Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Friday, March 13th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog.

Tonight the Resistance found Jonathan’s crew, including Phil Washer, milling around the corner of 6th and Mill Avenue at Hippie Gypsy. Later into the night Jim Coleman came out as well as Vocab Malone and his group—who were a lot more amiable and easy to speak with than Jonathan’s group.

The group with Jonathan brought with them one of the loudest amps that anyone has yet brought, almost as loud as Shawn Holes and Jeff Rose (if not in the same ballpark.) The cone-of-sound manages to compete with the louder buskers on Mill Ave. Accusations of its misuse have been mentioned as well including last Friday someone holding it against Rocco’s ear, and this weekend—directly witnessed—having it pointed directly into Omar’s face. The outcome of pointing it at Omar created a nearly 90 second feedback fencing match.

This activity is becoming more unacceptable as Jonathan, and his group, has moved from simply ignoring respondents to being part of assaults. They are failing fundamental civil responsibility by acting as bad neighbors to the Ave, causing injury, breaking the commons, and not engaging in actual discourse with the community. They should really clean up their act.

Jonathan appears to have modified his behavior to mollify would-be anger by other street practitioners who are out there to do their thing and make money by offering pale conciliatory gestures in his deafening speeches: “Buy some hotdogs, they’re $3, and they’re excellent,” and “Check out these paintings over here, some of them are $6 and they’re wonderful paintings.” This probably emanated from an earlier experience when James, owner of Bun Devils, became angry with Jonathan and his crew for stopping up the corner he sat at and thus caused fear that customers were being chased away.

A cameraman appears to have come along this time—well a camera at least—since multiple people carried the camera during the night. It was a large, heavy, shoulder-carried television camera with a huge fuzzy microphone.

Around 10:30pm the night really calmed down as the amplification went away and the groups broke up into smaller discussions.

I spoke for a while with Michael who came out to support his “Brothers in Christ,” as they did their thing on Mill Ave. He couldn’t stay long—as he had to take the light rail—but seemed to be around with Jonathan and Phil’s group. Our conversation was short, but he had a fairly decent affect; although, it was difficult for me to hold a conversation because my ears were still ringing from the earlier extreme noise.

Rocco, Omar, Isaac, Jim, and Vocab managed a long winded, winding conversation about almost everything from the historicity of Jesus, linguistics, anthropological evidence for the origins of Christianity (from neat stuff like ancient manuscripts) and … even a weird little passage from the Book of Matthew about an indeterminate number of Jewish scholars coming back from the grave and returning to their lifetime posts and jobs.

Kazz met with a pair of young women who stopped to look at some of the signs. One tall and overweight, the other small and quiet; the more vocal of the two professed her Christianity while discussing some of the tracts with him. Although, the conversation got a little bit strange when she admitted that she didn’t believe in dinosaurs because the Bible doesn’t mention them—problematically, I don’t think the Bible mentions microbes either, but we demonstrably have those. The conversation did eventually digress and dissolve and they went on their way.

Also, another one of Kazz’s signs from the speaker has also been stolen. One of the “MURDERER / MISSING” posters that hangs on the sides of the Resistance speaker has been taken.

15% Non-religious? Let’s pretend they believe!

I just watched a segment of Lou Dobbs Tonight talking about the decline in religious belief over the past decade or more, and I am very annoyed with the guests who were chosen and what they said.

The two guests for the piece were blowhard Bill Donahue, President of the Catholic League, and Tony Perkins, President of the vile Family Research Council. Did anyone actually expect to get a good unbiased view of the subject from these guys? Donahue is an enormous ass on the conservative end of the Catholic spectrum, and of course Perkins is off the deep end, and both are very opposed to us and most of what we stand for.

Neither of them was anywhere close to speaking for the 15% of people who explicitly stated in the American Religious Identification Survey that they were not Christians and not religious. Apparently 15% isn’t enough to get a voice on television. There are enough of us to get religious people on to talk about us and dismiss us, but I guess it’s too much to ask to have someone who even remotely represents our views there to defend us.

