Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Rant About Bullies And Standing Up To Them

When I was in 4th grade, there was kid who tried to bully several of the other kids.  I never put up with his attempts to bully me or anyone around me.  One day, while we were all going back inside from recess, he ran up from behind me, and sucker punched me in the mouth hard enough to draw blood.  Naturally, we were in the principal's office moments later.

The bully attempted to justify his behavior by accusing me of bullying him.  I hadn't laid a finger on him, and I was the one with a bloody mouth.  So I did what I would have done anyway.  I told the truth.  I didn't get in trouble.  He did.  This was largely because my school's principal knew what qualifies as bullying.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
  • An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
That kid never bothered me again.  Nor did any other bullies at that school.  We weren't friends after that.  He definitely never liked me after that.  But he sure as fuck stopped his bullshit with me, and he didn't get away with it to any other kids while I was around.

That's the thing about standing up to bullies.  It's not always easy, at first.  You shouldn't expect it to be easy.  The bully is sure to lash out at you.  You might even end up with a bloody lip.  Often, the bully will claim you're the one who is a bully, taking your challenge to their behavior as an opportunity to paint themselves as the victim.

Some bystanders may even believe the bully's rhetoric that you are the bad guy in the situation.  From their perspective, they may even have a rational reason to, if you're the only one standing up to someone who is making a show of crying foul.  All some bystanders will see is you being called a bully.

But most rational people will know the truth.  Honorable people will stick by you for doing the right thing.  The people who turn on you are probably people you're better off knowing that about.

You're quite unlikely to survive the experience entirely unharmed, especially with adult bullies who are typically more subtle and passive aggressive than a sucker punch to the mouth, but you'll survive the experience.  And more importantly, you'll send a message to that bully, and any other bullies around, that you will not tolerate that shit.

As far as the good people who, despite what seems obvious, still get hoodwinked by the bully and their lies, sometimes the most you can do is give them time to figure it out on their own and hope the worst they get from it is a bloody lip.

Monday, April 21, 2014

People Worth Your Attention - Count Dolby von Luckner

I first encountered Count Dolby von Luckner (Dale DeBakcsy) at the 2013 American Atheists convention a year ago in Austin.  He had a table there, where he would draw pretty much anything requested.  His notebook of sketches was packed with awesome.  The clear standout was the Taftaroo (Howard Taft plus kangaroo), which was later paired with Tesla riding a velociraptor.

That year, JT Eberhard got Iron Man punching Jesus.  I had no good ideas until after I got back home.  But this year, I had one that I'm pretty happy with.

The inspiration for this request was one of my favorite criticisms of religion, Mark Twain's "The Fly".

To see Dale's other work:

The Vocate

Frederick the Great: A Most Lamentable Comedy Breaching Time and Space

He's also a contributors for a few publications:

The Freethinker
Philosophy Now
American Atheists Magazine
Secular World
New Humanist
Free Inquiry

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Right Wing Group Priaises Ellen DeGeneres's Oscars Hosting, Ignores Her Sexuality

As far as I can tell, the Parents Television Council does not advertise themselves as religious, unlike the Family Research Council.  But they are definitely right wing, founded by Brent Bozell who also founded the Media Research Center, a group dedicated to bitching about the "liberal media".

So, I was surprised when I found that the Parents Television Council had such high praise for Ellen Degeneres' hosting of the Oscars.  It wasn't that long ago that Bozell himself was spreading some anti-gay hate or were including DeGeneres in their rants against Hollywood's "Homosexual Agenda".

This time, they didn't mention her sexuality at all.  They were just glad she wasn't Seth MacFarlane.  It's just one instance, and I'm sure they'll get back to hating on homosexuals, but I see this as a big step forward.  Slowly, but surely, they're realizing that they're losing their fight against homosexuality.  They're starting to figure out that it's not a fight they can win.

As Seth MacFarlane said about a different movement, "It's about fuckin' time."

Because, as MacFarlane says in the same clip, while the bigots are trying to decide if they're okay with gay people having the same rights as everyone else, they're waiting to get on with their fucking lives.

Congratulations To 2013's Atheist Of The Year, Sarah Morehead

Despite having a day of heavy people interacting while tabling for Apostacon, I picked the wrong night head out of the convention to have some introvert time.  I say this because after getting to my hotel room, I saw this posted.

My bias on this issue is all over this blog, in the form of my support for Recovering From Religion.  But even with that, and having not yet learned American Atheists' stated reasons for choosing Sarah Morehead for this award, I feel safe saying this award was well deserved.

Sarah Morehead has worked tirelessly to make Recovering From Religion grow into an international organization that provides real help to real people suffering real harm from religion.  I can think of no group that is more underrated than Recovering From Religion.

On top of that, they've got the Hotline Project coming soon, which will give people in the middle of a faith crisis a place to call, where they will receive support without proselytizing of any kind.

In addition to that, while Apostacon was/is mostly definitely a large team effort, Sarah was a driving force in the success of Apostacon last year, which has received high praise from several of our speakers.  Most of those speakers were people we were only able to get because of Sarah's involvement in Apostacon.  Without Sarah, Apostacon may have remained as good as it was before the name change form Midwest Freethought Conference, but it wouldn't have been become great.  And that's definitely where we're headed with Apostacon.

And then, as a side project, she stepped up to settle the Matt Dillahunty, Sye Ten Bruggencate back and forth debate challenges and got the damn thing scheduled.

So, if you want to be Atheist of the Year, that's what it takes.  Be a Getting Shit Done Machine.

Sarah with her award & Dan Fincke
I can only imagine how much more she'd be able to get done if she could keep her cell phone charged.

