Friday, July 3, 2015

40 Questions For Christians Who Are Against Marriage Equality

[Image: People standing on the street carrying signs. One big sign reads, "Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman." A couple of other signs read, "We all deserve the freedom to marry." Picture found on Talking Points Memo.]

Last week's Supreme Court decision for marriage equality in all fifty states was a huge victory for the LGBT+ community. To celebrate, many on Facebook changed their profile pics to rainbow colors.

Of course not everyone was happy. Kevin DeYoung of the conservative Calvinistic blog The Gospel Coalition recently wrote that he is one of the many conservative evangelicals who are "lamenting" last week's Supreme Court ruling. He then went on to ask pro-LGBT+ Christians why they support marriage equality.

As a response, here are forty questions I'd like to ask Christians who don't support LGBT+ rights. These aren't meant to be snarky; just some honest questions:


1. If marriage is such a big deal in Christianity, why did Paul say it's best not to get married?

2. Also, if the family is such a big deal in Christianity, why did Jesus say his followers should leave their families?

3. Is homosexuality a mental illness?

4. If so, why did the American Psychological Association declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in the 1970s?

5. Also, why is there no comprehensive evidence that conversion therapy actually works?

6. Based on statistics alone, which is more prominent: physical violence against LGBT+ people or conservative Christians in America?

7. Jesus says divorce is forbidden unless adultery is involved. If that's the case, then why are there no Christian coalitions fighting to make divorce illegal?

8. Also, since the Bible says "Thou shalt not have any other gods before me," why don't you all fight to make all non-Christian religions illegal?

9. The Bible also says, "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy." Why not make it illegal for people to work on Sundays? (Unfortunately that means y'all can't go to Panera Bread after church.)

10. While we're talking about the Bible, let me ask you this: How do you know it's the Word of God? (Please don't respond with 2 Timothy 3:16 because that's a circular argument.)

11. The Qur'an claims to be the Word of God as well. How do you know Muhammad was wrong?

12. Is same-sex attraction really the result of a talking snake convincing two naked people to eat bad fruit?

13. Did God really speak through a donkey?

14. Did the sun really stand still?

15. If so, how did Earth survive not spinning for an entire day?

14. Since I'm queer, does means that, when I'm on my deathbed, all I have to say is, "Sorry about that, God!" to go to Heaven?

15. This question is specifically aimed at Calvinists: If God chooses who gets saved and who doesn't, how did I go from being a cishet born-again Christian boy to being a transgender bisexual atheist?

16. What's better for a child: Loving same-sex parents, or abusive opposite-sex parents?

17. Do you think Leelah Alcorn would still be alive if her parents accepted her the way she was?

18. If God will pour his wrath upon America now that same-sex marriage is now legal in all fifty states, why didn't he pour his wrath when we slaughtered the Native Americans?

19. Or during the Trail of Tears?

20. Or slavery?

21. Or Jim Crow?

22. Or for all the years of police brutality against black people?

23. You do know rainbows are caused by sunlight hitting raindrops, right?

24. Do you think it's right for parents to kick their LGBT+ kids out of their homes?

25. If homosexuality is unnatural, why is it prevalent in over 500 species of animals?

26. Also, if being transgender goes against God's will, why can certain species switch from male to female in order to reproduce?

27. If God only intended penis-in-vagina sex, why does prostrate stimulation feel so good?

28. Also, why is the clitoris outside the vagina?

29. If the Bible defines marriage as only between one man and one woman, why is there so much polygamy in the Bible?

30. If marriage is for procreation, are barren couples shit out of luck?

31. What about couples who choose not to have children due to health complications?

32. Are couples who can't afford to have children obligated to have children?

33. If your child came out of the closet, what would you do?

34. If you believe in "love the sinner, hate the sin," does this mean I can love religious people but hate religion?

35. If LGBT+ Christians aren't real Christians, does the same apply to women who go to church bare-headed?

36. If Jesus told his followers to invite the poor, the lame, and the blind to banquets, how come I never see Christians throw dinner parties for disabled homeless people?

