The Humanist Hour
Summary: A typical episode of the HH podcast features interviews, commentary, news, and music. Notable guests have included Sir Salman Rushdie, Prof. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, E.O. Wilson, Alan Dershowitz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Andy Rooney, Greg Graffin of Bad Religion, Holly Near, Dar Williams and Julia Sweeney. The HH podcast is hosted and produced by Bo Bennett, PhD, from the American Humanist Association.
We act sometimes as though we think women are new to the freethought movement, to atheist and humanist leadership. We're not. We've been here all along, and we've never gone away. Our history has just sat in boxes, disregarded where it hasn't been thrown away altogether. Our stories have gone untold. This week's guest, Vickie Stangl, did something about that. In her book, Etta Semple: Kansas Freethinker and "Ideal" Woman, she took that history out of the archives and made it live. Etta Semple was the founder of the Kansas Freethought Association and a leader of both that organization and the American Secular Union. She started the Freethought Idea newspaper to challenge the ideas of a nation and managed to do it so successfully that she received death threats and a probable attempt on her life. Semple is far too interesting to be lost to history. This week, Vickie Stangl joins Peggy Knudtson to talk about the book and about what we need to know to protect Semple's legacy.
The Humanists of Houston are American Humanist Association's largest local chapter and they're on pace to become the largest secular movement Meetup group very shortly. They've achieved that growth largely through reaching out to groups that we don't often see at humanist meetings, through executing strategies that some people try to tell us will drive people away. This week, Vic Wang, president of Humanists of Houston, and Benita Malone, volunteer coordinator, join the Humanist Hour to talk about embracing diversity and social justice, making meetings and volunteer opportunities welcoming to younger members, implementing a code of conduct, and adopting a transparency that's radical for local groups.
We tend to think of the process of converting from one religion to another as a religious experience, but how much of that reflects the outlook of the people who usually talk about conversion? When author Susan Jacoby set out to explore conversion from the perspective of an atheist, she found, by contrast, that many if not most religious conversions are undertaken for frankly pragmatic reasons. From politics to position in society, she details many of the reasons people convert in her latest book, Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion. This week, she joins Peggy Knudtson to talk about the book and what the current political season tells us about the influence of religion on the hearts, minds, and ballots of Americans.
"Interfaith" is not a word that comes easily to all humanists. Even more difficult for some is the idea of partnering with religious leaders and believers to work together on the world's problems. However, a panel composed of humanist minister Rebecca Armstrong, past American Humanist Association president Mel Lipman, former AHA board member Paula Rochelle, and former AHA regional coordinator Ben Wade came together at the AHA's national conference in Chicago this past May to argue that we should. They tell us that interfaith work is both an opportunity and responsibility that at least some humanists should pick up. This podcast features audio from that panel presentation.
If anyone in today's secular movement should require no introduction, it's Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder and now co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). Fresh off a speech this past weekend at the Women in Secularism conference about her mother, Anne Nicol Gaylor, Annie Laurie joins us to talk more about her mother's accomplishments. She talks to us about how feminism requires secularism and how FFRF is carrying on Anne Nicol's outspoken legacy.
Today's adolescent humanists in the U.S. aren't the first generation of young people to be raised in a nonreligious philosophy. They are, however, the largest in modern times here – and the demographic shift means the generations that follow will likely be even larger. That means it's time for us to pay attention to the challenges and opportunities faced by teenaged humanists. At the American Humanist Association's annual conference in Chicago this past May, the AHA convened a panel of familiar names. At least the last names of the panelists were familiar. This was a new set of humanists, however, the teen-aged children of humanist leaders and other longtime humanists. They came together to discuss the challenges of being a minority among their religious peers, charting their own paths, and finding ways to live up to their humanitarian ideals. We're sharing audio from that panel this week.
Skepticon is an unusual conference in several ways. It started as a student-run event that survived its founders' graduation. It's an independent event, run as its own nonprofit organization. It's a free conference and vows to remain that way. In any given year, roughly half its speakers are women. It's held in a smaller city in the middle of the country in a very religious area. It attracts a younger audience on average, many of whom bring their families. It blends religious skepticism with what proponents call scientific skepticism with a minimum of friction. In short, Skepticon meets many of the demographic and other challenges the secular and skeptical movements have identified. It's no surprise, then, that it's the largest annual conference in either of these movements. This week, we talk with Skepticon co-founder and president Lauren Lane about Skepticon's past and its future. We talk about its history of innovation, and what’s changing this year. Lauren will tell you what you can expect at this year's Skepticon, November 11-13, 2016. We'll also laugh rather a lot.
We like to say that we’re “good without a god,” but the fact of the matter is that we’re not always very organized about it. One of the good things organized religion has introduced to the world is ways to encourage giving and volunteering to help those in need. Foundation Beyond Belief is a secular nonprofit organization that provides a similar structure to help those of us who have left religion or who never had religion in the first place when we want to give. Noelle George is the executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief and the former head of the Beyond Belief Network, Foundation Beyond Belief's program that supports secular volunteers across the country. She joins us this week to discuss the history of the organization, its various programs, and how people can contribute time, money, or word of mouth to Foundation Beyond Belief. She also talks about the matching grant that American Humanist Association is offering this month to support the Humanist Service Corps' work in Ghana.
