Monthly Archives: February 2013
At the University of North Texas, where I am a student of Political Science, when I would find other atheists on campus, it would be almost a knee-jerk reaction for the majority of them to ask, “Are you on Reddit?” I found it peculiar how popular the site is amongst high school and college atheists.
In my time as an atheist, which is to say about four years now, I have never really gone to the subreddit r/Atheism a whole lot. It is not because I have some aversion to Reddit for any particular reason. I simply prefer social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and of course this blog, to get my messages across, rather than the forum style that Reddit has.
Recently I came across this piece from Vice by Luke Winkie, which is about six months old but is making its way around the internet once more, called “Hey Atheists, Just Shut Up Please.”
In it, he bashes what he calls “Reddit Atheists,” which he says are all “bitter, faux-enlightened young people” for their supposed “frothing-at-the-mouth ideological stupor” and their making of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins as “their fire-and-brimstone pin-up boy.” First off, I fail to see why them being young is at all relevant. That is simply ageism.
Although Winkie paints with a very wide brush, and I personally think he is talking about all atheists, he does make a somewhat valid point about some atheists on the internet. Some, I will not say all or most because it simply would not be true, can be hateful towards those they disagree with, especially the religious (even though the religious can be just as hateful on the internet, just like everyone else). These people are simply the loudest and the most public though.
Winkie compares his “Reddit Atheists” to evangelicals trying to force God down everyone’s throats, which is only slightly a valid comparison. We will see all the time in the news about the crazy preachers who want to build a fence around all the gays so that they die off. They just happen to be the ones that get our attention for their outlandish statements and beliefs.
Same with atheists on the internet. That is why Winkie posts some of the most hateful comments he got from atheists on a piece he once wrote. I am sure there were plenty of comments that were not as vitriolic as the ones he talks about, but they probably did not get his attention like those comments did.
This is sort of how the Atheism+ movement, and I use that term as loosely as possible, got started. Those who started it did not see the comments that disagreed with them in a polite manner. They saw the ones that were completely inflammatory, just like how we only see the crazy preachers or how Christians only see the angry and loud atheists, and called them names like “bitch” or “feminazi” or were harassing them for being women or something of the sort, which I mostly deem as trolling and not as actual conversations or debate. This caused those initially behind the idea of Atheism+ to wall themselves off from any and all disagreement, an effect called “cyberbalkanisation,” where they could have an echo chambre where everyone agreed with each other, and anyone who disagreed (like Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience) would be banned.
These are some of the ways internet atheists can harm the movement. It can split us off into warring factions like Atheism+ or make us look unappealing to everyone by how we act when we feel like we can express ourselves freely or when we think no one is watching.
This is obviously not an attack on the people of the internet. I am one of them and have been for almost the entirety of my time as an atheist. However, from the outside, atheism on the internet can look rather hateful.
Imagine this: You’re a person, a church-going Christian, who knows hardly anything of atheists other than what you have heard from your priests, which is that they are hateful, arrogant people that hate God and that want to take away your rights to worship God. You probably have never even met an atheist before (or at least, you met them, you just didn’t know they were).
You decide for some reason to just Google, as this is how most people learn about things these days, “atheists” or “atheism” to learn more for yourself, and the first thing that comes up is Reddit’s r/Atheism or a video by an atheist YouTuber or an atheist blog. Nine times out of ten, the stuff being said is going to be hateful, angry, arrogant, rude, and sometimes even bigoted things.
Not all atheist blogs or videos are trying to be offensive. Some Christians and other theists are going to be offended just by us disagreeing with their most sacredly held beliefs or even by our mere existence, but when our most popular venues are ripe with hate and immaturity, it makes us all look bad and reinforces that stereotype that atheists are hateful, arrogant people.
I am not saying that we need to change drastically and constantly watch everything that we say all the time, but we need to find a way to have a rational discourse that does not involve constant caps lock or calling people names simply for disagreeing. We need to have an image on the internet that is not this arrogant person that constantly talks down to everyone, even if it is tempting to do so. People are watching what we are saying. Let’s try to make atheism look from the outside like something that isn’t just for “bitter, faux-enlightened young people.”