37. If God invented marriage, does that means atheists shouldn't marry?

38. If God wants the whole world to worship him, why did he spend so much time in Israel/Palestine?

39. Why did Jesus go up to Heaven after he rose from the dead? Wouldn't he go on a world tour for a second act?

40. If Jesus is such a big deal for Christians, how come Jesus never married?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Bi Any Means Podcast #13: Race and Antitheism with Peter Mosley


We're back with a brand new episode! Today I chat with Peter Mosley of the blog Barrier Breaker about his background, why he calls himself an antitheist, and how secular humanism and racial justice intersect. Enjoy!


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Transcript:

Trav:                Hello and welcome to another episode of the Bi Any Means podcast. The podcast companion to bianymeans.com, I’m Trav Mamone and as you may have noticed, I didn’t upload an episode last week. There’s a good reason for that, turns out the weekly format didn’t work for me. I got people’s attention but I personally wasn’t satisfied. I don’t want this podcast to focus on just me and what I think. I talk about myself enough on the Bi Any Means blog and Queereka. Instead, I want this podcast to focus on what other people have to say. I want to give other people the chance to tell their stories especially those whose stories aren’t being heard. So, I’m going back to the old interview format.

                        Also, this podcast will go back to being a twice a month show. That’s because with work, school, and keeping my blog up-to-date I really don’t have the time to schedule an interview, record it, edit, upload it and send it to my friend Marvin to transcribe it week after week. With a twice a month show, it’ll give me time to produce a high quality show that I actually enjoy doing. With all that said, I have a great interview for you all today.

Today, I will be chatting with Peter Mosley of the Patheos blog Barrier Breaker. We are going to chat about his background, why he calls himself an antitheist, and how secular humanism and racial justice are connected. Enjoy the show.

. . .

My guest for today is Peter Mosley whose blog Barrier Breaker can be found on patheos.com. Peter thanks for joining me today.

Peter:               Good to be here.

Trav:                Now, first I want to ask you about your background. You were raised in a fundamentalist Christian household.

Peter:               Yeah, it was a fairly conservative household, definitely. Took the Bible very seriously, and also was home schooled through high school. I didn’t go to public school until college, probably for educational reasons and partly just because of the religious background.

Trav:                What eventually led you to atheism?

Peter:               I was pretty serious about Christianity for a while. I was a Christian until I was about 28-years-old, and it was a series of things. Probably the biggest factor for me was I was in school for literature. I got a master’s degree in literature from Northern Arizona University while I was a Christian, and I came to Texas Christian University for a doctorate in literature thinking that because Christian was in the title I would probably remain a Christian while I was getting the literature degree. Something that really brought me out of Christianity was a lot of the things that Christianity said as far as what exactly sin was, and where people belonged when they died--at least the Christianity that I was in--wasn’t really matching out to a lot of the character in the novels that I was reading. Things weren’t nearly as black and white as Christianity painted it out to be, at least the one that I was familiar with.

                        That led me towards doubting the concept of hell and also, led me towards asking questions about some of the more fantastic things in the Bible, which became more and more unbelievable to me as time went on, and it led me to a lot of debates with atheists. I spent several all-nighters doing back and forth with atheists, and agnostics looking at different apologetic books, The Case for Christ, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, the whole … quite a few different apologetic spokes, trying to figure out exactly how I could convert these atheists because I thought that they were going to hell and I knew they didn’t deserve it. Conversations over years, a lot of reading, a lot of challenged thinking, a lot of examining of the historical evidence for the Bible, a lot of empathy for people who were supposedly not going to go to heaven, a lot of that came to a head, and there’s a lot more to it. Basically, when I was 28, I was scheduled to lead a Bible study in apologetics that upcoming week, and at that point, I couldn’t lead the Bible study because my doubts had become convictions.

I was just convinced that Christianity wasn’t true, and I left Christianity in early April of 2012, and wasn’t an atheist immediately. I was an agnostic for a while, and looked into several different other religions and other ways of thinking, and eventually rejected religion all together, and came around to a picture of the world that I eventually identified with atheism and that was maybe about a two or three month process after I left Christianity. Ever since then I’ve been a pretty outspoken atheist.  

