Saturday, December 1, 2012

Inviting a Nuisance; I can't stay out of trouble.

On Thursday, I had an exit interview for a Women's Studies class. I arrived on campus about an hour before the interview. I found a nice chair, sat my ass down, and combed through one of my books. As I was doing that, 2 women, 1 Asian, 1 Black, approached me with caution and I believed they were about to ask me for directions. I did not notice the set up until after both women scurried off. The Asian woman walks up and spoke with a soft tone such that I or anyone they approach would lower my/your defenses and the Black woman is the bullhorn and is ready to offer a rebuttle if she is prompted. I'm asked for a moment of my time and since I had some time to kill, I granted the request. The Asian woman asks me "Are you a Christian"? I replied "No". She asks "Do you belong to another religion"? I said "No". She asks "Are you spiritual"? Again, "No". She looked confused and with each passing "no", she leaned her body away from me. I wanted to clear up her confusion and I told her I'm an atheist.

Meanwhile the Black woman is sitting in a chair next to me and playing on her iphone but when she heard me say I'm an atheist, she suddenly sprang to life (is there an app for that?). She screamed, "REALLY, WHY"? At that point, I was a little bewildered. Her loudness prompted a crowd of students and custodial workers to tune in to the festivities. By that time, the Asian woman was looking at me as though I was about to burst into flames. I explained to both women that I'm an atheist because I have/had not seen or been presented with any compelling evidence in favor of their God. the Black woman says "well scientists believe.....", and before she could finish, I said "I don't care what scientists believe. Simply because some may believe, that in and of itself is not evidence in favor of the existence of that god". She said "okay", and for a brief moment I thought the discussion may be fruitful. She asked me if she showed me the evidence for the existence of her god would I then believe. I held out my hand, smiled and said "give it to me". Instead of presenting me with evidence she said "The Bible says....", and I had to put a stop to her.

Why should I privilege the Bible over other "religious" texts? And the Bible is the source of a claim, not the proof of/for it. Confusion rears its head again. The Asian woman is about to perform an exorcism on me and the Black woman is flustered but trying to put forth a cogent reason but failing. She reaches for history, prophecy, and in both cases her claims were so murky and fallacious, I told her to "fix the fallacies". I told both women, I have read the Bible from cover to cover. I enjoy reading the Bible, just like I enjoy reading the Odyssey. Then I was told I read the Bible incorrectly. Can one of you good people tell me how it's supposed to be read? (I didn't say that to them) Both women were so uncomfortable that they both said "it's clear you are strong in your beliefs" (I had not stated a single belief I possess), and they RAN OFF. I had a nice chuckle to myself and the crowd enjoyed it too. The custodial workers told me that those women approach people in the building all of the time. I'm aware of the men who preach in Woodruff Park and yell to students and faculty about our impending doom and how we're destined for hell, but they usually don't walk up to you and if they do, a well placed finger and a "fuck off" does the trick.

This exchange is an example of Christian/religious privilege. Believing in a god, no matter how you define it, can be used as a social license to annoy other people. I understand they were trying to fulfill their obligation as stated in 1st Peter 3:15, and they have a legal right to be on campus, but when you cannot satisfy the demand put forth to you, that's when you should tip your cap and move on with the show. I'm in the Bible belt and both women assumed I believed in some "higher power". They thought they'd have a friendly venue to spread their version of good news and they did have a friendly venue........but they were met with questions and a demand for evidence. When they could not offer it, they decided to press the point with fallacious appeals, obfuscation, and bullshit, but they are can do it because their position is the majority one to hold and they expected compliance and received tempered resistance. Of course I play a role in this whole deal too. I could have told them to buzz off sooner and I incorrectly assumed they were just "lost". But then you would not have this post to read.

Moral of the story; when you cannot prove your case, SHUT UP.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Racism still exists in America? White people, come get this man.

Yes. I did not think I would have to ask that question but as I continue to study and have conversations with people I find plenty who think racism has disappeared into the night. The prevailing ignorance is centered amongst a number of factors, but I want to focus specifically on one; the election of Barack Obama in 2008. In my interactions with a lot of White people, and experiences imparted to me by a number of Black and White colleagues, the notion of “we have overcome” pops up. What I mean by that is that the election of ONE Black man to the highest political office in this country (and perhaps the world, depending on whom you ask), has brought us out of racism. We finally slayed the beast known as racism and everything is okay. Now we can hold hands, talk about how much we all love Martin Luther King, and maybe play a little Gladys Knight in the background. Sounds silly doesn’t it? The era of post-racial America has emerged (read sarcastically) but the endeavor is wholly short-sighted. The goal should be a post-racist America but I doubt it will ever be achieved.  

The following is brought to you by the letter R. Think Sesame Street.

As I was sitting in the doctor’s office, an older, early 50s, White male came in and sat next to me. The television in the waiting area was tuned in to Fox News and this particular gentleman became very chatty. The usual chit chat about what you do professionally, how long you’ve been in Atlanta, etc, are formalities but what has increased is the need to tell me what you think of Obama. The gentleman continues with “I don’t mean this to sound racist, but I don’t like Obama”. “It’s not a Black thing, but I feel like he doesn’t understand my country.” First, do you KNOW the man to say that? Has Obama come to your home and slapped you across the face? Second, YOUR COUNTRY?? Third, what’s up with the qualifiers? Maybe he thought I would beat his ass. I responded with a simple question, “Why?” The man claimed that Obama does not share the correct vision for America. He said Obama does not understand America is built upon individual liberty and ingenuity. The man is correct with respect to ingenuity. America was very clever in enforcing and legislating chattel slavery, specifically with the slave codes of 1793 as one example, to the continued disfranchisement of Black people in the North and South, and even to the segregation of military forces which inspired numerous calls to action by Black leaders in 1940 with regards to treatment, placement in posts, benefits, etc. The individual liberty belief is laughable, historically inaccurate, and flat out bullshit but conservative (and I mean that in the worst way you can imagine) White male historians, and those who wish to present historic fiction, love to push the individual liberty myth. The man went on to opine that he knows a number of Black people, whom he calls friends, who know the REAL truth about America and share his passion for this country. I nodded and thought to myself “this man represents a large number of Americans, and we are fucked.” I did not have time to knock down every single one of his statements but I did leave him with one question; how can you talk about this country being built on individual liberty when slavery was codified into law which dictated public policy?


Recently, an Arkansas representative made some racist ass comments about Black people being better off because of slavery. Benevolent slavery if you will. John Sununu, a senior advisor to the Romney campaign, suggested that Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama was done solely because Obama is Black. If that’s true, Powell should have endorsed only half of Obama but let’s not be too technical. Such commentary is meant to undervalue Powell as a man and to render his remarks as complete hogwash. The move is part of a concerted effort which has historical antecedents that aims to devalue Black life. This is not the first time nor will it be the last that some racist ass White dude says some foolish and racist shit about slavery or about Black people. The historical record reflects such attitudes in newspapers, law, public policy, misuse and abuse of science/medicine, literacy tests, etc. If you are shocked by the seemingly upfront and boisterous attitude by these racist people, I suggest you do some research. Go on over to the Auburn Avenue Research Library here in Atlanta, and you will see exactly what I am talking about. It’s not new and the only thing that has changed is the cast of characters and the technology that is used to present the beliefs. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why I no longer say the N word; Musings from a Black Atheist

I struggled with this blog post for a few weeks. I was not sure how I wanted to articulate my thoughts, and feelings about such a destructive word. I know context matters, but in the case of that word, no context can excuse the usage of it. I am disheartened every time I see a Black person use the word, and create all kinds of justifications to excuse current and future usage. When White people use the N word, some Black folks defend White folks and say “it’s just a word”. No it’s not. Recent history tells us just how deep the N word has permeated our society. I cannot walk down the street, go to the grocery store, or walk into an elementary school lunchroom, and not hear the N word. I think it is time for a major change.

In order to change the culture, we must destroy everything with the N word on it. We need to get federal and state funding for programs to situate chronic users and consumers of the N word back into civil society. I would have loved to see President Obama and Mitt Romney talk about this pressing issue. I present this to you because I love my country and my fellow human beings. I want their mental health and physical health to be as sound as possible. Some folks need to be protected from themselves. I thought long and hard about this, plus I did the research. The N word is crushing our economy, our shared humanity, and our sense of self. I propose a federal law to outlaw the N word and harsh punishments ought handed out to states and cities who create safe havens for N word users.

