The Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago disinvites Sunsara Taylor

November 3, 2009

Sunsara Taylor is a very interesting character. I’ve seen her speak at New York University on two panel discussions with Massimo Pigliucci and Paul Eckstein, both of which were titled “Morality Without Gods.” All three parties are non-believers on gods. Although both were recorded, I can still only find the first of those panel discussions on YouTube.

What was particularly unusual about those panel discussions was that two of the debaters either identified themselves as Communists or as arguing from a Marxist perspective, one of which was Sunsara Tayler. My impression of her was that she was extremely intelligent and was spot on in her criticism of religion, reminding me a little of Christopher Hitchens. But whenever she turned the conversation to Communism, I found her unconvincing. She’s definitely a rabble-rouser who will happily step head-first into controversy but ya gotta love anyone who has the honor of being called a “lunatic” by Bill O’Reilly.

But the reason I bring Ms. Taylor up is because of an incident that occurred in Chicago this past weekend. The Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) invited her to speak at one of their meetings also called “Morality without God.” Sunsara had made the appropriate travel arrangements and everything was all set to go until the EHSC disinvited her at the last minute. According to her publicist, it was because they were uncomfortable with her social/political views such as her Communism as well as beliefs that she doesn’t really hold.

Sunsara initially responded with a letter:

This attempt to cancel my talk has clearly been driven by political and ideological disagreements with me by some on the EHSC program committee. This is shameful for any organization, but coming from [an] organization that prides itself on ethical action and promoting intellectual, philosophical and artistic freedom it is all the more disturbing.

I have to agree. Now I don’t know all the facts here but it seems very shady for a freethought society like the EHSC that prides itself on its ethics and diversity of views to reject certain views from speaking simply because they don’t agree with them. I don’t agree with Sunsara’s Communism either but I think it’s a big mistake to exclude her for that reason as I think she’s a great asset to the atheist community. It’s a rare thing to find an atheist activist who can so move an audience with both intelligence and emotion. I don’t agree with Libertarianism either. So are we going to start disinviting Michael Shermer and Penn and Teller to speak too?

Sunsara’s letter even included several quotes of support from numerous individuals like:  Massimo Pigliucci, Chris Hedges, and Hemant Mehta, to name a few. And today I first heard about this incident from Brian Sapient of the Rational Response Squad, who also wrote an article supporting her. So she’s got “Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta and the far less friendly atheist leader of the Rational Response Squad all supporting her. It seems like support is coming from across the board on this one.

And even one member of the EHSC offered to host her at his own home after the EHSC’s normally scheduled meeting time. Then on Saturday, Sunsara was running an unrelated workshop at the EHSC, where she directly addressed this issue:

Okay, she goes a little over the top towards the end there, but she’s not wrong. And while she was not re-invited, she attended the Sunday meeting and made a statement similar to the one she made the day before in the video while standing near her seat.

Then the story got weirder. A man videotaping her statement with her permission got attacked by cops who were called in by the EHSC:

Sunsara’s recounts the incident in her blog:

… plainclothes and uniformed police who had been called in earlier by officials of the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) dragged out, maced and arrested a man for videotaping Sunsara Taylor as she stood near her seat and made a statement before the start of that morning’s program about the shameful cancellation of her long planned talk to EHSC that day on the topic “Morality without Gods.”

The shocking incident took place at the insistence of the president of EHSC. About 40 people witnessed the videographer being brutalized by the police in the foyer of the facility. An attorney demanded that the police stop brutalizing him when five officers piled on him as he lay face down on the floor. 6 police cars arrived within minutes.

Ethical? Again, I don’t know all the facts here and have only heard one side of the story. But I think the EHSC has some splainin’ to do.

News From Around The Blogosphere 10.20.09

October 21, 2009

1. Christians inadvertently help popularize atheism on Twitter – The #1 hot topic on Twitter today was “No God”. The reason was because lots of Christians re-tweeted the expression, “Know God…Know Peace. No God…No Peace.” Then some atheists tweeted just “no god.” Then to counter this problem, a bunch of Christians who don’t understand how this who process works came up with the ill-conceived plan to re-tweet the same stupid slogan again many times, frantically. But of course it just had the same effect as trying to fight one’s way out of quicksand, especially as atheists decided to do the same thing they did before, which is just re-tweet “no god.” LOL. I think we can call this spike in atheist popularity on Twitter the result of an unholy alliance between theists and atheists alike.

