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More on the Reason Rally: What the left can learn from the godless

Jesus rides a dinosaur at The Reason Rally, March 24, 2012

Brooke woke up earlier than her customary “crack of noon” wakeup on the weekends and is now busily draining my hot water tank for her “hour shower”. (note to self: commence 5 minute shower training regimen for upcoming exchange trip to Germany) All this is to say that once she’s awake and has fed that monster that lives in her stomach, she can set about to download her pictures.

In the meantime, I want to talk about what I think the left can learn from the Reason Rally and vice versa. This is really important because although movements like Occupy have struck a nerve with the public and have reintroduced morality into our public discourse (that’s what the “we are the 99%” mantra is all about), it suffers from something that the Reason Rally already has- established community organizations or just organization, period.

Organization is not a bad thing. Getting together and having a show is much easier to do when you plan and delegate. It’s also much harder for police to breakup. The people on the mall yesterday were every bit as committed as anyone who has attended an Occupy event. They are just as concerned with the erosion of our constitutional rights, just as concerned with the suffering of the poor and disenfranchised and just as committed to do something about it. But they choose to do it through the groups they have already established. They are humanist, secularist, rationalist, freethought, atheist and skeptic groups. They’ve been around for awhile but in just the past few years, they have seen an explosion of their ranks. Here are a few things that set them apart from the Occupy movement:

1.) They organize conferences. There are a number of freethought, skeptic and atheist conferences across the country. Some of these happen in colleges, like Skepticon, which is held each year in Missouri. But there are also a lot of freethought groups scattered all over the bible belt in places like Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and even Mississippi. Find a venue that won’t be raided by dudes in riot gear and invite some speakers. This last point is important. The kind of people who went to the Reason Rally are the kind you might have seen at early Occupy marches. They are ordinary, middle class and working class people and their kids. But what you won’t see at a Reason Rally event is batallions of storm troopers. I didn’t see a strong police presence at all at yesterday’s rally.

2.) They write books. Many of the invited speakers for yesterday’s rally in Washington have written very popular books that fall into the category of what I will call The New Enlightenment (shout out to Dan Barker who started a “Tell me what Enlightenment looks like, This is what Enlightenment looks like!”) Some of those books, like Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, are well known and popular. Others, like Dan Barker’s Godless is a *de-conversion* story, and we’ve all seen the power of personal testimonials at DailyKos. The important thing is that the these de-conversions broke new ground. It’s important that religious insiders write them because it comes from an authentic place and those insiders know how the “company” works. Other speakers like Michael Shermer, write on morality. It is important for your prospective audience to know what issues you are wrestling with so they can engage and dissent. And dissent is crucial to growing confidence in a movement. That’s how ideas grow and breakthroughs happen. Your audience shouldn’t be afraid to challenge you on your statements and that leads to something that I think the Reason Rally participants value most of all (I’ll get to that at the end).

3.) They use media in many forms to reach out to others outside the group. There are a number of podcasts and community television programs that are employed so that outsiders have a chance to interact and learn. One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed about New Enlightment leaders is that they’ve found their niches of specialization pretty easily and are developing their talents in that specialization. Richard Dawkins is like a guru. He is full of wonder at the breathtaking beauty of nature and he communicates that very well. His audiences listen with rapt attention to the way he articulates what they are experiencing about the world and themselves without the interference of dogma. Jerry DeWitt of Recovering from Religion is another talented speaker who encourages us to live fully in the present and be joyful about our own uniqueness and individuality. Other leaders inspire through humor or entertainment, like Tim Minchin or Eddie Izzard. I’d even put Dan Barker in this category because his Friendly Neighborhood Atheist song (please put this online, guys. It’s delightful), which was a homage to the very decent Fred Rogers, can take the heat out of possible conflict with gentle humor and musicality. Some leaders are very good on YouTube. That media suits their deftness with editing their stream of consciousness thoughts into brilliant arguments. I’m thinking Cristina Rad, AronRa, Thunderfoot and Evid3nc3. Still others like Hemant Mehta (The Friendly Atheist) who is involved with the Secular Student Alliance, Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist) and Matt Dillahunty (The Atheist Experience) engage the public through dialogue in a radio and TV format. You can call in and ask them anything. If you’re a feminist, check out The Godless Bitches with Beth Presswood and friends. Then there are watchdog groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation who work with lawyers and the law to make sure the rights of non-believers are respected. They defend people like Jessica Ahlquist, see to it that they don’t go it alone and know they have support and the law behind them. Or Sean Faircloth’s lobbying effort through the Secular Coalition of America. In short, there is something for everyone. You pick the level and method of your involvement and there will be a community out there for it.