I no longer say the N word. I find the word to be a tool of dehumanization. When uttering the word, I reveal a dark part of my character, and I become uncivil as do all others who use the word. Today is the last day I use the N word. Nutella will be banned from my vocabulary, my twitter feed, and my home. I hope you join me, and do the same. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Black Folk Don't do Atheism? Wrong. I'm Black and I 'do' Atheism

Check out the following video. (

Black folks in the US, if you believe the polling data (Pew, 2008) and Black women in particular report believing in a god/spiritual/creator. Black folks usually claim to attend church services more so than other groups and Black women lead in that category as well. The video does suggest that atheism is lacking in the Black community and I agree. People tend to believe as their parents do as well as their own community. Quite often we uncritically accept the thoughts and musings passed on to us because we trust the messenger and there may be some kind of benefit associated with accepting the message. I do not offer the previous thoughts as a excuse for why Black folks appear to accept Christianity, the god hypothesis generally or any spiritually/supernatural oriented claims, but the words are offered as an explanation for holding such beliefs. I think the explanation could apply to other types of beliefs people hold with respect to psychic predictions, mediums, astrology, homeopathy, etc. When critical inquiry is not encouraged or in some cases discouraged in regards to beliefs in a deity/supernatural claims, people will go on believing those beliefs. I'm not suggesting in any way that the promotion of skeptical inquiry alone would prevent people from believing at all. There are people that want to believe because they want to believe. What I am saying is increased visibility and outspokenness may eventually strike down the whole "Black Folk Don't Do Atheism" theme and some people and organizations are doing something about it. There are many groups, such as Black Non-Believers of Atlanta run by Mandisa Thomas and Black Atheists of America run by Ayanna Watson just to name a few. They are saying "we are here, you can come speak to us, you can help out in whatever way you can" etc. Change does take time. I'm often baffled when some accept the previous sentence with respect to biological evolution but devolve into disappointed idealism when change is not immediately on the horizon within other areas. An example of this kind of chatter I have seen is "why are Black folks are still Christians when the Bible was used to promote slavery". This line is trotted out as though the target will drop the belief within a few seconds and that just does not happen. It took me 5+ years to completely rid myself of Christianity, supernatural claims, the apologetics which went with it and my own attempts to intellectualize the material to present a slightly more sophisticated view than what Toure presented in the video. If you want people to be skeptical of their beliefs, lead by example, allow yourself to be open to discussion and understand you may not see the fruits of your labor. Sounds disconcerting and you may wonder what the damn point is if you do not see the results. I happen to think that is the wrong goal. You are there to plant the seed and to continue the work done by others which does not necessarily entail you standing back in awe of the finished product. I know Black folks will not give up their religious/supernatural beliefs overnight or within my own lifetime (28 years of age now), but I do expect to see more Black atheists and skeptics within the next 20 years. It's why I do this blog and what I spend most of my time tweeting about. If I have gotten 1 person to question her/his beliefs (the irrationally held beliefs or any others), then I have done my job and they do not have to tell me personally in order for me to continue what I do. I want others to think critically in all facets of their lives and to hold beliefs which are rationally justified when it concerns big questions. There are many others like me.  I am Black, and I do Atheism. Proud, unapologetic, outspoken, and I am visible. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

God's plan: George Zimmerman plays the "God Card"

I did not think George Zimmerman could supply another reason for me to despise his existence but he did last night with his interview with Fox News host, Sean Hannity. I was wrong. Once again he apologized to the Martin family and expressed not having any regrets for his actions the night of the shooting wherein he invoked "God's plan". Someone had an "oh shit" moment and Zimmerman later claimed “I do wish there was something, anything I could have done that would have put me in the position where I didn’t have to take his life. And I do want to tell everyone…that I’m sorry that this happened.” Uh how about not following him in the first place? Or exiting your vehicle? I do not believe Zimmerman nor do I think his apology is sincere. Given the Miami Herald's report which stated Zimmerman lamented over his parents not spelling his name "Jorge" instead of "George" tells me a lot about this man and his character. He only cares about himself, saving his own skin and furthering his hero complex.

Zimmerman and his attorney, Mark O'Mara, who gets a lot of accolades and praise from television legal experts as being "savvy" and "cunning", need more money for Zimmerman's defense fund and playing the God card is a good way to get credulous people to send you money. All you have to do is appear humble, clean cut, speak clearly, talk about your faith, have a softball interview and say the magic words, "God's plan". Believers were called to the battlefield to dismiss Zimmerman from the ranks and to defend "God". The usual "my god does this/that, is loving, caring" popped up all over the internet which was not very surprising. Whatever definition of god you operate with or whatever it does, given the available evidence, that god did not intervene the night Trayvon Martin was killed in such a way to preserve his life. No personal gods intervened, no spiritual truths were revealed, nor was any cosmic consciousness gained. The kid is dead at the hands of an overzealous self serving asshole. Trayvon Martin will never get the chance to lead the kind of life he wanted. He did no wrong and was minding his own damn business. Martin's death has caused pain and suffering in his own family, friends, and other concerned citizens. More people are skeptical (which may aid more cynicism and solipsism regarding appropriate action/involvement) of the police and the justice system. Instead we are subjected to his killer roaming around making nonsensical statements and playing cards of convenience to garner sympathy and money from the public.

Zimmerman is not a victim nor is his wife. They both lied about their finances to the court. I am not easily fooled by clean suits, a shaved face and a calm demeanor. He could have acted in a much different way than the night of the shooting. He is the adult. His sympathizers are misguided and often claim he's being railroaded. Identifying the facts and applying the law justly and fairly is not a railroad job.

Here's a final thought: I wonder what Zimmerman would think of "God's plan" if he were convicted of second degree murder by a jury of his peers.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Why I don't keep my atheism to myself

Religious/spiritual folks often opine on the frequency of which atheists comment on religious beliefs. Outspoken atheists are branded(in a derogatory way) "militants", "angry", "malcontents", "not having anything better to do with their time", etc. I think of such descriptions as "shut up" tactics deployed by members of religious/spiritual sects who would rather not hear any criticisms of their beliefs. I also think they are ill prepared to account for the reasons why they believe what they believe if they are questioned and commentary, even when the words are not directed at them breeds a response of resentment, contempt, and anger. Notions such as "live and let live" and "let people believe what they want to believe" are often tossed out as effective quips when one is annoyed or a criticism has hit very close to home. I submit to you that those two statements are thrown in the wrong direction. I cannot keep my atheism to myself precisely because of those statements and many many more. The religious/spiritual folks do not "live and let live". Their theocratic nonsense is pushed into every corner of society. History, the sciences, morality, philosophy, law, medicine, critical thinking, reproduction, parenting, education etc. If you can name it, they intend to be a part of the conversation and they offer their musings with some of the most tasteless and callous remarks you can think.

I could keep my atheism to myself if religious/spiritual people would keep their beliefs out of public policy. If they were not interested in advancing theocratic ideas into public school science classrooms, I'd shut up. Since they cannot provide sufficient evidence for their hypotheses, creationism/intelligent design, they opt for litigation. They distribute pamphlets full of misinformation with the hopes of preying on scientifically illiterate people. Some even want to invade the classroom as teachers which would create a robust response from science advocates to eliminate scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers. If they(professional religious/spiritual folks) were not in the business of advocating for false hope and gleefully taking money from credulous people, I'd mind my own damn business. If religious/spiritual people were not trying to govern over a woman's body and her medical choices/decisions, I'd "live and let live". If they were not out terrorizing women at abortion clinics or creating burdensome hurdles(often with legislation) when she takes responsibility for her actions and decides to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, I'd hush up (there are some atheists who engage in that behavior too). Some think their god belief is the justification for dictating to women what they should wear and even if they can operate a motor vehicle. If she does not obey, she can receive lashes. There are people that willfully strap bombs to themselves, women, and children and march them or themselves into a crowded area, detonate the bomb and kill as many as they can within the blast radius. I have seen pastors advise their members to engage in business deals due to "divine inspiration". The business fails, the owner becomes insolvent, and they go back to the pastor and he says "my son, this was not your time, but God will make another way for you". The reply misses the reality of the situation but keeps the believer coming back to the same poisonous well from which he received the poor advice. There are many religious/spiritual folks who believe their belief in a god, however they semantically encode it, is a social license to demand their direct approval of how two consenting adults fuck each other. They believe their arbitrary rules supersede everything. There are atheists in countries who cannot be outspoken because of retaliation by ignorant fools. 

My outspokenness is partly due because these folks do not mind their own fucking business. I also speak out because I care about other people and I want to see a reduction in harmful ideas which I think affects the actions of those individuals who hold the beliefs. If you keep it to yourself, off my lawn, off my car and out of public policy, we may have no issue. I do think theists are wrong and I do not hold back on that point. Not every believer, whether spiritual or religious in nature behaves as I have described in the above comments but far too many are silent about those that do behave in such horrible ways. I will not keep quiet and I urge you, if you can to speak out as well.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Unhealthy Relationships: Black Women & their Sons

Last evening I was in a conversation and someone I really care about made a profound point to me. She made a brief observation regarding the treatment Black women give to their son(s) when the father of her son(s) is no longer in their lives and how the circumstance affects the treatment the mother gives to her daughters, if she has any. The father of the son(s) is usually alive but has no interest in being with the mother and shows very little interest, if any in being actively involved with the child(ren). The father comes around when he needs something and knows he can easily manipulate the mother into giving him what he desires and once he receives what he wants, he's out of the door again. He's playing with the mother's feelings with respect to her wanting to have some kind of meaningful relationship with him. Once the father takes off the focus moves to the son(s). The mother does not want another man to leave her so the son is accepted to take the father's place and no matter what the son does, he will never be the outcast. He can smoke weed and do other drugs, not look for work, do a poor job in school(if he attends), be arrested numerous times, bring home tons of babies, and the mother will accept him more often than not. The "boys will be boys" attitude will take hold and all sorts of apologetics and acrobatics will be used to excuse his behavior/actions.

