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10 December, 2012


What I'm about to talk about is not atheist related, so skip this post if you'd like.

Matt Inman of the Oatmeal got some serious crap for a comic panel where he described himself "raping" the f5 button over and over again. When he started getting hate mail over it, he defended it.

He took the panel down and apologized, saying that he had made a mistake and that he was no longer defending it, but he really didn't have to. Saying "rape" has become this call to arms for unhappy and unfunny people to attack comedians whether it is warranted or not.

The sad thing about it, is "rape" has more than one definition and one of those definitions doesn't include sexual violence. These hyper-sensitive feminists screaming that Inman has trivialized a horrifying experience are only showing how clueless they are. Also, as someone who has been a victim, I'd like to say that it is insulting that these feminists get so upset over something so trivial. That a fucking comic would be more traumatizing to me than what happened is disgusting.

Keeping jokes clean is not where anyone should be concentrating their efforts against sexual and domestic violence.

Davis Area FreeThinkers Meets Twice

I've been a bad blogger these last few weeks and haven't even spent a whole lot of time on twitter. I haven't abandoned the internet, I've just been busy lately. I want to describe how my freethinker meetup in my town has been going. We've met twice now at an outdoor venue and have finally found a coffee shop not too crowded on a Monday night to house a group of six to ten people.

We've talked a lot at both meetings about why we are there. Atheism is nothing more than a disbelief in god and that is where our expectations of similarity of thought ends. Some of us are super liberal, some more conservative, some are open to the question of ghosts and "energy" and some are very interested in the Jesus myth controversy. What has brought us all together is that there is a trend in this nation of religious people trying to get their religion passed into our secular laws. The push for anti-scientific curriculum in schools, deny citizens their rights based on ancient biblical morals and uphold a system that favors one class over the others. If not for that, we wouldn't even need to meet.

I think this is pretty typical for all the groups that have started across the US. Despite our differences on any other topic, we come together to to do two things: 1) discuss philosophy and theology and arguments for and against god, and 2) continue to fight for the separation of church and state. I remember there was a time when the internet community was fighting for those two things, but lately it's been a cluster-fuck of SJW's trying to witch-hunt anyone out of the atheist movement who would rather stick to those two topics. I'm watching it crumble online, and so I've started this group IRL because that is where the real work is being done. It's a place where people say things like, "PZ who?" It's beautiful to find out these assholes aren't as important as they pretend to be.

I'm as excited as ever to have a group. This month we'll hopefully be comfortable enough to come up with topics that we can spend some time on, as it's all really open right now. Two of us are reading Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not A Christian. I think we'll have a lot to talk about.

21 November, 2012

The Annual Imagined War on Christmas Cometh.

It begins. As mass consumerism sweeps the land, the religious right must paint atheists as scapegoats in the erosion of our values. The whole "defending the Constitutional rights of non-Christians" thing really gets their panties in a bundle as they try and blur the lines between government and their religion. One mayor has already taken to saying that erecting a giant cross on public land is a "holiday tradition" that "may be construed as religious." A cross is not a religious symbol? Yeah, right. Next they'll be telling me this Jesus guy was real.

17 November, 2012

I Thought We Were Over This.

Great. FTB is at it again. Trawling forums and comment sections for evidence against the undesirables. For a group of people so disgusted with the Slyme Pit, I'll never understand why they spend so much time there.

This time, it's Al Stefanelli in trouble again, with his whole, wild "sharing public information isn't doxxing" theory. Somehow this contributes to his blatant racism, I'm sure.

A little disappointed in Ophelia. Actually, I'm not. After our conversation on twitter where she agreed the knee-jerk reaction of banning "tone trolls" when they ask questions or offer dissenting viewpoints was harmful, she continued to do just that on her blog. Now she's retweeting Justin Vacula's defense of Stefanelli to garner attention and stir the pot again.

We should have known. It had been too quiet for at least a week from that camp. I'm surprised they left the world open to such things as harsh criticism and valid questioning for so long. Anyway, looks like their back on the job.

It's funny, when I have a fallout with someone on a social network, I stay away from them. I don't peruse their tweets and comments and then call them stalkers. Just something I do for my own piece if mind. Funny that other grown adults haven't got that yet. We can't just agree to disagree here. Every imagined injury must not go unpunished. I thought we were over this.

15 November, 2012

Morality by a Show of Hands

Nothing bothers me more than Internet cowardice. User "bella swan" commented on my "I Forgot I Screencapped This" post to tell me she had asked atheists how many of them grew up in a religious household and most of them raised their hands. Her implication is that the claim that morals don't come from religion is wrong because she got a few of her friends to raise their hands.

What she wrote is not even what bothers me. Yes, the idea that a silly little anecdote could discount generations of moral philosophy is absurd and laughable, but I'm more annoyed by the fact that she picked a post that had nothing to do with the question of morality, that is over a month old and that is buried beneath my most recent posts.

This isn't the first person to use an unrelated, buried post to make a theistic argument in the hopes that only I will see it, so from now on I'll be bringing them to light in future blog posts so that my readers will be aware of their game.

I invited bella swan to comment on this post if she wants to talk about morality and address some points I made, but I doubt she'll have the balls to do so. Theists dwell and thrive in the darkness of willful ignorance where they don't have to face dissenting voices.

08 November, 2012

Davis Area FreeThinkers

I've been awfully busy lately, so I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks. I want to talk about the first meeting of the Davis Area FreeThinkers.

Chris and I sat outside of Mikuni in Davis Commons after having salads at Plutos. We didn't make a sign beforehand, so we propped a Moleskin notebook up and wrote "SacFAN meetup" on it. That was sufficient until we got a few people gathered, at which point it was pretty obvious who we were.

It was a group of about ten or twelve people, including a member of AGASA, the student group at UC Davis.

We talked about what kind of group we wanted. There's a range on what kind of group we can form, from an informal chat where we share ideas for local events to a formal non-profit. We chose the former because SacFAN already acts as a sort of umbrella for atheist and secular events that support non-profits.

I've scheduled the next meetup for the last Monday of this month and changed the time to six to see if that is more accommodating for working people.

Minus the Freethought Day in Sacramento last month, this was the most atheists I have ever seen in one place, IRL. I'm excited! I'll update this blog if we are going to be doing any big events.

27 October, 2012

Roseanne Barr, Presidential Candidate, Transphobic Fuckwit.

Roseanne Barr is on twitter espousing that women need a "safe space" from "men," ie: women's restrooms are too good for trans women to use because feminists are so busy being oppressed that the possible chance they might see a penis is just traumatizing.

Roseanne uses the example of a transgendered woman being kicked out of a women's locker room at a college campus to push her mistrust and hate against the trans community. It's this link here, and while Roseanne and her ilk try to make it out as if this woman was flashing her penis in the faces of these High School girls who were using the facility, that's not what happened at all. Read it for yourself.

In light of this news story, Roseanne has begun a "safe-space" crusade, the typical anti-trans argument that "real" women are more important than transwomen. Here is the first exchange of many transphobic remarks:

Thank you Enda Blog 2.0 for the image

Her obsession with what is between people's legs is what is wrong with this puritanical, sex-hating, binary-gender pushing country.

What does this have to do with atheist morality? Binary gender roles and rules about sex that were born from religious oppression, I could say, but really, I'm posting this because it's my fucking blog and I'm fucking pissed about this. Moving on.

Sex and gender is a complicated issue, but what it comes down to is that some people are born with genitalia that don't match the rest of their body. Some have an expensive and invasive surgery and some don't. Respecting the person's personal identity is paramount to accepting them as a human being. To do otherwise is to reduce them to their sex organs and treat them as sub-human.

Feminists can't stand this idea of acceptance. For some reason, they think that being female is some special privileged you're born with, endowed by some higher order. These magic-vagina disordered rad-fems are as bigoted as the people who thought the same thing about their skin color forty years ago.

So here we have a locker room where a group of girls accidentally sees the remaining "male" bits on a woman and the world freaks out, saying that the girls aren't safe. Roseanne and her twitter friends take the opportunity to bash transgirls as not "real" women and paint a picture of predatory trans people taking away women's rights. Not once do they reverse the role and try to apply this logic to transguys.  Some followers imply that a penis is nothing more than a rape tool, never mind that there is a person behind it.

This is my last straw. I used to be a feminist. I still look up to the many suffragettes and trail-blazers of the past who looked forward to a day when all people were treated equally, but feminism today is more about superiority and magic vaginas than about true equality. I just can't get behind that.

20 October, 2012

Fuck You, Paul Wallace

Paul Wallace has a ridiculous post at HuffPo about how he isn't an atheist because he's too pessimistic.

Apparently, when atheists began writing books, he got scared that he might have some doubts about his faith. These "New Atheists" were proclaiming that science and religious claims were incompatible, and that a scientific worldview could disprove the existence of God. He writes,
As a professor of physics and former working scientist, I have told myself that I care because the New Atheists claim that science -- of all things -- disproves God's existence. During my years as a seminary student I told myself that I care out of theological interest. But what really scared me was the possibility that my fascination was an index of my own unconscious unbelief. I gradually began to ask myself: Am I a closet atheist?