Essentially both of the guests tried to downplay the loss of faith, attempting to claim the large number of non-religious people who aren’t ready yet to say that there is no “higher power” as their own, and claiming that due to the bad economy, terrorism and other problems, people are going to come crawling back to them.

Bibles don’t stop bullets

Where are the miracles? Really, on the same show I saw that a man in Illinois had walked into a church, talked to the pastor and then shot and killed him.

The pastor tried to block the shot with his Bible, but of course it failed. If God’s most devoted servants can’t hope for his protection in His own house of worship, then where can we hope to see a miracle?

Maybe we can’t expect to see them because they just don’t happen.

It’s sad that that point is somewhat true, but the fact that they not only admit that this kind of suffering and hopelessness is what brings people to their business but seem to be proud and smug about it is disgusting. It’s like an undertaker rubbing his hands with glee as he hears about a horrible disaster because it will bring him business.

Most personally annoying to me was the fact that they basically dismissed atheists and even agnostics as inconsequential, and they could do it because none of us were there to defend ourselves.

They may not admit it, but they must know that the people who have fallen away from religion may very well end up as atheists or permanent agnostics, especially if we are brave and open enough to present our side, and they should know that there are many of us out there.

If you are an atheist or agnostic, or if you have any other minority view on gods and the supernatural, please don’t keep it to yourself. The majority needs to be challenged, and the people who are on the fence need to be informed about the serious debate on these subjects, not just indoctrinated by a new church without ever knowing another way is out there.

Let’s show people like Bill Donahue and Tony Perkins that we actually are out here, and that we will not be ignored and stepped on by them and their ultra-conservative religious agendas anymore.

Roosevelt Resistance Reports: Friday, March 6th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog.

The Resistance left meetings at ASU taking cars and light rail up to the First Friday Art Walk, arriving in parts around 7:30pm and found an noticeable crowd attending the various parts of our favorite artists’ faire. They set up in their usual spot in the triangular easement between the split of 3rd at Roosevelt. Joining the Resistance again with Kazz also was Spyral who spent most of her time next to the Resistance speaker on Roosevelt.

The Way of the Master preachers set up on the same corner and also across the street closer to 4th and Roosevelt. In attendance we had Valerie, Al, Lee, John, Edwin, among other notable faces. Passing out tracts and using their amplification. Both the position on the triangle and across the street used amplification; and later into the night two positions were set up on the triangle on opposite when Edwin came from across the street to the triangle.

Omar spent most of the night talking to John2 from Streetfishing. He is the large male with a heavy face and loud voice who generally sets up on the opposite side of 4th and Roosevelt. He also brings two young girls with him ages ranging possibly between 8 and 10 years old, who he uses as an excuse to tell people to “Watch their language,” and also uses to pass out tracts. The girls are polite and quiet, clean up after themselves and attempt to avoid people littering tracts by simply dropping them on the ground—it’s not uncommon to see them darting out from where they’ve huddled near John2 to hand one out.

During Omar’s stay John2 switched out once or twice with another preacher. They compose themselves of a behavior where they totally ignore Omar and other passersby who he offers his amplification to. No actual conversations happen. They spend a lot of time claiming the attention of members of the general public and then make broad claims about respecting them when others who are in the cone of the amplification want to also ask and answer questions.

At one point Omar began playing EBM music in between his questions and John2 approached him.

“I appreciate the discourse,” John2 said to Omar, “but the music is beneath you.”

“We don’t really have a discourse, though, you just ignore me the entire time,” Omar replied.

And there certainly was none the entire time that I observed.

Amid those who took up Omar’s offer of amplification—he would switch to his megaphone—were a few young ladies, a passing man, and Nicky, a bespectacled, outspoken young woman who had joined him last First Friday when speaking to John3. As always, the Streetfishing preachers spent most of their time totally ignoring them, using mirror-speech, and expectedly ordinary rhetoric on anyone who stopped to talk to them. Ignoring Omar and Nicky also managed to produce something of a cacophony on that corner very similar to what happened to the WoTM preachers on Mill when they wouldn’t reply to the Resistance early on.

