The Atheist Lobby’s New Leader is an “Unaffiliated Christian” Who Wants to Reach Across the Aisle

In May of 2012, the Secular Coalition for America hired a new Executive Director who certainly made a lot of heads turn because of her resume. Edwina Rogers was a Republican who had previously worked for some very conservative politicians. It was an odd choice, at least on paper, to represent mostly liberal atheists on Capitol Hill. But if she could do her job effectively, open doors previously closed to us, and convey the thoughts of millions of Secular Americans to politicians, then her label, I felt, could become an afterthought.

Many of you disagreed. A lot of atheists I’ve spoken to simply never warmed to Rogers in large part because of her political affiliation. Then, in mid-2014, for reasons that are still being debated, Rogers was unceremoniously fired from the SCA. She later sued the organization for wrongful termination and defamation; the lawsuit still hasn’t been officially resolved.

For the past year and a half, the SCA has been under the leadership of interim director Kelly Damerow as its board looked for a new Executive Director. Today, they’re announcing their selection: Larry T. Decker.


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A Descendant of the Founder of Hasidic Judaism Just Came Out As an Atheist Trans Woman

When I read about Abby Stein in a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article, I knew I wanted to talk to her. She’s 24, a student in Brooklyn, and the descendant of a founder of Hasidic Judaism, Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer (also known as the Baal Shem Tov).

Four years ago, she left the Hasidic faith in which she was raised, and about a month ago, she came out publicly — including to her conservative family — as a transgender woman.

When it comes to gender roles, Hasidic Judaism is arguably one of the strictest religions in how it upholds specific rules and responsibilities for men and women. Understandably, Stein’s coming out hasn’t gone over well with her family, particularly with her father. But she’s found a safe space in liberal Jewish circles where she’s accepted for her true self, and she blogs regularly to share news about her gender identity, her journey, and her relationship to her past and present faith.

Stein and I talked on the phone about her interest not only in atheism, but in progressive Judaism, humanism, philosophy, and the many other pieces that make up who she is.

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A Conversation With Talk Nerdy‘s Cara Santa Maria

A little over a week ago, I had a chance to chat with Cara Santa Maria for her podcast Talk Nerdy. It was one of the most free-flowing and longform conversations I’ve had in a while — we spoke about atheism, math, working online, and 938423423 other things. (I also learned a *ton* about how to podcast better, because she’s a pro at it.)

You can hear our conversation here:

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An Interview with Robert Wilson (a.k.a. rwlawoffice), the Commenter Who Always Seems to Disagree With What I Write

For more than a year now, it feels like a day hasn’t gone by without a comment thread involving “rwlawoffice,” a Christian lawyer who seems to disagree with everything I write. Even on what I believe are air-tight church/state separation cases, I can always count on Robert Wilson to tell me I’m completely wrong — albeit politely, without CAPITAL LETTERS, Bible verses, or snide/sarcastic jabs. It’s gotten to the point where, if he doesn’t chime in, other commenters wonder where he is, which is especially evident on posts about Christians behaving badly, where commenters openly wonder how he’ll spin the story when he finally speaks up.

It made me wonder: Is this guy just another Christian troll on an atheist site, trying (poorly) to convert us all? Or is it more complicated than that?

So I asked him.

I asked him several questions, actually, over the course of a few emails. Our (edited) conversation is below:

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The Author of Jesus and Mo Is Doing an AMA (‘Ask Me Anything’) In Our Comments Section. Fire Away!

Small world: I found out only weeks ago that a British colleague with whom I’d exchanged friendly messages over the years is the anonymous artist behind Jesus and Mo, the acidly witty comic strip featuring two self-obsessed prophets. Every month, the Freethinker publishes a new installment, but the two roomies’ divine black-and-white adventures can also be found in six Jesus and Mo books — and on their own website, which is updated twice a week.

Since its launch, a little over eight years ago, the atheism-influenced comic has attracted some prominent admirers. Richard Dawkins praises Jesus (I’m tempted to stop here for effect) and Mo, saying the gruesome twosome and their creator provide some of the

… shrewdest, wittiest, most critically penetrating running commentary on the absurdities of contemporary religion.

Fans also include novelist Salman Rushdie, columnist Nick Cohen, biology professor Jerry Coyne, and, truth be told, me.

This month, over in England, Jesus and Mo became something a flashpoint in a national debate over free speech, censorship, and religious accommodation. You can read up on the tumult here.

I asked Jesus and Mo‘s creator if he would answer your questions and mine. “Gladly,” he said.

Allow me to start us off.

You first published Jesus and Mo in the late fall of 2005, just a month or two after the Islam cartoon controversy involving the Jyllands-Posten in Denmark began to rage. Any connection?

“It was right after the start of the Danish toons controversy — the shit didn’t really hit the fan until January or February of the next year, after months of determined campaigning by Danish imams. I’d been harboring thoughts of a religious satire comic featuring Jesus and Mo for ages, and I think the early stages of that particular controversy acted as the catalyst that kicked me into action. It was [Islam’s] ludicrous depiction taboo that provided the strip’s first joke.”

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