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The convert series -Aadita Chaudhury
The New Atheists didn’t represent me, for a number of reasons, and it frustrates me to this day that they have a monopoly on what atheism is to the international public with the belief that bunch of 19th-century white aristocratic gentlemen had single-handedly invented atheism and passed it down to them. As if! Did they not read in Encarta/early Wikipedia that ancient Indian philosophers had entire systems of thought devoted to atheism and rejection of scripture, long before Nietzsche proclaimed “God is dead”? This was only the beginning of my rift from mainstream atheism.
...
Despite my atheism, I’m one of the most spiritually greedy people I know. I define spirituality as the feeling of connection to all living things in our shared condition of being, living, thriving, suffering and ultimately dying. This is a feeling I consider sacred. I am spiritually greedy in that I do not want to have to pick and choose between any kind of faith tradition or practice where I can find opportunities to deepen this connection. My atheism allows me to be the captain of my own spiritual destiny and to find my individualized methods to get in touch with the sacred. This sacredness has nothing to do with God but everything to do with how we experience our lives and how an acknowledgement of the common thread of being in all of us can help us be more empathetic to each other. I know some religions see God as Being Itself, and I think that’s beautiful. In my case however, respect for our shared being does not require a divine figure.

The thinkers who have influenced my current philosophy are mostly religious folk who do believe in God. It’s also strange that the majority of these people happen to be ascetics, but maybe I’m a fan because I’m a graduate student and we lead similar lifestyles to them, except for the whole celibacy part. I’m a big fan of early Christian ascetics like the Desert Fathers and Mothers, because through there experience much of contemporary Christian spirituality was established. St. Benedict’s Rule is something I practice in my day to day life, with a good balance between contemplation and community. I am also very inspired by Zen literature because it urges us to experience the beauty of the present moment that I think is very therapeutic and life-affirming. I’m also getting into Sufism and its ideas about finding enlightenment within oneself. Rumi is not only a great poet but also an amazing student of the human condition and I think we can all learn from his verses, regardless of our religious or spiritual affiliations. I’m fascinated by the philosophy of Bauls of my native Bengal, who disregarded caste and religious boundaries in favour of celebrating the divine love that occurs among humans and finding divinity within earthly realms. Recently, perhaps a bit inspired by Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me, I have become interested in North American indigenous spirituality. I’m particularly interested in the idea of sacred clowning, which have similar counterparts in other cultures as jesters, tricksters and satirists. I find this especially compelling because much of religion seems to be a battle between dualities. Practices like sacred clowning subvert our logical expectations and reductionist dualistic thinking in favour of nuance, and I just love that.

 

I actually attend religious services sometimes. I’m a fan of Lent-related contemplation. I spent my last New Year’s Eve at an Anglican Convent as part of a retreat, and I am soon attending some formal Zen training sessions. I’m almost embarrassed by my interest in spirituality as an atheist, but I guess it’s my lot in life.

 

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I wish she had mentioned more about those early ancient Indian philosophers...  
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Lets Talk about the Other Atheist Movement

Over the last twenty-four hours, with media fixated on Dawkins’ absence from one upcoming convention, atheists have been gathered at another in Houston. The Secular Social Justice conference, sponsored jointly by half a dozen orgs, highlights ‘the lived experiences, cultural context, shared struggle and social history of secular humanist people of color’. Sessions address the humanist history of hip hop, the new atheism’s imperialist mission and the lack of secular scaffolds for communities of colour in the working class US, whether for black single mothers or recently released incarcerees. Perhaps we could talk about this?

‘When African-Americans across the economic spectrum look to social welfare,’ convenor Sikivu Hutchinsonwrites, ‘they are more often than not tapping into . . . faith-based institutions. . . . Atheists who bash religion but aren’t about the business of building [alternatives] are just making noise.’ ‘There are compelling reasons’, Hutchinson wrote last autumn, ‘for black women to be attracted to atheism. The stigma of public morality, fueled by white supremacy and patriarchy, has always come down more heavily on black women. Religious right policies gutting reproductive health care disproportionately affect poor and working class black women.’

I’d like to talk about that too—and if the editors who put Dawkins in charge now want to milk their monstrous creation, there’s a lot more I want to talk about.

I want to talk about Hutchinson’s work with Black Skeptics LA, a group whose Women’s Leadership Project ‘trains young women of color high school students to do peer education outreach on violence prevention, reproductive justice, HIV/AIDS education, LGBTQ equality, undocumented youth advocacy and sexual assault awareness[, and] is the only program for girls of color in the Los Angeles Unified school district that explicitly addresses the relationship between organized religion, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and heterosexism.’ (BSLA gives scholarships to first-generation undergraduates from the area, designed for those who are or have been homeless, in care, undocumented or LGBT.)