4.) They learned from the experiences of other groups. Greta Christina, atheist activist, has a brilliant piece about what the non-believer community can learn from the LGBT community and the similarities are striking between the two groups. People like Greta are invaluable in pointing out how to avoid the pitfalls of the groups that went before you and where you might even speed up the process or avoid alienating your friends.

5.) Finally, and this is the most important part that I think is hardest to articulate, they have RIGOR. What is rigor? Well, from a labrat’s POV, rigor is a hard quality to achieve. It is discipline of the mind to learn to separate data from bias, experience from artifact and to be able to make conclusions that survive past the current set of observations. If your conclusions can’t be applied to new experiences, your method must be revised until they can. A method must have rigor or it’s a fucking useless piece of shit, excuse my French. That’s why sciencey types are always asking questions and poking holes in other people’s arguments. They’re not trying to be pains in the asses (unless they’re suckups who are trying to impress their bosses). They are looking for rigor. And you shouldn’t be insulted when they ask you to defend yourself. In fact, it’s kind of a challenge of equals. You show me your evidence, I’ll show you mine and we’ll do sort of mental fencing and see who wins. You should have the evidence, data and preliminary conclusions to back up what you are saying. It’s only when you don’t have that evidence, and then refuse to acknowledge that you need it, that the rationally minded individual starts to pigeon hole you as a nutter or ignorant or most of the time, just plain lazy.

When Fox News types accuse the Reason Rally audience as simply having faith of a different kind, those leaders can come back with, “not really, we just have rigor!“. That ought to send the Fundies scrambling for their dictionaries.

But a lot of the left is just as plain lazy and ignorant as those on the right. They’re just lazy about different things. The right goes on about God and faith and evolution and can just be tiresome after awhile. And on the left, the stupid non-rigorous posturing about GM food, vaccines, and homeopathic remedies gets really old as well. Yes, they may actually be good or bad for you but where is your rigor?

The left needs to be on its guard, but frequently isn’t, to people who will seek to exploit this lack of rigor for their own ends. We may all laugh at Michelle Bachmann’s crazy talk about the HPV vaccine causing brain damage but the left doesn’t blink an eye when some equally crazy person on the left makes the claim that bee colonies are being wiped out by GM corn. Whole websites have been known to eat that bit of “vacuous crap” without question. And it doesn’t need to be said at this point that if the left had been more rigorous in its selection process in 2008, it wouldn’t have been rolled by the Democratic party’s PR operatives into supporting the weakest candidate that moderate Republicans would find acceptable.

Failures like these hurt the left because when it starts to respond with emotion rather than reason, it can often fail to identify the real causes for alarm. It makes the left less effective advocates or adversaries because emotion and faith is easy to dismiss. In fact, there are just as many people on the left who haven’t got a clue what “critical thinking skills” are as there are on the right. It just a term that sounds good and smart. But from what I have seen of the left, there’s a lot of learning to do about what it means to think critically. It is vitally important that we learn to do so as quickly as possible because evidence and rigor are much more deadly than mere tribal beliefs when we seek to disarm our adversaries.

