I've Moved!

Atheist Morality is now West Coast Atheist at Wordpress. Stop on by and feel free to comment over there!

04 April, 2013

This May Seem Drastic, But I'm Leaving Blogger.

I tried importing comments to Disqus and Blogger just doesn't play nice. I've long hated Blogger's comment section, it's strange nesting of replies, the fact that it's java script and won't allow direct replies on mobile devices and the inability to allow hot links in comments. Importing to Disqus kept failing, so, impatient as I am, I've decided to move back to WordPress.

I will keep this blog up for posterity, but the posts and comments seem to have imported over to the new site in mere minutes with no problems at all. Please update your blogrolls and rss feeds and tell your friends!

I am proud to present:

West Coast Atheist, by Tkmlac

Hope to see you all there!


I've decided I'm going to attempt to convert the comment section to Disqus. I don't know what results I'll get when I try to import all the comments into the Disqus system. Could be bad, could be good. I can only wait and see and hope that all our comments and replies remain intact. If not, I'll go from there and figure out what to do next. Here goes.

02 April, 2013

Thirty-Two Days Left To Raise Ninety-Eight Dollars!

If you feel so obliged, hop on over to my Tour de Cure page to donate to my fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. I'm just under $100 from my goal of raising $500. You will get the opportunity to see me in a YouTube video trying to rap one of my favorite songs if I reach my goal.

I'll be riding the ten-mile course on May 4th! I'm riding in honor of my dad who has had type-2 diabetes since I was ten years old.

More on Civility.

I'm really liking what I'm seeing at Ellen Beth Wach's blog. People are being met on a level of discourse and reasonableness I have rarely seen in the FtB forums. With each new comment, I'm afraid the other shoe will drop and someone will start in with the "die in a fire, you misogynist, cis-gendered white male!" but so far, both sides are being met rationally when they disagree on points.

This is the kind of conversations we should have been having all along. People are willing to admit mistakes, clarify their position, are encouraged to back up their arguments. It's really great to see and I really hope it lasts. Ellen Beth seems to be really making an effort to shed the poisonous attack-style call-out culture that many (including myself at times) have participated in.

I'd like to see parties make some formal apologies with some specifics, but I'm not completely holding my breath. I would even accept a general, "I apologize for any way that I've contributed to the break-down of rational discourse, call-out culture, ridicule or personal attacks on people who don't share the same views as me on certain issues. From here on out, I will try my best to cool my head and address disagreements with conflict resolution in mind." In fact, consider that my apology.

Also, if some of us slip back into old behavior (which I know I do), I'd like that to be pointed out with reasonable politeness, too, and not treated as the nail in the coffin on someone's character. We should be encouraging people to change their behaviors and admit mistakes, not slamming them every time they blunder.

That's not to say that we should be afraid of what we say. Sometimes friendly jabs are warranted, but they should never be used as arguments against the other person's position. Some could do well to grow a bit thicker skin while others could learn to better clarify the intent of their humor.

I really related to this that was just put out by the American Humanist Association.

01 April, 2013

A New Leaf? Updated


Cool! She answered me and approved my comment. I'm still a little careful about what I'm saying because she felt I was "veering into derailment territory," which was not my intention at all. It's actually really, really refreshing to see someone open up to discussion on the topic of civility in comments. Baby steps. I hope Michael Nugent is watching! I know he's trying to create a place for common ground right now, too. It's all so fragile right now, but if we get some people opening up dialogue without fear of being slammed, maybe we can finally have some peace.

Original post: posted at 2:30

EllenBeth Wachs put a post up about her experience being hammered by the commenters on FtB. I've tried to comment, but my comments keep getting lost in moderation, so I'm going to copy and paste it here, for posterity. I don't know why I'm being moderated and other people aren't, so it's hard for me to see this as genuine if she's purposely restricting what I can say, but I'll go ahead and give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that there is something wrong with Wordpress.

Here's my comment:
I was trying not to have to use my old wordpress account to comment, but it seems that avoiding such has lost my comment to the ether. I had a bad feeling about it (wordpress is weird like that, hence why I don’t use it anymore), so I’ll just copy/pasta it here. My comment sought to clarify some things that you may have, in the past, felt were attacks on women. I hope to hear your thoughts.

Original comment:


The very treatment you received has been what most in the slymepit and on twitter have been complaining about. It started with Steph McGraw being called out unprofessionally by Rebecca Watson at a conference as we all know. This same treatment you describe is the similar to the attacks on Sara Mayhew, which iirc, you supported Hensley and Roth for doing. I’m not here to bash you for that, just pointing out that you could be seen as an active participant. I want to clarify for you some positions that the “anit-ftb slymepitter” (as we are all now known, whether we’ve been to the slymepit or not) crowd has taken.

Some in the slymepit make really crude jokes and photoshops. You’re right, it’s not valid criticism but I don’t think those that participate in it believe it is.The photoshoppers were mainly doing it to push buttons because the concentration on what words one can and can’t use was so ridiculous and so against the idea of free speech that is ingrained in our culture. They were pushing the envelope, so to speak, just to show they could. Does that make it right or wrong? I don’t think there’s an easy answer. What it was was a protest against ideologues who wanted to shut down and silence any debate about it. You’re going to feel about it how you’re going to feel and that’s okay, I’m just trying to provide a perspective you might not have considered, before I move on to my next point.

Rape threats and name-calling on twitter is not okay. The slymepit never said it was. What we know from being on the internet is that there are some vicious douchebags out there who have no problem backing up their arguments with “I should give you my dick. You’d like it, you dirty whore.” I get it from Creationists all the damn time. I don’t consider them valid threats. Most of us there would probably agree that the best tactic we’ve found for addressing these trolls is to block, report for spam and ignore them. This was the point that was being made when we started getting told we were “rape apologists” and being banned from continuing discussion further. There was no difference between the way the trolls were being treated and the way people with honest opinions and arguments were being treated. I hope you’ll take another look at what they’ve done to Justin Vacula for an excellent example.

The very existence of these trolls and photoshoppers was an excuse to disregard anyone with any criticism against your friends. Rebecca Watson’s Evo Psych talk was not sound and had a lot of room for improvement, but the criticism she received was treated as woman-hating misogyny. How can we, as women, expect to advance in fields of science when our work is defended no matter how bad it is just because we are women? That is a problem a lot of women atheist feminists have had to deal with lately and they have been called “chill-girls” and “sister-punishers” for it.

You are absolutely right to think, “Who else could they be wrong about.” I really hope you consider what I’ve written here. I’ve written it in good faith, to try and clarify what the “Great Rift” has been about for “our side,” because neither side seems to be able to agree with what we’re arguing about and many have noticed there are feminists on both sides of the rift saying very similar things but getting very different results. Thank you for your consideration.

30 March, 2013

AAI Update

Vjack at Atheist Revolution is a model of grace and open, civil discussion. He provides an update to the AAI apology and a clarification on his original post, showing exactly where the detractors went wrong in saying he was trivializing harassment. I can only hope someday to grow up and be as level-headed as he is. I'm still waiting for the rest of the blogosphere to want to do the same.

29 March, 2013

More about "Recovery."

There's been a lot of chatter on some of my favorite blogs lately about Alcoholics Anonymous and how the organization is dealing with a growing number of groups that don't believe in God (mostly de-listing them from their registries, unfortunately). The problem is that AA groups are heavily laden with religious speech and ritual. Most meetings are closed with the Lord's Prayer. There's a chapter in their "Big Book" titled, "We Agnostics," but it simply describes people who don't believe in God getting drunk until they do and has some very flimsy apologetics-like arguments for the existence and reliance on a "Higher Power," including a description about how electricity turns the lights on despite the average man not understanding how it works. (Told you it was flimsy).

