Wrongfully Convicted Often Get Nothing »« Obama on the Individual Mandate

Saying Goodbye to Ophelia Benson

Before I launched FTB, Ophelia Benson was at the top of the list of people I wanted to invite. I never actually did so because I thought we had no shot of getting her. Imagine my surprise, then, when on the very first day that this network went online, I got a message from her asking how she could join. I shouted hallelujah — or the atheist equivalent, “fuck yeah!” — and did a little happy dance. Now, sadly, she is leaving us.

Some of you have no doubt read of her many disagreements with Alain de Botton, Julian Baggini, Chris Stedman and other critics of “new atheists” (who aren’t actually new, of course) like her. She has steadfastly defended herself and many other leading atheists against accusations from erstwhile allies that Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers and others like them are harming the cause of atheism by being too forthright in their criticism of religion. The arguments have gotten so fierce that a meeting was called recently between them all to clear the air, immediately after the QED conference in Manchester and the three of them met to discuss their disagreements.

And that’s where things seem to have gone awry. Apparently, de Botton and Baggini were so persuasive in their arguments that Ophelia has now become convinced that they were right all along. As a result, she told me that she can no longer, in good conscience, share a network with PZ, JT and various other sets of initials. She now considers them to be destructive and malevolent, it seems. She will be closing down Butterflies and Wheels immediately and is moving to England, where she will work directly with de Botton on his new temple.

I am very sad to see her go, of course, but I wish her well.

Comments

  1. rmw1982 says

    So, JT is going to the Christian rock scene, Ophelia is moving to England to help with the atheist temple, and according to Chris Rodda, Ed is leaving FTB to take up professional poker and aerobics. So, what’s next? PZ turns to televangelism? Jen McCreight leaves her research to pursue a career as a New Age life coach? Crommunist joins JT in his Christian rock band?

  2. Blueaussi says

    I think the clue lies in the name to her blog. She has munched happily through her larval food critics and trolls and misogynists, formed her chrysalis while we weren’t looking, and is now flitting away as a purdy, silly butterfly!

    And say, a bonus! Now that she’s all delicate and dainty, the menz will like her!

  3. Michael Heath says

    All revolutions and movements have a continuum of approaches used to market the overall movement. All approaches can be rightly criticized from in-groups focused on targeting a different subset of the broader target audience.

    At least in the U.S., we’ve been culturally pressured over the past several decades, with Ghandi and MLK Jr. being exemplars fed to us since elementary school, that their approach is the sole effective approach. I disagree; instead I think the better argument is that Ghandi and MLK Jr. revealed the effectiveness of their approaches in a cultural paradigm which existed prior to their rise that predominately concluded violent revolution was the sole arrow in the quiver to create effective change, e.g., the French and American revolutions, the U.S. Civil War, WWI, the communist takeover of Russia and satellite countries, WWII, etc.

    I think PZ Myers provides an excellent forum for young atheists angry at how they were abused by the culture and Christianity. At some point however I hope these people are able to move past their bitterness and take a more dispassionate approach to making their case. I point this out conceding my competitive nature would have made me a great candidate for PZ’s forum if I were at the stage I was at in my mid-twenties and his forum was around back in the mid-1980s. But just because I’ve grown out of that phase doesn’t mean it doesn’t now provide great utility to many people new to ridding themselves of religion and relying solely on reason and evidence. And I still derive some not-so-guilty pleasure at crashing a poll here and there.

    I also cringe at some of the arguments presented in Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne’s science books. Not only because they make them, but they make them at the front of their books, as if they don’t even want opponents of theirs to consider their arguments but instead seek to rally like-minded individuals to rail on the fundies. And yes, I’m perfectly cognizant of the denialist cocoon their opponents fiercely protect, but not all of them, especially the younger ones who don’t earn the label determined ignorance but are instead victims of abuse by their parents, faith community, and even public schools and local public square which denies them a proper education.

    I don’t know Ms. Benson, but I would hope she’d consider that while there are valid criticisms of the more in-your-face approach, to rise above the anecdotes and consider whether Dawkins and Coyne approach isn’t providing an overall net benefit to the cause. I think they are, especially with young people – our most important target demographic; in spite of the fact they often punch their own movement in the face.

  4. inflection says

    I hate April Fools’ Day.

    I tend to fall for it, because hell, I trust my friends and colleagues, why would they BS me? Oh, right, because there’s a day devoted to lying, screwing over everyone you know, and abusing any trust you may have managed to scrape together in your life.

