Musings on Greta Christina’s List of Insulting Questions…


In a blog post titled ‘9 questions atheists find insulting? Bollocks!’ Paul Braterman criticises Greta Christina for writing an article on Everyday Sexism suggesting people should stop asking atheists the following questions as they’re insulting:

  1. How can you be moral without believing in God?
  2. How do you have any meaning in your life?
  3. Doesn’t it take just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a believer?
  4. Isn’t atheism just a religion?
  5. What’s the point of atheist groups? How can you have a community for something you don’t believe in?
  6. Why do you hate God? (Or ‘Aren’t you just angry at God?’)
  7. But have you read the Bible, or some other Holy Book, heard about some supposed miracle, etc?
  8. What if you’re wrong?
  9. Why are you atheists so angry?

Braterman points out, quite correctly, that to dictate so finely the grounds on which any discussion can take place is to impede discourse. He writes that ‘no one is going to learn anything from anybody if one side lays down rules about what the other side is allowed to say, before the discussion even starts.’

I agree. But what really struck me here wasn’t the suggestion that these questions were insulting, but the way in which Christina seemed to think it was her right to insist on what other people be allowed to say based on the fact that she might find it insulting.

Christina wrote ‘Sometimes the questions are asked sincerely, with sincere ignorance of the offensive assumptions behind them. And sometimes they are asked in a hostile, passive-aggressive, “I’m just asking questions” manner. But it’s still not okay to ask them’.

No. It is okay to ask them. Just as it’s okay to ignore the questions being asked if you chose to. We all find offence in different things and that’s okay too, but none of us has a right to have our sense of being offended catered to. Life just doesn’t work like that.

But also, I think we need to accept that as we write about this subject- about this silly list of questions -we do so from a position of immense privilege because we do not face extreme consequences for speaking openly about our atheism. I am sure that in America there is greater social stigma for atheists than there is here in the UK but it is still pretty safe to speak openly about being good without god in the states. Right now, being openly atheist is dangerous in certain parts of the world where you risk being murdered on the street for simply turning your back on religion. Bangladesh, for example.

To try and dictate what is and isn’t civil discourse about something that affects such a diverse group of people that is so much bigger than any of us is a little bit mind-blowing, to be honest.

Review: Blair Witch (2016)


If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a terrible surprise… 

When my local cinema advertised the chance to see a yet-to-be-released and unnamed horror movie for just £5 I jumped at the chance. In my gut, I knew it was going to be either Ouija: Origin of Evil or Blair Witch and I did a little fist pump of joy when the Blair Witch title came up on the screen.

Not everybody did, though. About half a dozen people walked out at this point. Perhaps they had traumatic memories of watching the original Blair Witch Project? I certainly do. I was twelve when the found footage movie hit the big screen and revolutionised the way in which we experience horror movies. I didn’t get to see it until it was released for rental and then my mum talked me into sitting up to watch it with her.

Black Hills Forest

Back then I wasn’t a paranormal researcher (I was just 12) and I believed that ghosts were real and the film terrified me. My head was full of real-life anecdotal stories of terror from around the world (because I was a ghost geek even then) and I couldn’t get my head around whether or not this was another one of those, or entirely fictional. For days afterwards I couldn’t look up into trees just in case there were stick effigies hanging in them (just as I couldn’t look out of a window at nighttime in case I saw the red eyes of Mothman.)

So when the ‘Blair Witch’ classification notice came onto the screen revealing what our movie would be, this time, 29-year-old me made a commitment to watch it without fear. For 12-year-old me. To restore honour to my family.

I really enjoyed the film. It was interesting to see how modern technology was used by the group of friends exploring that notorious woodland and the forward-planning by the characters added to the authentic feel of the story.

And until this evening I always thought that the notion that a horror movie could make you jump out of your seat was just a saying but there was one moment that really did make me do that. I freaked right out but managed to contain myself.

James Allen McCune in Blair Witch (2016)
James Allen McCune in Blair Witch (2016)

The suspense in Blair Witch is carefully crafted and toe-curlingly good. It builds superbly and paces well but sometimes the payoff was a little bit too predictable and cliched. Other times, not so much.

Having revisited The Blair Witch Project (1999) in my adulthood and now having watched Blair Witch (2016) I’d say that I prefer the 1999 film simply because the fear was of something unknown and mostly unseen.

The occasional glance, the movement in the peripheral, the suggestion, noises and signs that indicated something was just beyond the reach of observation… all combined this gives it the edge over the 2016 sequel. A sequel that has all of those things but also used a few too many scare tactics resulting, at times, in something that was supposed to be scary but actually had people chuckling.

There were many bits of the story left unresolved and I can’t help but wonder if this is to lay foundations for a follow-up. I am divided on whether I want that to be true.

