As a skeptic, I see a lot of discussions about what constitutes good atheism or bad atheism. I also see discussions about where or how it's considered rude to express your disbelief. Perhaps most relevantly, I see discussions about where or how it becomes rude to express your disbelief in someone else's belief.
I feel like the bulk of atheists I personally know tend to take a pretty hands-off approach to discussing religious beliefs, focusing more on the social side of religions. That's understandable for many reasons, and I think the lousy actions we associate with individuals such as Famous Atheists Who Are Kinda Dicks probably have contributed to an atmosphere where most of us endeavor not to be that dick.
On the other hand, where do we draw the line? And where does that line become about secular respectability politics?
I'm remembering this conversation I saw a few years ago.
I used to belong to a private IRC chatroom where about ~20 people would come in and out regularly. There mostly wasn't a set topic or theme. A couple of people in the chat were Unitarian Universalists. There were also some progressive Christians. And, of course, there were atheists, some of whom were outspoken skeptics and some of whom were more passive in their secularism.
One day, one UU and an atheist, one who I deemed to be more in the passive camp, had a pretty awful argument.
It started like this.
They were discussing some belief -- I honestly can't even remember what -- but ...more
I first learned to knit in high school. I forget who taught me, but I learned English style throwing. It sucked. I didn't stick with it.
In college I would get stressed out and watch TV with my roommate who would knit the whole time. I wanted to learn something that I could do during down time like that but wasn't so finicky about being put down in the middle of a row so she taught me to crochet. I never looked back.
I may have gone a little overboard with my first project but I completed it, and I learned a lot.
I crocheted constantly throughout college for 6 years before I picked up knitting again - this time Continental style, much easier. One of my first knitting projects was this:
I finished in summer and said "screw it" to sleeves.
Since then, I've gone kind of nuts and now I also spin my own yarn on my Ashford Traditional spinning wheel:
My love - my Ashford Traditional wheel.
Here is only some of the yarn I've spun so far... click the image to see details.
Handspun Yarn - click through to see details via Ravelry
If you are also a yarnie, you can keep up with me on Ravelry, add me here. Otherwise I will update here semi-regularly when fun new stuff is happening.
If you don't know half of what I even said in this post, stick around, I'll cover the basics in the future.
Thanks for reading! If you like what I write, ...more
Sometimes, my relationship with critical analysis of media and fiction can feel complicated.
For years now, I guess for most of my life, I’ve seen all kinds of analyses of media which scrutinize any given piece according to its portrayals of women (tons of essays), PoC, LGBT issues (usually to lament the total absence thereof), ability, and other issues of representation.
Debates like the following occur: Is this feminist? Is that feminist? Is it feminist from one angle but not another angle? Strong female characters. Diverse female characters. Huge debates about whether a particular female character is for the male gaze or a feminist icon or whether she’s for the male gaze but can be viewed as a feminist icon anyway. (I’m using the example of feminist analysis because it’s, in a generalized sense, by far what I’ve seen the most of, but I’ve seen versions of this discussion or debate with all other categories of representation as well.)
As a progressive (I hope) sort of person, I feel all this. I mean, it’s high time that video games, comics, books, and -- pretty much everything -- stopped being so sexist and showed more diversity. What kind of douchebag wouldn’t appreciate a sensitive and nuanced series like Avatar/LoK, where plenty of races and ethnic groups are represented, women do stuff, and disability is handled beautifully?
Here’s where the It’s Complicated begins:
Problematic. How the above discourse segues into problematic. How we discuss problematic.
Every so often, I see a version of “It’s Okay to Like Problematic ...more
There’s a story I want to tell. There’s something I’m trying to make sense of. I’ve held off on writing this post until now because I’m not sure of my ability to adequately synthesize my thoughts. I’m caught in a sort of Foucaultian conundrum about discourses. But yesterday, something catalyzed me.