Trav:                That’s pretty funny because that was sort of my journey as well, talking with different atheists, reading different atheists’ blog and then slowly but surely realizing, “Okay, this part isn’t true, and that part isn’t true, and that part isn’t true.” Plus also at the time I was part of the whole Emergent Christian movement.

Peter:               Oh, yeah!

Trav:                There was a lot of trying to say, "Yeah, this isn’t true, and that’s not true, and that’s not true but there’s still a god but it’s not the God you read about in the Bible or they preach Sunday school" until finally to the point where I was, “I ain’t got nothing left.”

Peter:               It’s funny how that works. I’ve seen that in a lot of de-convergent stories as well, because when I first left Christianity I was thinking, “Has anybody had the experience that I’ve had?” Talking to a lot of Christians after first leaving a lot of them where, “Well, it’s just you,” that type of thing. But I’ve noticed a lot of stories a lot like yours and a lot like mine, where people may have thought the entire Christian story was true, and then they start to doubt this part and that part, and slowly they became like melting ice in the middle of the ocean. There’s eventually nothing to hold on to and you are, “Okay, the whole thing is untrue,” and you leave at that point for a lot of people including myself. I definitely have that.

Trav:                In your blog, you say you are not only an atheist but also an antitheist. What does being an antitheist mean to you?

Peter:               I think this goes back to my background a little bit. When I was a Christian it took a lot of courage for me to leave Christianity, and I hear a lot of times from people as a side comment a lot of people say, “Well, because you are more connected to a fundamentalist branch you are on the periphery of Christianity,” when actually the fundamentalist branch is the largest branch in America. It’s the largest branch of Christianity and it’s the most stubborn. I should have said … according to the stats, I should have probably been a fundamentalist because there’s not very many people who are leaving. But anyway, I was very afraid when I was a fundamentalist of the concept of hell. Not so much … not just for myself but for other people, and for myself a little bit when I really started doubting. It was that electric fence if you are fenced into an area. You don’t really think about it until you are close to it. As long as you are just prancing around in the field, you know, you are not thinking about it, but then when you start having doubts about what’s beyond you start getting nervous. Is the fence really there, the electric’s going to hurt me, whatever.

I had a lot of those doubts. Some very strong … and especially, preachers are very good at keeping people in faith through scare tactics and the Bible and so on. It took some very bold atheists to take me out of that to some extent, and I know that Hitchens, and Dawkins, and Sam Harris have gotten a bad rap, and I don’t approve of a lot of the misogynistic things that they’ve said and a lot of the … they don’t really jive with a lot of my more liberal leanings. As far as at that time, when I was a Christian I needed somebody to have the courage to look Christianity in the face and say this is all just flat out wrong and nonsense. Having the guts and courage to call it out on … as far as morality, and so on. When I left Christianity, I left Christianity partly because of their courage and partly because of the courage of several other theories and so on that I came across. It wasn’t just them.

I was also reading several people. I was getting my doctorate in literature that have helped me out quite a bit but coming from it I just found that there’s a lot of legitimate pain and anger that comes from people who have been hurt by the way that Christianity has tried to control their lives. I think it’s important for that to be expressed and heard. I saw myself as more or less of not just an expresser but also a conduit for understanding a lot of those concerns. I also think that in many cases Christians will label you as somebody who is aggressive against Christianity just for speaking your mind in what you honestly think about the religion. Instead of trying to distance myself from the title, and thus distance myself from criticizing Christianity, I decided to go ahead and embrace it. That’s part of why I call myself an antitheist.  
There’s a few reasons.  First, I think that a strong stance against Christianity might give other Christians more courage in leaving the faith. Second, I think that different … I think that different viewpoints need to be expressed when they as far as life anger, the hurt and so on that people feel due to what Christianity has tried to do to them, manipulate them or control and that type of thing.

Third, I think that a lot of the things that … a lot of the criticisms that people who aren’t Christians have of Christianity are labeled as antitheistic anyway. Instead of distancing myself from the title I go ahead and embrace it so I can continue to criticize Christianity in the ways I think it should be criticized without having to worry about whether I’m labeled as an antitheist or not, if that makes sense.

