The Upside of Abuse

Martin Hughes has responded to my prior post on anti-theism. He notes that he decided not to respond point by point, but I definitely consider it responsive nonetheless. It’s a personal and vulnerable post, and I think it’s a valuable contribution to any discussion of the experiences of prior believers.

Martin’s post also clarifies that part of our disagreement is in how we conceive and construct our identities around religion. Where mine are many and determined by my actions, his is singular and determined by his primary priorities. While he’s rejecting “anti-theist” as his singular label, he’s not rejecting all anti-theist work. I still have serious concerns about the way vocal and public rejections of that label feed narratives that reject anti-theist work as anti-social, but I think Alex Gabriel’s piece from yesterday can speak to those for now.

Instead, I’m going to answer the personal with the personal. I don’t know that this is even arguing with Martin’s post, though my perspective is definitely not his and is counter to it in some ways. But who knows, maybe people dealing with situations like his will get something out of it.

It’s not a secret that I come from an abusive home. From the time I learned to say, “No”, there was nothing I could do right and very few places I could go to get away from the consequences of that. Eventually abuse became abandonment, and there’s nowhere to go to get away from that.

It’s also not a secret that one of the places Gamergate and “alt-right” harassment tactics were honed was in the broader secular movement or that I was one of the targets of those. Implicit and explicit threats, demeaning sexual commentary, smear campaigns, coordinated monitoring and attacks at a dedicated site, denial or tacit acceptance of the harassment from people and institutions who benefited from their critics being silenced, big names directing harassers and refusing to take responsibility–all of that was there. It still is.

People ask me how I do it sometimes, how I handle the harassment. I usually shrug or say I don’t know. I do know. I handle it because I was abused. Continue reading “The Upside of Abuse”

The Upside of Abuse
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In Praise of Anti-Theism

Martin Hughes joined the ranks of former anti-theists yesterday. Earlier that morning, I’d written some musings on the value of anti-theism on Facebook. They weren’t meant to be a counter to Hughes’ position at the time, but they do that work. I’ve expanded them here.

It isn’t about doing your job or not doing your job.1 I think it was Miri who pointed out last year that everyone should have some point at which they refuse to do their job. “I was just following orders” hasn’t been an acceptable excuse for a long time now, and that’s a good thing.

It’s about where your refusal point is. You make implicit promises when you take a job, so the real question we’re debating is what makes it worth breaking those promises. What does it take for you to become forsworn? There should be a penalty, in reputation if nothing else, when you break promises.2 What makes that worthwhile to you?

There are variations on that, greater “crimes”. There are people who train to become biology teachers so they can refuse to teach evolution. There are doctors and pharmacists who train knowing they’ll refuse to do parts of their job. That’s premeditation and changes the calculations, but the question remains, “What makes this worthwhile?”

This, folks, is where we have to be willing to deny the authority of religion. Continue reading “In Praise of Anti-Theism”

In Praise of Anti-Theism

Mock the Movie: Sasquatch Edition

Sometimes, as skeptics, you get a little tired of taking it all seriously, of walking people through why something doesn’t make sense, through thinking about things critically. Especially when a big chunk of your country tells you they’re not listening. That’s when you turn to fiction, to something no one was supposed to believe no matter what the title cards say. I mean, that is how The Legend of Boggy Creek was made, right?

This one is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Sasquatch Edition”

Mock the Movie: Sasquatch Edition

The “Strategy” of Abandoning Identity Politics

An earlier form of this post was originally published on Facebook a few days ago.

I was dealing with a “You’re why Clinton lost” guy the other night. I’ve dealt with them before. My usual go-tos have been “What exactly do you mean by lost, given the popular vote?” and pointing out that this isn’t supported by the data we have so far. Then he said the fatal words “I’m just trying to improve our strategy”, and that little portion of my brain lit up.

So let’s talk strategy. Let’s talk about ditching “identity politics”, strawman version and what people are really objecting to. Let’s talk about not allowing deflections from discussing racism, because of course, that’s what this guy was advocating against. (Disallowing deflection is rude, people.)

However, we’re not going to pretend this can happen in a vacuum. That’s bad strategy. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to have to look at the choices this forces on us. Because make no mistake, the people advocating for this are telling us to choose between them (or not them, exactly, but all those nameless, faceless people for whom they’re carrying water) and other people.

So, strawman identity politics. This is the Bernie Sanders et al version, in which representation is happening for its own sake regardless of positions on issues. Continue reading “The “Strategy” of Abandoning Identity Politics”

The “Strategy” of Abandoning Identity Politics

On Shame and Elections

I had some things to say about shame while driving down to Skepticon. I did manage to save them until we switched drivers, at least, but then Twitter got an earful. Enough people shared the thread there that I’ll collect the whole thing here.

Continue reading “On Shame and Elections”

On Shame and Elections

Thoughts on Safety Pins from a Clinic Escort

On Saturday mornings, I put on a bright pink or yellow vest and go get between people who think abortion is the world’s big evil and people who want or need one. As someone in this position, I can’t help but think that much of the talk about wearing safety pins to tell people you’re a resource in the face of the freshly empowered right is reinventing the wheel. My vest isn’t a perfect analog of the safety pin or the situations its meant for, but it’s close enough to make it worth talking about.