Sex positivity sounds like a wonderful thing, but do you really know what it is? As a social movement, it's older than you might think. It can be traced back through the Free Love movement. No, not the one in the 1960s: the Victorian Free Love movement. In its more modern incarnation, sex positivity has been associated with LGBTQ liberation and the battles within feminism over pornography and sex work. It's also closely tied to movements to destigmatize kink and polyamory. With all these associations, perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that not everyone agrees about what sex positivity is and what it looks like in practice. Sex positivity fills different roles for lots of people. And while, at its heart, sex positivity is an intellectual tradition, not everyone relates to it on an intellectual level. Miri Mogilevsky is a licensed therapist, a writer, and a long-time provider of sex education for adults. With articles having appeared in xoJane, Salon, and Everyday Feminism, she's a recognized resource on mental health, feminism, and consent. In recent years, she's offered a workshop at secular movement conferences titled, "Getting It On at the Con: How to Get Lucky Consensually". She's recently written about some of the common misperceptions about sex positivity, and she joins us this week to clear the air. One note: This is a show about sex. While it doesn't get graphic, it may still be inappropriate for work for other reasons, such as the swearing.
The concept of social justice is enjoying a renaissance. That doesn't necessarily translate into action, however. Even people who support social justice may find themselves uncertain how to put their principles into practice. They may be unsure what is needed from them. At the American Humanist Association's 75th Anniversary Conference in Chicago this year, Sincere Kirabo, social justice coordinator of the AHA, moderated a panel on this problem. Diane Burkholder, co-founder of Kansas City Freethinkers of Color; James Croft, outreach director of the Ethical Society of St. Louis; and Randall Jenson, executive director of SocialScope Productions, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ and gender documentary projects, discussed the practical impediments to social justice in the humanist movement and our broader society. They talked about the needs we don't see and the solutions that allow us to put our time and money where our mouths are.
There is a significant portion of the U.S. electorate this year who seem determined to "take back their country". It's rare, however, that these people are willing to explicitly state who they want to take the country back from. In reality their political fears reflect a voting population that is less white, less male, and less religious than it has ever been before. Juhem Navarro-Rivera is a political scientist who studies the political behavior of many of the groups within this rising American electorate. He specializes in studying Latino voters and the religious Nones. This week, he joins Stephanie Zvan to talk about the concerns and behavior of these groups, as well as the concerns and behaviors of the largely white, male, and religious voters who are resisting their participation in the political process.
Kelly McCullough is a fantasy and science fiction author with twelve novels under his belt to date. Despite being raised outside religion, his work often focuses on what it means to exist in a world where gods are real. In his WebMage series, McCullough’s protagonist is the descendent of one of the Greek Fates. His Fallen Blade series follows what happens when the goddess of justice is killed by the other gods in her pantheon. This week, Kelly McCullough talks to Stephanie Zvan about why he explores the themes of religion in his books. He also talks about having accidentally created a religion outside his writing and how he managed to become one of those nearly mythical atheist politicians in the U.S.
The 2016 U.S. presidential election has turned into something that wasn't supposed to be able to happen anymore. We’re supposed to be past this kind of open racism, yet here we are. So much for living in a “post-racial” America. Alix Jules is a secular activist, writer, and sometimes co-host on Dogma Debate. He's also on the advisory council of American Humanist Association's Black Humanist Alliance. This week, he joins us to talk about the politics of racial resentment. We'll talk about Alix's visit to a Trump rally, but acknowledge that racial resentment reaches far beyond one party or candidate. We'll also discuss Alix's experience trying to talk about racial issues within the secular movement. Please be aware that the final segment of the show contains mention of a racial slur.
Earlier this month, model and activist Qandeel Baloch was found dead in her home in Pakistan. She'd been drugged and murdered by her brother in what he claimed was an honor killing. Baloch was a feminist and a pop star who didn't adhere to local Islamic modesty standards. Her brother claimed that this brought shame upon their family. Baloch's murder was more widely reported in the U.S. than most honor killings. Reactions to the news were varied but demonstrated a broad lack of understanding of the ways in which honor killings are distinct from domestic violence in more individualistic societies. This past May, Muhammad Syed, Sarah Haider, and Mya Saleem of the Ex-Muslims of North America explored those differences in a panel titled, "Examining Honor Culture and Violence in Islam" at the AHA’s 75th Anniversary Conference in Chicago. This week, we bring you that panel and part of the Q&A that followed. The full Q&A can be found on the video on the AHA’s YouTube channel.
When Callie Wright came out as a trans woman in 2013, there weren't a lot of queer voices in the secular movement that focused on issues affecting queer people. She set out to change that. With her partner in crime Ari Stillman, she now runs The Gaytheist Manifesto podcast and the blog of the same name. She is also co-chair of the American Humanist Association's LGBTQ Humanist Alliance. Callie joins Jenn Wilson this week to talk about founding the podcast and its mission to support the LGBTQ community within the secular movement. They discuss Callie's outlook on activism, her goals for the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance, and even a recent controversy in LGBTQ media representation. After we hear from Callie and Jenn, we'll also give you a quick sample of the work Callie does educating humanists at conferences.