I want to talk about #BlackLivesMatter, and the activists contextualising it outside the black church, including as humanism—Sincere Kirabo of Notes from an Apostate, Diane Burkholder of Kansas City Freethinkers of Color, Niki Massey of Seriously?!, Peter Mosley of barrierbreaker. I want to talk about the Foundation Beyond Belief, which made #BlackLivesMatter the focus of its planned conference last year.

I want to talk about how less than a day after November’s Planned Parenthood shootings, Massey went to escort patients in and out of an abortion clinic, describing it as the front line of moral combat against the US religious right. I want to mention Brianne Bilyeu and Stephanie Zvan, atheist bloggers who do the same work.


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once again i wish that their god would just rapture them already and leave the rest of us to get on with life.

while skimming the mess i saw something about the christian church apparently having discussions about whether to toss out the old testament and just keep the new way back in the day. at first i thought that christianity might have been hella better for it, to be quite honest. but then i remembered some of the hierarchical bullshit in the new testament once one gets past the gospels and went nah. Throw the whole thing out.

its just really funny to me that a supposed god who is way concerned with morality preaches shit and or allows their followers to get away with shit that is way immoral like: some people are less valuable than some so they gotta have less rights and do extra stuff cause they are lesser than others. Like... aint they, since they are omniscient, supposed to know better than to push that bullshit? Haven't they seen enough cases of abuse to learn that that rubbish is a bad idea to cultivate so stop it stop it now? No? Ok. So much for being a moral example.

I been thinking recently that really if you gotta a god and they got human followers the god has got to hands on with this shit. Because human brains are hella good at interpreting things in ways that make us comfortable, and in any case, change is hard. Twisting words so we can do the same damn evil thing under the cover of interpretations is much much easier. You cannot allow people to run about interpreting shit 40,000 different ways and you CANNOT allow rampant and everlasting abuse to be gotten away with. And you realllllllllly cant run around going welll I'll fix all this in a few thousand years time as part of some ineffable plan. Then again they did say they made us in their own image. Does that image include just how we look or does it go into the structure of how we work as well. Does the christian god's brain work like a human's? Do they convince themselves that they are moral even when their actions would support the opposite?

I mean earth is a mess of oppressive as fuck power relationships perpetuated by christians. And god doesnt seem to be doing much to stop that shit. do we have a promise that heaven is gonna be any better? and what do you do in that case, praying to the god of your oppressors and then walking in to realise that he too oppresses? That the assholes were right all along?

oh wow.

Nov. 7th, 2015 09:57 pm
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I kinda fell off the face of the earth here. I had forgotten i had even made this comm in the first place! I still have the book and I am still reading it. And I have a few more books to read too. Is anyone still here?
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This chapter is basically an ode to the theory of evolution. Things grow and change and make new forms, and have been doing that since the dawn of time. But what, one may inquire, set this kind of phenomenon into motion? I'm afraid I'm a bit vague on his answer:

Could such be the outcome of anarchy in all things, arbitrarily rising from nothing? No:
For nature is orderly, and works by measure; all things arise from the elements in their generations.
Genesis 3 vs 6-7



I... guess that this is basically saying that the phenomenon resides growing and changing and becoming a different being starts at the base level of the elements. Ok, but what triggers that change in the elements? Actions, reaction and environment I guess? The very fact of existence means that some kind of action will take place and then there will forever be reactions thereto? The next verse says:

Each kind exists by its own nature, formed by the primal bodies that are their source and descended by steps through life's rhythms.
Genesis 3 vs 8


OK, but how did life's rhythms start? I guess then I could be pointed back to the previous chapter's admonition to go find out using the scientific method and don't come up with God stories to explain.

But to be honest, my mind advises me, the riddle of how life started and developed systems of existence is not something that consumes my waking days and nights. My immediate problem is my ability to shape myself into a hardworking person who can build through work and negotiation an answer to the myriad media representation and education issues that I see around me. How can I use the information in this chapter as an analogy that will allow me to analyze myself, locate my problems and formulate solutions to those problems?

Well, lets look at evolution. It happens whether or not you want it to. If you exist, you evolve. As I grow older, exposure to new experiences and information continue to change me into newer forms of myself as the days pass. Sometimes its absolutely scary to look at the difference between a teenage me and the me I am now. But, as a human, I have the ability to self-direct some of my own evolution, unlike inanimate objects like apples or galaxies. To repeat one of my favorite sets of verses from Genesis Chapter 1:

All other things, in their cycles and their rhythms, exist in and off themselves;
But in humankind there is experience also, which is what makes good and its opposite,
In both of which humankind seeks to grasp the meaning of things.

