I've Moved!

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

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. 

07 January, 2013

What to do if you receive online donations that exceed your needs

Greta Christina recently had a minor surgery to take care of some cancerous cells that put her in a position that she was unable to "freelance" for a few weeks (whatever the hell that means. No, really, what does she do for a living...).

She asked her bloggers to make an online donation to help her pay for her time off. She received so much that she had to take down the paypal the next day because it far exceeded the amount needed. All of this is fine and golden, but she had originally put out the plea and described how the money would be used. People donated to her paypal based on that information.

What some people who had donated noticed was that Greta mentioned that she might take some of the extra donations and give it to charity.

When people give donations for a certain purpose and the money is not used for that purpose, there is a term for it: fraud. Now, private donations to bloggers via paypal aren't beholden to fraud laws, but colloquially, it's still fraudulent. Greta ended up spending the money on paying her mortgage for months in advance (despite stating she only needed a few weeks off), and recently posted a blog about a pair of shoes she bought for over $200 dollars.

As far as I know, she never gave any of the money to charity. If fact, she writes in a blog response to the controversy that it's mostly gone to groceries and bills.

There is no legal repercussion to this because the donations weren't set up through any accountable non-profit or anything, so what she's done is merely unethical, but she did finally say she'd refund the money if anyone is upset. I hope people do. Many of her fans, because she mentioned she was being targeted by her "usual haters" have gone ahead and parroted the "I wanted you to do with it whatever you wanted" line because they don't want to fall out of good grace, or don't want to admit they were fleeced, or whatever reason there might be, but I hope there are enough out there that can teach her a lesson about being disingenuous to contributors.

She also lists four reasons why the outcry is "ridiculous" that she got from batshit crazy Stephanie Zvan's blog. The simple fact it's from someone as mean, ridiculous, fallacious and evil as Stephanie would say enough, but I'll go ahead and break it down.

 1: A pair of well-made comfortable shoes that will last for years, bought largely to be worn in professional settings, is not an extravagant expenditure. 
Still, that's not what people donated the money to, and that's not where you said the money would go; you said some of it would go to charity and have yet to do that, instead living for months past your recovery period on the kindness of strangers who were under the impression that the excess would be handled ethically.

2: Many people who donated said specifically that they wanted me to use some of the money in fun ways that would give me pleasure. 

That's excellent. I'm glad you have friends like that. But that doesn't change the fact that many people who donated were donating for specific reasons. What you should have done is separate the funds from your friends who wanted you to use some of the money in fun ways that would give you pleasure (did anyone else think vibrator when they read that? Strange friends...). Full disclosure is not required for these kinds of private donations, but in the interest of ethics, it would have put much less of a stain on the whole thing if you had explained this from the beginning.

3: In any case, when you donate money to someone, you don’t get to dictate how they spend it. 

Wow. That statement speaks for itself.

4: When men spend money on clothing, it’s seen as a legitimate expense; when women spend money on clothing, it’s seen as frivolous fashion.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. This is NOT about your gender. It's not even about the shoes, entirely. You paid your mortgage as well. You had a minor medical issue that laid you up for a few weeks and you asked for help for that period of time, not for months and months. If you were  a man, and you had bought Jordons with that same money, you would have had the same backlash. You're trying to turn this into a "persecution of women" to take the heat off you for doing something that was unethical and disingenuous.

What you could do is apologize instead of manufacture some sexist conspiracy against women having shoes. Really. Be a big girl, say sorry, donate to a charity and be done with it already. The humility expressed would go much farther to silence your "usual haters."

More Screenshots of the FtB Tactics Used Against Me

Below, we see the most common tactic used by the FtBers. Trying to silence criticism by pointing out an actual, real problem that people face, or a true incident or tragedy that has occurred recently. In my criticism of Taslima's statement, I never once said that what happened in India was irrelevant. My criticism and what happened on this bus were completely unrelated.

The Freethought Blogs crowd uses these tactics often, even though they boycotted Dawkins for making the same mistake. Dawkins thought that western women should be more worried about men in the Middle East oppressing women than awkward elevator conversations. To an extent, I agree with him (elevatorgate was so trivial and wouldn't have set off rape-alarms in the mind of any well-adjusted person) but also recognize the fallacy he's making. Just because oppression happens in the other places, it doesn't mean we shouldn't fight lesser evils at home.

Here, @Million_Gods concludes his tweets to me, somehow saying that while I'm criticizing her for comparing Indian men to western men, I'm demonstrating proof that her claim is true. It's like he picked it right out of a playbook. It doesn't make much since, since I'm not a man, haven't mentioned a man other than my husband, and haven't said anything that would show that the men over here are just like the ones who gang-raped a girl, but this person is beyond reason and logic. They've obviously been trained to say what gets the blog hits, what gets the comment-cult fired up. This is Freethought Blogs meets Fox News.

