#SSJCon: LGBTQ Queer Atheists of Color

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.

The second session of the day also consisted of two panels. Choosing was so difficult. Josiah took pictures in the “LGBTQ Queer Atheists of Color” session. I covered the economics session, since I felt my background would be more useful here.

LGBTQ Queer Atheists of Color and Social Justice
Diane Burkholder, Kansas City Freethinkers of Color
Ashton Woods, HBN
Brandon Mack, Rice U
Moderator: Debbie Goddard

Unfortunately, there has been no video posted from this session. I’d been waiting for it, hoping to catch up. At least the majority of Twitter coverage happened here, because this is all the record we have. Continue reading “#SSJCon: LGBTQ Queer Atheists of Color”

#SSJCon: LGBTQ Queer Atheists of Color
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“Juhem Navarro-Rivera on Changing Demographics and Changing Politics” on The Humanist Hour

This week, I spoke with Juhem Navarro-Rivera about how the changing face of the U.S. electorate is changing our political landscape. This was originally going to be a shorter interview, paired up with my talk with Alix Jules about racial resentment. In both cases, we ended up having more material than fit in an hour show.

There is a significant portion of the U.S. electorate this year who seem determined to “take back their country”. It’s rare, however, that these people are willing to explicitly state who they want to take the country back from. In reality their political fears reflect a voting population that is less white, less male, and less religious than it has ever been before.

Juhem Navarro-Rivera is a political scientist who studies the political behavior of many of the groups within this rising American electorate. He specializes in studying Latino voters and the religious Nones. This week, he joins Stephanie Zvan to talk about the concerns and behavior of these groups, as well as the concerns and behaviors of the largely white, male, and religious voters who are resisting their participation in the political process.

You can listen to the podcast here.

“Juhem Navarro-Rivera on Changing Demographics and Changing Politics” on The Humanist Hour

#SSJCon: Finding Economic Justice

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.

The second session of the day also consisted of two panels. Choosing was so difficult. Josiah took pictures in the “LGBTQ Queer Atheists of Color” session. I covered the economics session, since I felt my background would be more useful here.

Finding Justice in an Economic System that Proclaims Financial Opportunity for All
James T. Jones, Prairie View University
Darrin Johnson, BSLA
Richard Peacock, Orlando Black Non-Believers
Twaunette Sharp, HBN
Cleve Tinsley, IV, Rice U
Moderator: Donald Wright

I’m really glad the conference ran this session. It isn’t a subject we talk about nearly enough. At the same time, I wish the session had been more focused. I understand why it wasn’t. We have to do the introductions first. We have to do a certain amount of 101-level discussion to make sure we understand the problem before we can really talk about solutions. So, really, any frustration I had with this session is really just frustration that we’re this far behind on this topic.

Live tweeters were more evenly split for this set of sessions. You’re really getting just the highlights here, but you can watch the video of the whole session at the bottom of this post. Continue reading “#SSJCon: Finding Economic Justice”

#SSJCon: Finding Economic Justice

Saturday Storytime: The Plague Givers

This story from Kameron Hurley asks whether it’s better to do the necessary but painful thing or not. I’m not entirely sure it answers its own question.

She kept her machete up. “I’m called Bet, out here,” she said. “And what are you? If you’re dressing up as Plague Hunters, I’ll have some identification before you go pontificating all over my porch.”

“Abrimet,” the shoman said, holding up their right hand. The broad sleeve fell back, exposing a dark arm crawling in glowing green tattoos: the double ivy circle of the Order, and three triangles, one for every Plague Hunter the shoman had dispatched. Evidence enough the shoman was what was claimed. “This is Lealez,” the shoman said of the other one.

“Lealez,” Bet said. “You a shoman or a neuter? Can’t tell at this distance, I’m afraid. We used to dress as our gender, in my day.”

The person made a face. “Dress as my gender? The way you do? Shall I call you man, with that hair?” Bet wore nothing but a man’s veshti, sour and damp with sweat, and she had not cut or washed her hair in some time, let alone styled her brows to match her pronouns.