So, what I would advise Occupy to do is to start applying more rigor to its methods. It should not be afraid to challenge its own beliefs. It is a good thing to apply the scientific method. You know that there is widespread suffering. You know that people are being exploited, cheated, mislead. You want to do something about it. Doing something positive about negative things that are destroying your society is a very laudable goal. It will contribute to the overall happiness of society. But to do this, it is not simply enough to get angry and protest. You must also get smart. You need to put aside your prejudices, emotions and biases and apply a more rigorous method for developing your proposed solutions. Collect evidence, ask questions, recruit experts, solicit advice, analyze carefully, eliminate noise and concentrate on signal and test your conclusions. Accept challenges. I understand that some Occupy working groups are already doing this. The one that came out with the thorough, well researched response letter to the financial crisis is a case in point. But the ones that have to do with science and pharma are still mired in some very non-rigorous debate and pseudoscience that is not going to be helpful. It just looks stupid, from my perspective, and should get the same kind of treatment that Tim Minchin gave to Storm.

When I heard Minchin’s poem for the first time yesterday, I immediately thought of some people on the left I’ve met. What a waste. Without rigor, some of them do just come off looking like Dirty Fucking Hippies. They might be right but all their opponents see is incense, astrological charts and an easily lead mind that poses no threat to them. It is really important for the left to challenge the lazy thinking of some of its adherents and not be afraid to tell them when it’s utter crap. Policing your own will greatly enhance your reputation.

Ok, I’m off of my soapbox now. I do have to say that after the past couple of months, reviewing all of the material online and attending the Reason Rally yesterday, that I think the two major parties are engaging in poo-flinging and I don’t want any part in it anymore. I think I’m ready to finally give up the Democrats altogether, even though that’s where my sympathies are. The question is, are the Democratic party’s sympathies with its base? The overwhelming evidence of its actions over the past several election cycles is very clearly No. I’m ready for The New Enlightenment and where it’s going. That doesn’t mean I think Occupy is a waste of time. Far from it. I think Occupy has tremendous potential but only in that it needs to intersect with The New Enlightement and learn from it to make it an effective tool against growing authoritarianism. But there needs to be a new foundation laid upon which we base our worldview and the Reason Rally participates are actively engaging in doing it while the left is still struggling out of a fog. Greta Christina would probably recommend that we reach out to each group and form a coalition with each other. Let’s try that.

Here again is Tim Minchin’s poem Storm as he delivered it yesterday at The Reason Rally:

Reason Rally

More details: Brooke says that gender representation was about even in the crowd but she did notice that most of the speakers were men.

Some highlights: Tim Minchin, hilariously funny. I hope his segment goes up on YouTube. Brooke recorded it but there was an echo from the speakers in back of us so we don’t know how it will come out. Funniest bit: Minchin sang a song that consisted mostly of the word Motherf#%ker. He says it so many times, it just sounds like some rhythmic phoneme but the funniest thing was the cameraman cut away to the deaf translator who was trying desperately to keep up.

Update: we are back in Union Station, grabbing some pizza before we get on the bus.

I would definitely call this rally a huge success. We have a lot of pictures. My traveling companion took some video as well, which we hope to upload when we get home. There were something like 20,000+ people crammed into the end of the Mall near the Washington Monument. The rally had also put up several tents. One of them was for the many secular organizations that had a presence. The line to get into it was really long and the tent was packed inside. I got to meet Jerry DeWitt. Nice guy.

The highlight was Richard Dawkins. He speech was all about the first amendment and the preservation of the separation of church and state. He contrasted this constitutional guarantee in this country with his own. Great Britain does not have such a guarantee or even a constitution. His perspective made me think about how America was letting the rest of the world down. Excellent speech. I took it to heart.

My dining companion says I must stop blogging now. I’ll try to catch up on the bus.

