While black Churches are burning, and black children are being gunned down by police, I felt it important to speak with someone who is involved in raising awareness on the role of racism and cultural imperialism in American society. I am honored to present to you all, Sikivu Hutchinson.
As a woman of color, and an atheist, how do you respond to the invocation of God in the Charleston tragedy?
It frustrates me but the invocation of God in crisis is a significant part of African American cultural and social history. As I wrote recently in an article entitled “Pushing Back on ‘God’ in Charleston”: “Radical black humanists, most notably Frederick Douglass and A. Philip Randolph, have challenged black religiosity under slavery while acknowledging the crucial role activist churches played in black self-determination.
Randolph’s critique of organized religion and the god concept was always coupled with a critique of capital and the imperialist occupation of black bodies and African countries. Churches dominated black communities because of the nexus of racial apartheid and capitalism.”
Organized religion and God belief continue to dominate African American communities because of these legacies. That said, clearly no loving god would allow a twenty six year-old in the prime of his life to be cut down in cold blood, nor abide by a five year-old having to play dead to avoid being murdered. And no moral god would demand forgiveness for a crime for which there has never—since the first African was stolen, chained, exploited and “imported”—been any reparations. Continue reading “Feminism, Race, and Religion: An Interview with Sikivu Hutchinson by Kile Jones”
Does Islam need a reformation? The ever-controversial Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s new book Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now argues that it does. Do you agree with her? Or do you find problems with the way Ayaan Ali frames the discussion?
Social justice. Progressive politics. Improper media depictions. What exactly is the F-word (feminism) about?
I have always understood feminism as a project that casts a very wide net, the goals and values of which can keep quite a few people dry under the shade of its umbrella. But more and more, I see a narrowing of who can count as a feminist. There are a few reasons for this constriction. First, the more the F-word becomes a pejorative in contemporary society, the greater the need is to circle the bandwagons and set up camp. Second, when a particular group has elevated levels of in-fighting occurring, it makes sense to start psychologically splitting people into “feminist” and “not feminist.” Or, on a spectrum, “strong feminist” vs. “weak feminist.” Third, there is a pragmatic need for groups to find an optimal tension with society. When social groups are too counter-cultural or revolutionary, they get branded extremist and fanatical, but when they are wishy-washy and lukewarm, they become another extension of the status quo and lose their prophetic fire.
As an atheist, I see all of this occurring in non-believing circles as well. And I’m not really sure how to navigate it. There is also no shortage of men in this social group–from Dawkins to Boghossian–who think of feminism in the negative. All of this has to do with what they think the F-word amounts to. Continue reading “What is the F-word Anyway? by Kile Jones”
A few days ago I had the pleasure of giving a talk at the Secular Student Alliance Conference on how non-believing persons can work with Churches. Amidst the chaos of conferences–managing your time, deciding which talks to attend, and making sure you have enough water (it was a Burning Ring of Fire outside in Tempe, AZ)–I got to meet some pretty incredible secular women.
One of them was Heina Dadabhoy.
Former Muslim, blogger at Freethought Blogs, and overall bad-ass, Heina spoke about ways in which secular groups can create a more welcoming environment for ex-Muslims and Muslims beginning to doubt. Her talk, “Of Murtids and Muslims,” (a “murtid” is a public apostate) was not only about her experiences coming out as a secular humanist, but considered some of the absurd questions people ask her (and other ex-Muslims) about leaving Islam. “So did your parents try to honor kill you?” “Have you gone through FGM?” It was disturbingly humorous.
What I considered to be Heina’s main point, was that we should respect each others’ individual differences and not generalize and caricature all Muslims with the depictions of some. “Just because you read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book,” Heina notes, “does not make you an expert on Islam.” Heina made sure to emphasize the radical diversity that exists in Islam. She also spoke of the some of the issues that people go through when they leave Islam: How do I create a new identity when my old one was intricately tied up in my Muslim community, family, and culture? How do I navigate popular culture when I have missed a bunch of it? How do I find myself in this new secular world? Heina’s answers were refreshingly honest and insightful.
P.S. Aisha (one of Muhammed’s wives) should not simply be reduced to the young person Muhammed married; she was also a war leader, influential Muslim thinker, and someone who contributed greatly to early Islam. This is, of course, Heina’s insight.
Another awesome secular woman I met, was Sarah Morehead.
Sarah is a former evangelical Southern Baptist, Executive Director of the “Recovering From Religion” project, and another overall bad-ass. She spoke on how to start up a Recovering From Religion group on your campus. Here is a blurb about Recovering From Religion,
“If you are one of the many people who have determined that religion no longer has a place in their life, but are still dealing with the after-effects in some way or another, Recovering From Religion (RR) may be just the right spot for you. Many people come to a point that they no longer accept the supernatural explanations for the world around them, or they realize just how much conflict religious belief creates. It can be difficult to leave religion because family and culture put so much pressure on us to stay and pretend to believe the unbelievable. If this is you, we want to help you find your way out. Don’t let people convince you that you just didn’t have ‘enough’ faith, or that you just haven’t found the “right” religion.”
