Archive for June, 2013

FreeOK coverage, Part 3

Posted: June 28, 2020 in Uncategorized

I should have a piece going up on the Parenting Beyond Belief workshop going up for very soon. I’ll link post it here after it becomes available, but I want to finish up my coverage of FreeOK first.

There were several organizations tabling at the conference, and I wanted to make sure they all get a mention because they paid quite a bit to be involved. The minimum cost for an organization to get a table was $1,000.

Besides to book tables for the authors and t-shirt tables for FreeOK merchandise, three organizations coughed up the dough to get to pass out their literature.

The first was the Oklahoma Atheists, an OKC metro-area organization that is one of the largest and most active freethought communities in the world. I’ll try to do an interview with their president, Red McCall in the near future to talk about what all they have going on. You can find out more about them on Meetup. You actually have to join, which is free, to get on their Meetup page. They also have a blog, twitter account and podcast, all of which are available without joining anything.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State had a table as well. The Oklahoma City chapter is the group that sponsored the Spring Dialogue I participated in recently. AU is a great organization that doesn’t care what your religious beliefs are, as long as you don’t want government getting involved in promoting or limiting your right to practice them. If you are ever in need of advice on how to deal with a separation of church and state issue, is the one-stop shop for getting help.

The final group to table was the American Humanist Association. Humanism is the ethical worldview that most atheist and agnostics embrace. It is one of a number of naturalistic ethical systems, but it is by far the most popular and well-articulated. Of the bunch, humanism definitely has the best logo.

Via Wikipedia

Humanism emphasizes human compassion and the use of democracy, rationality and science to solve our problems. It explicitly rejects appealing to the supernatural to solve the problems of the world. Often, but not always, humanists don’t believe in the existence of the supernatural at all. There are religious humanists, such as members of the Unitarian Univeralist faith and Ethical Culture, and there are secular humanists, who enact the philosophy through nonreligious methods. Both groups share the same basic principles, they just choose divergent ways of emphasizing them.

FreeOK coverage, Part 2

Posted: June 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

I want to start this post with a congratulations to all of my friends in California for the Prop. 8 decision, and to all of those in states that already have same-sex marriage legalized in their states who now also get the same federal privileges as heterosexual couples.

I linked yesterday to my recap of FreeOK, but I wanted to go into a little more detail today, and talk about interesting things I either didn’t have time for, or didn’t fit the tone and style of the article.

I wrote most extensively about Lawrence Krauss, Dale McGowan and Sean Faircloth, because theirs were the talks that I found most interesting and thought the readers needed to know about, but there were three other speakers as well.

Jamila Bey was someone I was looking forward to hearing from. She is a journalist and podcaster with an emphasis on the intersection of religion with race and gender issues. Unfortunately, I hit a bit of a double-whammy on getting to see her speak. There was a line to pick up my tickets, and I didn’t get in until after she’d already started. When I walked in, I was surprised to see her image projected up onto a large screen, and fairly garbled audio coming through the speakers. Unfortunately, Bey had a family emergency, and wasn’t able to make her flight. She was good enough to call in and give her talk over the phone, but it made it very hard to listen. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t listen to much of it, and what I stuck around for didn’t stay with me. Like most of the attendees, I spent most of Bey’s talk in the lobby meeting people and caffeinating for the day.

Faircloth more than made up for things in his talk, and I’ve written about it already.

The other two speakers I didn’t cover were Zack Kopplin and Seth Andrews. Kopplin is a college student who is continuing a fight in Louisiana against their pro-Creationist science standards, a battle be began in high school. Kopplin talked about his efforts and showed videos of Louisiana legislators making fools of themselves. He also talked about why it is important for the United States to have robust investment in scientific research.

Kopplin has made the news talk circuit, including a memorable stint on Real Time with Bill Maher and Bill Moyers’ show.

Kopplin has been working to show that private schools in Louisiana are teaching creationism while getting public money through vouchers.

Seth Andrews spent his entire talk trying to convince us that churches are using modern marketing to try to attract young people. He made a fairly convincing case, using images from the inside of heavily-funded child and youth centers. Andrews is a former Christian radio personality, and you can tell from his voice and the quality of his video productions. You can see his work over on The Thinking Atheist website. That’s also where the videos of FreeOK will be posted. I’ll be sure and link to them once they start going up.

FreeOK coverage, Part 1

Posted: June 26, 2020 in Uncategorized

I have a piece up for that is a good summary of the highlights of FreeOK, the freethought conference in downtown OKC that I attended last weekend. I’ll have more detailed stories on it coming up over the next few days.

In the mean time, click on it.

There have been a lot of breaking stories this week, including some updates to the Klein fiasco and a political announcement relevant to readers of this blog. I’ll try to get to those as well.

More Moore Morons

Posted: June 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

A while back I wrote about Pastor Brassfield and his unfounded claims that the secular community wasn’t helping out in the aftermath of the Moore tornado.

Brassfield was inundated with people letting him know that he was factually incorrect, and to his credit he apologized.

