Reclaiming atheism

What with the way the world is at the moment, I've been thinking a lot about social justice. I find myself confronted with sexism, homophobia, and even racism, with increasing frequency both offline and online. Possibly it's just because I'm becoming more conscious of these things as I become more educated about the world, myself and the power dynamics therein. But even empirically it seems like the dark forces are massing.

Recently, we've seen extreme misogyny coming from both sides of the Atlantic in unrelated incidents. Homophobia, racism and religious bigotry are everywhere we look. And that's just in the last few days, and these are fare from isolated incidents.

At university, one of the places I found camaraderie was in the newly founded atheist society. Here I found people who celebrated rationality, free thinking and evidence-based argument. The society, too, was not (just) about drunk philosophising and debunking. In our inaugural year we lobbied the union, we protested antisemites, we collected money for AIDS charities, we specifically promoted interfaith dialogues. We were awesome.

But after university, much to my chagrin, some of the largest atheist communities I found outside the bubble were weird maelstroms of assholery. All those vices for which I thought a clear head would hold no hiding place, were still rife.
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The Human Bible

Time for another podcast recommendation!

This time it's for Robert M. Price's show The Human Bible. It's a show where theologian Dr. Robert M. Price discusses topics in biblical criticism and answers listener questions using his vast knowledge of biblical and Christian history. Best of all, he comes from a secular perspective, understanding the text as a human creation, not one inspired by a god. And yet as a former Baptist pastor he has insight into the biblical literalist mindset.
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Ed Brayton's new podcast

I was delighted yesterday to discover that Ed Brayton, who used to host one of my all-time favourite political podcasts, Declaring Independence Radio, has recently started hosting a new show: Culture Wars Radio.

Declaring Independence was a show predominantly about American law and politics. It was constantly fascinating, with episodes being mostly interview with experts in constitutional law, civil liberties, police misconduct and such; interspliced with commentary and lighthearted discussion of current events. What I liked most about it was that Ed Brayton never shied away from getting right down to the tiniest details of case law and history, discussing the minutiae of various cases with his guests and drawing on his huge knowledge of American civil liberties law to get the best out of his guests. Also his staunch non-partisanism, hatred of hypocrisy and demagoguery, and willingness to harshly criticise Obama and the Democrats (while still poking fun at right-wing loonies).

Ed Brayton is an American political journalist, editor and development director of the American Independent News Network, and seems to specialise in civil liberties law. He seems to get particularly fired up about education, separation of church and state, and transparency and accountability in government. He has a general left-libertarian viewpoint. I don't agree with him on everything, but he's very knowledgable about law, and hella smart. To quote erstwhile acquaintance of mine, Seth Manapio, he is "a goddam genius".

I looked hard for somewhere online for old episodes of Declaring Independence to link here, because they're all really worth a listen, but it seems to have evaporated. I've got 74 old episode as mp3s if anyone's really keen.

The new show, Culture Wars Radio, only has a few episodes out so far, and I've only listened to the first two of them, but it looks to be much along the same lines as Declaring Independence, which is fantastic as far as I'm concerned.

I strongly recommend checking it out, if you've any interest in civil liberties law, American politics or just deep and informed yet intelligible political discussion.