Trav:                Yeah, yeah, it does. I remember when I first became an atheist I tried very hard to go the whole Chris Steadman, the faitheist route … I still agree with him on some points. I’m definitely … I have no problem partnering with people of faith when it comes to social justice issues as long as there’s proselytizing. But it seems like now after looking at … looking back at my years as a Christian and just really finding out how much it damaged me--not just like the conservative evangelical stuff but also a lot of the ideas I’ve picked up from the left leaning progressive Christians--I’m a lot more open to telling people why I have such a beef with religion.

Peter:               Right. I think people should be honest about that, too. I think if you have … in literature a lot, I read people’s stories, and I try to interpret people’s stories. I’m very passionate about the more marginalized groups being heard, and I think that atheism is a more marginalized group here in the United States. I think when Christians are trying to silence atheists by saying, “You are being rude,” or when even atheists try to silence atheists by saying, “You are being too rude, or you are being too angry,” and so on, I think that that’s the silencing of a story that really needs to be heard in a lot of circumstances.

                        I see myself a bit of a defender of those stories, and also, just let me spin an expression of my own story, but I think that part of it is because I’m an atheist, part of it is because atheists are such a marginalized group in this country. If the roles were reversed and in my blog writing, I hear from people from places in Europe, where there’s not nearly as many devotedly religious people, and a lot more atheists, they are like, “Why are you so strongly against religion? Because over here we’ve already pretty much won. Why are you fighting so hard?” And it’s just one of those things if the roles were reversed, if most elite people in this country were atheists and a very small percentage, maybe two or three percent were Christian, I would still be an atheist, but I would be, “Here’s this marginalized group over here. We need to see where they are coming from. We need to sensitive to their concerns to some extent as well even where we disagree.”

I think part of it is atheists are such a marginalized group and they are such a mischaracterized group that I think it’s important to fight for making sure their stories are heard.   

Trav:                Right, definitely. I’ve heard from other African-American atheists that it’s hard to come out as irreligious in African-American communities because the black church plays such a pivotal role in black culture and the community. Did you experience any difficulty when you came out as an atheist? 

Peter:               Honestly, a lot of my background . . . I do have a rich black heritage in my family, but growing up the church I went to a mixed church, and a lot of my friends honestly were white. When I came here to Texas … sorry, attending church I jokingly refer to myself as the token black friend. It’s like I went to churches that were mostly white. That part of things was not so much of a concern for me personally but there was with my family, leaving … as far as leaving the church, but with my family cultural connection with larger extended family and so on that was a very significant change. I think from a family standpoint it was very difficult, but from a church standpoint it wasn’t … with the church I was going to at the time, I’m not sure my struggles with them characteristics of struggles somebody would have from coming away from a predominantly a black church.

                        From talking to people, black people are usually expected to be in this country, black people a lot of times have a strong tradition of Christianity but at the same time part of what de-converted me in my pursuit of my doctorate thus far I’ve been looking at a lot of African-American literature. The dissertation I’m working on is looking at African-American Writers during the 1920s, early 1930s. Several of them actually had a major role in taking me away from my faith. People Langston Hughes, who was an atheist, and Zora Neale Hurston, who was also an atheist, and several other writers of that period who cast doubt on religion even though they weren’t outspoken atheists, revealed to me that I could connect to my heritage. Also, part of connected to my heritage actually for me included taking myself out of Christianity because looking at the history of Christianity--and this is a very controversial statement--looking at the history of Christianity, I saw it as a religion that was often used to subjugated blacks in this country, and how James Baldwin went and talked about how the Bible has been used to control black people in this country, and that’s something I saw as I looked back in our history. I feel I’m connecting a bit to that history by being a black atheist and realizing how Christianity has been used to marginalize black people. That’s something very controversial, and that’s something that maybe not as many black people are aware of necessarily. There is a very strong stereotype of a black person being more religious that has some pretty deep historical roots attached to it.

Trav:                When did you start blogging and what inspires you to start blogging?