As an ex-AA, I can say that you can stay sober if you don't believe in God. I haven't gone to meetings since I was  six years sober and I celebrated ten in February with a 5k run and the Super Bowl (even though my team lost). I've talked to a friend who counsels addicted people with coocurring disorders and she had some interesting things to say about the twelve-step recovery model. Basically, it doesn't work. An addict or alcoholic is forced to throw away any work they did toward their recovery if they relapse even though it's starting to look like relapse is a natural part of the recovery process. I've talked to others who have found the reliance on God to be a crutch, the repeated phrases to be cult-like and the lack of clear leadership to cause some serious harm in people when groups start telling newcomers to throw away their psych meds and just rely on the Big Book. Families of addicts have long complained that the addicted person has replaced drugs and alcohol with meetings, going to three or four a day at times.

I've been there. It took me four months to get a job after I got sober. I went to meetings all the time to avoid the boredom and temptation to drink. I built my life around doing the steps, going to meetings and doing service work. It kept me sober, but at eighteen months I nearly killed myself and had to take prozac and go to counseling for nine months. I should have been doing that all along. I made it through without drinking, but when I finally stopped believing in God I realized that none of it had to do with a Higher Power. It was a sponsor who helped me through the steps and was there to answer my questions about life, coping with sobriety and learning to grow up. It was the groups that kept me from falling into an even deeper depression. Helping other young people get sober (none of them stayed sober) gave me a purpose. There are some things AA's do that could be very useful to people wanting to get sober, but the success rate is less than five percent and I think it's because it won't change it's outlook on addiction and relapse, their causes and treatment.

The Twelve Traditions of AA are a list of principles that are to guide groups in how they operate. While the fifth Tradition states that "each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers," and the third states that "the only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking," atheist and agnostic groups are being forced out of the umbrella organization, AA World Services, Inc, for adopting a different form of the steps that call for reliance on a "Higher Power." In meetings, people often say this power doesn't have to be God, but AA's actions prove otherwise. The message is clear: Get God or Get Out.

How can atheists improve their chances of recovery? I would suggest we go about it as we would the God question or any other skeptical claim. Research and ask questions. Ask an addiction specialist. Find a counselor outside of the Twelve Step model recovery homes and start from there. There are a number of secular groups as well, though they are few and far between. Start your own. Grab a Big Book and adjust the steps if you want. You won't get support from AA Inc, but you might be on the forefront of a new approach to recovery, one that marries the best of AA with the best of science and throws out the nonsense. Whatever you do, find someone to talk to if you feel like using again.

28 March, 2013

DAFT is having a Blasphemy Brunch

The Davis Area FreeThinkers group Crépe meetup is such a success that we're going to have a Blasphemy Brunch next month about halfway from the next meetuo. The dinner is very informal and no matter how many times I suggest topics in the Facebook group, it always ends up being an open discussion with people just hanging out and getting to know each other. I'm expecting the brunch to be the same.

A couple people have shown interest in doing some community work for a bit of exposure in our area. I don't have any problem with that as I've always been active in various ways in my communities. I don't agree with the latest claims by some atheists that charitable activism naturally follows from an atheist position, but I don't see the harm in combining my social activism (which I've done since before I was an atheist) with my non-belief, especially if it works to show people that atheists aren't scary, baby-eating hooligans.

I've met some really neat people I probably wouldn't otherwise know and I've had a great time. I'm so glad I met up with the SacFAN folks at Freethought Day and connected with them. I wouldn't have been able to get this off the ground without their support. They're great! I'm really excited for what's to come.

27 March, 2013

AAI Trivializing Harassment.

Yesterday, Atheist Alliance International tweeted to Vjack's awesome Atheist Revolution article, "Understanding Harassment."

They were automatically met with divisive and misleading tweets by Rebecca Watson  and Ophelia Benson that implied the blog post was trivializing harassment. AAI immediately put out this pathetic apology and are refusing to answer how giving a legaldefinition of harassment and pointing out that some people are using the term wrong is trivializing harassment of women.

Well, that about settles it for me. AAI is a useless organization and has lost my respect as a woman and as a former victim of harassment and years of bullying. When people like Watson and Benson label all offensive speech as harassment and spend their days chasing bogeymen instead of addressing real-life bullying, they are trivializing my experiences.

26 March, 2013

Notung Discusses Shermer's Claim About Science and Morality

Notung, who writes at SkepticInk has a new post up about science and morality. He is weighing in on Michael Shermer's claim that "science can somehow weigh in on issues of morality."

He begins with a thought experiment that will come into play after he begins addressing Shermer's arguments.
You are late for a very important interview for a very well-paid job. If you miss it, you’ll certainly not get the job. You are driving to the interview and come to a fork in the road. As you are about to take the right turning, you witness a pedestrian being hit by a car in the other direction. The car flees the scene, and there are no other people or cars around. The hit pedestrian looks to have life-threatening injuries.

Notung points out Shermer's statement that we can "bring to [the question of morality] studies and data and experiments and research to see what works and what doesn’t." Notung rightly points out that "what works and what doesn't" isn't always clear and illustrates this point with the thought experiment.

Morality is about intention as much as result and Notung points out that whichever course of action one chooses, the result would "work" for whatever the person intended. If they leave the scene, their choice "works" to get them to the interview on time. If they stay and help, their choice "works" to give the man a better chance at survival. This was the same issue I had with Chatterton's piece about morality. Notung is describing very well the "is/ought" question in moral philosophy.

I don't have an answer, and I would like to take Chatterton and Shermer's viewpoint that we can rationalize a better morality, but there are holes that need to be filled before we can claim with certainty that this is true. However, Notung's piece is titled, "Science Has Nothing To Say About Morality,"  and I don't know if that is quite right either. Can the harm an action brings or reduces be quantitatively measured objectively? I've always leaned toward the same utilitarianism that Chatterton and Shermer describe, but now I'm not so sure.

24 March, 2013

What Happened to You, Feminism?

For the record, I appreciate everything feminism has done for women: voting and reproduction rights, a fight for equal treatment under the law, the breaking of barriers in the workplace, etc. But nowadays when I see this kind of fluff juxtaposed with things like women protesters being assaulted in Egypt or women barred from driving in Saudi Arabia, I just have to shake my head.

What happened to you, feminism? You used to say a woman had choice, could make her own way in the world. Now you are trying to guilt us for our nutrition choices. And you're doing it with bad science and bad ideas. It's sad and sickening that while the US has more women graduating from college than men you are still stuck on ways to "defeat the patriarchy" which include shaming women for their career and life choices, treating women as fragile beings who can't handle off-color jokes and borderline paranoia about meat.

Just a few things, feminists: stay away from my steak, I took my husband's name because I damn well wanted to, and damnit, I like Seth McFarland. If you can't respect these choices I've made, you aren't really a feminist at all.

18 March, 2013

Chatterton on Morality.

957 Chatterton has a post up titled, "What is Morality?" Well, that's an excellent question and since here at Atheist Morality, I haven't touched on that subject for quite some time, I suppose I'll feature this post.

In the post, he describes what he believes a moral system is made of: "sympathy, empathy, and reciprocal altruism; that it is reasoned and argued for the purpose of figuring out how best to maximize happiness and minimize suffering."

I agree, but I think that it is too broad a statement. Maximize who's happiness? Minimize who's suffering? This will inevitably lead to thought experiments such as "Should you kill the fat man?" It gets a bit fuzzy when you start balancing the happiness of the greatest number of people with whether or not it is moral to use a person for a purpose without their consent. In general, though, I think it's a pretty good guideline for a moral system.

Chatterton adds support to his assertion by describing morality as a social science. Now that is interesting! He writes, "It’s the very fact that we can make determinations of what causes the most happiness and least suffering that renders morality a subject for social science." Can we, though? Are the examples he listed, such as ending slavery and freeing women of oppression objectively and measurably "causing the most happiness and least suffering?" What if the population of women was only 13% and the rest were men and all of those men had long tradition oppressing women. Wouldn't a law forbidding such a practice actually cause suffering in a larger amount of people than the status quo? Just something to think about.

