Summarizing the Current Allegations Against Richard Carrier

Skepticon has just released a statement saying that Richard Carrier will not be allowed to attend their future conferences because of inappropriate behavior. They had previously stopped inviting him to speak after he displayed a pattern of pushing a staffer’s boundaries.

In light of the recent revelations of sexual harassment, unwelcome attention, and/or unwanted behavior from more than one prominent atheist, Skepticon would like to renew our vow to keep our attendees, speakers, volunteers, vendors, organizers, and anyone else involved in Skepticon safe at our events.

The accusations specifically against Richard Carrier are, sadly, not so surprising to the Skepticon organizers. While he was a featured speaker for many years, we stopped inviting him to speak partly because of his repeated boundary-pushing behavior, including towards someone involved in Skepticon. What has been made clear by the recent discussions is that our attendees’ well being and comfort is put at an unacceptable risk by Carrier’s presence, and so we are officially prohibiting Richard Carrier from attending any future Skepticons.

In case you missed it last week, this is the third allegation of flatly unacceptable behavior from Carrier to be made public. Continue reading “Summarizing the Current Allegations Against Richard Carrier”

Summarizing the Current Allegations Against Richard Carrier

Voting Green “on Principle”

This is an expanded version of an early-morning Facebook post from about a week ago. It got a lot of shares, some good positive comments, and some reasonable criticisms, so it seemed worth giving some extra, caffeinated time to.

When someone tells me they’re voting for Jill Stein on principle, I have to wonder what that principle is or how much people know about Stein and the Greens. I say that as someone with a history of voting Green under certain circumstances.

Photo of Jill Stein sitting behind a table in front of a beige wall, smiling.
“Jill Stein” by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0

If you vote for Jill Stein, you’re voting for a candidate who has never held office above the suburban city level. She did that in one of the wealthiest suburbs in the nation, in a town that would be almost 100% white if it weren’t for students from Asia who settled locally after graduation. She has spent almost her entire political career as a lobbyist. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it is a far different set of skills from holding office and representing constituents.

If you vote for Jill Stein, you’re voting for the Green Party, which has chosen to throw its money and work into advertising itself through doomed runs for national and sometimes state offices over putting people in local offices where important, unglamorous work gets done. Continue reading “Voting Green “on Principle””

Voting Green “on Principle”

Saturday Storytime: Hiranyagarbha

This story from Kevin Jared Hosein is just one piece in Lightspeed Magazine‘s People of Colo(u)r Destroy Flash Fiction! issue. There’s a whole bunch more great short fiction to check out as well.

But I stop myself. I had to call Yadav to see this. So when Yadav and me come back to the spot, we come prepared, camera and all. We didn’t really know what to expect. To be honest, I thought we was gon find something similar to what happen in Brazil a few years back—where the Rio Doce was running red after a dam collapse and spill iron into her veins. Didn’t have nothing like no oil rig or ore mine set up shop anywhere near Caroni Swamp, though—didn’t matter. We just wanted to be the first to see. At least, we coulda claim that.

The water was shallow enough to wade round near the mangroves. We take a cutlass and chop a path through where the gold fluid was seeping out. The colour got deeper and deeper. I coulda see where it was coming from. I squint my eyes and bam!—a frantic fish hawk nearly knock me over. I swing my blade at it and damn near cut Yadav’s head clean off. He cussed me for five minutes straight. Wasn’t only the fish hawk was acting up, though. The herons was going mad, hopping and zipping from bough to bough, crashing into each other, colliding into the mangroves. Bubbles form where the golden pool began, surrounded by groupers, snook, catfish—all belly-up, some of them completely coated in gold. A tree boa looked down at the pool, its body looped round itself in a double-knot. Probably the only animal not joining in the cacophony.

Yadav, who was almost as loud as the birds, dwindle into silence when he laid eyes on the shimmering pool. My chest tensed up and tickled, like there was a humming in it. The pool was an unnatural gold—unnatural to the swamp and everything round it, couldn’t even tell if it was solid or liquid. Reminded me of them glutinous algal blooms you’d see in ponds near farms. Was it a sap? Leakage from some pipe we didn’t know nothing of? Maybe some radioactive mineral? It had a slight glow. Honestly, first thing I thought about when I saw it was Hiranyagarbha from the Vedas, the golden womb that was the source of all the universe.

But this thing wasn’t sacred. I wasn’t going near it, but Yadav dip his hands—his bare hands—in it. It’s warm, he say. When he pulled his fingers out, they were gold.

