Philadelphia Science Festival April 10, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Skepticism and atheism.
Tags: events, Philadelphia, science
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I just found out about this: http://www.philasciencefestival.org It runs from April 18th-28th, and there is a calendar of events which has details. I just wanted to share this, and say that I will likely be there for a day or two of it.
Philadelphia in Spring: reflections of youth and self March 23, 2012Posted by Gina in Polyamory.
Tags: birthdays, Friends Select School, J.R. Masterman, Philadelphia
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[Edit: this is a post composed by Gina, but I (Shaun) will be adding commentary in Green]
When I decided that I would take the week off to celebrate my birthday, I was impressed when several people (namely Shaun, Ginny and my best friend Peter) decided to take a day off during the week to spend with me. I was quite glad because not only did I get to spend entire days with the people I adore, but I wasn’t lonely while Wes worked his long hours. Peter took Monday off to take me guitar shopping. Ginny and I spent the day together on Wednesday being ridiculously girly by getting pedicures and then having fru fru cocktails at a very trendy bar/restaurant in Center City. I spent Thursday with Shaun, having no idea what we would be doing. Shaun can be secretive sometimes…or perhaps it’s just him not knowing what he wants to do…whatever it is, I was looking forward to whatever he had in store.
I basically winged it. OK, that’s not completely true. I did research to see what was available to do that day, wrote down possibilities, and moved towards a specific direction. I’m more spontaneous than itinerary-creating.
So, we woke up and he cooked breakfast while I sat on the little love seat in their kitchen plucking away on his neglected guitar. I make it a point to tune it up and play it a bit every time I’m there. Guitars, and most instruments, need to be nurtured and played with as they age or they wither and die. It’s true! Playing them regularly keeps them youthful and spry and age translates into wisdom and beauty instead of bitterness and discord.
Get it? Guitars are like people. I’m so fucking poetic!
It’s true. Her poesy is wikkid sick!
After eating a lovely meal, we set out and decided that Thursday was a day for walking. It would ultimately be a warm 78 degrees and though it was overcast in the early hours of the morning, the sun was out in uninterrupted full force for the whole afternoon. We wandered over to the art museum area, a place I haven’t walked around in years. I have been to the art museum itself recently, but I haven’t partaken of the beauty of Fairmount Park in quite a while. I used to go there a lot with an ex boyfriend of mine, an ex that I thought I was going to marry, an ex with whom things ended quite poorly.
It’s one of my favorite parts of the city to explore. I have discovered old ruins, abandoned warehouses, and great concrete structures jutting into the Schuylkill (Philly native win; I didn’t need to look up how to spell that!) river accessible via the bike path near Manyunk. We didn’t venture that far today, not having bikes with us.
Shaun and I both grew up in Philadelphia. Neither of us grew up with a lot of money. We went to school in approximately the same area around the same time. While the circumstances of our upbringing were certainly different, there were various things that were parallel. It was exciting to go around parts of town that had significance to both of us, to share points of view on the same places, to look at things again with older eyes, eyes that have changed perspectives multiple times since leaving many of these things behind years earlier.
Can you tell that I was getting a little sentimental?
We wandered along the river where both of us were getting sunburned (and didn’t know to the extent until that evening). After hours of that, we decided that it was time for snacks and beer (or in my case wine. It’s almost always wine. Something red and cheap. Poifect!) Being on the Parkway at the time, we decided that we should try out a pub across the street from Shaun’s old school, Friends Select.
Shaun and I have an ongoing joke about Friends Select. I went to J.R. Masterman (a few blocks north of FS) and when I was in highschool many of my friends were obsessed with several people who went to FS. To them, everyone at FS was deep and interesting (and totes hot) and it was my friends’ missions to appear cool enough to impress them. It is unlikely that I ever actually saw Shaun there as he is 4 years older and shouldn’t be paying attention to 15 year olds anyway (RIGHT, SHAUN? Right. I stopped that years ago. At least 15 years ago. Probably longer. I’m almost 35….)…although, when I was that age, everyone thought I was 25, so you never know. I would pass FS regularly on my walk down to the El to get home and there would always be students loitering outside of the Subway sandwich place across the street from FS. I used to sit on the ground and play Nirvana songs with this guy Leslie (we’d harmonize on “Rape Me”…classy!).