-- Genesis 1 vs 12-14.


This verse comforts the raging anxiety and fear that grips me when I look around at politics and global warming and rapacious economic warfare and feel helpless. Through experience I can locate good and bad, and act accordingly. What a rush! What an awesome responsibility! What control this verse gives me! I can decide good and bad through my experiences (and of course recourse to research on the wisdom of those who had their own experiences) and seek to grasp the meaning of things thereby! So what have been my experiences and how can I sort them into good or bad, and make plans to evolve toward embracing the good and diminishing the bad?

For the past several years I have had ongoing problems with lack of motivation, lack of concentration, inability to follow through with goals and the like. Obviously, these characteristics have played merry havoc with my dreams and ambitions. After-all, evolution does not automatically lead to a "better" organism/whatever form of nature. Sometimes there are sub-standard outcomes which lead to existence becoming a harder slog for survival. Sometimes, existence is terminated, and the result is called an evolutionary dead end. I don't want to be a dead end. I want to thrive and survive and be great. So wherein lies the problem? If my environment is the problem I need to leave it, change it or adapt to it. But I feel the problem is within me. My iffy brain rhythms, my work habits or lack of them, my responses to the problems are the overwhelming contributions to my current self. And I am not satisfied with my current self and its accomplishments. I feel that I can do better.

So what must I do to change? I must evolve self-discipline and self control. In addition I must locate the medication that I need and the techniques that will allow me to have as much control over my working habits as possible but they are not the total answer. I must still depend on me.

And so,  do I know what will give my life meaning? Yes. Enacting my dreams. I know that my depression can flare up when I fail to achieve my goals. I know it can be held at bay when I do my best and succeed. I know most of what I want to do as I recently went thru a period of writing down my myriad goals. Now I need to seriously clarify how to accomplish them, locate the seeds of sustainable work habits and most importantly set up a realistic time-frame for achievement. After all:

And new forms and births are revealed when their due times arrive, and pregnant earth safely gives her offspring to the shores of light.
Genesis 3 vs 11
My evolution will be guided at least in part, by me.
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A bunch of stuff has been happening and i have been distracted. Will see if I can set up a schedule that can be followed soon. Thanks for sticking around!
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Chapter Two: In which I am now calm enough to deal with this one. 

From the moment I read the first verse:

Those who first set themselves to discover nature' secrets and designs, fearlessly opposing mankind's early ignorance, deserve our praise,


I knew this chapter was going to be a hell of a ride. And it only got worse. It took me several days to feel like writing a review of it, and I spent most of them composing scathing sentences in my head. After reading it again and doing some research, I am a little less induced to apply the middle finger to Mr. Grayling whenever I remember the chapter. But I still think it is a sterling example of  limitations of rich white male philosophy.  The chapter proceeds to lay out a case for living one's life as a humanist. The base suggestion is this: Stop being scared of everything, and work to find an explanation of everything in order to beef up your knowledge of nature and all its works. Therein lies the path to enlightenment. But to me, there were more problems than potential inspiration in his piece. 


When Grayling goes off on "mankind's early ignorance", and pompously praises "the first set themselves to discover nature's secrets and designs" I immediately start to wonder who he is talking about. Because White  Europeans have a hell of tradition of erasing and appropriating non white contributions to the world and I have not been convinced by he is not following in his ancestor's lying, bloody footsteps. I  will not forgive the years I spent in sadness and self-loathing because my European based education told me I was worth nothing, that I came from savages and the only damn people who had a history to be proud of was white people. If Mr. Grayling is the latest in a long line to perpetuate this farcical bullshit, then he immediately falls many inches down in my estimation, and makes me question of of what use is all his study of ethics and philosophy, in light of his current mind state. 


I read further along to see if my misgivings would be put to rest. They weren't:

new eyes were needed to see what lay hidden in ignorance(verse 3)



Who, I wondered, does  he think were and are  the possessors of the "old eyes" that were clogging up progress? My suspicions grew deeper and darker. 


I continued to delve into his supporting arguments. Yada Yada Yada ... wait:

The first inquirers named nature's element atoms, matter, seed, primal bodies, and understood that they are coeval with the world ... (verse 7)


Said deep and dark suspicions flared into bright flames of anger.  But then I took a quick look at Wiki and was slightly soothed.  For instance, the concept of the atom, I learned,  was first purposed by early Greek and Indian philosophers. Ok then, I thought. I should really make an effort to begin to dig into  Indian philosophy. I researched the etymology of matter but they only mention the Greeks' ideas of it. Hmm. Personally, I would not be surprised to hear a report that matter was known to other peoples. In the mean time, I went on to look up the history of seed as a word and concept. Wiki was silent on the question of whether there was a particular origin for the idea.Off the top of my head, I speculate that this is because the concept was known to all who noticed what nature was up re: the cycle of plant life.   And it is definite that many nations, tribes, ethnic groups thought that they were part of the natural world, not outside of it or its conqueror.



