Lindsay and WiS: Time to Be Heard at CFI

The CFI board meets in a week. The Ron Lindsay debacle should not be allowed to fall from the agenda. To make sure they hear all voices, please send your thoughts to board member Tom Flynn [at].

I’ve discussed the outrage and disappointment felt in the community, and my own, in What Do Ron Lindsay and an Oklahoma Tornado Have in Common? which has links to several other movement leaders and writers, men and women, who have echoed much the same sentiments (from Dan Finke to Ashley Miller).

My own letter to the board read as follows:

Please forward to the board of directors of CFI.

I have voiced my thoughts on Ron Lindsay matter on my blog:

Though others have covered the women and feminism angle very well, I saw other problems with the way he handled Atheism+ in particular and my blog explains what I mean.

Both instances indicate Ron Lindsay doesn’t listen, doesn’t learn well, doesn’t stay informed, and doesn’t have a good grasp of how to maintain a positive rallying message for all worthwhile members of the movement. His talk could have been salvaged with diplomacy (though it did demonstrate a pervasive cluelessness), but the way he handled criticism was far worse, and far more indicative of his inability to effectively lead an organization serving the broader secular community.

There have also been several open letters with numerous signatories (and approving upvotes and comments) making the same and further points, so if you want to hear more voices before coming to a conclusion of your own to send to the board of directors of CFI, you can peruse these:

The damage Lindsay’s behavior is doing to CFI is already becoming evident as people talk about abandoning their affiliation with CFI (e.g. here). So I think the board really does need to hear as many voices as possible, so they don’t misjudge the scale of response his behavior has evoked in the atheist, humanist, and skeptic communities.



  1. says

    [Note to my readers: I am about to fly to Washington, D.C. for a talk and won’t be back at my keyboard until Tuesday. As a result, I won’t be able to attend much (if at all) to the comments moderation queue. Please feel free to submit comments as usual (as always according to my comments policy) but be aware they might not post until next week. I apologize for the inconvenience. But try to have a lovely weekend!]

  2. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Enjoy your trip. I sent my message. I hope they listen.

  3. Ryan Long says

    Richard, this is why so many people hate “atheismplus” and downvoted your YouTube video. A guy gave a reasonable talk, a part of that talk addressed the concept of dominant privilege. He correctly identified it as a useful concept, but one that too often gets misused on-line to hinder productive conversation. Then narcissistic bloggers like Rebecca Watson – who has as much professional expertise in social science as my dirty sock pile – turned it into another stupid Internet dramafest. And she wasted no time at all before she started attacking his race and gender on-line (and no, sexism and racism aren’t somehow okay just because Her Royal Highness happens to be the one engaging in it).

    Now you’re on board with attacking the guy, and actively contributing to attempts to get him fired and generally make his life hell. I can tell from his one speech that he’s given the concept of dominant privilege a lot more thought than any of you “atheismplus” goofballs, who continue to use it as an excuse to be totally awful to people on the Internet. And Richard, I say this as a minority who literally does not have equality in this country: this is not helping. Burning bridges and attacking allies does not help. Stop it.

    Welp, assuming this even gets published, this is probably the part where your pet “Oolon” or some other idiot comes in and says: don’t listen to Ryan, he’s obviously a horrible MRA/misogynist/Republican/puppykicker because a year ago he made a few (obviously to anyone with half a brain) facetious, bitchy comments after being repeatedly insulted and then blogged about on FTB. Whatever. Stay in your little bubble and keep being totally ineffective at everything you do. Fortunately there are real social justice activists in the world creating change instead of wasting their time and energy being self-righteous, faux activists yapping about personal grudges on crappy blog networks.

    • says

      We’re just voicing our opinions of our leader’s ability to lead. I know you would rather we be silenced. But it’s people like you who are ruining this movement. The way you talk about Rebecca Watson is childish and repellant. It’s really ironic to have someone who speaks like you are trying to lecture me on how to criticize people. Your characterization of Lindsay’s talk is quite out if touch with reality, and you don’t even mention his behavior afterward. You aren’t even engaging any of my arguments (linked in this post and quoted in this post) as to why Lindsay is not fit to lead. Sadly, you even know you’ve been called out for your repellant behavior and views before, and thus try to pull preemptive apologetics on me. You are the one stuck in a bubble.

    • GrzeTor says

      @ Richard Carrier
      “We’re just voicing our opinions of our leader’s ability to lead.” I don’t such views describe the situation correctly. A good example is PZ Myers, who officially “divorced” himself from the skeptic movement. So nobody from CFI is his leader. Yet he attacks Ron anyway. So what A+/feminist/Freethought forces are doing looks more like an attack of an external force on CFI, caused by CFI not being an obedient slave to these groups values and commandmants.

    • says

      What PZ said on the unrelated matter of what label he wants applied to him is completely moot here. This is my blog, not his, and I’m talking about Ron Lindsay’s leadership failures, not what PZ thinks about the values of certain other wall-builders within the skepticism movement and what label he wants to use for himself.

