Bored@Baker rape guide »« Going for the numbers

Herding cats, birds, lions, sharks, and rabbits

The back and forth over American Atheists and the Conservative Political Action Conference continues today. There are people calling it a “witch hunt”…which is odd, because from what I’ve seen it’s mostly feminists who are annoyed by what they think looks like an effort to use abortion rights as a bargaining chip to attract conservatives to AA. (I don’t think that’s what it was, myself, but I get why it looked like that.) Not for the first time I note how ironic it is to use “witch hunt” as a term of abuse for feminist disagreement with something. It’s not normally women who do the witch hunting, and it’s not mostly men who are the victims of witch hunts. Maybe another phrase would be better.

Be that as it may, earlier today Chris Stedman disputed Dave Silverman on a couple of points, and Dave said he would amend his argument. (So, you see? Not a witch hunt. A productive discussion and disagreement. No witches put to the fire.)

Chris Stedman @ChrisDStedman

@MrAtheistPants And you implied on Twitter that there aren’t anti-gay atheists? I’ve actually encountered/heard from many anti-gay atheists.

David Silverman @MrAtheistPants

@ChrisDStedman That’s disturbing. I’ve only heard such from ppl who claim to be atheists (I get that a lot) but I don’t believe them.

Have you actually met, personally, atheists who are anti LGBT equality? I have not.

Chris Stedman @ChrisDStedman

@MrAtheistPants I have, and I’ve also heard from a number of atheists who say my “obvious homosexuality” makes me a bad rep for atheists…

…because it makes us seem like “freaks” or seem “weak,” etc. These folks definitely exist.

David Silverman @MrAtheistPants

@ChrisDStedman Well, that sucks. Sorry you experienced that. Will research and tweak my argument.

So, good outcome; listening and adjusting.

I was struck by what Chris said, because it sounds so familiar in a way. So I added my two cents.

Ophelia Benson @OpheliaBenson

@ChrisDStedman @MrAtheistPants That’s gross. (Such ppl prob think the same abt women – weak & freakish, leave them out.)

There is a HUGE segment of movemt atheism that’s self-consciously macho. It’s driving a lot of us out.

It is. And you can’t have everything. You can talk about a big tent all you want, but in practice, it breaks down. You can have a big tent for some, limited purposes. You can recruit people to join you on a single issue. But for a movement, over the long term? It will break down. People will leave a movement that is too full of members who are belligerently hostile. A movement full of racists will lose people who dislike racism, and a movement full of people who dislike racism will lose racists. That’s how it is. People go where they want to go. Except when it’s life and death in the short term, you’ll have a very hard time persuading people to work with others who despise them. It’s all very well to make jokes about witch hunts and the People’s Front of Judea; you still can’t force people to work with those they consider hostile.

Comments

  1. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    This. Exactly this.

    I’m not entirely convinced there CAN be a unified atheist movement. I think there can be a social justice oriented atheist movement AND a straight-no-chaser atheist movement and perhaps the two can work together when mutually beneficial, but otherwise, retreat to our own corners.

    I’d love to be proven wrong, though.

  2. A. Noyd says

    Not for the first time I note how ironic it is to use “witch hunt” as a term of abuse for feminist disagreement with something.

    Maybe it’s the subliminal appeal of how the term rhymes with “bitch cunt.”

  3. says

    How can the head of AA be so sheltered? Not long on Twitter and I had a homophobic atheist harassing some Twitter friends, very overt one too. Didn’t really surprise me, watch a few YT videos by atheists and you’ll get the picture, whole spectrum of bigotry is there. The conversation with Chris Stedman went onto this tweet ->
    https://twitter.com/ChrisDStedman/status/443096539352039424

    Madalyn Murray O’Hare being extremely homophobic, no reason for Dave Silverman to have heard of her O_O. Then ironically someone in the convo saying “I’m not sure I’d attribute it to homophobia” … Cos of course you cannot say that someone just using homosexuality as an insult is homophobic, ridiculous! Unless they are caught systematically exterminating ALL gays they should be given the benefit of the doubt. Sarcasm obviously, but Chris sums it up very well … “Using homophobic language to shock and offend *is* homophobia” … Works for misogynistic language, racist language, transphobic language, etc, etc, and there are more than a few atheists who don’t even accept this simple proposition. Dave Silverman is even known to #FF some of them from time to time. He genuinely seems to be this clueless though, I honestly don’t think Dave is malicious. Not that this is much use for the people hurt by his insouciance.

