Resolutions for a Better World

Here we are, three days into the new year. Still looking for a good resolution or two? I don’t do mine on the holiday for a number of reasons, but the following are all things I’ve worked to do myself.

  • Consider not saying anything. What do you want your words to do for the people you’re communicating to? If whatever you were about to say is there to show off your knowledge or experience, talk about how good a human being you are, or change the subject to something you like better, maybe don’t. If they require someone else to be ignorant in order to be useful, maybe don’t. And if they’re violating someone’s boundaries, yeah, just don’t.
  • Take care of the caretakers. We can fall into social roles without meaning to. Some people become the designated adult in their interactions, the mom friend (whatever their actual gender). Turn that relationship on its head sometimes. Ask them how they’re doing or what they need.
  • Credit creators. Like Sarah Andersen‘s work? Share it from her website or social media accounts. Same for other artists. Don’t share tweets or quotes with the creators’ names cropped off. Google the phrase you liked best and reshare if you have to. Quote people instead of restating their points. Tell the world which analysts and academics inform your worldviews. Link to them.
  • Don’t harsh the squee. (Thanks to Lynne M. Thomas for the phrasing.) Challenge media that harms people, but give up the idea that your aesthetic preferences are a guide to a better world. Art is complex, and the smallest part of the whole may be exactly the thing that gives a patron life. Pleasures shouldn’t have to be guilty because they’re not universal.
  • Think about what you want. Before you point out yet again that Trump admitted to sexual assault and still sits in the Oval Office, figure out what you’re looking for. Do you want to feel less alone with that knowledge? Then it would be nice to offer some sympathy yourself as you share. Do you think there’s something your social media followers can effectively do about that? Consider sharing your secret with them. Are you just “raising awareness”? Ask yourself whether you know anyone who isn’t already painfully aware.
  • Sweat the small stuff sometimes. The world’s political problems are…huge. They’re beyond me right now. If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have the magic button that will fix things either. You do probably have a few messes that are in your power to clean up, though, be they personal or very, very literal. They’re not unimportant. Your role as the person who can take care of them isn’t unimportant. The improvements they’ll make to your life aren’t unimportant. When the big picture is too big, go ahead and think small.
  • Contemplate your own conservatism. It’s easy to think our most extreme conservatives have a lock on the stuff. The truth is, though, that we all have our ruts. We have our received wisdom that may be older than it is sound. We have our resistance to change. We have our shortages of imagination. That isn’t wrong. It’s human. But knowing where we are conservative can help keep us from making asses of ourselves insisting our unexamined intuitions are progressive truth.

Feel free to steal any of my resolutions. Suggest your own to make the world a better place.

Resolutions for a Better World

Justice in a “Just World”

This is not the text of my Skepticon talk I gave at Skepticon with the same name, because that isn’t how I give talks. It is, however, an introduction to the same information for those who prefer their information in written form. So if you watch the video, you’ll get a slightly different experience.

Life’s not fair.

If you’re at all like me, you hear that statement in the voice of an aggrieved three-year-old child. As it turns out, that’s actually a pretty decent place to start with this topic. We’re introduced very quickly to the idea that we live in an unjust world, and we never do much come to like the idea.

Unlike most three-year-olds, however, humanity has had a lot of time to work on ways to deny the problem. And deny it we have. Continue reading “Justice in a “Just World””

Justice in a “Just World”

Beyond Blasphemy to Rights

International Blasphemy Day has always been intended to highlight the fact that religions are sometimes afforded more rights than people. The traditional observation of the day–public blasphemy–can be a good way to do that. It isn’t hard to blaspheme. Depending on your background, it can feel freeing and fun. And yet it is sobering to realize that those small, silly blasphemies can be punishable by fines, imprisonment, and even death in many parts of the world.

International Blasphemy Day has drawn eyes to the cause of religious freedom, but it hasn’t always done more. This year, it can.

For the past several months, the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public Policy has been lobbying members of the U.S. House of Representatives to co-sponsor or support a new resolution that calls for the repeal of blasphemy laws around the world. We’ve also been lobbying members of the Senate to introduce a companion resolution. So far, the resolution has gained only one additional co-sponsor in the House, and has still not been proposed in the Senate.

