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

Where to See Me in March

I managed to cluster three speaking gigs in March. If you’re in Minnesota, come find me at one of them!

Tomorrow night and March 29, I’m taking part in Dakota County Library’s Religion and Faith Series.

Explore and gain a new understanding of Atheist, Baha’i, and Unitarian Universalist traditions by discussing their history and beliefs with our guest panelists. Find out how their traditions and beliefs impact their understanding of citizenship and role in the community and how they feel they are perceived. Audience participation is welcome. Attend one or all four program topics. Presented
in partnership with the St. Paul Interfaith Network.

A Minnesota Legacy program sponsored by Minnesota’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

Discover some of the varying views of atheists living in our area and how this worldview impacts their day-to-day actions. Hear how panelists find community and purpose within the larger world.

Thursday, March 8, 6–8 p.m.

Interfaith Dialogue
Interact with people of diverse faiths, religions and beliefs living in our communities. Gain knowledge of other traditions to understand difficult events in our modern world. Join our series panelists in discussing basic questions about how to live together peacefully and equitably in our diverse society.

Robert Trail
Thursday, March 29, 6–8 p.m.

Then, on Sunday March 18, I’m speaking at the Minnesota Atheists public meeting. My talk is titled, “What Do You Mean Science Is Racist?!”

When someone says that science is racist, many of us take it as an affront to our worldview. Science can’t be racist! It’s how we come to an objective understanding of the world. Unfortunately, when we’re affronted, we stop listening. We never find out why people call science racist, never evaluate whether they may be right, never find out what change they’re asking for. We simply stay upset that anyone’s saying this at all.

The problem, of course, is that science is still a human endeavor. With that comes all the biases that plague humanity. While we may eventually manage to purge those biases, it’s a long process, and there are forces working against it.

So what do people mean when they say science is racist? Come find out. Take a tour of science’s racist past, learn how it’s improving, and find out where some of the major challenges still lie.

I’m sure it will be in no way controversial. The talk is at 2 p.m. at the Brookdale Library.

Where to See Me in March

Putting Asses (and Terrible People) to Good Use

I’m reassured that I’m doing something right in my life when I know so many people who annoy regressives just by going about their lives, by saying who they are, by making art. So it was with the Sad Puppies of Hugo Award infamy. They saw stories about queer people celebrated where they were not, so they knew there must be something wrong with the celebration.

These days, the Sad Puppies have mostly stopped jerking the awards around. They’ve left that to the Rabid Puppies, who are like the Sad Puppies but think it’s good PR to cackle and rub their hands together while monologuing. (Somebody really wants a movie made about him, especially if he doesn’t have to be an interesting bad guy to do it.) But jerking the awards around still means keeping queer and POC writers and themes out of the awards.

Rachel Swirsky, whose story “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” makes puppies feel all squicky, has decided to do something about it. She’s using her Patreon this month to raise funds for queer health care, with the promise to do more things that will make puppies feel squicky and entertain the rest of us as she hits various fundraising targets.

In my family, humor has always been a way of putting crap into perspective. When life hands you lemons, make jokes. And then possibly lemonade, too. It is coming up on summer.

In that spirit, I’m trying a self-publishing experiment. And that experiment’s name is “If You Were a Butt, My Butt.”

If my Patreon reaches $100 by the end of the month [Note: it has!], I will write and send “If You Were a Butt, My Butt” to everyone who subscribes with at least $1.

I will be donating the first month’s Patreon funds to Lyon-Martin health services. Lyon-Martin is one of the only providers that focuses on caring for the LGBTQIAA community, especially low-income lesbian, bisexual, and trans people. They provide services regardless of the patient’s ability to pay.

You don’t have to keep on paying into my Patreon  in order to participate! It’s just fine if you want to sign up, get your silly thing, and just support Lyon-Martin. I’ll send out a note after I release “If You Were a Butt, My Butt,” and remind folks to unsubscribe if they want to.

Those of you who have been following this year’s puppies news may already understand the joke in that stories title. If you don’t, well, it involves gay erotica that is also performance art and a poor attempt at trolling, and you should go read about it. Then consider donating to Rachel’s Patreon this month. It costs very little, and it helps and pisses off the right people respectively.

Putting Asses (and Terrible People) to Good Use

Supporting Space Unicorns

Uncanny Magazine is currently finishing up its annual subscription drive. If you can, you should subscribe. If you appreciate the stories I highlight here on Saturdays, you should subscribe. If you like my takes on pop culture and geek culture, you should subscribe. If you know what it means to piss off a rabid puppy and you like that idea, you should subscribe. If you believe in opening doors for diverse writers and paying them while you do it, you should subscribe.

