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This Week: Stealing From Kids

Post Index

All of our posts in a handy blog-style format!

McCune 2: Probable Plaque Plagues Pierce

This is about 10% of what we felt when he started telling us about communist infiltrators and the Muslim Obama.

Communist infiltrator discussion commenced roughly half an hour later.

Sam, Becky, and Robert give an update on Robert’s upcoming invocations as a secular celebrant–and then get into the meaty parts of the Pierce County Council’s resolution to prominently display “In God We Trust.”  (Links below the fold).

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Uganda Humanist Group Burglarized

Last week it came to my attention that a youth-focused Humanist organization in Uganda (yes, the Uganda of the “Kill The Gays” legislation) had been burglarized.  I’d first heard of the fantastic work that HALEA engages in during after our conversation with Bill Cooke, director of transnational programs at the Center for Inquiry.  I quickly inquired and connected with HALEA director Kato Mukasa and learned that HALEA is accepting donations via The International Humanist and Ethical Union.What follows is his plea for the youth centre of the Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity, and Accountability–a place that combats superstition and cultural dogmas to empower youth facing desperate circumstances.

Background

The Humanist Association for Leadership, Equity and Accountability ( HALEA ) started in 2008 with 24 professionals. We were motivated to start up an organization that would gradually positively change attitudes, beliefs and behaviors which negatively impact on our people. HALEA has 132 paid-up members today and hundreds of teens regarded as unpaid-up members.

teens at table

(http://haleauganda.org/)

In 2009, we carried out an assessment survey/situation analysis, and the findings among others revealed that over 60% of teenagers did not complete school due to unwanted pregnancies, drug abuse and addiction, arranged and forced marriages as well as teens’ engagement in petty crimes that would [leave lots] of them killed.

It was our resolve to empower the young people to reason out issues that affect them, to be able to shun retrogressive and oppressive religious and cultural dogmas and practices that ruined their future. Over the years, the number of [teenage] drop outs has gradually fallen to about 20% in the Kampala Central Division, the geographical area of our operation. We have trained over 100 young mothers and empowered them with skills to survive on their own and we have enabled hundred[s] of young people to go to school, stay in school and complete secondary education with the help of partners such as HAMU, IHEU, and CFI and from HALEA’s individual membership contributions and donations. We have over 10 full time staff and 30 volunteers who are dedicated to serve our target group on a daily basis without hesitation but with a great zeal, courage and dedication.

HALEA teen engages in interscholastic debate

HALEA teen engages in interscholastic debate (http://haleauganda.org/)

For over 6 years, HALEA has empowered the youth through the establishment of a Youth Support Centre through which we have empowered young people, especially teens and young mothers, with communication skills, essay writing skills, computer application skills and music, dance and drama skills. We also organize teens and public debates through which young people and adults are enabled to discuss issues that affect them and hitherto had no platform to raise such issues. Our Open Talk Magazine has gradually become a darling of thousands of young people who are given a chance to have their opinions published and publicized.

HALEA teens perform (http://haleauganda.org/)

HALEA teens perform (http://haleauganda.org/)

We formed a teens’ edutainment club which has 116 members. The team is called ONE LIFE ENTERTAINMENT a name picked from the fact that as humanists (some of us with an atheist inclination) we believe that it is the one life we have that we must seriously take care of and do good to benefit the world. Our Edutainment club performs secular plays, music and dance that not only entertains but is educative especially because it challenges the retrogressive cultural and religious practices that promote the discrimination of women, girls, young mothers, LGBTI and the urban poor.

Through written materials and organized public dialogues and radio talk shows, HALEA has aggressively campaigned against discrimination of LGBTI and we have worked closely with the gay community through giving them empowerment trainings and advocating for their rights as a minority group among others. Our advocacy work has not always gone well with the large and conservative part of the community that is still tied by hatred perpetuated by cultural and religious dogmas that we have consistently challenged. It is therefore vital to note that whereas we have championed the rights of the marginalized and oppressed urban poor and minorities, we have also meet stiff resistance from those who are opposed to our approach to social issues affecting our people.

