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Atheism+, schisms, and the wrong way to criticise.

I don’t know how many of you know anything about Atheism+, but if you read this post you probably know why it exists. To know first hand, go to the site here. But the gist of it is captured in the manifesto below.

“We are…

Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.”

And so far, it’s generated massive support, built it’s own website, and already has a project combatting ablism in the community – A+ Scribe, where significant videos in the community are transcribed for the hard-of-hearing. First comment, by “miller”:

“Sweet! Transcriptions are one of those “universal design” things–they work for people with or without disabilities. Sort of like how those curb ramps at crosswalks are good for everyone. I’m not hard of hearing, but I would still use transcriptions.”

In short, it’s been successful and productive; two of the things that all movements should look to be. And yet the first reporting I see of it, in any kind of press, is in the UK, and it’s this:

Now, disclosure: some bits of the article are OK. Some bits – the “useful but unsavoury body parts” line – were quite funny. Some bits – the unfortunate fact that this may constitute a “schism” – are also true.* The rest of the article? Wrong.

I want to call this guy a few nasty names, but I won’t, because that would prove him right. And especially as the formation of Atheism+ is, in part, to remove the part of the equation that pours poisonous spam-based bile on everyone else from the equation, yelling at him doesn’t seem like a positive move.

But, to be clear, everything about the way he wrote this article is the wrong approach.

First off, the way he phrases it, he never makes it clear that the difference in opinion spreads from disagreement over political opinion – not over religious ones. We’re all still atheists! As such, a bunch of people get the wrong impression, and you get comments like these:

bromleyboy – “If atheists cannot agree among themselves, why should any of us take them seriously?

I’m not going to rise to that – beyond linking it to appropriate tropes – I’m going to instead say that some of this inanity could have been avoided with an article that spent more time portraying facts and less time making Monty Python jokes.

In fact, the author makes a lot of jokes at the movement’s expense. And frankly, I think that’s a bit cheap. It’s not good enough to stand on the sidelines and snipe about “how these atheists love each other” without discussing whether you have a stake in who is right or wrong. At no point does the writer say what they believe about religion, or women’s rights, or privilege, etc. So even if they have a fair point on any of those matters, the article just comes off as juvenile and snide.

When it comes to these issues, you have to actually do something, and couching your terms in ways to make it seem like civil rights are all subjective issues and someone else’s problem (“your progressive politics”, “Ameican Atheism”**) doesn’t change that fact. It’s completely detrimental to any progress at all, in fact.

Meanwhile, Atheism+, for all that I hate the factioning, is doing something, being proactive about issues. That’s what I’ve always seen atheism, plus or minus, to mean, and that’s what it always should mean – not just being, and remaining unchanged. Fix this world, this movement, this instant!

* * *

[For those who may or may not get my alignment in this… *sigh* schism: I agree with Atheism+. Wholeheartedly.]

[Honestly, I don’t even see that anything’s changed. I sure haven’t.]

*What does that change? Christianity’s had more schism’s than I’ve had hot dinners – that hasn’t changed how true it is (i.e. “not at all”).

* I think this is the first time I’ve thought it might actually be valid to refer to one’s nationality as “the internet”, because I have more in common with “american atheists” than with the feeble “everyone’s a little bit agnostic” feeling I get in the UK.

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Christmas Cheer Incoming!

For a damn dirty atheist, I love Christmas a lot. Sure, when I celebrate it, I tend to make it all pagan, call it Solstice and worship the Green Man. But I still love the winter festival time – call it Christmas, call it Solstice, call it Hanukkah, call it Kwanzaa.

The point is, this time of year rocks, and it is our duty to celebrate. But to fully enjoy it, I have to get a long run up to it. No, not as long as September, like some companies would have it, but a run up nonetheless. So, to get into the Solstice spirit, I like to listen to Christmas music. There’s actually some surprisingly good stuff out there. (And some dishonourable mentions, but more on that later. *shudder*)

With that in mind, I usually make a Christmas playlist. However, this year I’m going for a different approach. In the run up of the last few weeks before Christmas, allow me to share with you some awesome Christmas albums, to show you how you should be celebrating the snow and the failures of harvest. Starting from tomorrow, every day I will be posting a recommended* Christmas/Solstice themed album for your pleasure. Well, technically not all of them will be Christmassy, but all of them will be awesome; and filling your days with awesome music will be enough.

***

Regular broadcasts begin tomorrow. But first, to get it out of my system, and because although it’s a Christmas album by a big name artist, I couldn’t bring myself to put it on the list, I have the aforementioned dishonourable mention. Why dishonourable? Because he sold out; because it’s twee; and because technically he’s Jewish and I would have loved some Hanukkah songs instead. And because it’s twee. So very twee.

Don’t even get me started on his days as a pastor. Have a listen to Bob Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart” and tell me what you think.

