to criticism from people who think that I’m wrong, in the pocket of “Big Insert_whatever_I_hate_here”, or that I’m an evil, hell-bound sinner. I’ve been called everything from an egomaniacal fascist, to a ‘boy-raper’, to a dead man. Yep, actual, honest to Vecna death threats. Apparently some people think that I deserve to die in horrible ways for daring to question the efficacy of homeopathy. Moving on…

One of the things I don’t often write about is atheism – specifically my atheism. It’s not that I am ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it; it’s just that I don’t find it to be a particularly important part of my life. Yes, I understand that it can be very important to other people, but it’s just not something that’s very central to my self-concept. I was a skeptic long before I acknowledged my atheism, and it was through skepticism that I lost my faith. [Read more…]