What I’m Listening

Busy week, little time to listen podcasts but got a few gems to share.

The Benito Juárez Experience 17 TBJE 2.0 Luciano and I reboot the show after 16 episodes. We discuss what we liked, what we want to change, and the changes that are coming to the show in the near future.

Understanding Latin American Politics: The Podcast 38 The Russia-Cuba Connection Been reading a lot about several of these topics recently. Good timing, good podcast subject by UNC-Charlotte Prof. Greg Weeks who interview Prof. Mervyn Bain from Univ. of Aberdeen.

La Voz del Centro 754 La toma de Jayuya en la Revolución de 1950 Since nationalism seems to be a trendy subject these days, listen [en español] about the 1950 Nationalist Revolt in Puerto Rico.

Who Thinks Atheists are Immoral?

Other atheists. That's according to a new study co-authored by psychologist Will Gervais. Says Gervais:

I suspect that this stems from the prevalence of deeply entrenched pro-religious norms. Even in places that are currently quite overtly secular, people still seem to intuitively hold on to the believe that religion is a moral safeguard.

-Will Gervais, PhD

The scope of the study was international and according to the write up in The Guardian "Only in Finland and New Zealand … did the experiment not yield conclusive evidence of anti-atheist prejudice…"

From an American perspective this finding doesn't surprise me. I've met plenty of atheists who sort of believe that most religious leaders are closet atheists conning people out of their money. That kind of thinking reached fever pitch this year when Michael Shermer gloated about [white] evangelicals getting duped by immoral atheist Trump (I write why I think he's wrong here).

Some other circumstantial evidence comes from PRRI's 2013 American Values Survey. They found that the nones reported a score of 77 (out of 100) in a cold-warm scale. But that number dropped to 71 for atheists. Sample size limitations don't allow for an analysis of Atheists' responses.

Read the full Gervais et al. study at Nature Human Behavior.

Democrats Still Fighting the Last Election

In his latest post at Sin/God Luciano argues that "Democrats Need To Stop Considering Backing Anti-Choice Politicians." He's right on so many levels and here's a sample:

The Democratic Party would strengthen itself if it reaffirmed a commitment to women’s rights and it would embolden many of its supporters who like me felt and feel incredibly disappointed by some within the Party reportedly considering this cowardly move.

Luciano González, Sin/God "Democrats Need to Stop Considering Backing Anti-Choice Politicians"

I agree that the Democratic Party needs to embrace reproductive rights more strongly. The vast majority of women holding legislative office, and virtually all women of color in Congress and state legislatures, are Democrats. The majority of women, thanks to the overwhelming support of women of color, voted for Hillary Clinton.

And yet, the Party as an institution is still trying to win elections by attracting the voters they don't have -and likely won't have ever again: religious conservatives. Those working and not-so-working class whites that once were the core of the Party before women joined the labor force en masse and people of color asserted their rights to equal citizenship. The ones who fell for Nixon and his Southern Strategy hook, sink, and liner. The ones who enthusiastically supported the Mediocrity in Chief.

Instead, Party leaders should focus on not diminishing the enthusiasm and activism that the Trump presidency has awakened. Rather than trying to replay the last election, they should focus in winning the next one. There's a constituency out there who will support a Party with principles. Just stop trying to be a nicer version of the other party because a Republican-lite Party is one that still throws the core of the Democratic Party under the proverbial bus. And that's no way to win an election.

What I’m Reading

The Lost Cause Rides Again (Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic) A must-read about HBO's ill-conceived "Confederate" show proposal.

Progress Never Just Happens— We Must Always Fight For It (Sara Pevar, The Establishment) A good reminder that all the progress that we have achieved wasn't the result of some magical decision by people to finally stop being jerks. It happens because some people cared and fought for it.

Democracy is dying – and it’s startling how few people are worried (Paul Mason, The Guardian) All over the planet, illiberalism is growing…and people don't seem to care.

The Rise of Dystopian Fiction: From Soviet Dissidents to 70's Paranoia to Murakami (Yvonne Shiau, Electric Literature) The early pioneers of dystopian futures didn't need much imagination.

What I’m Reading…

Can we just stop fantasizing about the South winning the Civil War? (Sean O'Neal The A.V.Club)A new alternate-reality show wonders what would have happened if the South had won the Civil War. If black people need to get over slavery, shouldn't white people get over the Civil War (or the Nazis, for what is worth).

Democrats Are Trying to Win the 2018 Midterms in All the Wrong Ways (Steve Phillips The Nation) White working class obsession among Democratic Party leaders has not reached its peak yet. Phillips shows why they are wrong about the strategy to bring back WWC voters, when they need to make sure the working class voters they do have (and who are not white) don't stay home come election time.

We Are Living in the Coen Brothers’ Darkest Comedy (Jeet Heer The New Republic) If you haven't seen the Coen Bros brilliant "Burn After Reading" you should. They may be suing the Trumps soon over copyright issues.

You Keep Using That Word… (Sincere Kirabo The Humanist) A very meta piece in which he reviews James Croft's review of Anthony Pinn's latest book. All are an excellent read about how humanism can become the greatest force of good in American politics. My words, not theirs.

The Benito Juárez Experience #15 (America Last)

This week Luciano discusses how the world view’s America in the Trump era looking at a recent Pew Global poll conducted around the G20 meeting where Trump ranks last among the 4 main leaders of the G20 (China, Germany, Russia) in terms of confidence. Juhem analyzes some of the global public opinion while also finding time to discuss global First Ladies.
Download this episode (right click and save)

Related Links

U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership (Pew Global Attitudes & Trends)

Tracking U.S. favorability and confidence in the U.S. president, 2002 to 2017 (Interactive Chart by Pew Global)

First Lady Incidents

Poland (Vanity Fair)

Japan (The Hill)

USA (Boston Globe)

Thanks to “Leaders” Like Michael Shermer…

…the Religious Right runs circles (politically) around secular Americans.