      But on that unrelated subject anyway, let’s get the facts right, please. PZ’s so-called “divorce” was itself a criticism of the absurd remarks of Jamy Ian Swiss (not Ron Lindsay or anyone else in CFI, or indeed anyone in CFI at all, as Swiss does not hold any leadership position there, and was not even speaking at a CFI event on the occasion concerned) and only pertained to PZ disavowing the label “skeptic” because it was being associated with absurd views like those of Swiss (views that I suspect you also would condemn).

    • says


      ….don’t listen to Ryan, he’s obviously a horrible MRA/misogynist/Republican/puppykicker because a year ago he made a few (obviously to anyone with half a brain) facetious, bitchy comments after being repeatedly insulted and then blogged about on FTB

      First you didn’t make the comments “after” being blogged about, the comments you made were bad enough before you were blogged about. Your digging holes rather than just apologising says a lot. If they were “obviously facetious” then why not apologise for the harm to Greta? Your comments clearly upset her, instead you carry on holding that grudge for being “forced” to be an unpleasant arse.

      Why is it so hard when your intent was to be “facetious”? It didn’t work out that way as no one got the joke… Apologise sincerely, then in future any “oolon” who brings it up will look rather worse than you and it may be possible to move forward rather than grasping onto an old grudge.

  4. says

    “The CFI board meets in a week. The Ron Lindsay debacle should not be allowed to fall from the agenda”

    I agree 110% – Lindsay needs to have visible, wholehearted agreement and endorsement. Face it, your 15 minutes are up. The various communities are past smiling politely and staying quiet.

  5. gingerbaker says

    I hate that you are writing letters with this sort of mean-spirited tone and vindictive purpose. I hate that atheistic feminism is becoming a synonym for an aggrieved juggernaut quashing criticism through the use of personal vilification and political leverage.

    • says

      It’s ironic to hear you condemn people for voicing their criticism because it quashes criticism. I guess criticism is only to be voiced when it agrees with you?

    • Konradius says

      That’s bullshit gingerbaker.

      It is not that we want to vilify Ron Lindsay. He can say anything he wants whenever he wants to say it and I don’t think he’s particularly evil, he has demonstrated not to be that smart though.

      What we want to do is continue our support of CFI, continue to give them money.

      However if that *selfcensored* Lindsay is employed by CFI in any capacity I personally and lots of other people like me will find better places to spend our time and money on.

      And I don’t mind that Ron has criticism. I do mind him choosing to voice that criticism where he did. And I think that he is downright incompetent in his inquiry of the facts for his criticism. That last part should get him fired from the ‘center for inquiry’ no matter what the further content of his speech/blogposts were.

      And thanks for your compliment in saying we’re a juggernaut. I sincerely hope we will live up to that and continue to grow even further.

  6. says

    Update: Contrary to my original suggestion, it is unnecessary to send anything to Eddie Tabash; it’s more efficient to send everything through Tom Flynn (address now in first paragraph of the article). Please send all correspondence on this issue to him.

  7. blorf says

    It is staggering that the people who fight tooth and nail to have the freedom to post images of others photoshopped into animals or porn shoots love to tell you you’re not being nice.

  8. Marnie says

    Just sent my note. Thanks for posting about this. I’m sure there are as many people writing to support Lindsay as there are individuals asking that he either sincerely apologize or step down. I’ll be one more voice in the latter group.

  9. gingerbaker says


    It’s ironic to hear you condemn people for voicing their criticism because it quashes criticism. I guess criticism is only to be voiced when it agrees with you?

    You have already criticized him.

    And then you criticized him some more. And now you have criticized him even yet again. But what you are calling for here is not criticism – you are trying to get him fired.

    Because you think you have the political leverage to do so; because you feel righteously aggrieved. This is not your finest hour.

    • says

      Actually, no, I don’t think I have the political leverage to get him fired. I suspect he won’t be. All I am asking is that the board of directors of CFI know how many in the community lack confidence in his leadership and why. And yes, bad leaders should be fired. And yes, those led (as in, those attending CFI events, working for them or with CFI, and supporting CFI financially and in other ways) have a right to be heard on who should lead them. And indeed the board of directors of CFI asked us to do this (I’m thus doing what they told us to do: ask that opinions be transmitted to the board on this matter).

      Ron Lindsay is a lousy CEO of CFI. He needs to be replaced by someone far better at the job.

  10. says

    Dr. Carrier,

    I used to watch your lectures and admire the fact that you made a compelling case for Jesus as a myth. If for no other reason, it was simply because you engaged a dialectic with the academic status quo. Which faction is correct? Beats me and I couldn’t care less, but the point is that you made such reasoned arguments.

    Since your whole advocacy of Atheism+, I can no longer say that you are using that same reasoned process. I can’t believe how uncritical your thoughts have become. And the censorship? Jesus!

    The above was just my disagreement. None of it is “namecalling,” perhaps it is ad homienm though since I question your cognitive abilities now, but since everyone at FTB seems to operate under this martyr model, I’m sure you’ll think so. I’ll do you one better, here’s an actual cheapshot:

    Are you doing this Atheism+ bullshit because you can’t get a real job?