He goes on to assert that this kind of moral system makes revenge and retribution invalid forms of justice. He calls for rehabilitation and restitution as forms of justice. I mostly agree with this. There are some people who will never rehabilitate or carry out restitution, but I do believe that with practice, our societies can move away from our sordid prison systems into one that turns criminals into justice-seekers. I heard an excellent talk about Restorative Justice on MLK Jr Day in Davis this year. The concept is that victim and perpetrator can come together to reach an agreement over what the criminal should do to make up for their crime. Hearing a story of how a mother sat down with her daughter's murderer and told him he'd have to do twice the good in the world because of the good her daughter would have done was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Even this latest Stubenville rape has got me thinking that if our society could turn those boys into activists for the protection of young people and awareness about consent, we could maybe gain something positive from it.

Chatterton backs up his definition by saying that no other definition of morality holds any real purpose for us, and that may be true, but I think that it still makes that a belief rather than a quantifiable fact. I'm not saying that he's not on the right track, I'm just not convinced it's specific enough to cover all of human behavior. Still, it's a damn good start and a lot better than trying to gleam a moral code from a stone-age religion.

13 March, 2013

California and Private Online Universities

My state is trying to require public universities to accept credit from online colleges. This is pretty much a huge mistake as written. The standards of private online universities are all over the place, even ones with regional accredidation. The price for these universities is higher than brick and mortar public universities and yet the graduation rate is lower and those that do graduate have lower-than-average salaries in their fields than employees who have equivalent degrees.

Even the work they do is different. I'll use an anonymous example of someone I know doing their graduate degree at one of these regionally accredited schools. He still has textbooks assigned to his classes. He's doing no independent research of his own in his field. He doesn't TA and he pays his own tuition. My husband is at UC Davis in a graduate program. He gets paid to TA, his tuition is covered, he does his own research. He is not only able to access academic journals, but often he has access to the professors who write peer-reviewed papers and books in his chosen field.

The state shouldn't be bringing good schools down to the level of these mediocre degree-mill type schools, they should be raising the standards of online education. There are definitely enough problems in higher education without having to lower the bar even more to accomodate these lazy degree mills. What do you think?

12 March, 2013

Sxsw Reddit Panel.

I know a load of people have already weighed in on this "controversy" and why having a one-sided panel of people who hate reddit trying to describe reddit's impact on the web is a problem, but I'm going to go ahead and add my two cents.

So I know reddit gets a lot of flack because there are stories of some commenters went on a post last year and asked for the OP to prove she was really raped, but the other day the top link with over 1500 karma was a woman's imgur album of her face after her boyfriend beat her up when she broke up with him and almost all of the comments were positive and supportive. And yes, there are sexist jokes on reddit at times, as well, but most of them are making fun of sexism and the ones that are genuinely bad taste get voted down. Sometimes shitty ones get through, but if you spend enough time in /r/new, you'd see that the rate is actually pretty low. Also, this isn't anything new to the internet. 4chan's /b/ is much older than reddit, more anonymous, content isn't subject to a voting system that weeds the bad from the good and has some of the worst content I've ever seen.

I don't see how "reddit" is the problem like the panel at sxsw made it out to be when it's really just assholes on the internet in our larger society that is the problem. Rebecca Watson of Skepchick claimed that "Reddit’s shared values of “freedom of speech” and anonymity combine with the “karma” voting system to create an ideal environment for the proliferation and normalization of bigotry and hate."

So what's she's saying is that everything that makes reddit reddit is the problem. There's really nothing reddit could change about the user-directed content, anonymity or karma system that would keep reddit intact as it is. Note she's also not blaming twitter, facebook or any other site for the bad behavior of asshole people. It's like saying the sidewalk is the problem when someone is a jerk to you in public.

I hate how arguments like this take away from real issues our societies face. You don't fight sexism in society by singling out one website and making it your personal vendetta to drag it down. I have observed that Watson is particularly terrible at this sort of thing as she has a knack for taking organizations or groups to task for the larger ills of society, especially when she does so without evidence that said organization or group has a larger frequency of those problems than the wider population. For calling herself a "Skepchick," She's actually not very skeptical at all of her own ideas and claims.

For now, if you need me, I'll be on reddit.

04 March, 2013

Life of Pi: Major Spoilers

I'm going to talk about both the book and the movie, Life of Pi. I'm going to be talking mostly about the ending. If you haven't seen the movie or read the book and want to, I suggest you skip this post.

First, is Life of Pi religious? Well, sort of. There are definitely religious themes. The character, Pi, tells the writer he's relaying his story to, "I will tell you a story that will make you believe in God.

The first part of the book centers around the main character's religious discoveries in India. He ended up practicing Hinduism, Christianity and Islam at the same time. It wasn't shown in the movie, but there is a part in the book where his three spiritual leaders meet him on the street and start arguing, trying to claim him as their own and he tells them something to the effect of "I'm just trying to know God," and they all shuffle off embarrassed that they let their dogma get in the way.

The second part centers around his adventures at sea, which I'm sure you know involves a life boat and a tiger, and in the last part of the book the writer does some investigating on his own and hears the tape of Pi's account to the Japanese men. Contrary to the movie, Pi doesn't tell the writer the story he told the Japanese men involving the cook, the sailor and the zebra, the writer learns about it from the tapes. In the movie, Pi tells the author the story and then asks him which he prefers. I think this difference leaves a slightly different impression on the theme of the movie, making it seem more pro-religious than it really is.

In the book, the adult Pi is living his life and telling his story as if it really happened with a tiger, a zebra and a hyena. He's chosen what he wants to believe about what happened because of how painful the event was. He claims to have a story that will make a person believe in God, but that's not what it does. The author and the Japanese men don't believe the story with the tiger over the more likely story involving humans, but they choose to tell others that the former is true. It's less a push for God than an admittance that we humans will interpret the events in our lives in a way that we are comfortable with and that are in line with our past experiences. It's more about the human condition than the question of god.

The movie, trying to end on a more uplifting note than the book (not that the ending of the book was particularly dark), slightly gears it toward the "you can choose to believe in God" thing. I don't think that was the author's intention and I think that Pi's simultaneously believing in three completely contradictory religions at the same time early on in the book lays the foundation for the theme of introspection and perspective on one's own life. I don't remember the skepticism of the father being as prevalent in the book as it was in the movie, either (granted, it's been awhile since I read the book, so I could be wrong, but I think the father is supposed to replace the three religious leaders that argue in the street over Pi's faith).

What I took from the book was that you can pick how you're going to perceive the events in your life, not that one should pick one perception over another. I, personally, would have (and do) believe the story revealed at the end and see the fantastic story about the tiger as a salve for the terrible events that occurred. Which would you pick?

Goals for a Movement.

I read something that touched me and I'd like to share it. Maria Maltseva's recent post. She writes over at the Skeptic Ink Network and many of her views mirror my own, but she's much more graceful and eloquent at expressing them.

First, I'd like to express my hope that her mother get better soon and that she find some comfort in her situation.

I'd also like to emphasize what she wrote about what atheism has to offer. She writes, "The only thing atheism (or agnosticism or ignosticism) should be offering people is a respite from the harms of religion."

Sometimes the atheist community forgets that. There are hundreds and maybe thousands out there, scared to question, to doubt, to stand up and say, "prove it," to the claims made by the large majority of theists in our country. If there is any goal that a united and active group of atheists should have it should be to reach out a hand to those people.

13 February, 2013

At the top of my rss feed list, Talking Philosophy

I don't talk nearly enough about philosophy on this blog, so I'm going to promote Talking Philosophy, one of my favorite blogs I've found so far.

From excellent thought experiments to breaking down complicated moral issues, this blog has it all. In fact, I recently read a piece about women in combat positions that went further than just arguing against the "morale" argument made by those opposed to allowing women these positions and addressed the concerns over jobs that women physically might not be able to do.

If you want to know how the author, Mike LaBossiere, shuts down these arguments, offers alternative solutions and manages to do so politely and succinctly, you'll just have to give Talking Philosophy a visit! Enjoy!

12 February, 2013

Big Brothifurret teaches a lesson on twitter.

Jen McCreight succinctly explains to a twitterer how the world really works.