Today, on International Blasphemy Rights Day, you have a chance to make the critical difference, and help us get this resolution through. 

H. Res 290, which was proposed by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) and currently has nine co-sponsors, would promote the right to free expression in several important ways.

  • It reaffirms U.S. support of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion;
  • It outlines that the solutions to blasphemy-related violence are increased education, outreach, and counter-speech; and
  • It calls upon the President and the State Department to make the repeal of blasphemy laws a key component in U.S. relations with countries that have them.

The passage of H. Res 290 would send a strong signal to the more than 50 countries with blasphemy laws that the U.S. rejects such law s and that they must be repealed.

That’s where you come in. You can stand up for the rights of all people, religious and nonreligious, to express their views on religion by using our pre-written form to contact your members of Congress today and tell them to co-sponsor, sponsor, or support H. Res 290!

If you’re in the U.S., CFI is making it easy for you to go beyond International Blasphemy Day to defend international blasphemy rights. If you click through to their post, they’ll make it very easy for you to contact your Representative and both your Senators to urge them to support this bill or a companion bill in the Senate. They make it about as easy as blasphemy itself, in fact.

This year, let’s step our celebrations up a little so we have more to celebrate next year.

Beyond Blasphemy to Rights

Who Is an Activist?

The Minnesota Atheists and Humanists of Minnesota held their National Day of Reason event at the state capitol yesterday. Most years, they’re in the rotunda. This year, with the capitol under construction, they were moved to the capitol steps.

This was my first year attending. I’m usually working and in the wrong city to make it just an extended lunch. This year, though, I spoke to promote our conference.

I had planned to provide some straightforward information in the brief time I had allotted to me, but I changed my mind. My inspiration was the theme for the event–Atheists and Humanists at the Capitol–and the fact that it was raining. Yes, the two were connected.

As I stood at the podium with rain dripping down my nose (the canopy protecting the electronics had blown up in the wind as I waited to speak and dumped a good few tablespoons of water straight onto the top of my head; the pictures will be glorious), I asked people to put up their hands if they considered themselves activists. Continue reading “Who Is an Activist?”

Who Is an Activist?

Research, Advocacy, and Services

As he did last year, my husband is participating in the MS 150 this year to raise funds for–here, I’ll let him tell you:

Why I joined the movement

Having multiple sclerosis means you can wake up with blurred vision. Or your memory may fail you for no apparent reason. Or that you may not always be able to walk. The symptoms of MS are different for everyone — the only certainty is that it will affect another person every hour of every day.

Why I ride

I’ve registered for the MS 150 because I love to bicycle and I believe that the National MS Society performs valuable services that deserve to be supported.

Why you should sponsor me

The money I raise for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society by riding in the MS 150 will be used to fund cutting-edge research, drive change through advocacy, facilitate professional education and provide programs and services that help people with MS and their families move their lives forward.

In a perfect world, medical research and assistance wouldn’t need to be funded by unpredictable donations from the public, fueled by showy spectacles of bike riding events, but as long as it is I’ll be here to give my support to people in need.

He takes the fundraising part of this as seriously as he takes his riding. He raised $1,000 last year and is looking to do the same this year. He’s nearly 75% funded, with a fair number of those donations coming from our local atheist community. If this is your sort of thing, please consider helping him meet his goal.

Research, Advocacy, and Services

Why I Stay

I get a bunch of comments from people who tell me this ugly event or that bit of harassment is the last straw for them. They’re done with organized atheism or skepticism. Sometimes people tell me that if they had to put up with what I put up with, they’d quit. Sometimes people ask me how I stick around.

This is how.

At 11:27 a.m. CST today, Karen Stollznow tweeted that she’d set up an Indiegogo campaign for money to hire a lawyer to fight Ben Radford’s defamation suit against her relating to her accusation of sexual harassment against him. The goal was $30,000, with two weeks given to reach that goal. At 5:19 p.m. CST, that goal was passed. More than 500 people contributed in less than six hours.

