The Meming of Life: on secular parenting and other natural wonders

How you can help after the Boston bombing

The humanist members and staff of Foundation Beyond Belief extend our hearts to everyone affected by the tragic bombing in Boston on April 15.

FBB has become a touchpoint for compassionate humanist action in the freethought community. That’s a responsibility we take very seriously. When a tragic event like this one happens, many atheists and humanists contact us to see if FBB will mount a crisis response drive. We examined the Boston situation carefully and decided we could be most helpful by pointing toward existing efforts.

If you would like to assist the victims of the bombing and their families, here are a few ways to help:

candsThe Harvard Humanists shared the news that one of their volunteers and her daughter were badly injured in the bombing. Celeste and Sydney Corcoran are both enduring extensive surgeries, and Celeste lost both legs below the knee. Consider making a donation to help the family cope with the financial burden. You can learn more about Celeste and Sydney here.

The One Fund Boston is a fund started by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to assist the families most affected by the bombing. Individuals and businesses are contributing to this fund, including a $1 million commitment from John Hancock and donations from many other corporations. “The One Fund Boston will act as a central fund to receive much needed financial support,” according to Governor Patrick.

Those looking for a specifically nontheistic response might consider the drive currently underway through We Are Atheism, Atheists Giving Aid. We Are Atheism intends to distribute the funds to local Boston agencies and/or directly to the families affected.

The Red Cross reported that, thanks to generous donors, the blood supply was adequate to meet demand after the bombing, but people across the country can always schedule an appointment to donate blood.

You want this book

I really shouldn’t presume that you want this book. It’s just that…you kinda do.

I’m giving away three signed, personalized copies of my most recent book Voices of Unbelief: Documents from Atheists and Agnostics to support the year-end fund drive of Foundation Beyond Belief.

It’s a ripping good cause. The humanist members and supporters of FBB have had an astonishing year. We raised over half a million dollars for 24 charities, including our first ever Light the Night drive for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. We expanded our network of humanist volunteer teams to 23 cities, and we’re poised to launch FBB affiliates in Australia and Canada. Next year we hope to double our membership, launch a new and improved website, and top $1 million in donations.

We make all that happen with a small, dedicated staff and a really reasonable budget. But the budget is still a positive number, and we rely on grants and direct donations to keep the lights on.

So here’s the deal: Join or donate to FBB during December, and for every $5 of membership level or $10 donation you give, you’ll be entered in a drawing for one of three signed, personalized copies of Voices of Unbelief.

Three reasons you just might want this book:

1. Most people will never own it.
It’s an expensive, large-format, high-quality hardcover, intended mostly for universities and libraries. The list price is $100 (and 0 < 100). 2. It’s unique.
The book is built around 47 documents by atheists and agnostics throughout history. In addition to the US and Europe, there are voices from Persia, Uganda, Nigeria, India, and China. The material includes essays, letters, journal entries, clandestine manuscripts, and even transcripts from Inquisition interrogations. Sure, it has Russell and Dawkins, but also Julia Sweeney and Mr. Deity.

3. It includes rare and never-before-published items.
Among several rarities, you’ve probably never read the amazing transcripts of Inquisition interrogations from the 14th century that are included -– because they’ve never been published before in English.

Click to donate to FBB – every $10 gets you 1 entry
Click to join FBB – every $5 of membership level gets you 1 entry

Thanks for putting humanist compassion to work for a better world!

Now it’s getting serious

Just five days until I can get back to telling you about Atheism for Dummies. But first, I need your help with a problem.

Foundation Beyond Belief means the world to me. You know that. I want to see it succeed in expanding the reach and impact of compassionate humanism around the world. It’s the most meaningful work I’ve ever done.

You may also know that we’re in the running for a Chase Community Giving grant that would completely transform our work. But today, after several good days, we’re slipping in the ranks. This is serious. So I’m asking, from the bottom of my heart: If you haven’t voted yet, we really, really need you. Can you take a minute to help us out?

If any of my books have been helpful to you, this would be the best possible way to say thanks right now. And while you’re there, consider sharing to your Facebook page. Thank you!

Cast your vote

UPDATE 15 Sept. 8:00 pm: After an incredible surge on Friday, we’re rising again and are now just 96 votes away from the $50,000 grant. Thanks for taking the time to make this happen! Voting ends September 19.

What we do

Thanks to your votes, Foundation Beyond Belief is now #54 in the Chase Community Giving competition with seven days to go. That means we’re in striking distance of a $50,000 grant.

This grant would completely transform our ability to focus and encourage generosity and compassion in the atheist and humanist community. Since our launch, we’ve created a network of 18 volunteer teams across the U.S and raised nearly half a million dollars for charities around the world. Here’s the idea:

The video’s out of date — in fact, a new video is one of many things a grant would buy. We’d also double the size of our Volunteer network, redesign our website to better tell the stories of the outstanding charities we support, and much more.