He came across his answer reading William James, apparently. (Side note on William James: his works inspired Bill Wilson to start Alcoholics Anonymous, a "recovery" group with less than 3% success rate). William James "draws a distinction between two psychological types, the "healthy-minded" and the "sick soul," I saw clearly what separates me from the New Atheists: pessimism."

Wallace goes on to use the example of the half-empty or half-full analogy. Turns out we atheists must minimize the evil in the world in order to see the glass as half-full. He quotes James that optimists stay cheery "by systematically declining to lay them to heart or to make much of them, [or] by ignoring them in his reflective calculations." As pessimists, believers see the evil in the world and "can't stop wondering why it's that way," which ultimately leads to the conclusion that there can only be a spiritual solution to these evils.

Yes, folks, you heard that right. He doesn't have to support the God claim, he just has to pay more attention to suffering and not be so willing to ignore it like us atheists. You know us, never looking at suffering so we can ignore God. Never giving to Kiva or Doctors Without Borders in record numbers... Oh wait, we did that.

He calls science -- our replacement for religion -- "the most optimistic enterprise ever concocted by human beings." Because scientists believe the world can be made better by humans, it is too optimistic. (You know, because doubling the average human lifespan through the use of modern medicine doesn't deserve any credit or something. Meanwhile, in the Bible, bats are birds and the earth is a disc).

He paints a mental picture of a park with an atheist bus going by, with the message "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

His next paragraph is appalling and insulting and ignorant. I'll just leave it here in full:
It is optimistic because it assumes that the default condition of human life is peace. It is optimistic because, in its refusal to acknowledge the deeper problems of life, it redraws human experience on a solvable and finite scale, presuming that what people really need is to "enjoy their lives." After all, it's a beautiful day in the city; what else could there be to need? It is optimistic because the creators of the campaign could not bring themselves to imagine -- or if they did imagine it they did not take it seriously -- someone reading it who, in the words of Francis Spufford, is poverty-stricken, or desperate for a job, or a drug addict, or a mother who just lost a child to social services. Someone who is truly alone in this world and who may have nothing but the faintest hope of a loving God keeping them alive. Maybe they did think about such a person and decided that they too need to "stop worrying and enjoy their life," starting with a breath of clean godless air. Now that's optimism.
In the two-thousand years of Christianity's reign, the churches have held wealth and power while people starved and died. Wallace doesn't think we could imagine a person seeing our message whose only hope is in a loving God.

Quite the opposite. Religion is a crutch and an oppressor, keeping people impoverished and their minds too dull to fight against the superstitious clutch that has held humanity back for thousands of years.

That poverty-stricken job hunter should be relying on himself to keep searching -- or better yet, our community should come together to rally around this person until they get back on their feet.

The drug addict, in and out of 12-step recovery programs wondering why her craving for drugs won't leave her should be doing intense psychotherapy work and getting help from others in a detox center instead of waiting around for a miracle. Better yet, our community should be rallying around her to get help, offering real solutions instead of pseudo-spiritual mumbo-jumbo.

Same with the person who loses their child to social services. God won't bring the child back; doing the footwork necessary to become a fit parent will. Better yet, a community ready to teach that parent what it will take and encourage her would be better suited than an invisible and silent imaginary friend.

It's the prolonging and perpetration of suffering that turns many atheists from religion, that even if a God were found to exist, he would deserve no worship for allowing such suffering to continue in the world, choosing to do nothing about it, even though he can.

Wallace ends his pathetic piece by taking another stab at us "optimists:"
The Christianity I know takes note of the blue London sky, of the footballers, and of the picnicking lovers, but it starts with the addict on the street. You know, the one optimism forgot about. The fragile one standing alone at the edge of the park, watching the Atheist Bus roll jauntily past.
Without any evidence and only a bus ad, he assumes that the New Atheists are cheerfully ignoring the suffering in the world so we can live gleefully without a God, while Noble Christians turn their head to the suffering person.

How dare Wallace make such an accusation when it has been religion and superstition that have kept these people delusional and miserable, giving them false hope and ripping away any self-direction they might have. All he had to do was Google search and he'd see atheist groups helping homeless people, addicts, third-world countries, starving people, offering medicine and promoting community throughout the world. Paul Wallace is the worst kind of theist, the sanctimonious know-it-all too afraid to look outside of his own little bubble lest he find his preconceived prejudices might turn out to be wrong.

And they are wrong. So fuck you, Paul Wallace.

15 October, 2012

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is power. Power in the hands of a fourteen year old girl was too threatening to the Taliban, who attempted to assassinate Malala Yousufzai, who advocated giving education to young girls.

When your biggest threat is a child with an education and you feel the need to make an attempt on her life to silence her, you have lost the battle.

The cravenness of the Taliban is amplified in this case by the courage of this young girl.

Malala landed in the UK today to receive specialized treatment for the gunshot wound to her skull. She was airlifted with help from the UAE and Pakistan has condemned the attack, with thousands taking to the streets to protest against the Taliban's cowardice.

Malala is expected to recover, but hopefully this is a death knell to any support the Taliban finds in conservative Muslims and marks the end of the silence of those too terrified by these cretins to speak out against them.

10 October, 2012

I Forgot I Screencapped This.

I want to provide here one of the saddest examples of what I call the atheism plus McCarthyist mindset. On the blogs celebrating the petition for the SCA to remove Justin Vacula from his position, I found this comment and had to cap it. Attack-dog level A+:

"We can intimidate people like him..."

This is not honorable behavior. Justin Vacula originally came under fire for merely asking questions regarding the "sexism" controversy that has developed on the internet the last year and for retweeting a twitter account that makes fun of the overreacting group of people who have been behind these witch hunts. The Surly Amy thing came after he was already in their sights and Surly Amy herself put her own address onto the website where Justin found it. Even so, he removed the comment where he linked to it and apologized. Still, he's called a bully and a misogynist.

"There's no room for people like Vacula in our community." He's doing a lot more in the real world than these forum and blog-comment creepers sitting on the internet making themselves into victims of imagined injuries.

This kind of stuff is why the people posting these blogs will never be able to change their position and must keep on stirring the pot. If they changed their position or admitted they were wrong their own followers would turn on them like rabid dogs. That is scary. They've created their own monsters, though, and I don't feel sorry for them for that.

Just a Thought

Reap Paden, the Angry Atheist and a co-host on the A-News podcast has come under fire for calling Stephanie Zvan a bitch in the latest episode. I listened to the entire podcast. For regular viewers and for people who know some background on the situation, it was clear that a lot of the language they were using was meant to make fun of the caricature that people like Zvan have created out of those that disagree with her and her friends' radfem views. The sole reason for using the terms were to make a mockery of the easily offended. And it worked. The overreactors are overreacting yet again.

I've listened to the podcast for a few weeks now and these guys are not women haters. Zvan is an inflammatory personality who purposely stirs controversy on her blog. She's mean and nasty to those that disagree with her and pretends to protect women, but holds a double standard when her friends (like Greg Laden) attack others. I wouldn't want to be in the same room with her, she's that despicable. Instead of going into all that, the A-News guys just used the word "bitch."

If you've been reading my blog lately, you know my approach to disagreement has changed. I won't be calling Stephanie Zvan a bitch here, but I will be clear that I do not like her or her Rovian-like tactics. That doesn't mean that I am going to condemn Reap or anyone else for using the language they see fit. Freedom of speech is essential, especially that which offends. This also means that Zvan has a right to hate-blog back (which she always does), but in doing so, she's only proving their point. Just a thought.

"Bitch" is not the new "N" word

Certain bloggers and forum lurkers have compared words like "bitch" and "cunt" to racial and homophobic slurs. It's a terrible analogy and here's why.

Language changes. The meanings of words change. For example, resentment was once used to describe something someone thought of fondly. "Bitch" and "cunt" are no different.

While "Bitch" was once a derogatory term for women, the general meaning of the word has changed over time. In fact, its original meaning was innocuous, describing a female dog. In certain contexts, the term can still be used against women, but often the term is applied to men, too. In US English, "bitch" is the equivalent of a shady person undeserving of respect, no matter what their gender. It can also be someone who complains about things that are trivial, ("don't be such a bitch about it").

"Cunt" is another one. In US English it has been a particularly cutting and insulting word with a great taboo placed upon it. This made the term more powerful when used, (frequency of use does affect how we view words). In European English-speaking countries this word has not had the same effect. They use "cunt" as often as we use "asshole" over here. In fact, in French, the term that translates to "asshole" is "con" or "connard," which, a hundred years ago, was the word for a woman's vagina.

Internet forums demanding those two terms be treated like racial and homophobic slurs are actually giving those terms more power than they have or deserve.