When I tell people there is will to fix the problems in these communities, this is the kind of thing I’m talking about. Those 500+ people (myself included with a small donation) weren’t willing to sit back and let this be settled based solely on who could afford to take things to court. So the moment they could do something about that, they did. That’s the kind of thing that keeps me around.

By the way, don’t let reaching the initial goal for hiring an attorney stop you from donating. If Radford is still willing to take this to court, Karen’s attorney fees are going to be much higher than $30,000. Go ahead and donate. The “worst case” scenario in terms of what happens with your money is that Radford drops the suit, and it goes to sexual assault victim advocacy instead.

For the record, you people are awesome.

Why I Stay

You Don't Want to See Me Gaming

No, not even for charity. I don’t do twitch. Watching me game would be remarkably soporific.

Jason, however, is running a gameathon to benefit Skeptech, which is mere weeks away at this point and still raising funds to cover the last of their expenses. And I will show up. What I’ll be doing during that time is up to the people who donate. Skeptech itself has some forfeits for donations listed:

Here are some initial incentives (more will be added):

  • $5 to be a member of our Organ Trail team.

  • At $200, we’ll buy Super Meat Boy and fail horribly.

  • At $1000, we’ll buy Amnesia, and play it at full-volume in the dark. You’ll be able to watch our horror on the hangout.

Jason has others, including one that raised my eyebrows. He’s brave, that one. I’ll just highlight this one instead:

For $20, you can jump into the Hangouts for 15 mins and try to go all debate-club on us, while we try to multitask and out-debate you while also staying on the course on Rainbow Road in Mario Kart or some other such outlandish gaming stunt.

As I said, you don’t want to see me game. There do seem to be people out there, however, who think I should debate. This is their chance. It’s cheap at $20. Somebody really ought to take me up on that.

You Don't Want to See Me Gaming

2014 Geeks Without God Camp Quest Scholarship

Geeks Without God, the local comedy atheist podcast, has been raising funds to send kids who otherwise couldn’t afford it to Camp Quest here in Minnesota.

They’ve raised enough to send two kids. They’re in their last few days and trying to get enough to send one more. If this is the sort of thing you find worthwhile, help them out.

2014 Geeks Without God Camp Quest Scholarship

Who's Going Bowling?

For those of you who’ve never heard of the National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon, this is an April event put together by the National Network of Abortion Funds that raises money to…here, they can explain:

The Bowl-a-Thon is a nationwide series of local events that allow community members (you!) to captain your own bowling team, participate in a kickass national event – and raise money to help women and girls pay for abortions they couldn’t otherwise afford.

Abortion funds are local, grassroots groups that work tirelessly to help low-income and disadvantaged women who want an abortion and do not have enough money to pay for it. Abortion funds help pay forabortions, help buy bus or plane tickets, and even offer a place to stay for those who have to travel for an abortion. Abortion funds make a real difference…and you can join them!

If you want to donate, they have a list of organizations with Bowl-a-Thon events. However, they don’t list every agency there, and, well, it’s often more fun to support someone you know. So I’d like to find people who have some connection to this community and highlight them.

I already know of a few. Brianne Bilyeu of Biodork is bowling, and Niki M., who participated in FtBCon last month, is on her team. Sarah Moglia of Skepchick is team Coup de Twat for the event. Who else out there is part of this great event?

Who's Going Bowling?

Toward an Independent Freethought Media

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of independent, non-profit news media. I contribute free arts coverage to the Twin Cities Daily Planet. I host Atheists Talk. I love MinnPost and The UpTake.

So why is independent news media so important? There are two big reasons in my book. The first is that there isn’t the same pressure to conform to the political agenda of corporate owners. In a de facto oligarchy like ours, this is critical. The other reason is that, without the pressure for profit, these organizations can focus on smaller audiences and stories. Rather than being all things to all people, they can cater to their niche…assuming that niche can support their work.

Jamila Bey is hoping her niche–us–can support her ambitious project. She also has the best project description I’ve seen. Continue reading “Toward an Independent Freethought Media”

Toward an Independent Freethought Media