HATE ATTACK AND BURGLARY

In the night of the 26th  of June this year, a group of about 4 men, driving a large Regiuos car, according to our security guard, [came] to HALEA offices at about midnight and attempted to force their way through the gate. They told the security officer that they were part of HALEA and when he stopped them from accessing HALEA offices, they resorted to defacing our sign post, [uprooting] it from the firm ground in which it had been strongly cemented, [dragging] it across the road and [dumping] it inside the fence of our opposite neighbors, the Law Development Centre. We reported this barbaric attack to police and we continued to try and establish the people behind the attack. A few days later, on the night of 7th July 2014, the attackers managed to find their way inside our premises and took away everything valuable that was found in HALEA’s office.

The first people to reach the office found our security officer unconscious lying at the upper/ behind part of the building. Our offices were wide open. Our checking has so far revealed that HALEA lost the following property: 6 computers, 2 laptops, 1 adapter/power regulator, 1 projector, 3 cameras, 3 guitars, 1 desk phone and 1 laser jet printer, teens costumes, internet modems, microphones, power extensions, a DVD player and a box of new CDs.

They also took cash worth  3,788,000 [Ugandan shillings, around $1,450] . I reported the case to police and the Reference number is SD 07/8/07/2014 the case being Burglary and Theft. We have no clear suspects and at the moment the Police team of investigators continues to do their work.

HALEA staff and members are devastated with this development, we have lost the important tools that enable us to operate and surely this is a great set back in the history of the organization. This has happened at a time when we had so many vital activities going on and many pending. Whereas our assets were labeled with HALEA marks, they were not insured because we could not afford the insurance costs.

EMERGENCY STEPS TAKEN

On that very day, the police did a search around Makerere Kivulu slum were we operate and some suspicious items were got but unfortunately they did not belong to HALEA.I called for a board members’ meeting that was also attended by a few other members and several staff and two old computers were donated to HALEA. Members resolved to continue working and to keep the offices open regardless of the challenges at hand. Indeed, we have continued to do our activities amidst so many challenges especially because we now lack the tools to effectively execute our duties.

OUR APPEAL

We appeal to individuals and organizations who may come to assist us with donations to enable us resume work, we are calling for at least $7,000 to enable us obtain a few computers, a camera, guitars, and a printer.  Your advice and assistance is welcome. Thanks for your contribution.

Regards: Kato Mukasa
Executive Director, HALEA Youth Support Centre

http://humanistuganda.wordpress.com/

http://teenswithoutboarders.wordpress.com/

http://forgottenmothersuganda.wordpress.com/

http://haleaentertainment.wordpress.com/

Stay tuned–we’ll be hearing from Kato in an upcoming episode of Ask An Atheist.  In the meantime, boost the signal a little to help these hard-working, committed folks continue to be the feet of Humanism on the ground.

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AaA: 50% More Free!

Sam and Mike in the StudioThis week, Ask An Atheist will run a very special 1.5-hour episode!  The first half, we’ll hear about a variety of folks putting Humanist ideals into action in some high-impact ways outside of North America. 

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Brendan Eich is Gone, Long Live The Fox

firefox_bangI never expected my comments about Firefox on the last episode to get me as much commentary as it has. I should expect that a lot of our online listeners are technically inclined as I am, given atheist demographics, but my commentary on the last episode has given me more personal feedback than I’ve received in some time. I’ll admit, to keep the discussion going I posted on my Facebook wall that I was removing Firefox, Thunderbird, and ceasing work on my Firefox OS projects– two pieces of software that I’m partial to, and a phone OS project that I’d been holding high hopes for. People love a controversy, I guess.

Which creates a problem, as I’m happy to report that I am posting this from Firefox once again. I’ve had to edit this post somewhat, because it appears that Brendan Eich has stepped down as CEO, and has also left the board of directors entirely. I think this is great news, and I’m glad to reinstall the Mozilla applications on my systems. I may continue using Evolution for mail for a little while, as it seems to have improved from when I last used it and I like the integration into GNOME 3.