I want you to understand the scenes within which I move through the world. My office building, a twenty-two story high-rise owned by a prominent newscasting organization, lies in the heart of Downtown, amid urban sprawl and ongoing construction work. An open-air mall sits behind the stone pavilion where my building gives way to the markers of the middle class, the Panera and Starbucks, where women in dress jackets and heels and men in suits congregate for their lunch breaks. This is the business district. Nearby, less than two streets away, are the totems of law and local government power: the courthouse, the social security office, the federal buildings. From my office window, I can sometimes see and hear protest marches in the street below. Mexican nationals in Aztec regalia, an anti-ISIS rally by the Kurdish community just down the street, people organizing around my building demanding that its owner organization give better coverage to the cause of Palestinian rights. And everywhere, you see the poor, the disabled, and the homeless.
Yesterday, I was on my final break of the afternoon. Sitting outside, reading articles on my phone, I overheard an argument:
“Do you know how much these cost?” a kid was ...more
I was never a gamer growing up. My brother and I were not allowed to ever own a console. We would be allowed to rent a Nintendo 64 and two games for one week each if we had good grades at the end of a school year. Besides that, we had a limited selection of mainly educational 90's PC games and my brother would buy the various iterations of Game Boy controllers with his own money where I preferred to save my dollars. Still, we both had some interest in games and while he went towards first-person-shooters and RPGs, I gravitated towards simulation and adventure games. Although we both played the original Roller Coaster Tycoon on our parent's old Windows '98 desktop for at least ten years after the fact.
These days though, I'm beginning to find more fun and value in video games, but I find myself a bit stunted in the inherent knowledge of gaming many others (especially guys) in my generation seem to have. The barrier to entry seems to necessitate having had a childhood filled with gaming experience that I just never received. But with a lot of wiki-reading and getting lost in some forums and a considerable amount of help from my more savvy friends, I've found a way to enjoy some rather complicated games today.
Still, I hate to think of others wanting to give these games a try without the help I've had and it's inspired me to have the idea of creating gaming newb tutorials. Videos for ...more
I read the Bible.
The entire Bible. Cover to cover. At least, the Protestant version. There are other versions, other Gospels, many of them relegated to what we call apocrypha. I did it because I set a New Year’s resolution in December of 2014, and that resolution was to study the sacred texts of the world (or “sacred texts” -- I am after all an atheist). I set that resolution because what we as human beings have is our history, and the oldest writings which preserve history and myth do a great deal to inform much later writing.
Whether we like it or not, whether we’re believers or not, whether we want a secular world or not, art and literature throughout the planet and certainly the tradition we’ve inherited from the Renaissance and medieval times are imprinted with symbols from the stories of the Bible. Not to put too fine a point upon it, but history and literature are my life. I can’t imagine a life that’s not dedicated to a lot of backwards-gazing, a lot of thinking upon the struggles from one era to another.
Let me quote from Gregory Mobley (“The Return of the Chaos Monsters: and Other Backstories of the Bible”) --
“I am passionate about stories, and about the way that humans tell stories to themselves and each other in order to make sense of the chaos. There are stories that humans have been telling ever since they wandered off the savannas of the southern trough of the Great Rift ...more
For, there is no space really untouched by the vicissitudes of history, and emancipatory projects never begin nor end properly. They are constantly hampered in their activities by the closure-effect repeatedly brought about when a group within a movement becomes invested in the exercise of power, when it takes license to legislate what it means to “be a woman,” to ascertain the “truth” of the feminine, and to reject other women whose immediate agenda may differ from their own. In undoing such closure-effect one is bound again and again to recognize “that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us, and which knows only the oppressors’ tactics, the oppressors’ relationship” (Audre Lorde).
--TRINH T. MINH-HA
I no longer know or understand my own politics. Rather, I’m embattled: I recognize that social organizations are desperately needed for change to take hold in this world, and yet I feel a tug-of-war spurred onwards by that undercurrent of consciousness which makes me perceive hierarchical flaws in most possible groupings of identities.
