Dawkins Takes a Positive Step

“Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.” — Richard Dawkins

This is part of a new statement Dawkins issued this weekend, on his own website and elsewhere, denouncing the horrible way many (usually anti-feminist) atheists have been behaving the last few years. Greta Christina for the full scoop.

This is a remarkably positive sign. Dawkins has up to now been insensitive and out-of-touch on the treatment of women inside the atheism movement (the worst example being now a named trope, Dear Muslima). So my opinion marker is being moved a little back to favorable by this.

For those who aren’t sure what this is all about, see coverage by Alex Gabriel, Greta Christina, Stephanie Zvan, and Ophelia Benson.

[I apologize for not being clearer, but in my original posting of this information I expected people to read Christina’s coverage for the full scoop, but some may not have and thus may have missed key facts of the story: this was a joint statement proposed and written by Ophelia Benson in consultation with Richard Dawkins and agreed to and signed by Richard Dawkins.]

The Curious Case of Jaclyn Glenn

Screencap of Jaclyn Glenn speaking in her video warning atheists about extreme feminismI’ve been watching the foot-in-mouth implosion of Jaclyn Glenn of late, and some might want to know my take on it, because some people have asked, given that she kind of sort of but really doesn’t criticize Atheism+.

Atheism Plus More Than Just Whatever

Atheism+ is just a name sometimes used (and rarely anymore) for the growing and ongoing movement to unite atheism, humanism, and skepticism. Hence the “+” in Atheism+ means simply “Atheism + Humanism + Skepticism.” (See all my past writing on the subject, especially my American Atheists convention talk in 2013, a transcript of which I have just now made available, along with a non-animated edition of my slideshow. I have also just published an essay on it in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism 21.1 [2013], pp. 105-13, which you can now read online as Atheism…Plus What?)

There are generally only three kinds of people against Atheism+ (apart from people who don’t actually know anything about it): people who love and support the goals but hate the name (and I’m all for them…because as I’ve said from day one, I really don’t care what you call it); people who realize humanism entails feminism and hate feminism (and these are often in my experience either awful people or the cultish fans of awful people); and people who realize skepticism means skepticism of claims they like, and hate it when people tear apart their own cherished beliefs (and these are ironically usually the people comprising the SkepticTM community, yet they could take a lesson from the actual Rationality Community: if you aren’t questioning your own beliefs, you are just a dogpile of cognitive biases…like, pretty much every religious person ever).

There are also people who hate the Atheism+ forums, but since I’m not aware of any major Atheism+ advocate having anything to do with those anymore, I really can’t help you if they are eating your babies and skeet shooting kittens. They no longer have official ties to any of us, and are just doing their own thing. Which was, and for all I know still faithfully is, to create a safe space for discussion among advocates of A+ ideals…in other words, a space just for them…so if you are annoyed they won’t let you into their club, usually because you are breaking their rules and aren’t a support advocate, the only people the space was created for, then check your privilege and just accept the fact that you don’t get to disrupt other people’s meetings. If, on the other hand, you are annoyed they said something awful (so far every time someone has said this to me, it turned out not to be true, but whatever), just remember they aren’t me, or any other major advocate of Atheism+ or its goals. Some atheists are horrible people. That doesn’t mean atheism is horrible. As for atheism, so for Atheism+. See Hasty Generalization Fallacy.

Okay, end digression. Back to Jaclyn Glenn.

[Read more…]

The American Refugee Crisis: It’s Time for the Godless to Speak Up

Tens of thousands of refugee children are massing across the U.S. border. And we’re responding like the biggest assholes on the planet. It’s time to do something about it. At a minimum that means spreading the word, and speaking out. Getting more people to know that this is even happening (because the U.S. media is useless) is the first step toward effecting change. Writing your senators and congressmen (state and federal) is the second step. Tell them human decency and compassion and any sense of justice requires more, and that you approve adequate funding for a humane response to the refugee crisis, and are willing as a taxpayer to forfeit a couple bucks a year for it if need be.

If you want to cut to the chase, and just get started helping spread this message, read Hutchinson’s summary and petition. And sign that. And write all your legislators. But if you need some catching up first…

Here is a quick primer on what’s going on: [Read more…]

Chris Hall on the Changing Face of New Atheism

There is a marvelously well-written and timely piece at Alternet by Chris Hall: Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris Are Old News: A Totally Different Atheism Is on the Rise (tagline: “It’s absurd to think these white males represent all organized atheism”), which has gotten enough attention to be picked up by Salon, there titled: Forget Christopher Hitchens: Atheism in America Is Undergoing a Radical Change (tagline: “Having a conversation about atheism today by talking about Hitchens and Dawkins proves you aren’t paying attention”). It’s a great read.