One last thing on Winkie: among the many ignorant things in his article, he said near the end, “By the way, what is more arrogant than assuming someone can be reasoned into abandoning their faith?” He apparently knows nothing of atheists then. The vast majority of people who are atheists were once religious. I was a Jehovah’s Witness. My partner was Assemblies of God (one of the denominations who speak in tongues). To think that people cannot change their minds is naive, at best. At worst, it perpetuates the cyberbalkanisation of the internet and the aversion of atheists to reach out to theists in a polite manner.
A bill in the state of Montana is being introduced by State Rep. Steve Lavin (R – Kalispell) that would give corporations the right to vote.
According to ThinkProgress, HB 486 would give “…a firm, partnership, company, or corporation [who owns] real property within the municipality, the president, vice president, secretary, or other designee of the entity is eligible to vote in a municipal election…”
You can read the full text of the bill here.
Corporate “personhood” has gone far enough. It was bad enough when the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations (and other entities, like labour unions) could have unlimited, undisclosed independent campaign spending in elections, which created “Super PACs.” It was bad enough when the Supreme Court ruled in the same year in SpeechNow.org v. FEC that individuals could have unlimited contributions to Super PACs.
It was bad enough when a major presidential candidate said that “corporations are people, my friend.” And it was bad enough that the Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a case challenging the last hurdle in the way of outright buying elections: unlimited contributions directly to a candidate’s campaign.
Now they are giving corporations the right to vote! My outrage cannot be adequately expressed via text, and I do not wish to use caps lock.
The Montana bill would essentially give someone the right to vote twice in an election. This is ironic, since in the months up until the 2012 elections the Republican Party was running around with their heads cut off screaming about the virtually nonexistent problem of voter fraud, which usually involves a person voting multiple times.
This is all while Montana was pushing through one of those infamous voter ID bills, one that would only allow a person to vote in elections with either a driver’s license or a tribal ID card. This would be possibly one of the most restrictive voter ID bills in the country, as similar laws being fought over in other states and in the courts mostly allow for passports and other forms of government issued identification that are not a driver’s license.
To be fair, the bill was essentially killed only a few weeks ago after it was tabled in Montana’s State Administration Committee.
I can only imagine what could happen if HB 486 were to ever become law anywhere in the United States. Some company… sorry, someone (since corporations are people, my friend) with enough money and power could create countless shadow companies and put their employees, colleagues, or friends “in charge” of them, thereby creating an endless number of “people” to vote in elections.
If anything is a threat to our democracy, it is not the few dozen of people who try to vote twice by pretending to be someone else. If anything is a threat, it is the efforts by some in this country to deny people the right to vote based on the colour of their skin or how much money they make. If anything is a threat, it is HB 486 and the deluge that can follow.
If you live in the state of Montana, please contact your state representatives and tell them to kill this bill!
As some of you probably know, I go to the University of North Texas. Depending upon how fast you drive, it’s about thirty minutes from downtown Dallas. There, I am majoring in Political Science with a minor in Communication Studies, but I am also the Founder and President of the Secular Student Alliance at UNT.
As President, I really want to have outreach to Christian groups, and theistic organisations as a whole, on campus. I want to show them that atheists, secularists, humanists, and the like are not bad people. We are not God-haters or people who want to persecute the religious, and today I learned about something that might give the SSA@UNT the opportunity to achieve that. It’s called the Human Library.
As I was walking out of my final class, I noticed some flyers for this “Human Library.” I wasn’t sure what it was, so I took a closer look. I don’t remember what the flyer said exactly, so I looked up the description of the event given on the UNT website.
On February 19 and 20, from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm, UNT Libraries and the UNT Multicultural Center will open a Human Library in the Forum @ Willis Library. Instead of print or electronic media, the books in this library will be human beings who have experienced prejudice due to issues such as race, gender, disability, ethnic origin, sexual preference, mental illness or lifestyle choices. These “books” have volunteered to challenge prejudice through respectful conversation with members of the UNT campus and the greater Denton community who borrow them for a fifteen to thirty minute conversation.
This intrigued me to no end, and my last class had gotten out early, so I decided to go to the library to check it out. I walked into the library, not knowing what to expect, and saw a line of people heading into the Forum, which is just this closed off section of the library, with a sign that said “Human Library.” I waited in line, they scanned my student ID, and…I had no idea what to do.