Sarah and I chatted (and often laughed) about our old experiences as conservative Christians. We discussed some of the funny language (Christian-eze) we used to use, the various levels of guilt and shame that were cast upon us, and how science helps explain some of the interesting displays of piety often seen at Pentecostal services. Sarah’s jovial and welcoming demeanor was calming, and as an Executive Director for a project aimed at helping people “recover” from religion, I cannot think of a better person for the job.
The last woman I have in mind is Lyz Liddell.
Lyz is the Director of Campus Organizing for the Secular Student Alliance. I have an interview I did with her a while back, on this very blog! Besides running around with her headset on, standing on chairs for announcements, and generally keeping the world of SSA from not crumbling into oblivion, Lyz is a great motivation and example. If you are ever interested in starting a SSA group on your campus, talk to her.
To all those who attended this years SSA West, or who are involved with helping secular students: Unite!
Kile Jones holds a Bachelors of Theology (B.Th.) from Faith Seminary, a Masters of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) and a Masters of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) from Boston University, and is a current Ph.D. in Religion student at Claremont Lincoln University. He also holds a Certificate in Science and Religion from the Boston Theological Institute. Mr. Jones has been published in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, Philosophy Now, Free Inquiry, World Futures, Human Affairs, and the Secular Web. He is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Claremont Journal of Religion (www.claremontjournal.com), and is the Founder/Director of Interview an Atheist at Church Day (interviewatheists.wordpress.com).
In this post I interview Lyz Liddell, Director of Campus Organizing at the Secular Student Alliance. I first got in contact with Lyz about the idea of building a Humanist Center at my school, Claremont Lincoln University. She was very helpful and inspiring. I then had the pleasure of meeting her face-to-face when I gave a presentation on “Atheism and Interfaith” at the Secular Student Alliance’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas. So once again, I give you an interview with a strong female non-believer:
Can you give us a little background to how you became interested in secular activism and how you became the Director of Campus Organizing for the Secular Student Alliance?
I first became interested in secular activism via our Executive Director August Brunsman, close to ten years ago. The editor of our newsletter had recently acquired some fame (that was Hemant Mehta, with the fame from his experience of selling his soul on eBay) and was no longer able to commit to the regular editorial schedule; I was asked to step up, and since I had some editing experience, I took it on. Up until that point, I had been a “layman,” if you will – secular for sure, but not really an activist. Through several years of editing that newsletter, I learned what secular student groups were doing, and what was happening in the secular movement at large. The more I encountered, the more enthusiastic about it I was. I started going to conferences to get more information and news for the newsletter, and got more involved with the organization’s staff and volunteers and affiliates. When the campus organizer position opened up in late 2008, I stepped up into that position, and we’ve grown it from there (2 full time staff and some volunteers, a board of mostly college students) to the professional organization we are today (9 full time staff, 4 part-timers, a professionalized board and dozens of dedicated volunteers; we’ve grown from ~100 affiliates in 2008 to over 400 today).
As some of you may know, I run a project called “Interview an Atheist at Church Day.” This project aims at bettering understanding and furthering dialogue between atheists and Church-going religious persons. So far we have had over a dozen interviews take place, and we have more in the making. If you are a pastor interested in interviewing an atheist during service, or an atheist willing to be interviewed, please contact us here.
Our most popular interview so far is with Neil Carter (atheist) at a church in Mississippi. You can read up on it here and watch it below. At Feminism and Religion, I have made it my task to highlight some strong atheist women, and discuss some of the ways in which they can work together with religious women (sometimes this can cause a little friction). Gretta Vosper, a pastor in Canada, is just such a woman. She was interviewed as an atheist IN HER OWN CHURCH! If you are not familiar with her work, I highly recommend it. Another strong atheist woman who has participated in this project is Sarah Kaiser. She works with the Center for Inquiry promoting LGBTQ rights. Continue reading “Interview an Atheist at Church Day by Kile Jones”
Part of my research is focused on how the social sciences relate to “religion” and religious studies. More specifically, I spend time examining the sociology of religion. I look at stats, demographics, and polls. I look at rates of attendance, frequency of prayer, levels of “religiosity,” apostates (or the less religiously-loaded term “exiters”), and political outlooks. I also look at how bias this area of study is in favor of religion. One facet of this work that has always interested me, is the differences in “gender” and “sex” as they relate to religious beliefs and observances. Accepting the fact that there are spectrums of sex, gender, and identity, and the presence of difficult philosophical questions surrounding self-identification and the limits of labels, some really interesting facts and statistics crop up time and time again. In what follows I will lay out a couple of these interesting facts, along with some thoughts on them: Continue reading “5 Interesting Facts about Women and Religion by Kile Jones”
So far, as a regular contributor to Feminism and Religion, I have interviewed a “pro-science” woman and one who started an online community for grieving unbelievers. In this post, I will interview Amanda Brown, an atheist activist who co-founded a project called We Are Atheism. Amanda grew up in Independence, MO, in the Assemblies of God and the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since then, she has been involved in helping atheists “come out” and share their experiences. So without further ado, here is the interview:
Why did you start “We Are Atheism”?
