Mock the Movie: Welcome to Hell Edition

I have the strangest feeling that this is one of those movies we’ll need to take a break after, by which I mean watch something decent with special effects that mean well. We might even have to watch a good movie to take the tastelessness out of our mouths. But whatever. We’re watching Hell and Back anyway. Join us if you can handle it.

This one is on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Welcome to Hell Edition”

Mock the Movie: Welcome to Hell Edition
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Human, with a Side of Soul

Last year, author Gina DeWink asked to sit down with me to talk about souls and the afterlife. I agreed, both because I’m glad when someone doing a project like this reaches out to nonbelievers (I’m not the only one interviewed) and because my views on the topic have radically changed over the years with education. It was fun to talk about why I believed something then that I don’t now.

The book, Human with a Side of Soul, came out a couple of weeks ago.

Photo of book cover on a paperback and a Kindle screen. Cover image is blue/purple ink spreading in water on a white background.
From her vantage point as an open-minded investigative writer from Middle America, Gina Dewink asks a dozen strangers from the medical, scientific and spiritual realms about soul beliefs—along the way, encountering perspectives such as an environmental consultant who believes she’s lived before, a neurologist studying patients in a coma, a medical mystery who survived more than one near-death experience, a Bible-quoting Atheist and more.

Join Dewink’s spiritual journey as she immerses herself in a culture of online groups, hypnotherapy sessions, a sensory deprivation tank and a Buddhist festival to come out the other side with answers. Is there a common belief woven throughout every opinion? Find out in Human, with a Side of Soul.

Read more about it here. You can find the book at the usual online sources or ask your local bookstore to order a copy for you.

Human, with a Side of Soul

Why I Am Not a Socialist

I have a piece in The Humanist this month. I’d originally written this for an anthology on political humanism, which has since been cancelled. It’s titled “Why I’m Not a Socialist”.

Photo of a bas relief in limestone depicting four postal workers in a frame. Three workers wear caps and aprons, holding bags. The fourth, behind them, wears a suit and holds up a package tied with string.
Edit of “WPA Berkeley Post Office” by Hitchster, CC BY 2.0, more information about the relief here

When talking about economic systems at the level of capitalism versus socialism, we’re talking about balancing the power of competing interests. Failure means consolidating power in one set of interests. Currently in the US we’re seeing the failure mode of capitalism, as we did in the 1920s. I refuse to call it “late-stage capitalism” because the steps taken to hobble capitalism during and after the Great Depression demonstrate this is a matter of political power and will, not timing. But today’s United States is an extreme form of capitalism, in which capital is assigned virtues it hasn’t demonstrated, then granted nearly exclusive access to political power based on those virtues.

This is bad. I shouldn’t have to say that, but sometimes it’s worth stating the obvious.

That doesn’t mean socialism is better, however. When it’s running well, socialism is better than failing capitalism. Of course, capitalism running well is better than failing capitalism as well. Honest comparisons of the two ideologies involve contrasting them best to best and worst to worst.

Truth be told, the differences between them aren’t huge.

You can read the whole thing here. I’m sure it won’t be at all controversial.

This essay was paid for by patrons on my Patreon. If you’d like to see more work like this, you can help support it too.

Why I Am Not a Socialist

Interview with John Richards, Anti-Theism International Convention (Updated)

Have you been following the saga that is the new Anti-Theism International Convention? Probably not, so long story short: A new conference was set up in Britain to honor the legacy of Christopher Hitchens. It claimed to have very prestigious (brand new) awards and high tickets prices to match.

Then one of the organizers did an interview on YouTube to promote the conference, and the whole thing was bizarre. It was antagonistic, incoherent, and peaked with sexual assault apologetics that claimed all men had committed assault and involved a (probably joking) threat to assault the interviewer if he attended the conference. Yes, really.

When Hemant Mehta picked up the story, the convention’s other organizer showed up in the comments to say he’d fired the, er, outspoken organizer and was willing to be interviewed. So I did that, or at least I started to. I’m reproducing the exchange here, because edits, deletions, and out-of-order comments make it difficult to follow there. Comments here are posted in the order they occurred.

John Richards [comment edited after my response]: Hi Guys,

It’s John Richards here.

I’m the organizer of the Anti-Theism International Convention.
I hope you might be willing to hear what I’ve got to say about this subject…

Firstly, I’ve sacked Lance Gregorchuk.

Secondly, I have school age daughters and I do not want them to be sexually, physically or mentally abused, or in any way treated badly. NeIther do I want them to think they can get away with making false accusations in future. Continue reading “Interview with John Richards, Anti-Theism International Convention (Updated)”

Interview with John Richards, Anti-Theism International Convention (Updated)

Mock the Movie: True Story Edition

Once upon a time, before the internet, you could claim anything was a true story as long as you set it somewhere your audience would never go. Now, with the internet, you don’t even have to do that. But it does help in either case to set your “true story” somewhere that actually exists. The makers of Monstroid didn’t bother. This Tuesday, we’ll find out what else they skimped on.

This one is available on YouTube.

Continue reading “Mock the Movie: True Story Edition”

Mock the Movie: True Story Edition

The Town Hero

This is another post pulled from Facebook while I wasn’t blogging much. It took me a bit of time to figure out it was related to an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It could apply to so many things.

Once upon a time, there was a town dealing with a hungry dragon. It had all the usual elements of such a town, with scheduled sacrifices, princesses who were somehow exempt from the sacrifice, chaos among the town council, and a hero with a sword.