Edit:  Fixed the year

On The Similarities Of Mormons And Atheists

I'm at the American Atheists convention in Salt Lake City this weekend.  I caught a tweet, retweeted by Recovering From Religion, from an LDS member who works near the convention hotel and wanted to spend his lunch hour with some atheists.

It was an interesting experience.  Time was limited, so I intentionally avoided topics that would become debate, but I got to pick his brain a bit about Mormonism.  We talked about the colleges around town, I asked about Book of Mormon, and I finally learned what the deal is with the Institute of Religion that is near the University of Nebraska Omaha campus.  They're places to take courses to learn about Mormon theology, and they're intentionally put as close to colleges as possible.  It's presented as educational, but I suspect the purpose is to proselytize.  Either way, I hope to get a better look at them sometime this year.

If I keep talking to the guy I met, one thing I plan to dig deeper into is his comparison of Mormons & atheists.  At first it was based on the fact that both of us are seen as outsiders to the general Christian community in America, which goes along with the premise of a Daily Beast article today about the convention.
The convention this week will bring together in Salt Lake City two distinctly American movements, with remarkably similar demographics, that are in the process of emerging into a public sphere that has long considered them suspicious outsiders.
That part is true.  Both groups are seen as outsiders.  The thing is, it's for very different reasons.
For Mormons, that suspicion goes back to the 1800s, when, as a young movement, they were driven from town to town and subject to anti-Mormon riots (the Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, was killed by a mob in Illinois). 
The article does touch on one similarity in where the hate for both groups comes from.
That suspicion subsided a bit, helped by the church’s renunciation of polygamy in 1890, and cropped up again in the 1980s and 1990s, the result of scandals, a slow adoption of racial equality, and attacks from some right-wing evangelical Protestants.
The Christian Right are no fans of the Mormon Church, and they're certainly not fans of atheists.

The article doesn't mention that Joseph Smith was convicted of fraud, or the other issues that lead to Mormonism being not trusted.  It also doesn't mention that the main source of the mistrust toward atheists is Cold War anti-communism.

One hilarious similarity that my lunch companion made was the claim that both groups reject the supernatural.  I think the premise he intended was that both groups reject the supernatural more than Creationists like Ken Ham, and I suspect that's true to a degree.  Mormons do describe their god in less supernatural way than fundamentalist Protestants.
God is perfect, all wise, and all-powerful; the ruler of the universe. He is also merciful, kind, and just. He is our Father in Heaven. We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). He has a body that looks like ours, but God’s body is immortal, perfected, and has a glory that words can’t describe. Because we are His children, He knows and loves each of us individually. He has a plan to help His children find joy in this life and return to live with Him when this life is over.
But they quite clearly believe in the supernatural.  It's kind of a requirement of being Mormon.  Or any other religion.

The author of the Daily Beast piece and my lunch companion were right about our 2 groups having some similarities, but we don't have similarities on any of what is the core of either group.  Mormons are still a religion, founded by a con man.  Atheism isn't a religion at all, and attendees of conventions like this one are primarily people who have escaped religion.

But the Daily Beast did get one thing right.
Well, the Mormons just had their Moment. And as for the atheists? While churches might be in decline, their numbers are growing.
Atheism is growing, and religion is shrinking.  And with good reason.  It's the same reason Phil Ferguson told a story on today's Dogma Debate about how, to get some kids to rethink their Christianity, he gave them both Bibles and asked them to read them.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Camp Quest Kansas City Needs A Nurse

Camp Quest Kansas City has put out a request for a camp nurse.

If you're a qualified nurse and would like to help some kids have a safer trip to a great camp program, please go their volunteer form and get yourself signed up.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Secular Therapy Project Reaches 3000 Clients

The Secular Therapy Project helps people find a doctor for their mental health, who won't push religion on their patients.  Recently, they reached a promising milestone with their 3000th client.  From Recovering From Religion's press release:
March 28, 2014 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – The Secular Therapist Project, a program of the non-profit organization Recovering From Religion, is thrilled to announce the registration of their 3,000th client.
Program Director Dr. Darrel Ray states, “The Secular Therapist Project is an innovative resource connecting clients, via a confidential database, with registered secular therapists near them. Many of our clients reach out to us after growing frustrated from their previous providers. They’re being told to follow the recommendations of their pastors, who are usually unlicensed in mental health issues, or to just find another church. Some of our clients even report therapists insisting on “the power of prayer” or practicing new age gimmicks like “realigning your chakras” during therapy sessions. Many of our registered therapists also offer distance counseling, allowing clients in heavily religious areas to remotely access reliable mental health resources and care. “
“The rate of client growth has accelerated steadily since the project started in 2012, adding 1,000 clients in only the last 7 months. There are currently 171 registered secular therapists, all fully qualified, who applied to join the project via the website at As of January 2014, 75% of Secular Therapist Project therapists have been contacted by one or more potential clients, 48% have been contacted by four or more, and 11% have been contacted by 10-20 new clients. The feedback received from clients regarding their experiences with therapists they’ve found through the database is overwhelmingly positive.
Executive Director Sarah Morehead adds, “This is clearly a valuable resource to so many, and we are thrilled at the ongoing success of this fantastic program. We are regularly in contact with people who have decided religion or supernatural answers are not for them, yet their only options for mental health care use supernatural recommendations. For those who want a reliable alternative to “alternative” mental health care, this is it.”
Registration and call contact with therapists is free, private, and confidential at Recovering From Religion is led by Executive Director Sarah Morehead and provides practical support and resources to individuals reconsidering the role of religion in their lives.
Contact: Dr. Darrel Ray § Secular Therapist Project Program Director § Recovering From Religion
(512) 666-4630 § §
10940 Parallel Pkwy, Suite K-145 §  KS 66109

If you know a therapist who would qualify, please encourage them to sign up.