A Conference for Activists!

An exciting thing is happening this year, or at least with your help it will be. As Women in Secularism takes a sabbatical this year, a group of enterprising people and organizations are putting on a conference for activists. It is being funded in part with kickstarter. If you can, you should donate. It promises to be an exciting event and hopefully you will see me there.

“We are proud to introduce the Secular Women Work conference, a conference by and for activists. Do you want to build strong non-religious communities? Do you want to change our laws and our culture to be more accepting and accommodating of non-believers? Join us in Minneapolis in August 2015.

We live in a society in which unpaid work disproportionately falls to women. Unfortunately, this means that volunteer work, including activist work, is too often undervalued. We’re here to change that.

The Secular Women Work conference is a celebration of the work of female activists who create and run projects and communities in the secular movement. And there is no better way to honor their work than by using their expertise to help us all become better activists.

At Secular Women Work, you will find workshops: both hands-on exercises to develop your skills and facilitated group discussions where you can share challenges and solutions with other activists. You will find panels on specialist topics, with panelists who can help you broaden the horizons of your activism. And when you’re ready for a rest, you’ll find speakers who will entertain and inspire you with stories and lessons from their own work. In between it all, you’ll find a conference full of other activists who want to make a difference in the world.

All workshop leaders, all panelists, and all speakers will be experienced female or genderqueer activists with demonstrated accomplishments and skills to share. We are excited to announce that Lauren Lane, co-founder of Skepticon; Mandisa Thomas, president and founder of Black Nonbelievers, Inc., and Desiree Schell, labor activist and host of Science for the People will be appearing at Secular Women Work. We are working now to add more speakers, so keep your eye on this space for announcements.

The conference will be held in the historic Humphrey Conference Center on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank. The center is ADA compliant and situated on light rail.

So, come join us this August 21st through the 23rd for the Secular Women Work conference, and help support the women who work to make these communities happen! Make your pledge now to secure your ticket to the conference, or pledge to build a better movement by helping us make more, and more effective, activists.

See you there!

The Secular Women Work conference is a joint project of Minnesota Atheists; Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists; and Secular Woman.”

Priorities, CFI-Ottawa, and How the Atheist Movement Failed Me

The Centre for Inquiry is the third atheist group whose events I’ve attended, after the then-new Secular Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics for Reason, Knowledge, and Science (SHAARKS) in Miami and the Humanist Association of Ottawa.  I enjoyed both sets, because I urgently needed a space in my life where being an atheist was a given and not something I had to carefully guard on pain of losing friends.  One set I had to abandon when I graduated from the University of Miami and, promptly, left town; the other I set aside because it seemed geared to an older crowd and because my preternatural awkwardness kept me from feeling at home there.

The one that stuck, the one that made me want to come back and get involved and watch the Internet for their upcoming events and eat and drink with its members in pubs—that was the Centre for Inquiry.  It was the Centre for Inquiry that seemed to hit on that magic combination of activism, public events, and community that could and did engross me.  I put effort into this organization.  I wrote web site content and provided public presentations.  Ania put far more, aggressively promoting CFI-Ottawa’s biggest venture ever despite being effectively sabotaged by CFI-Canada’s then-executive director and known MRA Justin Trottier.  We sought sponsors, cultivated relationships with other organizations, promoted other events, attended protests, designed media, and handed out flyers at Gay Pride.

We stuck around through the protracted process of getting Justin Trottier removed from his management role in the national organization, and then his de facto replacement Michael Payton, both for what seemed to veer madly from sheer incompetence to active antipathy toward CFI-Ottawa and its events.  We stuck around through the growing pains of an organization still finding its voice and its priorities. Like so many other corners of the atheosphere, the Centre for Inquiry still had to decide whether it would be an inclusive and welcoming space for people marginalized elsewhere for reasons other than their atheism, or whether it would perpetuate the same inequalities and claim reason and science as their justification.  It looked, for all intents and purposes, to be an enthusiastic CFI-Ottawa executive body against a complacent membership and a complacent-at-best national organization, and that was a battle we could win.
That’s when I began noticing cracks.


Talking about Yesterday’s SCOTUS rulings

Last night, I had the privilege of being part of an on-air hangout with Ed Brayton of Dispatches from the Culture Wars to discuss recent US Supreme Court rulings, in particular Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.  This ruling came with a lot to unpack, a surprising amount of which was not overwhelmingly bad news for secularists and those interested in social equality for women.

It was a tremendously educational experience, as an interested party whose grounding in constitutional law and the inner workings of high-level American politics is weak, and I even got to add some perspective about how this mess would play out in Canada and the role of the Justices’ religions in their putative decision-making process.  There’s a truism about the benefits of not being the smartest person in the room, and that was massively brought home for me last night.
And now I get to share that with you all.

Hispanic, Atheist, American, Me

Women in Secularism 2 was an amazing event, and one whose various liveblogs I encourage people to read.  The talks and panels were fantastic, despite being bookended by obnoxiously wrongheaded attacks on the conference’s very premise.  Short review: would do again.  And not just because fellow attendees and bloggers Kate Donovan, Jason Thibeault, Miri Mogilevsky, PZ Myers, and Ashley Miller kept the atmosphere awesome throughout.

Some things that were said, in particular by CFI-Transnational Director for Outreach Debbie Goddard, got me thinking.  It’s no secret these days that organized atheism’s roots in predominantly white, male, well-educated circles has often made it tone-deaf to the different experiences, priorities, and demands of people outside those groups.  It’s also no secret that some of these “outsiders” have far more to gain from abandoning religion than Western atheism’s white, male, well-educated old guard ever did or hopefully ever will.

Which brings me to the Sarlaac pit of contradictions that is being a Hispanic-American atheist.

There. Now You Have a Country.

In case anyone has avoided the bevy of mentions on this site and elsewhere, CFI Ottawa’s end-of-the-world-themed conference, Eschaton 2012, was a few weekends ago, and it was AWESOME.  Recordings of the conference’s talks and panels should be up on AtheismTV in a short while, but for now I want to draw attention to the words of Eric MacDonald of Choice in DyingThe text of his presentation is available here and here.

Take a moment to read that.

Take a moment to read that in Eric MacDonald’s sonorous, quavering voice.