Peter:               What inspired me to start? I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I told you I got my bachelor’s in English. I got my master’s in English. I’m getting my PhD in literature. Writing has always been my thing, even when I was young--10, 12 years old--I would still write in a journal every day. I came across my old journal articles when I was 10 years old. I’ve been writing for a long time. When I got older, I started just writing for different classes, and then just writing for my friends. Before the days of MySpace, I would type up something and then I would share it with my friends and say, “Here’s the thing I wrote.” Then MySpace came along and it was an opportunity for me to blog on there, and then MySpace became eventually obsolete and then went to Facebook. With Facebook I got another blog, some pages to try to become a better blogger from there and then eventually got on Patheos, but I don’t remember what first led me to blog.

                        It’s been such a gradual progression of just finding avenues to speak in that way, to speak through writing that I can’t say in person.

Trav:                Cool. Where does the name Barrier Breaker come from?

Peter:               Barrier Breaker is something that I … I’ve always been interested in seeing the links between different viewpoints. As something that was very difficult for me when I was a Christian was seeing the vision between saved and the unsaved, and there it just seemed that really didn’t need to be there. There are all these marginalized groups on the unsaved part: the LGBT population, for example, or the non-Christian population that I really had a heart for that were supposed to be on the unsaved side. A lot of my leaving Christianity was breaking that barrier. I think that’s where that … that’s something that has been a trend in a lot of my writing and research, and that type of thing breaking those barriers between the marginalized and the privileged but not doing it just from the supremacist thing, like saying, “I don’t see race. There’s no barrier.” There really is if you see it from the marginalized person’s perspective and you have to … the marginalized voice is trying to break out of that.

                        I think that’s where it came from going to the other side. When I became an atheist, I was trying to break through to Christians, but breakthrough in an honest way, break through saying, “This is where an atheist is coming from honestly from the far extreme to some extent”--or what a Christian might see as a far extreme; the most marginalized positions—“and I’m trying to communicate this to you and not only that, but also, positions on gender, and race, and that type of thing.” I’m trying to as much as I can with the limited knowledge I have, and trying to grow that knowledge. I’m trying to push through and communicate that to more privileged groups, and also trying to encourage the marginalized groups themselves as much as I can.

Trav:                All right, cool. Now, you write a lot about racism in America and unfortunately you get a lot of comments from people saying, “Stop talking about race.” Are these mostly from Christians, atheists, a mixture of both or none of the above?

Peter:               I don’t really know. A lot of times they don’t identify themselves. In my personal experience, it’s so hard to say. As far as divided up by religion, I have a hard time seeing it the difference. As far as … I’ll put it this way. I talk with a lot of people online, too. I’m on Facebook quite a bit partly because I like being on Facebook, partially because it gives me ideas on what to write next because I get to see what people’s general opinions are, and then I can come back and gather that, and say, “Okay, I should write a blog post on that.” One person I’ve really debated with a lot … I’m not going to give his name because I don’t want to give him additional voice. One person I’ve debated with a lot is a white atheist, and I’ve noticed in debating back and forth with him, and this is very sad to say, but I can almost tell when they have the different profile pics, I can almost tell what somebody is going to say before I read their comment when I see their profile pic. This may sound racist to say but usually if it’s a white individual they have one opinion. If it’s a black individual they have a different opinion.

                        I see more division on the race spectrum than I do on the religion spectrum. The religion spectrum it’s really hard to say. I imagine though that liberal atheists . . . the atheists tend to be a little bit more liberal than religious individuals are, but it’s probably more religious, but I don’t know exactly by how much. I’ve noticed a lot more skin tone as opposed to religion on that one.

Trav:                In your experience, do you meet a lot of atheists who are willing to have difficult conversations about white privilege and racism?

Peter:               I don’t really discuss it a lot in person. I don’t have a lot of friends who … it’s not really dinner table conversation necessarily. When it does come up … when is the last time it came up in conversation? I can’t really remember. At particular times with one individual, it came up in conversation rarely prominently, although I know there’s some that I’m probably just missing. I know that the few conversations that I’ve had white people usually tend to be somewhat reluctant about it. It’s hard to know if … I’m not sure if that’s skin tone as much as you don’t talk about politics around the dinner table type of thing. You talking about it in person or if … ?

