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.

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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.
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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.

When Religious Privilege Kills

One of the saddest articles I’ve read in a long time is this piece at Reveal News about the regulation exemptions for religious non-profits allowing them to run daycares with little to no supervision. This has led to maany horror stories of accidents and deaths of children that could have been prevented. This part of the article is quite revealing:

Religious advocates suggest parents need not worry about the lack of oversight because day cares are guided by a moral authority that eclipses any regulatory agency.

In other words, because they respond to a “higher authority” these institutions don’t need to be accountable to the state. We seriously need to end religious privilege in this country and treat religious institutions not as special snowflakes but as any other organization that is bounded by the earthly rules of government.

Racial Diversity and the Future of the Secular Movement in Free Inquiry

That’s the title of my new piece in Free Inquiry  [subscription requited] as part of a volume dedicated to discussing “How do we Sustain the Growth of Unbelief?

From the abstract: “Seculars of color are more numerous than ever, but movement groups may need to offer broader programming to attract them.”

My main argument, that on paper secular Americans look like a socially and racially progressive group that seems open to address the concerns of secular Americans of color. But while…

. . . [i]t is possible for the movement to address the needs of the growing secular population of color. The question is whether the movement is willing to make the necessary adjustments to become a major force in American society.

Most days I am positive that we have the ability of organizing a racially inclusive movement. However, it depends on acting on stated thoughts and opinions on matters of racial and social justice in polls and prioritizing these preferences in a way that they reflect not just the opinions of many members of the community at-large, but also as guiding values and principles for the movement.

Other articles were penned by Tom Flynn, Ryan Cragun, Barry Kosmin, Christel J. Manning, Jesse Max Smith, and Phil Zuckerman. That’s pretty good company.

Replace Scalia with an Immigrant Child

I sometimes think that in the minds of conservatives, the best constitutional scholars in this country are not in the Supreme Court, in the halls of our top universities, or in the offices of major legal institutions. The rhetoric about people coming to the United States and immediately gaming the system suggests that in the minds of anti-immigrant conservatives (a Venn diagram that becomes smaller each passing day) our most brilliant legal minds are those who risk life and family to come to undocumented into this country.

Now, a judge thinks that the brilliant legal minds coming to the country includes the thousands of children detained trying to cross the border. According to Judge Jack Weil based in Virginia, children as young as age 3 can be explained our immigration laws and can forgo legal representation.

I’ve taught immigration law literally to 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of patience … They get it. It’s not the most efficient, but it can be done.

Judge Jack Weil

I think that his logic opens wide open the pool of candidates to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. But in all seriousness, this is appalling. This is the same logic that condones charging children as adults. Children of color in this country are not allowed to be kids, they are dangerous minds from birth and not worthy of civil or human rights. And yet we ask why Donald Trump is so popular.