This same spot, as well as the nearby “triangle park,” is where I would play hacky sack. No, really!
So the joke is that I couldn’t stand FS kids. They seemed so out of touch with everything but went on like they had some kind of unique perspective. I recall one kid in particular was telling some people the story of how he spent the night wandering the streets with a homeless man and now he totally gets what it’s like to be homeless…as he replaced the batteries in his Walkman and ate a snack. I was amazed that anyone took this guy seriously, but he had women eating out of his hands. ”Wow! What a sacrifice you made that night! you really understand things now, man.” This how most of them came across to me. Shaun insists there were many who weren’t like that. I believe him, but, you know, I was 16 and bored to tears by 16 year olds.
So we arrived at the pub (although not Mace’s Crossong, the pub referred to above) and Shaun gets a gleam in his eye and says, “Oh man, we should go into Friends Select! It would absolutely amuse me to bring you there.” I figured it would be funny and it was true that I never actually had the opportunity to go in there before, so in we went. Shaun thought about pretending to be prospective parents, but instead he introduced himself as a former student and the people in the office figured out who was still teaching there that Shaun may have known. We got visitor badges and started wandering the halls.
It was a very nice place, with multiple halls winding around. I was certainly amused being in Shaun’s old stomping grounds (and at how much nicer the place was than Masterman. Oh, public schools). We walked through the elementary school and then the middle school…and then found ourselves in the highschool. Suddenly I was right back at 18. There was a row of lockers and backpacks strewn in front of them and kids hanging around waiting to go home. I saw a sign that said “Class of 2012″ and I felt completely ancient. So two very difficult sets of emotions came at me: memories of being 14 – 18 and miserable (followed by being relatively miserable in my 20′s too), and the realization that I had graduated highschool 13 years ago. And that combined with all the memories of the ex that I used to walk around in Fairmount Park with.
Shaun ended up talking to one of his favorite math teachers (Ralph Reinwald, if anyone cares) who happened to be there. I peeked into the chemistry lab (which was impressive) and steadily became overwhelmed by all of it. Shaun’s teacher reminded me a lot of a teacher I had back then who had died on TWA Flight 800. This teacher was also incredibly brilliant and I hadn’t remembered any of my teachers being that learned and smart. They likely were and we just never talked about such things, but it was an amazing thing to see.
It was great seeing Ralph and talking for about 15 minutes. I had considered asking him if he wanted to join us for dinner/drinks, since we were going, but it was Gina’s day, so I didn’t. I might have to do that some other time.
We went to leave, but another teacher (administrator, actually. Stuart Land, who is the director of alumni/ae programs) wanted to say hi. While we waited, I went into the auditorium (which was exceptional) and was completely overcome by emotion. I discovered theater for myself in highschool and spent a great deal of time in the auditorium at Masterman and there was something about being in a highschool auditorium that brought everything back. I fought back tears and floated off in my mind while Shaun caught up with the teacher.
We left finally and I fell apart in the courtyard in front of the school. It was strange and I didn’t really understand it entirely at the time…but I was happy that Shaun was there because…well, because I want him to know these things about me.
How often we forget, or at least under appreciate, how fragile and emotional we can be when it comes to memory and youth. I am so proud of the person Gina is today and I am honored to see that she is capable of showing vulnerability with me, for it shows great beauty, strength, and trust in her and our relationship. I’m a lucky person to have her in my life.
When we meet people at various points in our lives, they don’t know anything about us right away. There are the things that we can tell others over time, things we are conscious enough of that we feel that we can articulate them. But there are so many things that we might not think to tell, or we might not realize are significant. I most likely have talked about what highschool was like, how I felt about myself back then, what my friends were like, all of that, to him before, but perhaps even I had forgotten what it was really like to be in my own head then. While I am a big fan of paying attention to initial emotions, figuring them out and choosing proper courses of action for dealing with them healthily, I also think it important to let these waves of memory and emotion be expressed to those close to me. The more you show the people you love, the more they can learn to understand you and help you as relationships progressed. Shaun wrote about exactly this today with some amazing literary skill and intellectual brilliance.