All in all, Blair Witch is the second best movie to come out of this franchise and I’m not sure I’d have it any other way. If you enjoyed the 1999 film I am confident you’ll enjoy this one too.

Blair Witch is released in cinemas September 16th.

Musings on Special Snowflakes


I’m a card-carrying member of the Labour party. I’m a skeptic, humanist, atheist, secularist and feminist who is part of the LGBT community. I’m telling you this so that you can see that people have reason to disagree with my opinions on a regular basis.

It happens and I welcome it. We all have our opinions and we’re allowed to voice them and to disagree with one another. Sometimes we might *gasp* change our minds.

Yet, in the last year or so I’ve found myself being labelled as a “social justice warrior” by those I debate with online. So often have I seen people respond to my points by typing #SJW, #SafeSpace, #Triggered, or #SpecialSnowflake.

It happens so regularly that I’ve invented a sort of law; the quicker someone is to label you as such, the more racist they are. Just need a name for it.

It’s an assumption on their part that because I am a young woman (though it happens to male friends too) with lefty ideas I am part of the regressive left movement that seems to relish is closing down speech that they do not agree with. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Someone once pointed out that I had short hair and “look gay” as evidence that I was a so-called Social Justice Warrior which, I must say, was such a charming and convincing argument.

I almost lost a job once for publicly criticising faith healers and I have seen friends and people I admire no-platformed and mobbed with hate because their opinions are considered inappropriate. A male friend of mine was once the subject of a hate campaign because he shared a Jesus and Mo cartoon. I’ve previously blogged my opinions on free speech and attacks against it and how easy it is to think you’re being rational when you’re not. Here are some examples:

Hate Speech: Atheist Students
Jesus and Mo Walk Into A Freshers Fair…
The Shirt That Matt Wore
Banning Books: You Are Your Child’s Enemy

It is so frustrating, then, that people so easily presume I am like this just because I don’t agree with their ideas that take root in right-wing ideology. Dismissing people as SJWs or “special snowflakes” because they don’t agree with you is such a presumption. It appears to be a tactic used to dismiss the need to address any claims or points I am making and it’s as dismissive and as counter-productive to rational discourse as no-platforming speakers because of a so-called safe space policy.

I understand that trigger warnings are useful in some instances but it is my opinion that the idea of “being triggered” is over-used in some areas of society by people who don’t want their ideas to be challenged. Whether that’s ghost hunters who don’t like skeptics, theists who don’t like atheists or feminists who don’t like a certain type of other feminist.

But whether such people are wrong with their tactics (which I think they are) doesn’t really justify this new-ish way of dismissing an opponent. #sjw is the new way to justify not answering points raised against you when your argument is weak. A new method of avoiding the burden of proof.

Naturally, this begs the question – who is really the special snowflake, hmm?


My Patreon supporters saw this blog post before everyone else. Please consider pledging your support today from as little as $1 a month! 

That Viral Gettysburg Ghost Video


A video uploaded to Youtube in 2013 has been gaining some traction on social media in the last few weeks. It’s footage of two ghost hunters allegedly capturing a ghost on video on a battlefield in Gettysburg.

Here is a screen-cap of the moment the ghost appears in case it isn’t clear.


In episode 14 of The Spooktator we asked Kenny Biddle to join us as a guest host and just prior to recording I asked Kenny if we could discuss this video in the show because I was interested on his take on it. You can listen to episode 14 by clicking here.

Kenny has gone one step further than just providing his opinion on this footage – he’s actually deconstructed the whole thing in this really insightful video! Check it out and give Kenny a follow over on the I Am Kenny Biddle blog.

I originally considered this to be something done in After Effects or similar industry-standard software but Kenny shows you don’t need anything that fancy to produce these sorts of effects.

p.s. Kenny mentions Captain Disillusion. You can find his Youtube channel here AND you can catch Captain Disillusion at QEDcon next month. #exciting

Win: A Natural History of Ghosts

competition time


natural history ghostsTo be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of A Natural History of Ghosts by Roger Clarke all you have to do is subscribe to this blog by filling in the form below.

Described as ‘insightful and illuminating’, A Natural History of Ghosts is a firm favourite in the Stevens household. In it Clarke traces the scientific and social aspects of ghostly sightings and brings to life classic cases from Hinton Ampner and Borley to the Angels of Mons. But he does more than just tell ghost stories… he explores why and how these stories came to be, and what they mean to us today. This book is a delightful read whether you believe in ghosts or not.

The winner will also receive a Ghost Geek pin badge and something from my ghost collection too (which is a collection of ghost-related merch, toys and items and not actual ghosts.)

Badge modeled here by "psychic conman", Ash Pryce
Badge in the wild. Model: Ash Pryce.

The best news is that I won’t bombard you with spam once you’ve signed up. You’ll just get an update when something new is added to the site. It’s a win-win situation!