So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more. Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers.All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. We meet on the third Thursday of every month at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe (we also meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART). 7-9 pm. Admission is free, although we do ask that you buy food and/or drink at the venue. Continue reading “Godless Perverts Social Club in Oakland, Thursday March 17!”
What did we hope to accomplish?
Quick summary, for the six of you who were vacationing on Mars and may have missed it: Hillary Clinton recently said this utterly fucked-up thing about how Ronald and Nancy Reagan had “started a national conversation” about HIV and AIDS, and praising Nancy Reagan’s “low-key advocacy.” The Internet exploded with queers and others screaming about how this not only erased the reality of the many AIDS activists who actually did start the conversation about AIDS, but rewrote the history to laud the very people who had ignored AIDS, perpetuated the shame and silence about it, and caused the deaths of millions in the process. Clinton issued a brief apology on Twitter: the Internet exploded some more, with queers and others screaming about how this was nowhere near good enough, how Clinton’s historical revisionist bullshit needed a much stronger and clearer response than a 140-character apology. Clinton finally issued a more thorough statement, spelling out that the Reagans did not start a national conversation about HIV and AIDS, acknowledging the activists who did start the conversation, and discussing the history of AIDS and AIDS activism in the U.S.
After the first apology, during the second round of the explosion, a number of people expressed bafflement and even disapproval at the exploders. “Why do you have to keep talking about this?” they asked. “She apologized in her tweet. What else do you want? You’re giving Donald Trump and the GOP ammunition. Why don’t you let it go? Why do you keep pressuring her? What do you hope to accomplish?”
Speaking for myself, and for some others but not all: What we hoped to accomplish was the second statement.
We got Clinton to learn some important history that matters to us, and to use her sizable platform to educate others about it. We got millions of other people to learn this important history. We got the actual national conversation about AIDS that she’d claimed the Reagans had started. We put a serious dent in the disgusting, revisionist Reagan hagiography — and we got Clinton to help us do that. And we got her to realize that we are not to be fucked with, and that she cannot take us for granted.
The second statement was not perfect. I wish she had explained how she made this ghastly mistake in the first place; I wish she hadn’t praised herself and her platform (that definitely undercuts an apology); I wish she had actually said “I’m sorry” (she did in her tweet, she didn’t here). But there were things about the statement that were surprisingly good. It was a pretty good brief summary of the history of HIV/AIDS, and the points it addressed about the current U.S. epidemic and what needs to be done about it were very on-point: a number of people I know who work in public health or HIV say it could have been written by one of them. And she gave a shout-out to ACT UP, which was surprising and awesome. I’m not sure any serious Presidential candidate has done that before.
We would not have gotten any of that if we hadn’t kept pressing.
There’s something important about this incident that I think some people may not be tracking on. It’s almost impossible to convey what it was like to be in the LGBT community during the worst years of the AIDS pandemic, when your friends and community were dying in huge numbers, the government was ignoring it at best, and most of the world was laughing, scolding, shaming, shunning, or worse. The scars from those years run deep (here is an extraordinary piece of writing about it by Tim Kingston on the Grief Beyond Belief website). And there were so many people who had to put a lid on their grief when it was happening, who had to just put their heads down and cope. When people saw the Reagans being lauded as heroes of the epidemic — the very people who were arguably most complicit in what can fairly be described as a genocide — the lid came off. When you saw the Internet explode, you weren’t just seeing a Presidential candidate criticized for a dreadful gaffe. You were seeing over 25 years of pent-up grief and rage.
I’ll be honest and clear: It wasn’t just straight people, or people who didn’t live through the worst years of the pandemic, who were trying to convince us to quit screaming. LGBT people, people who were around during those days, were saying it as well. There is, of course, a huge variety among our community, including a variety of responses to AIDS and the way people speak about it. And when it comes to an issue that’s this emotional, this traumatic, this loaded with personal grief and political rage, it can be hard when other people who went through it are responding differently; when other people are more pragmatic or more ideological, more diplomatic or more hard-assed, more willing to forgive or less. My own general rule is that, within some obvious broad limits of ethics and legality, people get to speak about their own marginalization any way they like, and people get to decide for themselves who they forgive and when. When emotions are running high, though, I get that this can be hard.
But speaking up makes a difference. Demanding accountability from the people who represent us, or who are asking to represent us, makes a difference. Do not tell people who went through a genocide how to speak about it.
