Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bi Any Means Podcast #1: Queer Politics and Atheist Theory with Alex Gabriel

I'm pleased to announce the first episode of the Bi Any Means Podcast!

This actually isn't my first time podcasting. Years ago I had a podcast called Coffee Chats where I interviewed progressive Christian bloggers I liked, then I did a stint with the Something Beautiful podcast for a couple of years. I took a two-year break because I got burned out, but now I've decided to give it another try. I'll try to post a new episode twice a month.

My first guest is Alex Gabriel of Godlessness in Theory. In this episode, we talk about queer politics, atheist theory, and how to two intersect.

Click here to listen.

Click here to subscribe via iTunes.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Is It Okay To Mock Religion?


Last week Pope Francis told reporters he fully supports free speech with two exceptions: cursing his mom and insulting "the faith of others." He, of course, went on to explain that the attack on Charlie Hebdo could not be justified, but as Jacob Sullum explains:

Francis also "said religion can never be used to justify violence," but his analogy suggests otherwise: If a punch in the nose is a normal and understandable response to an insult directed at one's mother, surely violence is a normal and understandable response to an insult directed at one's faith. It is what you would "expect," and therefore the blame lies with the one who issued the insult. Because certain messages predictably elicit a violent response, according to the pope, those messages should not be legally protected.


This argument demeans Muslims, portraying them as irrational brutes unable to control their violent impulses; encourages violence by deeming it normal, expected, and (apparently) justified; and provides an astonishingly wide rationale for censorship, which Francis casts as a public safety measure that is necessary to keep the peace. The pope says "you cannot provoke," which means freedom of speech extends only to messages that no one finds objectionable. In other words, there is no freedom of speech.

In other words, the Pope's statement is similar to those who say women should expect to be raped if they wear short skirts.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, there's been a huge debate about free speech. Are there topics that are off limits? If so, is religion one of them? While I do believe that the legal right to free speech does not automatically make a statement morally or factually right (for example, "Queer people are perverted"), I believe that any idea that does not hold water should be criticized . . . and this includes religious claims.

I understand people's concerns about criticizing religion. Religious beliefs aren't just personal opinions; devout religious people shape their identities around their religious beliefs. For the devout, God is the spoke of the wheel. If you remove the spoke, the whole wheel falls apart in their eyes. That's why I was afraid to embrace atheism for so long. I thought that if I lost my belief in God--the center of my identity--then I would be lost.

However, most--if not all--religious claims are just simply not true. God did not dictate either the Bible or the Koran, the world was not created in six or seven days, there is no Hell, and queer people are not perverted. A simple Google search can tell you that. Even "progressive" religious people who accept evolution and reject biblical literalism hold beliefs that simply do not make any sense. For example, I used to go to an ELCA Lutheran church. They recognized that most of the biblical stories are myths, but they still preached the divinity of Jesus. This doesn't make sense; who is to say the Genesis creation story is a myth but Jesus was literally God in flesh? There's no evidence that either are true!

So yes, it is okay to criticize religion. In fact, religion needs to be criticized, scrutinized, analyzed, and, yes, even mocked when they don't hold any water. How one criticizes religion, however, is up to debate. For me, I prefer to have a dialogue where I explain what I believe, the other person explains their's, and we both ask each other questions to try to figure out where the other person is coming from. Of course, the civil dialogue method doesn't always work, but when it does, I think it's more effective than the standard "OMG U BELIEVE IN AN INVISIBLE MAN IN THE SKY UR STUPID LOL!!!!!!" response.

Friday, January 16, 2015

When Dialogue Works (and When It Doesn't) - Guest Post on Nonprophet Status

In the Emergent Christian scene, there’s a focus on dialogue between liberals and conservatives. The underlining philosophy is that all Christians are members of the same Body of Christ, and as such, our petty differences shouldn’t cause schisms.

I was a Christian for twelve years, and I dabbled in every theological persuasion I could find: tongue-talking holy-rollers, suburban megachurches, old-school Lutherans, and Emergent hipsters. I’ve bounced around since becoming an atheist, too. After being convinced by Richard Dawkins, I read Chris Stedman’s Faitheist, which was similar to what drew me in to Emergent Christianity. I’ve since become a bit more anti-religious, especially with recent events like Leelah Alcorn’s suicide, the Charlie Hedbo shooting, and Raif Badawi’s imprisonment.

Throughout all this, I’ve come to realize that, while dialogue is still a vital tool in understanding where people come from and what motivates them, it sometimes just doesn’t work no matter how hard you try.

To read more, go to Nonprophet Status.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Other Terrorist Attack Yesterday That No One's Talking About


While everyone's been talking about yesterday's Charlie Hedbo terrorist attack (including yours truly), there was another terrorist attack yesterday that hardly anyone's talking about.

Yesterday morning a homemade bomb exploded outside the headquarters of the Colorado Springs' chapter of the NAACP. There were no casualties, and no one's been injured, but the FBI reports that it was a deliberate attack.

And no one's talking about it. In fact, the only way I knew about it was following the #NAACPbombing hashtag on Twitter. Why is that? Well, as Clarissa explains:


Terrorism is terrorism, folks. It doesn't matter if it's carried out by Islamic extremists or white racists; if you blow up a bunch of people in the name of an ideology, it's terrorism, plain and fucking simple.