The "N" word was once used to describe an entire people who were oppressed, murdered and sold into slavery.

The "F" word was once a term used to compare gay people to the bundle of kindling lit by the fires they would use to burn these people. It's come to my attention that the origin of "faggot" is unclear. Regardless, it's been used in a much broader sense to oppress gay people than "bitch" or "cunt" has to oppress women. In fact, "woman" is used more as a stereotypical marker to enforce strict gender roles than any other word. With it comes much more baggage than "bitch." I'm not saying we need to change what word we use, I'm just pointing out that women's history of cultural oppression and that of minorities are different.

Bitch was used to insult a woman who wasn't following the rules of lady hood and respectability. There are some major differences there.

The "F" and "N" words are still used in much the same way they used to be. "Bitch" has undergone a lot of changes and has a lot of different meanings. Perhaps we should instead focus on the way we talk to each other and disagree about things rather than the words themselves.

09 October, 2012

Really, Arkansas?

Arkansas legislatuve candidate Charlie Fuqua came under fire for proposing in his book that the death penalty be instated for unruly kids. His argument for this legislation is two-fold, the first being that it's biblically accurate and the second being that it would never have to be used because just the threat would be enough to keep kids in line. He also states that there are no accounts of children being executed by ancient Israelis, despite the law being on the books.

While reading the article, I clicked a link to a HuffPo article about Arkansas representative Jon Hubbard calling slavery a blessing in disguise in his own book. Two crazies in one week! Arkansas, you are the state that gave us Bill Clinton and now you're offering us this? Come on, now. So slavery and killing unruly children are biblically accurate. That just makes you consistent Christians, not good people!

08 October, 2012

The Way We Live Now.

The atheist community is divided, no doubt. Who started it, who is fueling the fire, and what solutions are best have been hotly contested, but I think there are a few things both sides could try for awhile to see if they can come to a civil disagreement with the opposing side.

I can summarize where we are today in a few bullet points:

  • We are all arguing over the same thing: fair and equal treatment of all members of our little minority.
  • The approaches to solving these issues are hotly contested, as well as what constitutes unfair or unequal treatment.
  • When one side says something, whether they are right or wrong, the other side goes on the attack and blogs about the person instead of addressing the issue with the person.
  • Said blog posts are often full of insults, vitriol and strawmen.
  • If one side honestly makes a mistake and apologizes, but includes an explanation of their actions, a defense of their position, or tries to dispute the strawmen, they are blasted in a subsequent blog post accusing the person of a "not-apology," and fueling the fire and starting the cycle all over again.
The problem with the not-apology concept is that no one is required to admit to faults they don't think they've committed. Being mad at someone and being right about one thing doesn't give you the right to make the person wrong about everything. You can accept the apology or not, but if you don't, at least explain why in a civil way, instead of going back on the attack. 

Engage with the person. Tell them how their actions made you feel before you go back on your blog to rally your troops. Be open to the fact that, even though the person might have been wrong about their actions regarding one thing that they've apologized for, they might actually be right about other things. We aren't going to get to mutual understanding by attack-blogging each other every time we disagree.

Also, realize that people are going to have different opinions than you. Yes, our movement is important. Yes, it's very special to people who have been oppressed by religion and are finally finding a voice. No matter how impassioned you are, though, you don't have a right to make sure everyone falls in line with you on certain hot-button topics. Those topics have caused controversy in the larger society, so it's not a strictly atheist problem that these things are cropping up. You shouldn't expect them to suddenly be solved just because you've joined the atheist movement. 

No one has any right to say how our entire group should or shouldn't approach problems of racism, homophobia, and sexism. If you are getting upset at people for disagreeing with you about these topics and not apologizing for holding these different opinions, you are expecting way too much. If someone proposes a different approach to addressing one of these issues, they shouldn't be called enablers of whatever behavior is being criticized. If someone asks for more data on how often this behavior is occurring, they aren't blaming the victim or pretending there is no problem, they're just being skeptical. If you can't provide any actual data, you might want to want to consider why some people have been skeptical. 

The "not-apology" concept and the conflation of objection with being an apologist for bad behavior have got to be thrown out, in my opinion. Let's address each other instead of the readers of our blogs that will undoubtedly validate the opinions we already hold. Maybe we can get to a place where we can say, "We agree to disagree."

07 October, 2012

Freethought Day Code of Conduct

The code of conduct in the Freethought Day program was two pages long and very extensive. It included, "Ask for consent before all interpersonal contact," and "Outside of [speakers' and entertainers'] performance, understand that they may not necessarily wish to pose for photographs, provide an autograph or be interviewed." I didn't get any pictures with the authors or speakers I met because I was uneasy and didn't want to look creepy. If I had asked for a picture and they had said no, I would have respected it, but because of the note in the policy, I would have felt guilty for asking, so I didn't even ask.

I think that, on a small scale, this is the kind of thing Thunderf00t and Karla Porter are talking about when they mention the unexpected side-effects of extensive and rigorous policies. There was even a moment when I reached out to shake someone's hand to introduce myself where I thought, "Should I ask first?" This is a handshake, folks. Our culture's universal greeting and sign of respect, much like bowing in Japan.

I was disappointed a bit about it because I didn't agree with Ms. Porter and Mr. Thunderf00t about there being no need for a policy, but, as I didn't see or experience any harassment at the event (and have no reason to believe it would have been prevalent without the policy), in this case, I think it would have been better not to have one. That's all I'll say on the subject until I have more information. It didn't totally change my mind about harassment policies in general, but it did get me thinking.

Freethought Day

Yesterday was Freethought Day at the Ben Ali Shrine Center in Sacramento. It was an outdoor event with student, humanist, atheist and political groups tabling and various booths with different authors and entertainers. There was a large stage and seating area where speakers presented. It was a lovely California day, about 75° and sunny.

My husband and I arrived around noon and wandered around. I met David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: TenTen Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All. He is a very nice man with a great sense of humor. He wore his shirt, "PhD in Heresy," to the event.

Wandering around a bit more, waiting for my friend Sarah, who was meeting us there with her parents, we got a look at The Brick Bible, which I had heard a lot about, but had never seen.

We listened to a poignant talk by Rebecca Hensler of Grief Beyond Belief. Some of you may know that over the last year both Chris and I have lost our grandmothers. It was good to hear that there is a group out there for people who are tired of being told that our loved ones that we miss so much are still floating around, able to see us but forbidden from letting us know, as if some prank were being played on mortals all the time.

We heard an impassioned talk by Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, who made clear that he was there with security and that he and his party were armed due to the threats that his organization and family receive regularly. He explained how the most powerful military in the world is full of extremist, right-wing Christians who believe it will be their job to fight for Jesus come judgement day. Their loyalties are not to protect the Constitution or the rights of US citizens, but to the Bible and the religion in which they've been brainwashed and the leaders of our militaries prop up and support this mentality.

What struck me as interesting is that Mr. Weinstein didn't begrudge the fact that he had to be armed. He never said, "We're in fear constantly." He made clear that he asks for no pity for the necessity to carry firearms and have a security entourage. It's as if he's answered the threats with, "I fucking dare you, you bastards -- you'll be dead before you realize your mistake." It was very empowering. He was also clear that he will not stop, his organization will continue to grow, and the religious extremists hiding behind the uniform will have no choice but to lessen their hold on our guns and missiles.

My friend showed up at that point and we did some more mingling. I talked to the SacFAN group about my Davis Area FreeThinkers idea and they told me to create a topic in their meetup and see if anyone else is interested in a Davis meetup.

We met Mr. Deity, Brian Dalton, who was extremely charming and nice. He spoke shortly after on stage about the show, how to get DVD's and some projects in the works that will include Richard Dawkins and others.

We stayed in our seats for the talk by Chris Lombardi of the Secular Coalition for America. SCA is trying to create lobbying groups in each of the fifty states right now. Politically and financially, non-believers are one of the least represented groups in Washington. Slowly but surely, SCA is bringing freethinking organizations together to change that. Sadly, he explained that the SCA can't touch the topic of abortion unless there is some kind of church-state separation issue. The sexual reproduction rights of women is a concept born of religion in my opinion, but I understand that if whatever state or area attempting to ban abortion isn't explicitly endorsing religion as a reason for the ban, the SCA can't get involved due to the nature of their organization. Still, it stings a little.

We took a break for some refreshments and came back to hear Jessica Ahlquist tell her story, which was amazing. There was a man behind us who yelled, "Thank you for doing that!" a couple of times and I wanted to tell him to knock it off. Hecklers, even supportive ones, need to shut up and let people talk. He got more than a few judgmental glances from people who turned their heads to look at him the second time he shouted.  Jessica took it in stride and told the rest of her story without a hitch.

I had to go up and thank her at the end and let her know that ten years ago, no one at my school was an out atheist. There were no atheist clubs and a lawsuit like hers would have been unimaginable, and this is in California. Her bravery is inspiring.