First, for less nuanced opinions, some curse words:

SO MUCH FOR THE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS!

Actually, this is the marketplace of ideas working. He’s allowed to be an idiot, and I’m allowed to call him one. I know people with more than four neurons keep having to say this over and over, but freedom of action is not the same thing as freedom of social consequence.

He’s in the market, with his good browser and his hateful speech. His shop is on the market. His shop, under another manager, sold a great product. I go over to the shop and talk to the new manager. I find out about the hate, confirm that is indeed what happened, and decide I’d rather take my trade elsewhere.

Thousands of other people do the same. Sales at the shop go down, and soon the shop is under new management.

As far as I’m aware, this is exactly what people who continually squack about freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas actually want. But then again, I’m talking about people who know what the terms “freedom of speech” and “the marketplace of ideas” actually mean.

 

HURF BLURF THE GAYSTAPO UHAGLUHALGUHALGUH

This is you.   You will not be fondly remembered by history, and your children will be negatively affected.   They will live you down, and curse your name.

This is you. You will not be fondly remembered by history, and your children will be negatively affected. They will live you down, and curse your name.

A Little Bit of Open Source Fighting

And hey, if you want me to say something really controversial in the FOSS world, I could tell you that the FUD over GNOME 3 is completely unwarranted and stupid. KDE 4 has been schizophrenic and impossible to really use well, and I’m speaking as a KDE user from Beta 1, to the point where I rented a room to a KDE developer in exchange for features I wanted. I look forward to your rage at our next post show or online stream. Straight outta Slackware, yo.

And now, for more nuanced opinions…

What I Was Protesting

Overall, there are two major trends in comments in opposition to what I said last Sunday, and I’ll address both. The first, better, and more nuanced objection is this example from Justin, a fellow open source person, in an email I recevied a few hours ago.

As a long time OSS user/advocate my ears perked up a bit when the topic of Mozilla’s new CEO came up. Thinking it over a bit, I felt compelled to comment. Disagreeing with your comments feels a bit like defending WBC’s right to free speech. I hate it, but I think it’s right.
How would we, as a community, react if the same outcry happened because an Atheist was made CEO ? We would likely all point out that ones Atheism should in no way inhibit their ability to be an effective CEO. Along the same vein I do not feel it is fair to suggest that Eich’s personal beliefs will inhibit his ability (see Francis Collins).
It’s one thing to say that you do not like his beliefs and/or do not like the idea of him representing the foundation. What I heard instead was the strong suggestion that his beliefs would inform his policies and effectiveness.
Do not get me wrong, I think he beliefs are abhorrent. I also do not like the idea of him representing Mozilla very much either. Still, I have to give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his ability to manage. Then again, I might just not care as much because I’m a Chromium user these days.
-Justin
I think the main problem here is a misunderstanding about what I’m objecting to. If Mr. Eich were being rejected as CEO of Mozilla because of his identity, be it religious or not, at the very least I would not have been vocally rejecting Mozilla. If he had been a member of some religion that would make me concerned about the future of the organization (read: Scientology) I would have likely removed the software and moved on with my life. More likely, I would have continued using the software and defended my choice in doing so.

I’ll get to the point about where my disagreement is: It’s not that he doesn’t “believe in gay marriage” or whatever. It is that he believes that he has the right to restrict others to his view of it, and the fact that he is publically on the record in his belief, in spite of his self-characterizations and decision not to directly address his contributions to Prop 8.

Political contributions are speech, and in California contributuions after a point are public. Legal tomfoolery aside, he spent his money to help pass a bill that would prevent people who love each other from getting married. He believed his rights to deny exceeded the rights of others who believed differently. If he believed that LGBT equality was wrong, but correctly agreed that he shouldn’t express his views as superior to others, we could not be having this conversation.

So, to take your hypothetical case and make it look a little more like reality, we’d need an atheist that believed he could compel others to leave Christianity through the force of law. I would more strenuously object to such a person being named CEO to a project that I care so much about– this hypothetical CEO would be an incorrect representation of the people I identify with. The fact that Mozilla is centered on community is, again, key.