They saw that nothing comes from nothing, so that discovering the elements reveals how the things of nature exist and evolve.
(verse 8)

This concept is actually quite comforting to me. I love the idea of cycles, I don't want to just be here, exist and then just ... stop after death. Continuing on in some manner sounds right up my alley. To be honest though I'd much rather live a long life. I mean, what is after death that will be cool enough to defeat all the awesome shit that I get to experience in life. Do they even got the internet back there?
Fear holds dominion over people when they understand little, and need simple stories and legends to comfort and explain, But legends and the ignorance that give them birth are a house of darkness. (verses 9-10)
Smacks of white bullshit. When poc understanding of shit don't match what white people think of as knowledge production, call it ignorance and darkness. In addition to which the implication that all religious stories and legends were simple and full of darkness and ignorance is condescending BULLSHIT. Many religious texts and oral tradition had some great fucking philosophy up and down that shit, to say nothing of parables and allegories and elaborate storytelling that made use of astonishing creative powers. Plus many of them discovered great knowlege that runs rings around Western-Enlightenment, lets claim that the Greeks and the Romans were the bestest ever ideology that now runs rampant throughout the world. Once gain, Mr. Grayling's prejudices have led him into making statements that are not supported by the evidence. He needs to have a seat.
Dare to know, that is the motto of enlightenment verse 14
I have a complicated relationship with this verse. On one hand, it is comforting to say when I  don't know something,  then all I need to do is shrug and say "It has yet to be discovered but I am sure there is an explanation."  I do like the idea of seeking after knowledge, but considering that science has a dark history of white people doing so with no care and respect of poc's traditions and human dignity, and with active ill-intent, prejudice and murder and pain as motives at worse, I believe that this chapter would have been MUCH improved by a warning to be careful of one's motives and to be respectful of the people and things that one is researching.
ETA: One more thing. Science as practiced in the medieval Islamic world. Mr. Grayling's intimation that religion inhibits scientific inquiry is invalid.
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Tribute to Indian Atheists- Part I


Atheists have contributed much to India's growth and success. It's time all Indian Atheists felt rightfully proud of the accomplishments of Indian Atheists and their service to our country.
This video is part of Nirmukta's contribution towards the Out Campaign, urging Atheists from all walks of life to come out as atheists to friends and family.

Tribute to Indian Atheists- Part II


Uploaded by Nirmuktavideos on Oct 27, 2010
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Teach Your Children Well: Challenging Religion-Based Sexism



Last week I traveled to Mobile Alabama, the heart of the Bible Belt, a leafy, green college town replete with billboards for mega-churches and imminent apocalypse (according to Christian broadcaster Family Radio Worldwide May 21st is the new time and date). In the northern part of the state poor working class communities dug out from the ravages of the tornados, while southern Alabama escaped largely unscathed. I had been invited by the Secular Students Alliance and the Gender Studies Department of the University of South Alabama to talk about my book Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars. During my lecture I faced a standing room crowd of heretics, fence sitters, curiosity seekers, and true believers bracing for a circus sideshow. Traveling across America to speak on freethought and abolitionism during the 19th century, white feminist atheist Ernestine Rose was smeared as being a “thousand times below a prostitute.” Centuries after Rose, the association of faith with female virtue and morality is still pervasive in our post-feminist post-racial Christian nation. Indeed, for some women of color, being “married to Jesus” is the only lifeline to genuine personal and spiritual validation. As religion scholar Anthea Butler notes, “having a husband meant that they could not give their ultimate all for the number one man on most African-American womens’ lips, and it’s not Denzel.”

As the Religious Right continues to gut women’s rights, its cultural propaganda suggests that the only way a woman can truly be validated as a moral being is through the policing of her body and her sexuality. Tragically, some of the most vociferous defenders of this regime are other women. At the end of my lecture, one woman came up to me and angrily demanded to know where I’d found the passage from Deuteronomy(20:10) which states that believers have the right to capture and enslave other tribes and keep their women and children as spoils that “God has given you.” Similarly, when I read another passage from Deuteronomy (22:28-9) which endorses sexual terrorism and the marriage of raped women to their attackers (after a bride price is paid to the victim’s father), some audience members groaned that it was “taken out of context” and attempted to shout me down. The nuances of context are indeed important where rape is concerned. Perhaps the predator whispered sweet nothings into the victim’s ear and asked her what sign she was before the assault? Perhaps he was just a good old boy next door who hadn’t “had some” in a while and was overcome by his natural manly urges. Yes, the Good Book makes sluts out of women and savages out of men. Instead of self-determination it gives women the holy gift of s&m as a special kind of manifest destiny. MORE
Thoughts?
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Personally I've never been too worried  about where we came from. I accepted the creation myth quite easily when i was young, and then accepted  the evolution theory quite happily once I decided that religion could go hang. And so I didn't really expect to get much out the Book of Genesis. I was wrong.  The more I  read and slept so that my brain could think about what I read; the more I found to think about.  So, here are some passages that stood out to me, and accompanying commentary.