* Yes, “recommending”. Not giving. Unless it’s a doomsday scenario, and the album is impossible to get hold of without the right know-how, you’ll have to go find them yourselves!

Skepticon just became 20% Cooler

Man, I seem to have trouble with posts that don’t include ponies. Ah well, these ponies are SKEPTICAL!

Skepticon is one of those events that I want to go to before I die, along with TAM!, E3, the Nobel Prize ceremony* and a Strokes concert. I can’t say it’s been a lifelong desire – I only just decided to add it up there because I saw the line-up I just missed this past weekend. Aww sheet!

And now the speakers have been ponified! Twice! AWESOME!

There’re some awesome people up there (Rebecca Watson and Debbie Goddard for starters), but as Johnny Kaje has managed to put up all three of my most read, most favouritest bloggers, I thought I’d put them up here in particular. Read the rest of this entry

And I thought the Burka was bad.

Now I’m back and writing some more, at least for the time being, I get this to think about:

Burkas are not enough.

At least, not if you’re a Saudi. Think about it: you’ve got all of these sexy women, walking around, head to toe in black, obviously the sexiest colour, and all you can see is those alluring, sensual eyes.

Doesn’t it drive you mad with passion? Doesn’t it just make you fear for the dignity of those poor women, who have eyes, that they have to use to see, that are arousing such sexual thoughts in your head. It’s shocking, isn’t it?

Just look at them.

Well, we can’t have that. Cover up their eyes! Roll them up in blankets. It doesn’t matter that they walk into walls, and cannot have a life of their own without a male chaperone. At least they’re not giving us men an opportunity to think our lusty thoughts. We can’t help ourselves, but we can help them!

There is not enough sense in this for me to do anything other than parody this stupid line of reasoning mercilessly.

But wait, it’s OK because Haredi Jews are catching up!

Not satisfied with being in one of the worst warzones around, they have decided to make life even less tolerable for everyone by defacing pictures of women’s faces and calling 6 year olds dressed in what I can only assume is pretty unrevealing clothing* “pritzas” (“prostitutes”) on their way to school.

That’s right, 6 year old girls are being bullied on their way to school by grown men. WTF?

This just lends further credibility to all of my Haredi jew based slash-fic. Seriously, how else could they get their sexual tension out of their systems?

 

And now, a word in general about women and fictitious sky-daddies, not just those I’ve mentioned:

This is just fucking typical of religious groups everywhere. One of the major problems I have with organised religion is that, for some reason, even the ones which don’t have holy books full of misogyny** seem to gravitate towards punishing women. Over and over again. In the words of Serendipity:

“The whole book’s gender-biased. A woman’s responsible for original sin. A woman cuts Samson’s coif of power. A woman asks for the head of John the Baptist. Read that book again sometime. Women are painted as bigger antagonists than the Egyptians and Romans combined. It stinks.”

 

Salma Hayek and Alan Rickman cannot be wrong!

 

Ne’er a truer word was spoken. And because it’s all derivative, “That Book” can be the bible, the qu’ran, the torah, you name it.

This has got to fucking stop.

(I don’t know if I should be thanking Ophelia Benson for this, but she linked me to these horror stories at least.)

* Come on, they’re 6…

** These books are few and far between, and let me tell you, neither the Qu’ran nor the Bible are among them.

Well, we’ve got an interesting few hours ahead of us…

It’s now 8 o clock, and the world still hasn’t ended, despite what Harold Camping says. But there are still 4 hours to go – there’s still everything to play for.

I predict that before I’m capable of hitting the “publish” button, Sheffield will be drowned in a wave of meteor shows hot enough to glass this whole sinful city. I mean, it’s Climax down at the student’s union later on tonight – surely “the best LGBT night in Yorkshire” is enough to draw the Lord’s ire.

 

"FUCK YOU, SOUTH YORKSHIRE! THIS TIME I'M COMING FOR BLOOD!"

… Nope?

You’re reading this?

Clearly Harold is a deluded idiot with no idea how long a legacy of Doomsday Cults have come before him and have uniquely FAILED to destroy the planet. I just hope no-one kills all their family and tries to sell me their worldly possessions in the meantime.

Either that or he’s forgot to carry the one, and will back again in 6 months with another prediction

We all know the LHC is our best bet at a secular apocalypse anyway.

The Seventh Seal; Asking questions is good, even if you’re asking the Grim Reaper.

Yesterday, I was sitting in a lecture where we were discussing the philosophy of Ingmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”, when I encountered something which made me have to bite my tongue to stop from arguing up a storm with the lecturer. I thought I’d lay it out for your attention, and your opinions on the matter.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, “The Seventh Seal” is a film set in the dark ages, centring on Antonius Block (as played by Max von Sydow, one of the coolest names I’ve heard), a knight returning from the Crusades to a country plagued by the Black Death. As he lands, shipwrecked on the shore, he encounters Death himself. In an attempt to prolong his life, he challenges Death to a game of chess. And so it begins…

If you can't guess, Death is the guy on the left.

