Camp Sunshine

One of the things we’re doing with Atheists of Maine is a fundraiser and subsequent polar dip for Camp Sunshine. Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist wrote about us:

The Atheists of Maine are trying to raise money for a truly worthy cause: Camp Sunshine, “a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.”

Right now, the atheists are the top fundraising group for the cause, but there’s a long way to go for the camp to raise the $30,000 it needs. So if you have the ability to help out, please donate to group members Ryan Dalessandro or Michael Hawkins.

There are other group members, but I think it’s clear that anyone who wants to donate should donate to my page specifically. Why? Because this is my blog, that’s why.

We’re ultimately hoping to find a church group to compete with us for position of top donor, so if any Maine-based group is interested, let us know.

Shit Christians Say to Atheists

I think I have heard some version of every single one of these. The most offensive was when someone told me my life must be pathetic because I don’t believe in God. It was the first time I had ever met that person.

Mallorie Nasrallah

Mallorie Nasrallah is an active atheist who recently had the gall – the god damned gall! – to say that other people do not speak for her. While anyone who has wasted their time reading the feminist shell games that have dominated the atheist community as of late knows, there have been a lot of accusations that there is some especially awful stuff that happens to women at atheist conventions and atheist websites. Sometimes this is true. Other times, such as when Rebecca Watson faced the horror of being asked a question, saying “no”, and having the guy take “no” for an answer, it is not true. The latter is the case most of the time. Mallorie recognizes this:

For as long as I can remember I have been welcomed in to communities which were generally considered “sausage fests”. If not for the constant noting of this fact I would have never noticed. You guys were always just
my friends.

As I’ve gotten older these subcultures have become more vocal about wanting to include more women, the discussion has become “how can we make the community more welcoming to women”.

As a woman who has been here all along this is distressing to me, I love you guys for who you are, from my table-top strategy gaming group though my political debate forum right in to the skeptical community. You have never been anything but awesome and welcoming. Who made you think you weren’t?

I am here, in my various communities because I like you guys, and I like the basis of the movement. The idea that you have to set time aside to cater to me, because my vagina imbues me with some special needs is becoming increasingly insulting. These communities are about our minds, not our genitals and as far as I can tell my mind is just like yours.

The point is obvious. Her experience has been horribly misrepresented by the feminists faction of the atheist community. They aren’t interested in presenting reality but rather an agenda-driven account of what is happening. Again, look at the Rebecca Watson case. A man asked her back to his hotel room. He did so in an elevator, indicating to me that he was likely too nervous to ask the question in front of a bunch of people and the elevator was his first chance. He should have re-thought that one, if only because it makes for an awkward situation, but regardless, when Watson said “no”, his response was effectively, “Okay”, and that was that. Not a bit of sexism or misogyny to be found anywhere. Any reasonable person – and that includes Mallorie – will recognize the facts as such.

I am writing about this for two reasons. First, I want to once again express my exacerbation at this conflation between atheism and feminism. Neither one has anything to do with the other. Moreover, “new atheism” is about the evils and harm of religion. That needs to be the primary focus. If other people wish to focus on feminism, do it elsewhere. Second, Friendly Atheist linked to Mallorie’s Facebook profile. (Mallorie responded in the thread and did so by logging in via her profile.) I sent her a message saying she did a good job on the article, and then I sent a friend request. She accepted. From what I’ve read (most of which is public anyway), she hasn’t gotten much professional publicity from this. That wasn’t her intent at all, plus her profession is photography so this sort of topic isn’t going to help much anyway, but I figured I would do what I could to promote her work. It actually is of a pretty good quality. Take a look here and here.

I’m glad we have voices like Mallorie’s. Strong women who don’t want special care taken for them is exactly what the rhetoric of the feminist movement is seeking. It just so happens that it is those outside the movement who recognize how to achieve this.

Well, that was interesting

I recently praised PZ for finally looking to shed his extra pounds. Aside from his lack of health being disrespectful to his own body, he runs the chance of leaving his loved ones behind too early – and for no good reason. I stand by that praise, and even though I am fully aware that it comes across as if I am just trying to insult a fat guy, I do genuinely mean it.

