Working Together on Core Issues

The opening statements of the dialog are up. Theirs is here. Mine is here as well as included below. Commenting on the posts there is significantly limited and heavily moderated, disallowing crosstalk between commenters. There is a third thread here for those who want to talk back and forth, but even those comments are moderated. Guidelines for conversation on that site are here.

How can we work together on core issues on which we broadly agree, including promoting reason, critical thinking, science, skepticism, atheism and secularism in the real world?

Four stick figures holding a piece of a puzzle.
The key to working together under these circumstances is to understand that there are myriad solutions to each of these problems. None of them are complete in themselves, but together, they provide a strong force for change. Additionally, pursuing multiple strategies at once allows us to take advantage of the diverse talents and motivations of those who find value in promoting all or any of these ideals.

To use science as the least contentious (currently) of these topics, we already recognize that there are different roles to be played. We recognize the bench scientist and the field scientist. We recognize the physicist and the sociologist. We recognize the philosopher of science and the critic of methods. We recognize the lab manager and the lab technician. We recognize the grade-school science teacher and the PhD student. We recognize the peer reviewer and the science journalist. Continue reading “Working Together on Core Issues”

Working Together on Core Issues

Saturday Storytime: Robot

This week’s Nebula-nominated story comes from Helena Bell, who is also a poet. You might have figured that part out, though.

This is a list of the chores you will be expected to complete around the house when you are not eating the diseases out of my flesh; this is the corner of my room where you may stay when you are not working; do not look at me when you change the linens, when you must hold me in the bathroom, when you record in the notebook how many medications I have had that day, how many bowel movements, how the flesh of my mouth is raw and bleeding against the dentures I insist on wearing.

The pamphlets say you are the perfect scavenger: completely self contained, no digestion, no waste; they say I can hook you up to an outlet and you will power the whole house.

You may polish the silver if you are bored; you may also rearrange the furniture, wind the clocks, pull weeds from the garden; you may read in the library any book of your choosing; my husband claims you have no real consciousness, only an advanced and sophisticated set of pre-programmed responses, but I have seen your eyes open in the middle of the night; I have seen you stare out across the fields as if there is something there, calling you.

Cook my meals in butter, I will not eat them otherwise; do not speak to the neighbors; do not speak to my children, they are not yours; do not let anyone see you when I open the door for the mail; no, there is nothing for you, who even knows that you are here?

Help me to walk across this room; help me to wipe bacon grease from the skillet—do not think I do not see you trying to wash it with soap when I am done.

Help me to knit my granddaughter a sweater, she is my favorite and it is cold where she will be going; if you hold my hands so they are steady I will allow you to terrorize my Bridge club; I will teach you the rules: cover an honor with an honor; through strength and up to weakness.

Help me to pronounce atherosclerosis when I am speaking with the physician; remember the questions I must ask him; recite my list of medications when asked; if you would like, we may go early so that you may sit with me in the waiting room with all the others like you and me.

Do you see that one?; that is the way you will carry me when my other foot has gone down the black froth of your mouth.

Keep reading.

Saturday Storytime: Robot

How to Apologize

Really, this is how you do it:

We made a mistake. It’s important as a website that readers can trust that we are up front when this happens, and willing to admit to our failings, and promise to address them. And as recently as last week, Rock, Paper, Shotgun let a woman write an article. We would like to apologise to our readers for any offence caused.

Well, it’s how you do it when you don’t mean a word of it, anyway.

How to Apologize

"Atheist Evangelism" Roger Scott Jackson (Sam Singleton) on Atheists Talk

Roger Scott Jackson was raised in a Pentacostal family, but left religion at early age. Throughout his life he has been a high school English teacher, a journalist and a comedy writer. Mr. Jackson is also a performance artist, and perhaps his most famous creation is the fictional firebrand, Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist.