“It is not I knocking about on stranger’s doors, requesting favors,” Bet said. “What am I dealing with?”

“I’m a pan.”

“That’s what I thought I was saying. What, is saying neuter instead of pan a common slur now?”

“It’s archaic.”

“We are in a desperate situation,” Abrimet said, clearly the elder, experienced one here, trying to wrest back control of the dialogue. “The Order sent us to call in your oath.” Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: The Plague Givers”

Saturday Storytime: The Plague Givers

#SSJCon: Humanism and Hip Hop

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.

After opening remarks, which I’ll cover in a post summarizing the experience of attending the conference, we split off into two sessions. Josiah took pictures in the “Humanism and Hip Hop” session, because you can’t keep him away from that. I covered “Feminism(s) of Color” for much the same reason.

Humanism and Hip Hop
Monica Miller, Lehigh University
Jason Jeffries, Rice Univ.
Xan Wright, HBN
Moderator: Tony Pinn

This was a well-attended session but most of the tweeters were in the other session. I watched the panel and added my reflections/encapsulations here to the tweets of the people in the room. Hopefully they’ll whet your appetite to watch the whole thing. You’ll find the full video of the panel at the bottom of this post. You may need to watch it more than once, because I’ve never seen anyone talking about humanist hip hop in a way that was anything less than richly dense with information and overturned assumptions. Continue reading “#SSJCon: Humanism and Hip Hop”

#SSJCon: Humanism and Hip Hop

#SSJCon: Feminism(s) of Color and the Secular Movement

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.

After opening remarks, which I’ll cover in a post summarizing the experience of attending the conference, we split off into two sessions. Josiah took pictures in the “Humanism and Hip Hop” session, because you can’t keep him away from that. I covered “Feminism(s) of Color” for much the same reason.

Feminism(s) of Color and the Secular Movement
Deanna Adams
Maggie Ardiente, AHA
Heina Dadabhoy, Freethought Blogs
AJ Word, Secular Sistahs
Moderator: Sikivu Hutchinson\

This session was a great one to start the conference with because it demonstrated so many of its strengths. For a movement that prides itself on challenging ingrained ideas, what we actually see is a lot of people getting shouted down the moment they say something that makes others uncomfortable. This wasn’t a comfortable panel. It included several ideas that will make people mad. It’s interesting that it takes a conference like this to allow those ideas to be aired and heard and considered.

I included my tweets and the tweets of several others to give you a sense of what people were reacting to and how. Hopefully they’ll whet your appetite to watch the whole thing. You’ll find the full video of the panel at the bottom of this post. Continue reading “#SSJCon: Feminism(s) of Color and the Secular Movement”

#SSJCon: Feminism(s) of Color and the Secular Movement

“Kelly McCullough on Building Religion through Stories” on The Humanist Hour

This week, I sat down with my friend Kelly to have a discussion we’ve held off having for a few years now about approaching religion as a storyteller who doesn’t believe.

Kelly McCullough is a fantasy and science fiction author with twelve novels under his belt to date. Despite being raised outside religion, his work often focuses on what it means to exist in a world where gods are real. In his WebMage series, McCullough’s protagonist is the descendant of one of the Greek Fates. His Fallen Blade series follows what happens when the goddess of justice is killed by the other gods in her pantheon.

This week, Kelly McCullough talks to Stephanie Zvan about why he explores the themes of religion in his books. He also talks about having accidentally created a religion outside his writing and how he managed to become one of those nearly mythical atheist politicians in the U.S.

You can listen to the podcast here.

“Kelly McCullough on Building Religion through Stories” on The Humanist Hour

Help Me Report on Women in Secularism

I’m looking for people who want to make it easier for me to report what happens at this year’s Women in Secularism conference in Washington, D.C. in September. If that’s all you need to hear, this donation button is for you. Otherwise, read on.