    There. Delete my comment just as I have deleted my respect for you. Snap out of it. Leave this shit.

    • says

      What censorship?

      And instead of claiming I have committed a logical or empirical fallacy without evidence, can you actually demonstrate a single actual instance of a logical fallacy or evidential error in any of my arguments on the matter you are referring to?

      And if you fail to do that, because you can’t find one, will you snap out of it?

    • EnlightenmentLiberal says

      And the censorship? Jesus!

      Let’s get some things straight. I am about as close as you can get to a free speech absolutist, while still understanding free speech philosophy, making this a pet peeve of mine.

      Free speech is less about the right of the speaker to listen and more about the right of the listener to hear. If you deny someone else the right to speak, you become a slave to your own current opinion. This is the classic western defense of the goodness of free speech. In other words, having free speech better allows us to arrive at truth. Having free speech allows us to throw a bunch of ideas into a metaphorical pot, throw on criticism for them all, and then only the good ideas survive. Free speech without criticism is no free speech at all. Free speech without criticism means the bad ideas will continue to survive.

      Do you think women should be treated with the same respect as men? The correct answer is yes. Do you think that women are currently treated with the same respect as men? The answer is a resounding no. There is a serious problem with targeting women with hate in the atheist and skeptic communities, and in the culture at large. Do you think we should take action to fix this problem? The correct answer is yes. I don’t know how you can change a culture, but for the moment I will be a decent human being, and when people are asses, I will call them out as being asses. “All it takes for evil to flourish is for good [people] to do nothing.”

      We should be tolerant of tolerant people, and intolerant of intolerant people. For those people who are asses and persist in being asses even when it’s repeatedly explained to them, the only workable solution is to shun them, just like we shun the KKK. The extent of the shunning of course depends on the particulars. In other words, it is right to be divisive when you’re dividing assholes out of a community.

      Now, we should be careful that we not go too far, that we not purge society of everyone with the slightest disagreement, and we should be careful that even for the worst offenders we still reconsider our views from time to time. McCarthy era blacklists are a bad thing. This is a careful balancing act, and I do not have good concise answers offhand. As a start, I would suggest reading JS Mill’s On Liberty.

      One final pedantic point. You seem to suggest that it’s ok to criticize Lindsay, but not try to get him fired. Why, exactly? We are effectively his employers. We pay his salary through donations. This seems like a pretty good justification for us to give input to the organization to whom we give money to act on our behalf. There are two choices. 1- They can change to act in our interests, such as by censuring or firing Lindsay, and consequently they can continue to receive money, or 2- they can not change, not act in our interests, and consequently not get our money. Neither option involves censorship in any meaningful way. Not unless you think it would be similarly wrong to try and get someone fired from CFI CEO who was an open white supremacist who made a similarly offensive speech in his official capacity, or try to get someone fired from CFI CEO who was a catholic priest who gave a speech about “Jesus saves!” in his official capacity, etc.

      PS: I still leave open the possibility that Lindsay is merely full of himself, clueless, and not good at listening. He might not be actually malicious e.g. misogynistic.

  11. gropter says

    [Offensive comment deleted. This commenter attempted to post a childish insult similar to one they sent to another article, where I told them I would expose their personal information if they ever posted on my blog again. They were warned. This commenter’s email address is and they posted this time from IP address and last time from IP address As best I can determine, both could be about two miles West Southwest of Herbelhausen, Germany, near route K110, but in any event they are owned by E-Plus Mobilfunk based in Düsseldorf, evidently Shinzu’s internet service provider. Shinzu’s email service appears to be located in Wolfsburg. So most likely a German miscreant. I would guess, aged twelve.–RC]

    • Sili says

      Enough with the stupid assumption that stupid people are necessarily kids.

      Josh, the Spokesgay said it better than I ever could recently on Pharyngula, but the fact is that the the stupid people who make stupid comments on the subject of sexism are far more often grown men (and women), than proverbial 12-year-old boys in their mothers’ basements.

      We’re not doing ourselves any favours by referring to the regressives as kids. We’re doing far more of an insult to all the reasonable and accepting 12-year-olds out there.

      This campaign of bigotry and hatred belongs to- our generation, and however loathsome it is, we must own it.

      Power to the kids! Death to us!

    • says

      Oooo, good point. You are right. Even most twelve year olds don’t act like this. I was only comically suggesting immaturity (not literally guessing anyone’s age), but it’s well worth noting that that even most kids aren’t this immature. I don’t want to malign all those great kids out there! I’m with you on that. Power to the kids! [Eventual and inevitable] death to us!

  12. mogter says

    [This commenter exposed themselves as the same person as gropter, which means now they are violating my comments policy against sockpuppets [item 10]. All further comments from this and the other id (and any others I catch) will automatically go to spam. They will never be posted and I won’t ever even see them (I almost never look in the spam folder).–RC]