Should Dawkins answer for his tweet that called ivory poachers barbaric? The way his detractors have twisted the word "barbarian" and thus the entire context of the tweet is not a good enough reason to address their inanity, in my opinion, but please don't tell Jenny, im afraid of her wrath.

The tweeter in question tries to wrap his head around why Dawkins should listen to the people who are baselessly calling him a racist. Luckily, Jen McCreight steps in to clear it up: the reason this should be addressed is because Dawkins is privileged.

You heard it, folks. Arguments no longer stand on their own merit. All that matters is whether or not a person has privilege. If you have any privilege in any way, all anyone needs to do is tell you to "shut up and listen" and you've already lost, no matter how irrational their argument is. Their ad hominem attack holds more weight than a rational argument about the origin of words and the context of tweets.

Thanks for clearing that up, Big Brothifurret. Ignorance is Strength, War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Barbarian is Racist, we were always at war with misogynists.

08 February, 2013

Block yourself, fool.

I found this lovely apologia of the twitter campaign to suspend accounts on oolon's blog , which I found as a referring link on my stats page (thanks for the traffic, but I doubt it will get me many more hits than I already get from my humble writings).

First, the post states that the purpose of the block not he or she has created is to make the atheist feminist experience better by blocking harassers.

So they should block themselves, right? Aratina Cage included me in a tweet even though I've had no previous contact with him/her (for sake of simplicity, and because linguistically, either pronoun can be neuter because English doesn't have a neuter, I'm going to refer to Aratina as a he, and oolon asba she, because I don't know who they are and don't really give a shit to find out). Harassment.

@jlnfrancisco did the same thing, calling me insane or some such thing and then blocking me before I could respond. Harassment.

Oolon, instead of addressing my arguments on my blog, puts a link to it on her own site so she doesn't have to actually back up her statements. Being a blogger, I'm sure she knew I would see her link and be directed to her site. Harassment.

Second, her blog states that the purpose is not to suspend accounts and that is made clear by the fact that no one has said to block and report accounts, only to block. How convenient for them as it's been made clear by the multiple suspensions of accounts like @GodlessSpellChecker that the automated system of suspension includes accounts with a large number of blocks over a short amount of time.

New slymepit visitors who have joined twitter and have followed "the usual suspects" have been suspended after just a few hours of being on twitter without ever having tweeted any of these fuckheads.

It's the equivalent of swinging your fist in a crowd with your eyes closed and pretending you didn't mean to hit anyone.

This is how far these people will go to silence people (including a large number of women feminists and members of minority groups they claim to be protecting) who disagree with them. Instead of addressing the question of evidence for their claims of rampant hatred of women in skeptic communities, they seek to silence dissent. It's the YouTube DMCA creationist wars all over again, except it's coming from people who claim to be skeptics themselves. What a pathetic tragedy they portray.

Twitter won't get back to me about this issue, so I'm assuming it's not against the TOS. Which means it's a-okay to block people in large numbers on twitter, no matter how unethical it is. Looks like I'll be spending less time on twitter.

02 February, 2013


Many atheists don't feel the need to organize. Some of them join local groups but don't do much more than just meeting and making like-minded friends. One thing that came up in my local group, however, was the idea of community building to match the kind of networking structure that churches provide.

When someone moves to a new town, they will find new friends and helpful people at a church of their denomination. Because there are so many religious people who already meet in the same place once a week, church is an incredible resource for quickly learning about that community, what jobs are available, what are the best schools, childcare, etc. There are also food banks and shelters to assist the indigent.

Should atheist groups try and mimic such a network providing resources for people in need? I don't think it could hurt to try. As a liberal communitarian type of person, I already try to uphold the ideals of community building and it has nothing to do with my atheism, but if I did start tying it in with atheism, perhaps it would give people on the fence an alternative to relying on spiritual groups. Not every atheist, secularist or skeptic will agree or want to focus their activism this way, but that is also fine with me. The thing I love about freethinkers is the diversity of goals, ideas and values that we hold. No one should feel pressured at all to adopt actions or values that any one group holds, but anyone interested is invited to organize. Those are my thoughts on the subject, bug I want to know what the wider world thinks. Are there any downsides to atheist groups wanting to create a support network?


Adam Lee will only accept a "cease-fire" in the atheist community if Justin Vacula accepts his terms.
Don't make threats of rape or other violence. Don't use sexist slurs like "bitch" or "cunt" to describe anyone, but especially not women. Don't imply that a person's appearance, weight or sexual desirability has any bearing on the validity of her opinions. Don't ogle people, touch them without permission, or trespass on their personal space. Don't act as if you're entitled to other people's time or attention. Don't contact a person in any way if she's asked you to stop. Don't defend or associate with people who do any of these things.
Adam Lee, I have some terms for you to follow before we'll stop calling you a ridiculous, attention-mongering, strawman-burning, exaggerating, distorting, character-assassinating sanctimonious piece of shit:
Don't rape babies. Don't eat dog poop off the ground after a dog has puked it up. Stay away from meth. Don't use sexist slurs like "dick" "asshole" "douchebag" or "cock" to anyone, especially women. Don't imply that a person's choice in colored spandex, love of Michael Bolton or lack of shower has any bearing on the validity of her opinions. Don't fart in a closed elevator. Don't defend or associate with anyone who does any of these things. This list here is as applicable to you as yours is to Justin Vacula, but we can't have a discussion until you stop this.
Got it? Oh, I have more to address:
When women object to treatment that makes them feel uncomfortable, unequal or unwelcome, listen to them and take them seriously. 
Stop pretending that they are so wholesome that the concerns of every woman, no matter how irrational, how unsupported by evidence, or how much it differs from views held by other women, are automatically valid.  It's really patriarchal to assume we need our dearest-held beliefs to be shielded from any skepticism or criticism. If we're grown-ass adults, we should be able to take it. Stop pretending like no woman can be wrong or even that no women could possibly be using feminist claims to further their own personal vendettas or agendas. Stop treating women as if they can do no wrong.
Show your support for reasonable anti-harassment policies and free childcare at atheist conventions.  
Show how your conventions can enforce reasonable anti-harassment policies and free childcare without being intrusive or creating a huge liability for local groups to shoulder. Learn a little bit about what goes into security and childcare. Show you can create a harassment policy that doesn't make the attendees feel like they've done something wrong before they even show up to the event.  Stop arguing that one harassment policy is going to work for every convention. Provide evidence that there is more harassment at atheist conventions than the conventions of other groups. Provide evidence harassment policies lower those numbers. Provide some real numbers collected scientifically that show that the larger number of men attending conventions is due to harassment and not simply a product of the fact that there are less women atheists.
Encourage the organizers of skeptics' conferences to make a conscious effort to invite speakers of all races and genders
Stop telling skeptical women they are only disagreeing with certain aspects of certain branches of feminism because they just want to get male attention. They might want to go to your conventions, otherwise. Stop assuming we aren't networking with all races and genders.
Attend talks that address issues beyond just the traditional skeptical issues of religion and pseudoscience, talks that apply skepticism to entrenched power differences in society that disproportionately harm women and minorities.
Stop insisting that a skeptical conference centered around religion and pseudoscience should be spending its time on your pet political projects. There are already conventions for that. I suggest you check out the DNC or the RNC.

Stop assuming that minorities and women can't possibly be interested in issues such as religion and pseudoscience when they go to skeptic conventions just because they are minorities. It's really fucking condescending.
Don't accept a secular movement with a lopsided majority of white men as normal, unremarkable, or unchangeable.
Don't assume that we are. Quit propagating the lie that the skeptic movement hasn't been changing rapidly over the last several years, growing to include more and more people from every walk of life. Half of my little, brand new community group in my little college town are women. Increase outreach to conservative, rural areas where people, especially women, are afraid to "come out."
In return, we'll stop calling you sexists and misogynists.
Learn the fucking definition of those words. In return, we'll keep on doing what we're doing: promoting science, critical thinking and skepticism and fighting for the separation of church and state.