2. SuperFreakonomics authors are super-freaks – It turns out that Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner latest follow-up to Freakonomics is full of Global Warming denialism. Fortunately, Eric Pooley at has taken the time to refute their nonsense.

thank-god-im-an-atheist3. Manufactured atheist schism – I know I’m way late in talking about this but as has been pointed out by just about every atheist blogger already, Barbara Bradley Hagerty‘s article on the alleged schism among the atheist community is more than mildly exaggerated. While there are some big disagreements among us over how aggressive we should be promoting atheism or whether we should be promoting it at all, we’re more than capable of working together. And as the Friendly Atheist points out in the link above, on virtually every point Hagerty gets it wrong. And contrary to the impression created by Hagerty, this community has never been stronger.

4. Scientists alter fruit fly sexuality – While lately I’ve been a bit disappointed with Amateur Scientist’s blog (three particular articles in the last few weeks, where I strongly disagreed with him), more often than not it’s still a superb blog and he’s the only one I’ve seen cover this interesting story:

The flies were altered so that they could no longer produce the cuticular hydrocarbon pheromone, and the boners came pouring in. Flies without the pheromone attracted horny followers from both sexes, regardless of sexual orientation history. And some of them even tweaked the nipples of other species.

5. Chicago Coalition of Reason puts up a billboard – It’s very similar to the slogan being used in the BigAppleCoR’s NYC subway ads that have been plugged on every single local news source around:  “Are you good without God? Millions are.”

Illinois church denied federal money

October 10, 2009

An Illinois church was stopped from collecting a million dollars from the government. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, aka Blagojevich’s replacement, signed a bill to try and get get $11,000,000 in taxpayer money to various religious projects because apparently he never even heard of the First Amendment. . .or the Constitution for that matter. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. We sent the wrong one to jail. Anyway, $1,000,000 of that was going to go to Pilgrim Baptist Church. And now. . .not.

When atheist Rob Sherman filed a lawsuit against our state last year over this illegal earmark, it resulted in an infamous exchange with State Representative Monique Davis during which she stated, “it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists,” referring to Sherman’s atheism.

Sherman now has good news to report:

Pilgrim Baptist Church won’t be getting any of that money.

The excuse that the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity used for cancelling the Grant was that there was insufficient money to fund the grant, but we know what the real reason was.

I’m not sure how much of a role Sherman actually played in the reversal but as long as we got a happy outcome, who cares?

The atheist bus campaign hits Chicago!

May 22, 2009

Chicago atheists are actually going with an athvertising slogan I haven’t seen before:

It’s not my favorite but it’s not bad. It should definitely cause people to do some double takes and hopefully will get people thinking.

Christians For An Intolerant World

April 18, 2009

god-hates-signsRemember that unintentionally hilarious “Storm” commercial created by the National Organization for Marriage — which was mocked mercilessly on Colbert among many others.

Well now some church in Illinois has their own propaganda video making the same ludicrous claims that “the homosexual agenda” is oppressing them. And do you think they’d stoop as low as to actually compare themselves to blacks having to sit in the back of the bus? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin:  “You betcha!”

Now to be perfectly honest, I’m not a big fan of this whole “Day of Silence” thing either, but not because it promotes tolerance for gay people. My issue is that if you’re going to have a designated day to promote tolerance for gays, then schools should be encouraged to invite guest speakers or address these issues in the curricula. But encouraging students to show their support by being silent actually disrupts their education and singles out students on both sides of the issue, leading to further potential antagonism. And what of the students who do support the cause but still wish to participate in class? Why should they have to choose 1 or the other? It’s just an ill-conceived plan, in my humble opinion.

Religion will unmake the world

March 30, 2009

While talking with a fellow global warming denier and religious lunatic, Illinois Rep. John Shimkus actually stated that increased man-made carbon emissions can only be a good thing, since they provide food for plants. And in the following clip, he illustrates why religious people should never be elected into office.

Okay, what’s wrong with this headline?

March 8, 2009
Not miraculously saved

Not miraculously saved

I just saw a news headline that read, “Police:  Ill. pastor deflected gunshot with Bible.” I would love to hear the pastor, Fred Winters’ account of the proceedings except for 1 small problem. He’s dead.

A pastor shot and killed during his Sunday sermon deflected the first of the gunman’s four rounds with a Bible. . .

So if the pastor was killed by the second shot, why is bullet-deflecting Bible given a headline? If the implication is meant to suggest a miracle occurred, let me be the first to say that that’s the worst miracle I’ve ever heard!

What, is god Two Face from Batman? He flipped the coin and it landed on good heads, so he let the pastor deflect the bullet but  then flipped the coin again for the second bullet and it landed on bad heads?

And once again, doesn’t a murder in church pretty much definitely debunk the notion that prayer works? There were 150 congregants. I mean really, doncha think there were plenty of people praying in the church?

Was god distracted? Certainly he intervened eventually, right? Nope. The shooter was tackled to the ground by mere mortals who apparently proved more capable of thwarting this monster than god.