We quickly found a bar (or two) to while away the daylight hours and as I got drunker and more dehydrated (and a little unstable from all the memories of the day), I talked a lot, but my thoughts kept going back to how different life is now than it was then and that while I felt old for a moment, I wouldn’t want to go back for anything. I feel younger now than I did then having shed a few pieces of baggage. I would prefer to feel wise at 31 than wait until I’m 61 to figure anything out. My life as it is now makes me incredibly happy. Happiness was something that I thought was not something I would ever truly have. When I think back to what I expected when I was 18, this is not what I envisioned and actual happiness wasn’t really part of it. I always thought that I would be 75 and finally over everything and then, and only then, when I was old and theoretically wiser, I would be that old laughing lady.
Ah, wait until what your 75-year-old self says about the 31-year-old self! Hows that for humility! I would love to know what I will understand at that age (if I make it that far, of course), but know I cannot know now. Stupid time-space continuum!
So, now I just get more decades of being an old laughing lady. What an unexpected surprise!
I hope that I can go along for the ride, my old, wise lady.
Two Philadelphia atheist events this weekend November 28, 2011Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Religion, Skepticism and atheism.
Tags: Ethical Society, Margaret Downey, Philadelphia, Tree of Knowledge, West Chester
For those of you in the Philadelphia area, I have a couple of events you may be interested in. They are both affiliated with the Freethought Society, which is run by my friend Margaret Downey, and I will be attending one of both of them.
The first is the Human Tree of Knowledge in West Chester on Saturday December 3rd at 3:00 PM. The reason it will be a human tree rather than a real one is because the presence of a real tree has been blocked by the city of West Chester, as has been covered recently over at Hemant’s place. I was there for at least two of the real trees before this form of protest was necessary, as I have worked with Margaret Downey and the FTS for many years.
If you are interested in following news or in networking with people involved, there is also a facebook group. I will be there on Saturday and will almost certainly do dinner afterwords. After that I may grab a point at the Iron Hill Brewery since I love their Pig Iron Porter so much.
The second event is the following day, Sunday December 4th, and is in Philadelphia. More specifically it is at the Ethical Society at Rittenhouse Square. Here is an image of the flier, copies of which may appear there in the next couple of days.
I am not yet sure if I will attend this event. I’m not big on holiday rituals, but it may be a good time to catch up with local people of reason.
If you will be in the Philadelphia and/or West Chester area this coming weekend, make a point to attend or pass along the information to others who may be interested.
Finding a poly community IRL September 19, 2011Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: community, Philadelphia, polyamory
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Some years ago, when I decided I wanted to live a polyamorous lifestyle, I discovered a local meetup groupand started to attend meetings, met some people (including a lover or two), and learned a lot. That group still exists. I don’t go to meetings anymore for a few reasons, but I will not dwell on that right now.
Instead, I want to talk about how I have become part of a small group of people who are predominantly polyamorous (and therefore there are many interlinking connections both sexual and non-sexual) who are young, intelligent, fun, and includes many atheists.
That is to say, not exactly like my experience elsewhere. Yes, they were fun, and I met people with insightful and useful things to teach me, but the general age gap was noticeable (younger people tended to come, but not to be repeat attenders), and the predominance of non-atheists was somewhat annoying.
So, how did I land among such people? Well, some luck and some causation related to he fact hat my fiance is not only a sexy, sexy lady but also quite intelligent, personable, and therefore a means towards making friend with people who like that sort of thing. And of course they know people.
So, whether it is Thursday night karaoke, the Philly Fringe festival, or Sunday night football (not my thing, but it draws people together for non-football conversations, food, and so forth), I have found myself hanging out with pretty awesome people who are poly or poly-friendly. It is a wonderful way to live, and I feel a slight twinge of pity for those normal
monotonous monogamous people out there who are missing out on all the fun.