In the garden stands a tree. In springtime it bears flowers; in autumn, fruit. Its fruits is knowledge, teaching the good gardener how to understand the world
. --Genesis 1 vs 1-2


Grayling's adaptation of his inspirations stake their combined claim immediately and deliberately in the first two lines: We should study what is before and around us to learn how the world works. An uncomplicated assertion, I think, but from prior experience I expect the reasoning scaffolding said assertion is going  to be problematic. Anyway, he uses the story of the apple falling on Newton's head, inspiring him to come up with the theory of gravity, to weave together a notion of humanity and its relationship to the universe:

When Newton sat in his garden, and saw what no-one had seen before: that an apple draws the earth to itself, and the earth to the apple, Through a mutual force of nature that holds all things, from the planets to the stars in a unifying embrace.

So all things are gathered into one thing: The universe of nature, in which there are many worlds: the orbs of light in an immensity of space and time,

And among them their satellites, on one of which is a part of nature that can mirror nature itself,


And can ponder its beauty and significance and seek to understand it: this is humankind
.  ---Genesis 1 vs 7-11.

Well, if anyone was wondering  whether looking at the birth of the universe from a scientific  instead of magical perspective would lead to loss of  a  certain grandeur and majesty, wonder no more, eh?  I suddenly have a  yen to look dreamily at Hubble Telescope images and contemplate my tiny place as a less than a pindot in the universe. *excuse me I'll be right back*

A few nagging issues arise, however. Was Newton was really  the first person who discovered the existence of gravity, or is he the person White Western culture canonizes?  I am suspicious you see, for  in my life I have had to unlearn many claims that White European men "discovered" this and that, when other people did know about stuff, long before the Europeans ran around conquering the world  declaring that truth was what they said it was. And  I am still unlearning such "truth" claims.

In addition, I note to myself that Newton himself was a Christian who used his scientific discoveries to buttress his belief in the existence of his God, and of that God's power. Which would explains to me  why the book is subtitled "A Humanist Bible" rather than an "An Atheist's or Agnostic's Bible".  Well, knowledge from everywhere is good right? Right.

Another point of interest is the comment  that humankind can "mirror nature". I am not quite sure what Grayling  means by that. I interpret the passage as referring to our growing ability to build things that simulate nature. If that is what he is talking about then I have a severe problem with this declaration. The fact   is that white western philosophically based economic, social and  political systems are destroying a lot of nature, using all that science that he is exhorting us to use, and then belatedly  realize  that we have to build it back because it is important for cycles allowing our existence to continue.  Our copies are growing better but are still vastly inefficient compared to what nature had in place. If my reading is what he has in mind, then I believe the assertion dangerously arrogant.  And its is of a piece with the "conqueror of nature"  mindset that White Europeans and Americans have been subscribing to  for hundreds of years, which has and continues to result in ignorance based destruction of peoples and habitats:  physically, socially, culturally (colonization, global warming,  widespread environmental damage). 

Of course, he might mean something else entirely. Which leads me to note that the interpretation problem with generalized commentary that seeks to be universal wisdom is something that I really need to be sensitive to.  I make myself a note to keep in mind that history and culture and  nuances and contexts and the fact that  many specific linkages can be made depending on the socio-politico-cultural-economic environment are reasons why I should critique the notion of "universality" vigorously and continuously.

Moving along, I encounter the next three verses:

All other things, in their cycles and their rhythms, exist in and off themselves;

But in humankind there is experience also, which is what makes good and its opposite,

In both of which humankind seeks to grasp the meaning of things
. --- Genesis 1 vs 12-14.

Hmm. The idea that humankind seeks to understand good and bad through experience is something new to me.  I have, after all been a fairly sheltered woman who has lived a pretty good life so far. So most  of my search to understand  the concepts of "good" and "bad" is conducted through reading and research. But then, I realize that the reading is a result of people  recording their thoughts  based on their experiences. Simple  stuff huh? I have weird blind spots sometimes that lead me to miss the damnedest things. Which is why this passage  reconfirms  my  need to read as widely as possible, in order to be aware of  the differences in different people's experiences and  the varying notions of "good" and "bad" that various people have. I will have to think about those verses for  a bit.