Your fingers arright? I ask him.

Just numb. Can’t feel much, he say.

Later in the day, the gold creep along to his palm and then his wrist. By the time morning come, it infest his entire arm. His arm wasn’t solid gold, no. It had the texture of a scab. We rush him to the hospital, but nobody know what to do except drown him in sedatives. They call a man, who then call a next man—and before we know it, had a team of university researchers and scientists standing over Yadav’s cot, fingers to lips, silently observing the golden scab as it spread to his collar. Before nightfall, it engulfed his neck and he was dead. The doc say that it collapse the cartilage in his windpipe.

Two months later, three white men fly down here to Trinidad, asking me to see the pool. They tell me that they’s from an American TV show—Paranormalists or something like that. I ain’t gone back to the pool since the time with Yadav, and sure as shit ain’t want to now. But the money they’s offering—shit, that is white people money.

Keep reading.

Saturday Storytime: Hiranyagarbha

“Greta Christina on The Way of the Heathen” on The Humanist Hour

A familiar face and voice on The Humanist Hour this week.

So you’re an atheist. Now what? The way we deal with life—with love and sex, pleasure and death, reality and making stuff up—can change dramatically when we stop believing in gods, souls, and afterlives. When we leave religion—or if we never had it in the first place—where do we go? With her unique blend of compassion and humor, thoughtfulness and snark, Greta Christina most emphatically does not propose a single path to a good atheist life. She offers questions to think about, ideas that may be useful, and encouragement to choose your own way. She addresses complex issues in an accessible, down-to-earth style, including: Why we’re here, Sexual transcendence, How humanism helps with depression—except when it doesn’t, Stealing stuff from religion, and much more. Aimed at new and not-so-new atheists, questioning and curious believers, Christina shines a warm, fresh light on the only life we have.

That’s the publisher’s blurb for Greta Christina’s new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. This book is a distillation of more than a decade of thinking and writing about atheism. Greta joins us on this week’s show to talk with Peggy Knudtson and Jenn Wilson about how the book came to be and why she’s been wanting to write this particular one for so long.

Listen to the podcast here.

“Greta Christina on The Way of the Heathen” on The Humanist Hour

Your Reaction Is Normal

Yesterday saw one hugely traumatic event in Orlando and another event in Los Angeles that would be considered very traumatic if it hadn’t happened in such close proximity to the Orlando shootings. This trauma mostly affected a set of communities with a high exposure to trauma already.

As I watched my friends in these communities react to these traumas, I was struck by how many people were evaluating their own responses, often negatively. I’ll keep saying this individually to people in the words they need, but it’s worth saying generally as well. As someone with both a substantial personal and an academic background in how people react to traumatic events, I’m here to tell you that your reaction is normal. Continue reading “Your Reaction Is Normal”

Your Reaction Is Normal

Yes, This Is About…

As the news rolls in from Orlando, with 50 people reported dead and that many more reported injured, the disavowals are flying. Everyone wants to tell us what didn’t cause all this death and trauma. But, well, yeah, it did.

Yes, this is about religion.

Religion is what it takes to give us the authority to look at another person’s consensual pleasure and decide that gives us jurisdiction over their life and death. Nothing else gives us that permission. Nothing else puts us above someone else this way but the borrowed mantle of a god’s judgment. Secular arguments fail spectacularly to do so, which is why LGB rights are a staple of secular activism.

Not only are religious arguments the only one that can give us this permission, they routinely do. It isn’t possible to actively participate in U.S. culture–to view our media, to pay attention to our current events, to educate one’s self in preparation for voting–without being inundated with religious arguments that same-sex attraction and sexual behavior are wrong and harming our society. Nor is this confined to any one religion, making it all the more potent as an idea. Someone raised in a homophobic religious tradition will not have their ideas challenged simply by looking outside their home or community.

Religion planted this idea, makes it pervasive, and gives it power.

Yes, this is about homophobia and transphobia. Continue reading “Yes, This Is About…”

Yes, This Is About…

“Activist Humanism”, James Croft on Atheists Talk

At its inception, Humanism was a recognition that humanity needed to save and better itself with no help from any gods on high. It was an activist philosophy, teaching that we all have responsibilities to help humanity thrive. Over time, however, and following the trend of U.S. politics as a whole, the Humanist movement lost much of that activist bent. To the extent organized Humanism has engaged in activism over the last decade or so, it has largely focused on church-state separation, leaving little to differentiate it from organized atheism.