Hi everyone,
We caught the bus at 5 am this morning. That means we were up at 3. My traveling companion took the seat next to the window, left me falling asleep and then jerking my head every two minutes. We rolled into Union Station at 9. The bus was full. After my traveling companion got a breakfast burrito, AND a drink, AND used the bathroom, we headed off to the Mall. Walking.

Should’ve taken the Metro. I’m hot and sweaty. Weather is holding up nicely. There’s a large crowd. The rally just started.

Will be posting off and on and maybe my photo stream will even work. A girl can dream.

20120324-103746.jpg
Come to the dark side…we have cookies.

How big will the Reason Rally be?

I just booked two tickets for the Reason Rally bus and tickets were going fast.  There were only a few spaces left on the bus.  This may be a bigger turnout than I anticipated.

If you are a secular American and you’re tired of our government bowing to the religious who throw bronze age rules and regulations in your face, consider attending.  Richard Dawkins is going to speak as well as Adam Savage from Mythbusters, Greta Christina and many others.  The purpose of the rally is to demonstrate our numbers and that we can be a formidable voting bloc.  This voting bloc wants reason to prevail in the way we run our government, make our laws, educate our children and maintain our privacy.  You do not have to be a non-believer to attend this rally.  All that is required is a desire to protect the separation of church and state.

The attack on reason is gathering steam.  In addition to the new regulations on abortion and contraception sweeping the nation, Tennessee has just passed a Monkey Bill which will mandate that science classrooms teach that evolution and climate change are controversial subjects.  While reasonable people can debate the degree to which human activity contributes to global warming, there is nothing “controversial” about the subject of evolution.  It happened and continues to happen. I see it in the sequences I download and proteins I study every day.  There is no better evidence.  The only thing that is controversial about it is scientists’ opinion on why the religious right refuses to believe an incontrovertible truth.  Some say it’s stupidity, while people like me say it’s indoctrination.  It’s a controversy.  Can we discuss that in Tennessee classrooms?

And for those of you who just can’t get enough politics, here is a very informative video of Sean Faircloth, author of Attack of the Theocrats on the strategy for secular success.

Unblessings

The non-believers are getting active, unlike some women’s groups we could name.  They’re putting up billboards and de-baptizing people and unblessing things.

The de-baptizing is all in good fun, unless you’re religious and you don’t find that kind of thing funny.

But the unblessing is kind of important.  That’s what a bunch of Polk County,  Florida atheists thought when they scrubbed a highway clean with “unholy water” after it was anointed by some Christians to keep the drug dealers and Satan away:

The “un-blessing” came about a year after Prayer Under Polk anointed the highway. The group’s leader says they’ve been blessing the county line to keep the bad guys away.

“(We’ve been) praying for that entryway in to the city, that God would protect us from evildoers, mainly the drug crowd, that they would be dissuaded to come in to the county,” group director Richard Geringswald tells the station.

The atheists, though, says all the holy oils and praying are just meant to make un-believers feel unwelcome.

“It sends a very bad signal to everyone in Polk County, and (anyone) who travels through Polk county who doesn’t happen to be Christian,” Palmer says.

This isn’t the first time Polk County has been the staging ground for a clash between the worshipful and the skeptics. Palmer’s group clashed last year with Geringswald after Prayer Under Polk buried “prayer bricks” promising that “the wicked shall be destroyed” all along I-4.

The Christians just won’t take a chill pill and relax.  No, they must mark their territory and enlist God to patrol it for them.

{sigh}

This land is you land, this land is my land…

Don’t forget, this Saturday is the Reason Rally on the Mall in Washington, DC.  The festivities start at 9:00am.  Richard Dawkins will be there as will a whole bunch of godless Americans.  If you are in that number or you just like the idea of preserving the separation of church and state, consider going and joining a growing movement of secular Americans.  They may not pray, but they sure do vote.