I’ve asked your help for this sort of thing before. Late last year, I asked for your help to get to and cover the Secular Social Justice conference in Houston.

I’m not really in a position to offer individual rewards to donors, but if you make it possible for me to go, you can follow along as I and my phone and my trusty backup battery tweet the conference. For those not on Twitter, I’ll also produce session reports here based around those tweets and others from attendees, plus comments on ideas that were too complex to be compressed.

I also asked for your help to get Josiah Mannion there to take pictures. Continue reading “Help Me Report on Women in Secularism”

Help Me Report on Women in Secularism

Everything Is Horrid and Still I Hope and Work

The Democratic National Convention happened recently, of course. Even if you don’t live in the U.S., it was nearly impossible to miss this or to miss seeing how utterly different it ws from the Republican National Convention the week before.

Photo of a branch of bleeding hearts with filter applied to enhance reds and yellows.
Crop of “My Red Bleeding Hearts” by Diane Beckwith-Zink Photography, CC BY 2.0

One of the major differences was that the speeches brought joy and hope to most of those watching. I won’t say there were no positive emotions engendered by the RNC, but they were the exception. Fear, anger, jealousy, and hatred were the order of the day. The DNC? Many people had forgotten they could cry healing tears over politics. They remembered watching the convention in Philadelphia.

I also won’t say there were no negative emotions inspired by the DNC. Obviously, some people were in mourning for the political dreams they had tied up in Bernie Sanders. Some people were in despair because they believed the primary election was stolen from them. (It wasn’t.) Some people were frustrated as their positions and priorities weren’t completely shared.

Some people, though, were angry and scared that Hillary Clinton won’t solve problems that are life and death to them. For them, the convention meant screaming and crying and watching others celebrate as they did. And when they saw celebrations, when they saw tears of joy, they wondered whether anyone saw what they saw in the world. They wondered whether anyone cared. Continue reading “Everything Is Horrid and Still I Hope and Work”

Everything Is Horrid and Still I Hope and Work

Saturday Storytime: Traumphysik

This is fine. I’m okay with the events that are currently unfolding, as is the protagonist of this story from Monica Byrne.

When I was finished cataloging everything, I did something I now regret. I carried one of the little pigs—a female, who was quite docile, and seemed happy to go for a ride—into the surf. I wanted to see if it could swim. I thought it must be able to swim, the species being so proximate to water, even though its ancestors were likely ship-borne vermin.

So I carried it down into the surf until I was knee-deep. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have gone so far out. I let it down into the water. At that moment, a wave of unusual force slapped my midsection and I fell into the water. I lost sight of the little pig. Then I glimpsed it again, underwater, twitching and writhing and sinking, clearly unable to swim. I reached for it but just then, another wave slapped me back, leaving me even more disoriented than before. I lost sight of it altogether this time. I didn’t recover it, or even see it again.

I felt quite bad. Maybe I should stick to physics.

In my dream last night, I managed to stand up in front of the full-length mirror I’d positioned at the foot of my mat. (The Navy sent it with me. Of course I must have a full-length mirror. God forbid I should be unaware of my appearance.) I was very intrigued to see that my image was not inverted—the MIT insignia on my nightshirt read MIT, not TIM as it does normally in waking life. I remember receiving that nightshirt my sophomore year; it was a gift from Professor Gaertner—-the wife Sofia, not the husband Bernhard; I should clarify, as they both bear that title—who thought I might be lonely as one of the only coeds at the Institute. I appreciated that.

And now here I stood, wearing the same nightshirt, noticing how MIT stayed MIT. This is the first deviation from known physics in waking reality.

In honor of the Gaertners’ German heritage, I’ve decided to call my experiment (and the universe it elucidates and its attendant systems) Traumphysik, which sounds more rigorous than “dream-physics.” Everything sounds more rigorous in German. Continue reading “Saturday Storytime: Traumphysik”

Saturday Storytime: Traumphysik