Recently, however, this has started to change. Humanist groups are rediscovering and embracing their activist roots, from the American Humanist Association’s focus on social justice to individual groups and congregations taking up causes important in their broader community. James Croft of the Ethical Society of St. Louis leads one of these groups. He’s also studied the history of the Humanist movement, and he joins us this Sunday to talk about Humanism’s activist past and its future.

Related Links:

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Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

“Activist Humanism”, James Croft on Atheists Talk

Saturday Storytime: The Drowning Line

This story from Haralambi Markov is one of those fantasies you think could be metaphor until the end, when it still could be but you really hope it isn’t.

“Don’t frighten her.”

“I’m frightening her?!” David does all he can to keep his voice low, working on bandaging the wound in a squat. His hands move fast. His touch is unforgiving. “You can drop dead from blood loss any minute now. Don’t talk to me about fear.”

“What do you want me to do, David? I go to therapy. I take the fucking meds. You want me to chain myself to the bed now, too?”

David flinches at that last bit. So the though had crossed his mind.

“It’s five AM and I have work in four hours. I startle every time I don’t feel you next to me. I fear next time I wake up to an empty bed, it’ll be the last. This is fucking unbearable.”

He breaks down. I have never seen him cry like that. Una breathes more laboriously low, on the verge of crying. I comfort them both as I guide them inside the car and take the driver’s seat.

I drive on the way back and tell my husband everything he needs to hear—slowly and with conviction, a recital of sweet nothings. What I really do is think about the man in the water, my family’s legacy and undoing. The one Una will inherit once I die. Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: The Drowning Line”

Saturday Storytime: The Drowning Line

About That Opinion…

This is one of the essays I delivered to my patrons last month. If you want to support more work like this, and see it earlier, you can sign up here.

I have a dirty little secret. It’s the kind of thing that people as involved in social media as I am aren’t supposed to think, much less say. It’s certainly something that bloggers who put their opinions out there as I do aren’t supposed to think.

Here’s how it works: I publish a blog post on a subject, anything from a few hundred to a few thousand words. Or it could be a Facebook post or a series of tweets if it’s a shorter observation that I want to make sure people can see without clicking through to anything. Then people respond to tell me their opinions on the subject.

And I…I don’t care.

This isn’t universal, of course. There are many circumstances in which I do care. There are people who provide data I don’t have: studies, personal insight on something that’s confusing me, experiences I can’t share. There are people with whom I’ve been engaged in years-long discussions about the world, often even though we’ve never met. There are people who raise substantial objections over my reasoning or premises. I’m not talking about those, usually. I have my days when I don’t care much about any of that either, but those are just bad days.

Photo of small child in a pink shirt and jeans leaning across the seat of a chair, cheek resting on hands, looking into the camera
“bored” by greg westfall, CC BY 2.0

Then there are the people who notice that I have put my opinion out into the world and decide that this is an invitation for them to tell me what they think. Often their comments are literally nothing more than that. “I think X.”

That’s nice. I don’t care.

I won’t tell you I never think I should care. I do. I mean, I’m putting my opinions out there, right? Plus socialization. Plus a model of online writing that says readers are my customers, consumers who must be catered to in order for me to succeed.

Still, I don’t care. Not only that, but I think most of the things that tell me I should care miss the point of social media at a minimum. Continue reading “About That Opinion…”

About That Opinion…

“Humanist Alliance Advisor Interviews, Part 1” on The Humanist Hour

Coming off AHA’s announcement that they were revamping their Humanist Caucuses, now called Humanist Alliances, I talked to a few new advisory council members.

Blue Happy Humanist logo with headphones and a microphone.
Just before the American Humanist Association’s 75th Anniversary Conference a couple of weeks ago, the organization announced that it was launching a new Black Humanist Alliance and the revamped and revitalized Feminist Humanist Alliance and LGBTQ Humanist Alliance. Stephanie Zvan caught up with several alliance advisory council members at and after the conference. In this show, we bring you the first of those interviews.

Andy Semler is a trans nonbinary activist working in rural Indiana. They are a new member of the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance with a special interest in homelessness in the trans community.

Heina Dadabhoy is a nonbinary writer and speaker who is new to organizational secular activism. They are part of the Feminist Humanist Alliance, looking forward to broadening our ideas on reproductive justice.

Diane Burkholder is an HIV and Black Lives Matter activist out of Kansas City. She’s one of the new co-chairs of the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance, working to get us looking past marriage equality.

Listen to the podcast here.

“Humanist Alliance Advisor Interviews, Part 1” on The Humanist Hour