    It’s just a wasted day on the calendar for me. What’s that, news? Oh, sorry, it’s April 1st. Please tell me again tomorrow if it’s true, thanks. All day long you have the warm fuzzy sensation of not being able to rely on anyone you believed in.

    Such a whimsical holiday.

  5. says

    Shhh. Don’t tell Mooney it’s a practical joke. Odds are, he’s writing a column of ‘vindication’ even as we speak.

  6. Michael Heath says

    I got suckered-in because another blogger, Libby Anne, is leaving where I don’t know her or Ms. Benson. The ending quip, is moving to England, where she will work directly with de Botton on his new temple. had me pause, but obviously not enough to consider what day it was.

    And Ms. Benson’s blog title,Butterflies and Wheels, doesn’t sound all that different to me than Love, Joy, Feminism. Both are fluffy to the point I ignored them except for noticing Ms. Anne’s blog posts noting she was leaving in my Google Reader subscription for Freethoughts, those feeds don’t reveal the blogger or the name of their blog, or that of any Freethoughts blog names or blogger names.

  7. llewelly says

    I hate April Fool’s Day. It ruins the reputation of skepticism as the domain of humorless pedants.

  8. Scott Simmons says

    Hee-hee. This is actually pretty funny–I’ve been following the chain to each blogger on FtB; each one has an announcement (at varying degrees of implausibility) of a different blog leaving the site. I’m not sure yet if they got 100% participation in the gag, but I sure hope so.

    Reminds me of the 4/1 joke that several departments played on the director they all worked for at my office some five or six years back. We got each and every employee (about two dozen, I think) to write a letter of resignation and leave it in his inbox. By about the third one he caught on … The meeting he called afterwards was priceless. “I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate each and every one of you,” he told us. “Oh, and by the way–I’m just going to hold onto these in case I need one someday.”

  9. slc1 says

    Re KIevin @ #10

    It should be pointed out that Mr. Mooney banned Ms. Benson from commenting on his blog.

  10. Aquaria says

    I think PZ Myers provides an excellent forum for young atheists angry at how they were abused by the culture and Christianity.

    Which shows you don’t know Pharyngula, at all.

    Most of the people there are in their 30s and above, and they’re no more concerned about the abuses of culture and Christianity than Brayton here is. They actually have a lot in common with him, in fact. They’re just a bit more frank about their views of it sometimes, and have zero concern about fragile flowers who faint at a few bad words or rude insults.

    As most of the commenters there put it, Pharyngula is a place for adults, not children. It’s not a place for snivelers or prudes or passive-aggressive control freaks who want to dictate petty morality to adults, either.

    So more like a bar than the church meeting that people who complain about Pharyngula seem to want.

  11. Michael Heath says

    Aquaria to me:

    Which shows you don’t know Pharyngula, at all.

    Most of the people there are in their 30s and above

    I’m fully aware of that. I was discussing emotional maturity and for many, a number of years having past since they rejected religion to the point their anger had quelled and was replaced with more wisdom. I went through that stage myself. So I reject your argument I don’t understand PZ’s community, I think I get it perfectly and understand its appeal; all the while hoping his readers eventually mature beyond the sophomoric level of discourse there.

  12. says

    I assume that’s april fool pranking.

    Rationalists don’t seem to me to flip positions that suddenly unless it’s a position they didn’t examine carefully before they adopted it, which is unlikely if it’s a topic that arouses strong feelings and disagreement..

  13. says

    First paragraph: Awww, that’s too bad.

    Second paragraph: Wait, huh?

    Third paragraph: *checks the date* Oh, I get it. :)

  14. says

    And Ms. Benson’s blog title, Butterflies and Wheels, doesn’t sound all that different to me than Love, Joy, Feminism. Both are fluffy to the point I ignored them

    You ignored them because their names sounded fluffy? Really? Love, Joy, Feminism was a really good blog. You missed out.

    I think PZ Myers provides an excellent forum for young atheists angry at how they were abused by the culture and Christianity.

    Which shows you don’t know Pharyngula, at all.

    Most of the people there are in their 30s and above

    …who are angry about how they’re abused by the culture and Christianity. And libertarianism. And atheists who disagree with PZ. But yeah, Michael, you were totally off base there. :-)

  15. ambassadorfromverdammt says

    Now I’m just waiting to hear all about how PZ found Jesus.

    He turned over a large rock and found a passel of Christians scurrying around looking for the darkness. After that, it was merely a problem of tracking.

  16. says

    Apparently, de Botton and Baggini were so persuasive in their arguments that Ophelia has now become convinced that they were right all along.