How He Should Have Kept His Job

uninstall_reinstallHe could have apologized. Even better for him, he could have apologized by saying his personal beliefs should not hinder another’s civil rights. An appropriate donation to something like the HRC here would have done wonders. If he really was interested in Mozilla as a community, it should have been simple to disavow his civil supremacy without disavowing his belief about LGBT lifestyles.

Would I have been happy with that? No, but I would accept that he has the Mozilla community at heart and seems to care about other human beings. Honestly, I would suggest that he have a few more conversations with the rarebit folks, who could not do what they do without the legal defeat of Prop 8. But I would have accepted Eich as someone I could work with professionally, and strongly disagree with in the social space. If given the opportunity to so disagree, I would have relished it.

But instead, he did what we’ve come to expect from religious people: he took his ball and went home. Whether he did this because of religious convictions or the standard geek aversion to admitting fallibility, I can’t say. But when it came down to brass tacks, he had his beliefs about marriage equality on one side, and his lofty description of his love of technology and support of Mozilla on the other. He chose the shitty path.

And for that, I’m glad he’s gone.

Update: For some reason beyond me, I started typing Icke instead of Eich. Can’t imagine why I would do that. Actually, I can.

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Hulk mad! Hulk BASH!!!!

Recently, a frequent listener of Ask an Atheist gave us some feedback regarding the show’s tendency towards “bashing religion”.  Atheists get that a lot; the old “If you make fun of the people who do awful things, you’re just as bad as them” rhetoric.

just as bad

The listener stated that if it were their show about their own faith, they’d prefer to  tackle philosophical conundrums and historical insights, rather than attack the  philosophies of others.  I don’t entirely disagree with the sentiment.  Knowing the  history of religion (specifically, of your own denomination) can be really cool.  It  gives you a sense of place and it’s interesting how and why the current  denominations have come about.

Atheists are also interested in the history of their people. Unfortunately, in western  society, most of that history was recorded by the people who persecuted them, and  it’s not a very pretty history at all. I don’t think we’ve talked about that very much  on the show, but I’m sure we could come up with an episode.

However, just by the very nature of our mutual histories with Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, and  Judaism, the facts of the history of atheism don’t paint believers in a  very kind light. That’s not really our fault, it’s just history. Much like how a  history of slavery doesn’t paint Europeans in a very kind light, or how the history of women’s rights doesn’t paint men in a very kind light.  You really can’t tell the story of atheism without mentioning that we’ve been beaten, exiled, tortured, and killed by believers for our lack of faith throughout most of our history.

We’re also trying to find our place in modern society, as atheists, and again, a big part of that identity is the people who wish we didn’t exist at all, or would prefer that we remained silent. Like other civil rights movements, the Atheism Visibility Movement is still in the “fight for your rights” part and we have not yet reached a place in society that is high or comfortable enough to JUST talk about ourselves, our movement’s history, and our philosophy (though we do that pretty regularly on the show anyway).

Part of what we are doing with this show is gaining visibility – not to “convert” other people to atheism, but rather, to let atheists out there know they are not alone; that they’re not the only ones going through what they are going through. Sharing our stories of the persecution and prejudice that we’ve faced, that we’ve overcome, and the battles that we are still in, helps us to find each other and unite. There’s nothing in the world like realizing that you are not alone, there really isn’t.

If we were a social majority with thousands of years of consistently recorded history, with political control, warfare, schisms, and all the interesting stuff that comes with them, our show might be a bit different. But I think where atheists are right now, we DO need to talk about the people and organizations that have declared us as their enemies. We DO need to talk about the people who extend their religious privileges to hinder or strip the rights of others.

It is unfortunate that some believers assume that all believers are under attack when we criticize things like the Bible’s endorsements of rape and slavery, or Sharia Law beatings and death penalties being enforced on non-Muslims. It puzzles me how people who morally oppose such cruelties will proudly defend the books and institutions that support them, rather than making an effort to change those ideas within their own religions.