31 January, 2013

Ten Years

My journey from AA to atheism took about five years and on February 3rd I will have been sober for ten years total. I can't pinpoint the exact moment in 2008 that I realized I didn't believe in God, but I'll never forget my last drunk, even without relying on a "higher power" anymore.

Someday I hope to share more about my experience, what I learned there, what I clearly could have done without, and what I think skeptic and atheist alcoholics could take away from the 12 step model (many of the lessons I learned could have been provided with or without a religious setting like AA).

I think it's time that drug and alcohol addiction be addressed rationally in our society instead of superstitiously. At a recovery rate that is equal to no treatment at all, AA is the homeopathy of addiction.

I used to "chair" meetings, which means I'd tell my story to the group and pick a topic. Maybe I'll do that again, in writing on this blog, but update it with the loss of my faith which I thought would surely get me drunk. It's said in AA no one leaves and comes back telling what a good time they had without the program. I realize now it's not because they are all miserable. Some of the ones that don't come back are probably like me, happy, sober and godless.

30 January, 2013

Ghost Hunters

Benjamin Radford has a hard-hitting piece about ghosts that lays out many of the questions and logical contradictions raised by ghost claims. The number one problem, like the god problem, is in tacking down a definition of "ghost."
Part of the difficulty in investigating ghosts is that there is not one universally agreed-upon definition of what a ghost is. Some believe that they are spirits of the dead who for whatever reason get "lost" on their way to The Other Side; others claim that ghosts are instead telepathic entities projected into the world from our minds.
 The piece is well written and Benjamin Radford is a skeptic I've followed on my google reader for quite some time.

28 January, 2013

Crepeville and Freethinkers

What a turnout! At least twenty people showed up tonight to the Davis Area FreeThinkers group at the Crêpeville downtown! I'm going to talk to the owners and see if we can't make this a permanent venue for our once-a-month meetings. Hopefully we'll be able to scoot the tables into more of a square shape, as well, as the long, banquet table formation split the group up quite a bit.

We touched on a lot of topics, including the Historical Jesus, different philosophers and writers, family issues and what we hope to talk about in the future. As the event died down and there were only a few of us left, we even had a discussion about feminism. No one got angry or anything. Imagine that. We talked about how feminism should is about equality, not about hating men. We discussed the tension between feminists who feel women need to be protected and those who want to see them empowered. We talked about sex work and our society's backward thinking about the difficulty women have finding careers after porn. It was actually a really good discussion, and though it didn't have much to do with atheism, I was glad it was brought up.

I can't wait for next month, which happens to be on my birthday. The facebook group is now closed rather than secret, so here is the link if you'd like to join: Davis Area FreeThinkers. Enjoy!

Aratina Cage

Tweeting around, I ran into a conversation between someone I follow and Aratina Cage. Quick glance at his/her twitter and my ears started ringing.


As you all know, I've been trying to get in contact with Twitter about whether or not organized blocking and reporting of twitter accounts who have never even tweeted the reporters is a violation of the Terms of Service. Here we have Aratina claiming that I'm somehow violating "Freezepeach" (their derogatory term for 'free speech,' which they seem to think is a terrible idea) by trying to get to the bottom of this.

If it's a violation of the TOS, twitter should be telling this person. If it's not, give the stupid ass a taste of his own medicine and see how she likes it. The free speech forum of twitter is still bound by Terms of Service because it is a private entity. (For more clarity on my own feelings about free speech on the internet, I present to you a video by c0nc0rdance that closely mirrors my own views).

Another tweeter noticed my picture is one that shows up on the 'Pit (and they say we're stalking them). Aratina tweeted back:

"...women are bitches, etc." I challenged Aratina Cage to show any evidence that I've ever said that. I called Rebecca Watson a bitch, not all women. She called me a twit. Would Aratina extend Watson's insult to mean all women, since I'm a woman? Of course not, but these bullies don't care about things like consistency and honesty.

I will own up to everything I've written about the issue, everything I've done and I've even tried to clean things up with Watson herself who chose to ignore me rather than take an opportunity to show some grown-up behavior. I will not, however, allow this piece of shit Aratina to put words in my mouth. Anyway, if you're not part of the #blocksaturday campaign, I suggest civilly and respectfully challenging Aratina on his/her tactics. If it gets you in twitter jail, then there's more evidence that this asshole is trying to suspend accounts on twitter.

That Just Happened

Melody Hensley, professional twitter victim, butts into a conversation between Justin Vacula and Dave Silverman and then tells Justin to stop contacting her.

I couldn't make this shit up. Hensley has become a parody of herself. This is who CFI puts in executive positions? I don't think CFI will have much of a reputation at all in a few years if they keep populating their management with people like this.

25 January, 2013

A Coming Out Story

I'd like to share this brave blog post by a mom who recently came out as an atheist. I know how scary it can be and I am inspired by her courage.

As some of you may notice on my Facebook, I often "hide" posts from theist friends, even ones I love and respect a lot. (That's actually why; I would hate to find out a friend began avoiding me or respected me less for my non-belief. For theists, belief shapes a person, while as an atheist, I know that that is not always the case).

Anyway, check out Gretchen's blog post. I dare you to try not to be inspired!

24 January, 2013

Skeptics I'd Love to Hear Speak Someday

I'd just like to list my "dream team" of women who I'd like to hear speak on topics of skepticism and/or atheism. Some, I've already been able to hear on podcasts (and a few are on podcasts I still need to catch up on! I got a new phone and couldn't download them for awhile). The women on this list are people I've encountered online who have made an impact on my own skepticism or have inspired me to speak out. I plan to add to this list, of course, as I venture out into my local skeptic community and learn more about activism.

I'd love to hear Karla Porter talk about her activism and how it's helped change her community.

Maria Maltseva's political views largely mirror my own. She writes at Skeptically Left on the SkepticInk Network and kicks much ass.

Abbie Smith just finished a talk at FreeOK in Oklahoma. Her fascinating research is finding ways to kick HIV/AIDS ass.

Briget Gaudette has a fascinating, unique story from the perspective of a black, woman atheist from a Jehovah's Witness family. She is the Development Director for the Foundation Beyond Belief, helped start Secular Woman, and contributes to various blogs including EmilyHasBooks and The Friendly Atheist.

I think that it would be a blast to hear from Sarah Mayhew about her experience as a TED Fellow.

I can only hope that someday I'll be able to make a difference in my community like these awesome skeptics have.

Guest Post, Metalogic42.

This is a guest post by user Metalogic42 who can be found on twitter or at the 'Pit. An interesting piece that points out the conflict that occurs when one claims that Intelligent Design is a valid, non-theistic argument while trying to support cosmological arguments. 

Epistemic Tension Between Theistic-Neutral Intelligent Design and Cosmological Arguments

Some proponents of Intelligent Design claim that it is not inherently theistic. Here I argue that Intelligent Design probably reduces to theism given defenses of cosmological arguments, and that any attempts to avoid a reduction to theism do not work unless cosmological arguments are forfeited; and thus either (1) I.D. is not on identical methodological footing with naturalistic evolution, or (2) the case for theism is weaker than the theist supposes. I further argue that a proponent of both nontheistic Intelligent Design and most cosmological arguments must drop one of these things to avoid epistemic tension. I do not argue here that either Intelligent Design or naturalistic evolution is likely true or false, that one methodology should be preferred to the other, or that we should be neutral with respect to methodology*.

Consider the following implicit thesis of Intelligent Design:

ID1: The cause of the first life (self-replicating organism) on Earth is best explained by Intelligent Design.

If true, this conception of I.D. implies that the first life was caused by some sort of intelligence not originating on Earth. This is not necessarily theistic when considered in a vacuum, but if I.D. best explains life on Earth, the question is raised: what best explains any possible life existing in other places in the universe? Perhaps it’s some form of intelligence (aliens, A.I.) that arose naturally elsewhere in the universe. But then we must ask: what best explains that?

The reasoning behind I.D. is that life is best explained by intelligence because of information content in the genome, specified complexity, or something similar. This hypothetical otherworldly life would almost certainly also exhibit these traits. So I.D., if it explains life on Earth, must explain that as well.