The daughter(s) are treated by the mother as though they are in competition with her. The mother will find the daughter(s) just to start shit with them about petty nonsense. The mother will not come to the aid of the daughter(s) no matter the circumstance and if the daughter(s) are trying to make something of themselves, the mother takes those acts as personal slights against her and will resort to inactivity, among other things, to make her daughter(s) quest to be as miserable as possible. If the daughter(s) end up pregnant and she's not financially ready(other relevant factors too) to carry the pregnancy to term and the mother finds out, she will not let her forget it. If the daughter(s) have an abortion, it must be done in secret while the son(s) can openly not provide for the child(ren) he helps make. The mother will do everything she can to help him take care of his responsibilities but the daughter(s), no matter what she decides to do with the pregnancy is on her own.

I see this kind of shit in my own family. My father, uncles, cousins are nothing but seed planters. Their interest is only to make babies and not be fathers. They have taken on the roles of their manipulative fathers and extort money, food, cars, etc from their own mother's and the mothers of their children. The daughters in my family and my own younger sisters are continuously bashed and berated by their own mother's, especially if the daughter has one indiscretion. It does not matter if the daughter graduated from college, obtained a solid career, or has her own shit, the mother will always be right there to remind her of the time she fucked up. The son is talked about as if he is the only child that matters despite his actions. My own father, convicted felon & murderer(he denies this but I examined the evidence and he's guilty but has the majority of the family convinced he was railroaded. He simply was not.) and the presentation of his actions to me by all of the women in the family, especially his mother. Around age 15 they decided to tell me the "truth". He was presented as this tragic figure who loved his family and would do anything for us. This man, who was on the FBI's most wanted list in the late 1980's broke free from custody(details are very sketchy as to how he got away) went on the run with my mother, myself(age 4) and my 2 sisters(ages 3 and 1). His mother put her career and her life in jeopardy to hide us. She was charged with obstruction of justice. She liquidated her assets out of guilt and shame for her son and she even devised a plan to get all of us out of the country. His actions were paraded around as loving. How the hell is that love? He put all of us in danger but that was overlooked because he "loved" all of us and would do anything for us. The one thing he did not do(and he had enablers) was not be a man and take care of his responsibilities. My father's grandmother blames his mother for his predicament and his mother accepted the blame such that my father can easily gouge her for money.

Black folk don't want to talk about the mistreatment of daughters at the hand of their own mother. Black folk don't want to tell the truth and say a lot of Black men are sorry as hell and do not take responsibility for their actions and there are tons of enablers. Black folk don't want to talk about the mother's who are so afraid of being lonely and they have children that they bring any kind of man they can find around their kids. The man is usually some sorry ass excuse of a human being and is only using the woman as a temporary fix to his current problem. The man mistreats the kids(in some cases killing the kids), smokes around them, improperly nourishes them(if at all), sexually abuses the kids and sometimes the mother knows of the abuse and chooses not to do anything about it because the man will be punished and she will be lonely all over again. We're too busy thinking God is going to handle it and everything will be all right. We're too busy thinking that simply because someone is a parent that they automatically and necessarily deserve respect and is above reproach. We're too busy thinking that we must forgive and allow those people who do considerable harm to remain in our lives because those are the only family we will ever have. Actions matter and a simple biological connection does not mean there should be some kind of blind allegiance.

Some Black women do not recognize the enormous power they have when it comes to picking the father of their child(ren), if they want kids. If you know the dude has no job, no means of support, has kids already but has to have the courts garnish his wages, why the fuck would you want to pro-create with him? He held you around your waist and told you that he wanted you to have his baby? Notice he didn't say I want to be a father and start a family with you. He intends to use you as an incubator and I don't give a damn how much he claims to love you as his Black queen.

If the behavior/actions described above happens in other communities, then it happens. In no way do I want to suggest this kind of thing is exclusive. Nor is this any kind of indictment against those Black folk who take care of what they do, when they do it, at the time they do it. A lot of Black folks behavior needs to change for the better. Repeating the same destructive cycles and accepting the same kind of reckless actions helps no one. Trying to blame everybody else except the person(s) we see looking back at us when we are in front of the mirror does not help us either. Making excuses, having fucked up priorities, and being hostile to personal responsibility is not a good way to handle problems. Simply knowing better does not get the job done well. Plenty of Black folk know better but they have no desire to do better. Being quiet about what I described is no longer acceptable.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cynicism, Apathy, Solipsism and Fear Mongering

I tend to get upset when I see or hear bullshit. I don't like seeing perfectly able bodied people with good minds devolve into inactivity. The following is a rant aimed at conspiracy theorists and disappointed idealists.

Attempts to normalize apathy based on specific events is very troubling to me. Playing on peoples fears, whether those fears are justified or not, end up exacerbating those fears and spreading the apathy and the cynicism. There's an overriding delusion which surfaces wherein the apathy, cynicism/paranoia, solipsism and fear mongering is seen as some higher and more useful form of skepticism. They are totally anti-structure at the core and promote fanciful delusions and believe they are "unplugged from the system". It's the Matrix and they have become detached and the rest of us are sheep. Every structure is inherently evil and will  always be that way despite change and they are not willing to change it. Instead they call for a new system whereby the utopia they want to exist will magically cure all ailments and we all will hold hands and sing kumbaya. The yearning for the utopia prevents any meaningful action toward solving the real problems people face. There is some kind of virtue in being anti-establishment, and anti-government/structure and proposing ill-thought out solutions. This Black suburban(every Black surburban is full of government agents who are coming to kill you or at least detain you) phenomena wherein the paranoia is couched in the self centered delusion that someone is "out to get you" feeds stagnation and the fear-mongering. In order to normalize their outcast mentality, they create a tent large enough so they can convince others to accept their paranoia.

They do not vote and they believe it to be a useless exercise or they throw away their vote on a candidate consumed by his own personality and end up receiving a person who is staunchly against what the voter actually wants. Then they complain about the system being broken when they do not participate or participate in such a way that their interests are stymied. There's this love affair with "principle" instead of promoting a solid and good solution. They fail to understand that any kind of change for the better takes time and a concerted effort. Change takes time and some of them accept "change over time" in biological evolution but reject it in other places. Rather than roll up their sleeves and do some work which may benefit a lot of people in the long run, they cling to the desire of immediate benefits and if that desire is not met, they sit on their hands. When they do not get what they want when they demand it, they call for the destruction of other things/policies. They over-represent actual events within government activity and the justice system to make other unsubstantiated claims which can halt the movement of others. They believe the government is comprised of 4-5 people who sit in a dark room with flashlights up to their chin and those people control everything. The weather, plate tectonics, the economy, etc. Those 4-5 people do not eat nor do they sleep because they are always plotting and always looking for ways to "divide us". Every system is automatically corrupt from its inception, no change for the better ever occurs, and the only way to get to the promised land is to pitch anarchy/revolution Society is always at the brink of THE impending doom which will fix everything but do not expect those pushing the fear mongering to be anywhere in sight if anything goes down. They will be in their bomb shelter with the door locked, making a Youtube video to document how they survived, told everyone that it would happen, and will be ready to lead the survivors into a brave new world.

Sounds like fictional characters, right? I wish that were the case but I run into that type of thinking all of the time. It's not just among college grads in their mid-20's who still believe the world to be black/white in terms of coming up with solutions. There are older adults who believe and promote the preceding thoughts.
Some are taken in to those positions due to charismatic personalities. Others are attracted to the vanity of the message without looking at it's implications and how it affects the people in which the message or legislation applies. They cling to unrealistic notions of freedom(i.e. doing whatever they want no matter how it affects others) and that any kind of regulation, law or structure is an abomination. 

When has pushing cynicism ever helped women gain access to safe and affordable health care? When has being completely apathetic about the political process ever brought about substantive change for many people? When has hyping up actual events provided any evidence for unwarranted paranoid claims? 

It's one thing to be skeptical but don't confuse apathy with being skeptical. A lot of it is simply an excuse to be lazy and indifferent which helps no one, including the person pushing it. It is not a pathway to knowledge, skeptical inquiry, and solid/good solutions but it is a damn good road map to inactivity, disappointed idealism, ignorance, and bad solutions. 

As an Atheist, here's what I believe.

I don't believe in any gods. Yea yea, you know that already. Here's a list of some things I "believe" and accept. I know that word[believe/belief] causes some to shutter given how some theists use it to bludgeon others over the head, but that is not my concern here.

1. I believe in myself.
2. I believe in others and their capacity to do good things.
3. I accept evolution, not just in a scientific sense, but also in terms of the political process. Change takes time. It is very easy to become disillusioned if you think you ought to get everything you want when you demand it.
4. Unconditional love is desired but it is fiction. Even claiming to want someone to love you 'unconditionally' denotes a condition.
5. Certain kinds of disagreements among allies and friends, especially in terms of how they happen and how they are expressed with words can destroy relationships. Not just with people you hang out with in person but online too. It's hardly ever "just [insert whatever social network here]".
6. Take care of your own children and do not expect the government to help you do that.
7. The Atlanta Falcons suck.
8. Texas is not a horrible state. There are many good people, institutions and innovations which come from that state so the hyperbole exhibited by some is not helpful. Over-representing bad policy makers with kooky ideas is not a reason to make negative assessments about the inhabitants of the state.
9. Churches ought to be taxed. If you want to be involved in the political process pay up like the rest of us.
10. Cynicism and solipsism are debilitating. Both cause reasonable minds and able bodies to become stagnant.
11. There will never be a utopia unless you want to write fiction.
12. Targeting religion only will not solve social ills. There are plenty of non-theists who promote misogyny, homophobia, colorblindness, and racism. Saying religion is the cause is giving it credit it does not deserve.
13. Being an atheist is not some kind of magic pill with regards to thinking and skeptical inquiry. It's one position that is part of who I am. Nothing more, nothing less.
14. You own everything you do. Take responsibility for what you do.
15. I have no problem with the proper adjudication of 'stand your ground' laws, 'castle doctrines' or 'make my day laws'. If I catch you in my home, which poses danger to me and the people living here, it is not my responsibility to ask you questions and I will shoot you. Improper enforcement does not mean the policy is bad. People who go looking for trouble or cause the trouble does not mean the laws are bad either.
16. Women can make their own medical decisions regarding their bodies and do not need to explain themselves to me or anyone else.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Creflo Dollar made a MISTAKE??? Man PLEASE!!

Creflo Dollar is a megachurch pastor here in Atlanta. He has ministries and offers to provide services around the country and throughout the world. His church, World Changers, boasts about it's large membership and claims to help people. I happen to believe Creflo Dollar is a pimp name and he would have been better off as Bernie Mack's role in the movie, The Players Club. The pastor is in the news today for a domestic violence charge. His teenage daughter called the cops and reported that her father, Creflo Dollar choked her and left a scratch on her neck. The incident happened sometime late Thursday evening and the pastor was booked early Friday morning. He has since posted bond(amount was 5k), he tweeted about being "redeemed" and has since deleted his Twitter account(@CrefloDollar). Fuck me for not taking screen shots. What I'm not surprised about is the apologetics which rolled out in favor of Dollar. 

Some of Dollar's church members(at least that's what they claim to be), as well as other ministers and church goers have coughed up the pathetic excuse of "we are not all perfect and we make mistakes". Some others have chided criticism of Dollar's actions with saying some of us need to mind our own damn business and deal with what's going on in our household/lives. Others have claimed the teenage girl is completely at fault and deserved to be choked(blaming the victim) and that Creflo was correct in his actions. All crazy positions in my opinion but the first one is of particular interest to me. The first excuse attempts to conflate all actions(negative) as mistakes which removes any sense of DEGREE or difference. Surely, I and others have faults but that should not be used to condone or make excuses for an incident in which I or anyone else, choke my child or kill another person(Dollar is not charged with that, it's just an example). The excuse serves as a shield to protect him and those who use the excuse from criticism. Another curious line of defense is "you don't know Creflo". I never claimed I did and I don't have to know him or be there to assess his actions. It's the whole "speck in eye" rhetoric and "you cannot judge" nonsense, both of which are ludicrous. The "pastor" label is very powerful and it's interesting yet disheartening to see the contortion styles of many people as they try to defend Dollar. 

Of course Creflo and his supporters do not represent all Christians. I'm sure at least some of them find his actions deplorable and will never make excuses for him or anybody else. What concerns me is I think if Creflo Dollar or anyone of his religious stature had done something worse, such as continuously choke or beat his child, a lot of Christians would not have a problem with that specific behavior. Many would say "it's his child and he chooses the best way to discipline and in the end Jesus has his back regardless". They'd cite the same excuses and be blinded by the pastor title. How will his church handle the situation? What will his members keep saying? Creflo Dollar is on the public record offering a defense for another megachurch pastor, Eddie L. Long(Atlanta based too), when Long was accused of improper acts with several young men, which Long said he would fight, but ultimately provided a settlement to the parties involved. Creflo Dollar said Eddie Long had a wreck and publicly denounced people that left Long's church and said they should not be in his(Dollar) church if they left Long's church because of the allegations against him(you can see that here 

Some people need to get over this notion that simply because you think a god is on your side, you cannot be judged and that you do not judge others. You can be judged, will be judged BY OTHER PEOPLE, and you do judge. What matters is what you judge and how you do it. No person regardless of title or presumed benevolence is above personal responsibility and accountability. You own everything you do. Creflo Dollar and his supporters would be wise to not make excuses and demand that this "leader" be held accountable. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

All theists are not stupid: Words Do Matter.

"All theists are stupid". Have you seen/heard that statement before? I hate statements like it and all others of similar makeup. Why? It's just not true. Simply because I as an atheist disagree with theists when it comes to their religious beliefs does not mean they are stupid or that I am smart. There is a major difference between saying "I do not think you are using your critical thinking skills in this area of your life/beliefs, like you do in all the other areas in which I am aware" and "You are religious? You must be stupid"!! I can easily make my criticisms of religion without beginning with name calling or acting as though I have cornered the market on rational thought/discourse. The problem with such generalizations is they are good ways in which to burn bridges with current or potential allies. Sure we may disagree when it comes to particular religious beliefs but we may work well together when it comes to education, transportation, helping others or even having a good beer together. We can have honest discussions about religious beliefs in terms of their applications, the affects those beliefs have on other beliefs, how they affect the action of the individual who holds them as well as the people around them, etc. What we do not have to do is begin with remarks of nastiness and be purposely mean. I do understand some theists fuse together their religious beliefs and who they are such that any criticism of their beliefs is automatically seen as a jab toward them. Even if you explain what you are targeting, the explanation may not reach the intended destination. You may become frustrated and if you do, I know I have, you let the discussion go. You tip your hat and go on with your business. Pick your battles wisely and words do matter. 

In some cases I think it is appropriate to be a dick to someone. I employ the method when someone else either lies, purposely misrepresents me or my words, involves people I care about in order to be nasty to me, or someone I know is trolling just because they can. Those types can be very annoying and quite frankly they are easy pickings when it comes to demonstrating a point. I will be a dick after I have presented my argument or asked questions and the other person decides to be disrespectful to me. I will walk away, block(online), push the keyboard away or call you a motha fucking asshole. Some people can be engaged with conversation and some cannot. 

"All atheists are rational". Yeah, bull shit. No particular group, no matter how large or small has the market of rationality, skepticism or critical thinking all to themselves. If you are an atheist who dares call religious people stupid and yet you have beliefs in the "power" of astrology, homeopathy, believe all sorts of conspiracy theories, hate women and gays, deny science when it highlights the absurdity of your passionate beliefs etc, how do you think you're any better than the label you give them? 

Calling people "sheep", "closed-minded", or "stupid" shows me you do not have or choose not to use better ways to demonstrate your point. If that is your "A" game, it is weak. Those words are automatic kill conversations and quite possibly can ruin any chance you have at building coalitions on shared beliefs/positions. I do not think theists are stupid but I do think they are wrong. If you insist on calling people stupid, you may burn a bridge that can never be rebuilt. No amount of apologizing can fix it. Be strong in your position but do not go out of your way to be an asshole to someone else. 

Side note: Some peoples notion of "respect" is so guarded that any discussion of their beliefs(in anything) is seen as disrespect. Such a notion should not be accepted as good. I once had a Philosophy professor tell me just how shitty a paper was written when I turned it in to him. Was he remarking on my overall personality or my other beliefs, my livelihood or my upbringing? No. He was targeting one specific thing and that thing only. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Black Atheist; The Red Tape Edition

We all have a story to tell and share. Our backgrounds, socio-economic status, education, geographical region, parents, race, gender and many other factors have a role in determining how we transmit our own narrative. The descriptions we use do not exclude others from hearing, understanding, or sharing the narrative with other people but there are some who are completely unnerved by particular words. I tend to document my days as a former Christian in Black churches because I identify myself as a Black man. The previous sentence is seen by some as an attempt to remove myself from other people and that is simply untrue. If anything the descriptions within the sentence are indicators of my experience, what I think is important and how I plan to let you know about it. The words in no way tell you that I am more special, honest, caring, compassionate, intelligent, etc than those who do not use such words. I encourage you to document your experience in the way you see fit, despite the groaning from privileged folks. Removing race as some move toward a "higher" goal is completely unnecessary and by saying such you may be saying far more than you really want.

Race is a social construction:
That particular truth is used to make the further claim that "race is not needed and can be pushed aside". I disagree with the later and here's why. Simply pushing aside "race" does not change the minds or the actions of those who will still use race to negatively stereotype, mislabel and mistreat others. Doing away with the concept as a whole does not automatically fix the negative usage of the concept. Furthermore, there's a bit of conflation going on with those who wish to ditch the social construct. Negative usages of race is seen as the totality of all usage therefore it should be eradicated. That line of thought is false. Simply because some people go out of their way to misuse the concept for a set of reasons does not mean positive and meaningful usage should hit the road too. The best move is to target the negative usage and do what you can to diminish the power within it. Race is a social construction with real-world affects and implications. Those who want to get rid of the concept because of their conflation problem are generally not affected by race. Since they are not affected negatively, they attempt to police those who are and those who try to use the concept as something meaningful and positive. They think race is overdone, over-used, unimportant and say such things like "I don't see color and I value everyone" or "I see humans and not color". Unless you are actually colorblind, there's no reason to make such statements. If you are pissed off about negative usages of race, then get off your ass and do something about it but do not confuse negative uses with all uses.

Inclusion narratives:
Some people tend to think that using race is some kind of division mechanism which is made to keep us separate from one another and continued usage of the concept will drive us further apart. This is only true if you buy into the idea that using race actually divides people. The only people who are claiming to be divided are those who are privileged enough to not be affected by race. In order for them to be included in the discussion, everyone else MUST BE LIKE THEM, which is why particular descriptions are problematic. The inclusion narrative is not about you, but it's about them. Using certain words means you cannot get inside their bubble. You are making them uncomfortable because they have concocted an idea in their own head that in order for you to connect as human beings, particular words must be excluded. That's why charges of not being "inclusive" and "you are just turning people off and dividing them when you talk about race" are leveled. Notice the general move I made 2 sentences ago...."you to connect as human beings". The line has a substitution, wherein "human beings" actually means ME. Your story is you separating yourself from me. No it's not. Not once have I thought of a White person, a woman, or a homosexual who is telling me about their life and what has shaped them as some sort of enterprise on their part to separate themselves from me. You use the words that are most important to you for a set of reasons. Those words most likely have some kind of historical, social and possibly even political antecedents to them and for me to tell you to not use them is actually telling you to chop off essential features of you and your story.

This is not about whether we value other humans or not. This is totally about the red tape involved when documenting a particular experience with certain words because some people are walking around with erroneous assumptions.  The proposition is not some either or deal. You can easily appreciate a person who uses certain words, like their race, gender or sexuality, and not think they're making some call to exclusivity. The person is simply saying, "this is who I am and these words matter to me". The next time someone tries to tell you what to say or how to say it with regards to your particular experience, ask them why they think their tape is necessary. As far as I am concerned, I will continue to speak on gender and race and all of it's usage and target the bad usage. I hope more people will do the same.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Atheists can be fucking irrational too.

There are some in theist and atheist thought communities who like to think atheists are wholly rational or like to think they are rational simply by maintaining a response to theistic claims. Being an atheist does not necessarily mean you are rational and it is a mistake to ever believe that. The following is a short list of beliefs held by some atheists. Some are funny and some are dangerous.

Beliefs in astrology:
Astrology can be a fun work of fiction. Doing a simple content analysis of an astrology column will show you that the advice given is so general that you can redact the astrological sign for which the advice is intended and the column can apply to any sign. It could be a fun escape from reality just as long as you still remember that it is fiction. I've encountered a number of atheists who believe in the "power" of astrology. I urge them to go back and re-visit those thoughts/beliefs. Some continue to believe(and this is apparent in larger communities too), that signs dictate who you should and should not date, which jobs you will gain, and what you should eat. That line of thinking is very silly. My advice is to gather a number of columns from different cities and compare the content. From there you ought to catch the non-specificity of the column and that it only has meaning because YOU want it to have meaning.

Beliefs in ghosts/spirits:
You can be an atheist and believe in ghosts and spirits but I surmise that you have not thought it through. Shows like "Paranormal Activity" are not evidence for ghosts/spirits. The same kind of skepticism you direct toward theistic claims ought to be applied to those beliefs too. You may very well be justified in your own personal experience(I don't see how), but no one else should believe you until you produce solid evidence which can be verified independently of you.

Beliefs in the inferiority of women:
This comes from the white male privilege wing of the atheist community. They tend to believe women are objects to be possessed, rape jokes are funny(they are not), and beat the drum of "some things are better, so shut up bitch with the complaining". The latter is not professed that demonstrably but that's the tone. Proponents of that bull shit think women are not fully capable of making their own damn decisions, believe they should "know their place" and any time a woman is documenting her experience or demanding respect/change, she's whining. They also believe "feminism" is some kind of dirty word and women's issues are minor problems which do not deserve major exposure. They hold that view because at some point they would have to get off the fucking stage. This belief is very damaging to the atheist community. We need women and their voices.

Beliefs against vaccinations and medical science:
Practicing medicine is not a perfect exercise or science but that's why it is called a practice and not a perfection. Many medicines and shots have side effects and those side effects can vary from person to person but that is not a reason to have wild and crazy views about medicine or vaccines. Unfortunately since a news article was printed in The Lancet about how vaccines cause autism(they do not), much noise has been dedicated towards trashing vaccinations, distrusting doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and health care professionals. Some of the opposition is due the notion of "all bureaucratic institutions or institutions with structure that are connected to the government are sinister". The paranoia there is due to giving a lot of credit toward an institution you think is purposely and sneakily defrauding you or in this specific case, drugging you and your kids up. The peer reviewed journals, the experiments and the evidence in no way suggests some vast conspiracy is being cooked up in order to keep you down. Vaccinations do work. Over-representing cases which are not the norm, or professionals who engage in malicious conduct is unfair to the entire community. Go look at the hard facts and stop thinking everybody and everything is out to get you. You cannot be that important. 

With respect to autism, many are still searching for a "cause". I'm sure it is tough to deal with an autistic child and some people go out of their way to provide what looks like an answer but that "answer" produces medical and scientific stagnation.

Beliefs against "evil pharmaceutical companies":
This is a position which was once professed by Bill Maher. You can probably find it on youtube but it mirrors the same exact paranoid bull shit which I previously discussed.

No single person or group has a monopoly on rational thought. Combing through our own thoughts and their implications to ourselves and others is a tough process but it is not a process we should be shy about doing.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Black Atheist? I thought we were all the same.

There's an overriding viewpoint within the atheist community; we are all the same. The notion is true to a point. We are all the same kind of animal but we do have different experiences. Those experiences shape our identity and help frame what we think of ourselves and what we want others to know. I have not been totally forthcoming with the first few words. It's not just "we are all the same, but I am saying this because if you document your individual experience, I may become uncomfortable and I cannot/will not relate to you. I'd much rather you not say it at all". I've seen that view pushed mainly by white male atheists. I'm not suggesting most of them do it but from my own interaction and with conversations with others, I know some of them push the view. Some of them think that by you offering your experience, they must shut up. Some also believe, in a religious sort of way, colorblind(race does not matter, we are all the same) attitudes, gender is a non-issue, etc are ways to move forward to bring about collective cohesion. Those views are totally wrong. Ignoring essential self identifying characteristics is not a necessary or a sufficient condition in order to understand the experience someone is trying to convey. What you have to understand is the person is telling you something very important through a specific lens which they have deemed vital. Ignoring the importance of their lens is ignoring a critical part of them.

The notion of "collective cohesion" comes with a price for those people who do not adhere to the rules. Documenting your story can only be done under a certain set of conditions. You cannot upset the status-quo by attaching race/gender to your journey to "being an atheist". The privileged class will distribute the rules of engagement and attempt to police you if you get out of line. Some words are met with silence, trepidation, anger and frustration. Any word, such as Black, female, or any other word which denotes something very specific about the person offering the words is subjected to questions such as "why must you use that word", "why can't we move beyond gender/race", or "this could be applied to anybody". The latter I take as a subtle "shut up" move. You're not saying it could not happen to anybody. You are saying it happened to YOU.

Gender/race are social constructions with real world implications which shape our experiences. There's a massive difference between saying "I don't see gender/race" and "I don't use gender/race to negatively judge another person. I don't always succeed in that endeavor but I am not willfully acting like they don't exist". We all judge. What matters is the metric by which we judge and what/how we judge. The first statement is the one which aims at collective cohesion. The second is honest. If certain words bother you when a story is being told, to the point you want to have them eradicated, then you need to confront why that's the case. You're operating with a set of assumptions which may bring you some kind of psychological comfort. Why is that? How do you receive the images of the words you don't want to hear? How do you interact/have you interacted with the people who use those words that make you uncomfortable? Why are you uncomfortable? You need to justify the step you've produced. Some think the step is necessary to achieve cohesion and I call bull shit.

Some of us in the atheist community like to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to certain things. We act like our group does not contain misogynists, racists, or homophobes. Some have willfully tricked themselves into accepting colorblind notions but claim to be well rounded skeptics and freethinkers. Some truly believe the same skepticism applied to religious/spiritual claims is employed in other areas. Do not think that's the case at all. Many do not like to talk about gender/race because it makes them feel left out or uncomfortable. They've created an unnecessary bubble around themselves whereby to be "inclusive", you must fit inside their bubble. You must play by those rules. You do not and you should not. Use the words you deem necessary to articulate your individual experience.

There's absolutely no reason to think our shit does not stink. It is our duty to call out bull shit in our own community.

When I'm providing an experience it is not to say the experience is better than another. It in no way is a claim to exclusivity, which is another charge employed because some cannot/will not relate. The words they use to transcribe and transmit their experience means something to them and if you want an ally, it's in your best interest to listen. You don't need to ignore specific facts about me or anyone else to be an ally and a friend. We can embrace our differences, share our stories and work together. No one has to ignore anything for any goal.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trayvon Martin: Stand Your Ground, Political Agendas and Justice

I think you may have heard about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Without getting too far into the details, Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest which resulted in his death. The incident has sparked a lot of attention and heated debates. Personally, given what I have heard thus far, Zimmerman clearly was the aggressor from the beginning and due to sloppy police work, not specific laws, he is still walking around as a free man. We shall see what the grand jury comes back with on April 10th of this month.

Stand Your Ground:
The media's attention and a lot of liberal focus has been on 'stand your ground' laws. These laws exist in a number of states and they are designed to protect good citizens defending their property or family when faced with a threat. They are not designed to shield failed security guards or people who could not hack it on the police force so they become 'neighborhood watchmen' and tail Black folks. Nor are they applicable to people who just want to start shit just for the fun of it. Given the 911 tapes and Zimmerman's own words, he can claim 'stand your ground'(simply due to being able to claim anything in a court of law as a defense) but the tapes point to him as the aggressor. The problem, as it's been erroneously framed, is not 'stand your ground', but terrible police work. Simply because the police did not do their job, we should not conclude that the law is bad. The police still should have done their job. They should have drug tested Zimmerman, spoken to the witnesses in a timely manner, shook down his vehicle as well as impound the police vehicle upon which he was transported to the police station that evening. They failed. If the grand jury does not find enough reason to charge him and proceed with a criminal trial, it's because of a bad police investigation and not because of 'stand your ground' laws. Even the Republican drafters of Florida's stand your ground law said Zimmerman is not covered by it. No need to take aim at the law because of this case. 

Political Agendas:
Unfortunately political games have taken over when the real fight has nothing to do with specific legislation, whether proposed or already on the books. Many folks, especially white liberals have used this tragedy as a means to take aim at guns, the NRA, legislation, and to strip this case of race. There have been conservative voices who've presented red herrings with respect to 'black on black' violence(some liberals and Black folks have pushed up this non-sense too) which is not the issue in the Martin case. Quick note; People usually kill others who look like them and live around them (this is not new information). Some have even become angry with President Obama for answering a question he was asked about the Martin case. He was prompted and spoke as a father. If you have a problem with the NRA or you want less guns on the streets, fine but do not latch that agenda onto this case. Play your political games elsewhere. It's wholly divisive and only serves your purpose and not the Martin family. If you have an ax to grind with Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson for being 'media hounds', fine. This incident is not a springboard for you to place your angst with them as individuals within the context of this case. Nor is it an opportunity for you when Black folks present observations in terms of treatment and action within the legal system and all of it's parts, to conclude they are whining. Making observations is not whining. You may firmly believe they're(Sharpton, Jackson and whomever else) always waiting for racial tension to occur so they can get their 10 minutes but how does that get the Martin family to justice? Furthermore is it Sharpton and Jackson who clamor for the attention or do the cameras only come around when this kind of tension(racial) happens? Making claims such as 'I don't see the same kind of fervor dedicated to Black on Black violence' is wholly ignorant. Even if you believe you as an individual focus on 'black on black' crime, that misses the point entirely here. The focus should be on helping the Martin family and not making elitist claims promoting your own importance. You may not see the same type of media coverage offered but you ought not think such dedication is absent. You just don't know about it and that could easily be your fault. Keep your political agendas at home. This is not a political football.

Removing Race from the discussion:
I'm tired of hearing claims such as 'this could have happened to anybody'. It didn't. I normally hear such talk from seemingly well to do white liberals who've bought into the rhetoric that to stand for justice in this case, you must strip the racial component in order to include yourself. It's color blindness at it's core. Martin was not killed because he was wearing a hoodie or carrying skittles and some tea. He was killed because he was a Black kid who was in a neighborhood with a racist vigilante with an itchy trigger finger. Removing race to include yourself is totally selfish. You are not on the side of seeking justice in this case when your first move is to strip it of it's definite tone. Also attempting to remind people that Zimmerman is Hispanic does not mean he's not a racist. Listen to the 911 tapes. Brown skin does not equal not a racist. 

If I'm going to take my cues from anyone, it will be Trayvon Martin's parents. They have simply asked that justice be carried out for their son. They have not asked for a review of the 'stand your ground' laws like Bill Clinton did. They have not fused this case with politics, games, smoke screens and the various side shows that have developed. They want answers and they want to know why their son was not given a fair shake. Their concerns are legitimate(I wish I didn't have to say that). Yes there have been miscarriages of justice throughout this country's history regarding Black folks but we should not conclude the entire system or that justice is something we should not fight to protect. There have been bad laws and bad people interpreting them with the intent to not be fair in their distribution of sentencing, lazy/lying ass police officers, gathering evidence, lawyering, judicial review, protecting overzealous prosecutors, etc. If anything the Martin case ought to be a call to you to demand more of the system. Yes, injustice happens. It's a fact of the matter. Corruption exists but we have to do our job to root it out as citizens and stop expecting perfection and this Utopian sense of law and justice. There are plenty of cases wherein the system does work and bad people are adequately punished for their crimes. I understand people are pissed off but don't call for silly solutions such as getting rid of the police, or throwing out our entire legal framework. It's just not a good solution and it's not even close to being practical at all. There is definitely a problem in that PART of the legal system wherein the Martin case, at least given the sloppy handling of it by the cops, did not do what it's supposed to do. There you demand better officers and more accountability and getting shitty ass people out of important positions. You may argue that my thoughts are themselves Utopian and me seriously thinking people are going to take the time to evaluate, investigate and hold people in important positions accountable for what they do will not happen. I don't know if I'd agree with that or not but I will say, fight on anyway. Get involved in Innocence Projects in your area. Volunteer your time and expertise. 

I don't know what will happen in this case on the 10th. I hope the Martin family gets the answers they seek. They matter and they need closure. I hope they receive it in a timely manner. To be continued.....

P.S. Yes I am aware of some dumbass regional NRA chairman saying some horrible things. He's a horrible person. 

How Not to Deal with an Angry German Prostitute

A few weeks ago I had a few drinks and met a woman in London. We had a great time mixed with good food, great conversation and sex. She's also a prostitute. She claims we had sex for three hours and has resorted to seeking monetary recourse through blasting my picture all over the internet. I don't remember her taking any photos of me but I did recognize the tiger cuffs in the background. Perhaps Madam Rosi and I can work out some kind of compromise. For your viewing pleasure, I have both videos. The first is in German and the second is in English. She claimed I booked over the internet. She's lying.

FYI: this is totally a joke but fucking funny nonetheless. In case I win any awards I don't want this to come back and bite me in the ass.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Psychics, Mediums, and Flim Flam Artists

I'm sure you've stayed up late at night and seen a commercial enticing you to pick up the phone and call into some hotline wherein you will be connected to someone who can tell you all sorts of things about your life. Think Ms. Cleo. A Black woman with a Jamaican accent advising you to 'call me now for your free reading'. Quick note about Ms. Cleo; Court documents revealed she was actually born in Los, Angeles California and her parents are United States citizens. The Jamaican accent she employed was a part of the show. Right here in Atlanta we have a number of self-proclaimed psychics who will charge you money for their services. They've developed an industry knowing people are searching for answers, banking on them going to the wrong places to get those answers, and that they can supply them with the answers. They are right. They can supply answers but the real question is how meaningful are the answers?

By answers I mean, after you have supplied some information for them to make a guess. Say the person says, did you buy your wife roses? You say yes and they say 'for a birthday or anniversary' and you say anniversary and they say 'your wife is very happy'. The person could easily see your wedding ring, know that roses are typically associated with married couples regarding special days and operate with the idea that some or most women would be happy receiving roses from their husband. Psychic? No. Observant? Yes. 

If you've gone to a psychic or even watched them on Youtube or television please take note of their tactics. First, she/he will ask you a series of broad questions or make statements which are so open ended, you are left to supply the meaning to the words. Say the psychic says 'Does the letter R mean anything to you'? The letter R, could signify anything to YOU. It could be the beginning of a person's name, a street name, school name, a letter in a tattoo on your body, something to do with your favorite movie, etc. The question cannot be answered with a simple 'yes' and it's specifically designed to get you to think. The problem with that is when you supply the meaning, the psychic looks like she/he has some kind of power when all they did was ask/made a broad question/statement. If one question does not do the trick they will ask/make a multitude of questions or statements. They are phishing with fast paced statements and questions and waiting for you to gravitate toward their tactics and when you do, they claim some sort of meaningful purpose in the interaction. All they are doing is talking to you. They present themselves as trustworthy and believable people who are just trying to help you. If simply asking people broad questions in a shotgun type manner is what qualifies anyone to be a psychic, then I've been one for at least 10 years. Next time you come across a psychic, ask them why they have not predicted the lotto numbers so they can get rich. If they say 'I shall not use my powers for my own gain' tell them they could use the money to help feed the homeless. If they still don't do it, draw your conclusion about their ability from there. 

Mediums are another set of people who claim to offer solutions. They typically pitch themselves as some kind of gatekeeper or messenger between living and dead people. They too employ the shotgun method in terms of questions and statements. A new 'medium' has appeared on TLC with the same bull shit as all of the others. The show is called Long Island Medium. In my opinion these people are vultures who fly around looking for pain, which they know is inevitable and when it comes they swoop right in. One clip was with a woman who'd lost her husband while he was on duty( The clip is titled 'Widowed Wife' if the link does not take you directly to it. He was killed by another driver while he was writing a traffic ticket. They had 3 children together at the time of his death. It's a very tragic situation and the woman was clearly still in pain. She knew the material explanation for her husband's death(she said it) but she also believed the medium could answer some questions. Listen at the end of the clip to what the medium says. She says 'your husband told me to tell you that it gets harder from here'. Notice the lack of specificity of the statement. It's very broad and if she or her boys experience some kind of hardship in any way, the statement applies. There's nothing inherently special about her claim to this woman. It's simply being as vague and broad as you can to allow whomever you are speaking with to FILL IN THE BLANKS. Notice the dead people with whom they are claiming to speak of offer the most vague of replies to substantive questions too. 

These people and I argue a lot of pastors and preachers know this too, is that we are prone to commit the post hoc ergo proctor hoc fallacy. Say you prayed to a god to make a way for you to get the job you were seeking. You get the job and you conclude that since you got the job, the prayer worked. In other words the prayer CAUSED you to get the job. Not necessarily. You may have prayed and you did get the job but it is not automatically inferred that since you prayed, that specific action brought about you getting the job in question. They know we usually are not as skeptical when confronted with a smiling face and an extended hand coupled with emotional or euphemistic language. That particular starting point is where they make all sorts of claims for which they do not intend to work for. I group astrologers in the same category. Check your local newspaper or horoscope and look how broadly and vaguely each piece is written. Horoscopes may be fun to read and all and that rising moon shit may be decent fiction but do not build your life around it.

Keep an eye out for these people. They write best-sellers, appear on television, i.e. Sylvia Browne, and hold expensive sessions on cruise liners. They offer empty platitudes and pseudo-science. Yes they offer solutions and places where you can talk but in my assessment, it will not do you any good. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Black NASCAR fan? You can't be serious!!

I've been asked by a few people why I like NASCAR. The fan base is largely considered to be a bunch of in-bred, loud, ignorant, undereducated, redneck, fuck sticks. Now that description is true of at least some of the fans but not all of them. I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina which is arguably home territory to a lot of NASCAR teams and drivers. As a kid I was changing the channels on the television and came across the Daytona 500. The cars were moving at a high rate of speed, the track looked interesting and I immediately became hooked. I was all of 5 years old at the time and I still watch the races, follow the developments with sponsors, drivers, tracks and feuds to this day. I've been to races at Charlotte Motor Speedway(formerly Lowes Motor Speedway), Atlanta Motor Speedway, Rockingham, and Talladega. You may be wondering about how I am received as a fan, both by non-NASCAR fans and by some NASCAR fans. I'll fill you in.

I haven't had any direct bad treatment from any fans to my face. No one has tried to have me removed or got in my face. I have received 'odd' looks from some people but I don't let that shit spoil the race for me. While I have not had any non-sense to my face or had direct comments made to me by fans in person, the same cannot be said about commentary offered online. I use to play a game called NASCAR 08, on Xbox Live. You could communicate via text and headset with other racers. Most of the players I encountered were White and a lot of them didn't have too many positive outlooks on Black people.....until they learned I was Black. One of my 'online friends/racers' did not know I entered a race upon which he started. The way it was set up though, he could see the names of each person who decided to join the event. I figured out that he was away from his television when he made his comments. He expressed his hatred for Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and his love of the rebel flag(he lived in South Carolina) and opined that if Obama were elected, he'd be killed while in office. He also made some comments about Black people being lazy, ignorant and wanting Black folks to go back to Africa. None of his comments were new to my ears but I learned that when a person feels comfortable within the group she/he inhabits and does not think or know a member of the group he/she is about to blast is within ear shot, they reveal their true character. I ended up not participating in the online event, but not before I gave him what he deserved. The rest of the members were quiet but they knew the both of us. Afterward I received 12 messages from each driver indicating they did not agree with his views and that they should have said something instead of me. His attitude is very pervasive and I've seen similar comments made in NASCAR forums about Blacks and other races and especially hatred of Jews. Yes there are NASCAR fans that are racists but I do not let their nastiness keep me away from enjoying the sport. I've met and interacted with other people who were glad to have another NASCAR friend in the area or online. It's another way to bond with people.

The non-NASCAR fans are generally shocked. Black folks are not supposed to like NASCAR because NASCAR fans are racist rednecks. It's no secret NASCAR is largely a White sport, from drivers, track owners, team owners, and fans so the shock is partially understood by me. I receive equal levels of shock from both Blacks & Whites, Liberals(especially) and Conservatives. I think the shock is largely due to ignorance and the lack of interaction with NASCAR fans because the perception is 'they must be uneducated rednecks'. When they find out I'm a fan the immediate question is WHY mixed with 'you are too smart to like something so silly and inane'. I usually respond by delving into their favorite past times and make the argument, someone else probably thinks the exact same thing about something you like or do.

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden: Last year, The White House and NASCAR teamed up for an event to raise money for veterans and FLOTUS and Jill Biden were invited to the final event in the NASCAR schedule, the Ford 400 in Homestead-Miami, Florida. FLOTUS and Jill Biden were booed when they were introduced as the grand marshals of the event. Grand marshals usually give the command for the drivers to start their engines. Yes, it's ceremonial but it's part of the show. Immediately, erroneous headlines emerged calling NASCAR fans racists for booing Michelle Obama while subsequently omitting Jill Biden's attendance. NASCAR fans in general are Republicans. They BOTH were booed for political reasons and yes those fans at the track that day made themselves look bad by being assholes when Michelle Obama AND Jill Biden were there for a great cause. There was absolutely no need to make calls of racism here. Many called for the sanctioning body, NASCAR, to issue an apology to Michelle Obama. It's not the sanctioning body's fault. They did nothing wrong. Here's the kicker. Other Black folks have been grand marshal's at events, waved the green flag, and driven the pace-car. Their political affiliations were not widely known nor announced prior to their involvement in race activities. The smear merchants would know that if they had seen other NASCAR events and were not so quick to jump on the bandwagon when an organization prints a misleading headline.

I enjoy the technology, the sounds of the cars, the pit stops, and the speed. You may say, what's so exciting about a bunch of cars turning left 500 times? I get it. It can be a bit monotonous. I say go to a race and to those who say 'it's easy' I say get your ass out there and try. Anybody can drive a car but can you do it at that level, perform well every week, and not tear the entire car up? I doubt it. I love cars in general and I treat my own car like a baby.  I've gotten a few of my friends to get into the sport and although they are not as hardcore as I am about it, it feels good to introduce them to something they probably would not have given a chance until they met me. I'm a fan of a lot of other motorsports too. Indycar, F1, NHRA, V8 Supercars, Speed World Challenge and ALMS. But NASCAR has the biggest presence here and it always captures my interest. It may capture yours too, if you just give it a fair chance.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Odd debate moves and attempts to avoid criticism

In this short piece, I'm going to list a number of tactics I've encountered personally or seen employed by others in a discussion or argument.

1. Using your name as a means to connect with you when their argument fails. You may have dealt with this kind of tactic. Person X says 'But (insert your name here).......', with their argument re-stated and your name actually becomes the beginning piece of their argument. I find this move to be very annoying. I love my name but it's being used as a way to get me to lower my defenses so the other person can slide in a set of premises they do not intend to work for. It's a common theist tactic which ultimately doesn't get them anywhere. 

2. LOL'n, and/or 'my tweet/comment was just a joke'. This move is offered after some questions or push back is given to something they have said. Since they cannot handle the heat and cannot defend their own words, you are the problem. You may receive various comments such as 'you guys took it to the extreme', 'you guys are hostile' and so forth, if you continue to ask questions with no substantive replies. Notice those last few comments contain ZERO critiques against the question or argument. They are merely armchair psycho-analytics whereby they attempt to interpret your mood. 

Example 'Black women don't love themselves because of the way they wear their hair and the clothes that they wear'. If you challenge this thought or any which looks like it, be prepared for a barrage of foolish comments.  

3. You don't follow me so why are you tweeting to me. This person has invoked a special set of rules to shield them from questions and criticism. First, you can only comment, retweet or criticize if and only if you follow them. Second, if you do not follow them at all, DON'T TWEET TO THEM, unless you are in agreement with what they have said. After their rules are stated they tend to retweet those people who support whatever nonsense they spouted. This move is commonly deployed by a lot of dumbass patriarchal men and their retweets are of the women that co-sign their bull shit. Advocates of this position fail to understand how the medium works. Anything you tweet is subject to replies and retweets despite who is following you or not. They should lock their accounts, get off the network, or just not tweet. 

4. Bringing up irrelevant but true facts to support a silly conclusion. It's probably easier to think of this as one word; non-sequitor. For instance you're having a debate/discussion with someone you know or with a stranger on the internet. They say something like "The New York Giants won the Superbowl earlier this year therefore God exists". It's true that the NYGiants did win the Superbowl earlier in the year but that says nothing about whether 'god exists'. Most non-sequitors I've seen are not that easy to spot. They tend to have multiple and sometimes true premises but those premises don't support the overall conclusion in any way. I'll give 2 longer examples

Barack Obama is the President of the United States. Andrew Breitbart is dead. Therefore, the U.S. government had Breitbart eliminated because he criticized the President's domestic and foreign policies. 3 things are true. Barack Obama is the President, Breitbart is dead and Breitbart did criticize the President's foreign and domestic policy but the conclusion made is that the government 'took out' Breitbart. No evidence suggests that's the case in any way. 

Beyonce is married to Jay-Z. Kanye West has made a lot of money from his musical career. Therefore all three of them, well 4 if you include Beyonce's baby are all in a secret society which worships the devil called the 'Illuminati'. What's true? Beyonce is married to Jay-Z and they do have a baby together. Kanye West has made a lot of money from his musical career. What's concluded? One marriage between two popular artists in their field plus the success of another artist is used to make a case for devil worship and their participation in a secret society. You may think no one argues like that. I wish I could tell you I am wrong but I cannot. 

5. Respect means not offering criticism and if you do, you are violating my right to free speech and expression. This person has a very crude understanding of free speech and forgets it goes both ways. You can express yourself but so can I. Not only are they displaying a hyper-sensitive disposition to their own words being criticized, they are also telling you that 'respect' to them means that you keep criticism of any kind to yourself. If you are on a public forum, your comments are subject to scrutiny by anyone who sees them. This notion of 'respect' is laughable and ought to be ridiculed for the steaming pile of whiny shit waving that it is. 

6. You are cursing and I find that to be very offensive. There's a difference between saying ' I don't give a fuck' and 'fuck you'. The first is directed at something you've said which is probably irrelevant and does not establish anything but wastes valuable time. The second is directed at you. This person would rather comment on your word choice and possibly make snide remarks regarding your intelligence because you dare say ASS, FUCK, MOTHERFUCKER and so forth than to offer a coherent argument aimed at the discussion. If they had a better argument, your word choice would not be a point of concern.

This list is not exhaustive in any way and feel free to add or correct me on it. I'm sure I'm leaving out a number of other silly, stupid and inane moves. The six I've listed usually work in conjunction with each other and after you think you've killed one, it's proponent will resurrect it. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why I call myself an 'atheist'

Among some people the label/word 'atheist' encompasses a set of attributes or conclusions of which are disconcerting. I understand the frustration when you express to a believer that you're an 'atheist' and they immediately conclude you have no morals, eat babies, 'believe in nothing', are angry at 'god' and so forth. The hesitation I've seen with respect to using the word/label is real but the hesitation can be overcome. The label/word is not all encompassing of any individual. It simply describes ONE position I or they have on ONE issue. Nothing about the word 'atheist' accurately describes anything about my life experience, taste, appetites, academic achievements, culture, personality or sexuality. If you want to know more about the positions or beliefs I or any other atheist may have, if I or they have any beliefs at all, you must ask a question. Investigate. Do not assume.

Some of the conclusions are drawn out of ignorance while others are obvious attempts at being a dick. Labels can be used to draw incorrect conclusions about an individual or group. They can also be used to behave as if you 'know the person or group' or as a dismissive tactic coupled with a strawman argument. I think the label can be used for good and it's not something to be afraid of nor hidden.

It is simply not the case that I do not have any morals. I do not like suffering so I do what I can to minimize it as much as possible. I understand I live in a community with a lot of other people and my actions can impact their lives. I don't rob banks, nor eat babies out of fear of celestial punishment or the threat of prison. I don't do those things because THEY ARE WRONG. No objective morality is needed nor should it be asserted as a necessary condition in order to act morally. I recognize the type of animal that I am in conjunction with many others. I will not just do what I want because it suits me. Unlike a lot of believers, I don't have a get out of jail free card and can ask for forgiveness and receive it no matter what act is committed. I wouldn't want the card anyway because I think it's the ultimate abdication of personal responsibility and accountability. I am accountable for my actions, to myself and to other people. Every other animal like me can hold my feet to the fire for the things I do. No god is necessary. I do what's right because it's right. I do not seek accolades or rewards as a direct or necessary reaction to something I do. If they come, so be it.

I embrace the label and wear it proudly. I do not advocate for the destruction of religion but I do want it to be  kept out of public policy and science classrooms. Believers are free, as they should be, to express their beliefs as loudly as they can and I am fine with that until some try to silence opposition and criticism by attaching wrong and unnecessary bull shit to my position or to me as a person. Making that choice will result in a vociferous reply. What some believers don't understand is calling myself an 'atheist' does not exclude me from humanity. I am still a person with wants, needs and desires. I have family, friends, ex girlfriend's who can tell you how stupid I am and so on. Nothing about being an 'atheist' precludes me from laughing, drinking with friends, treating people fairly or smacking down ridiculous arguments. It simply tells you ONE THING about me. When it comes to whatever you call 'god', a semantic definition will not suffice. You need to provide evidence, which is independent of yourself, in order for ME to verify for MYSELF. Failing to meet that demand means I cannot accept your proposition with good reason.

I believed in a god for 21-22 years of my life. My identity, respect for my upbringing, and culture were all fused with believing in 'god' and Christianity. I say that because I understand just how integrally tied some believers are with their religion. Any critique of the religion is seen as an attack on them. I separate their beliefs from them as a person. Despite their feelings and the many explanations I have given to separate the ongoing fusion, some will still claim they are being attacked personally. Those claims will not stop me from hammering, in a substantive way(depending on the person) the claims of the religion.

I'm an atheist. 27 years of age, Black and proud. I love NASCAR and I hate for my food to touch on a plate.  I do not believe in a god or gods and I am not ashamed to say it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why I'm no longer 'Pro-Life'

I hadn't been confronted with my former 'pro-life' views until my younger sister asked me to attend a clinic with her. I had no idea what this clinic was or why she needed to go, but she traveled 2 hours to come to Atlanta to have something done. I picked her up at the airport, she gave me the directions and we stopped at an abortion clinic in a mid-upper scale portion of Atlanta. While she was confirming her appointment I had plenty of thoughts about the matter such as "what about the baby, she's killing another person, why didn't she tell me sooner" and much more. I can now say my questions were misplaced and wrong. For starters, it's not a baby no matter how much the fetus lobby says it's one. Next, the person, the actual person where my focus should have been was my sister and supporting her decision. She did not ask me for my personal opinion, which at the time was one out of complete ignorance but she asked the only person she could and had the means to help her end her unwanted pregnancy. 

The fact I didn't even notice she had to travel 2 hours(4 total if you include her trip back home) just to come here and had to stay overnight means I did not recognize how many hurdles she had to go through just to feel liberated. She had to take time from work, spend money and have instruments jammed up her uterus. That's not something which comes 'easy'. Furthermore after she had her private medical procedure done, she was happy but I did not like her attitude. Given my questions which were based solely on ignorance and emotion, I could not see how she could be happy in any way. I believed that life is 'precious' in a religious sense and that she is obligated to carry the pregnancy to term or don't become pregnant. Who am I to think or say such a thing to another person? She was happy and she has every right to celebrate. I attempted to shame her and that's something I can ever take back. I'm her brother and I had no right whatsoever to impose my views onto her body and make her question why she made a medical decision with her body. For that, Melissa, I am sorry. In your time of need, I failed you in one of the worst ways but within my failure and upon further reflection, I was moved to challenge my previous position. 

Weeks later I began to delve into my views. I found many websites which can grab you with emotional ploys(see the hateful for an example. I came across material which treated my sister's private medical procedure as grounds to use her body and the bodies of all women as a moral playground. I dealt with the Sanger myths, the Planned Parenthood nonsense which states most of them are in 'urban'/black areas, the abortion/slavery comparisons(which is nothing but race baiting) and the constant 'personhood' trap arguments. None of those tactics help increase access to a medical need for all women. None of them help reduce the costs of birth control, increase the number of abortion clinics or their cost nor do any of those ploys remove burdening hurdles many states require before a woman can get the procedure. The lying and shaming of which I was a part, must end. The 'abortion is murder' line is a complete lie. The entire zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus lobby truly believes potential persons deserve more rights and entitlements than actual women. Their position is an assault on individual liberty and women's health. The 'pro-life' position is not about protecting life but it is about control. Women making decisions with their bodies is problematic. The value of the woman is within her uterus and she cannot be trusted to make substantive decisions regarding it. I thought that way, but I will not remain silent any more. 

I have come to the position that any woman ought to be allowed to abort the pregnancy for any reason. I do not waiver on that whatsoever. She ought to be allowed to do it without shame and scrutiny. Women are autonomous individuals and they should be treated as such. I as a man, someone who will never be pregnant, have absolutely no right to tell her what to do with her body. What all women need are affordable, safe, and accessible options for health care. Shame need not be attached to her decisions. Love women and support them. Fight for their rights. Do not remain silent and do everything you can to increase health care choices for all women.