What if rapture

Yet somehow, to these “good guy” believers, atheists are the “bad guys” for pointing out these crimes against humanity. It’s a classic “kill the messenger” scenario – for example:

1.) A religion is used to inflict suffering on others by denying their right to marry the person they love.

2.) Atheists point out that it is wrong to inflict said suffering, and that the scripture that is leveraged to inspire it is inconsistent and flawed in many ways, and perhaps should not be considered a source of ultimate morality.

3.) Believers (including members of the subjugated group!), call atheists jerks for pointing out this blatantly obvious fact.

4.) We talk about it on the radio.

5.) We get called jerks, again, for talking about it.

Wacky, isn’t it?

So anyway, that’s why the show may seem like we’re just bashing on religion at times. If religions weren’t being used to hurt people, we wouldn’t need to talk about it. In fact, we might not have a show at all. And yeah, sometimes you have to laugh about it, because it’s either laugh or cry, and no one wants to hear crying on the radio.

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Find me some crazy stuff to read!

Hey everybody!  Dave here.  All of us are hoping you are all enjoying this season.  We were really excited to have Roy Zimmerman in the studio with us, and were excited with the turnout for the after-show with him.  We’re also thrilled to be recording live at TCC again.  Last years was a blast, and we were pleased to find out that the Science and Inquiry club wanted us back.  So look for that in a couple weeks.

659However, as you all know by now, running this show isn’t cheap.  We are halfway through this season, and starting to wonder how we’re going to pay for the next.  We’ve been bouncing around a few fundraising ideas, some of which sound really exciting.  There’s one in particular that we need your help with.

We’re thinking about putting together some texts to read.  The more absurd the better.  The idea is one of us will read until we can’t keep a straight face anymore.  But we need your help to find some of the best stuff.  What we’re looking for is absurd and crazy religious writing in the public domain.  While we’d love to see Sam do a reading of Left Behind or a Ray Comfort book, there are unfortunate legal issues getting in the way of that.  Instead we need stuff either in scriptures, pamphlets, or books that aren’t copyrighted or trademarked.  Anything you think we might be able to read without getting sued.  It’d be especially fun to find stuff outside of Christianity.  If you know any good parts of the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita, that’d be great.  So if you have an ideas, or if you could find something out there that you think is going to crack us up, let us know.

You can post something in the comments below, or in the “Ask a Question” tab above.  Use the title “Fundraising scripture” so we know what it’s intended for.  We know you guys are the best at finding the crazy, so don’t let us down.

Thanks for your support, and thanks for listening to us.  We look forward to hearing all the fun stuff you come up with.

-Dave

P.S. If you want to support us more directly, you can always donate using the Shiny Red Candy-like Button at the top of the page.

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An Open Letter to Jennifer Fulwiler

Ms. Fulwiler,

A few years ago, I wrote a pair of blog posts about you. I won’t bother to ask if you’ve heard of them, because you clearly have. Just as I’m sure that you’ll eventually hear about this one.

I know this because the Ask an Atheist analytics site tells me that the second of my posts criticizing you — the one with the more provocative title — has gotten approximately 659 hits from your website.

No kidding. 659 hits.  On average, our site gets at least two clicks a day from your “Conversion Diary” blog.

659

Normally, I’d just chalk this up as free promotion for the site, and for the show. I’ve also written articles critical of Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Jim Wallis, but I’ve never really expected to have one of them notice my little rants, much less link to me. Constantly. Nearly three years later.

Ms. Fulwiler, you’ve linked to my article quite a bit over the past few years. Your linking has yielded our site so much new web traffic, that my post,  “Guess What? Jennifer Fulwiler is Still an Idiot”  is now on the first page of Google results for your name.

I am not joking.  Look it up. Your hilarious self-martyrdom has ironically made a page insulting you into something far more prominent than most of the articles that you’ve ever written. And you only have yourself to blame for it.

My favorite of your links to us was this one. I must say, wow. It’s amusing to watch you pat yourself on the back for being so cool and collected in the face of all those mean atheists calling you out for stereotyping them. I’ve never seen someone so transparently thrilled to be the center of attention.