Oh well, I’m sure they are having fun too. So long as everyone is happy, right? I guess.
Well, here’s to living a full life with awesome people! Philadelphia and the surrounding area certainly has polyamorous people enjoying their lives of all ages, with different interests, and with different goals. And while there are certainly some poly people who are really bad at it, who perhaps are not mature enough to do it right, or who are using it as an excuse to act poorly in relationships which are not very transparent, honest, or healthy, I hope these are the exceptions.
So thank you, everyone, for being so awesome. You know who you are.
9/11 and Smarmy Ecumenicalism in Philadelphia September 11, 2011Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: 9/11, ecumenicalism, Philadelphia, September 11
So, I was walking with Gina through town earlier today, since she had to pick up tickets for her show this after noon and evening, and I decided I would walk over to Rittenhouse Square and read my book for a while. But when I got there, I realized I would be reading no book. It turned out that the atheist fairy left me some presents.
As I approached the center of the park, I saw a number of white-topped tents set up (there turned out to be 15 of them) and my eyebrows raised.
Today is September 11th I said to myself. It’s been ten years. They are going to be doing some uber patriotic anniversary thing.
Not quite. Better.
The answer was yes, to both, and my mouth curled into a devilish smirk (of course). This is going to be fun.
Now, since I had originally planned on being at a wedding this weekend (the trip got canceled due to lack of traveling funds), I had not bothered to pay attention to what might be going on in Philadelphia this weekend, so I didn’t know about this event until I stumbled upon it. But after I thought about it I realized that I should have known about this anyway…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
15 booths. One city living group (or something like that), the Shambala meditation center, one Jewish, one Moslem (CAIR), one Turkish American group, and about 10 Christian churches were milling about and talking to each other. Then I saw the stage, complete with lectern and seal of the Mayer of Philadelphia, Mr. Nutter himself. He was off stage at first, but that would change.
This was going to be an interfaith, ecumenical lovefest among the local religious groups and I was going to be able to watch. I was quite amused. It was called Hands Across the Square. It was supposed to start at 2:00, and it was around 1:00 when I arrived. I had time to mingle, and mingle I did. I had some short but friendly conversations with people who noticed my “Atheism: A Non-Prophet Organization” T-Shirt (what else is a man supposed to wear?), and when it was time for prayers and such, I made my way near the front to watch, take notes, and a couple of pictures.
And before I knew it, I was saying to myself Hey, there’s the mayor. He’s totally going to speak, isn’t he? Yes, totally going to get his G-O-D on today! With official government seal and everything. Yay church and state!
So, when the invocations, prayers, etc started (led by a female priest from St. Mark’s) I started taking notes. Phrases like the following would be thrown about liberally;
“Celebrate our unity”
“we need each other”
“No religion is an island”
“Disagreement without disrespect’
and, of course…
“One nation under God” (said by a Moslem)
There was a sense that these religious traditions are really alike, and there is no reason for there to be strife. They doth protest too much, methought, and I started to think about all the things religious texts say about other faiths as I tried not to laugh or look too amused.
And, of course, there were no atheist groups represented. And, believe me, many of us would have liked to participate. Had the people organizing the event even considered inviting an atheist, I would have likely heard something about it. I would have personally loved to address the crown as a voice for atheists; and yes, I would have remained civil, even if I would not have toed the ecumenical line completely. I suppose that’s why I would not have been invited.
I tried to ask Mayor Nutter, after the event ended, why no atheist was included in the event. But rather than even get a chance to voice the question he looked me up and down, read my shirt, and made some comment about having to be at another appointment. Not surprising, really. No time for us atheists, especially with voters around. We atheists, after all, are nothing but rabble-rousers and have no place in such an event. We might cause trouble, such as pointing out the utter absurdity of unity through religious difference, especially in how it overlooks the obvious logical flaws in ecumenicalism. Couldn’t they have at least thrown in a token accommodationist atheist?