This move can be made for every natural form of life in the universe: earth life to alien life 1, alien life 1 to alien life 2, etc. But once these jumps are exhausted, and all natural life is accounted for via a natural intelligent agent(s), the only place left to go is to the non-natural.

This again does not necessarily imply theism; there are several possible moves here. One is an appeal to abstract objects as a cause of an intelligent agent. But this has implications for defenses of the cosmological argument. William Lane Craig, in responding to some objections to his Kalam cosmological argument, argues that abstract objects are distinguished from concrete objects by their inability to stand in causal relations[1]. If this response to objections is dropped, then it is a trivial matter to object to the KCA by positing an abstract object as the cause of the universe. If it is not dropped, then an appeal to an abstract object as the cause of the first life in the universe cannot be made.

Another possible move to “save” I.D. from theism is to posit a contingent supernatural intelligence (i.e. an angel, a ghost, etc.) But this has implications for liebnizian and thomistic cosmological arguments, which require causal principles that state every contingent thing or instance of coming into existence must have a cause.[2] If this principle is accepted, these arguments conclude that there must be a god. To drop this for the sake of non-theistic I.D. means that such arguments don’t go through.

A further concern for positing either abstract objects or a contingent supernatural intelligence is that they are ad hoc – they are being posited solely to “save” nontheistic I.D., and have no other basis. This has implications for Robin Collins’ fine tuning argument. His argument relies on a restricted version of the Likelihood Principle (“an observation e counts as evidence in favor of hypothesis h1 over h2 if the observation is more probable under h1 than h2″), which adds that LP can only be applied to cases where a hypothesis is not ad hoc.[3]

In conclusion, theistic-neutral Intelligent Design has no viable options for explaining the first life in the universe which do not also undercut various cosmological or fine tuning arguments for God; thus there is epistemic tension between positing both a theistic-neutral Intelligent Design and such arguments. There is also tension between theistic-neutral Intelligent Design and theism due to the case for theism being greatly weakened by positing theistic-neutral I.D.

*These debates are, I believe, separate issues.

[1] William Lane Craig, “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”. The Blackwell Companion to 

Natural Theology. pg. 193
[2] Alexander Pruss, “The Liebnizian Cosmological Argument”. The Blackwell Companion to 

Natural Theology. pg. 25
[3]Robin Collins, “The Teleological Argument”. The Blackwell Companion to Natural 

Theology. pp. 205-206

20 January, 2013

NPR Piece on Nonbelievers and Grieving

After my grandmother passed away last year, I remember sitting at her funeral, two women from her church standing up talking about Jesus this, Jesus that for a half an hour after just ten or so minutes spent on my Grandma's life. I wanted to scream. I was angry. Even though my Gram was a religious lady, it was still deeply hurtful to me to watch two people use the event to proselytize and make it about someone else when really, we all were there to honor my incredible Grandma.

I was lucky enough to not have too many people in my life who used the whole, "She's in a better place" thing with me. I don't know how I would have reacted. I really related to this article on NPR the other day that tackles that very topic. Grief has been very different since I stopped believing in an afterlife. A great resource has been Grief Beyond Belief, where people share their stories and strength through their difficult times. I hope, with the growing awareness of the public about nonbelievers, people will stop assuming that those phrases are at all comforting, or at least start asking people first what they believe or don't believe.

19 January, 2013

Send an Atheist Activist to Women In Secularism 2!

Here is where you can donate to send atheist activist Justin Vacula to Women In Secularism 2!

We need more men to go to women's conferences! Why? Because we don't live in a black-and-white, us-and-them world. Women's issues affect men and men's issue affect women. What better way to learn from each other and ourselves than to step outside of our comfort zones? I, for one, can't wait to hear from Justin about his experience when he gets back! Cheers, Justin!

18 January, 2013

Driven Well Past the Last Exit to Relevance...

First, I'd like to thank the awesome Brian Williams for the title of this post. He made the remark describing Donald Trump and his election-night rant about Obama stealing the election by not winning the popular vote (he did win it, btw), but I think it fits.

I don't go perusing Freethought Blogs for material. The times I visit are generally when I notice a kerfluffle on twitter or other social networks has taken place. Usually, it's very petty stuff. Someone called so-and-so this, someone said this-or-that (usually cherry-picked and thrown up out of context with a damning invective to go along with), but today I was pointed to a post by Ophelia Benson that made my skin crawl.

She starts out right away comparing the atheist community to the "Bolshoi ballet" that, I admit, I had to look up (because I could care less about ballet or opera, and I'm willing to bet -- if she were honest about it -- Benson also had to look it up). So what is Bolshoi that she is referring to? According to the article she herself linked to, it's a very famous, highly competitive theater company in Russia with a decades-long history of sabotage and infighting:

"Bolshoi dancers have been known to place crushed glass inside each other's ballet shoes, or set an alarm clock to go off during a tour de force (a feat of technical skill during a ballet performance)."

(Off topic rant: Holy scheiße! These people are actually doing this to each other so they can end up like Natalie Portman in Black Swan? Not cool. Competition in arts like this is degrading to the art itself! What is wrong with these people?! /rant)

So what does this have to do with the atheist community? Let's see. Ophelia's piece is titled, "From hacking to acid-throwing." She says, "Apparently the Bolshoi is riven with deeeeep rifts," which I suppose is meant to remind the reader of the "deep rifts" in "the atheist movement" (rather, the interent-famous people who are squabbling over who gets to inherit the movement after the smear campaigns finally bring down a few "old, privileged, white guys" who made such an impact in the first decade of the millenium).

She then quotes the article:
…even before police find the culprits – if they ever do – many will connect the attack to the ongoing squabbles and infighting that have been plaguing this jewel of Russian culture.
Most of the squabbles that have affected the theatre have not been about money, but about personal competition, and they appear to have degenerated into nasty attacks on the talented dancer-turned-director.
Before acid was used in Friday’s attack, Sergei Filin had already received numerous phone threats, and his email and Facebook accounts had been hacked.
and concludes by saying, "One minute it’s just hacked Facebook accounts, the next it’s acid attacks."

No, Ophelia (and this is why I think she doesn't even know what Bolshoi is and probably didn't even read the entire article), the article says, "Acid may be the newest and nastiest weapon in instances of infighting at the Bolshoi, but the tensions go back decades." This is not an instance of some disagreements forming and BOOM! acid throwing. This is a highly-competitive, sought-out theater company with a long history of attacks and physical abuse among competing performers. But whatever, she's human and has every right to be wrong sometimes.

The next sentence, however, really really gets under my skin: "Maybe I should start wearing protection."

Read it, take it in, really think about that for a second. Acid attacks are horrendous, and each new one I read about (they are common) squashes my faith in humanity a little bit more. For her to exploit this instance of such a horrible, deplorable, rotton action is beyond the pale. 

We know that Ophelia recently was parodied by two twitter accounts that spelled their names similar to her twitter handle to make fun of her. We know that the online atheist/skeptic movement has had some serious back and forth over which feminism is the "right" kind and who we should regard as "leaders." We know that there are people promoting an unfalsifiable claim of sexism and patriarchy in the community, leading to contentions and an environment of fear

We know that some good changes have been effected because of some of this, but that often, nothing is good enough (such as in this thread commenting on the then-newly-adopted harassment policy for Skepticon 5). 

We also know that the parody accounts and trolls have enabled people like Ophelia to avoid legitimate criticism and that calling for a scientific survey to objectively answer the question, "Why don't more women go to atheist events" has been said to be proof enough of their claims of sexism. What we haven't seen is anything like the Bolshoi. Not even the most harassing troll on twitter can take credit for doing anything violent to anyone else in the skeptic movement. What we have seen is people's real lifecareers, and reputations smeared...by the people that Ophelia calls her friends. 