I'd also like to mention the Mockingbirds, a local atheist choir group. They all had beautiful voices and sang fun songs about Darwin, freethought and the absence of faith. I will definitely be checking the SacFAN meetup page for future performances.

All in all, it was a great day and went off without a hitch. I'm looking forward to more events like it.

06 October, 2012


As you may know, I had an interesting twitter conversation with Ophelia Benson today. We kind of hashed it out and then reached a point of empathy that would seem impossible in this climate. We realized that on some points we agree on things. She conceded that there is a problem with the hypersensitivity to trolling that causes the knee-jerk bans, and I understood her frustration with having to deal with tons of trolls in a day and not being able to tell the difference between JAQoffs and people honestly seeking knowledge.

I also had an opportunity to let her know that I don't think that some people have been allowed the chance to be wrong and have their apologies accepted. To this, she countered that there were people who made not-apologies, but I personally see that it's hard to tell the difference between an apology with an explanation of one's own hurts and what she calls a "not-apology." I also pointed out Vjack's blog post, "Attack Blogging" that tends to add fuel to the fire.

It started with me trolling twitter because I honestly was under the impression that that was the only way to get the attention of the FtB people, but Ophelia turned out to be different. We will probably never agree on the honesty of DJ Grothe's apology for certain statements (or the truth of others he's made which I agree with), the integrity of Justin Vacula, or about the intentions of other people who have come under fire from the Freethought Bloggers, but I felt like it was productive. You know me, I have a big mouth and I often find I have to put my foot in my mouth and apologize for what I say. I always leave what I say up for the world to see because I value responsibility.

I went on my alternate twitter account to formerly apologize to Rebecca Watson for calling her a bitch. Even though I felt I was wrongly treated, I want to keep my own side of the street clean from now on. Those of you who've read my blog long enough know that I was in Alcoholic Anonymous for many years and did all the steps, including amends to other people. By apologizing, I'm not making anyone else right, I'm only trying to fix what I did wrong. I have yet to hear back from Ms. Watson.

I still disagree with a lot of the proposed solutions to sexual harassment that have been proposed (more on that later). I still don't like the tactics and tone that many of the FtB blogs use, or how they pick targets and campaign against people (such as in the case of Mr. Vacula and Mr. Grothe).  That being said, from now on I'm really going to make an effort to ignore the people who are purposely causing conflict and keep my own side of the street in check. I don't think our community will become unified if both sides keep insulting each other and I am willing to be one of the people that says, "No more. I won't do it anymore."

That doesn't mean, of course, that I expect anyone else to change their tactics or that I won't have a good laugh with those that are able to make fun of our little groups and disputes, or that when someone is doing something obviously divisive or attention-seeking I won't call them out -- in a respectful manner, of course. Just expect that I'll do it with a mite less cussing and emotion.

My husband and I went to Freethought Day today and now we're watching Aristocats, so I am going to end this long post here. Feel free to comment. I value opinions other than my own because I know I can always be wrong! Have a good night, readers.


I just had an excellent conversation with Ophelia Benson and while I will probably always disagree with her and others about "tone trolling" and the attacks on Justin Vacula, DJ Grothe, Paula Kirby and many, many others, I think I got my point across that we all have a right to be wrong sometimes. I'm hoping the conversation will go in the direction of civil discourse.

I'll blog more later. I'm on my way to Freethought Day in Sacramento. I also extended an apology to Rebecca Watson for calling her a bitch, which I hadn't done directly.

My hope is that, with the distraction of my own incendiary comments out of the way, maybe we can come to some kind of terms as to how people should be dealing with disagreements about touchy subjects. We'll see.

04 October, 2012

A Pyrrhic Victory

I'm joining the ranks of people blogging in support of Justin Vacula after he resigned his leadership position with SCA today. A smear campaign by one vicious, internet-famous, attention-grubbing opportunist in particular did so well to distract the secular community from the real issues gripping our nation and our world, that in order to protect the Secular Coalition of America, he decided to step down.

The accusations against Justin by various bloggers, tweeters and commenters in McCarthyist forums, included bullying, harassing people, and sharing of public information doc dropping on Surly Amy, the latter of which he's already apologized for. Meanwhile, no one on their side has apologized for their own transgressions and they continue to defend their foot soldiers for threatening people they disagree with.

My first thought when I read Justin's blog this morning was that the bullies had won, but I quickly realized that this is the culmination of a series of events over the last couple of weeks that amount to the death rattle of a fruitless heifer. Matt Dillahunty being banned from the Atheism+ forum after asking a question anonymously to try and prove that people were wrong about their criticisms, PZ Myers putting people in the unfortunate position of having to defend an MRA, and now Justin Vacula's resignation all do nothing more than show moderates how extreme the FtBullies clique really is and far they will go to elbow people from the community.

Once upon a time, people like PZ, Watson, McCreight and Greta did good for the world. They fought to unite atheists against the people who bullied, burned and tortured the great thinkers who dared ask questions. Now, they call that "tone trolling."

Justin has been able to admit that sharing the public link to Amy's address was a mistake. As someone with a big mouth and a much hotter temper than him, I look up to him for that. I have foot-in-mouth disease sometimes and I take note of people who admit their wrongs. I have yet to see the leaders on FtB admit they were wrong in their attacks on the character of people who challenged their beliefs. They simply don't live in the integrity they claim to espouse.

This "victory" for them has been Pyrrhic. They know it, or they wouldn't have to stoop to petty critiques of writing style in order to keep the dramedy going. Justin has promised to continue working for equal treatment of secularists and the separation of church and state. It's time to move on from this and start ignoring this little fringe group of extremists circle-jerking each other in the name of "social justice."

The people flocking to their blogs is dwindling and I imagine that legitimate secular organizations will be looking for people a little less focused on drama and a little more focused on the goals of the community. It won't take internet petitions -- the actions of people like Myers, Zvan, Benson and Watson really speak for themselves. Justin stepping down says miles more about them than it does him.

Goodnight everyone. I'm going to leave you all with a quote.

"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." – John F Kennedy.

Oh, Twitter

I'm being called a "psycho" and "bonkers" by twitter user @Dr_Awesome, whose first tweets to me included, "You're silly" and "fucking idiot."

He then blames me for his insults, telling me I deserve it for not giving him respect and tweet-laughing, "Hahahahhaha" at him.

I'm not an expert, but if someone is going to talk about being a psychopath, they ought to know a little more about what constitutes a personality disorder. Just sayin'

03 October, 2012

Bullying, Part 2: This Time It's Personal.

This was going to be a comment response on my post Bullying, but it got long, so I decided to put it in its own post.

I was bullied very badly throughout school. In elementary school (K-5), it was mostly just name calling. My last name was made fun of, my height, my glasses, you name it. My dad home-schooled me for the end of my fifth grade year because it got so bad and I got an inter-district transfer so I wouldn't have to go to school with most of the people that picked on me.

Out of the frying pan, into the fire, as they say. In middle school (6-8), the people got meaner. Suddenly, it was all about clothes and appearance, which I was clueless about. I was very gender neutral as a kid, just wearing whatever was comfortable.

My parents took a very hands-off approach to parenting, meaning they were too busy working and fighting to give a shit about what I looked like. My mom left my dad right before I started sixth grade and he worked swing shift. She went to go build a life with someone new and us girls had to stay with him. He was sleeping when I left for school and gone when I got home. It was like this until he moved away when I started high school.

Thus started the gum throwing, the pushing, the yelling and the violence at school. I would walk between classes with my nose in my Sherlock Holmes book so I could pretend to not hear the names. Even still, they would get right up into my face and scream at me.

I was followed from school multiple times by groups of kids. Two girls got expelled because the Vice Principle watched me get beat up on two separate occasions. I'll never forget the first time I was hit. I was in sixth grade and this girl Alma was in eighth. She kept telling me, "Put your hands up! Put your hands up!" Finally, she hit me and a white light went through my head. My glasses fell off my face. She hit me a few more times and the crowd dispersed.

My anger came out in different ways throughout this. I had a bad temper growing up. I started smoking cigarettes and pot at twelve years old. I was constantly getting bad grades and acing tests, my teachers sending progress reports with "In Danger of Failing. So Smart; Does Not Apply Herself." In high school, the violence subsided and the names were less frequent, but I still had to ditch certain classes to get away.

I smoked pot and did drugs. I got a boyfriend who got his GED. I decided I'd do the same, but couldn't wait long enough for that and took the CHSPE, which let me leave almost an entire year earlier than the GED. I had actually had the best quarter I had ever had the year I decided to do that. I had been forced to move from my mom's house to my dad's, 100 miles away, when she decided to leave my step dad. I had almost straight A's when I left Tracy. I decided to go to the continuation school in my new area while I studied for the CHSPE. I passed and received my certificate without walking on a stage.