 

Pick a side, Digby

One more time, with feeling:

and

Back when the 2008 primary season started to heat up, DailyKos purged its Hillary Clinton supporters.  Oh, yes it did, you doubting Thomasinas.  You can’t believe that a “news site” like DailyKos would be involved in hurrying them off the site as quickly as it possibly could to make way for the Obama ads but it did.  And it wasn’t nice about it.  I was one of the first victims.  That’s why I’m here at this blog.  And to be honest, I never regretted it.  But as we were picked off, one by one, Hillary’s supporters got less of a voice in the left blogosphere.  Pretty soon, a Democratic party loyalist got the distinct impression that the entire party was converting to Barack Obama with all of the fervor of a religious reformation.  The jihad quickly spread to other blogs and the comment threads filled up with Obama zealots who were enthusiastic about killing the infidels.  Some of those Hillary supporters fled to this blog and a few others.  We weren’t welcome anywhere else.  And mind you, we’re only talking about February of 2008.  It happened quickly and thoroughly, almost as if someone had given marching orders for sites to be flooded with anti-Hillary rhetoric.

Digby held out for awhile but even she succumbed.  In the book, the Bloggers on the Bus by Eric Boehlert, Digby confesses that she was “chickenshit”, intimidated by her commenters and somewhat dependent on ad revenue.  Ok, fine.  We get it.  It took her by surprise four years ago.

But what is her excuse now for being a Doormat Democrat and not holding the party accountable for its rampant misogyny and sexism?  Believe me, I hate to be doing this, pointing out the party’s ugly history, but it isn’t doing enough to combat the crazy assholes on the right.  It is the Democratic party’s feet we need to hold to the fire, not the Republicans.  The Republicans wouldn’t have been able to get this far if the gates weren’t already down to let the barbarian horde in.  Where have the Democrats been for the past decade?

And what is Digby’s role in this?  I’ve got a problem with her co-writer, thereisnospoon.  Back in the Great Purge of DailyKos 2008, right in the middle of the Rec List Hostage Crisis, blogger Alegre, who was a well respected Hillary blogger on DailyKos, got fed up with the pressure to convert and decided to stage a “writer’s strike”.  It was symbolic, of course, but its purpose was to call attention to the way that Hillary voices were being marginalized and persecuted on the largest and most influential group blog.  Markos made fun of her.  (nice going, Markos.  How very impartial)

Alegre’s strike post got a lot of comments.  Let me just highlight one:

Don’t let the door hit you (39+ / 0-)
on the ass on your way out.

I have not been posting much or commenting much in the past months, but I have been reading almost everything.

You are propagating baseless, self-serving, inaccurate, and whiny meme’s on a regular basis.

You smear and deride with the worst of the lot, and you expect people to overlook your own behavior?

Spare us the drama.

Buh-bye.

The only way to ensure a free press is to own one

by RedDan on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 05:26:55 PM PDT

straight from the HRC blast faxes (4+ / 0-)
really sad, actually.

Head to Heading Left, BlogTalkRadio’s progressive radio site!

by thereisnospoon on Fri Mar 14, 2008 at 05:39:18 PM PDT

[ Parent ]

Oh, look!  It’s thereisnospoon, suggesting that Alegre was getting her marching orders from Hillary’s campaign.  We were very fortunate here on The Confluence to be invited to Clinton’s press briefings and got email updates but these were strictly informational.  No one ever asked us to do anything.  I kind of liked the low pressure tactics.  I never felt indoctrinated by Hillary’s campaign and I doubt that Alegre did either.  In fact, when it comes to the writer’s strike on DailyKos, Alegre got that idea from me.

This morning, Atrios pondered why it is that women are told that their issues are a distraction.  It’s always the wimmen.  Why is that?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because, it doesn’t really serve the purposes of the Democratic party or the Obama administration to rehash old history now, does it?  The last thing they want is an uncomfortable spotlight directed their way so that all the ugliness of four years ago is revealed in all of its glory. “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”  They would much prefer that the Republicans take the blame for all of the wretched mess that happened to women.

