The science of white fragility

According to Robin DiAngelo, a professor at Westfield State University, white fragility is: a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. David Brooks, a columnist for The New York … [Read more...]

James Croft and Steve Neumann on atheist diplomacy

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I've been catching up on some material since I've been back from writing in New York (I've also picked up a few very exciting and promising projects), and I stumbled on a roundtable discussion from last month---how should atheists engage with religious believers?Arguing in favor of anti-theism was Kaveh Mousavi and Peter Mosley, while James Croft and Steve Neumann championed a more ecumenical approach.Steve starts by explaining some of the issues with some forms of criticism, and James a … [Read more...]

Is atheism about Civil Rights?

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My latest for The Daily Beast went up yesterday. Is atheism about Civil Rights? In part because of horrors that atheists experience in the rest of the world, and in part because of gross abuses experienced by other minorities in the West, I tend to roll my eyes at rhetoric often used by the public faces of atheism in America. My close friend Chris Stedman has catalogued a few examples: according to Bill Maher of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, atheism is the new gay marriage; Todd Stiefel, a pr … [Read more...]

Happy Good Friday

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Psychology is complicated and other reasons anti-theism doesn’t work

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Because I've been working on a paper where this is relevant and it's fresh in my mind, let me start with an illustrative example (which you can probably skip past the line-break if you're lazy). I don't talk about this very often, but I work with Dan Ariely at Duke University, which is fucking dope because Dan Ariely is fucking dope and my lab is smart and great and we work on awesome projects. I try to avoid wearing I-work-for-Dan-Ariely on my sleeve because it's not (usually) relevant to this b … [Read more...]

Robert Wright: Is ISIS Islamic, and does it matter?

The New Yorker published a fantastic essay this morning by Robert Wright, a journalist and author of "The Evolution of God," on a recent trend to emphasize ISIS's Islamic roots. He begins: Last week, the New York Times columnist Roger Cohen published a piece under the headline “Islam and the West at War.” Something seemed amiss here. Surely a more-or-less liberal columnist at the Times wasn’t going to say what even George W. Bush was unwilling to say: that we are at war with Islam itself. Maybe … [Read more...]

Why we need to stop hiding mistakes

Girl and her dog

I used to think mistakes are an embarrassing part of the human experience, even though they were inevitable. But the more I meditate on how the world works and, more to the point, how I’d like the world to work, the more I’m coming to the view that mistakes are more than inevitable; they’re vital.We live in a world where it is increasingly socially impossible to make a mistake, and I think it’s a recipe for for a timid, boring, and unrelatable world. Without being willing to make a mistake, a … [Read more...]

Narrow atheism, religious criticism, and why using “faitheist” as an insult makes you an asshole: my interview with Trav Mamone

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I recently exchanged a few emails with Trav Mamone of Bi Any Means. I probably wrote too much, but we ended up talking about my background, how veganism and atheism intersect, and my views on the atheist movement.Specifically on the topic of religious criticism, I wrote: To briefly sum up my views, though: punch up and be specific. First, we shouldn't be like Dawkins and argue that we should ridicule Catholics with contempt, but that doesn't mean we can't criticize Mother Theresa or the … [Read more...]

After Ferguson, toward a better humanism

Photo courtesy of Loavesofbread via Wikimedia Commons

Nearly a month after Michael Brown’s death, protests still fill the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. The grief playing out on the pavement is focusing long-overdue national attention on racial injustice and the reality of white supremacy. For many, it’s also translated to activism. From rallies to marches to teach-ins, communities are organizing themselves to effectively fight for change.For most people involved, this activism is simply an extension of work that’s been going on for centuries. T … [Read more...]

American seculars are more okay with killing civilians than the global Muslim population is.

Sam Harris has a new article on his site that somehow transitions from "why are perpetrators of mass violence almost always male?" to "and here's why Islam is bad." It's summed up with some commentary on The Friendly Atheist by Terry Firma.[ref]Terry Firma says in his bio that he has had "feature articles" published in The New York Times. I was kind of skeptical and, after a Google search and some digging around on the Times site, all I could find was this comment he left on a blog post. It'd be … [Read more...]