I believe there's a connection between everything that happened to me and the decision to leave school. In college, I've found the love for learning that I had when I first started school and I can actually enjoy it. I get mostly A's now, consistently. I'll never forget the time my short-essay answer was read in a class (anonymously) by the teacher as an example of what she was looking for. Due to financial circumstances and career choices, I haven't been able to finish yet, but I wonder what it would have been like if I hadn't hated going to school so much due to the bullying. The divorce had a factor, too, but I really think most of it came from my peers, spending time each day just to try and harm me. For years and years.

This, folks, is bullying. Telling you you're wrong is not bullying. Pointing out stupid things you say on your blog is not bullying. Cyber-bullying cases have been hyped up by the media while they ignore the fact that most of the bullying was actually done in school, not on facebook. It makes a better story to make parents believe the internet is dangerous, however.

If someone sends a person multiple messages a day threatening them, yes, that's bullying. If someone threatens a person's job, it's bullying. If someone wears a shirt at a conference that distances their self from your clique, it's not bullying. If someone points out where you're wrong about a topic or issue, you're not being bullied. Critiquing your use of DMCA to censor blogs is not bullying. Creating a petition to tried to get someone fired is bullying. If someone uses mockery to point out ridiculous beliefs or behaviors, it's not bullying, but also not tactful. If they are constantly calling that person names and contacting that person after being asked not to, that is bullying.

The lines are pretty clear and there is a specific set actions that describe bullying. They include intimidation and fear, coercion and threats. People on the internet are not always clear on this and it needs to be made clear because there is more awareness about this subject and it will be a damned shame if it gets muddied by people who want to redefine the word to include disagreement or the pointing out of ridiculous beliefs. If your feelings are hurt, it's one thing. Bullying is a whole different arena.

Don't tweet while hungry and angry

Wanting to show some people the entire fallout from my tweet to Rebecca Watson (Which I thought had happened in February), I began searching PZ's blog for the post he made that helped bring the down vote brigade to my subsequent reddit post that called Watson a bitch (it's often used gender neutrally, but try and tell the feminazis that. I was creamed for being sexist because of it).

I thought I remembered PZ in the comments addressing me as "he" but it was in fact another commenter. It came to light I was remembering wrong about the date of the post and who identified me as a male.

I couldn't find the post and tweeted that he must have deleted it. I was surprised PZ responded to me at all, but he did.

My view of PZ being dishonest isn't out of hand. If you've been paying attention the last year or so, you've seen numerous examples of him quote-mining, cherry-picking and straw-manning people.

I was hungry and getting angrier by the minute. I created what would later be clarified as a conditional accusation. I'm grateful to an unbiased third party for pointing that out to me because I had misidentified my own statement as a mere false dichotomy.

The tweet in question was, "@pzmyers As did I. Which means you deleted it and you’re lying or there’s something wrong with FtB (minus the obvious)."

So I was wrong and apologized. Ophelia Benson, who is apparently the moral last word, didn't accept my apology as authentic enough. I lol'd. Apologies, once given honestly, aren't validated by whether or not they're accepted.

I really do apologize for the mistakes I made, regardless of the objections I have to the methods and actions of PZ, Benson and the like. I made some mistakes here.

Anyway, I was hungry and over emotional throughout the thing and I've been pretty lax on my "trying to be nicer on the Internet" goal. In the last couple of weeks I've used insults and have gotten pretty hot-headed toward some theists and now the FtBers.

Here I am restating my goal to engage in more civil discourse. Feel free to call me on it if I fall back on old habits again! Again, sorry for my mistakes.

02 October, 2012


I'm going to say something controversial. Jennifer Livingston, the newscaster who addressed the subject of a viewer's email on air, was not bullied by said email. Hear me out.

It was an inappropriate email and none of the guy's business, but his words were not inflammatory, they were rude. He expressed a critique of her appearance and concern that a person in a media position might influence others by their looks. It's a bad position to hold and her weight is none of his business, but he wasn't attacking her in order to incite fear in her or intimidate her.

If this is bullying, then so it is when we say young kids need to pull up their pants, or that musicians need to change their persona to be better influences on youth. These are all critiques that are none of our damn business, but that we freely express without a second thought.

The man is an asshole, but I'm afraid that "bullying" is the wrong word here.

As someone who deplores bullying of all kinds and was bullied from first grade through high-school, I am grateful that anti-bullying measures and messages are finally making it to the mainstream, but I don't think redefining it to include rude people is going to help.

One Sad Panda

UPDATE: He who must not be named bought me flowers and cleaned the house. It's a start. ;)

Mistakes were made. Dawkins in Berkeley tickets were not purchased when I thought they were by an unnamed party who was asked to do so. The tickets are now sold out. won't be seeing him on the eleventh after all.

To say I'm disappointed is an understatement. I was looking forward to this for a couple months and don't really know how it slipped through the cracks with me blogging and tweeting about it so much. It was really important to me and I even was going to take time off of work for the event.

What's done is done. Foul play was not involved, and I don't want to chalk it up to thoughtlessness. It was simply a brain fart, I guess. Still, I'm sad.

So instead, I'll be looking instead to Freethought Day in Sacramento this weekend. I've also started a group on Facebook (did you know meetup.com charges?) called the Davis Area FreeThinkers, or D.A.F.T. (Aren't I just clever)? I've got two members, myself and my husband. We're on our way to big things, I tell ya.

I went ahead and purchased my Star Trek SF tickets so there's that to look forward to as well. It's my first, so I haven't decided whether I want to be a Trekkie or a Trekker. I'll play with both labels and see which one feels right. In the meantime, I think I'll learn how to use my communicator...

30 September, 2012

Innocence of Muslims

When news broke out that an embassy had been stormed and people had been killed over a shitty, 14-minute trailer to a pathetic, bigoted indie film disparaging Islam, I was pretty mad.

Free speech should be protected even when offensive! There are limits that have been argued in the Supreme Court, but for the most part, there shouldn't be any suppressing of free speech, especially if it is offensive. Muslims in the Middle East don't seem to understand that, insisting that someone die for this ridiculous film. There response should be to use their own free speech to protest or ridicule the moviemakers, not kill people!

I was furious. You see Christians in the US doing crazy things, but for the most part, when someone insults their religion, they don't burn embassies and kill diplomats. The Onion had a post that, by not mentioning Islam at all, said a whole lot to me about Islam and the rabid reactions to different forms of art they find offensive to their religion or prophet.

In the last few days, though, I've been reading some blogs, talking to people, and have had to take a step back to really evaluate the situation.

First, news broke that the protests might have been a cover for Al Qaeda extremists. Next, I had a few conversations with others that mentioned the Middle East is not a place of free information. They have been protected from legitimate criticism for so long that the influx of media from the internet, so readily available on so many platforms, has left them reeling with the realization that the whole world doesn't live like they thought it did. This is a double-sided coin, of course, because it means they can finally see opposing views, but at the same time, it might shock them into a frenzy because they are simply not used to being disagreed with about theology.

Finally, they've never been able to learn that there is a difference between the state and the government. It wouldn't occur to them that a shitty, bigoted, low-budget film wouldn't be made by the government with the help and support of the majority of US Americans. In a way, this really is the "Innocence of Muslims." They have been sheltered to the point of ignorance about things like free speech, independent film, freedom of expression, etc.

Have I reversed my view? No, not really. I'm on the fence because I can point to this and say it's kind of a cop-out. People should know better than to kill other human beings over a movie, no matter how offensive it is. Then again, we've been over there killing innocent people for decades.

If Al Qaeda really was behind this and the reports of Muslims speaking out against the violence is true, then that definitely pushes me one way more than any new information could point me back toward my original, gut feelings about this incident. I'm not saying that I'm endorsing or excusing the violence, just that perhaps I was too hasty to jump down Islam's throat over this and should have waited for more information. If there's no Al Qaeda link, the killers are still at fault, but with the new perspective on their ignorance of criticism, I suppose I can at least see how a crowd like that could come together and start rioting. After all, rioting happens after football matches in the UK and no one blames the sport.

I want to know what you think. Is there enough to the US government's claim that Al Qaeda was behind this? If not, is the inability of the Middle East to handle insults a fault of Islam or simply a bi-product of their enforced ignorance? Perhaps a mixture of both? Would more denigrating images and movies create more rage or would it eventually desensitize Muslims in the Middle East? Have I missed anything else?

Leave your thoughts in the comments, as always.

27 September, 2012


I've gotten a lot of really awesome and supportive comments on my blog and I want to make a concerted effort to respond more often. I do work almost ten hours a day, but I just went down to four days a week (you know you're jelly), so I should have more time on my hands.

As always, please forgive typos and stuff. Sometimes I post from my phone and things get a bit...jumbled...

I could easily fix that with proof-reading, but where's the fun in that?

Thank you for reading! :)

Blasted MRA Working Hard For His Family. How Dare He!

Fucking god damnit. I am not an MRA. I disagree with a number of things that MRAs stand for, but I am willing to admit that they get some things right sometimes. This isn't because I'm an anti-feminist. I recognize the damage that patriarchy has done to women and men. I'm an equalist (a term I just made up recently; feel free to use it), so I want a society that treats all people with the respect they deserve.

