Friday, October 9, 2015

Bi Any Means Podcast #21: Ex-Muslims and Allies with Sadaf Ali

My guest for today is Sadaf Ali. They are one of the co-founders of the Ex-Muslims of North America, and they blog about atheism and feminism on The Burning Bush. Today we’ll talk about their background, their work with the Ex-Muslims of North America, and, hopefully, the big difference between legit criticisms of Islam and flat out racism.

(Transcription available upon request.)


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hear Me Talk About #BiWeek on The BiCast!

Last week I sat down with Lynnette McFadzen, John Clark, and Mick Collins to talk about how Bisexual Awareness Week went for all of us, and our conversation is now online. Enjoy!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Faitheist? Antitheist? Neither! #IamAHumanist

[Image: “Humanism: Because all we have is each other” scrawled in black on a light brown wall. Picture credit: The Humanist Institute.]

A year ago, I wondered out loud if I was a faitheist. I enjoyed Chris Stedman’s book Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, and I thought it was time to move beyond the tired out antitheistic conversations. Then, after reading why a lot of atheists have a problem with Stedman’s position, I started identifying as an antitheist. Now I realize neither label fits me. I have no problem with people who identify as either a faitheist or an antitheist, but at this point I’m more comfortable calling myself a humanist. In fact, I think humanism serves as the perfect balance between faitheism and antitheism.

The faitheists are right about a few things, though. According to Alex Chituc’s Ten Commandments of Faitheism, faitheists believe religion is not a monolith, and the only way they can make the world a better place is to partner with like-minded religious people. Chituc also questions how much religion causes bad behavior. It’s true that religion is not a monolith. All religious beliefs are, technically, interpretations of translations of thousand-year-old texts written by fallible humans during a prescientific era, so nobody really has any authority to say who is a true Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, etc. Also, as I wrote on Brown-Eyed Amazon, I’ve met several social justice activists online (most of whom are either of color, queer, or both) who deconstruct the ways scriptures have been interpreted through a white supremacist capitalist cisheteronormative patriarchal lens. To me, you don’t have to be an atheist to make the world a better place; you just have to use enough humanistic reasoning to prioritize humans over outdated doctrines.

That being said, I disagree with a lot of faitheists’ view that religious dogma, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. To me, a preacher telling his congregation to accept everything he says about God without question insults my intelligence. At best, this kind of blind faith gives one a warped view of reality (e.g. creationism); at worse, it can lead to oppression, abuse, and murder (e.g. Islamic terrorism). I can’t, in good conscience, support any idealism that protects itself from public scrutiny.

This is where my inner antitheist comes out. It’s only been within the past year that I’ve felt comfortable enough writing about how religious dogma damaged me. I spent years struggling with gender dysphoria and self-hatred because I was taught to believe, without question, that I was supposed to be a cishet man. I know not all Christians think this way, but I can’t keep quiet about what I went through, either. Peter Mosley was right; we need safe spaces for those recovering from religion. This is why I’m so vocal about the negative effects religious dogma had on me: not just for my own recovery, but also to let others know they are not alone.

That being said, some antitheists are just as guilty of being dogmatic as religious fundamentalists. The term “atheist fundamentalist” sound ridiculous at first—atheists don’t even have a holy book—but as Sarah Jones explained on my podcast, some antitheists use the same “us vs. them” rhetoric and illogical conclusions as religious fundamentalists. For example, during initial reports that UCC shooter Chris Harper chose his victims based on their religious beliefs, Stephanie Guttormson tweeted, “Religion, as much as lack of gun control is to blame for the #UCCShooting.” Turns out only two of the nine victims were confirmed to be Christians, but even if all nine were killed because they were Christians, isn’t saying it’s all religion’s fault basically victim blaming? (Guttormson apologized shortly after her initial tweet.)