The dragon didn’t demand sacrifice terribly often. (Honestly, it probably would have preferred goats over village maidens, but no one had figured out how to ask. And after all, they were only maidens.) The timing was regular and long enough that the town eventually stopped panicking and started thinking. They built a fireproof shelter, losing only five maidens during construction. They built weapons (two more maidens, but who was counting).

During this period, the town hero made many rousing speeches. In fact, he spent so much time speechifying that he simply couldn’t help with any of the construction. Opinion is divided on whether the final maiden was lost for lack of labor, but debate is muted and sometimes condemned as helping the dragon.

Finally, everything was ready. The princesses, who had also been exempt from hard labor, of course, helped to provision the shelter. They trained on the weapons. (They understood that the supply of maidens was not unending.)

The hero showed up at the last minute. The walls of the shelter protected him from dragonfire as well as they did everyone else. As the weapons fired, he stepped outside. His sword landed hard on one claw of the harpoon-riddled beast.

“It is slain!”, he cried. Then the town boosted him into the air, carried him back to the square, and made him senator.

The end

The Town Hero

“Atheist Volunteering”, Phil Session on Atheists Talk

When I first invited Phil Session to the show, he had to turn me down. He had a conflict with an Atheists Helping the Homeless event he was coordinating. He’s a busy man these days, having recently joined the boards of Recovering From Religion and Foundation Beyond Belief. But this Sunday, Phil will join me to talk a little bit about the stereotype of community volunteers as religious and about finding or creating volunteer opportunities for atheists.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF Sundays 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.

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. Or sign up on Patreon for exclusive content.

“Atheist Volunteering”, Phil Session on Atheists Talk

Let Them Complain

I saw someone on social media yesterday or today say that they agreed with a positive humanist sentiment but weren’t going to post a similar statement on their wall because people would complain. I get it. Sometimes it’s too much or the wrong people to muck with or behavior that goes beyond mere complaints. I’ve been there.

On the other hand, there can be value in staking out territory and letting those people complain about it. I’m not talking about being “edgy” in hopes you‘ll offend people. I’m talking about claiming a space for your values and allowing others to try to make you move.

I think by now everyone’s seen the status quo warriors charging about to combat the great scourge of “complainers”. “You’re always looking for something to complain about. You’re no fun. You’re so negative. Why can’t you just let people be and be happy?” You’ve also seen that this can undercut even the most sound of complaints.

One of the things I hate most about our current positivity culture is the way it lumps all types of complaints and complainers under the heading of “bad things”. If it’s negative, it must be bad, yeah? But complaining about someone’s else private choice of music is a very different thing than complaining that you can’t sleep at night because your neighbors play their music so loudly. There’s an important difference between spoiling someone’s fun because they “shouldn’t” have fun and standing up for yourself that positivity culture obscures.

Unfortunately, I can’t just make positivity culture go away. But while I chip away at it, I can subvert it, and I do. Where I might phrase something as a complaint, I can instead say, “This is what I believe. This is what I value. This is what I want for the world.”

“I want our events to be accessible to all the people we say we want to help.”

“I want to see the work of women in this movement rewarded on par with men’s work, with recognition, power, accountability, and a safe, welcoming environment.”

“I want us to demonstrate the appreciation of expertise that we espouse, particularly in discussions of important matters like human rights.”

When I do that, yes, some people still complain. That’s not going to stop anytime soon for reasons that are a whole other discussion. But by complaining, these people take up the role they try to assign to me. They become the killjoys. They become the people who can’t just let others be (and it’s all the more obvious when I’m stating values they say they share).

I’ve spent enough time on the defensive. I mean, I’ll complain when I can do some good by complaining, but I prefer doing this when I can. I’m happy to throw them off kilter instead.

Try it yourself. Talk about the world you want, the world you’ve trying to build, even when you know people will complain. Let them complain. See what good it does them.

Let Them Complain

Mock the Movie: Whitewashing Edition

Netflix exec: All right. Tell me about the property.

Development assistant*: It’s called Death Note. It’s very popular in manga form for the—

Netflix exec: Who’s the protagonist?

Development assistant: Light Yagami. He’s a student who—

Netflix exec: What kind of name is that? We’ll have to change it.

Development assistant: I…noted. Change the name.

Netflix exec: Who is this kid?

Development assistant: As I said, he’s a student. He finds a book that kills people.

Netflix exec: And he has to figure out how to stop it?

Development assistant: Not…exactly.

Netflix exec: Well?

Development assistant: He uses it.

Netflix exec: An all-American kid like him? Hmm. We’re going to have to do something about that. All right. I think we’re done here. Next meeting!

  • No, I have no idea what title belongs to the poor schmuck in this scenario. I have people I could ask, but I feel like that would be more effort than Netflix put in on getting things right.

This one is, of course, available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Whitewashing Edition”

Mock the Movie: Whitewashing Edition

“Racism in Artificial Intelligence”, Alix Jules on Atheists Talk

Once upon a time, we thought artificial intelligence would be less racist than people. After all, machines are objective, right? Then we started teaching them how to think and made some discoveries of our own. When racism permeates our society and our IT infrastructure, how do we teach machines to do better than we do?

This Sunday, we’re talking with Alix Jules about the point where technology, cognitive sciences, and sociology collide.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF Sundays 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.

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. Or sign up on Patreon for exclusive content.

“Racism in Artificial Intelligence”, Alix Jules on Atheists Talk