Trav:                Either in person or online, or basically just anywhere, even on the blogosphere. 

Peter:               Yeah, I’m sorry. Blogosphere and online it’s mixed. Some people are very, very interested in talking about race, and I’m looking for [inaudible 00:29:58] to deal with it, and that’s always very, very difficult to try to navigate simply because being black or being in a marginalized person in society that wherever we get marginalized . . . like probably everybody in the United States is marginalized some way or another. Wherever you are marginalized . . . this is an analogy I use. It’s like being in a prison, and you are there because you are wrongly accused. People think that you are somebody you are not. There’s guards out there, the more privileged people who are pacing back and forth, and they are all part of the system too. They ask you, “How can we get you out?” and you are, “I don’t know. I’m reading these books on law, and reading about my position, and how I got here, and the different ways I can get out. I’m trying to figure it out. I know my experience being marginalized here, but as far as getting out of this, as far as how you can help me, if I had the key, if solve the mystery to it thoroughly I would have done it already. Maybe I have some ideas but this is something we can work together on. You can work from your side of things, and I can work from mine.”

                        I’ve seen some willingness but I’ve also had to say, unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers. But I’m willing to talk and hear from you when you can hear from me, and we can try to figure out maybe the best next step forward.

Trav:                Very good. In your life, how do you see secular humanism and social justice intersect?

Peter:               That was very important, so important. When I became a Christian … I mean when I left Christianity. I’m sorry. There’s a big difference. When I left Christianity I pretty much became a very liberal secular humanist, very upfront about social justice issues, and very passionate about them almost overnight simply because … we are all we’ve got in this world, right? If God is not … when I was a Christian, I was like, “There’s God, and he’s going to make everything perfect in the afterlife. This world, yeah, you try to make things better, and the way God would have them made them better but there’s always going to be that comfort that in the afterlife everything is going to be made right. “

                        God leaves and it’s all up to us, and if somebody dies unloved, or if somebody dies … commits suicide or homicide happens, or is mistreated and or marginalized their entire life, there is no way to make up for that. That’s just it. I see it as so much more important if I’m going to value human beings, and if there’s no God, I see it as so important to try to fight for social justice so that people can live the one life they have with dignity. It’s probably my highest priority in my life. It’s something that I would triple underline if possible. Did that answer your question?

Trav:                Yeah, yeah, it does. Let’s see here. That’s about it for me. Where can people find you online?

Peter:               I’m on Patheos at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/barrierbreaker/. Part of the Patheos network.

Trav:                Thanks again for joining me today Peter.

Peter:               I appreciate being able to talk to you.

. . .


Trav:                I want to thank Peter Mosley again for taking the time to chat with me, and sharing his story. I want to thank Marvin for transcribing this episode. I want to thank Asher Silberman for designing the Bi Any Means logo. I want to thank Andy Semler and Jeff Straka for support the podcast through Patreon. If you want to help me out just go to www.patreon.com/tmamone to be patron. You can follow me on Twitter @tmamone, and you can like my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/travismamonewriter, and of course, you can go to www.bianymeans.com for more musings from a queer humanist. Until next time, take care, friends.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Why I'm Both Happy And Cynical About Yesterday's Marriage Equality Ruling -- New Queereka Article


Yesterday was a milestone for the LGBT+ movement; the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in all fifty states. What seemed at first as just a dream is now a reality for many same-sex couples in America. As I write this, more than twenty-four hours after the historic ruling, I’m happy that our nation is one step closer to full equality for LGBT+ folks like me. And yet, I’m also cynical about how the fight for marriage equality, while an important one, often got pushed to the font line at the expense of other issues.

Read the rest here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why Atheists Should Care About Racism



[CN: Racism, Violence]

Yesterday Jaclyn Glenn posted a video about the Charleston, SC shooting. Even though I've criticized some of her past videos (rather harshly, I must confess), I'm happy that someone with such a large platform is finally addressing something that, in my opinion, doesn't get talked a lot about in the atheist community: racism.

