This week, Peggy and Jenn talked to Noelle George about Foundation Beyond Belief and the AHA matching grant to support the Humanist Service Corps.
We like to say that we’re “good without a god,” but the fact of the matter is that we’re not always very organized about it. One of the good things organized religion has introduced to the world is ways to encourage giving and volunteering to help those in need. Foundation Beyond Belief is a secular nonprofit organization that provides a similar structure to help those of us who have left religion or who never had religion in the first place when we want to give.
Noelle George is the executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief and the former head of the Beyond Belief Network, Foundation Beyond Belief’s program that supports secular volunteers across the country. She joins us this week to discuss the history of the organization, its various programs, and how people can contribute time, money, or word of mouth to Foundation Beyond Belief. She also talks about the matching grant that American Humanist Association is offering this month to support the Humanist Service Corps’ work in Ghana.
This month, we take on a divisive movie. Depending on who you ask, Valhalla Rising is either a grandly cinematic (we think that means it’s a movie) take on meaning or meaninglessness or…something, or it’s a bunch of pieces of footage in search of a plot. Given the movie’s themes of dirt, blood, and Christianity, we have a pretty good idea where we’re going to land. Still, we’ll give it a shot. We have Twitter to keep us company if–or when–things go horribly awry.
Sometimes you just have to find a way to say, “No.” Enjoy this story from Samantha Murray.
Davvi was not happy. Juvianna could read it in the tension in his stride, the small crease lodged between his brows.
“This does not feel right,” he said finally, as they neared Hensson’s hut, way down close to the shore of the Odaay.
Juvianna kept walking. “Oh really?” she said, glaring at him.
“No, it doesn’t. Ju—” He grabbed her arm and stopped her. “There are a lot of people who are not too happy about this.”
She had been at the public audience. She had heard the rumble of concern, of dissent, passing through the crowd, like low-key thunder grumbling on the horizon, when the mair had spoken of Juvianna using her gift as a preventative measure rather than just a reactive one. But the mair, by pure force of personality coming through his cool and persuasive words, had led the colony back around, gentled their protests before they could build into a storm. He had spoken to their need to feel safe. At the back of their minds, they all knew winter would return. How the darkness would worm its way into the minds of people they knew as their neighbors and friends when they were too long without a glimpse of the sun.
“They listened to the mair,” she said. “If I could save someone… Losing one—”
“—diminishes us all. Yes, yes we all know that, Ju. These people haven’t done anything. Going hunting in their minds…”
So let’s say you’re an artist who works in very personal themes. You’re a comedian, or a nonfiction writer like me, whose work explores the way society treats you. You delve into some ugly realities, and you deal with fears and insecurities.
Now, hypothetically of course, let’s say you’re in a situation that prompts you to do what you feel is some interesting or insightful musing on these themes. Leaving aside the question of trying to objectively measure their quality, you’re happy with what you came up with. You want to share it.
And let’s, still entirely hypothetically, say that the situation that sparked your musing was public. The people involved are known. They have reputations of some worth. The way the public views them makes a difference to their lives and livelihoods. Continue reading “On the Limits of Artistic License”→
This week, I sat down with Miri to discuss what sex positivity is, isn’t, and should be. We also talked about her well-received consent workshop.
Sex positivity sounds like a wonderful thing, but do you really know what it is? As a social movement, it’s older than you might think. It can be traced back through the Free Love movement. No, not the one in the 1960s: the Victorian Free Love movement. In its more modern incarnation, sex positivity has been associated with LGBTQ liberation and the battles within feminism over pornography and sex work. It’s also closely tied to movements to destigmatize kink and polyamory.
With all these associations, perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that not everyone agrees about what sex positivity is and what it looks like in practice. Sex positivity fills different roles for lots of people. And while, at its heart, sex positivity is an intellectual tradition, not everyone relates to it on an intellectual level.
Miri Mogilevsky is a licensed therapist, a writer, and a long-time provider of sex education for adults. With articles having appeared in xoJane, Salon, and Everyday Feminism, she’s a recognized resource on mental health, feminism, and consent. In recent years, she’s offered a workshop at secular movement conferences titled, “Getting It On at the Con: How to Get Lucky Consensually”. She’s recently written about some of the common misperceptions about sex positivity, and she joins us this week to clear the air.
One note: This is a show about sex. While it doesn’t get graphic, it may still be inappropriate for work for other reasons, such as the swearing.
The secular movement is no stranger to conflict. It never has been, though it does have a tendency to treat each new round of conflict as a fresh problem with no precedent and the potential to rip apart a fairly healthy, growing movement.
Recently, such a conflict swept up Callie Wright and Ari Stillman of the Gaytheist Manifesto podcast, and they had some solid thoughts on managing conflicts like these. This Sunday, they join us to talk about it all, the good, the bad, and the ultimately irrelevant.
Then, join us again next week for part 2 of this discussion with another guest with a slightly different perspective.
This week, we revisited the AHA conference in Chicago in May for some practical advice.
The concept of social justice is enjoying a renaissance. That doesn’t necessarily translate into action, however. Even people who support social justice may find themselves uncertain how to put their principles into practice. They may be unsure what is needed from them.