Brother Sam has been known to deliver an atheist sermon or two for high-profile atheist conferences and events, and both he and his creator, Roger Scott Jackson are sought-after speakers listed among the Secular Student Alliance and Center For Inquiry speakers bureaus.

Sam Singleton has delivered many different experiences for those who gather to hear his gospel. His shows include Patriarchs and Penises; Cats, Sheep and Goats: The Taxonomy of Atheists, Believers and Preachers; Revival; If The Ocean Was Whiskey and God was a Duck; and Too Big For God. Brother Sam also sends out e-homilies via his Atheist Evangelist YouTube channel

Join Atheists Talk this Sunday when we speak with Roger Scott Jackson about his life, his atheism, and his portrayal of Sam Singleton, Atheist Evangelist.

Related Sites

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to [email protected] during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

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"Atheist Evangelism" Roger Scott Jackson (Sam Singleton) on Atheists Talk

It Must Have Been the Pressure

Something odd happened a couple of days ago. Atheist Alliance International tweeted a link to a post that purports to explain harassment–by limiting its definition to criminal harassment and applying tests that don’t exist within that definition to say that what we’ve been experiencing isn’t harassment. Ophelia has an excellent guest post by Tom Foss explaining how the original post goes wrong.

I call the tweet odd because AAI was proactive on the question of anti-harassment policies. Someone from the organization contacted me, rather than the other way around, when the policies were suggested and asked for information on how other organizations were handling the issue. They told me when they put a policy in place. So I was surprised to see their link.

I wasn’t the only one. There was some reaction from a few of us who saw the tweet: Continue reading “It Must Have Been the Pressure”

It Must Have Been the Pressure

Money for Nothing

In case you’ve missed it, Crommunist is leading the drive to swell the ranks of Kiva lenders, and Kiva is making it very, very easy to join, even for those who can’t afford to lend right now. They like their number one lending group, and they want to see us get bigger.

A lending team you’re a member of, “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious” is super close to hitting a big milestone: 25,000 members. You’re less than 500 people away from hitting that goal, and we’d love to help you get there.

Kiva has $10,000 for matching loans of your team’s choice–but only if you can reach the goal of 25,000 team members by midnight on March 31st, 2013

Thanks largely to Crommunist and to people who have been spreading the word, we’re now just over 100 members from the goal. We can do this, especially since they make it so easy, but we don’t have much time left.

You see, you can sign up right now for a trial loan. You don’t have to add any of your own money, and Kiva will give you $25 to lend to…well, you get to decide that. Most of my loans go to women in less politically stable areas because the research I’ve seen says that does the most good, but you can decide on your own loan priorities.

On top of that, if you use that link, Crommunist will also get a gift loan for $25 to direct. He’s raised some ridiculous (but wonderful) amount in gift loans, and his readers direct where that money goes. (This is also how the money he gets from blogging at FtB is used.)

On top of that, this qualifies you to join the Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious lending group, swelling our numbers not just to help demonstrate that we’re not the callous, uncaring infidels we’re sometimes painted as, but also to release those matching funds for use. All told, between that matching money and the dual gift loans, that’s about $30,000 in Kiva-supplied loans without any of the money any of us put in.

And if that’s not incentive enough, you’ll never be caught flat-footed again when someone asks what you want for your birthday. Just ask them to add to your lending portfolio and save yourself from receiving another Cosby sweater.

Go on. Sign up.

Money for Nothing

Paying for Their Protests

I have been reminded that this Friday is Good Friday. (I don’t keep track of these things on my own.) That means it’s that special day of the year when schoolkids and other amateur protestors are bused to clinics that offer abortions to show their piety by chanting and carrying signs before going off to church to celebrate torture and death.

In response, two local traditions have sprung up. The first is a counter-protest, which gives something for the protestors to focus on other than the clinic escorts and patients. With amateur protestors, this is important for avoiding incidents. Minnesota Atheists let their Meetup group members–through our own awesome Brianne–know how to sign up for a slot. If you have a local atheist group, they may do the same. If they don’t, you can sign up for Planned Parenthood action alerts and check their advocacy site for your area for details on this year’s counter-protests. Then ask your group to get involved with Planned Parenthood or other local, targeted clinic for next year’s protests.