Random thought: How do we choose whats good and whats bad through our experiences? Well it depends on our worldview, doesn't it? And how do we develop our world view? Through interpreting our experiences and consultation with others? Am I missing anything?


And there we have it, the end of chapter one. To go out on a more superficial note; here are my thoughts on the prose. Its no King James Version of the Bible (my favorite translation) but its quite serviceable for being the work of a philosophy professor. In any case, I get caught up in reading and rereading the verses to make sense of it them, and  pretty soon I pick up a rhythm.



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The Good Book is deliberately modeled on the Christian Bible. Its content is an edited compilation, distillation, and adaptation of the work of over a thousand texts from hundreds of authors from the "West and The East". Unsurprisingly, the persons quoted are mostly white men, with a strong emphasis on the Greeks, though there are some people from Asia and the Maghreb however, like Confucius, Cui Hao, Kautilya, Laozi, Hafiz and a few others. The book is also organized like the Bible into Books,Chapters and Verses. There are fourteen books: Genesis, Wisdom, Parables, Concord, Lamentations, Consolations, Sages, Songs, Histories, Proverbs, The Lawgiver, Acts, Epistles and The Good. Along with an authorial "epistle" to the reader at the front, the entire creation takes up over 600 pages, which startled the hell out of me when I first saw it. It is HUGE. Whatever I think of the contents, I must admit that this is a monumental work, and I can see why it took Mr. Grayling 23 years to complete.

By the way, Mr. Grayling does not claim to author the work. He uses the word "made", since what he did was construct what I consider to be an "archival book" (like the archival films) out of the various writings of those men whose philosophy he liked. Basically, its a remix. Luckily for him most of this stuff is in the public domain. But, a nagging question remains: in light of the history and ongoing present of the appropriation of poc words and cultures and inventions and passing them off as White, is this book's set up appropriate? There is a list around the back of a bunch of the people he most drew upon, but their words aren't credited. If you have the time and the inclination you can check the internet to see who said what, but ... is it still problematic? I am leaning towards sideeye, to be quite honest. I will continue to think about it.

I will be reading and reviewing the book chapter by chapter, but some of the chapters are quite long and so commentary will probably be split into parts. Working on Genesis now. For a twelve page, fourteen chaptered work, there is a lot to chew on.
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Oh darlings, I have been remiss. And rather tunnel-visioned. Months and Months ago I promised to buy this book, read it and blog about the experience for you all. I haven't been able to scrape together the needed funds for doing so unfortunately. and I did not think of a simple solution to the problem, BORROW IT FROM A LIBRARY. Granted, I have been rather scatter brained for the past few months and getting worse by the day, due to undiagnosed disorders and a reluctance to take the pills that deal with the problem when I did get diagnosed. But now my head is clear and I finally braved the ridiculous heat and walked down to the absolutely beautiful library in town (taking lots of rest breaks because did I MENTION the heat?) And I have The Good Book in my hot little hands.

Let me set the stage for my review. I have been side-eying the privileged white man leadership of the so-called New Atheist Movement since shortly after I decided I was an atheist, with the assistance of a final push from that humorous but racist and sexist writer Christopher Hitchens. There are four main reasons for my distrust, all of which revolve around who the leaders of this so-called movement are, and what that portends for what they think is important and good and ethical, and what they refuse to engage with.  

The so-called Four Horsemen of New Atheism: Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennet and Victor Stenger are are middle to upper class white cis het males and their blind spots and prejudices reflect that.  Firstly, for all their talk of ethics and ways and means to live the good life, their analysis feels shallow because they have little that is trenchant to say about homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism and the intersections thereof. As a matter of fact, their ethics do not seem to prevent them from committing basic 101 instances of these same maladies. They don't even seem to fail better than the Christians they so haughtily bash!

Secondly, they seem to be incapable of understanding nuance and context and so pretend that bashing Islam and other poc majority-religions is the same as bashing Christianity, completely ignoring their ancestral and continuing history of colonization, economic, religious and political warfare against poc and their cultures and the damaging fallout that plagues us today. Christianity as practiced by white Europeans is a predatory religion with so much blood on its hands that if it were a flood, we'd have Noah's situation all over again. Christian white people joined with the tiny minority of nonreligious or skeptical white people to wage total cultural annihilation on poc, and the fallout physically, psychologically is incalculable and ongoing. And there has not been much acknowledgement and resistance to that history and ongoing reality. Consider, for instance the "war on terrorism" being waged by white majority countries which seems to be, quite frankly, a war against Islam, in which children and women and men are being ruthlessly murdered with no recourse to justice, and consider the role Hitchens has played in contributing rhetorical aid, comfort and justification to the assault. Where were the voices of his friends and allies chastising and opposing the practice? Nowhere.