To me, humanism is a middle ground between the two extremes. As Roy Speckhardt writes in his new book Creating Change Through Humanism, there’s room for both faitheism and antitheism within humanism. “[M]any humanists,” he writes, “may experience anti-theistic periods in their life when they feel that countering the harm of religion is their best overall emphasis. But that essentially negative mindset isn’t what characterizes the thrust of humanist aspirations” (Loc. 263-65 in the e-book version). There are definitely times when humanists need to call out religion’s bullshit, but humanism doesn’t stop there. Humanism is about making the world a better place using facts, reason, and compassion as guides. And while most humanists are secular, Speckhardt says religious humanists are just as valid:

Even though they may choose to identify and participate in a particular faith tradition, either  because of their culture, their family, or some other societal reason, they also could be invited to identify as nontheistic humanists. Let’s not create a schism where it isn’t needed, and instead, let’s be welcoming to those who wish to learn more about humanism and how to live a good life without a belief in god. (Loc. 692-95)

As I said earlier, I have no problem with people who want to identify as either a faitheist or an antitheist, but if you want to slap a label on me, call me a humanist.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Bi Any Means Podcast #20: Trans Rights and Skepticism with Stephanie Guttormson

[CN: Transphobia]

Today I chat with Stephanie Guttormson, a transgender woman who works for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and is the host of her own YouTube channel, Think Stephtically. Today we talk about her life, her work, and how skepticism can make one a better activist.

(Transcription available upon request.)


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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Don't Pray, But I Understand Why People Do

[Image: a black-and-white picture of a woman sitting on the couch with her knees drawn to her chest. She's not looking at the camera, and her smudged eyeliner suggests she has been crying. Picture credit: Luis Sarabia. Creative Commons]

[CN: Depression]

I lost my job a few weeks ago.

I’m not going to say why, but I will say since then, my mental health has been constantly up and down. Sometimes I’m okay, other times I feel like a failure. I see a therapist every week, and we talk about how to manage my symptoms. Overall I’m keeping my head above water, but it’s hard since I don’t know how to swim.

Back in my Christian days, I would pray. I would be on my knees day and night asking God to give me some sort of direction. I would have felt good for a little bit, but then the darkness would return, and I would beg God to save me.

Now as an atheist, I know nobody hears my prayers. I know when I pray, I’m just talking to the wind. I know there’s no scientific evidence that proves prayer works. And yet, I still understand why people pray.

When your life is spinning out of control, you want to have some sort of control. You think that if you politely ask, the universe will alter its course and rearrange everything. But the truth is the universe isn’t obliged to give a shit about you.

This is why being an atheist is both liberating and frightening. It’s frightening because I know there’s no divine safety net for me. There never was, of course, but at least the false belief gave me comfort. Now that I’ve put away false hopes, I know no magic words will alter the course of the universe. As the old saying goes, if it’s going to be, it’s up to me.

Which is why being an atheist is also liberating. When things don’t go my way, I know it’s not a divine conspiracy against me. It’s just life. I can’t change it. But at least I can choose how to respond to strife.

So that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m exploring all my job options and seeking help. I don’t know when things will get better, but I know they will someday.

By the way, if you want to help me out, consider, leaving me a $1 tip per blog post and podcast episode.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Atheists Have An Anti-Muslim Bigotry Problem - My First Article For The Humanist!

On Monday, September 14, Ahmed Mohamed, a fourteen-year-old student at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, was arrested after school officials believed his homemade clock was a bomb.Although Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd knew it wasn’t a bomb, Mohamed was arrested anyway on charges of bringing a “hoax bomb” to school. As soon as the story broke nationwide, many people vocally expressed support for Mohamed with the hashtag #IStandWithAhmed, including many within the secular community—the Center for Inquiry, Sarah Morehead, and the American Humanist Association to name a few.

However, despite the overwhelming support for Mohamed, some prominent atheists instead chose to attack him. On September 18, Real Time host Bill Maher defended Mohamed’s arrest because “for the last thirty years, it’s been one culture that has been blowing shit up over and over again.” Also, Richard Dawkins suggested on Twitter that perhaps Mohamed “wanted to be arrested” (although, to be fair, Dawkins did condemn the police for arresting him). Indeed, Maher and Dawkins are two examples of prominent atheists whose criticisms of Islam only promote anti-Muslim bigotry.

Read the rest here.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Bi Any Means Podcast #19: Bisexual Visibility with Lynnette McFadzen

[TW: Biphobia, Suicide]

Today’s guest is Lynnette McFadzen, the host of the BiCast and current board member of BiNet USA. We’re going to talk about her journey, her podcast, BiNet USA, and why bisexual visibility matters. Enjoy!

(Transcript available upon request)


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