The room was filled with chairs grouped into sections of four or five, including a chair where someone was already sitting, with a piece of paper taped behind them with some words written on it. One of the papers read, from top to bottom, “African American; Feminist.” Another said, “Artist; Buddhist; Former Drug User; Homosexual.” One had just, “Homosexual.” One of them was, “Interracial and Intercultural Marriage.” Another was, “Disabled; ADHD.” There were others, some of them with some kind of variation of these labels. These people were the “Human Books” we were supposed to be asking questions. I never saw any “Atheist” or “Bisexual” labels anywhere though.
Standing there rather awkwardly, I saw an open chair in one group. I immediately sat down just so that I would not be standing there looking out at the crowd of people with a dumb look on my face. As soon as I sat down, I saw the label that this one elderly woman had. It read, “Female Police Officer.” Looking at the pamphlet handed to me when I walked in, I saw under the Occupational Section: “Female Police Officer.” Under this, along with other sections like “Homosexual” or “African American,” were common stereotypes of these groups. For this policewoman, some were “Masculine? Lesbian? Above the law? Racial profiling?”
After just a short while of listening to this woman, I learned a lot about law enforcement, and it really opened my eyes. It helped clear up some stereotypes and prejudices that I do/did have about police (probably the only group that I have ever felt any kind of animosity towards). That’s what this Human Library is all about: destroying stereotypes and prejudices that do nothing but perpetuate misunderstandings and hate.
Looking out into the crowd, I saw one sign that said, “Secular Humanist; Feminist; Homosexual,” and other things that I don’t honestly remember. I really wanted to ask him some questions and see what other people would want to ask him, but his little circle always seemed to be too busy. What bothered me was that under the stereotypes for the secular humanist was “Atheist?” As if, being an atheist were a bad thing or a negative stereotype of secular humanists.
I went up to the organisers of the event, very nice and wonderful people, and asked them, “I’m a bisexual atheist. Would you be interested in having me as one of your Human Books?” They seemed very enthusiastic about this and immediately gave me a sheet of paper that had some tips and guidelines on how to be one of the Human Books. It must be hard to find bisexual atheists these days for an event all about diversity.
I won’t go into the conversations that I had with people, although there were many (including the eventual people who wanted to save my atheist soul), and some very personal stories that I shared with people and that people shared with me.
I just want to emphasise the importance that I see in this kind of an event. This is not like a regular interfaith or diversity panel where a nameless person asks a question from a faraway microphone in the audience and a speaker answers it and they move on. These are personal, one-on-one (more so one-on-four) conversations and discussions with people who really want to know more about these different groups and labels. It provides an up close, in-person face to these labels that a regular discussion panel cannot give, and it still does the job that these kinds of panels want to do, which is promote diversity, understanding, and tolerance, and does it even better in my opinion.
I have been invited back to be a part of the next Human Library that they hold at UNT (which will possibly be in September; we will see). I hope that these kinds of events become more popular and more frequent. If you have never heard of the Human Library, like I had not before today, then go to their website and research it.
I encourage you all to have a Human Library at your campus, and I implore you to be as diverse as possible. There were no atheists at this one. I had to essentially force my way in to become the bisexual atheist at the last minute, and I did that because I really do care about preventing further mistrust and hatred of atheists and the LGBT community. I hope that I did something to educate and help those that came and asked me questions (even those who stormed off, saying they would pray for me after they could not convince me that their god was real).
Below are a list of all the different secular organisations that are hiring and looking for interns. Most of the deadlines are within a few weeks though, so get your resumes and cover letters ready.
The Secular Coalition for America is seeking interns for the 2013 Summer and a new Office Manager.
Secular Segment has several positions that are open.
The Foundation Beyond Belief, a secular charity ran by atheist philanthropist Todd Stiefel, is looking for a summer intern.
The Center for Inquiry is looking for two summer interns, as well as a Social Media Intern for their podcast Point of Inquiry.
Not only that, but they are also looking for a new Web Developer.
AtheismTV is looking for a Video Editor Apprentice.
For those of you in (or near) Arizona, the Secular Coalition for Arizona is looking for a Development and Marketing Director.
UPDATE (2/21): Camp Quest is also hiring! They’re looking for a full-time Programme Manager.