In a new piece in Politico Magazine, skeptic Michael Shermer shows that his skepticism is limited to religion and pseudoscience. In other aspects of life, such as politics, he delves into conspiracy theory. Basically, Shermer thinks evangelicals are getting conned by Trump (they are, but not because of the reasons he thinkss).

Trump was elected president despite being the least religious major candidate in the 2016 field. Looked at this way, Trump isn’t the evangelicals’ savior. He’s just another data point in America’s long march away from religion.

Of course, this assumes that evangelicals voted for Trump because he was one of their own. They voted for him because he is:

  1. A Republican. As Pew shows, white evangelicals have been a core constituency of the GOP for a long time. They just voted for the candidate representing the party they prefer (and against the candidate they totally hate).
  2. A racist. A recent analysis of the American National Election Study by Prof. Thomas Wood who found that:

Since 1988, we’ve never seen such a clear correspondence between vote choice and racial perceptions. The biggest movement was among those who voted for the Democrat, who were far less likely to agree with attitudes coded as more racially biased.

Nineteen eighty eight was the year of the infamous “Willie Horton” and “Revolving Door” ads. The GOP had not been as explicitly racist in its appeals for nearly two decades. But the Obama presidency and Latinx and Asian-American presence have reignited a nativist streak in the GOP not seen since the 1924 immigration quotas law.

His use of the phrase “evangelicals” is telling. Shermer, who is not a very sensitive fellow on issues of race, doesn’t call Trump’s religious base for what it is: white and evangelical. The vast majority of blacks are evangelical, and they didn’t vote for Trump. The polling firm Latino Decisions found in its election eve poll that 60 percent of “born again” Latinx (Latinx evangélicos) voted for Clinton. These data show that Trump’s appeal to “evangelicals” was mostly limited to white ones.

Aside from pushing the “Trump is a closeted secular” conspiracy, Shermer sounds naive in his approach to politics and totally ignorant of American history. He’s politically naive as he ignores the reasons for why the Religious Right is so powerful.

The Religious Right emerged as a force in American politics not because it was pandered to, but because it made it an effort to get politicians to pay attention to them. Or by becoming politicians themselves. Shermer expects that because there’s a large number of secular Americans now, politicians will automatically seek our votes. They won’t, as I have explained before.

Amazingly, for a man who rails against identity politics, he seems fine with claiming victory for secularism because the President is not that religious (according to Shermer). Cheerleading the victory of a megalomaniac, sexist, racist con man is fine as long as it can serve as a f-u to religious American voters. Thankfully, not all of us have such low standards in our identity politics.

Contribute to YHC’s Green Light Project

The Yale Humanist Community is one of my favorite groups for various reasons: (1) it is very active in the state that I called home for more than a decade, (2) it is led by the amazing Chris Stedman, and (3) I’m part of their advisory board. They find new ways of promoting humanism and making people skeptical of our philosophy realize you can be good without believing in a god. One of their current projects is the Green Light Project. I’ll let Chris explain it, from his recent piece in TheHumanist.com:

After more than a year of planning and meeting with community partners, YHC has launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund an interactive, nonreligious sculpture that will go up alongside the religious symbols and serve as a reminder that, even during the coldest and darkest months of the year, human beings can come together to create light and warmth.

By doing this, we have a chance to model that nonreligious communities can stand alongside our religious neighbors in peace. But we also have a chance to model humanist values—to exemplify a universal, inclusive humanism that can speak not only to the growing number of nonreligious Americans but also to the shared values of our religious neighbors.

Chris D. Stedman, TheHumanist.com

Go and support this project and if you contribute today you’ll be able to double your donation!

Secular History at Sin/God Blog

Luciano Gonzalez is exploring secular history and major figures in the secular movement. He starts with George Holyoake:

This post is meant to mark the beginning of a series I want to do talking about figures who have relevance to the history of irreligion. One of the first figures I’d like to talk about is George Holyoake. This guy was and is someone who has real significance to global secularism, partially because he coined the term “secular”. I’m sure that at least some English atheists, secularists, and otherwise irreligious people are familiar with him but I know that many free-thinkers from other parts of the world aren’t as aware of him and the work he did.

Luciano Gonzalez Sin/God

I learned about Holyoake when I was working at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture and I encourage Luciano to continue his unearthing of secular history. It is something I’ve been interested in for a while and served as the start of my first talk about diversity in the secular movement last year at the CFI Leadership Conference. Some books that have been helpful in my search are Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers and her fascinating biography of Robert Green Ingersoll The Great Agnostic, and John Farrell’s biography of Clarence Darrow.

Personally, I’m also interested in Hispanic/Latino/Latin American secularism which is why I am very interested in the history of the Spanish Civil war and the Cristero War in Mexico. About the latter there are two movies: an excellent La Guerra Santa (1979) a censored movie that my amazing in-laws tracked and found for me in Mexico a few years back but that you can watch in Youtube now. The second is the pathetic pro-Catholic propaganda film For Greater Glory. I also have in my to-read queue El Epistolario de Benito Juárez (the letters of Benito Juarez) to better understand his thinking on Churc-State separation. Finally, I have started re-reading a favorite author from my (Catholic) high school days Nemesio R. Canales, a Puerto Rican freethinker, lawyer, satirist, and politician.