Wow, what an interesting year it has been!
Next week I’ll celebrate ZackFord Blog’s first birthday, probably by writing a long reflection about that first year of blogging (because reflecting is what we student affairs professionals do).
For now, I thought I’d highlight posts from the past year that I hope are still worth reading! I would have just listed the posts that got read the most, but the stats are kind of messed up because of the site changeover in October, so I had to take a different approach to the Top 10 list. This site has had a mix of posts on different topics, and while many are tied to current events, I think (hope) some of my more original posts remain relevant even as time goes on. Below are 10 highlights from the past year I think are worth revisiting!
10. Challenging Paradigms In Higher Ed Simply By Speaking Out
I’ve meditated throughout the year about how my blog might affect my job search and the way I’m perceived as a professional in the field of student affairs. I know I have colleagues out there who do not always like what I offer on this blog, and that’s okay; it wouldn’t be very worthwhile if everybody just “liked” it. The trick is whether they appreciate it. I like to think what I’m writing isn’t absolute crap, but more importantly, I hope that others see the value of the questions I raise and ideas I offer and respond in kind. To that end, I wrote a post called Does Higher Education Understand The Culture of Blogging? It’s a question that I’m not sure has yet been adequately addressed.
» Does Higher Education Understand The Culture of Blogging? (October 17th)
9. When You Wake Up With New Rights One Day, You Make Sure People Understand Why
I was still living in Iowa for the first half of 2009, and that included April 3, when we woke up and turned on the news to hear what the Iowa State Supreme Court had to say about same-sex marriage. Overwhelmed by the joy of liberation and the awareness of history being made, I was determined to make sure that the power of that decision was understood widely. I immediately read the full 69-page opinion of Varnum v. Brien and by mid-morning had posted an annotated analysis of the opinion, titled simply Marriage Equality in Iowa. That was the first time I realized the power I had to reach others with my blog, as I got many more hits that day than I ever had in the three months of blogging prior.
» Marriage Equality in Iowa (April 3rd)
8. Beyond Entertainment, Films Give Us Something To Think About
I really enjoy movies. I love the experience of having a shared experience that demands your complete attention. Most movies speak for themselves. I could have written this year about how Star Trek reminds us that sometimes we have to break the rules to make good choices or I could have drawn parallels between the plight of the Na’vi of Avatar and Native Americans, but both would have been too obvious. There were two films though that I really enjoyed digging into and blogging about, so much so that I think they’re worth revisiting. The film Brüno raised a lot of questions and controversy in the gay community about stereotypes while The Invention of Lying largely went unnoticed despite its profound illustrations of atheism and religion. I think these two films are worth watching again on DVD and exploring further what we can learn from their commentaries on society.
» Brüno: It Takes Silly Absurdities to Reveal Harsh Realities (July 10th)
» Reflections on “The Invention of Lying” (October 4th)
7. Seriously, Don’t; If You Want To Do Something On My Behalf, Do Something Productive
I have written many posts addressing myths about atheism and the challenge of living openly as an atheist in a very religious society. Some of those other posts are listed below, but I think one particular post deserve to be highlighted separately: I Don’t Want You To Pray For Me. In this post, I offered my own personal thoughts about when others offer to pray for me. Why would I refuse such a thoughtful gift? Because I don’t think it’s a very thoughtful gift to be giving.
» I Don’t Want You To Pray For Me (September 2nd)
6. The Truth Hurts, But Not As Bad As The Lies
I have occasionally been told that I go too far with the extent of my commentary on religion, that religion’s not so bad that it needs to be completely deconstructed. I was delightfully surprised to see that there was research confirming exactly the merits of challenging religiosity in society. In the same spirit as the Iowa court decision on marriage equality, I took to reading the full article and finding a way to deliver its results in more reader-friendly ways. (I also enjoyed peppering my analysis with links to relevant past posts!) Like the Iowa post, this post had a uniquely high number of hits, thanks to some social networking. I still look forward to future explorations of this data and its implications for higher education.
» Society Is Better Off Without Religion: The Supporting Research (December 7th)
5. Satirical, Rhetorical Questions That Resulted In My First “Poe”
One of my very first posts was an exercise in satire, adapting The Heterosexual Questionnaire as a Christian Questionnaire. When I look back at the questions, it’s interesting to see how relevant they are to the explorations of religious fundamentalism I’ve written about since. One specific question that is absent is, “How exactly did you come to have the beliefs that you have?” That, I think, is one of the hardest (and perhaps most “offensive”) questions for believers to answer. It’s an exploration of psychology and cognitive development that nobody wants to go near because it’s so “personal.” While I might revisit The Christian Questionnaire with such tweaks in the future, it still stands as a strong challenge to religion and I am proud it was one of my first blog posts. What is also interesting is that at least a few people have missed the satire and interpreted it as a real questionnaire (deeming this post my first “Poe”—evidence of “Poe’s Law”). Their answers are just as interesting to read as the questionnaire itself.