I’m really proud to do this work, and I want to do it better. This grant will help immensely. All we need are clicks!

Please take just a moment to vote for FBB in the Chase Community Giving competition

FBB needs your clicks!

This is so big — and so, so easy.

Foundation Beyond Belief is one of several thousand charities nominated for a Chase Community Giving grant. Two hundred charities will win grants of $10,000 to $250,000 based entirely on public votes. Voting has begun, and we are currently #67. If we stay there, we’ll earn $25,000, an amount that would completely transform our ability to put humanist compassion to work next year. Just 150 votes would launch us to #45, which is $50,000.

This is HUGE.

Please take a moment to click the link, approve the annoying app, and cast your vote for Foundation Beyond Belief. If you can share with your friends, that’s gravy. Voting ends September 19, so I’m afraid I’ll be a pest for nine more days.

VOTE FOR FBB!

UPDATE 9:00pm: When I posted this we were at 442 votes and #67. We’re now at 607 and #57. If you’ve voted, please click the link to return to your vote page and share the link from there!

SQUISH THE SQUID!

Last summer, a shadowy consortium of atheist bloggers joined forces against PZ Myers and the hordes of Pharyngula to see who could raise the most money for Camp Quest. Against all odds, the scrappy youngsters won.

Now PZ wants revenge.

This year, the Meming of Life is teaming up with Greta Christina of Greta Christina’s Blog, Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist, Jen McCreight of Blag Hag, JT Eberhard of WWJTD, Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism, Sikivu Hutchinson of Black Skeptics, Matt Dillahunty of The Atheist Experience, Cuttlefish of Digital Cuttlefish, C. L. Hanson of Letters from A Broad, The Chaplain of An Apostate’s Chapel, and Phil Ferguson of Skeptic Money to make PZ ink himself yet again.

Camp Quest has over $37,000 in matching funds from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, so donations up to that amount are instantly DOUBLED.

If you want to support PZ’s Horde…well, I can’t seem to find the URL for that. If instead you want to support the Forces of Hope, Sex, and Candy, and in the process support the rapidly growing awesomeness that is Camp Quest, hit that sidebar widget or click here to SQUISH THE SQUID!

Learn more about Camp Quest

Humanists rally to help Colorado firefighters


The Humanist Crisis Response program of Foundation Beyond Belief is organizing a response to the Colorado wildfires, and we need your help.

Many of our members and supporters have seen the devastation firsthand or know people directly affected by the fires. Here’s Linda Vigil, a humanist mom who was volunteering at Camp Quest Oklahoma when the fires began.

“Fires usually stay on the mountains,” Linda said, “but when I heard that my neighborhood was evacuating it became much more real. The fire had actually come over the hills and down into neighborhoods in the city. I snapped out of my mundane life and petty daily concerns, and was reminded that the only thing that matters is the people I love. I spoke with my five year-old son on the phone, and he was gathering up his favorite toys from the house and talking about the fire. At that point I left camp early and drove straight home.

“Driving into Colorado Springs, I saw the city covered in smoke. The sight of black smoke billowing across the sky was frightening. The air was a hazy red, and everything smelled bad. I wasn’t thinking about my house or any “stuff”. I didn’t care if it all burned down. All I cared about was being with my son, and that he was safe. It reminded me of how precious life is, especially since I know that this is my only one. Even if I lost everything, as long as everyone I love is safe and alive, that is all that really matters to me. Luckily the fire never reached my neighborhood. I feel kind of silly even writing this because my experience cannot even come close to how terrifying it must have been for those whose neighborhoods were actually on fire. Seeing houses burning in those neighborhoods was unreal.  I’ve never seen anything like it. It was horrifying.

“Everything has been so hazy that it is hard to see the damage on the mountains, but it is shocking to see what happened in the neighborhoods; houses are practically vaporized, nothing is left.  It makes you realize how powerful fire is, how we think we are in control but nature can easily take us down.”

Every disaster event has a different profile and a unique set of needs. In Colorado, the most pressing need has not been for food, shelter, or rescue, but for immediate support of the firefighting units themselves, many of whom are seriously underfunded and understaffed. Foundation Beyond Belief has initiated a drive to support the current emergency needs of these firefighting units, as well as the extensive restoration efforts that will follow. We are currently collecting funds for the Waldo Canyon, Rist Canyon, Poudre Canyon, and Glacier View Fire Departments.

To learn more and donate to our Colorado Wildfire Fund, visit Humanist Crisis Response, or simply click DONATE in the sidebar. Thanks for your support!

21. Secular prayers

(Post 21 of 33 in my 16-hour shift for the Secular Student Alliance Blogathon.)