Whenever the topic of social justice comes up in atheist circles, chances are someone is going to butt in and say, “Atheism has nothing to do with social justice. Atheism just means you don’t believe in any gods. Stop pushing your agenda!” This is what PZ Myers refers to as “dictionary atheism,” and it gets pretty fucking annoying after a while. True, atheism isn’t really a belief system with a set of commandments; it addresses just one question, "Do you believe in God?" However, advocating science education isn’t an atheist commandment, either, and plenty of atheists advocate science education. Being pro-marriage equality isn’t a requirement for atheism, but plenty of atheists vocally support marriage equality. Even being an anti-theist isn’t a mandatory requirement for atheism, but plenty of atheists are anti-theists. So why is it when the conversation goes towards social justice activism, the Dictionary Atheists come out of the woodwork? I don’t get it because I think atheism, humanism, and social justice are all connected. As Audre Lorde once said, “There’s no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.”

This is why I think atheists should care about racial justice. Especially since systemic racism and religious dogma often go hand-in-hand.

For starters, look at Manifest Destiny. According to Professor Donald M. Scott:

Manifest Destiny was not simply a cloak for American imperialism and a justification for America’s territorial ambitions. It also was firmly anchored in a long standing and deep sense of a special and unique American Destiny, the belief that in the words of historian Conrad Cherry, “America is a nation called to a special destiny by God.” The notion that there was some providential purpose to the European discovery and eventual conquest of the land masses “discovered” by Christopher Columbus was present from the beginning. Both the Spanish and the French monarchs authorized and financed exploration of the “New World” because, among other things, they considered it their divinely appointed mission to spread Christianity to the New World by converting the natives to Christianity. Coming later to the venture, the British and especially the New England Puritans carried with them a demanding sense of Providential purpose.

Scott goes on to explain how, in the 1600s, Massachusetts Bay Colony governor John Winthrop believed that God had given America to the white European settlers as if it was a Land of Milk and Honey. According to him, if the settlers remained obedient to God, "we shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when tens of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when he shall make us a praise and a glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: the lord make it like New England, for we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people upon us.”

So the early settlers thought of themselves as being God's chosen people, just like the Hebrews of the Old Testament, and God had promised them a new land. And just like in the Old Testament, the settlers slaughtered the people already living in their Promised Land. But why care about the lives of other people when you believe God is on your side, right?

Second, anybody who has seen the movie 12 Years a Slave remembers the scene where Michael Fassbender’s character, the slave owner Edwin Epps, reads a passage from the Bible about striking disobedient slaves, and then he holds the Bible up in the air and says, “That’s scripture!” Now lot of Christians, both white and black, will tell you that the slave owners twisted the Bible’s original meaning to fit their own needs, and that many abolitionists were, in fact, Christians. But just like with today’s debates about marriage equality, there were people on both sides of the slavery debate who used the same Bible to make their cases. And if you read the Bible, you can find just as many pro-slavery verses as you would anti-slavery verses. Or at least verses that could be interpreted as either pro-slavery or anti-slavery.

Same thing goes for Jim Crow; you had both sides of the debate using the exact same Bible to back up their own claims. And since God hasn't opened up the skies to clarify things, who's to say who was right and who was wrong? As Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:

Now, Christianity did not "cause" slavery, anymore than Christianity "caused" the civil-rights movement. The interest in power is almost always accompanied by the need to sanctify that power. That is what the Muslim terrorists in ISIS are seeking to do today, and that is what Christian enslavers and Christian terrorists did for the lion's share of American history. [Emphasis mine]

Fast forward to today. America has come a lot way since the days of slaughtering Native Americans, slavery, and segregation, right? We've made progress, but with recent events such as Ferguson, Baltimore, McKinney, and Charleston, we are far from being a post-racial society. Racism hasn't died, it just evolved. As Sikivu Hutchinson writes in her book Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars:

In the mind of mainstream America, the fire hose attacks, police dogs, and violent redneck white of the Jim Crow era are frozen in time as the ultimate symbols of racial segregation. Yet the legacy of de facto segregation practiced by banks, mortgage lending institutions, real estate agents, and average white citizens has been the most insidious barrier to African Americans' pursuit of racial justice. (p. 66)

A lot of people think racism is just some hillbilly motherfucker with a white hood, but that's only one symptom of the disease. As Lonnae O'Neal describes it, racism is more like the zombie virus in The Walking Dead that infects everyone. Or better yet, racism is like a planted idea, like in the movie Inception. And it's an idea that says, to borrow a phrase from George Orwell, "All people are equal . . . but some are more equal than others."