The editors of Uncanny are friends of mine, but we’re friends in part because we share a lot of the same values around art and inclusion. I’m impressed with what they’ve done with the magazine, even having seen how ambitious they were to start. I want to see them keep it up, and that takes support. But they’re offering plenty in return. Continue reading “Supporting Space Unicorns”

Supporting Space Unicorns

“Sexism and Harassment at Professional Events” Discussion Tonight

I’m doing an event tonight in Northeast Minneapolis with Women Who Code Twin Cities and Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers, but it’s open to all. We’ll be talking about harassment in professional contexts for people whose professional lives include a lot of non-office events. From the description:

Microsoft recently came under fire for hiring women in “tiny schoolgirl outfits” to interact with guests at an event at the GDC gaming conference. Unfortunately, these incidences are all too prevalent in tech.

As a developer, I’ve seen my fair share of inappropriate behavior at conventions, conferences, meetups, happy hours and other work-related gatherings. These incidences include anything from awkward situations to inappropriate comments to outright harassment and abuse. As a writer, I’ve also been involved in the Speculative Fiction community, which has had a number of harassment issues at conventions in the past few years. Since this is a problem both communities share, I’ve invited a local speculative fiction group, MinnSpec, to partner on this event.

Discussion Topics

I’ve had a number of women ask me for advice on handling various situations at professional events. We’ll discuss the following topics:

• How to escape an uncomfortable situation, especially ones with potential to become hostile

• Recognizing body language to understand when someone else is in distress

• Understanding consent

• How to help someone else out of an uncomfortable or potentially hostile situation

• Recognizing body language to understand when you might be making someone else uncomfortable

• How to escalate issues to organizers and/or authorities

• Understanding the potential backlash or criticism that may come from reporting issues

The Schedule

6:30 – 7:00 PM – Mingle and Network
7:00 – 8:30 PM – Panel/discussion
8:30 – 9:00 PM – More Mingling and Networking

For more information, see the Meetup event.

“Sexism and Harassment at Professional Events” Discussion Tonight

That’s Me!

The lovely people at The Humanist did a little interview with me that they published last week. If you’ve always wanted to know:

  • Where I come from in an educational and professional sense
  • What drove me to apply to produce The Humanist Hour
  • Where I come from in a religious sense, including why I identify as humanist
  • What my favorite book is and why
  • And who will be the featured guests at my imaginary dinner party

You should check it out. Heck, you can still check it out if you’re only now interested in the answers to any of those.

That’s Me!

Susan Jacoby in Minneapolis Tonight

When we talked to Susan Jacoby on Sunday, we mentioned on the air that she was making two appearances tonight in Uptown. They’re at 6 and 7 p.m., just a couple of blocks apart. From the Minnesota Atheists Meetup site:

Discussion with Susan Jacoby

Uptown Church and Magers & Quinn Booksellers present Susan Jacoby

Join us for a SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION with the author at Uptown Church at 6:00pm before the main event. This is a special opportunity to meet Susan and hold an extended conversation with her about her work.

Registration is requested at:

If you’re curious, as I was, what kind of church would host Susan Jacoby talking about religious conversion as a secular event, well, I looked them up online Sunday. This is what I found. Continue reading “Susan Jacoby in Minneapolis Tonight”

Susan Jacoby in Minneapolis Tonight

Announcing the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index

Here it is, the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index. This is the project I’ve been working to make come to pass for the last few months. It is here. It is ready to go. In fact, it’s already underway.

It needs help, however. It needs visibility, volunteers, and a moderate amount of funding. Read on to find out what the project is and what you can do to support it if you want to see it succeed. And once you understand it, I think you’ll want to see it succeed.

Line graphic of an open magazine with a magnifying glass with "AHSHI" in the lens. Text below: Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index

What is the AHS History Index?

What is the AHS History Index? The Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index is a project to make the information contained in the publications of these movements easily discoverable by historians and anyone else with an interest in the history of these movements. Several organizations have done a good job of collecting this information and making it accessible to people who ask to see it, but it’s difficult to ask for things you don’t know exist. This project aims to fix that problem. Continue reading “Announcing the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index”

Announcing the Atheist, Humanist, and Skeptic History Index

Black Death: The Musical

Full disclosure: The composer for this project has been a friend of mine for a very long time.

That being said, this is the kind of thing plenty of people who read here are going to enjoy.

The fundraiser for this ends in five days. You’ll receive the most out of the rewards if you can make it to Minneapolis, but there is plenty there that isn’t tickets to the show.

Oh, also? Go, zombies.

Black Death: The Musical