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Welcome to the personal website of Andrew Turnbull. This outpost features tons of stupefying and trivial things pertaining to various and diverse interests of mine. Chances are, if there's something I know about or like that doesn't much other representation on the 'net...there's a bit of it here.

July-September 2022 Archive

10 September 2022

Ten things Christians should never do if they want atheists to respect and work with them.

[The Twin Towers of Patriarchy]

Last week, I stated that I'd rather work with social justice-minded Christians than bigoted right-wing atheists. But this cuts both ways: If Christians want to gain respect and find common ground with atheists, they have obligations as well.

So without further ado...

  1. Never deny the horrors and cruelties of your religion, as evidenced in scripture and in the actions of individual Christians over hundreds of years. Never deny the inhumane cruelty of Hell, or the Holocaust, or residential schools, or the entirety of the Republican Party platform. And don't deny that the Church backed ALL of these things.

  2. Never deny the trauma of people who deconverted from your religion. Don't make clueless, tone-deaf statements that "you were never a real Christian," or claim that irreligion is a phase we'll outgrow, or whatever. Don't forget that many of us were sincerely invested in Christianity (myself included); we were crushed and disappointed when we concluded it wasn't true, and we lost social capital when we abandoned the dominant religion in favour of a minority position. This goes triple for atheists who grew up in any rural, right-wing, and Jesus-soaked environ, like the entirety of West Virginia.

  3. Don't deflect our criticisms by making claims that Trump supporters or other virulent xenophobes and homophobes of prominence "aren't real Christians." Fred Phelps was just as much a Christian as you are.

  4. Never claim that atheists "have nothing" or "believe in nothing." It's incredibly rude and diminishing to assert that values cannot exist without religion. Values like compassion, humanism, honesty, and curiosity are universal; these steer our worldview, and if you want to know what we believe...ASK!

  5. Don't believe in or endorse creationism, of any sort. Don't deny the factual biological similarities between humans and other animals, or twist yourself into knots with a half-assed statement like "I accept natural selection, but not evolution" that lends credence to bullshit. If you're so detached from reality that you think creationist pseudoscience is a concept worth taking seriously, there is no hope of finding common ground with you.

  6. Don't be a climate denialist or disease denialist. This should go without saying (in ANY context), but "crank magnetism" all but guarantees that evolution denialists tend to be wrong about a zillion other things of grave significance as well.

  7. Don't act like a dog marking and pissing on its territory. Don't bring prayers, or scripture, or symbols of execution racks into public schools, public meetings, or public buildings that are supposed to be representative of a pluralistic population and welcome to all. Don't seek state endorsement of your religion. Don't lobby to put obnoxious, exclusionary statements like "In God We Trust" on licence plates; don't collect them, and by golly, don't put them on your car.

  8. Never make statements like "If you don't believe in God or Hell, what's to stop you from raping and murdering whoever you want?" They're extremely offensive; they assert that secular morals don't exist at all...and they paint a scathing portrait of your own moral character.

  9. Don't support Christian denominations with decades-long track records of perpetrating sexism and homophobia and covering up child sexual abuse (like the Roman Catholic Church or Southern Baptist Church) with your money or with your presence. If you have a moral conscience, there's no excuse for this behaviour. There are dozens of less-repugnant Christian denominations in the world; support one of those instead.

  10. And a HUGE one: Never deny your kids a secular education. Don't force children into abusive Christian academies where teachers are unaccredited, Christian doctrine and worldly facts are presented as one and the same, science and critical thinking are denied, and impressionable kids are BOMBARDED with anti-queer and anti-abortion imagery and rhetoric from the age of six. Don't force children into environments where they're liable to be kicked out, tortured, or left unable to graduate when they come out as atheist or queer. Don't deny how the proliferation of private religious schools since the 1950s and 1960s (and the systematic defunding of public ones) is steeped in white supremacy, and don't participate in perpetuating this problem.

    (This includes the provincially-funded "separate" Catholic schools of Ontario, which are a travesty in their own right.)

Follow these ten basic steps. Then, we'll talk.

Image: St. Mary's Catholic Church, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Or as I used to call it, "the Twin Towers of Patriarchy."