But Digby has to take a stand.  What is the role that thereisnospoon plays on her site? The Democrats are never going to do right by us if no one holds them accountable and forces them to act instead of sitting back and letting them bask in undeserved glory.  If you support the Democratic party, no matter what it does or *doesn’t* do, it will not do anything for you.  And the attack on women is so severe that to do nothing and say nothing on your behalf is a crime against your own sex.  That goes for NARAL, NOW, the Feminist Majority, Emily’s List and any other women’s advocacy group that has lost its brass ovaries in the past several decades. They are taking your contributions and giving them to Democratic organizations.  What are they demanding in return?  Why don’t we ask them? If they do not have the courage to stand up for women now, and hold the only party who pretends to care accountable for its actions, then we will continue down this spiral of fewer and fewer rights and less and less respect.

Make the Democrats answerable for all of the less than progressive candidates they are supporting this year.  Make them explain why they are supporting an independent male in Maine rather than a liberal woman.  Force Obama to vigorously defend you.

Women’s groups are not keeping up.  When Occupy is taking to the street, demanding economic equality and non-believers are organizing and demanding recognition as a influential voting bloc at the Reason Rally this coming weekend, women’s groups are timidly hiding behind the Democratic party, hoping it will protect them. They’re still trying to work with the system that screwed them over four years ago. Fuck that shit.  Organize a rally in DC, women.  Get your act together.  No one loves you more than you love yourself.  Let’s stick up for ourselves and make the Democrats court us as aggressively as they court the pro-illegal abortionist lobby.

Make a choice, Digby.  Get rid of your party mole or watch women’s rights get whittled away by the Democrats themselves as they pretend to protect them while doing nothing.  Now is the time, when they are telling us to shut up and sit down, to stand up and raise Hell.

Do I expect Digby to actually do this?  No, I expect that she’ll read this post and that she and her discussion group will laugh about it.  Her conscience will feel a twinge but she won’t act on it because she doesn’t want to alienate herself from the group.  Right, Digby?  And they care about women HOW, exactly?

And for those of you ladies who naively think that DailyKos is some innocuous Democratic news site, pay attention: DailyKos is a site that uses thought reform tactics to promote authoritarian Democratic party propaganda.  Whether it started off with this intention is debatable but there is very little doubt in my mind, after having seen it in action in the 2008 election season, that it was exploited by the political campaign operatives and that Markos put his thumb heavily on the scales for the Edwards campaign and then Obama’s campaign.  Alternative voices were purged.  Here are some posts I wrote a few months ago to warn people about the dangers of thought reform in the political blogosphere.

You’ve been Love Bombed

Phobias

Categories

Ok, I think we’re on to something here

Finally, those of you doubting Thomasina’s who are caught completely off guard about what is happening this year and can’t possibly believe that Hillary was done in by her own party, go back to the origins of this blog and read from the beginning.  We followed it very closely.  It is not a pretty story.  You will be disgusted.

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pantsuit

I’ve got a theory that the last thing Republicans want is for the Democrats to start advocating for women.  It suits them just fine that there are so many libertarian and conservative Blue Dog Democrats running for office.  It works in the Republicans’ favor that so many new Democratic candidates are center right.  The minute that the Democratic party starts to get energized and stops sitting on women, the non-religious and labor, the Republicans will be in trouble.  As long as the Democrats take no stand, the Republicans win.

Think about it.

Another reason…

… to go to the Reason Rally in Washington DC on March 24, 2012:

Blast from the Past:

Do any of you remember this Obama image from 2008?

When I first saw that I thought, I’ve seen that before somewhere.  It took me awhile but then it hit me.  My grandparents had a picture of something just like it next to their JFK shrine:

You might say that I’m the kind of person who sees the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast but I don’t think you have to stretch your imagination too far to see the resemblance here.  If a non-religious person who was a part time Catholic in her childhood can see it…

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