(Note: Please DO NOT turn this into a Sanders/Clinton election thread. I will enforce this, possibly without second chances.)
Welcome to The Orbit!
This is my new blogging home. It’s a new blogging network, specifically dedicated to atheism and social justice, co-founded by over twenty bloggers including me.
I’ll have a lot more to say about it in the coming days. For now, I mostly just want to say Welcome! I am hugely excited and happy to be here. I’m excited to be a co-builder of something new: I think The Orbit is going to be an important and valuable place for atheists who care about social justice, and I’m so proud to be part of creating it. A lot of atheists have felt increasingly disconnected from organized atheism, and we hope to give these people a home. In fact, we hope to give a home to anyone who cares about the things we care about.
If you want to find out more about us — our mission, who we are, how we’re structured, why we chose The Orbit as our name, what’s unique about us, what we even mean by social justice — please visit our About Us page. You can also ask me questions here in the comments, but I can’t promise to answer all or even any of them: I’m a little swamped right now, as you might imagine.
The other bloggers currently in The Orbit are Alex Gabriel, Alix Jules, Alyssa Gonzalez, Ani, Ania Bula, Aoife O’Riordan, Ashley F. Miller, Benny Vimes, Brianne Bilyeu, Chris Hall, D. Frederick Sparks, Dana Hunter, Dori Mooneyham, Heina Dadabhoy, Jason Thibeault, Luxander Pond, Miri Mogilevsky, Niki M., Sincere Kirabo, Stephanie Zvan, Tony Thompson, and Zinnia Jones. I hope you’ll take some time and visit all of them over the coming days and weeks: pulling together this roster has been one of the most fun and exciting parts of this process, and I am so excited to be working with these people, I cannot even tell you.
Please support the Black Skeptics of Los Angeles First in the Family Humanist Scholarship initiative! Please donate if you can — even small donations help, they really do add up — and please spread the word on social media.
In 2013, Black Skeptics Los Angeles (BSLA), a 501c3 organization, spearheaded its First in the Family Humanist Scholarship initiative, which focuses on providing resources to undocumented, foster care, homeless and LGBTQ youth who will be the first in their families to go to college. Responding directly to the school-to-prison pipeline crisis in communities of color, BSLA is the first atheist organization to specifically address college pipelining for youth of color with an explicitly anti-racist multicultural emphasis. If current prison pipelining trends persist the Education Trust estimates that only “one of every 20 African American kindergartners will graduate from a four-year California university” in the next decade. In addition:
The school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately locks up African American and Latino youth, leaving many with criminal records and no possibility of “re-entry” to employment, housing or higher education
African American youth are severely over-represented in foster care, homeless populations, and juvenile jails
Foster care and homeless youth of color have some of the lowest rates of college transfer and graduation amongst college youth populations
LGBTQ youth of color have disproportionately high suspension/expulsion and push-out rates in U.S. public schools
Black females are consistently suspended at greater rates than ALL OTHER groups besides black males
So-called inner city schools have fewer Advanced Placement, college prep and honors courses and highly qualified STEM teachers than their white suburban counterparts
With your support, Black Skeptics hopes to award at least four youth $1000 scholarships to assist with their books, tuition, housing and other living expenses. Their 2013-2015 scholars are now at USC, UCLA, UC Riverside, Cal State University Long Beach, Babson College, University of North Texas, UC Merced and El Camino College.
So please support the First in the Family Humanist Scholarship initiative! Please donate if you can — even small donations help, they really do add up — and please spread the word. Thanks!
BSLA and their alum also thank their previous supporters: Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Humanist Association, Atheists United, Black Non-Believers, Minority Atheists of Michigan and more!
We have a new location for the Oakland Godless Perverts Social Clubs! We’re now meeting at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, 1805 Telegraph Avenue, next to the Fox Theater (and right near the 19th St. Oakland BART station). Rudy’s Can’t Fail is a fun, friendly space that serves meals, small bites, beer, cocktails, soft drinks, and desserts. We’re meeting in the back room/ dining car: the dining car has somewhat limited space, probably enough for all of us, but it’s a good idea to arrive on time if you want to be sure to get a seat. Thursday, February, 7-9 pm. The Oakland Social Clubs are on the third Thursday of the month (First Tuesdays are still in San Francisco at Wicked Grounds.)
Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers.
So please join us! Hang out with other nonbelievers and chat about sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, science, social justice, pop culture, and more. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. We meet on the third Thursday of every month at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe (we also meet on the first Tuesday of every month at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART). 7-9 pm. Admission is free, although we do ask that you buy food and/or drink at the venue.
Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.
Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this. Please let the moderators or other people in charge of any event know if you encounter harassment, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or other problems at our events.
If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts, or follow us on Facebook. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including many Godless Perverts events. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!
You know about Foundation Beyond Belief, right? It’s the humanist philanthropic organization that channels money and volunteering from humanists, atheists, and other non-believers, into projects that improve this world and this life. As you may know, I’m on their board of directors. So when I ask you to support the organization (and tell you about the fun fundraising competition we’re having, and the fun auction that Be Secular is running for us!), I’m obviously biased. But I’m on their board for a reason.
You know how a bunch of us in the atheist movement keep saying that it isn’t enough to just not believe in gods? You know how we keep saying that organized atheism needs to provide some of what religion provides — including outlets for organized charitable, philanthropic, and social justice work? You know how we keep saying that organized atheism needs be address the interests and channel the energy of a wider variety of people than have traditionally been involved in it? You know how we keep saying that non-belief has implications — and one of those implications is that since there’s no gods and no afterlife, this life is the only one we have, and it’s up to us to make it better for everyone?
Foundation Beyond Belief is actually doing this.
Here are some of the organizations and projects FBB has supported:
Center for Reproductive Rights, using the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill.
Community Change, Inc., approaching racism, racial relations, and racial responsibility from the perspective that racial inequalities are a white problem.
Global Village Project, an innovative special purpose school for refugee girls and young women with interrupted schooling.
Prison University Project, providing higher education programs to people incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.
Pure Earth, bringing a scientific approach to pollution reduction meant to benefit extremely poor communities abroad.
DC Central Kitchen, tackling food distribution availability in Washington, DC.
Men Can Stop Rape, mobilizing men to create cultures free from violence, especially men’s violence against women.
Akili Dada, a full-service developmental program aimed at helping Kenyan girls and women build leadership skills.
Modest Needs Foundation, working to meet the needs of the hardworking, low income members of society, who are often left without a safety net when unexpected expenses occur.
You see what I’m getting at?
A lot of us are saying, and have been saying for some time, that organized atheism needs to do this sort of work. Foundation Beyond Belief is doing it. And we need your support.
We’re doing a big year-end fundraising drive. Your donations will be matched up to $20,000, thanks to a generous matching donation from the Bella and Stella Foundation. And we’re doing a fun fundraising competition, for both individuals and community groups! Prizes for individuals range from T-shirts, autographed books & other secular swag to trips to conferences or shows by celebrity atheists. For groups, FBB will provide speaker(s) to the group that gets the most mentions and/or raises the most funds using the #HumanistsCare hashtag. Detail are at the link. If your atheist/ humanist/ freethought group is looking for a fun activity that will get your group more involved in community service, this is a great one.
Be Secular is also running an auction to support Foundation Beyond Belief, starting at 11:00 AM Eastern time on December 1, 2015, and running for 36 hours (through 11:00 PM Eastern time on December 2, 2015). Items range from small to high-end, including art, jewelry, vacations, signed celebrity photos, and more.
And if you don’t want to do the auction thing or the fundraising competition thing, you can also just… well, donate. You can make a one-time donation, which will be used to fund FBB operations; or you can make a monthly donation in any amount (as low as $5 a month), which will go to fund the causes you care about. (And yes, you can tell us which areas you’d like your money to go to!)
Foundation Beyond Belief is walking the walk. Please join us, and help pave the way. Thanks.
(Content note: transphobic violence and murder.)
Keyshia Blige. March 7th, 2015. Cause of death: shooting.
Tamara Dominguez. August 15th, 2015. Cause of death: repeatedly run over by vehicle.
Kandis Capri. August 11th, 2015. Cause of death: shooting.
Amber Monroe. August 8th, 2015. Cause of death: shooting.
Ashton O’Hara. July 14th, 2015. Cause of death: stabbed to death, run over by vehicle.
Shade Schuler. July 29th, 2015. Cause of death: unknown, found dead in a field.
K.C. Haggard. July 24th, 2015. Cause of death: multiple stab wounds.