3 September 2022

"I don't want to be friends just because you're an atheist." - Anya Overmann

This piece perfectly articulates a point that I've been screaming out for the last decade (or two decades, counting off from Christopher Hitchens' indefensible warmongering in Iraq): Why does the atheist and humanist movement, supposedly the most progressive demographic in existence, keep promoting shitty people?

Why do sexists, racists, sexual harassers, and right-wingers like Michael Shermer, David Silverman, and Sam Harris keep getting platformed and doled out in media outlets as though they were representative spokespeople for all atheists, years after their odious views and actions became common knowledge to everyone?

Especially when there are multitudes of non-shitty atheists (many of them non-white, non-male, and non-straight) who oppose injustice, who oppose gender and racial inequality, who want to make a positive and constructive impact on the world instead of just tearing things down, who are more representative of the movement than a tired cohort of old guys could ever hope to be, and who deserve to be heard instead?

But what is it that brings us together? "Not believing in God" eliminates one major source of justification for authoritarianism, irrationality, and cruelty. That's a positive step: A first step. Atheism should be a path to an ethical worldview; a means to an end. It's not an end in itself...yet far too many people treat it as though it is.

Being an atheist is no guarantee that you respect gender identity, you oppose wealth disparity, you oppose racist institutions and power structures, or are a decent human being. If you're a sexist, racist, harasser, or right winger...I don't know what values we have in common.

And I'd rather work towards common goals with a social justice-minded Christian, in spite of me disagreeing with the beliefs they hold, than any bigoted atheist whose morality comes from Ayn Rand books and Sargon of Akkad videos. Again: Values matter more than beliefs.

18 August 2022

I'm waiting.

[Canadian citizenship application status]

1 August 2022

Comments of the week, from "Anfenwick" and "Houndentenor" on Adam Lee's Daylight Atheism blog (which I've always been a fan of, by the way):

I recall people (colleagues) pressuring us to move to Texas, on the grounds that they had a little liberal enclave going. According to them, we would only have to socialize with people we saw eye to eye with. To me, it seemed so ... symptomatic that they couldn't see they were living under the laws of a red state, regardless of who they hung out with.

I don't need everyone I meet to agree with me. I need a reasonable assurance that they won't be toting a gun, that I won't be forced to procreate against my will, and that if I volunteer to procreate, my offspring can get a good education without being shot up. Oh, and some sort of oversight of essential utilities, resources and infrastructure. Because if I want to play Russian roulette with my life, I can think of more fun ways of doing it than moving to any part of Texas.

We hear people whining all the time from red states, especially Texas that "we're not all right wingers here". That's not true anywhere. I know lots of liberals in Texas and Arkansas and Lousiana and met PLENTY of Fox News watching right wingers in NYC.

The difference is that as a gay man the state and city laws and ordinances protected my rights in NY and they don't in Texas. The idea that people in this one community are nice even though the state is gearing up to label me as a "groomer" is of little comfort.

Suffice to say, I don't plan on living in West Virginia again. Not that it's easy for me to get away from reminders of the past.

Last month I did the unthinkable, and rejoined Zuckerberg's hellsite for the first time since 2014. As much as I hate Facebook, a) I now despise Twitter an order of magnitude even more, and b) many of the small online communities that were structured around independent phpBB boards, Meetup or Flickr groups, or even e-mail lists a decade ago have all migrated to the blue site, furthering the consolidation and "walled gardening" of the web. I don't like it either. But when you're doing local history and hobby research, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Including writing this:

Lately, I've had an avalanche of friend requests pour in from acquaintances of the past! I'm flattered by the attention, but I'm unclear how much or how little these people know about me at all.

I am a queer man, a gay man, an atheist, a leftist, a humanist, and a Canadian (by choice). I have piercings and tattoos. I despise patriarchal gender roles, toxic masculinity, gun culture, jingoism, and closets.

And there is absolutely no one on earth who I trust less, or fear more, than a straight white Christian cis man brandishing a weapon and waving a flag.

When people ask me "How come I haven't seen you since high school graduation?" or "How come you don't live in West Virginia anymore?," this is Exhibit A as to "why."

3 July 2022

FYI: My semi-embarrassing Walk the Moon fansite got injected with a massive update last night, with dozens of new pictures...and it's a lot less semi-embarrassing now!

This band is one of the few sources of joy I've had in this increasingly-frightening world.

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