The crew from Rocky Horror Picture Show passing out pamphlets also came to visit the WoTM preachers on the triangle at 3rd and became embroiled in some sort of strange siege, with black fishnets, lace, and eyeliner—oh and golden underwear (as per an overweight Rocky with a friendly face and red fliers for all.) After a small discussion they dispersed, took over the corner there, and handed out their fliers by pronouncing ecumenical acceptance of everyone using talking points counter to common Christian fundamentalist rhetoric. “At RHPS we accept you even if you’re gay! We don’t care. Bi? Come with us! Boy. Girl. Whatever. RHPS is the place for you.” Their position and the verbiage certainly increased the number of people who took pamphlets from them.

The WoTM and Streetfishing preachers finally left the area around 10pm—slowly filtering out as that witching our rolled around.

The night wound down with a few groups of Christians stopping to talk to Issac, Rocco, and Kazz. At last one of them had an alpha who promised to pray for Kazz, and another promised to pray for Omar. To which he stated that it wouldn’t have any effect, she said she was going to pray anyway.

During one encounter, Spyral stood by handing out various tracts as Kazz was speaking as the conversation necessarily wended between common points from the Nephilim. When Spy attempted to give one of the atheist tracts to one of that group she was roundly refused.

“Why won’t you take it?” Spyral asked.

“Would you take a tract from me?”

“Yes.”

“Why would you take one if you don’t believe in God?”

This went around a few times where Spyral pointed out—like I would—that we do actually read all of the material we take. That, in fact, taking a tract is precisely like giving someone else time to speak to us, time to listen to their words. It is extremely common that tract bearers will refuse literature from us after we accept it from them; it is also common for them to not want to listen to us while at the same time proselytizing. This group managed to both listen and speak, but that fell down when it came to exchanging tracts.

One of the members of the group mentioned that this was her first time at First Friday but she had not been able to take any time to enjoy the booths and artists because she had come out to hand out tracts. Notably, a similar thing happened to Spyral because she kept to the Resistance speaker and didn’t manage to spend time around the various artists and music.

Hopefully next time both can have a much better experience by being able to be part of the celebratory atmosphere, the art, and the glimmering amazement that is the Art Walk.

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, February 28th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog.

The Resistance appeared on Mill Ave at about 8pm. Almost every corner had been taken up with various entertainers, people doing Mill Ave work, and other functions. The first encounter that members of the Resistance had with anything related to their mission was an offhand conversation about Christian convictions between some common folk mingling.

Eventually, Al, Jim Coleman, and Valerie set up in front of the Post Office and were immediately met by Kazz and other members of the Resistance. Although, they were quickly siphoned away to a set up that Omar had taken at Urban Outfitters which became more of the Resistance corner than anything else—no preachers countered them at all.

Edwin wandered past during the night commenting that he and others had gone to check out the light rail.

“Do you ladies believe in goodness?”

It was one of the WoTM preachers speaking out to a group of down-dressed young women who sauntered past, chuckling in alcoholic glow. The reply, however, came from a small cluster of young men. “No!” they shouted past, and burst into a fit of laughter.

“These guys don’t believe in goodness,” the preacher said. “Very dangerous guys.”

Dangerous to themselves at least, as they immediately crossed the street against the light without looking.

The only other noteworthy event was when Strawberry Joe had a conversation with Valerie about religious convictions. Earlier that night he professed to me that he had changed his mind about diesm, and talked about his stroke experience. He had a cerebral event and knew that he was dead. This probably was what he talked to Valerie about, but it’s difficult to get him to form coherent sentences sometimes so I doubt that conversation went anywhere with a rapidity.

Beyond that, the night was singularly boring, it had little going on, few people stopped to talk to the WoTM preachers—but lots did stop to talk to the Resistance group and Omar in front of Urban Outfitters with his “GODLESS 4 GOODNESS” sign. Rocco spent a bit of the night using his newly bought megaphone to heckle Al at the Post Office, but eventually he must have grown bored of that as well as nobody paid much attention to them.