Brassfield at least had the excuse that he was a pastor, and not…say…a columnist for Time Magazine. Joe Klein’s cover story this week in Time Magazine mentions how there weren’t any secular humanist organizations working alongside church groups to help out in the aftermath of the tornadoes.

He offers it as a throwaway line in an article that isn’t even about religious relief efforts.

…funny how you don’t see organized groups of secular humanists giving out hot meals…

Print journalism is in its death throes, and Time Magazine will eventually go the way of Newsweek. If Klein’s ability to fact-check is any indication, we’ll all be better off for it. I ripped Brassfield for not bothering to use Google. Klein has even less of an excuse. He’s shown (again, btw) that he’s nothing but a hack. Time Magazine should publicly issue a retraction, and Klein should be reprimanded for his journalistic laziness. That his editor would let something like that go to print without bothering to check him on it is depressing.

Andrew W. Griffin over at the Red Dirt Report has a good piece up on the situation.

The only thing I’ll add is that this story has blown up online, with Reddit, blogs, and the Huffington Post all covering it extensively.

I know Kai Tancredi of the Red Dirt Report, one of the organizers of FreeOK (which I’ll be writing about for the rest of the week barring any other major blowups), and organizer of several secular relief efforts, has been in contact with Time and is scheduled to be interviewed by them.

Hopefully, they’ve seen that this is as big of a deal as it actually is. Klein was promoting a false and stereotypical viewpoint about one of the last minority groups of people it is culturally okay to openly discriminate against in a major national print publication. Sean Faircloth spoke about organizing the secular community for political action in the future. Things like this are just one of many reasons why that community probably does need to do so.

If you don’t think this is a big deal, imagine if a national print news publication like Time had said any of the following as a throwaway line in one of their articles.

…funny how you don’t see organized groups of Jews giving out hot meals…

…funny how you don’t see organized groups of black people giving out hot meals…

…funny how you don’t see organized groups of gay and lesbians giving out hot meals…

…funny how you don’t see organized groups of Muslims giving out hot meals…

…funny how you don’t see organized groups of women giving out hot meals…

I have an embarrassing admission to make. Until recently, I didn’t realize that the flowers colloquially referred to as the Indian Paintbrush and the Indian Blanket were two different things.

My only excuse is that neither grows particularly well in the very dry parts of western Oklahoma where I grew up.


When I first started seeing these flowers this spring as I traveled around central and eastern Oklahoma, I assumed they were the state wildflower, the Indian Blanket. I was mistaken. They are the Indian Paintbrush. According to Wikipedia, they are also known as Prairie-fire. That seems an appropriate name if seen from a distance.

The blanket and the paintbrush grow in similar areas, sometimes side-by-side. I haven’t had the opportunity to stop on the side of the road and take any pictures of them together, but here is a shot of a group of Indian Blankets.

I’d have covered this sooner, but it just popped up in my news feed.

Turns out that Restored Hope Network,  one of those pray away the gay organizations, is holding a conference at Cherokee Hills Baptist Church in NW OKC starting today.

Mind you, despite what you think about intercessory prayer, it is obvious to anyone who actually takes the time to look even half way objectively at the research that prayer doesn’t change someone’s homosexual feelings. In fact, Exodus International, the oldest and most famous pray away the gay organization just disbanded, and the leader went on Oprah to apologize for they way they’ve treated gay people and their family members.

Mind you, Restored Hope Network isn’t having any of this. In fact, the founder of RHN was one of the founding members of Exodus International.

These kinds of practices are documented to be harmful. In fact, I’d support a ban on all reparative therapy practices in Oklahoma. There is currently such a ban going through the courts in California. Oklahoma should follow suit.

If Cherokee Hills Baptist Church is doing this, there are inevitably some other offensive things going on there. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them.

I’ll be covering FreeOK, Oklahoma’s freethought conference, this Saturday at the Cox Convention Center in OKC, starting at 9:00 a.m.

For those wondering what freethought means, here is the definition given on the FreeOK event guide on their website.

freethought (frE ·THôt) n. - a philosophical viewpoint that holds opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism and not authority, tradition, or other dogmas. The cognitive application of freethought is known as “freethinking”, and practitioners of freethought are known as “freethinkers.”

The freethought community mostly consists of atheists, agnostics, secular humanists and other non-religious people.

The speaker lineup is pretty amazing. The keynote is Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and the author of numerous popular books, including The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe from Nothing. Those are probably his most popular titles, but I’m much more interested in his book on Richard Feynman, Quantum Man.

I’m a fan of Krauss. He regularly appears on Science Friday on NPR. I’m about to start reading A Universe from Nothing for various reasons including that it is the next non-fiction title in my book club, I’m working on a talk that is critical of some of Krauss’ statements on the merits of contemporary philosophy, and I’m interested in reading him.

Another prominent national figure that will be appearing is Jamila Bey. She is a journalist, radio host and blogger. She’s written for the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others.

I’m also very much looking forward to seeing what Dale McGowan has to say. McGowan recently authored Atheism for Dummies, which I’m actually planning on picking up after hearing an interview with the author recently. Dale is most famous for his books Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers. He’ll be covering those topics in his talk and in a four-hour workshop on Sunday. I plan on covering the workshop as well.