The other tradition, the tradition that is dear to my evil little heart, is sponsoring protestors. For $10, you can say to a protestor (though don’t do it at the counter-protest; save it for that special family member or college acquaintance on Facebook), “Because of you and your actions today, Planned Parenthood is now better funded than it was before. Thank you for inspiring me to do my part to keep safe, legal abortions accessible.” How is that not irresistible if you have the money to do it?

What else happens on Good Friday on this front in parts of the country or world that aren’t Minnesota?

Paying for Their Protests


One of the great things about living in the Twin Cities is the music scene. No, I don’t just mean Prince, The Replacements, and Brother Ali either. There is a vibrant folk and folk fusion musical community here that produces music that makes the classification parts of your brain hurt even as your ears are happy.

One of the projects from this community is currently seeking funding for mixing and mastering an album. I’ll let Natalie Nowytski explain, because I couldn’t do it justice.

It’s a little known fact that Czechs and Slovaks dig bluegrass. So do I. I also happen to really like Czech and Slovak folk songs. But interestingly, most bluegrass and “newgrass” out of those countries are original compositions; there is no tradition of taking old Czech, Slovak, and Rusyn folk songs and infusing them with a bluegrass sensibility. After years of study and performance of Eastern European music—including a tour many years ago in the Czech Republic, where I was first introduced to Czech bluegrass—and a 3-song demo I recorded shortly thereafter with like-minded musicians, I’m finally working on my first solo album, called Amerikana: traditional folk songs from Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the Rusyns of Eastern Slovakia set to American bluegrass, old time, country, and Americana arrangements, centered around the Prague-based Amistar resophonic guitar. Thanks to the Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, I’ve been able to research, collect, transcribe, arrange, and record this new body of work with some of my favorite local folk musicians, like Peter Ostroushko, Steve Kaul (The Brass Kings), Adam Kiesling (Pert’ Near Sandstone), Jim Parker (Pig’s Eye Landing), Scott Keever (Orkestar Bez Ime), and Gabriela Sweet (Bayou Hazard). I’m now at the post-production stage and need to raise enough money to finish the project before the grant year is over in April.

Full disclosure: One of the musicians on the album is an old roommate of mine. I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with how much I like the idea of the project, though.

If this is your sort of thing, or if you now need to listen to figure out what sort of thing it is, consider helping fund the project.


Engaging in Dialog

Mick Nugent has announced today the start of his proposed dialog. This dialog will be hosted on its own site, with special rules both for the dialog itself and for commenting. More news will be coming about the commenting as the team of moderators works out their process. Comments on the dialog will be moderated.

As I proposed much of the structure for this dialog, it shouldn’t be too surprising that I’m taking part in it. A brief note on why: I am not advocating for everyone to hold hands and sing, “Kumbaya”. I don’t expect to heal any rifts, for a rather large number of reasons. I don’t expect to suddenly become the spokesperson for anyone but me, and I’ve tried to set this up to make agreement and disagreement very transparent for those who are willing to leave a quick comment. I don’t expect, in fact, to do anything terribly differently than I’ve done here on my blog. Continue reading “Engaging in Dialog”

Engaging in Dialog

Interfaith Dialog at Normandale

Normandale Community College has been very good to atheists and humanists, at least as outside speakers and, from what I’ve seen, students as well. I regularly speak to comparative religion classes there, and they’ve hosted a panel discussion on atheism and morality that I was part of.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be back at Normandale as part of an interfaith dialog aimed at helping a diverse student group better understand, if not appreciate, where each other is coming from on religion.

Flyer for dialog between Christian, Humanist, Muslim, and Jewish representatives.

If you’re free on the afternoon of April 9, please come out and join us.

Interfaith Dialog at Normandale