Teach-in Weekend Wrap-up

This has been a long weekend, and I’m a bit worn out, but I think it was worth doing. Now that I’ve attended the Local to Global Teach-in and I know what to expect, I think we can do more with our table next year, and we can run one or more workshops too, so expect to see us out there in greater numbers and with greater purpose next time.

Still, there was plenty of good material there this year. Being at the table a lot I didn’t get to attend too many of the workshops, but Ezra Niesen’s Planetary Biology and the Anti-Capitalist Revolution presentation was great, as was the Creative Tactics Training workshop by the Backbone Campaign.

You can find a lot of great information at backbonecampaign.org, and you can find Ezra’s books at newbookforanewworld.org. There were a lot of other workshops that looked interesting too, but sadly when you’re a participant and not just an attendee you have to balance your time between the two roles.

So if you missed this one, I hope you’ll come out next time, and we’ll keep our eyes open for other similar events to point you to in the mean time. If you already know of some, please share the information!

Mill Avenue Resistance Reports: Saturday, February 21st 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog.

Today saw an increase in the total activity of drama and exposure of evangelical preachers on Mill Ave that hasn’t been seen before. Some old people have returned, and some new people have made themselves noticeable. And there were some major disruptions caused by their presence because of friction with local businesses.

The night opened up with Brant and his blonde companion camped out at the Post Office without amplification, holding a sign talking to passersby; Jeremiah, Al, and other Way of the Master evangelical preachers set up in front of Borders; and Jonathan—around whom the most major drama erupted—decided to set up in an unorthodox place: at 6th and Mill Ave in front of the Hippie Gypsy. This is probably because there is little room kitty-corner from the Hippie Gypsy, Bruce the spray-paint artist had taken the Urban Outfitters corner, and Coffee Plantation security is well known for harassing people who set up there.

The Resistance split themselves between the Hippie Gypsy corner and the Borders corner for the first part of the evening after members heard that Jeremiah had returned to the Ave. He is well known and spoken of among them because of his particular unchanging preaching style, defiance against changing his show to match current fact, and his interestingly abrasive speaking style which include known insulting falsehoods, and now quickly irrelevant non-facts presented as truth. “I don’t believe in atheists,” said Jerimiah. “If you say that you’re an atheist or an agnostic, I don’t believe in you.” In spite of his infamy drawing Resistance members that direction the real action seemed to keep itself at 6th and eventually everyone focused on those corners.

Along with Jonathan came a couple other speakers including a man named Phil who wore a tweed snapped-peak cap. When they set up with their loudspeaker it drew the attention of a Bun Devils hotdog stand worker—a tall black man, with very short, thick black hair, and a red “Bun Devils” t-shirt—and the owner James. Together they repeatedly complained at Jonathan and Phil about their speaker, at the crowd themselves to go away, claiming that the people with amplification had no right to be there several times; repeating that they were driving away business, that they were losing money.

James set off the car alarm of his large SUV parked right next to the corner (and his store) at about 9:34p.m. and was finally deactivated thirteen minutes later when three police officers on bikes showed up and waved James over. His discussion with them apparently did not favor his desire to remove the preachers, the Resistance, and the crowd from the corner, however, because they didn’t stay to talk about it.

Some exchanges with Jonathan became rather funny because the worker from the hotdog stand would come over and engage him in attempted conversation. Often, to which Jonathan would interject into his preaching that people should go buy hotdogs, but he also spoke some about the car alarm going off—“We are here today. We’re Christians. I don’t want to yell, but there’s a lot of noise.”

“I want you to buy something,” the black worker said.

“I have no money,” replied Jonathan, rubbing at his pockets with a shrug.

“Then go somewhere else!”

At another point, James went out and waved twenty-dollar bills at Averroes and Phil while they argued on the corner complaining that he’d give them money if they would only go away. At this point it was because both of them were using amplification and he just wanted them to change corners.