I’m especially glad to see this getting articulated so well and so publicly, as it corroborates a point I had made over a month ago in correcting a misperception of New Atheism in a work by Crossley. It’s also an example of the success of the ideals behind Atheism+ (the label just hasn’t been useful–except as a shibboleth for identifying the awful and the ignorant). We’ve helped make New Atheism more diverse and more sensitive to the issues and concerns of groups other than just old, white, wealthy, Anglo-American men. And it also demonstrates the need for continuing to fight for that cause, showing we still have a way to go to get all the way there, not least because, as Heina Dadabhoy commented on Facebook just recently:

The comments from atheists on the Alternet/Salon piece on diversifying atheism where I was quoted yesterday are already far more numerous & nasty than the ones I received from Muslims on the NYT piece in which I was featured.

That other piece she means, an excellent and positive coverage of the Women in Secularism conference, and ex-Muslim women involved in it (Leaving Islam for Atheism, and Finding a Much-Needed Place Among Peers), also appeared in a major mainstream media source (the New York Times), written by seasoned journalist Mark Oppenheimer (my more avid fans might remember him as the reporter who also exposed the Antony Flew scandal with my assistance some years back, which famously annoyed William Lane Craig).

Greta Christina has made a similar observation: she gets far more, and far worse, hate mail (complete with threats and vile abuse, and persistent harassing) from atheists than from Christians. And she wrote an infamous angry tirade against religion that was wholly uncompromising (Why Are You Atheists So Angry?) and is actively helping atheists come out and challenge religion (Coming Out Atheist), two definitive works in their respective subjects, so she would normally be the poster child for evil among the Christian community. Yet, they pretty much leave her alone. Now, it’s pretty much only the godless anti-feminists and anti-social-justice nuts who attack, and all too often in terms worse than any Christian ever did.

I’ve witnessed the same: I used to get threats of hellfire and menacing and harassment from theists; now I haven’t had such an email or blog comment literally in years. What I do get is abuse and harassment (albeit on a vastly smaller scale than any woman in the movement I know) from atheists…who think I’m ruining movement atheism by calling for it to be more diverse, treat women better, and to care about shit. I’ve seen the email inboxes and comment queues of numerous fellow women in the movement, and they are getting this consistently far more often and far worse.

I have been calling on my fellow atheists in the movement for years to denounce this and no longer give a free pass to such behavior. It’s an attempt to drive women (and in some cases gays and minorities) out of the movement. It’s an attempt to bolster white male superiority. Because reasons. Fuck that.

Viva la revolution.

Consider the Poor

Alex Gabriel has produced an excellent summary of “10 things atheist groups can do to take on class exclusion,” available at Alternet as “10 Ways to Make Sure the Atheist Movement Is Not Just for the Wealthy,” tagline, “Life without God shouldn’t have to be a luxury.”

Anyone involved in decision-making for any atheist group, local or national (even if just as a voting or outspoken member) should bookmark that article, read it, and discuss it with their group’s leadership. That link is an excellent thing to have on hand and pass on to future leadership, too. I think it should be part of any org’s permanent toolkit.

Alex discusses the reasoning behind it on his blog here at FTB: [Read more…]

Our Mythical Campaign against Sex

It boggles my mind how haters of A+ (which simply means atheism+humanism+skepticism, nothing more…despite lies and disinformation to the contrary) think we are the ones campaigning against sex. Like this guy. Who falsely claims:

(1) “[T]he in-groupers at FtB have been attempting to redefine flirting as sexual harassment and sexual intercourse as rape.” No, we never did any such thing. To the contrary, we have actually been making the point (repeatedly) that “actual acts of sexual predation” must not be confused with “criminalizing very healthy sex-positive human interaction” (the exact opposite of what this guy says). Indeed, I specifically made this point myself in my discussions of sexual harassment policies (see here and here; I have also talked about the difference, and promoted positive and liberated sexuality, here and here).