Would the Mayor’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives even know what an accommodationist v. a gnu atheist is? I doubt it. It’s not really their job, I suppose. But they didn’t even try and include us.
The prayers and so forth were followed by everyone holding hands in a continuous line around the park, while the church on the corner did some music with it’s bell tower. A few minutes of silence to remember that horrible day 10 years ago. I didn’t include myself because, as I told one person who tried to make room for me, I’m philosophically opposed to the basis for this act of religious ecumenicalism, even if it was in part a rememberence of 9/11. Atheists remember this day too. And for many of us, myself included, 9/11 was a catalyst for more dramatically opposing religion and faith in our world, not a cause to overlook those differences in order to pretend we can all be friends. It’s a delusion; religions, while having some good qualities, are a part of the problem, not the solution. Events such as this are an attempt to cover this fact with wishes and rainbows.
I remain unimpressed.
I do not believe that ecumenicalism is useful. I do want people to live among each other peacefully, but I think it is a deception to argue, as the many speakers did today, that religions need each other, that the fundamental virtues of compassion, love, and unity supersede the fact that much of religion calls for the death of non-adherents, apostates, and perpetually oppression of women much more than they call for unity.
Unity is a human virtue, usurped by religion and claimed as its own.
I am perpetually annoyed by this short-sighted and insincere attempts by groups such as these to pretend like there are not real things within their religions which make this ecumenical perspective fundamentally flawed. There are parts of scripture from the Tanakh, the Qu’ran, and the New Testament which make each mutually exclusive to the other. Granted, the Shambala Center, which was also represented, truly does accept people of all faiths (and no faith, thank you Jeffrey Lee, for adding that to your talk), but their willingness to accept people does not say whether those people can actually do so with logical coherence.
Oh, right, logical coherence is not really a buzz word in ecumenical circles. Never mind, I suppose. This was an event for warm fuzzy feelings devoid of actual critical thought. They must know that real analysis of religion, faith, and history does not lead to the liberal-porn of ecumenicalism which I saw paraded about today. And if they don’t know, their levels of compartmentalization transcend anything I would have thought possible. But, then again, I have stopped being surprised by human inadequacy, especially when it comes to faith. Moving from a position of faith in gods and souls to the idea that people with other ideas of gods and souls could be their BFF is not really a huge step. Never mind that their heaven is not yours, and you aren’t invited.
Without the need for reality-based thinking, there is no limit to the amount of rationalization and one could achieve. The sky is not even the limit when there is an imaginary heaven above.
There was, of course, a lot of reading from scripture, including Arabic reading from the Qu’ran, Old and New Testaments, and some talk of fearlessness and cowardice (which I thought was actually pretty cool. I may blog about that later). I was bemused by the statement, made by more than 2 speakers, that we are all drawn together as “children of Adam” or at least of some god. Lets just say that I felt a little unrepresented in this category, as I don’t have any Adams in my family (I don’t think) and this god-thingy is somewhat puzzling to me. Perhaps I’m not a real Philadelphian. Because, as Mayor Nutter said, “this is so Philadelphia.” I guess I’m not included, even though it is my home town and all. And while it is true that Philadelphia, with it’s pluralism rooted in William Penn’s view of religious freedom, is a tolerant and open city, Mayor Nutter forgets that there are people that are not of god at all. He also forgets that he represents a government which is supposed to be neutral in such regards, and I feel somewhat slighted in his office even having a Faith Based Initiatives office, let alone utilizing it in this discriminatory way.
The similarities of these religious traditions are due to the fact that they are done by humans, and not because of any shared divine insight. Religion has usurped our humanism and called it their own, and they overlook their vast differences in order to try and pretend that we can all just live with each other without conflict. It’s naive. Yes, we can live with each other without killing each other, but that’s only because the common decency that exists within most people trumps what the scriptures say when they command us to kill each other. The people that get together to have these religious love fests are ignoring too much of the scriptures they claim to be god’s word, cherry-picking what they like and ignoring what they don’t. It’s simply annoying to witness.
Oh, and after the event the Truthers came out. They don’t deserve any more comment than that.