“I don’t want to hear them fussing,” James said. “That’s why I left my home and came out here tonight—because I don’t want to hear my wife and kids fuss, now you guys are making me sick to my stomach.”

At one point one man, looking for a fight or drunk, knocked Kazz’s “THINK FOR YOURSELF” sign out of his hands.

Hippie Gypsy increased the volume of the music that they play from their overhang, possibly in their own passive-aggressive gesture to show the crowd/preachers that they didn’t want them there.

Finally near 10 p.m. the preachers decide to take their show across the street in front of Coffee Plantation. Security there manage to not harass the set up there. Kazz even went to his vehicle and got his amplification (which had not made a debut yet.) About then another group of evangelical preachers appeared and began using the amplification that appeared to be similar to, if not actually, Jonathan’s amp—although he wasn’t seen again, but Phil was still around.

One of the new group said something about “Campus Ministry” who were visiting. Amid them a few names that were picked up by members of the Resistance were Shannon, a visiting scholar who was introduced as someone who “liked to argue with skeptics,” and happened to spend time talking to Joe; and Scotty B. who started out the night by talking to Kazz, trying to hold conversations with superfluous equivocation discussions about the “laws of logic” even though that’s not what he meant (he listed off a number of logical fallacies and rhetorical rules, but it was difficult to understand what he was getting at.)

Rocco and Joe managed the floor with the new group of preachers for most of the night. Rocco spending most of his time attempting to explain how claiming that something is “outside of logic” is akin to being able to make no claim about it at all because the very foundations of logic (truth values, for example) could not be applied to it rendering any substantive discussion of it utterly moot. Joe talked to Shannon for a while, rolling around logical arguments including the “omnipotence and omniscience” together form a contradiction in terms. Including certain other direct problems with special pleading for the supernatural.

Jonathan vanished sometime near 11p.m.

The new preacher groups left Mill Ave at about midnight.

Overall a few interviews were had with various elements, but it was difficult to formally report on individual events. Since tonight was particularly scattered, members of the Resistance and others in the public are encouraged (moreso than usual, if we may) to reply to this post and add to the knowledge of the experience.

Brother Jed Resistance Reports: Friday, February 20th 2009

The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the Resistance does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog.

Brother Jed is an increasingly irrelevant campus evangelical prostylizer and he visited ASU campus today. The Mill Avenue Resistance and the ASU Secular Free Thought Society went out to meet him—they didn’t have to go far. The SFTS have a tent and table set up on the main mall in front of the Memorial Union where Jed preaches so they only had to venture out from their shade to see him.

And he didn’t impress.

Fridays on ASU campus have a weaker contingent of students who are finishing up their last classes for the week and are looking forward to the weekend. They really weren’t biting. Between Brother Jed and Sister Pat’s inflammatory and rude speeches (claiming girls are whores, and boys are rapists) they failed to hook anyone and only faced the SFTS the entire time.

Even the klaxon yells of, “Pervert alert! Pervert alert! Girls close your legs, it’s a fraternity boy!” didn’t garner much of any response from any passerby.

Slow to start up, Jed and Pat were equally slow going, and eventually petered out entirely around lunchtime.

I stopped and talked to him a little while. Where he showed a certain amount of ignorance of my dress aesthetic—which I don’t entirely blame him for, he is a Christian evangelical preacher, and would not fit in on the floor of a Goth dance club. Claimed that I was limiting my influence by dressing the way that I do; although, I attempted to explain that I’m dressed like this for show. He then noticed my nametag that states that I’m an Anthropologist and said, “So you study anthropology. That’s the study of man. Tell me: what is the purpose of man?”

“If my badge said that I was a geologist, would you have actually asked me, ‘What is the purpose of rocks?’”

I knew what I was getting into when I started talking to him. Really, I want to talk to the person not to their religion, but an evangelical Christian out on a campus talking to anyone is essentially working. They’re not being themselves—they’re being their job, and that job is to sell their religion. However, Jed did talk about some real world things in between his farcical carnival act gestures and religious gesticulations.