You know what, that’s perfectly fine. I’d feel the same way. But please, don’t pretend that you’re silently shouldering some terrible burden with dignified poise.

Despite all the free promotion you’ve given my posts about you, it’s apparent that you and your readers have never actually read them.  Your readers’ occasional comments illustrate how badly you — and your readers — miss the point of my criticisms of you.

Here is a sampling of the sort of comments your readers have written on my posts:

If you think you have to be an idiot to be catholic (or even religious)… Surely you read about these people, Rene Descartes, Galileo Galilei, Fibonacci, etc… You say there are lay catholics? Then, How about these clergy catholics? Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Georges Lemaître, Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon, etc… If you really think you’re so smart and you can’t stomach the idea of a life after death, then check out “Pascal’s Wager”… only an idiot will stay an atheist.

Or…

Funny that “idiots” are only the religious people. Everyone against atheism is an idiot and everyone who is atheist is smart. Talking about being rational….

My point wasn’t that being Catholic made somebody stupid, or that being an atheist made you smart. I’ve spent a lot of time amongst a community of non-believers at organizational meetings, Ask an Atheist post-shows, and conventions. Our show has gotten literally thousands of emails, comments and phone calls during the nearly four years we’ve been on the air. I can speak with some authority on this.

Atheists are no more immune to being stupid than anyone else.

Among our number are some of the most brilliant people of all time,  but also a few of the dumbest people I’ve ever met. But it isn’t the company we keep that makes me secure in my non-belief, it’s the lack of evidence for the contrary position.

When your reader lists off brilliant religious believers — all of whom lived hundreds of years ago — it doesn’t make your position stronger. Just as, my atheism isn’t built on a foundation of knowing that Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Bill Nye happen to agree with me.

So do the Raelian UFO cultists, but that doesn’t matter.

That’s just an appeal to authority figures — good or bad — and not a solid argument.  Your readers have it all backwards.

It isn’t the stature of the people you agree with that make you right or wrong. What makes you right or wrong is the value of what you agree with them about. Their work isn’t great because they did it, but because of its individual merit.

Getting to the point, I called you an idiot.

I didn’t insult you because you’re religious. You’re not an idiot because you’re Catholic, nor are you an idiot because you stopped being an atheist.

I called you an idiot because you’re pretending to be an expert about things you clearly don’t know anything about.

In articles like this or this, for the National Catholic Register, it’s clear that you’re trying to position yourself as an expert on atheists. You’re carving out a niche as a former non-believer, a go-to authority on understanding, talking to, and converting people like me.

But as I said in both of my articles on you, you’re absolutely wretched at it. Every word you type on the subject only makes it more obvious that you have no idea what you’re talking about.

Even a brief conversation with a random non-believer would expose your arguments as laughably inept. Rather than offer your readers any new understanding about atheists, you’re simply parroting the same stereotypes that the Catholic Church has spread about us for centuries.

You’re not teaching your readers anything, just reaffirming their prejudices.

Sadly, like your fan referencing Galileo, Copernicus and Descartes, you’re relying on the audience being dazzled by appeals to your self-applied authority.  It’s an authority built on the credulity, willful ignorance and incuriosity of your readers.

I don’t know what’s more depressing — you completely missing the point of why I’m criticizing you, or your readers’ unwillingness to actually read the things they comment on.

Therefore, you remain an idiot, Ms. Fulwiler. Not because you’re a Catholic, though. As I mentioned, there are dumb atheists as well. I suspect you used to be one of them.

Thanks for the free web traffic!

Mike Gillis

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Sam is Exhausted, Talks About Pierce County Adventures

LAPTOP_STARKING5 did a follow up story, but got a few things wrong, especially regarding the amendment to the budget preventing this from happening again.  It did not pass.   We’re expecting to see something from the Tacoma News Tribune soon, we’ll see how that goes.

Here’s a podcast with an exhausted take on how it went down today.    Talk to you Sunday!

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