  4. screechymonkey says

    UnknownEric @1:

    a straight-no-chaser atheist movement

    I would say that such a beast can’t exist, at least not by the definitions of the “dictionary atheist” crowd. A “movement” implies the existence of goals. A bunch of people whose only point of agreement — or, at least, the only point of agreement on which they’re prepared to act lest they be accused of being divisive — is lacking a belief in a god, can’t really “move” towards any goal. After all, even encouraging more people to declare themselves atheists would alienate the “I’m not a believer, but it’s good for the Little People to be” crowd.

  5. Schlumbumbi says

    “I have, and I’ve also heard from a number of atheists who say my “obvious homosexuality” makes me a bad rep for atheists……because it makes us seem like “freaks” or seem “weak,” etc. These folks definitely exist.”

    I’m a full blown cynic, but I never heard an ACTUAL atheist say ANYTHING along these lines. What I did hear/read though, are religious believers, who try to pass themselves off as atheists when posting anonymous comments which go into that exact direction. Usually, they quickly blow their cover by blatantly misrepresenting other, even well known, basic atheistic positions.

  6. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    screechymonkey @7:

    Mmm, good points. Maybe a “seperation-of-church-and-state-but-no-further-than-that” movement?

  7. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    He genuinely seems to be this clueless though, I honestly don’t think Dave is malicious.

    I don’t think he’s malicious either, but I also don’t think he’s clueless. I think he’s trying to work both sides like a politician, but I don’t think that’s something that necessarily CAN be done in this case.

  8. Al Dente says

    Silverman must not be too connected with atheism if he doesn’t see the rampant homophobia oozing from various corners. I have little to do with organized atheism and I’m all too aware of the homophobia, the transphobia and the misogyny that certain atheists have.

    Perhaps I see it because I’m not involved in organized atheism.

  9. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I think he sees it (and is quite likely disturbed by it), but I think he’s decided “solidarity” is more important than calling out problematic behavior. It’s why he’s embraced Vacula and people like that. Plus, they’re easier to keep “on topic” since they don’t give a damn about anything beyond dictionary atheism.

  10. Al Dente says

    You’re probably right, both with Silverman seeing the problems and working both sides of the situation.

  11. screechymonkey says

    UnknownEric @8:

    Maybe a “seperation-of-church-and-state-but-no-further-than-that” movement?

    Oh, sure. Of course, that kind of movement can also include theists, as shown by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

  12. iiii says

    Oh, I get it – no true Scotsman atheist would be anti-gay. So glad they cleared that up…

  13. Katherine Woo says

    I think there can be a social justice oriented atheist movement AND a straight-no-chaser atheist movement and perhaps the two can work together when mutually beneficial, but otherwise, retreat to our own corners.

    The very use of the term “social justice” in that manner is where people start to divide, sharply. It not so subtly implies that anyone who disagrees with you is a purveyor of injustice, rather than simply someone with an alternate solution.

    That sort of with-us-or-against-us mindset is seldom productive in political terms and often hides an authoritarian impulse (because your critics are clearly against social justice and thus down-right evil).

  14. Pierce R. Butler says

    Katherine Woo @ # 16: That sort of with-us-or-against-us mindset is seldom productive in political terms …

    Read some political history and get back to us about that with examples, will ya?