I started We Are Atheism because I saw a gap in the age of atheists coming out of the closet. I also wanted a way for people to see for themselves that atheists are real people. We Are Atheism is focused on the fact that atheists are mothers, fathers, teachers, brothers, friends, and so much more. When I was at the 2011 Secular Student Alliance Conference in Columbus, OH, I heard most of the leaders tell stories about their groups and how many of them didn’t know other atheists. I thought this was horrible, and being a person who was in the same position, I wanted to start something that would bring our community together. Those who met on the internet could take their community from online to the neighborhood. Continue reading ““We Are Atheism” and Amanda Brown by Kile Jones”
In any “liberal democracy” that has constitutional protections for “free speech,” there will also be laws against “inciting violence,” “hate speech,” “threats,” “slander,” “libel,” “harassment,” and other “speech codes.” This is because the government, or those who voted on the passing of such laws, worry about the potential threat un-regulated speech will have on the levels of violence and disharmony in society. They worry about people being able to yell “fire!” in a theatre, which can cause (which is a key word here for legal reasons) physical harm, not being held liable for such speech. As much as I understand these worries, I am of the opinion that the potential evils brought about by a lassez-faire approach to speech morally outweigh the evils of blasphemy laws and censorship. Continue reading ““Free-Speech or Speech-Free?” by Kile Jones”
As most of us are aware by now, there is a “feminist-sextremist” group from Ukraine called “Femen.” This group has been very controversial by their public demonstrations of nudity, the words they paint on their bodies, and their explicit condemnations of political structures and organized religions. They were started by Anna Hutsol in 2008 and have now spread throughout Europe and the Middle East. The question I pose for this post is: Does Femen harness or hinder the power of the feminist critique?
Femen is precisely the kind of movement that pushes us in our understanding of feminism, the means by which it is best expressed, and the issues surrounding moral condemnation and religious sensitivity. Continue reading “(Femen)ism? by Kile Jones”
In my last post, “A Pro-Science, Skeptical Woman Speaks” I interviewed a woman with whom I share many views in common. One of my goals here at Feminism and Religion is to introduce different secular, atheistic, liberal feminists who share many of the same ethical views as regular contributors and readers, but not the same “religious” or “spiritual” ideas. In this post I examine an online support network for unbelievers, Grief Beyond Belief, and ask a few questions to its founder, Rebecca Hensler.
I met Rebecca in February in San Francisco while on a visit I made to meet with the Unitarian Universalist Association in regards to my ordination. My girlfriend and I met Rebecca in North Beach, San Francisco for dinner and drinks. I experienced her as a compassionate, friendly, and genuine person. Her experiences and insights inspired me to think more about the role of grief and pain among unbelievers. I mean, atheists cry, agnostics experience loss, skeptics lose family members, and we do it all without a “God” or “spirit” to help us. And if we were to meet C.S. Lewis, we would make
sure to exclaim, “No…pain is not some megaphone for God to rouse a deaf world.”
Why did you start Grief Beyond Belief?