At the American Humanist Association’s 75th Anniversary Conference in Chicago this year, Sincere Kirabo, social justice coordinator of the AHA, moderated a panel on this problem. Diane Burkholder, co-founder of Kansas City Freethinkers of Color; James Croft, outreach director of the Ethical Society of St. Louis; and Randall Jenson, executive director of SocialScope Productions, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ and gender documentary projects, discussed the practical impediments to social justice in the humanist movement and our broader society. They talked about the needs we don’t see and the solutions that allow us to put our time and money where our mouths are.
I wasn’t going to write about Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies and their Hugo Awards slate this year. I was just going to enjoy Uncanny Magazine‘s win for Best Semiprozine and Naomi Kritzer‘s win for Best Short Story with “Cat Pictures Please“, because it is a weird and wonderful thing when people I know win awards for work I like. I was going to enjoy the success of a fiction slate swept by women, three of whom are women of color and one of whom didn’t write in English, because the WorldCon should look more like the world than it generally has. I was going to enjoy looking at a slate full of winners of serious quality, because I like this genre, and I get tired of defending it from charges it is only pulp (mmm, pulp).
I was going to do all that, which is plenty. Then I looked at the numbers in the nomination long lists (pdf, de-Puppied numbers at the bottom of this post). I noticed something important.
There is one thing you should know about Vox Day, assuming you can’t avoid him altogether. Well, one thing aside from him being alt-right before the alt-right was identified as a thing. One thing aside from him being such a secure sexist that he has to declare the inferiority of women whenever anyone will listen. One thing aside from his self-published fiction being just sort of tedious and fascinated by its own fascinations.
That one thing is that he always declares victory.
As schticks go, it’s not terribly impressive. It’s a lot like those people who look at science, scrinch their foreheads at the math, and pop out some late-night, freshman-who-took-one-philosophy-class deepity about “But what if the world is really…?” If your musings aren’t falsifiable, you’re not going to impress a scientist with your depth of thought. If you claim everything is a win condition, we all know you’re just not prepared to lose.
“My brother says you’re a troll, ’cause trolls live under bridges. You’re living under a bridge,” the girl said. “So, are you a troll?”
Yes, he was, but she didn’t know that. In fact, no one was allowed to know that. “No. Not a troll,” he lied.
She smelled tender, savory, juicy.
The girl was intrigued by him, but she hesitated. She was smart enough for that at least.
Skari squeezed his eyes shut and drove his head back against the concrete abutment of the bridge. Again. The pain was like a gunshot through his skull, but at least it drove away the dark thoughts. Sometimes it just got so lonely, and he got so hungry here. He’d been thinking about eating children, tasty children . . . thinking about it altogether too much.
With a crash through the underbrush, a boy came down the embankment. Her brother. He looked about nine, a year or two older than the girl. Both were scrawny, their clothes hand-me-downs but still in much better condition than Skari’s. The children did have a raggedness about them, though, a touch of loss that had not yet grown into desperation. That would come in time, Skari knew, unless he ate them first.
Next to his sister, the boy made a grimace and said with a taunting bravery that only fools and children could manage, “I think you’re a troll. You smell like a troll!”
Skari leaned forward, lurched closer to the edge of the shadow, and the children drew back, but remained close, staring. “Methinks you smell yourself, boy.”
Rather than hearing the threat, the boy giggled. “Methinks? What kind of word is methinks?” He added in a singsong voice, “Methinks ‘methinks’ is a stupid word.”
Skari grumbled, ground his teeth together. His gums were sore. He picked at them with a yellowed fingernail. No wonder witches ate children. It was sounding like a better and better idea to him. His stomach rumbled. Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: Trip Trap”→
This is part of my coverage of the Secular Social Justice Conference this past January in Houston. I raised money to get me to the conference to report out because conferences like these cover topics that are rarely talked about in the movement. I also raised money to get Josiah Mannion to the conference to take photos. You can see his full conference photoset. If you appreciate the work we do, we’re also raising money cover a portion of our costs to do the same for the Women in Secularism conference in September. You’ll find a donation button at the end of this post.
For the last session of the first day, we all came back together in the main auditorium for a very large panel discussion on race and intersectionality.
What’s Race Got to Do With It? Racial Politics and Intersectionality in the Atheist Movement:
Frank Anderson, Black Skeptics Chicago
Georgina Capetillo, Secular Common Ground
Alix Jules, Dallas Coalition of Reason
Sincere Kirabo, American Atheists
Jimmie Luthuli, Secular Sistahs
Vic Wang, Humanists of Houston
Moderator: Daniel Myatt, BSLA
This is the panel I think should be required viewing for anyone in the movement who talks about “echo chambers” and “political correctness” in the movement. I have never seen a panel this wide-ranging or willing to explore possibilities at another secular movement conference. When was the last time you sat through an argument on the pros and cons of revolution? You can watch the session for yourself at the end of this post. If you do, however, you’re going to forever know “SJWs can’t abide disagreement with their ideas” for the lie it is.
Seriously. That’s where we left the panel. Do we tear it all down and rebuild–something? So if you’re interested in hearing real, substantial disagreement among advocates for social justice, watch the panel.
Want to support this kind of reporting out from Women in Secularism? We could still use a little help to get there: