July 22, 2018

Breaking Up the Monotony of Atheist Blogging

metronome
When Conservative Skeptic recently asked whether atheist writing has "lost its luster," I could relate. I suspect most atheist bloggers could as well. The appeal of writing about atheism and closely-related topics waxes and wanes. Even if one were to use a broad enough view of atheism that it could include everything from criticizing religion to secular activism, there does seem to be a point at which it becomes repetitive. Even the extremely popular "look-at-what-crazy-thing-the-Christian-said" type of post gets old quickly.

I've tried to deal with this in a few different ways. First, I regularly address topics that are peripherally related to atheism and likely to be of interest to many atheists (e.g., freethought, humanism, skepticism, secular activism, reason). Second, I write a fair bit about politics and the nature of our political discourse on social media because I think we need far more reason, nuance, and civility. I worry that some aspects of our outrage culture are undermining our ability to work together to solve problems. Third, when I find myself feeling bored by or uninterested in these topics, I either take a break or give myself the freedom to write about something that has nothing to do with atheism.

July 21, 2018

An Open Letter to the Democratic Party

Maxine Waters, official photo portrait, 111th CongressDear Democratic Party:

Although I'm concerned that you seem to have made little progress since the 2016 presidential election, I recognize that you have probably been doing all kinds of things behind the scenes of which I am unaware. And let's be clear, the task you face is not an easy one. You have to find a way to assemble a large coalition of people who can't seem to agree on much of anything and then persuade them to show up to vote.

On one hand, you have the people who are often referred to as "establishment Democrats" or the "Clinton wing" of the party. They've long been the core Democratic base, and you cannot afford to write them off. What they may lack in youth, energy, or enthusiasm, they make up for in donations and voter turnout. On the other hand, you have the "progressive Democrats" or the "Sanders wing" of the party. They appear to be the future, and you cannot afford to write them off either. As much of a challenge as it may be to get them to the polls or mold some of their pie-in-the-sky desires into things that can be achieved, they bring the passion and energy you so desperately need. Your challenge is to find a message and eventually a presidential candidate around which both groups can unite.

It might seem like the message part should be easy, but I don't think that is the case. It should be clear from 2016 that an anti-Trump message may be necessary but is unlikely to be sufficient. Beyond opposing Trump, what does the party stand for? Many people on your progressive wing want the party to move away from corporate America entirely. Is that realistic, and can it be done without alienating your establishment wing? I'd guess not. And while your platform can include many issues, it is difficult to determine which ones should be emphasized over others. For example, is immigration really a better issue to try to unite voters around than health care? I'm skeptical. Crafting a coherent message will not be easy, but it does provide you with an opportunity to start bringing people together.

July 20, 2018

A Brief Review of mother! (2017)

mother! stillsEvery so often, I come across a horror film that leaves me staring at the screen with my mouth hanging open and wondering what the hell I just watched...but in a good way. It doesn't happen often. Those that leave me wondering what the hell I just watched in a bad way seem to be far more common. I'd put Irreversible (2002) in this second group. It not only made me wonder what the hell I had just watched, but it left me asking why I would subject myself to something like it in the first place.

Until now, my go-to example of the first group of films would probably have been Antichrist (2009); however, it has never been a great example because I can't claim to have enjoyed it all that much. I appreciated its art, but it was a bit too strange for me to enjoy, more like a bad trip than a film. Now that I've seen Darren Aronofsky's mother! (2017), I believe it is a better example of the first group of films. It blew me away, was more than strange enough to make me feel like I was watching something different, and I can say I enjoyed it. So yes, it delivered the WTF reaction but in a good way.

July 19, 2018

Atheist Identity and How We Are Treated

woman with red hair
If you had red hair, would having red hair be part of your identity? It might, but I'd guess that it wouldn't necessarily be a big part of your identity. If you were one of relatively few people in an environment who had red hair, I imagine that having red hair might be a bit more important part of your identity. But even then, I wouldn't guess that it would be a large part. But what if others treated you differently because of your red hair? If this was the case, I would expect that having red hair might be a much more important part of your identity. And if other people treated you not just differently but poorly (i.e., treated you worse than they treated others with different hair colors) because you had red hair, then I imagine that it would be an even more important aspect of your identity.

This is not too different from how I think about atheism. Atheism is part of my identity, but it is not a very large part of my identity. If I wasn't surrounded by religious believers, it would be a smaller part. I suspect that if I were to move from Mississippi to Vermont, a far less religious state, I'd quickly find that atheism was a less important part of my identity. I'd probably think about it far less than I do now. But most of all, I think that if I wasn't viewed and treated differently because I'm an atheist, it would be a much smaller part of my identity.

July 18, 2018

Secular Activism and Atheist Activism: Are There Meaningful Distinctions?

'Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif)' by Robert Delaunay
Robert Delaunay [Public domain], Wikimedia Commons
When I think of efforts to preserve (or expand) the separation of church and state, I tend to think of secular activism. That is to say, I would typically define secular activism as focusing primarily on church-state separation. I recognize that it could be broader than that, and I am not arguing here that this is how it should be defined. I'm merely explaining that I tend to associate the two.

This raises the question of whether there is such a thing as atheist activism that is distinct in any meaningful way from secular activism. Are they merely synonyms, or do they mean different things? Is there anything we could count as atheist activism and not secular activism or vice-versa? I'm really not sure. It seems like many people use "atheist activism" and "secular activism" interchangeably, and I think that's probably okay.

If I was going to argue that the two were meaningfully distinct (and I am not at all sure I want to), I'd probably suggest that they overlap but have somewhat different points of emphasis. As I said above, I associate secular activism with efforts focused on church-state separation. On the other hand, I tend to think of atheist activism as more focused on things like ending discrimination against atheists, working to overcome bigoted attitudes directed at atheists, providing support for people who are mistreated because of their atheism, and that sort of thing. Another way to say it would be that I see secular activism as aimed at promoting secularism and atheist activism as somewhat more of an identity issue aimed at making life a little bit better for atheists.

July 16, 2018

Thank You Flipboarders!

Flipboard
Photo by warrenski [CC BY-SA 2.0]
To the person or persons who have been promoting my content on Flipboard, thank you! You were responsible for more than doubling my traffic on Friday, and this was not the first traffic spike I've seen from Flipboard. I am still relatively new to Flipboard, and I can't pretend I've figured out how to use it yet. It seems to be an effective way to make one's content more accessible to mobile device users. To see this sort of boost in traffic in spite of my general cluelessness about the platform has been great.

I have attempted to set up a magazine that contains all posts from Atheist Revolution and should be automatically updated from the RSS feed. I hope this will make it easier for Flipboard users to access my content there. Unfortunately, I've been waiting for over a month for Flipboard to approve it. Until they do, I think I am the only one who can see it. In the meantime, I'll work on expanding my collection of topic-specific magazines and adding content to them manually.