He won't answer me to explain how I've demonstrated this "proof," but if PZ's unwillingness to make coherent arguments is any sign of their tactics, I'm sure I won't be hearing much from Avicenna. There's a blog here if he does come back and want to try and make a coherent, factual argument, but I doubt he has the desire. His goal, to slander me and stifle criticism, failed in a large way. I guess he'll have to go back to FtB school and try again another day.

06 January, 2013

Day 2

Second round of tweets to @Million_Gods, who seems to think that the problems that Taslima has faced gives her a pass to make such a bold claim about half of the Earth's population without any evidence.

She didn't even know before yesterday that men can be victims of rape and she's an MD. That is just sad. @Million_Gods is trying to paint my criticism of Taslima's claim as somehow diminishing the problems of rape in India, or any number of women's issues across the globe. Women are brutalized, therefore I have no ground to criticize Taslima's blatent bigotry toward men.

Does anyone else remember a certain famous author catching shit for a little response to an elevator incident titled, "Dear Muslima?" Remember how up in arms people got that said author was pointing out the massive oppression of women in that culture to contrast it with the somewhat irksome, awkward way some western males ask women for coffee? This situation is now pretty much reversed (except Dawkins had a point, and I'm actually addressing bigotry toward the male sex).

This FtBer, an obvious nOob, is dipping into the fallacies, poor arguments, anecdotal evidence and strawman tactics so prevalent in that network. Keep it comin,' yungin. I'm no longer even arguing with you to change your mind, but simply to show your poor tactics and bad arguments. Peace!

05 January, 2013

Why I Started This Blog

I started this blog as a fairly new atheist, still reeling from the realization of my own finiteness and smallness in the universe. With my belief in God went a number of other things. It was a house of cards and as soon as I applied skepticism to a supernatural deity, the rest followed. Ghosts, Afterlife, "Energy," and a number of other things.

What finally tipped the scales when I began wondering if I had any real, legitimate reason for believing in God was an essay by J.L. Mackey by the name of "Evil and Omnipotence." For those of you who aren't familiar with the Problem of Evil, it basically points out that an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent deity is incompatible with having created a world with evil such as we have.

Naturally, I had to look into the nature of benevolence, or goodness, when I began mulling this problem over. I soon saw many arguments from atheists that morality from religion is no morality at all. Despite this, theists often argue that without a deity as a moral compass, they would have none. I concluded that an atheist or secular morality would be better than the subjective (though theists claim it is objective) morality from religion.

With the latest division in the online atheist community, I have seen assholes on both sides (most on the radical feminists' side, though), and I'm just about fed up. I will not let people who call themselves "skeptics" demoralize an entire half of the population because of the actions of a few. I will not stand by while truly horrible things happen to women all over the world while white, upper-middle class women drink wine and whine about the patriarchy making them insecure with their photoshopping in fashion mags.

I'll be moving this blog soon. I'll be renaming it and taking it in a different direction because I just can't argue that secularism leads to better morals. The actions of FtBers, Skepchicks and now the Atheism Plus forums have shown me my own fallacy.

04 January, 2013

Avicenna (@Million_Gods), a sexist who assumes I can't fight my own fights.

Men deserve to be called rapists.

My addressing Taslima's bigoted remarks is "derailing" the conversation about rape. Because occurrence of the latter means that the former shouldn't be addressed.

At which time I finally allow the source of my anger to show, (the fact that my awesome, wonderful, gentle, intelligent husband should be lumped into Taslima's fantasy world of rapists) and I then do the twitter equivalent of taking out my earrings, after which this twip assumes I'm threatening to send my husband to him. No, bitch. I was talking about me. Of course, you assumed I meant my husband! Why would a fragile snowflake woman, shuddering in a scary, rapist world actually say something violent? Can't happen, right?

Fuck off, FtBer. You're a worthless human being if you honestly have that much self-hatred.

I Can't Let This One Go.

Taslima Nasreen at (you guessed it) Freethought Blogs has a post up titled, "Are men more or less the same everywhere," which begins with a video of stupid, high-school aged boys joking about a recent rape of a drunk girl. She also mentions the recent protests in India in response to a woman who died after being brutalized for hours on a bus. She concludes the piece with,  And Men, unfortunately, educated or illiterate, rich or poor, young or old, black or white, are more or less the same everywhere!"

She just took the worst actions of a few in order to generalize the entire population of males on the planet. She also tweeted today, "Shut the fuck off. Women do not rape men," completely ignoring any evidence to the contrary.

Her actions are mean, ignorant and despicable and do nothing but help mar the name of feminism, which, with the transphobic radfems and the anti-porn, paranoid gender feminists, doesn't need any help from her.

Of course, this criticism will be written off as just more "anti-feminist slander" because the modus operandi of the FtB crowd is to defend assholes like Taslima (or Greg Laden, or Stephanie Zvan) when they say stupid, ignorant, mean shit by insisting that criticism itself proves they are right. So I'll make this clear: Taslima Nasreen, you are not an asshole because you are a woman or because you are a feminist. I have judged you on the merit of your actions and your writing. You are useless. Please stop writing shit like this before you really ruin the struggle for equality.