India Clarke. July 21st, 2015. Cause of death: gunshot to the head and arm.
Mercedes Williamson. May 30th, 2015. Cause of death: beaten to death.
Penny Proud. February 10th, 2015. Cause of death: shooting.
Taja Gabrielle DeJesus. Feburary 8th, 2015. Cause of death: multiple stab wounds.
Diosvany Muñoz Robaina. April 26th, 2015. Cause of death: stoning.
Every one of these people had selves, consciousness, lives that mattered to them as much as yours does to you.
Remember. Listen. Learn. Speak. Act.
The Godless Perverts Social Club is meeting in Oakland on Thursday, November 19 — and we’re very happy to present a Social Club hosted by Cinnamon Maxxine, a local genderqueer sex worker and performer for a session discussing trans and nonbinary gender identities.
The binary of boy/girl man/woman has been treated as obvious and unquestionable for centuries, even those who fought and chafed against the rigid roles that society assigns according to sex. But the more that we talk about sex and gender, the less the binary fits everyone. Tonight, Cinnamon Maxxine will guide us in a conversation about what being nonbinary, genderqueer, or trans means, the ways that society (even in liberal or “sex-positive” communities) tries to enforce gender, and how our concepts of gender are evolving in culture, religion, and politics.
We welcome everybody of all genders (or none) to come join us in this discussion. Please be prepared to respect everyone’s choice of pronoun.
We meet at Telegraph Beer Garden, 2318 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland (near the 19th Street BART station). 7-9 pm. It’s free, although we ask that you buy food and/or drink if you can to support the venue. Hope to see you there!
Cinnamon Maxxine is a Bay Area original. Born and raised in Oakland, Cinnamon Maxxine is determined to be an advocate for those who are typically left under-represented. From people of color to people of size to people with invisible disabilities and trauma. Cinnamon Maxxine seeks to give those communities a voice. You can find Cinnamon here:
This piece was originally published in Free Inquiry.
(Content note: passing mentions of spousal abuse, rape, intense racism, homophobia, transphobia)
Strike that. Let me phrase that question in a more honest way, a way that makes my position clear: Where on Earth did we come up with the cockamamie notion that being a good skeptic means not having an emotional response to terrible, harmful ideas, and not treating those ideas with the contempt they deserve? Where did we get the notion that being a good skeptic means treating every idea, no matter how ridiculous or toxic, as equally worthy of consideration? Where did we get the notion that bad, harmful ideas should not make us angry, and that we should never get angry at anyone who brings them up?
Ron Lindsay recently wrote a piece, “Questioning Humanist Orthodoxy: Introduction to a Series” (No Faith Value blog, May 18, 2015), in which he criticized, among other things, humanists who respond angrily and emotionally to supporters of the death penalty, and who don’t calmly make what Lindsay considers to be good, rational arguments against it. PZ Myers has already responded to the core content of Lindsay’s essay (“Brave Ron Lindsay,” Pharyngula blog, May 19, 2015), so I’m not going to do that here. And in any case, I don’t want to pick on Lindsay: he is very far from the only person to put forth this idea. Several prominent atheists and skeptics have chided progressives for expressing anger over debates about abortion (citations collected at “Having a Reasonable Debate About Abortion,” Greta Christina’s Blog, March 13, 2014), and Massimo Pigliucci described these debates about abortion as “a tempest in a teapot” (“David Silverman and the scope of atheism,” Rationally Speaking blog, March 14, 2014).
This is a very common idea in the skeptical world: the idea that being a skeptic means being willing to entertain and discuss any and all ideas, with a completely open mind, with no attachment to any particular outcome — and with no emotional response.
And it’s an idea that should be taken out into the street and shot.
How are you going to respond? Are you going to say, “Hm, that’s an interesting idea — I don’t agree, but I’m curious why you think that, let’s calmly look at the evidence and examine the pros and cons”?
Or are you going to say some version of, “That is vile. That is despicable. The fact that you’re even proposing that is morally repulsive. Apologize, or get the hell out”?
And assuming that you did call the idea vile and toss the person out — how would you respond to someone telling you, “You’re a bad skeptic! You shouldn’t be so emotional! If someone is questioning black people’s basic humanity, you should be willing to debate that dispassionately, and with an open mind!”? Continue reading “Skepticism, and Emotional Responses to Terrible Ideas”