The original idea was born of my own grief. After my son died, I found a group in which to share comfort and compassion with other grieving parents: The Compassionate Friends, a mainstream parental grief support organization with a strong online presence. It was so close to exactly what I needed, but I frequently felt alienated by the religious and spiritual content — not just the offers of comfort that depended on beliefs I do not hold, but the assumption that everyone there held some sort of belief in life after death. And the assumption, so common in mainstream grief support, that even if I am not the same religion as you are, I have a religion, and I believe in some sort of afterlife was equally alienating and hurtful. Continue reading “Grief Beyond Belief and Rebecca Hensler by Kile Jones”
In my last post, “Feminism and Religion: Where Do I stand?” I talked about how I support an atheistic, secular, and liberal feminism that criticizes organized religion and certain religious beliefs. After reading the comments and responding to them, I figured that having a brief interview with a woman who holds these sorts of views would be a good way to introduce them to this blog. I met Anondah Saide at a course at Claremont Graduate University titled, “Evolution, Economics, and the Brain,” taught by the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society and Founding Publisher of Skeptic Magazine, Dr. Michael Shermer. Anondah was the TA for the course, and I found her comments in class to promote science, reason, and skepticism towards religious and spiritual claims of all kinds. So without further ado, here is the interview: Continue reading “A Pro-Science, Skeptical Woman Speaks by Kile Jones”
Having recently become a “regular contributor” to this blog, I feel that my first post should be about how I situate myself and my beliefs in this environment. One of the first things I noticed about this blog, is that is has many Catholic, liberal Protestant, and pagan/nature religion/Goddess-followers who contribute (a journal I edit has an excellent article on Thealogy and worship of the Goddess). There are also a few Buddhist, Mormon, and New-Age contributors. In this eclectic mix, I stick out quite a bit. Not only am I a primarily white (my Abuelita was born in Chihuahua) heterosexual man, but I am also a secular humanist and an atheist. In an earlier post I wrote a piece titled “Reformer, Revolutionary, and Rationalist: Three Types of Feminism,” in which I find myself at home with the cultural critiques of the revolutionary and the logical critiques of the rationalist. As somebody who will be contributing my voice, here is where I am situated. Continue reading “Feminism and Religion: Where Do I Stand? by Kile Jones”
Once again, recent events have me thinking of the ethical paradigms people utilize to comprehend and explain violent acts against women. These violent acts galvanize our moral compasses and beg for answers to our most fundamental moral questions. Do cultural relativism, pragmatism, divine command theory, utilitarianism, quasi-realism, virtue ethics, or moral realism better map on to the sentiments that arise in us when faced with misogynistic violence? Can we honestly say that an act is morally wrong when it is tangled up in the cultural and political characteristics of a certain country or group? Or can we justify, in the manner of moral realism, that certain acts are inherently wrong no matter what the context or culture? As you can tell, my ethical plate is full.
The first event that had me thinking of issues is the shooting of Malala Yousafzai. Malala, who I think should have won “Time Person of the Year” instead of President Obama, was gunned down on her school bus by members of the Taliban for being, amongst other threats, the “symbol of the infidels.” Malala survived a shot to her head and neck, and has since received innumerable awards and honors for her efforts to promote women’s education. Recently, 5 female school teachers were shot and killed by Islamic militants in the same province where Malala was shot. These teachers are thought to have been killed for their work fighting polio, since some Muslim extremists in that area think polio vaccines are a Western way of sterilizing Muslim children. Continue reading “Morals, Malala, and Mapping by Kile B. Jones”
In a recent unanimous and precedent-setting Supreme Court ruling, a “ministerial exception” was given to Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School regarding employment discrimination. Cheryl Perich, a “called teacher” at Hosanna-Tabor, was fired after issues surrounding her narcolepsy developed. As is well known in the United States, innumerable federal, state, and local laws exist to protect employees from discrimination based on race, sex, age, disability, and so forth. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. In the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA, signed in 1990), employers are also held liable for discrimination based on an employees’ disability. The “ministerial exception” excludes religious institutions and ministers from the ADA. It is important to note that the ADA protects employees hired by private companies as well as public ones.
In the slip opinion, the Supreme Court argues that, “The Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment bar suits brought on behalf of ministers against their churches, claiming termination in violation of employment discrimination laws.” The opinion sites other cases where it was ruled that religious institutions are their own arbiters of employment and termination and cannot be compelled by the State to comply with certain national laws (see Watson v. Jones, Kedroff v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral of Russian Orthodox Church in North America, and Serbian Eastern Orthodox Diocese for United States and Canada v. Milivojevich). Justice Alito concurs by saying, “The “ministerial” exception gives concrete protection to the free “expression and dissemination of any religious doctrine.” The Constitution leaves it to the collective conscience of each religious group to determine for itself who is qualified to serve as a teacher or messenger of its faith.” Continue reading “Do We Need More “Ministerial Exceptions”? by Kile B. Jones”
What do Martin Luther and Mary Daly have in common? They both realized that they could not reform the Roman Catholic Church from “the inside-out.” They came to believe that some institutions, even those dear to the heart, are not worth saving. One of the most significant differences between Luther and Daly—aside from the obvious differences in time, culture, race, class, and sex—is that Luther’s faith in God remained intact whereas Daly’s did not. Mary Daly, due to her positions on Catholic thought, came to represent what is now referred to as Post-Christian Feminism (or Post-Religious Feminism). Post-Christian feminism, as seen in the writings of Mary Daly, Daphne Hampson, and Sarah Sentilles (each with differing takes), argues that there are certain incompatible values between Christianity and feminism, and as a result of this, Christian feminists ought to consider how to respond to this incompatibility. As Rita M. Gross states in Feminism and Religion, “The most difficult question facing a feminist who discovers her traditional religion to be patriarchal and sexist is what to do next” (107).