Unfortunately, PZ doesn’t see it that way. In the comment section of the post that inspired what I wrote, things took an ugly turn. I presented my argument that it is wrong to not try to be healthy. The first reaction – and it is always the first reaction – is to say I think it is wrong to be fat. I don’t. The issue is with putting forth an honest effort to be healthy. The results are not important, morally speaking. And just as I did in my post about obesity, I allowed for a huge swath of caveats. Some people have conditions which prevent them from putting forth the same effort as others. Other people work long hours and have to take care of children at the end of the day. Still other people have limited access to healthy food. It would be unreasonable to expect everyone to be able to put forth the same effort. That doesn’t mean, though, that it is magically impossible for people to attempt all they can – there is almost always a better choice available on the grocery store shelves – but I fully acknowledge that it can be difficult. I always have.

This, unfortunately, led to an extended discussion on poor people and food stamps. Apparently I hate them all because I don’t want to subsidize lobsters. The truth is, welfare funds are a limited resource. If we allow people to spend money on expensive items, they will have less for what they actually need. I saw this first hand while working at a grocery store in high school. People would use the last of their food stamps regularly on $30-70 worth of lobster. I can think of far better ways to use those funds.

The “counter” (if you can call it that) to this argument is that people get X amount of dollars and so it doesn’t matter how they spend them. (Oh, and I don’t think poor people deserve nice things, apparently.) This is a patently stupid argument. If I am given $200 a month for food and I need $300, $100 is coming from my pocket. However, if I buy luxury items, that eats into what I have been given. That means I will get one nice meal, but that might add another $30 to what comes out of my wallet. This does not help the poor; it allows some people to abuse their funds, forcing them to stay on welfare longer. That is, nobody is going to get back on their feet by spending money on things they don’t need at the expense of things they do need.

And, of course, this all means I must be a Ron Paul-loving, Reagan-blowing libertarian Republican. Right. No, my position is a utilitarian one. Welfare funds are not unlimited. It doesn’t make sense to allow them to be used to buy anything under the Sun. In fact, PZ and co are in the minority in what they think. Most states restrict the use of food stamps on some items (such as expensive energy drinks), and certainly no state allows the funds to be used for restaurants. And the states are right to do so. But what’s really interesting about this is that PZ and everyone else, once we get past the government intervention, is kicking into uber-libertarian mode. “Who are YOU to say what people should buy?!” Right. I’m the libertarian here.

The end result has been a ban. I suppose I’m okay with this. After all, throughout my Maloney troubles, PZ never responded to a single email or request for help. He, of course, is not required to do so, but let’s not be coy. I have disagreed with his rampant sexism in recent months, so he has no interest in helping me fight junk science. Emotion overrides logic here; if I never commented on his site, he would have been the first to help me. Besides that, the majority of his posts have nothing to do with atheism anymore. Sure, he has those spammy “Why I am an atheist” posts that have given my scrolling finger a good workout, but he mostly writes about feminism and stupid Internet polls. Overall I have still enjoyed him, but that is happening less and less each day. Without the writing he had as of a few years ago, I don’t care for much of what he has to say anymore. I’ll stick with Jerry Coyne, Friendly Atheist, and Starts With A Bang! for my big name bloggers.

At any rate, I hope PZ does manage to lose the excess fat he has. He’s older and has had health issues, so I don’t expect fantastic results, but I’m happy he is at least trying. After all, that’s all that matters.

Damon Fowler interview

Hemant Mehta has conducted an interview with Damon Fowler. It can be found here, and it’s an interesting read, but the best part? Damon now has a $16,000+ scholarship for college.

Damon Fowler

Damon Fowler is a graduating senior in Louisiana. He is also an atheist and he didn’t like his school’s plan to include prayer at the graduation ceremonies. He contacted administrators and let them know their plan was illegal and he would involve the ACLU if necessary. Surprisingly, the school backed down right away. However, unsurprisingly, it still allowed prayer to go on during certain school-sponsored ceremonies anyway.

Damon has now become an outcast at his school, even receiving wildly inappropriate criticism from teachers. (One teacher, Mitzi Quinn, said Damon had contributed nothing to his classmates.) This isn’t that shocking coming from the South.

But there is good news. Various pro-First Amendment and atheist sites have picked up the story. One result has been a $1,000 college scholarship from The Freedom From Religion Foundation for Damon. At another site, Friendly Atheist by Hemant Mehta, even more money has been donated:

I’ve been gone most of the day, but when I looked tonight, I saw you that 244 of you had chipped in over $5,500…

I’m amazed at how much support you’re all giving him. I’m so proud to be part of this community.

I’m glad to see yet another atheist fighting for basic principles (ones to which so many Christians pay lip service and nothing more), while also being given the gift of a substantially reduced college bill. Now if only those in charge of Damon’s school could become half as educated as he already is, then no one would have to make blog posts like this.