I see feminists try to tip the scale toward women's superiority sometimes and I see MRAs doing the same thing with men and manliness (Both sides are poor to Trans people and that's a huge point of contention with me because I do not believe in binary gender). Both sides say things that bother me sometimes and both sides say things that really hit home sometimes. When I am forced to defend one side or the other, though, that's when I get pissed off.

PZ Myers wrote this gem titled, Why do I Despise MRAs?, which has all the trappings of a classic PZ strawmania attack. After a diatribe about MRAs and taking a stab at Reddit (he really shouldn't be on the fucking internet), he describes a post "written by a smug jerk who is busily congratulating himself on how he and MRAs in general are superior beings with a greater grasp on reality than those childlike women, who are deluded by all those glossy women’s mags they read, don’t you know."

He quotes a self post that was made by a man who is dealing with a wife who has had trouble adjusting to motherhood. Does he quote anything representative of the post itself? Of course not. It's PZ Myers we're talking about here.

What we see in PZ's post is a male listing a number of things he does throughout the day to keep his family together because his wife is having such a rough time. He mentions his ten-hour workday and six-figure salary, which is apparently nothing compared to what his wife does all day. PZ writes:
This guy does nothing. His wife is on non-stop baby duty all day long, while he’s off interacting with adult human beings who do not poop in their pants and expect him to clean them up, and who speak fluently of phenomena more complex than “play with me” and “feed me”.
Apparently, PZ already know exactly what this man's job entails and as long as it's with adults who don't need diapers, it's nothing compared to what his wife does all day.

PZ continues:
This guy blithely tosses all the child care responsibilities on his wife for 10 straight hours a day, then claims he does everything, and can’t understand why she’s depressed and exhausted...
 He then attacks the guy for addressing a commenter who asked why the man doesn't just get a divorce. PZ actually attacks him for giving reasons why he wants to stay to try to make it work. 

Yes, folks, this man is stressed, his wife has a serious depression problem going on and PZ is angry because the man wants to stay, his first reason being, "We don’t fight and our home life is stable, so I think divorce would likely make things a lot worse for her." Damn him!

The husband lists a couple of other reasons, but they are all valid and honest and his feelings are his alone. PZ doesn't get to decide whether or not he should be able to have them or express them in the subreddit!

Just the post was annoying enough, but low and behold! The assholery going on was far worse than I imagined! I went and actually read the guy's post, which I'm convinced PZ failed to do.

Here's what I found, folks, and it's actually a very interesting issue because his family would actually garner support from a lot of feminists (unbeknownst to the FtB feminazis who wouldn't know a women's rights issue if they were slapped in the face with a uterus).

A quote from the self post:
Those of you who have kids will know that the first little while is tough, unglamorous and grinding. But what my wife had expected was this. She'd been trained by years of rhetoric to believe that motherhood would be a beautiful, tranquil paradise entirely composed of moments like this. The screaming, shitting monster who allowed us three hours' sleep a night was something she was totally unequipped to deal with.
What that is, folks, if you click on the links, is the hyped up, glamorized illusion of motherhood that was shattered for this poor man's wife. This is exactly the kind of thing that anti-feminists use to fight the liberation of women. It gets worse. You know that poor mother sitting at home all day with babies she didn't expect would be so hard to raise while her husband was gone for ten hours?
Two years later, she's back at work and still miserable. She's successful, but at the cost of not seeing much of our daughter. She's put on weight and she's bone tired at the end of the day. Every part of her life is a protracted battle against what she was led to expect in the face of reality. 
Yes, you read that right. This woman is now balancing a career and a family. She fell victim to the anti-feminist "Superwoman" ideology that says a real woman should be able to do it all. Now that her illusion is shattered, her husband is left hurting and confused as well, doing the best he can to make it easier for her.

So now the image PZ paints of a poor, fragile thing sitting at home all day babysitting is a bit different, isn't it? If what the husband does for ten hours a day is nothing compared to child-rearing, what is it exactly that this woman is doing at her job for however long she's there? Would PZ suggest she do a little more real work and stay at home with the kids? We're walking a fine line here, now.

The redditor recognizes that it's not his wife's fault for her disillusionment and is spot on about how she came to hold these lofty ideas about motherhood and womanhood. He deserves some credit for what he does, support for sticking with it, and a pat on the back for being brave enough to express his feelings, which men are told they aren't supposed to do in our patriarchal society.

And PZ Myers calls this man a "self-centered asshole."  Let that sink in.

I'd like to thank WoolyBumblebee from "Is God a Squirrel?" for originally tweeting this story. Go check out some other posts, including this hilarious one about women's subversive pants pockets. After reading the shit PZ was spewing, you all deserve a little humor. (Sadly, though, the pockets post was in response to an actual, real life person complaining about how the iPhone being made longer was a dis' to women). Cheers!

25 September, 2012

Art and Responsibility.

I've had some interesting conversations lately regarding rap and the behavior of its listeners. My own opinion is that young people often use music to rebel and try to take on the persona of the entertainer whose music they listen to. You see this with heavy metal, rap, emo -- just about anything.

What you only see with rap, though, is this projection of the artist's persona onto an entire minority group. Metal is not associated with all the ills in white culture, but rap is blamed for sending a message glorifying violence, misogyny and crime for black youths.

I've been a fan of gangsta rap since I was eleven. My parents were newly divorced and I was angry. I rebelled and the music was comforting to me. Not only did some of the lyrics tell me that there are people who have it worse than me, they also told me that I wasn't the only person who could get angry at life, parents, society, or whatever else it might be. I knew I wasn't alone in my rage, but there were other ways to channel that anger.

What a lot of people don't understand is that there is more to the lyrics than glorifying crime, chasing women and participating in violence. I could point to numerous Tupac songs that subtly detail the faults of a criminal lifestyle, or that simply describe the cynicism of a community still economically segregated years after the Civil Rights Act. People who write off rap as violent, useless music are obviously missing the point (and the people that say it's not even music at all don't realize how racist they sound).

Gangsta rap ended with the nineties. Hip-hop gained popularity, and while there are some artists still doing a tough-guy act, they don't have the story-telling capabilities of their predecessors and popular music has watered the genre into a hit machine where a catchy hook and lyrics about making money are mass produced to make more money. This, in a way, is more damaging than the entire era of gangsta rap, because now almost no one is talking about the social issues.

I know the objection I'll get next, so I'll jump right in and say it was the media that killed Tupac and Biggie. The sensationalism of East Coast/West Coast conflict resulted in what I suspect were crazed fans taking things into their own hands. A conflict in white music like that which occurred between Tupac and Biggie wouldn't have garnered as much attention. Our society holds a preconceived notion about the violence and aggression of black people. (After all, isn't it telling that Dimebag Darrell's death wasn't circulated for months as an example of why white people need to tone down metal?

This all leads me to the title of the blog. Despite the poor race relations in our country, if we put all of that aside, when is an artist responsible for the actions or behavior of their fans? Many people defended Marilyn Manson after Columbine, but are quick to blame rap personas on the destructive behavior of some black youths. Do artists have a duty to be careful of what they produce? How far does this responsibly go? Furthermore, just to be totally cliche, how does one discern that life is imitating art, rather than the other way around? Is it more or less likely that rap artists were describing an impoverished environment rather than encouraging one? And just to tie this post in with atheism, if your opinion is that artists are responsible for their fans, what does this say about Christian music and the bigoted actions of some believers? What responsibly does other secular music have in our society?

That's all for tonight. I'm about to throw on some Wu Tang and go to bed.

24 September, 2012

Stop Defining Me By My Vag

I'm tired of all the attention my vagina is getting. It does not define me, make me who I am or give me any merit over anyone else. I'm defined by my actions and choices, and if those actions and choices are bad, I don't get a pass just because I have a vagina.

What is with the pseudoscience move to link a woman's entire mental health and well-being to the treatment of her vagina? This "magic vagina" bullshit, peddled as feminism, is as damaging as "stay at home and be pregnant" bullshit from conservatives. Naomi Wolf has written a book that, according to reviews I've read, is a perfect example of this oppressive "Super Woman" garbage that has created a backlash against real, equality-seeking feminism. (If my local library gets a copy, I'll take some antacid and try to stomach this bullshit so you don't think I'm unfair attacking a book I haven't read, but I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for that shit).

What is a Super Woman? It's the idea that a woman must have a career, be powerful, and still do all those womanly things that her "role" requires of her in order to be a strong woman. It's apparent in the copy/pasta posts on facebook that list characteristics that normal people would find either unsubstantial or downright rude. ("My house is messy, so what? I'm not afraid to speak my mind, even if I'll be called a bitch" erm, that's great, but do you have any tact?).