  15. Katherine Woo says

    @Pierce

    Compromise is central to democracy both within and between political groups.

    Demonizing your opponents and refusing to compromise usually means applying violence to those of differing views at some point. Occasionally it is justified (e.g. Eisenhower sending in the National Guard in support of integration), usually it is not.

    The 100 million victims in the 20th century of leftwing utopian/revolutionary movements are proof enough of where blind self-righteous notions of ‘progress’ can lead. So you can take you smug recrimination and ponder that.

  16. Katherine Woo says

    The folks Silvermen was sucking up to at at CPAC are purveyors of injustice.

    When you say things like that you sound every bit as childish to me as some rightwinger pronouncing how “Liberals do hate America.”

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    Katherine Woo @ # 19 – Brisk bit of goalpost-levitating there.

    Unless by “productive” you meant “acceptable-to-Katherine-Woo”, of course.

    And do you really think those psychos at CPAC promote anything resembling “justice”?!?

  18. mildlymagnificent says

    I’d be inclined to think that Silverman is one of those people that just takes individualism too far and cannot see, quite literally cannot see, people acting from group beliefs or as part of a group he personally doesn’t understand.

    I used to have real problems with a genuinely non-misogynist man, my beloved, who’d report on some dreadful remark or joke from one of the men he worked with and he’d be very annoyed and talk about that particular man quite a lot for quite a while and perhaps dismiss such attitudes as strange, odd, crazy or mad (his words not mine). I just could not get him to see that he was coming home with these stories quite regularly and that they were representative of how lots of men behaved and what lots of men thought. He wouldn’t believe it, or at least not enough to change the way he responded to these people. He honestly thought that men working in an environment surrounded by lots of highly qualified women would see them the same way he did.

    I’d think that Silverman might be like this. He’s seen lots and lots of individual incidents of bad behaviour and dismissed every one as being attributable to an individual being odd or strange. So he gathers no impression of general behaviour having dismissed all such single instances of “weird” behaviour as irrelevant to the group or to the group dynamic. If he thought about it at all, he’d think that all reasonable people (like himself for example) would think the same way.

    It’s a bit like a person who presses flowers not seeing that the fields they pick their prized samples from are infested by weeds. Their eyes just slide right over the things they don’t like or they’re not interested in.

  19. Katherine Woo says

    Pierce, the way you shriek “psychos” is just infantile name-calling that exemplifies the problem. You are no more mature than a rightwinger screaming “feminazis.”

    Just stop. The need to dehumanize, pathologize, and attribute sheer malice to one’s opponents is precisely the mentality that leads to genocides and totalitarianism.

    CPAC covers a wide range of views. i would say I disagree strongly with a significant majority of them, but I can articulate that on a case-by-case basis without theatrical condemnations of good-and-evil.

  20. Silentbob says

    @ 23 Katherine Woo

    Huh. If I didn’t know better I’d think you were promoting “the ridiculous accommodation of religion and culture in terms of misogyny”.

  21. sawells says

    I think Woo just wants us all to be Robert Frost liberals – too fair-minded to take our own side in a quarrel. She can take her beautiful mind elsewhere to remain serenely undisturbed by the terrible polarising rhetoric of suggesting that people who are actively working against your interests might possibly not be on your side.

  22. sawells says

    Oh, just spotted the hilarious irony that Woo can say “leftist liberal bullshit”, but nobody else can say “social justice” because of the terrible terrible implications. Too funny.

  23. medivh says

    I’m sure there can be a unified atheist movement. The problem is there are a bunch of people who want atheism to actually be a force in the world, and another bunch of people who want to have earned their atheist badge (a la Hyperbole and a Half) and that’s the end.

    I’d suggest creating an alternate label; atheist for no-god-belief, Atheist for activist; but that’s kind of already been done by Jen McCreight with A+. And the vanilla atheists are still expending a lot of energy on a) being jerks (to say the least) and b) being allowed to have their badges with no further work. The sooner atheist orgs realise that those people aren’t useful to movement atheism, the sooner we can have a united atheist movement. With arseholes sniping at it because they don’t want to be in it, and want to benefit from things it’s trying to tear down.