» The Christian Questionnaire (January 8th)
4. It’s Not An Agenda, It’s Our Lives
Without a doubt, 2009 had its ups and downs for the “Gay Agenda.” In some states we got marriage equality, and in others we had marriage equality denied. We inaugurated a President who spoke passionately and inclusively of our community who then disappointed us by doing next to nothing to actually address our inequality. And for better or worse, as our patience for equality has waned, our “movement” has fractured. Nothing was more evident of this fracturing than October’s National Equality March. The true grassroots planning of the NEM with its angrily impatient marchers juxtaposed oddly with the extremely expensive Human Rights Campaign dinner the night before that had nothing but applause for HRC’s “accomplishments.” I used the march as an opportunity to step away from the rhetoric of the issues and highlight the lives affected by them with the Faces For Equality project. I expect to expand on the project in the future, but as it is, it stands as a testament to the amazing individuals out there doing what they can in their own lives to support the queer community.
» Faces For Equality (October 7th-31st)
3. Addressing Assumptions, Myths, Misperceptions, And Miseducation About Atheism
One of the biggest challenges about being a member of the least-trusted minority in the United States is working to explain what exactly that identity is all about to people who don’t want to hear anything about it. No, it’s not a belief. No, I really don’t have faith. I don’t respect beliefs, and here’s why. It’s not always a fun task, but it’s an important one. Dismantling religious belief requires an explanation for why belief doesn’t deserve privilege over nonbelief. The challenge comes from those who think they know everything there is to know about atheism. Even I don’t presume that, but I’ve definitely taken a lot more time to think about it, so I have tried to offer my own tutorials on why it is I resist religious privilege. For some, the explanations might be irrelevant if they can’t get past the “offense” of the idea, but at least I can do my best to try to help them understand if they’re willing to take the time. Here are a smattering of the posts that try to offer just that kind of understanding.
» Why I Do Not Respect Beliefs (June 21st)
» Atheism, Contratheism, and Why I’m An Antitheist (September 10th)
» Five (Whiny) Tips For Atheists I’ll Likely Ignore (September 27th)
» Atheism and Religious Beliefs Are NOT And Never Will Be On The Same Page (September 30th)
» Why Is It “Disrespectful” and “Offensive” To Challenge Religious Beliefs? (December 17th)
2. Making My First Dent In Higher Education’s “Spirituality” Paradigm
One of the reasons I started this blog was to address issues in higher education that are not always easy or popular to discuss. One issue I think needs a lot more attention is the uncritical conversations and studies of “spirituality” that inform our understandings of students and the invisibility of atheist students that results. Student affairs seems all too eager to accept the notion of “spirituality” as a universal quality in our students and a dimension of identity as worthy of developmental support as any other. I offer that the notion of “spirituality” is inextricably tied to belief in a higher power, and studies of “spiritual development” only further marginalize nonreligious and nonbelieving students. The first post listed below is the first of many to come debunking the objectivity of research in “spirituality,” and the last is a synthesis of many of my related posts from throughout the year.
» Why Higher Education Should NOT Promote “Spirituality” or “Spiritual Development” (May 20th)
» Higher Ed Struggles to Serve Atheist Students (November 12th)
» How Long Until We Have Campus Atheist Resource Centers? (December 18th)
1. Sorry, That Argument Is No Less Bogus Than It Was The Last Hundred Times I Heard It
As I dug deeper into the intricacies of religious privilege, I started having a lot more conversations with folks about religion and reading a lot more about religious controversies. I started noticing both in my writing and in my discussions that I was arguing the same points quite a bit. This got me thinking about memes, because it seemed that people who defend religion buy into a lot of the same ideas. Because of the “rise” of the “new atheists,” these ideas were becoming memetic—thought to be good ideas merely because they are popular and widely used. As a fan of efficiency, I began to grow tired of always addressing the same arguments. I decided it would be helpful to organize these memes to make them more recognizable and thus easier to shut down. “Oh, you think that’s a good argument, but it’s just a tired old meme.” My first post about some of the faithist memes was so popular (thanks to a highlight on Friendly Atheist) that I expanded the list and created The Meme Collection. I now collect and update various bad arguments used against the progress of social justice and use this clearinghouse of memes to inform my various posts. While simple in principle, this organization of the arguments against progress and critical thinking is without a doubt the highlight of my blogging in 2009.
» Faithist Memes, Religious Privilege, Victimization, and Bad Arguments (May 17)
» The Meme Collection (Ongoing)
If I stopped blogging after this post, I could look back and be very proud of my first year with ZFb. I know, though, that this is only a beginning. I’m sure as my career unfolds, so too will this blog and the complexity of ideas that I explore. I might not ever become a mainstream “big-time” blogger, but I’m okay with that. I have my own little niche to fill, and I think I have put out some quality writing to fill it.
Thanks to everybody who read ZackFord Blogs in 2009, and I’ll see you next year!!