At thirteen years old, I stared hatefully at the purple-inked notebooks of my female peers, resenting their adolescent infatuations and romances. At eighteen years old, I proudly laughed about how I was Not Like Other Girls, and even joked that I was a misogynist, at least towards fictional characters (that I was bisexual and had dated women didn’t register as a necessitating a change in perspective; cognitive dissonance on socio-sexual politics is a strange phenomenon). At nineteen-or-twenty, I read this article, ...more
I am beyond happy that the confederate flag is being brought down from government buildings. It had no place there in its representation of an attempt at secession that divided our country in two only 150 years ago. It further has no place in today's society as it is primarily a symbol of white supremacy brought on by the racial divide in the 1960's during the Civil Rights movement, and I am glad to see it go in all areas except for that of a context of history.
Now for the history lesson. The flag with a diagonal blue cross isn't the actual confederate flag. There were many different battle flags throughout the war. Watch this video to learn more about the various flags and where they all fit in history.
With freedom of expression in this country though, we have the right to display whatever symbols, images, flags, etc. that we want. Do I think any version of the Confederate flag should be mass produced in hues of polyester? No. And any company that has profited from this culture of racist bigots should be downright ashamed. But should we ban the image of the Confederate flag? No. I care about this because while I may be disgusted by today's connotations of displaying this flag, I believe in protecting everyone's right to free speech.
Also, I am a hobbyist Civil War reenactor. For me, it's a fun excuse to make giant poofy dresses à la Gone With the Wind and show them off. I don't care about the battles and though I ...more
Moral objectivism is the view that (1) there are true statements about what we morally ought to do and (2) those statements are true independent of whatever we might think or whatever our cultures might say (in this sense, moral statements are said to be objectively true or false). Authoritarianism is the following of dictates, provided by some authority, often to the subjugation and oppression of historically disenfranchised or marginalized groups. For example, in part, the authoritarianism of Nazi era Germany resulted in the holocaust. As another example, we can think of conservatives who maintain power over women by seeking to control women's bodies and sexualities or charismatic religious leaders who gain power over their followers and lead them to violence (e.g. Jonestown, ISIS, etc).
One commonly expressed worry about moral objectivism is that moral objectivism justifies marginalization and violence performed on other groups. If the nazis can claim the holocaust was objectively right, they can dismiss the views of others as fundamentally mistaken and blind to reality. In a contemporary example, we often hear from today's conservative Christians that objective moral absolutes have been provided to us from God, according to which LGTBQ+ folks are an abomination and that the autonomy of women ought to be suppressed in order to save babies from abortions. (Alternatively, if you oppose LGTBQ+ individuals or abortion, imagine instead dogmatists you oppose who claim to have access to absolute moral truth.) Hasn't the claim to know objective moral truths led to imperialism, marginalization, the dismissal ...more
A random person, originating in the middle east, recently messaged me on Facebook and asked for my opinion on a webpage featuring Muslim arguments for God's existence. I don't know why they were messaging me. Perhaps they wanted to convince me Allah exists. Perhaps they had doubts about Islam but did not know how to rebut the website. Or perhaps they had some other goal in mind. The webpage features an essay by Zakir Naik (I have since come to learn that Naik's essay appears all over the internet, with a previous response by JT Eberhard, so I am not aware of its original source). As I understand Naik's essay, he offers three arguments for God's existence: (1) that atheists reject the wrong kind of God, (2) that we can infer the Qur'an's divine authorship from the amount of scientific information the Qur'an contains, and (3) while modern science can help us to reject false deities, science should not cause us to reject the one true God. In what follows, I will explicate and then evaluate each argument in turn. Lastly, I will conclude that the three arguments are fairly weak.
However, I want to issue a bit of caution before diving into the arguments. For a variety of reasons, I do not typically respond to Islam. For one, there are others better equipped to do so (former Muslims, progressive reformers in the middle east, or others). I would rather take my lead from them. For another, non-Muslim responses to Islam – whether ...more