So how come Richard Dawkins didn't tweet about it? Or Sam Harris? Or Jaclyn Glenn? Or Hemant Mehta? I'm not saying they're all racist. I'm just saying that, as atheists, we should publicly condemn ALL ideologies that lead to violence and destruction, whether they are secular or religious.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Attack Ideologies, Not People


Today's terrorist attack in Paris proves once again how dangerous religious dogma is to humanity. The attackers allegedly said they have "avenged the prophet [Muhammad]" after opening fire in the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo. Twelve people are now dead over some silly cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

This is unacceptable.

We can argue over whether or not the cartoons themselves were race-bait, but there should be no argument that no one should die over a cartoon, no matter how offensive it is. But for Islamic extremists, drawing a picture of Muhammad isn't just offensive . . . it's punishable by death.

We can also debate all we want whether or not the terrorists represented "true" Islam (cue the No True Scotsman argument), but it's obvious that these terrorists were motivated by religious dogma. Religious dogma clouds the mind with the attitude that there's only one true religion, and that everyone else must follow this one true religion or suffer the consequences. Religious dogma has no room for pluralism: it's our way or the highway (to Hell, mostly).

Having said that, though, I am worried that today's attack will lead to further discrimination against Muslims and Arabs.

According to a recent study by the Arab American Institute, Americans have an overwhelmingly negative attitude towards Muslims thirteen years after 9/11. The study shows that 42% of Americans "support the use of profiling by law enforcement against Arab Americans and American Muslims." The study also found that a large percentage of Americans "lack confidence in the ability of individuals from either community to perform their duties as Americans should they be appointed to an important government position."

We all know that Islam is not a race, but for most Americans, Arabs are the face of Islam. Even people who are read as Muslim are violently attacked in this country. America has a long history of being unable to distinguish ethnicity from ideology. Take a look at the anti-German rhetoric during World War I. Or better yet, how about George Takei's own story of being in a Japanese internment camp during WWII?

If you see an Arab and you automatically think he is a terrorist, that's just racism, plain and simple. It's no different than seeing a black man and automatically thinking he's a "thug."

In the wake of today's terrorist attack, I hope more people will boldly speak out against religious dogma. Any ideology that causes mental and/or physical harm to others needs to be called the fuck out. However, if you think that all Arabs and/or Muslims are terrorists, you're part of the problem.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Leelah Alcorn: Killed By Religion


On Sunday, December 28, 2014, 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn committed suicide by walking into traffic. She left behind a suicide note on her Tumblr blog explaining that her parents could not accept the fact that she was transgender. She wrote:

When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn't make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don't tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don't ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won't do anything but make them hate them self. That's exactly what it did to me.

My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help. [Emphasis mine]

This tragedy has sparked a conversation online about transphobia in our society, and there's a petition on to make conversion therapy illegal. However, there's a big elephant in the room that hardly anyone is talking about: the role religion played in in Alcorn's suicide.

As she wrote in her suicide note, Alcorn's mother could not accept her daughter's gender (and she still can't). Instead of taking the time to understand her daughter's gender, Alcorn's mother replied with, "God doesn't make mistakes." Instead of taking her daughter to see a professional psychologist so she could get the help she needed, Alcorn's mother took her to Christian therapists who tried to "fix" Leelah.

Don't get me wrong; transphobia transcends religion. You can even find transphobia in secular circles. However, let's not kid ourselves: religion played a major part in Alcorn's suicide.

The reason I speak out against religion here at Bi Any Means is because for years religion has taught us that all of our social constructs--race, gender, and sexuality--are ordained by God, and, therefore, must not be questioned. Religion creates a round circle for all pegs to squeeze through, so if you're a square peg, you're shit out of luck. Yes, our society in general creates social norms, and marginalizes anyone who deviates from the norm. What makes religion different, however, is that it's based on faith, which doesn't need evidence. "We live by faith, not by sight," as the Bible says, and "faith is . . . the evidence of things not seen." Religious faith encourages people to ignore any evidence that might put a dent in the "Christian worldview." Yes, there are progressive Christians who rethink traditional religious dogma, and that's better than nothing. But for the most part, living by faith and not sight is required in order to keep religion going.

At it's most benign, this type of faith merely entertains private silly beliefs. But at it's worse, it kills people, just like it killed Leelah Alcorn.

If you're transgender and need help, please call Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. You are not broken. Nobody make any mistakes. You are a human being, and you have inherent worth and dignity. Don't let any preacher tell you otherwise.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bi Any Mean's Top Five Posts of 2014

Well, here it is. New Year's Eve. It's time to say goodbye to 2014, and usher in a new year. Even though Bi Any Means is a fairly new blog, here are the five most popular posts from 2014:

5). Seven questions with Vlad Chituc

4). Interview with a Bisexual Christian: Five Questions with Eliel Cruz

3). A Thankful Humanist

2). No, Bisexuals Do Not Stop Being Bisexual When They Get Married

1). Bisexuality Does Not Reinforce the Gender Binary

Happy New Year, my lovelies!