This idea that women have to be in-your-face, tough and overweight in order to be happy doesn't help to retire the problems that women face, such as unrealistic beauty in media, the prohibiting of women on the front lines, the pervasive notion of women's weakness, etc. It just makes them look like they're trying too hard to be superior. What does it say to women who are naturally skinny? What does it say to women who like to be fit and exercise or who are staying healthy to avoid a family history of diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol? ? What does it say to women who like to dress up once in awhile and use those magazines for ideas rather than to project some false ideal onto themselves? (I'm not sold that magazines cause poor body images, but that the poor body image is already there and the magazines reflect what women themselves are looking for).

What I would like to see is a world where a woman can have a career, but no one applauds her for doing it just because she has a vagina. Her choices and actions should be judged on merit alone. Meg Whitman, when running for governor of California, was constantly introduced as a female CEO, because this is a rarity and so there's this automatic association with greatness because she acquired this position as a woman. In the end, some of her work was good and some of it was bad. Whether or not she'd be a good governor has nothing to do with her career as a CEO or her having a vag. In the end, she lost the election to a man who has actually done a pretty good job -- not because he's a man, but because his decisions and actions have brought about change.

My vagina is not magic. I do not possess some goddess-like quality that I can lord over simple males just because I can bear children and go to college. If I see a picture of a woman who is prettier, taller and skinnier than me (and photoshopped), I shouldn't feel pressured to pass judgement on my own self image or on her. If I end up having children and deciding to stay at home, I shouldn't be looked down on nor revered for not advancing my career. If I live with a husband and children and my house is clean or messy, it should be a reflection on the decisions of my family unit, not a credit to my own strengths or weaknesses.

In my household, my husband and I split housework to help each other reach our own personal goals and levels of comfort. For example, right now I'm working more hours and making more money than he is. When I get home at 5:45 in the evening, he cooks dinner. If the situation were reversed, I'd be glad to cook for him.

I am not my vagina. Feminists who try to glorify it are doing nothing for me or for equal rights.

23 September, 2012

Pagan Festival

Yesterday my husband and I attended a Pagan Pride Festival in Fair Oaks with a couple friends. There were talks on magic and the history of paganism, belly dancing and other activities.

Those who know me well know I used to be a solitary Wiccan practitioner. It was hard to join covens or be very open about it in the very conservative rural area where I used to live. I liked the ritual and openness of the craft. Rituals are created by the people doing them, not controlled by a manipulative hierarchy.

Many of the booths selling patches, bags and other merch had FSM logos and bumper stickers that included statements on the separation of church and state. Non-belief is often compatible with certain aspects of paganism because of this openness and many "orders" carry on rituals just to preserve ancient tradition. Belief is almost secondary.

That's not to say there's no woo going on at these things. A woman selling beaded jewelry explained to me that each item was charged during their creation and so a bracelet might have 12 hours of charge that came with it.

I was surprised, however, at how reasonable the prices of these different tools of the trade were. Online and at metaphysical stores, you often find some very inflated prices. I could have bought cemetery dirt for banishing spells for a dollar at one booth, whereas some online retailers sell it for fifteen to twenty dollars for the same sized bag.

I bought myself a white sage smudge stick and two feathers to make a fan. I also got some horns made of polymer clay and an awesome little masque with feathers and glitter that I ended up wearing to dinner, just for fun.

My husband was intrigued and enjoyed the day very much. My husband brought a pagan friend and I brought an atheist friend. We joined in with the closing ritual which was very fun and light-hearted, but you could feel the ancient roots of the chanting and burning of offerings. My husband's friend and I talked and we decided next time we all get together we're going to cast a circle because it's been years since I've done it and my friend wanted to know what it was like.

So I, an atheist, will be performing a pagan ritual sometime in the next month or two. It tickles me pink, really, but I think it shows how some religions are naturally more open than others. After all, how many atheists out there can perform baptisms or communion just for fun?

I'll be sure to include pictures of my tools when I dig them out of the closet (I still have all my homemade altar things for some reason). Until then, blessed be! ;)

20 September, 2012

Tour de Cure

This post doesn't have anything to do with atheism or morality -- just putting that out there up front. With all the Atheism Plus hullabaloo finally winding down, I don't want anyone to confuse my own personal activism with the main purpose of this blog (which was originally to combat the concept of biblical morality, but is now more of a general atheist blog).

In this coming May (I know, seems like a long way away), I'll be riding for the American Diabetes Association in their Tour de Cure ride.

I'm only doing the ten mile family ride because I'm an around-town biker, but not a serious cyclist. I am a runner, so I'm not totally unfit for the ride and I have months to train.

What I need from my readers is some ideas on how to increase my fundraising outreach. So far I've got the normal friends and family chipping in, but I want to get more people involved. I've already told my friends that I'll wear a Raiders shirt if I raise $500. As a third generation Forty-Niners fan, this would be a very shameful thing. Want to embarrass me? Chip in five bucks to get closer to your goal!

I'm trying to think of other things. Tattoos are pretty much out, but I am open to the idea of an ADA logo on my ankle if I can get my fundraising into the thousands. I've thought of offering to shave my head, but i wouldn't wish that on the world (I'd make a very unpretty bald person). If you have any other ideas, leave them in the comments.

Oh, and here's the link to my page.

11 September, 2012

Social Justice

I really wish I could give my thumbs up to the Atheism Plussers out there, I really do. I grew up learning about different cultures, the mistakes our country has made by oppressing minorities and women, caring about people, other creatures and the environment. I've soaked up all the knowledge I could about the activists who paved the way for me. Some of my favorites include Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams, and of course, Marin Luther King Jr.

My family are Democrats from at least the Great Depression. My Great-Grandma, who passed away in February at ninety-six, told me she'd never thought she'd see the day a black person would be in the White House after all the horrible racism she'd seen in her lifetime. I was taught early on to empathize and to care, that no matter how bad I may have it, there's always someone who has it worse who I could help. 

I've rallied, I've canvassed and tabled for campaigns, I've donated time and money to different causes. I've argued and debated, I've even learned when silence is the best response. Social justice is a big deal to me. I wish I could point to a Atheism Plus and say, "Hey, now that's something I can join!" But I can't. 

Atheism Plus isn't just a club within the atheism movement with a focus on social justice. The founders of A+ are well known for witch hunts, public shaming of people who simply disagree with them, and for being very dogmatic in their approach to solving said social justice issues. They've stated they want to start an entirely new movement that bars people who don't adopt their stances from speaking or being leaders in the movement. I can't get behind dogmatism. It's why I left religion.

There's the other problem of my atheism itself not contributing to my views on social justice. I had them long before I was an atheist. The atheism movement itself is a social justice cause as atheists are the most mistrusted group in the US. 

So, for social justice and charity, I'll just have to go to the groups I've already been supporting whose goals are in line with my own (that I had long before I was an atheist). Kiva, American Red Cross, American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, California Young Democrats, and many others. If these causes are something my readers are interested in, I'll be glad to cheer them on, but if their movement for social justice is the atheism movement, I see no reason to exclude them for not taking on the laundry list from Atheism Plus. And if there are atheists who want to join Atheism Plus to do some charity work, they can go right ahead, but the moment they come spouting off about how some atheists don't belong in our movement because they aren't doing enough or they're not taking the same position on social issues, those Atheists Plus aren't doing anything for me or their causes.

09 September, 2012

Reading This, I Gave a Sigh of Relief

Russell Blackford at Talking Philosophy has an excellent post titled, On Vitriol and Mockery, where he continues his thoughts from a previous post. The post does well to describe the problems and benefits that come with using mockery to address misinformed opinions or judgements that are outright wrong. He points out that most of us are not very good at it and that the instances where this tool is useful are usually much less frequent than we imagine.

It's a very good post and I'm not a good enough writer to try to summarize it here, so go read it yourself. I'm still reading through the Tauriq Moosa articles he linked to: Part 1 and Part 2. Enjoy!

Email From Ronald Lindsay

UPDATE: I'm editing here without changing the text of the post because my father always taught me to take responsibility for what I say and write. I take back the statement that "someone is benefitting from a man not recognizing sexism." Lindsay clearly stated that Hensley's tweets could be interpreted as impugning the motives of Sara Mayhew and that is good enough for me because Hensley was, in fact, speaking for herself and not CFI. In a work environment, she would have been fired from any self-respecting organization, but this wasn't a work environment, even though such public positions can cause confusion. I apologize for my part in that.

Here is the text of the response I received from CFI regarding Melody Hensley's behavior:

"Dear Ms. Graham:

Your e-mail to the Center for Inquiry’s general inbox has been forwarded to me. Thank you for sharing your concerns.

First, permit me to say something about CFI’s general approach to discussion of controversial matters. We favor discussion. Candid, reasoned discussion is the most reliable means of determining which point of view may have merit.

However, we strongly believe that it is the merits of a position that should be the subject of the discussion. Personal attacks, insult, and invective inhibit discussion; they do not advance it.