Philadelphia Equality Forum May 4, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: Philadelphia, liberal Christianity, Equality Forum, GLBT, Repent America, gay pride
On Sunday, May 3, 2009, in the rain and cool Spring weather, The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia had a table at the Equality Forum, which was an event celebrating GLBT culture in the city.
Now, the question is why an organization for freethinkers (rationalists, secular humanists, atheists, etc) would set up a table at an event such as this? Two reasons; the first is that the vast majority of its members are support equal gay rights and (the second) is that there are many potential new members at such events.
Sally Cramer came to pick me up around 9:30am on Sunday morning. That’s too early, in my opinion, to be doing anything on a Sunday. Sally is the President of FSGP and a good friend of mine. We set up the tent, organized the tables, and as other volunteers slowly made their way to our location near 3rd and Market, we got things started.
The rain probably kept many people away, including many other groups with tables. The people next to our slot on the street had no tent and so spent much of the day huddled together under an umbrella at their table. They looked so cute huddled together, but they left after a couple of hours of this. I wasn’t surprised.
Repent America was there too. They are not quite Fred Phelps and his crew, but they are close enough. For most of the day, we ignored them, and so did most of the people there. I don’t think they liked being ignored.
There were a number of churches with booths there. There are many liberal churches that accept gay members, many of which have gay pastors, ministers, or whatever they call the people that give sermons and all that jazz. We talked with a few of them and had some nice discussions. They are good people, in general, and they didn’t seem to mind our presence much at all.
But we also met quite a few atheists, “agnostics,”, and other non-religious people who were happy to see us there, and who may become members in the near future. The fact that FSGP is having a meeting and lecture at the William Way Community Center (1315 Spruce St; right in the the “gayborhood”) this Friday at 7:00 with Susana Meyer speaking will probably mean we’ll have a few more people show up to our meeting this month. We advertised it at or table, of course.
Most of the day was relatively quiet. We talked with many people, got almost no comments that were not completely welcoming, and had a calm, rainy, and cool day with some fabulous people. That is, until Repent America marched right towards our booth, both followed and also even impeded by, some gay and lesbian folks that were preaching a more inclusive gospel message.
Yes, that’s right folks, the “burn in Hell” Christians and the “God loves all equally” Christians marched right to us, set up shop behind us, and had it out with each other while we, quite amused, watched. OK, some of the volunteers made some comments and we gave a few pamphlets away that were titled “On Religion and Being Gay…What Freethought Has to Offer!”, but mostly we stood nearby and watched.
And as the “burn in Hell” Christians found a place to stand and condemn through a megaphone for a while, many of the local participants did something that I actually disagreed with; they blocked them and tried to shout over them.
We, vocal heathens that we are, had some shirts on. The one I wore said “Hi, I’m your friendly neighborhood atheist!” while some others wore the “Smile, there’s no Hell!” shirt with the smiley face on it. The people with the megaphones saw these and pretty much ignored us. We were for another day, I guess. They just wanted to make sure that everyone there knew that homosexuality is a sin and that they would all go to Hell. The rest kissed there partners, screamed gay pride slogans, and generally fed them everything they wanted to hear while they protested with more than 20 police officers nearby just in case.
In other words, there was no conversation (not that the people from Repent America were willing to talk anyway; they just ignored everything said to them). All I saw were two groups with different interpretations of a book of myths yelling alternative views at each other. All is vanity, I suppose. And while I prefer the “God loves everyone equally” people to be around, I found the whole thing quite silly, in all honesty.
Eventually they all went away, and with the yelling and the noise over, there was nothing left to do. The rain had slowed to a mere drizzle at most and so we took down the tent and went our ways (some of us went to Eulogy to get some dinner and fine Belgian ales). We’ll see how many show up on Friday for the lecture and if we see some more members sign up. All in all, I enjoyed the day.
So thanks to everyone who showed up to volunteer (Greg, Brian, Janice, Scotty, Glen and of course myself). A special thanks to Sally for setting up the event and having all of the materials ready.