During our little discussion, over which I did more listening than actual talking but I’m not sure that I can bridge the generation gap between Jed and I, he decided that I was a good candidate to read his book. So, now I have a copy of it. Which he claims is going out of print. I did promise to read it, so I will certainly attempt to do so. After I am done, I am donating it to the SFTS so that they can put it into their library.

After I disentangled myself from him, he took his chair and sat amidst the SFTS and talked to people there. I will have to interview the various members of the group to find out what exactly they talked about because I spent more time instructing other ASU students.

The STFS had a massive turn out of worthwhile people including Kevin, Max (the Jewish guy from last year), Brian, Cale, Kyle, Kazz, Todd – I am probably missing some but people were out in force.

Jed Failure!

This morning Brother Jed was supposed to be at ASU, according to his own schedule, but the schedule was changed today. Now it says that he will be here on Friday, but not today or Thursday, so if you were going to come check him out you should wait until Friday.

Sorry, but Jed moves in mysterious ways.

Still on the fence about Jed?

For those of you who are still on the fence about coming to see Jed this week, here’s a video of one of his songs and a bit of extension cord sex demonstration. How can you pass up such great comedy? It’s like a caricature of Fundamentalist Christianity, but he’s serious!

Jed’s Gay Song

It’s not okay to be gay
It’s not okay to be a homo
You weren’t designed to be that way
God says that it’s a big no-no

It’s not okay to be gay
It’s not okay to be a pervert
It’s not in your DNA
What you need is to be converted

It’s not okay to be gay
It’s not okay to be a lesbo
You weren’t designed to be that way
God says that it’s a big no-no

Should we let Creationism into science classes?

For many years now I have been a staunch opponent of teaching Creationism (AKA Intelligent Design) in science classes, but I’m beginning to question that stance, and I’d like to hear some other opinions on the subject.

So have I given in to the “teach the controversy” crowd? Quite the opposite! In the US today, with our majority Christian population and unconscionably high percentage of people who already don’t believe in evolution, it is almost inevitable that children will be exposed to Creationism in some way. Why let it be on the Creationists’ terms?

Instead I propose that we actually teach children about the Christian Creation Myth in schools, but tell the truth about it. Don’t tell them that there is a serious debate in science about whether life on Earth got to its present state by means of evolution or by creation in its current form. Instead tell them that we know evolution happens, that even many Christians including Pope John Paul II agree that it does, and then show them exactly how literal Biblical Creationism falls flat on its face as science.

This would be a great educational experience in critical thinking, and a fantastic demonstration of how ancient unscientific ideas are eventually overtaken by good science based on observable facts. We still see the layperson’s side of this battle going on today since Creationists are much more tenacious than doctors who thought that “bleeding” people would cure them, but people should know that this debate is limited to laypeople and a few fringe scientists who have a lot of faith but little or no training in relevant scientific disciplines.

Instead of ignoring Creationism in school and letting kids be confused by hearing a basic version of the truth about the history of life on Earth in science class and then hearing confusing Creationist lies at home, on the street and in church, often without any arguments presented against it, the common Creationist claims should be debunked and it should be shown for the outdated, disproven, cynical lies that they are. We know that the Creationists are presenting their case, weak though it may be, and bashing evolution and science in any way they can. Why not fight back?

As I have seen too often in children and adults who believe in the Biblical Creation Myth, this and other related religious beliefs can destroy their trust not only in evolution but in all of science, even in anything secular, and then all they are left with is their religion. If we let people become so disconnected from reality and society as a whole, we risk losing them as members of our society along with anyone they manage to convert. This is a real concern since many of these people are evangelical and believe it is their mission to convert people.

So let’s cut this off at the knees. We can give the Creationists part of what they want and put Creationism into the science curriculum, as Creationism and not the “Intelligent Design” pseudonym so no one is confused about what the real issue is. Then we can teach people about the current controversy between fundamentalists and rational people in the laity, and let them know that the controversy in the scientific community between Evolution and Creation is long over and that the Creationists lost decisively.