Nor do these people critically consider the idea of demanding that all thought must be based on rationality and science. They note not the whiteness of their concepts of rationality and science, and they sure as hell do not mention the fact that in the name of science TERRIBLE things have been done to people of color.  We have been experimented on and tested without our consent, our knowledge has been stolen and patented and packaged as the discoveries of white people. Science has been used as a scaffolding for white society to justify oppressing us, and it STILL happens today. The results of science like the making of the nuclear bomb has destroyed poc homes and left us ill and dead by the thousands, and very little compensation has been given to us.  They seem to think that the fact that mostly white men of a capitalistic bent are in charge of the discipline and industry is not huge problem;  and they ignore the contributions of women and people of color as much as possible.  And they pretend to believe that "science is objective", when there is a philosophy that guides their science, everything from what to study to how to study it to how the findings are presented and used, and that philosophy allows them to steal from everyone else to their overflowing benefit. POC distrust of science has many many MANY good reasons backing it, no matter what these  assholes might tell themselves and others.


Finally, I am sick and tired of movements in which I have to search for myself and others like me. I am tired of being the second class citizen, the odd one out, the what are you doing here, the token. And I have privileges galore so imagine the people who have more problems to contend with than I do!

So why am I reading this book when  the very blurb by the publisher raised my hackles almost immediately? A combination of things. I am looking for an anchor to help me to frame a philosophy by which to live my life. I want help  in formulating a way to make sense of the world and my place in it, and how I should act towards it. I have vague and uncomplete thoughts about living in community and working towards social justice and I need to test my mental teeth on ideas and thinking by other people in order to help me formulate my own thoughts and make plans for new  habits and actions.   In addition, I would like to have something nearby to help me deal with the concept and reality of death.  Death is a disturbing thing for me to contemplate. It is final. It silences potential forever and ever on this side of the divide. It causes grief and pain. It is unknown. Christianity was never enough to provide solace and explanation for these issues because I have atheist parents and I was not comfortable with the idea of them burning in hell while I was in heaven. I love my parents. I don't want to them to suffer. I don't want  them to leave me. But they will. And so in my search for answers, I decided to try this book.

I do not expect to like a great deal of the content. I do expect to find some good in it that can be extracted and incorporated into my philosophy. I also expect to be challenged;  for it to be a whetstone which will sharpen my ideas of what I want my right and wrong to be, if only to refute the white nonsense that will be found in its pages.  I hope you will like the mental   journey.


Whew!!!

Feb. 1st, 2012 07:33 pm
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New Campaign Announced: We are African Americans for Humanism


Today I’m proud to announce the new African Americans for Humanism campaign, just in time for Black History Month! Billboards and transit shelter ads featuring historic and contemporary black humanists are going up—in black neighborhoods!—in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington DC, and Durham NC. The ads highlight historic black humanists Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston, as well as eight contemporary activists and organizers representing localAAH-affiliated groups in each city.



Executing a campaign of this size means that there are a LOT of people involved. I’ll take a quick moment to highlight and thank the eight representatives whose faces are on these ads in the different cities: Jamila Bey (AAH–DC), Leighann Lord (CFI–Harlem), Sikivu Hutchinson (Black Skeptics LA), Alix Jules (Dallas–Ft. Worth Coalition of Reason Diversity Council), Mark Hatcher (Secular Students at Howard University), Mandisa Thomas (Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta), Kimberly Veal (Black Nonbelievers of Chicago), and Veronique Matthews (Triangle Freethought Society in Durham). Props to the fact that they’re willing to put themselves out there and be spokespersons for this.AWESOME billboard pic at the link
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Non-theism in Africa

Leo Igwe of the Nigerian Humanist Movement recently traveled to Australia to discuss the challenges that humanists and skeptics face in Nigeria. Most of those gathered to listen to his presentations walked away believing he is the lone non-theist hero in all of Africa.

However, Australian non-theists are not the only ones that embrace this mistaken notion. ...

Leo Igwe is just one among many courageous African non-theists engaged in activism. Not long ago, I helped Igwe start an anti-superstition campaign in Africa, focusing primarily on combating the persecution and murders of alleged witches and wizards (mostly young children and elderly women, the most vulnerable members of society.) The Nigerian Humanist Movement has also fought for good science, church/state separation, the rights of women and sexual minorities, etc.