When I put on my vest, I’m making a promise to the clinic I work with and to its patients and their companions. I’m promising to watch, to see and document what happens, to be aware of everyone’s rights in the situation and the resources we have (or don’t) for protecting those, and to intervene as needed and wanted in a way that puts the patient first. If I’m not prepared to do that, I don’t go put on a vest that day.

There is the possibility of violence any time I put on a vest. Continue reading “Thoughts on Safety Pins from a Clinic Escort”

Thoughts on Safety Pins from a Clinic Escort

Mock the Movie: But How?! Edition

No, really. How do you take a character like Catwoman and make a movie about her this bad? (Usually sexism.) I don’t know yet. (I’m guessing sexism.) I haven’t seen the movie. (Still probably sexism.) But I’m about to, along with our crew of mockers. Feel free to join us.

This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: But How?! Edition”

Mock the Movie: But How?! Edition

Mock the Movie: So Very Eighties Edition

Honestly, Witchboard wasn’t a very good horror movie, but it wasn’t terrible either. It was, however, entirely a product of its time, from the moral panic over mass-produced “supernatural” toys to the hair. Oh, the hair. And the Eighties? Now, they were terrible. So I expect they’ll be most of what we’re mocking with this Halloween choice.

This one is available on YouTube. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: So Very Eighties Edition”

Mock the Movie: So Very Eighties Edition

Who Niki Massey Was

We lost her yesterday. We don’t know how. Her life and her health were complicated enough we might never have clear answers. It doesn’t matter. Answers won’t make her not dead. My friend, colleague, co-conspirator, and a host of other, more complicated relationships, Niki Massey, died early yesterday afternoon.

There are good reminiscences out there already. I don’t know how Olivia managed to write this amid the shock and the sorrow, but she did, and I love her for it. Alex wrote this, I think, because it needed to be written, and I love him for that as well. And yes, PZ, so vivid. There are others, but I’m having a hard time reading any by people I don’t know fairly well. Facebook is a wave of every emotion grief can possibly raise in no orderly, “staged” progression.

Yet I still feel like I need to say something here. I still want–need–to tell you about the bits of Niki that this much love and grief will try to file off. I need to keep her from being “sanitized” in the name of being worthy of it all. So this is who Niki Massey was. Continue reading “Who Niki Massey Was”

Who Niki Massey Was

Saturday Storytime: The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society

I treasure fantasies of manners when I find them. Science fiction of manners is far more rare these days, but this story by Henry Lien certainly qualifies. It was nominated for this year’s Nebula Awards.

CHAPTER I
Mrs. Howland-Thorpe vs. Mrs. Fleming, Battle One
In Which Mrs. Howland-Thorpe Loses Her Seating
At Supper Four Seats from Mrs. Vanderbilt and Blames That Italienne Creature, Mrs. Fleming.
Mrs. Fleming Prevails.

     Good sense advises that it is not prudent to make war against the garden of a lady of breeding and society with words, moles and voles, or combustibles, for she shall grow cross and vengeful.

Mrs. Honoria Orrington Howland-Thorpe came of family of no particular distinction. The Orringtons had once begun to build some beginning towards a fortune in whaling but that was gone now and long ago, after the carcass of one specimen was left too long unbutchered on the dock and the foetid gases growing in its belly as it decayed caused it to explode all over the street, resulting in a series of lawsuits that were small in value but legion in number and unending in appearance, which eventually reduced the Orrington business and family name to nothing worth noting. They were now far from among the first families in Boston. They saw in Honoria, possessed of an unearthly beauty and famed for her complexion, the last great hope of their line and did all in their power to send her to Farmington for the finishing of her education, though it caused them to have to repair to a house in the Fens to pay for it. Honoria made good return on the investment and married Tiberius Howland-Thorpe, as much for his railway fortune as for his relations, and thought well of the placement, although looking at his features produced in her a state of mild but constant irritation that continued without cease for the next 50 years. Together, they managed to keep themselves on the invitation list to sup at Marble House with Mrs. Alva Vanderbilt and her husband each summer at Newport.

Mrs. Cecilia Contarini Fleming was a great beauty of foreign extraction. She was the last of a noble Italian family that could trace its lineage back to ancient Etruscan lines but whose prospects had grown more modest with each successive generation. She married Patrick Fleming, an industrialist of humble origins who made his fortune importing combustibles from the Orient and selling them to interests who employed them in the laying of railways and the hollowing of mines. Mrs. Fleming had been among the first women to study at Newnham College at Cambridge and had followed her education not with the customary Grand Tour Abroad, for, being an Italienne, she was from abroad, but with several years in Japan studying lacquerie, gardening, and poetry, and then a brief tour traveling with missionaries in Africa. She could dance, sew, sing, play the pianoforte, draw, paint, compose poetry, compose music, ride, fence, perform archery, and read and speak Greek, Latin, Italian, French, English, and Japonais. Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society”

Saturday Storytime: The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society