Atheist group in Illinois high school may be facing discrimination

February 28, 2009

A student, Savannah Lanz, at Johnsburg High School in northwestern McHenry County, IL intends to start an atheist club at her school. And although there doesn’t seem to be anyone stopping her from forming an atheist club, a far subtler form of discrimination seems to be occurring:

Meanwhile, Lanz said she was under the impression that the group — named the Johnsburg Freethinkers Society — had been approved by an assistant principal at the school, and simply wouldn’t be allowed to advertise with fliers in the building.

As long as the club doesn’t print anything inappropriate in their fliers, the school has no legal right to stop prevent her from advertising the club. So if this is indeed the case, then the school has effectively opened themselves up to a lawsuit.

On a sidenote, it’s awesome to see teenage atheists actively organizing.

News From Around The Blogosphere 01.21.09

January 21, 2009

Illinois mandatory moment of silence law was “sham,” says judge - The law was passed last year but high school student (and atheist) Dawn Sherman filed a lawsuit. Today, the final ruling (PDF) came in from Judge Robert Gettleman:

“For all of these reasons the court concludes that the amendment has no clear secular purpose, and that the stated purpose is a sham.”

I suspect the Christian Right is already trying to paint him as an evil “activist judge” trying to hijack democracy.

Religion as the ultimate Big Mac - (By the by, this is at Suicide Girls, so might be slightly NSFW.)

Acupuncture works … as a placebo.

UFO declared by the Chinese government.


groin-kickChild Sacrifice – Last year 11-year0old Kara Neumann of Wisconsin died from a treatable form of juvenile diabetes because her parents foolishly trusted faith healers. And despite the outcome, the parents are not remorseful and still believe in the faith healer. But now they’re going to trial.


scientist-use-in-case-of-emergencyScientists Agree Global Warming Is Real – “While the harsh winter pounding many areas of North America and Europe seemingly contradicts the fact that global warming continues unabated, a new survey finds consensus among scientists about the reality of climate change and its likely cause.”

Smoking Linked To Most Male Cancer Deaths – “The association between tobacco smoke and cancer deaths — beyond lung cancer deaths — has been strengthened by a recent study from a UC Davis researcher, suggesting that increased tobacco control efforts could save more lives than previously estimated.”

Hobbit Is Not Human, Skull Study Finds – “In a an analysis of the size, shape and asymmetry of the cranium of Homo floresiensis, Karen Baab, Ph.D., a researcher in the Department of Anatomical Scienes at Stony Brook University, and colleagues conclude that the fossil, found in Indonesia in 2003 and known as the “Hobbit,” is not human.”


Captain Picard responds to Rick Warren:

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.17.08

December 18, 2008

Yet another atheist display stolen – This time it’s in Illinois.  Though granted we don’t know for certain at this time whether it was stolen by a Christian, there’s a least a strong possibility. And I suspect exposing this kind of hypocracy was part (though of course not the primary part) of the motivation for these displays in the first place. Having it stolen certainly gets the display more media attention, so whether it got stolen or not, it’s kind of a victory. It will be replaced and a second sign will be added that reads, “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

Let the Obama religious pandering begin! – Right-Wing Fundamentalist Rick Warren is to deliver the invocation (aka magic spell) at Obama’s inauguration. Warren of course has declared that marriage, reproductive choice, and stem cell research were “non-negotiable” issues for Christians and has openly compared himself with James Dobson. This is a deep disappointment from the man who’s supposed to bring “change.”

Why life originated (and why it continues) - “In a recent study called “Why did life emerge?”, two scientists, son and father Arto Annila of the University of Helsinki and Erkki Annila of the Finnish Forest Research Institute, offer some insight into the general driving force of life’s origins in terms of thermodynamics.”

WTF?! – “Dr. Paul Grabb, a pediatric brain surgeon, said he was surprised when he discovered a small foot growing inside the brain of 3-day-old Sam Esquibel.

“The foot literally popped out of the brain,” Grabb told TheDenverChannel Wednesday.” I’ll repeat:  WTF?!

Despite the Vatican’s objections, abortion pill to be made available in Italy next month. – The RU486 abortion pill is finally coming to Italy.

alternative-medicine-for-dummiesPARADE Magazine once again endorses CAM – This is the second time since I started this blog about 5 months ago that I’ve seen this kind of crap being perpetuated in PARADE without even the slightest recognition that these “treatments” have many critics.

monkey-thinkingReporter blames (aka credits)  PZ Myers  for single-handedly thwarting the partnership between Cincinnati Zoo and the Creation Museum – Well done PZ.

A Pennsylvania supermarket defending itself over refusing to write out 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell’s name on his birthday cake in frosting - Eventually Wal-Mart got the job done.

How Santa travels the world in just one night - “He exploits the space-time continuum,” says Larry Silverberg, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University.


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