Find Me at CONvergence!

We’re just under two weeks to CONvergence. As usual, I’ll be there, paneling and other stuff. Here’s where you can find me if you like that sort of thing.

Super Heroes and PTSD
Thursday July 4, 2019 2:00pm – 3:00pm
Hyatt 2 Northstar B
PTSD has become a much better understood concept in the past decade. Please join us for a discussion that will explore how super heroes from Batman to Spiderman and everywhere in between seem to suffer from this disorder, and how they deal with it. Participants: Peter David, Stephanie Zvan, Lathan Murrell, Sean Casey (mod), John Shea, MD

Writing Religion
Thursday July 4, 2019 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Hyatt 2 Greenway HI
We’ll discuss techniques that help ensure that you represent the effect religion (or the lack of it) has on your storytelling. Participants: Bryan Thao Worra, Rory Ni Coileain, Shauna Aura Knight, Stephanie Zvan (mod), Tim W Lieder

Detoxifying Fandom
Friday July 5, 2019 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Hyatt 2 Greenway CDE
Why does toxic fandom happen? How do we fight back against it? Can’t people just like things? Participants: Taylor Cisco, Shaun M Duke, Stephanie Zvan (mod), Boone Dryden, Ashley Myhre

Everyone Is Cancelled
Sunday July 7, 2019 12:30pm – 1:30pm
Hyatt 2 Northstar B
When a public figure crosses a line, they can be shunned by fans in our cancel culture. We’ll discuss how far someone can go, and whether canceling someone can be worthwhile. Participants: Rakhi Rajpal, Stephanie Zvan, Susan Willson (mod), AlysshaRose Jordan

I’ll also be in the Magic School party room with science demos aimed at young audiences and discussion salons aimed at older audiences. Minnesota Atheists is sponsoring the room again this year. I’ll update here with specific programming I’m doing there once our schedule is final.

Find Me at CONvergence!
{advertisement}

So You Want a Positive Primary

I hear you. The unending negativity directed at Hillary Clinton over the last several decades certainly didn’t help turn her voters out in 2016. Neither did the disproportionately negative press. All the general cynicism about government made Trump’s “Drain the swamp” palatable to some where it should have been laughable. You don’t want that to happen again.

Neither do I. I’m overwhelmed and anxious about the ongoing harm that needs immediate reducing, and I’m not going to be any less ready to make that vote when I can actually do it in a year and a half.

Come fall of 2020, even if Trump is impeached and not running, I’ll be all about “blue no matter who”. In every election with a moderately plausible Republican candidate, not just for the presidency. The party has shown it doesn’t believe in democratic governance. It needs to be treated as invalid.

But it’s 2019. Still spring for a couple of weeks. And during this primary season, we’re having real, important discussions about what we want our country to be. Continue reading “So You Want a Positive Primary”

So You Want a Positive Primary

Mock the Movie: Satanic Seductress Edition

Feeling sad you missed May’s mocking? You didn’t actually. We had to cancel at the last minute. Watch with us this month instead.

We were feeling in need of one of those great Fifties and Sixties exploitation movies that ends up exploiting little more than its actors because it’s so confused about its subject. In this case, the subject is Satanism. Or paganism. Or voodoo. Or…oh, I don’t know. Come watch The Devil’s Hand with us and find out.

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

Mock the Movie: Satanic Seductress Edition

Living Our Secular Values

Earlier this month, I spoke at the Minnesota Atheists Day of Reason event at the state capitol. The theme for the day was secular values.

Last month was the 100th anniversary of the birth of American Atheists founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair. O’Hair had something of a reputation for being a difficult person. Yes, really. She would have that reputation even correcting for the smaller leeway we give to difficult women, but part of her reputation was almost certainly due to her militant feminism. Among the many fights she took up was her fight against the idea that women were created for men’s pleasure.

As atheists, we understand that women weren’t created at all. We evolved. And I hope that after so many years of fighting for good education on evolution, we understand that evolution is not directed. It has no end goal. So any discussion of our secular values must be informed by the knowledge that women, like men, exist for themselves, not in service to others.

You can read the whole thing on the Secular Woman site.

Living Our Secular Values

Making Me Safer

The mosque shootings in Christchurch aren’t about me. I’m not Muslim. I’m not an immigrant. I’m not a brown-skinned other. As much as my heart embraces the dead and injured as my fellows, I don’t live with that target painted on me. I have no business that would take me into a mosque during worship.

The rhetoric that got us here, though? That is about me. It’s about me as a white person doomed to see “my race” die out. It’s about me as city-dwelling possible target of terrorism. It’s about me as a woman facing religious sexism. It’s about me and the threat I present as an atheist. It’s about me as a sinner where the cost of sin is death.

I’ve lived for nearly 20 years being told we must talk about the “unique dangers” of Islam to keep me safe.

I’ve lived for nearly a decade with atheist movement leaders who tell me I can’t talk about their racism and sexism because I need them to keep me safe.

I live with increasingly unstable international politics and diminishing civil rights in the name of keeping me safe.

I live with grifters coming to my beautiful frozen city and lying about being threatened, because how else are they to keep me safe?