Let's face it; we've all contributed to the problem in some way or form. Raise your hand if you've ever called someone a thug simply because of the way they looked or talked. Raise your hand if you've ever laughed at a racist joke. Raise your hand if you've ever commented on how well a black person speaks. You can't see me, but I raised my hand for all three!

Fortunately, several humanist groups are starting to speak out against systemic racism in the wake of Ferguson, Baltimore, McKinney, and Charleston. In a joint statement by the American Humanist Society and the Frederick Douglass Humanist Society of Baltimore earlier this year:

It is neither an American value nor a humanist value to rule our citizens as if they are guilty criminals who must be proven innocent. When the police ignore fundamental civil liberties, it is time that we rethink the role of our increasingly militarized law enforcement . . .Instead of seeing themselves in opposition to residents, police must develop an ethic of community that includes building relationships and communicating with citizens so that both can live together in cooperation, free from fear and intimidation.

I think Hemant Mehta best sums it up best:

There’s no reason other groups that value reason-based thinking can’t say something similar. This isn’t about taking sides or playing politics. It’s about recognizing a problem in our society where certain groups are treated horribly through no fault of their own. We’re excellent at supporting and defending LGBT rights when they come under attack.

There’s no reason atheists should be slow (or absent) on this issue either. It’s about humanity and dignity and treating others with respect; if you don’t believe in God, it’s hard to argue against those ethics.

As atheists, we love to debunk false beliefs and bad logic. We're great at debunking superstitious hooey, but hopefully now we'll start debunking the false belief that some are more equal than others.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Will Ruby Rose Help People Understand Gender Fluidity--New Queereka Article



All this week, we at Queereka have been reviewing the new season of Orange is the New Black. I, unfortunately, haven’t contributed because 1). I’m really busy with work and school, so I don’t have much time for binge watching right now, and 2). I’ve only seen the first three episodes of the first season so far. When I get some time to myself, though, I’ll have to play catch-up because all my friends say OITNB is one of those shows that starts off slow, but then picks up steam. Also, because of Ruby Rose.

Rose, who plays Stella Carlin in season 3, recently gave an interview to Elle magazine where she explained her gender fluid identity. She says:

Gender fluidity is not really feeling like you’re at one end of the spectrum or the other. For the most part, I definitely don’t identify as any gender. I’m not a guy; I don’t really feel like a woman, but obviously I was born one. So, I’m somewhere in the middle, which – in my perfect imagination – is like having the best of both sexes. I have a lot of characteristics that would normally be present in a guy and then less that would be present in a woman. But then sometimes I’ll put on a skirt – like today.

And all of us genderqueer/gender fluid/non-binary folks respond, “YAAASSSSSS!!!!!!”

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Read the rest here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bi Any Means Podcast #12: The Strange Case of Rachel Dolezal


[CN: Cultural appropriation, anti-queer bigotry, police violence, racism, misogyny]

On this episode, I talk about the strange case of Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP leader who is actually a white woman passing herself off as black. I also talk about McKinney, Michigan's anti-gay adoption law, and why divorcing over marriage equality doesn't make any sense.

*UPDATE: A friend just pointed out a few problematic things about this episode. First, when I described how Dolezal looks under the make up--blonde hair, freckles, and blue eyes--my friend pointed out that she has a Nigerian friend whose features, including hair color, make her appear white. Second, "transracial" actually means being adopted by someone of a different culture. Sorry about that, folks!

Click here to read the transcript.



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Monday, June 8, 2015

Bi Any Means Podcast #11: Why Pride Month Matters

[Image: rainbow pride colors]

[CN: Violence, anti-LGBT bigotry]

Today's episode is a little different. Instead of an interview, I'm going to talk about why Pride Month matters to so many of us queer people, and why I think we've strayed from its original meaning. Enjoy!

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