Similarly, impugning someone’s motives is almost always, at best, an irrelevant sidetracking of a discussion. (There may be exceptions, such as pointing out that a favorable report on a drug has been funded by the pharmaceutical company manufacturing the drug, but again, this is the exception, not the rule.)

Let me turn now to the subject of your complaint, namely Melody Hensley’s tweet. To begin, Ms. Hensley was tweeting in her personal capacity, not as a representative of CFI. She uses her CFI-DC twitter account for official statements. That said, I recognize this distinction will not necessarily prevent people from attributing her personal comments to CFI.

With respect to the substance of the tweet, I would not characterize Ms. Hensley’s tweet either as “sexual harassment” or gender-based harassment. The tweet does not constitute a severe or outrageous denigration of another person on the basis of their sex. Rather, it is a criticism of viewpoints advanced by others.

However, the tweet could be interpreted as impugning the motives of those with whom Ms. Hensley disagrees. To the extent this is an accurate interpretation of the tweet, CFI regrets the implication. As indicated above, CFI does not consider the impugning of motives (again, absent evidence and relevance) to be a proper tactic in an exchange of views.

I hope this addresses your concern.

Very truly yours,

Ronald A. Lindsay"

Here is the text of my response. It speaks for itself, though I must point out here the irony that there is someone here who is clearly benefitting from a man not recognizing sexism, and it's not me:

"Dear Mr. Lindsay,

While I disagree that accusing someone of garnering attention of males for the sake of getting speaking attention constitutes a criticism of opposing views, I do thank you for clarifying that Ms. Hensley was speaking for herself and not CFI when she made those hurtful and baseless remarks on a public platform (which, to be fair, she erased). Thank you for taking the time to write me back.


Katie Graham"

Fighting for Women

A few years ago in an English class, after being broken into groups to discuss an essay, the conversation wound its way from feminism to rape. It was a small junior college in a small, conservative town full of bible-thumpers and rednecks who rarely ventured eight miles outside of the town they were born in. I wasn't actually surprised to hear the derogatory remarks that I heard, but it was still appalling.

"Why don't women just stop talking about rape, already? We know about it, we've fixed it. Feminists need to move on." Those weren't the exact words, but you get the gist. I lost it. I hadn't even admitted to myself at that time that the two incidents in my life of forced or coerced penetration had actually been rape, but their words still hit me.

I had invited the director of the Women's Center to speak at my Human Services class the previous semester. I had learned about an awesome awareness program called My Strength, which worked to clarify the definition of consent and give men a place to ask questions without judgement. Even with this knowledge, I didn't know that what had happened to me was a violation.

My attitude toward those girls was hostile, to say the least. It struck a chord and my voice raised and I was angry. I regret that today because all they really needed was an example -- an example I couldn't give them because I didn't know.

I bring this up because I'm constantly being equated with MRA's who don't want women talking about rape, trolls who make accounts on twitter just to get a rise out of feminist activists, and have been told I'm a traitor to my sex for speaking out against the hostility I see coming from some feminist activists. It's been implied that the group of people I connect with online are rape apologists because we think humor can bring sensitive subjects out into the light of day and get people thinking.

I'll be damned if I'm going to just shut up about this behavior and these unwarranted attacks. I know the discomfort of a random person touching my body without consent. I know the sting of a partner I trusted crossing "that" line and then laughing in my face, telling me to stop being a baby. I know the fucking difference between a stranger asking me for coffee and a friend giving me alcohol (and who knows what else) and suddenly finding myself far from where we started, not knowing how I got there.

I know the difference between a city street in broad daylight and the terror that was my own apartment. I know the difference between the warm welcomes of like-minded people at different conventions and the dark walk to my car after the festivities.

Yes, sometimes people are dicks at these things. Yes, there are disgusting trolls on the internet. Yes, there are people, even women, who don't want to talk about rape. But fuck you for lumping me in with those people for doing things like defending DJ Grothe or laughing at a Louie CK routine. Fuck you for trying to silence me when I don't find the low-brow humor on reddit to be the same as being threatened. Fuck you for the awesome women you've silenced while insisting you fight for women's voices. Fuck you for the people who are actually doing something about atheism in this country that you've tried to tear down to further your own internet fame.

And finally, fuck you for all the women who can't talk about rape and sexism because you've clouded the issue so much with your sheltered, privileged bullshit that no one can see the forest through the trees. Seriously. Fuck you.

08 September, 2012

Feminists Attacking Women

While doing the twittering today, I stumbled upon an incredibly well written blogpost by Sara Mayhew that did a great job of detailing why a person might be turned off by the nasty rhetoric of certain atheist feminists, but also really hit the nail on the head when it comes to my own views about feminist equality in the skeptic community.

She writes:
The message of Dr. Hall’s shirt resonates with me because it addresses the most important thing to me about feminism and equality; that you can’t make assumptions about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences based on my gender. I don’t consider myself part of a subset of skeptics because I’m a woman. What I want is to be viewed as a human individual. My experiences aren’t going to be the same as yours just because we share the same gender.
At the bottom of the blogpost you'll see an update with some screenshots. I invite you to take a good look. Surly Amy herself tweets:
I'd make 1for @saramayhew 2 but she would then have to buy matching shoes&take instagrams and Id hate 2 waste her whole night. @CaraColeen
Buy matching shoes? Waste her whole night? If that's not stereotyping and denigrating to women, then I don't know how Surly Amy can be pissed off about a fucking shirt that expresses a person's desire to be known for their mind and not their vag.

Chiming in shortly after is CFI-DC director Melody Hensley.
@SurlyAmy @CaraColeen @saramayhew "Hey. I can get more attention, speaking gigs, and the bys will like me if I keep ragging on Skepchicks!"
All I have to say is WOW. I decided to tweet Melody Hensley to see if she had any idea that what she was doing is sexual harassment. I got blocked for my efforts. I wrote:
.@MelodyHensley You know what my job calls accusations of using male attn to climb the ladder? Sexual harassment. @saramayew
Well, I've sent a strongly worded letter to info@centerforinquiry.net because (obviously) sending it to the Director of CFI-DC will get nowhere. Feel free to do the same. Here's mine:
To whom it may concern,

I'd just like to let you know that I am shocked and appalled that the Director of CFI-DC would participate in the sexual harassment of a woman on twitter. 

Melody Hensley implied that because Sara Mayhew wrote a blog post defending a prominent skeptic for her views on gender equality, Sara was somehow using the controversy to garner male attention to get speaking gigs. 

Here is the blog post, with updates that include screenshots of Melody Hensley making the damaging accusation: 

I hope you treat this situation with as much seriousness as it deserves. I respect CFI very much and would hate to lose respect for an organization that does so much good, including the Intelligence Squared debates.

Thank you,

Katie Graham

03 September, 2012

Shit Like This, Atheism+

Being a student of ASL and a friend of people in the Deaf community around Sacramento, when I heard the controversy of A+Scribe, I immediately thought of the campaign CaptionTHIS, which is a movement to influence major internet sites with video to make closed captioning available universally. For some reason, A+Scribe feels it would be better to transcribe people's work without bothering too much about permission from the content owner and hosting it on their own site, generating traffic for themselves and saying that the content owner can go ahead and link to the A+Scribe site if they want.

Justin Vacula has a great video regarding the comments in a post on Freethought Blogs that will give you an idea of why a transcription service affiliated with Atheism+ might be controversial (even though A+Scribe insists it is not part of Atheism+), and what suggestions were made to resolve the issue of permission and copyright on the transcribed videos. Justin also reads the comments by Greta Christina flies off the handle for no reason and then makes a not-apology to the person who originally suggested that A+Scribe contact the content owners before transcribing the videos. I suggest you watch that video in its entirety (it's about 20 minutes) if you don't have any background on the issue.

Knowing about the CaptionTHIS campaign, I decided I'd ask the A+scribe twitter account what they thought. After all, with the controversy surrounding A+, one would think an already established, uncontroversial and unbiased group might do better to resolve these issues. A+ is so interested in social justice, but their first pet project is to start an A+ organization that is admittedly willing to disregard the wishes of content owners in order to reach their goal. It's sad.

After just one tweet to @aplusscribe, I got a knee-jerk, condescending response from user @many_miles_2_go.

So here's just one more example out of many over the last year where someone has asked a question or offered a solution to a controversy only to be treated like a troll and insulted. Here's an image of the conversation I put together. See for yourself.

A+Scribe and I didn't get to an agreement. It eventually descended into being told that A+ is all about defending people from the trolls and misogynists that are apparently running rampant as leaders of the atheist movement, and they ended up asking me if we could just leave Atheism+ alone (what exactly are we doing other than criticizing their divisiveness)? It got a little bizarre and they couldn't actually tell us what we were doing wrong other than pointing to the anonymous trolls that not only don't represent the detractors of A+ or of atheism, but are found in every demographic on the internet. I let them know how I get away with not being trolled (ignore the bastards and they have nothing to do), but I suspect the advice will fall on unwilling ears.