In Uganda, the Ugandan Humanist Effort to Save Women (UHESWO) rehabilitates prostitutes. They provide job training, temporary housing, jobs, business development, computer training, etc. However, they obviously cannot save everyone. Some of the destitute women continue to sell their bodies. Many of them complain that the men they have sex with refuse to use condoms, increasing the likelihood of the spread of HIV. For these women, members of UHESWO provide condoms.

Also in Uganda, the Women of the Free World Organization (WOFEWO) imparts humanist values to young girls. A few years ago, I presided over the inauguration of what is probably the only humanist soccer team in the world–the Emitos Girls Football Club. For African girls, often discouraged from participating in sports, this is a major source of empowerment. WOFEWO continues to empower girls–especially those from the villages–in many other ways.MORE

Linkage

Aug. 1st, 2011 03:04 am
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Queer Youth of Color Beyond Faith

At LGBTQ youth conferences it is common to see sunny-faced volunteers from gay-friendly ministries and other faith organizations hovering by tables stocked with attractive promotional literature. Their message is simple: God is merciful, forgiving and accepting of difference. And it is important for queer youth to know that Jesus loves them too. Each ministry claims to offer sanctuary from the draconian storm of Christian fundamentalism. As a visible and vocal faction in the LGBTQ youth movement, these faith-based organizations fill a moral, cultural, and social void that Humanist organizations have yet to proactively address.MORE
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The Good Book: A Humanist Bible By AC Greyling


AC Greyling is a British Atheist who decided that a humanist version to religious holy books was needed, and he set out to write one. The book is based on Western and Eastern sources. My first warning bell for this thing is the fact that I see no women or people of color mentioned as inspiration in the reviews that I have eagerly perused on the subject. However, I am very curious to see what he has to say. Amazon allows you to search the book, and I must say, I like the use of language, and I am thoroughly enchanted with his version of Genesis, though I am annoyed with the use of the word "man" to refer to "humanity". Therefore, I am going to acquire the book, read it and blog it chapter by chapter, giving my thoughts on his sources, and what he chooses to say, and what he leaves out. Starting in August, I think. In the meantime, have an speech:

A.C. Grayling: The Good Book
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The atheist movement has been challenged for its rather white male middleclass presentation, and one of things that has come out of that on-going conversation is this list: ATHEISTS OF COLOR - A LIST
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Sikivu Hutchinson is a black feminist atheist author who brings a race and feminist and social justice perspective to the rather lily-white, science and white-philosophy-based atheistic establishment. She blogs at blackfemlens and contributes articles to various publications like The Black Agenda Report, The New Humanist.Org, The Infidel Books Press and others. She is also a speaker with the Secular Student Alliance. She's wrote Imagining Transist: Race, Gender and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles (Travel Writing Across the Disciplines) in 2003, and her newest book is Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, which she is currently on a book tour to support it. Here are some videos and some interviews and articles by her.

Sikivu Hutchinson :: Diversity!
Read more... )


Dialogue of Reason: Science and Faith in the Black Community
Read more... )


Moral Combat Explored


Read more... )



Beyond The Sacrificial Good Woman: Freethinking and Black Feminism

Read more... )

American Family Values, Invisible Lives

Read more... )

Teach Your Children Well: Challenging Religion-Based Sexism

Read more... )


Angels and Innocence On violent deaths, especially as they affect children

Read more... )


Moral Combat: Interview with Dr Sikivu Hutchinson at Echoes of Common Sense Blog

Read more... )


Oratory of Division


Read more... )
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AYANNA WATSON : WHY I STARTED BLACK ATHEIST OF AMERICA P1


NYC ATHEISTS BRUNCH / SPEAKER

SPEAKER: AYANNA WATSON

Founder Of Black Atheists of America

SUBJECT: WHY I STARTED BLACK ATHEISTS OF AMERICA

Ayanna Watson, founder of Black Atheists of America, was born and raised in Long Island. She has earned an MBA and a law degree from Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. Ms. Watson attended a Lutheran-based high school, where she was required to study the Bible. As she realized the impact that religion played in society, she transitioned from Christianity to Deism and then to Atheism. She realized the lack of diversity within the Atheist community and decided to form Black Atheists of America (BAAM), an organization dedicated to bridging the gap between Atheism and the Black community, where religion is still very deeply ingrained. Ms. Watson will speak to us about her journey as a Black woman from Christianity to Atheism and her hope to to encourage Black Atheists to be more open in their communities about their stance on religion.

LOCATION: The Press Box Restaurant - 932 Second Avenue (bet. 49th & 50th Sts.) -2nd Floor . Camera, edit, Joe Friendly




AYANNA WATSON : WHY I STARTED BLACK ATHEIST OF AMERICA P2



Black Atheists of America Website

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