And:

(2) “The A+ folks have demanded that convention organizers add to their harassment policies, that no speaker be allowed to engage in sexual contact with any convention attendees.” No, “we” did not. To the contrary, several of us opposed any such suggestion. Including me, one of the patron saints of Atheism Plus (according to a popular anti-A+ meme). No, seriously. I wrote at length against what he claims we have been demanding. Only a few people suggested or discussed it long ago, but the rest of us argued them out of it. Us. The advocates of A+.

This from Emery of the Ardent Atheist podcast.

As to the first of these lies: [Read more…]

Transcript of Sobrado Podcast on Atheism+

A few months ago the Tony Sobrado podcast aired an episode in which Sobrado interviewed me skeptically on Atheism+ and I said the following at the time (when I posted about my American Atheists Convention video on the same subject):

I also did a podcast last month on Atheism+ that went up just recently, in which I have a reasonable conversation with someone who disapproves of it, UK political scientist and Huffington Post blogger Tony Sobrado (listen to his Interview with Richard Carrier on Atheism Plus). No hating or flaming, and no straw men or other fallacies. He had concerns based on misunderstandings and missing or incorrect information, asked about them calmly, and gave me the opportunity to answer them. All without any atmosphere of hostility. A model for how to do this. In fact, we covered so much great ground that this is a really good conversation on A+ that could use a written transcript. If anyone has the time and gumption to create one, I will publish it on my blog, with credit.

That podcast was inspired by Sobrado’s Huffington Post article against Atheism+ “What Is Atheism Plus and Do We Need It?” and you can see how we addressed everything in his article on that show. So anyone who may have read that and wondered how we might respond (or was angered by it and wished someone would answer it), this is the podcast for you. But the AACon video is a good introductory piece to start with. The two together tell you pretty much all you need in order to understand what we’re really advocating in the Atheism+ movement and why.

Subsequently, Rachel Hawkes [@RachelHawkes] produced a good transcript of that podcast, with permission, so anyone who prefers reading to listening (and anyone who is hard of hearing) can now follow that podcast from start to finish. See The Tony Sobrado Interview with Richard Carrier on Atheism Plus (6 March 2013). I’d be delighted if anyone maintaining the A+Scribe account [a-plus-scribe.com] entered that in the collection there.

What Do Ron Lindsay and an Oklahoma Tornado Have in Common?

Besides raging over the same weekend? Both are ignorantly destructive blowhards, apparently. At least Lindsay didn’t kill anything (except his own common sense, and maybe his career in secular leadership).

Lots happened while I was away at the fantastic Imagine No Religion conference in Kamloops, BC. I recommend it for next year, it has been by all accounts great every year, and this year was no exception. But while I was nestled safely up there enjoying good scotch and martinis, a tornado ripped apart a community in Oklahoma (I guess by Pat Robertson’s logic, it must have been full of feminists), and charity aid is much needed (atheists can help: please donate to Humanist Crisis Response through the Foundation Beyond Belief, an umbrella charity organization specifically geared for nonreligious donors).

And over the same weekend at the Women in Secularism conference in Washington, DC (where a zillion feminists actually were…evidently your god’s aim sucks, Pat), the president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, Ron Lindsay (the sole male speaker), opened the conference by complaining about a campaign to ask men to listen to women before complaining about women, by telling women to stop telling men to listen to women before complaining about women…at a conference for women, funded by hundreds of women (since attendees forked over the registration fees, they actually paid for the conference). And then he acted like a stock sexist man and hysterically defamed the woman who criticized him for this rather than responding to her actual (calmly presented) arguments. Thus becoming the poster boy for a man who doesn’t listen.

I couldn’t make this stuff up. It’s stranger than fiction. Anyway, I needn’t blog about the Lindsay Faceplant because that has already been excellently done. If you want to get caught up on this debacle, I highly recommend, first, Jason Thibault’s brief live description of what Lindsay said at the conference and how obviously wrongheaded it was, and then Amanda Marcotte’s Open Letter to the Center for Inquiry, and then An Alternative Universe by Stephanie Zvan, Taking It Personally: Privilege and Women in Secularism by Ashley Miller, and The Silencing of Men by Rebecca Watson (the tone and quality of which has to be compared to the garbage Lindsay wrote in response: Watson’s World and Two Models of Communication…a title whose irony was completely lost on Lindsay, considering that he decided to respond to a reasonable and ultimately correct argument by hysterically accusing its author of “the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea” and then proceeded to pick at irrelevancies in her case and straw man what she said and ignore her every substantive point…nice).