6:00 pm EDT

If it serves to focus the mind and crystallize intentions, prayer can be a good thing. Meditation is just as good for those, of course, and you don’t have to pretend someone has picked up on the other end.

But prayer can also provide the amazing illusion of having done something when in fact you’ve done absolutely nothing. That’s not good.

When someone asked Humanist Rabbi Adam Chalom to pray for a friend who had breast cancer, Adam said, “I have a better idea — give me her phone number and I’ll call her. Talking to her to lift her spirits and make her feel less alone and more cared for will do much more for her than talking to anything else.”

This was from a piece Adam wrote in the Chicago Tribune’s blog “The Seeker” a couple of years ago. And he went on to make an especially good point:

The Humanist world has recently sponsored a counter-program – the National Day of Reason, which celebrates the power of the human mind to understand and improve the world. But I have an even better idea. While reason is certainly a worthy value to celebrate, the secular counterpart to “Prayer” is not “Reason” – it is “Action.”

The counterpart to prayer is doing something.

There are secular equivalents of prayer. Facebook is full of them. I’m sure there are people who “like” 50 humanitarian causes a day, achieving that same illusion of having done something. And like the prayer, I think that self-satisfied illusion often keeps the liker from actually doing something. It relieves the pressure, gives that little shot of dopamine, makes us feel ever so good about ourselves. Of course there’s a whole neologism for it — slacktivism.

A recent Georgetown study casts some doubt on that assumption, showing a high correlation between those clicks and actual real-world effort. Interesting piece, though it seems correlation and causation still need sorting.

My take-home is that secular prayers, if they go no further, are no better than sacred ones. Action, real action, is still what matters.

Speaking of action: The sidebar widget is calling. Support the SSA!

Blogathon!!!!!!!!!

My usually classy wife made a perfectly sick analogy once for our financial partnership: I’m the anus, she’s the sphincter.

But when it comes to writing, I’m a fully-puckered, Grade A sphincter. I edit the living crap out of everything I write before any other eyeballs get a taste. But this Sunday, June 10, I’ll break my own rules for a good cause: blogging nonstop, live and almost entirely unedited, for 16 hours to raise money for the pure awesomeness that is the Secular Student Alliance.

The spectacular Jen McCreight of Blag Hag usually does this blogging marathon all by her lonesome each year to raise money for the SSA. This year, Jen has invited other bloggers to join her, taking shifts in a massive word dump known as BLOGATHON 2012!!!!

Jen invited me to join the madness, and I’m all over it. It runs June 9-16, and my shift is Sunday, June 10. On that day, I will be blogging the shi’ite out of The Meming of Life for 16 hours straight, 8am to midnight, with at least one new post every 30 minutes, no pre-writing or autoposting allowed.

It’s a really bad idea, this is. I am guaranteed to say something stupid in Hour 14 that I can’t take back once you twits take a screen shot of it. I will say on other things with awkwardly. I will get inscrutable and profane, as I often do when I’m tired. I’m just so glad the Internet is wiped clean once a week.

It’s hard to really capture how brilliantly the folks at SSA do what they do. Just a terrific, fist-pumping, dilithium-crystal-powered force for good. And they are growing at a frankly insane clip, from 42 to 365 campus chapters in ten years. That’s why they need a little cash.

And that’s the best news of all — this can cost you something! Just as someone can pledge money to support a walkathon, you can support this freethought blogathon relay team. The current, ever-expanding schedule includes bloggers like Jen, Greta Christina, JT Eberhard, and many more. Should be a blast, and it benefits my favorite organization. Win-win.

To support the SSA through the Blogathon, donate here or in the sidebar widget. At the bottom of the form is a field to suggest a blogging topic, OR you can put it in the comments below for free. I’ll pick a few of the most interesting. Secular parenting questions are certainly fine, but you don’t have to limit to that, or even to freethought. Ask anything, seriously. I need 33 posts, so I just might bite.

And ooh! The SSA currently has a matching offer going on, so whatever Blogathon raises will be doubled.

Ideas for ways to pledge (yoinked from Ellen Lundgren):

1. Pledge per word (such as 1/10¢ per word).
2. Pledge per post (33 total).
3. Pledge per thing you’ve learned. If a post teaches you something new, you donate your pledge amount.

See you Sunday!

Hey, Portlandish Oregonians!

Just nine days left until Saturday April 21, when I’ll be giving my Parenting Beyond Belief half-day workshop at Friendly House in NW Portland, 1-5pm. If you are in the area, you simply MUST come, as I am fascinating and handsome.

The content is even better. We’ll put nonreligious parenting in the context of just-plain-good-parenting and talk about religious literacy, thinking about death without heaven (or hell), raising powerfully ethical kids, the religious extended family, and ever so much more.

The workshop is sponsored by CFI Portland, to whose info and registration page I send you herewith. Sign up now, and I’ll see you then!