It's shameful, because calling her out on this deplorable blog post will only be seen as one more "sexist, misogynist, MRA rant," despite me being none of those things and her deserving to be held accountable for her words and actions. Still, this seals it for me. She's no longer worth thinking about, reading about or hearing about. She disgusts me, and it's not because she's a woman, it's because she's a bad, bad, bad, bad person.

15 January, 2013

A Victim of the Sandy Hook Truther Slobs

Salon isn't the greatest place on the net for accurate and relevant news, but here is a story that I think applies to skepticism.

There is a new conspiracy theory out there and it involves the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting being a plot by the government or some kind of hoax. That's right, people. If you thought that the 9/11 Truthers couldn't be matched in their cruelty, insensitivity and insane paranoia, I present to you a group that exceeds them in those areas.

A man found some of the children and a bus driver in front of his house and kept them inside, safe, while they recounted their stories about their teacher being shot and killed in front of their eyes. He fed them and comforted them while the police arrived at the school. The man is considered a local hero.

This very man has been a target of threats and harassment, being emailed by people telling him he's just playing a part for the government.

The breakdown of education in this country and the rejection of reasonable, critical thinking has given way to people who will believe just about anything because "it only makes sense." We live in an argumentum ad ignorantiam, where if one 'explanation' is more easily understood than another, then it must be the truth. A complex conversation about factors such as gun control, a violent culture, mass media and mental health is just too much for people to understand in our world of revolving media sound-bites, ergo, hoax.

What we need is skeptics to push back harder against this stuff. Dismiss it offhand so that it doesn't garner too much media attention, but also show why it's so easily dismissed. Start talking about truth value and the burden of proof. It lies on the conspiracy nut, and the more people that realize this, the less power these idiots have.

13 January, 2013

Another Bus Gang Rape In India

So that I'm not accused of not caring, and even though it's not the topic of this blog, I'd like to mention that there is another rape case in India involving a bus gang.

A woman, the only passenger on a bus, began pleading and crying at the bus driver when he didn't pull over to drop her off at her village. (So much for Asaram Bapu's inane and cruel remark that the victim who died wouldn't have been hurt had she pleaded with the men). She was driven to an abandoned building where she was raped by five more men.

This is terrible, but it is finally spotlighting the culture of oppression prevalent in this very religious country. For years, I've been reading about secret marriages of girls as young as nine to grown, middle-aged men to "protect" them from rape. A married woman is less likely to be attacked, they say, and many of the men promise not to consumate until the girl is old enough, but what "old enough" means and how to enforce that someone keep their "promise" aren't clear. I'm hopeful the recent protests and outrage with mark the beginning of a change for India.

Block Saturday, Possible Censorship?

Twitter account @aratina, called Aratina Cage, included me in a tweet and then immediately blocked me (coward) last week. The tweet included the hashtag, #BlockSaturday and included a few other twitter handles. Greg Laden also retweeted it, which made me lul.  Most of them I already followed, but I added the rest, of course.

It was brought up on the 'Pit this week and I mentioned that I had seen the same thing last Saturday. Someone then pointed out an interesting fact about twitter and how their algorithm suspends accounts. Twitter has been criticized for being too heavy-handed and suspending accounts that don't deserve it. It's actually pretty easy to suspend an account with a concentrated effort: Users can be suspended if they have sent a higher ratio of @replies to regular tweets, if they are reported as spam enough times or -- here's the kicker -- if they've been blocked by a large enough number of people over a short amount of time.

Aratina Cage looks like just the kind of dogmatic, fingers-in-the-ear brownshirt that would know this and start this as a campaign. I'm going to ask twitter if this is something that violates the TOS because it doesn't seem like something a networking site would want encouraged. I'll update if I get an answer.

More From the Lousy Canuck Post, Promise It's theLast

Users stacy, setar, sassafras and anthony k weren't even worth responding to, as they continue to make claims about harassment without A) providing evidence of said harassment and tying it to the Slymepit or B) addressing the fact that non-harassers are dismissed and blocked before their arguments are addressed. I'm not going to go round and round in a circle with theist-like dogma while they repeat the same old, tired bullshit.

Oolon responded to me, and I responded back. I had lurked the Slymepit a bit, but became more active in it after s/he flounced. Here's the exchange:

 Stephanie Zvan responded to my example of Ryan Long by saying something about his "longer than elevatorgate" history, and I almost replied that Ryan Grant Long has concentrated his education on gender studies and could teach Zvan a few things, but I decided against it. Seriously, I don't even want to engage such a vile, mean human being. Her attacks on people, her defense of Greg Laden, etc. She doesn't deserve to be recognized.

The next exchange was with kaboobie (not a sexist name?) and went thus: 

Everything after was from the named users who brought nothing new to the table. SSDD, as you all know.

This concludes the saga of my adventure in FtB land. I must say I was surprised I wasn't blocked. Whether this is due to the Canuck's less narrow interpretation of the comment policy or a calculated response to try and discredit my claim about being blocked on FtB sites, I can't say. Nevertheless, I'm not blocked.

A Conversation.

I stumbled upon an interesting post about a conversation a man had with a co-worker over a car magnet. The co-worker had never met an atheist before (or hadn't been aware he had) and had a question about morality. I chose to write about it, because before the online skeptic community started being bogged down over who was feminist enough to join the movement, the biggest rift was about "accommodationism vs. confrontationism." I'd like to return to those days, so here it is.

Some people thought theists should be ridiculed and criticized harshly for their beliefs and others felt that civil debate and interfaith efforts would increase exposure of atheists and maybe get theists to concede ground. Perhaps, just maybe, a theist would begin looking deeper into the question of faith. I think the article is a great example of that "accommodationist" way of planting a small seed in the mind of someone who had never even been  exposed to atheism. I know for me, it was a tiny seed that grew over two years before I realized I no longer believed in god. I don't know a whole lot of people who came to that conclusion overnight.

An Online Petition Worth Signing.

Zanyar Moradi and Loghman Moradi have been sentenced to death after a months of torture drew out a confession of murder from them. The trial and sentencing lasted a few minutes and an appeals court has upheld the conviction. The victim was the son of an Imam, and so the charges include blasphemy-babble like, "corruption on earth" and "enmity against god."

Zanyar's father, Eghbal, has spoken out, saying that the trial and execution are a way to get back at him. He fled Iran years ago. He says: “My son is a victim of a political game. I myself oppose the regime, I went to prison, I was injured, and I don’t live in Iran right now. They want to seek revenge on me through my son."

You can sign the petition at GoPetition and/or Change.org. Or, better yet, you can Maryam Namazie has a link where you can send a letter of protest yourself.

12 January, 2013

Is Zinnia Jones Trying to Ruin Bradley Manning?

"Zinnia Jones" of Freethought Blogs pseudo-fame has done an AMA on reddit and continues to defend her decision, despite being told by countless lawyers on reddit that this is a very bad idea.

She was met with comments that explained how this AMA would be used against Manning and that she's doing something very unethical and harmful to the defense. She doesn't seem to care, as her response on twitter was something about having learned how many times redditors can call her "fucking cunt" and "bitch."

Her commentariat takes the cake, one user saying that there can't be that many lawyers on reddit because he works with lawyers who don't know what reddit is. Just so you know I'm not misrepresenting their comment:

The only thing I can hope is that Manning's defense is all over this and they don't use her. Even if the prosecution isn't permitted to use anything in the AMA itself, they will still have enough to eat her up with.

10 January, 2013

Ben Zvan Wants to say Who Punched First

If you all remember, it was Rebecca Watson who originally called me a name on twitter after we had what I thought was  a civil exchange about stupid comments on twitter. She called them "Rape threats at a fourteen year old girl" and to most other people, they were stupid, low-brow jokes that devolved and eventually wasn't even replies to the girl, but to each other redditor, tryin to one-up each other.

That man's wife is one of the meanest people I've ever read. Just because she doesn't use certain cuss words doesn't make her any better. I don't even think I need to respond to him. Online petitions, tearing down the leaders of the skeptic movement, defending Greg Laden's multiple attempts to get at people in their life and work... Yeah, who punched first?