Read the rest of this entry

Are we God’s chosen sentient lifeform?

Or is it the daleks? They would make much more sense for Old Testament God.

In other news, Professor Christian Weidemann of Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany* has asked the question: “Did Jesus die for klingons too?”

This would be a pertinent question, if he died for humans. As it is, Weidemann uses this to postulate the existence of hundreds of other Jesuses. Take that, holy trinity!

Personally, I think it’s obvious – Jesus is a teaser, who comes down from The Heavens (the name of his spaceship) spouts a load of weird commandments to the bemused locals, then disappears back up into the sky to go and irritate a bunch of other stone age klingons, martians and little green men.

We did better than the others at dealing with the irritating immortal – we nailed the bugger up to a tree!

Anyway, I find it odd that he even said this, but then again, I suppose it was at a conference on space flight. Which just raises further questions – why was he speaking at a space flight conference at all. I am a philosopher (so to speak), and I still don’t think that we should be sinking our claws into such conferences.

Not that I don’t wouldn’t go if I could: who doesn’t want to explore the stars**.

 

(All hail Pharyngula!)

* I hope I got that right; that Bochum is a part of the university name, and not some other linguistic feature. I never studied german.

** Besides the krikkitmen, obviously.

Blasphemy Day has been and gone

Goddamnit, I’m sixteen minutes late. Ah well, due to WordPress’ weird timing scheme, this should still come up as being on September 30th.

So, in the spirit of the thing –

  • Mohammed was a normal, human being who lived a while ago, was no smarter or more profound than anyone else, and would certainly by today’s standards be considered a paedophile. Get over him!

  • Jesus was just some bloke, and he certainly did not come back from the dead. And if he did, then how the hell did he die for our sins?

  • And God, capitalised because it’s a first name, not a title, does not exist. No he doesn’t, with a lower case “h”. Stop abusing grammar for the sake of your pointless beliefs!

Man, that came out pretty tepid. I hope someone was offended, at least.

I challenge you to pretend that tomorrow is Blasphemy Day as well, and to curse, effing and blinding, all the myriad gods that don’t exist. That being all of them, may any or all them smite me down for saying it!

Wait, there’s such a thing as “The Jesus Fan Club”?

In the second of my “really brief posts about interesting things on the internet” in as many minutes, I give you Jen McCreight, aka Blaghag, and her run in with The Jesus Fan Club.

No joke.

In her wonderful account, the representative from The Jesus Fan Club fires off as many cliches as she can. I’d recommend you read the whole thing. My favourite part, though, has to be this (link in the original text):

Christian: And when you look at earthquakes, they’re correlated with areas that are full of sin. Like Haiti, it had a very high rate of HIV.
Me: Earthquakes are also correlated with fault lines.
Christian: Well, God doesn’t break his own laws. So he has to use what he already has in place. Like if he wanted to punish Seattle, we’re more predisposed to earthquakes over other natural disasters, so he’d probably use an earthquake.
Me: That’s very convenient that God uses the type of disaster that’s already inclined to happen there due to random chance.
Christian: God has to work within the own laws he created for the universe, because God created everything. He can’t just like, stop the sun in the sky or something.
Me: …Except that God did stop the sun in the sky so one of his prophet could perform genocide on a whole race of people.

Wow, she really did walk into that one. Why did she even say that? Had she forgotten her own mythos for a second?

Oh, and it was for genocide. Nuff said.

Anyway, apparently that bit about the sun was one of the metaphorical bits. The threats about earthquakes weren’t. Who knew?

Oh wow, I even have an article about cherry picking loaded up on one of my tabs, all ready for me to read! Coincidence? I think not…

They fight fools now, too!

OK, this is one of the most awesome things I’ve ever heard. The Foo Fighters have trolled the Westboro Baptist Church.

The most hateful, misogynist branch of the american far right were boycotting a Foo Fighters concert after the band released their new song “Keep It Clean (Hot Buns)”. It’s about how awesome gayness is, apparently. So, when morons are at the gate, boycotting you, what do you do? You give them a free showing!

Like I said, one of the most awesome things I’ve ever heard. The Westboro Baptist Church are moronic monsters who’ve put all of their skill points into working out how to make money offending people, and they need more people to point-and-laugh them out of existence.

I have a few things to say about the song itself. In the style of many american songs that aim to make a statement, it tries to do so without ever actually saying anything. Without being told it was about gayness*, I would never have *got* the message. YMMV on whether that is a good thing or not.

But I officially take my trucker’s cap off to the Foo Fighters: sirs, you have won an internet!

Admittedly, the video on their youtube account is just a photo of a couple of men’s legs, wearing nothing but leather boots and standing next to a urinal. Less subtlety there, I concede.