I live with terrorists from out of state making road trips to blow up my neighbors. You’ll never guess why. Oh, it’s to keep me safe?

None of this makes me safer. I mean, I don’t really have to say that to you, do I? It’s obvious that fewer rights and more violence don’t make me any safer, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Yet here I am. Again. Not directly threatened by the violence, but still less safe than I was. Again. And still being told it’s all being done for me.

To make me safe.

It doesn’t. If you say these things, you are the threat to my safety. Not the Muslims. Not the immigrants. Not the black and brown people. You. If you say these things, you make me less safe.

So stop acting shocked when I treat you that way. I’d just like to be safe.

Making Me Safer

Mock the Movie: Blonde Bombshell Edition

Really, we’re just watching The Navy vs. the Night Monsters for Mamie Van Doren. And really, we’re just doing that to honor this tweet. We’ve watched worse movies for worse reasons. Probably.

This one is available on YouTube. You’ll notice the timing is unusual. We’re watching this tomorrow (Wednesday) at 9 p.m. Eastern. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Blonde Bombshell Edition”

Mock the Movie: Blonde Bombshell Edition

On Lefty Gatekeeping

I’m really not ready for 2020 elections talk yet. There’s a lot of work to do just to get that far while remaining a democracy, and watching the hyperfocus on the presidency at the expense of all other politics is like sleeping on 100-grit sheets. With Biden and Sanders.

Still, the 2018 election is done. There are myriad implications to be talked over and contrasted and turned into feelers for this or that potential candidate. So I’ll talk about this now and again as warranted, if reluctantly.

Today’s political thoughts are brought to you by this look at Beto O’Rourke’s voting record.

But Sanders actually did not amass the most left-wing voting record in the 115th Senate. That distinction belongs to Elizabeth Warren. Kamala Harris was No. 2, Cory Booker was No. 3, and then Sanders and Tammy Baldwin are basically the same. Kirsten Gillibrand is closer to the middle of the pack but still more liberal than 76 percent of Senate Democrats.

A rough equivalent to O’Rourke’s record would be Amy Klobuchar, who in the most recent Senate was more conservative than 72 percent of Senate Democrats. She has had a voting record that’s a bit to the right of the median Democrat’s throughout her time as a senator.

What does this mean for what we want in a presidential candidate? That depends on what kind of relative importance you place on campaign contributions vs. turning out minority voters vs. turning out the undecided middle vs. blah, I’m bored now. I’m not here for making big predictions for the future. There are, however, a couple of points I want to make related to this. Continue reading “On Lefty Gatekeeping”

On Lefty Gatekeeping

Ladies, Mind Your Manners

I was recently sent a copy of a column titled “He, Too” (pdf) from the September issue of The Rational Alternative, the newsletter of Atheists United in Los Angeles. Sadly, it’s not a call to remember that women and nonbinary people are not the only ones subject to harassment in the secular movement. It is, instead, a suggestion that #metoo is somehow obviating due process in the movement’s efforts to deal with sexual harassment and assault.

The first half of author Bobbie Kirkhart’s article is essentially summed up in one paragraph.

It is a sad surprise that the freethought community is tearing itself up over such accusations and denials. Unless the accused man confesses and apologizes immediately, our discussions on the allegations eat up much of our time and energy, destroy friendships and embarrass our movement. Although there is much emotion involved, I believe we can—and must—look at these things as the rationalists we are.

I suspect that Kirkhart means she’s distressed rather than genuinely surprised. I’ve been doing this too long to be surprised, and she’s been working in the movement longer than I have. I also disagree that confession of wrongdoing stops discussion and prevents strife. People expressing remorse for their actions are still told they have nothing to feel bad about when the subject under discussion is as politicized as harassment and assault are. I’d be a happier person if I’d never seen that happen, but I have.

Black and white, complicated flow chart of a process where every step has something to do with chickens or eggs.
Not all logic makes sense. “Chicken Chicken Flow” by healther vescent, CC BY 2.0

I do agree with Kirkhart that discussions on the topic could be more rational. The number of times I’ve seen an “argument” along the lines of “He’s nice to me/highly respected in his field/chased by other women, so he couldn’t have done that” is appalling. Harassers don’t harass everyone, and often groom others to stand up for them. We’ve seen many highly respected academics and business people turn out to be serial harassers. Harassment and assault don’t happen because people have no other choice; they are a choice. Literally none of those things are correlated with harassing people or not. Still the arguments fly with far too much of the secular movement.

Even more than rationalism, however, I would argue that the secular movement needs a heavy dose of empiricism on the topic of harassment and assault. In this respect, Kirkhart falls woefully short. Continue reading “Ladies, Mind Your Manners”

Ladies, Mind Your Manners

Mock the Movie: What Book? Edition

This month, we’re watching a Zelazny movie! Well, we’re watching a movie based on a Roger Zelazny book. Okay, we’re watching a movie with the same title as a Roger Zelazny book. All right, fine. We’re watching Damnation Alley because it’s late-70s George Peppard and Jan-Michael Vincent and Paul Winfield for however long his character survives.

This one is available on YouTube. The actual movie starts at 2:08. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: What Book? Edition”

Mock the Movie: What Book? Edition