The tribute to Huell Howser is on and I'd much prefer watching that before bed than letting someone like that rent space in my mind, so I'm out for the day.

Why Even Bother?

To be fair to Jason Thibeault, he was calm and reasoned. His comments section wasn't surprising, though. My last comment is suddenly awaiting moderation, whereas the previous two hadn't needed it. I don't know what I said in the previous comment to warrant that, but if any of you can point it out to me, that'd be great. Here's how it went. I'll try and reconstruct what my last comment said. I didn't think to copy/pasta it because my other ones went off without a hitch. Whether this was planned on Jason's part or not, I can't say. I hope not.

Edit: I realized after posting I hadn't included a recap of the comment that is awaiting moderation.  I'm really not motivated to do so. The whole thing, from the hubris to the tribalism, just disgusts me. Like Anthony K calling me a liar and saying I'm strawmanning and doing exactly that in each of his comments. *sigh* I don't have it in me.

09 January, 2013

Too bad he can't make that food miraculously appear in Africa...

Justin Vacula shared this link on his facebook page. It's worth a watch. Also, check the first comment on his page, if any of you are his FB friend.

Speaking of MRA's...

From what little I've seen from the very moderate MRA's in the Slymepit, there are a few things that one would think feminists would be on board with. For example, the "superwoman" myth that a mother should be able to balance childrearing and a career without breaking a sweat. Or how about the "culture of victimhood" that is prevalent with some women? Feminism deny this, yet its true. Some women love to bare the scars of their past and compare them in one-up battles.

Also, feminism has perpetuated the myth that women are inherently good and gentle and never behave badly. When a woman murders her children, there's an automatic sense that something must have gone terribly wrong because who can imagine a mother doing that? Our media follows these court cases around the nation for months asking "Why?" Andrea Yates, Casey Anthony, Susan Smith. A man kills his children and it's reported for a few days on the local news. There were people on Hemant Mehta's blog defending Nate Phelp's mom because she "was probably being abused" and that's why she didn't contact her son after all these years. I listened to an entire podcast interview of Phelps and while yes, it was an abusive environment, he didn't indicate that his mother held views any different from that of his father. Women are people, too.

They also have some points to make that many feminists won't agree with, but should. A man should have a right to tell a woman before the third trimester (the cut-off for an abortion) that he doesn't want any parental responsibility and that he should be absolved of all responsibility. After all, he can't have an abortion if he's not ready to have kids. The woman would then be able to decide if she can really raise the child on her own. If she can't, she's got time to think about it and have an abortion if that's what she chooses.

Child support. When my parents split, my dad took care of all three of his girls for the months my mom was couch-surfing and finding her own apartment (my mom chose to leave. Long, complicated story). My little sister moved in with her maybe a year later. He still had two girls, me and my sister, living with us. My big sister moved out and I still lived with my dad. My mother had remarried. The combined income of her and her new husband would have exceeded my dad's. He never asked for child support. When he moved four years after the divorce, he was leaving a foreclosure and drug habit he had picked up. Because he was moving far and staying with a friend, I had to move in with my mom. She told him not to worry about child support until he got back on his feet. She took him to court a few months later when she got mad at him for something and asked for arrears for that time. She got it. They attached his wages. The courts never considered all the time my mom hadn't given my dad anything after she dumped us off on him to go "find herself." Shit like this ought to stop. If a "feminist" only wants everyone to be treated equally, she should be on board with a fair family court.

There are some things I don't like about MRA's. This idea that men have to be a certain kind of macho or they are just "emasculated white nights." They perpetuate a myth that if a man isn't standing up to his woman, she's walking all over him, treating him bad and taking away his manhood. It's silly. I'm pretty solidly against people being pressured into gender roles. Christianity pulls that shit. I'm all for men who want to be macho being macho, but don't shame other men for not living up to that. It's the MRA equivalent of slut shaming.

So those are just my thoughts. I identify as a humanist, period, but I won't discuss the MRA issue further on this blog.

This is the kind of stupid that FtB hires to blog for them?

A response from Avicenna in the comments of my post describing the twitter exchange I had with FtBlogger, Avicenna (@Million_Gods on twitter) has inspired me to go ahead and write a post to address his rapid fire, red-herring questions. With the amount of fallacious reasoning and personal attacks against my character, I have to say something.

I'm not expecting a response from him and any question I pose in my response here will be rhetorical. After this post, I'll try to just ignore him because he's really not worth the time.

If it [the gang rape in India] disgusts you so much then why have you been silent about it? 

First, I haven't been silent about it. You don't know me, who I am, or what I do. You don't know my friends, aren't with me at my home and you only have a fraction of the social networking sites I use available to you. I haven't been silent about it, believe me.

Also, that's not the focus of this blog. I follow a cactus blog because I'm a big fan of raising succulents. That particular blog never posted a thing about the rape in India. You wouldn't ask them why they've been "silent" about it and accuse them of not being disgusted by it.

This is also a sporadically-updated, amateur blog, is not my livelihood and is not a news site. Were you expecting Huffpo? Are you saying I should be blogging more about current events? Get real, bro.

Why haven't you spoke out about it or indeed even about the MRA's around you who support AVfM who came out and claimed men have it worse in India. 
Again, not the subject of this blog. I dislike radical MRA's as much as I dislike radical feminists, but it's only the radical feminists that are trying to drum people out of the atheist/skeptic community who disagree with their radfem ideology.

Secondly, I don't read AVfM. Why should I answer for what they write?

Third, I have a lot of friends with a lot of different views. I have utlra-conservative friends who think that they should be able to buy fully-automatic weapons, whereas I'm all for gun control. If you judge me by the people who join the same forums or subreddits I do, than you are opening yourself up to the same, and you have some shitty, mean, spiteful, angry people blogging on your side, let me tell you.

Last on this topic, I'm going to turn your fallacy around on you, just to show you exactly why your question here is stupid and pointless and nothing more than an ad hominem. New Year's Eve in Old Sacramento, a man I knew personally named Dan Ferrier was trying to break up a bar fight. He was shot and killed. He was selfless to his friends and his community and the creep that shot him deserves more than the law can give him for what he did. Why, Avicenna, haven't you said a word about it? Do you not care about gun violence? Are you an apologist for shooters?

See what I did there? I would be wrong to ask you those questions. I would also be wrong to make a general statement about all men based on the actions of the person who shot Dan. That was the issue I had with Taslima's blog post. Your derailment with red-herrings is just that ridiculous. I hope you can see that now. If not -- well, I don't give a shit either way if you can or not.
Why aren't you slamming the Slymepit for hosting Raep who has repeatedly shown support for AVfM? Why haven't you taken on the people who belong to a group of people who support the claim that Indian Men Have It Worse despite ALL evidence to the contrary.

I bet Reap can answer for himself about that, first of all. Second of all, the Slymepit is a free speech environment. People argue there all the time. It's a very public forum where people exchange ideas. "Hosting" Reap? Reap is a regular poster on that forum. That's the nature of forums. As far as the claim that Indian Men Have It Worse, I don't even think that's a claim worth addressing. If I addressed every ridiculous thing anyone said, I wouldn't have time for anything else. I won't address the people who claim Indian Men Have It Worse, but I'm also not going out of my way to address the people who claim that The South Will Rise Again and The White Man Will Rule Once More.

Oh and if you do your homework and the teacher tells off the class as a whole for not, you know for a fact that she isn't talking about you. Kids understand this. Apply this logic to any statement that you think is sweeping but isn't true about you or the men/dogs/oddly shaped potatoes that you know. Otherwise you are no better than the people at A+. Use your brains. It's what separates us from the potato.

Taslima wasn't addressing a class. She was blogging, sharing her opinion about "MEN EVERYWHERE." If said teacher was talking to her class and said, "Kids everywhere never do their homework correctly," you would assume she was talking about every kid, including you. Kids understand this. But more importantly, so do Linguists. I asked one, who said:

If that is not what she meant, then that is her mistake and she should clarify. She has not. 

Use your own brain. You just got pwnd.