[Since I first published this article, a really excellent analysis has also come from philosopher Dan Finke: Feminism, Civility, and Ron Lindsay’s Welcome to Women in Secularism, which reinforces many of the points well-made earlier by Adam Lee in Some Sadly Necessary Remarks on the #wiscfi Intro. Subsequently, Lindsay has since issued a lawyerly quasi-apology for comparing Watson to North Korea, yet in the very same remark treats her with veiled contempt by referencing the least relevant remark in her article and still ignoring her every substantive point, and all her evidence, and refusing to retract or apologize for any of his more substantive errors. This appears to be a trend with him. See the bemusing analysis of Nancy McClernan in Ron Lindsay’s Non-Apology Apology over His Non-Welcome Welcome.]

Lindsay on Atheism+

One thing I’d like to add to these critiques is his equally-ignorant treatment of Atheism+… [Read more…]

Is Thunderf00t a Sociopath?

In response to my video promoting positive goals and values for the atheist community (Atheism…Plus What?), Thunderf00t (whose real name is Phil Mason) has expanded his anti-feminist rants to the point that I am seriously worried he might have no empathy for other human beings at all. He is now even ranting against concern for minorities. His departure from logic and reason, in defense of abuse and amorality, is just weird, and makes it ironic that he claims my call for more community and compassion, honesty, and reasonableness is toxic to the atheism movement. Clearly, his chucking overboard empathy, women, minorities, and anything actually good for our community is what’s toxic. If his vision were realized, the atheist community would be a scary and awful place to be.

Before I break down what is most disturbing about his video, some backstory is needed. [Read more…]

Atheism…Plus What?

Picture of Dr. Carrier at the podium discussing Atheism Plus at the 2013 American Atheists conventionVideo of my talk at the 2013 American Atheists Convention (their 50th anniversary!) is now online. It is getting downvotes from the haters (even at one point more downs than ups). Please go watch that video (Atheism…Plus What?) and see if you can find anything in it that honestly deserves a downvote. Seriously. And if you don’t, please upvote it. Show the haters they don’t own the movement.

Others reading the comments (I can’t stomach such a task myself) tell me that the downvotes appear to be coming from people who didn’t even watch the video (or didn’t watch it all through). It appears, in fact, that these downvotes are there in an attempt to discourage people from watching the video, rather than representing disagreement with its actual content or quality or value. [You can now read a transcript and view the slideshow.]

Note that the Women in Atheism panel at AACon 2013 is also a must-view adjunct to this, since in it the women on the panel brilliantly answer some of the common questions that arose from my talk. Unfortunately that video is not yet online (I’m not sure if they are putting everything up or only select things). I will link it in here as soon as I find out it’s available. But one of the examples of what they addressed is the hyperskeptical claim that all the harassment of atheism women in our movement is done by hundreds of Christians posing as atheists, which actually should outrage you all the more if you really believed that (rather than using it as an excuse to do nothing about it). Greta Christina gave an excellent discourse on why that doubt is irrational (in short: we see the same phenomenon in every other movement, e.g. the gaming and tech industries, so we should not expect to be a miraculous exception), and other members of the panel added to that (such as pointing out that we have plenty of evidence a lot of them are atheists).

I also did a podcast last month on Atheism+ that went up just recently, in which I have a reasonable conversation with someone who disapproves of it, UK political scientist and Huffington Post blogger Tony Sobrado (listen to his Interview with Richard Carrier on Atheism Plus). No hating or flaming, and no straw men or other fallacies. He had concerns based on misunderstandings and missing or incorrect information, asked about them calmly, and gave me the opportunity to answer them. All without any atmosphere of hostility. A model for how to do this. [A convenient transcript of that interview is now available.]

That podcast was inspired by Sobrado’s Huffington Post article against Atheism+ “What Is Atheism Plus and Do We Need It?” and from listening to the ensuing podcast or reading its transcript you can see how we addressed everything in his article on that show. So anyone who may have read that and wondered how we might respond (or was angered by it and wished someone would answer it), this is the podcast for you. But the AACon video is a good introductory piece to start with. The two together tell you pretty much all you need in order to understand what we’re really advocating in the Atheism+ movement and why.

-:-

[Update: I have since also published an essay on this subject in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism 21.1 [2013], pp. 105-13, which is available online as Atheism…Plus What? Then see here for all my blogging on the topic of Atheism Plus, before and since.]