  24. Steve LaBonne says

    Even on the one cause that I have in common with all other atheists- getting and keeping religion in its proper place in a secular society- can anybody point to an atheist organization that is nearly as effective and visible as Americans United for Separation of Church and State (which is headed by a UCC minister)? On social justice, is there any atheist organization I could be a part of that would be half as effective as the UUs (full disclosure- I am one), even though there are many of them who don’t share my humanist / naturalist perspective? Especially since the UUA has no problem partnering with the UCC and other liberal Christians to form a force on the issues I care most about, the likes of which organized atheism can’t begin to boast? So I should care about (let alone overlook their attempts to fish in wingnut waters) organizations like AA why, exactly? I totally get and applaud the original importance of Gnu Atheism in letting atheists who previously felt isolated in hostile surroundings know that they are not alone. But I’m beginning to wonder if the sell-by date may be approaching.

  25. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @all those people who hear all the heterosexist atheists as not atheists.

    That’s disturbing. I’ve only heard such from ppl who claim to be atheists (I get that a lot) but I don’t believe them.

    Mr Silverman? In the future, if you’re wondering, “I’ve only heard such from ppl who claim to be atheists (I get that a lot) but I don’t believe them” is when I decided to kick your ass.

  26. Pierce R. Butler says

    Katherine Woo @ # 23: …the way you shriek “psychos” is just infantile name-calling …

    [Insert irony meter joke here]

    You left out “strident” and “shrill” – how are you ever going to fill your accommodationist bingo card?

    Go search for some reports about CPAC 2014 (look particularly for “Medved” and “Bachmann”), or just consider that the plurality there thinks yet another 2nd-generation Republican incompetent/fanatic should be the next POTUS, and try to figure any way to describe that mindset as sane.

    We’ll be waiting for you here, not holding our collective breath.

  27. freemage says

    Ophelia: It is with great regret that I inform you that these cretins already have an alternative to ‘witch hunt’. They frequently also cry about being (cyber-)lynched.

    Seriously, they have no depths to which they will not sink.

  28. says

    @31, Pierce

    Hmmm…my irony meter isn’t really registering. One is classifying a person and the other is classifying a person’s behavior. They’re in different categories, so I don’t see a big problem.

    Otherwise, I do agree that there don’t seem to be any classy characters that attend CPAC for the politics (so as not to include those like Silverman who are there for other purposes). Nor do I find Katherine’s ideas of “compromise” very appealing. Because, in short, of the prisoner’s dilemma. Meaning, if a person realizes that you’re always going to cooperate no matter what, there’s going to be the potential they will take advantage of this and defect. Which is what I see with those who are highlighted at CPAC. They’re defectors. Compromising is essentially a win for them.

  29. Pierce R. Butler says

    Leo Buzalsky @ # 33 – Pls hold yr irony meter up to “infantile name-calling” alongside each of the phrases preceding and following same. If you don’t get a buzz, replace batteries &/or meter.

    You win Understatement of the Hour with that characterization of CPAC. I would like to see the collected rhetoric of same run through the Diagnostic Standards Manual – the positive hits would make for a great lots-of-winners Bingo game. Those puppies need some major help…

    As for the rest of your analysis, I only wish you could explain all that to our incumbent president.

  30. A Hermit says

    When you say things like that you sound every bit as childish to me as some rightwinger pronouncing how “Liberals do hate America.”

    No Katherine, point out that CPAC is a full of bigots and intolerant anti-science asshats is like pointing out that there are racists at a Klan rally.

    Case in point…is there any value at all ion sucking up to a group which counts General Larry Boykin as a valued contributor?

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/03/07/conservative-leader-caught-on-live-mic-the-jews-are-the-problem/

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