Christopher Sebastian is the director of social media for Peace Advocacy Network, sits on the Advisory Council for Encompass, is a senior fellow at Sentient Media, is co-founder of VGN, and lectures at Columbia University in the Department of Social Work for the graduate course POP: Power, Oppression, & Privilege. Using a multidisciplinary approach that includes media theory, political science, & social psychology, he focuses on how human relationships with other animals shape our attitudes about race, sexuality & class.
In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?” Sentientism is "evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings." The video of our conversation is here on the Sentientism YouTube.
1:20 Christopher's Intro - journalism, mass comms, digital research
1:40 What's real - From christianity to atheism
- Growing up in a religious family (Catholic, African Methodist Episcopalian) in the USA south
- Attending Catholic school
- Questioning Christianity particularly as a queer person "I knew I was very different from the other little boys"
- Asking lots of questions. An early journalistic instinct?
- Being shocked when a teacher refused to pray for a child's parent who had committed suicide. Universal compassion & love but "not for her!"
- The binary contrast between a benevolent god & the vengeful, vindictive god
- "The interia pulls you back to what's safe & comfortable"
- Becoming atheist "I couldn't make sense of it", but still following Christian traditions
- The social/family challenges of queerness & leaving religion
- "Black church is really different - it's fun" music, dancing, sheer jubilation. "You can't avoid being caught up in the energy & fellowship"
12:31 What matters morally?
- "If you don't believe in god then you're just running around murdering, pillaging & raping like some sort of pirate!"
- "We can be moral agents without believing in a higher being"
- Without god there's an even greater obligation to treat each other with respect and compassion
- If this is the only life we have isn't it even more valuable?
16:55 Extending compassion
- The more minoritised identities you have, the more aware you are of the need for being just & kind
- Race, queerness, femme of centre
- "You're aware there's a hierarchy. It requires us to be more benevolent to one another"
- Including other animals was "just obvious"
- Who gets to be in the club re: "personhood" (like "whiteness"), can move arbitrarily
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