    Excuse me while I fall out of my chair laughing!

  17. says

    Totally agree with Gretchen. Libby Anne’s blog was — is, at her new home at Patheos — awesome. I’m sad that we lost her at FTB, but she will continue to do what she does and we’ll be reading and happily cheering her on.

  18. says

    Indeed. Her posts on how growing up evangelical affected her social perception, the Quiverfull movement, and parenting today have been fascinating and I’ll continue to follow them.

    Now off, though, to do a survey on whether my blog’s name sounds too “fluffy.”

  19. Michael Heath says

    Gretchen writes:

    You ignored them because their names sounded fluffy? Really? Love, Joy, Feminism was a really good blog.

    I concede I’m a work in process and have a ways to go in some areas.

    Gretchen writes:

    Her posts on how growing up evangelical affected her social perception, the Quiverfull movement, and parenting today have been fascinating and I’ll continue to follow them.

    I have read some of those and enjoyed them as well; just not enough to put a name and identity to the author. I had the same difficulty at scienceblogs when I read blog posts from bloggers I didn’t follow regularly, where I enjoyed the post but couldn’t recall the blogger some number of days later.

  20. Michael Heath says

    I think I should also point out that being very competitive and coming from two very strong jock environments, work and how I’ve always recreated, I had a long ways to evolve on some matters and still concede a ways to go now; where many of the posters here have greatly influenced me in changing my behavior for what I hope is the better.

    I’ve never had a problem defending liberty for all, but certainly I’ve frequently been oblivious to the perceptions of many people who aren’t so competitive or take on distinctly non-jock personas (the females in my family are also mostly competitive jocks and therefore aren’t helpful on this matter). Gretchen is one of those people whose influence has hopefully made me a better person, at the least she showed me where I was and should be where I do attempt to strive for the latter – with demonstrably mixed success as I eat crow here.

  21. RickR says

    I enjoyed Love, Joy, Feminism and I was sorry to see Libby Anne leave. My own perception was that her blog was more a primer for the strange (and destructive) aspects of conservative Christianity (with a focus on the Quiverfull and Patriarchy movements), a kind of beginner’s guide to the lay of the land. Granted, I had been reading Slacktivist for a couple of years, mainly his epic takedown of the “Left Behind” novels and movies, which go into the underlying foundations of the conservative Evangelical subculture in much greater detail. More of an advanced or post-grad level analysis (As one would expect, since he started writing those posts in 2003, and there are several hundred by now). I looked at LJF as more of a survey course, a good overview for someone unfamiliar with these subcultures (as I was, having grown up in California in the 1970′s, so conservative Christian culture was utterly alien to me.)

    Anyway, good luck to Libby Anne in the future!

  22. llewelly says

    Ophelia Benson | April 1, 2012 at 11:36 am:

    True about mine though – totes fluffy. It’s all about shoes and cupcakes and which is the prettiest shade of pink.

    At least you don’t post pictures of kittens every Saturday like that Jerry Coyne character. I cannot understand how anyone can take Coyne seriously as a biologist with all those fluffy kitten pictures. It’s ridiculous!

  23. says

    Yes, Well played Ed. Totally got me.

    My jaw actually dropped at the last line and I was all “Holy shit that was just low!”

    Then I read the comments ><

  24. Sastra says

    Okay, Ed got me … but mostly with the title and first paragraph. The second paragraph, where he started referring to the “fierce arguments” concerned me so much I did a quick check on B&W: I was afraid Ophelia may have finally gotten fed up at being called a ‘cunt’ or something. Ed’s third paragraph — where it turns out that, no, it’s not because of the attacks from accomodationists, she’s leaving because she was persuaded by them — had me chuckling. No freaking way.

    The title “Butterflies & Wheels” is a quote from a poem, I think. We discussed it once, on her site, and iirc eventually decided that as far as we were concerned the blog name henceforth referred to butterflies being smashed and crushed mercilessly and relentlessly beneath wheels of stone till they were nothing but worthless pulp beneath our heels.

    So, not fluffy.

    Michael Heath #5 wrote:

    I think PZ Myers provides an excellent forum for young atheists angry at how they were abused by the culture and Christianity.

    Well, I’m a regular at Pharyngula and am over 50 — but mostly, I’m just angry at zebrafish.

    Also butterflies, but, thankfully, Ophelia takes care of that.

  25. davroslives says

    I admit it. It got me. I was even thinking about AFD. But I thought WTF, and immediately started scanning OB’s posts in my RSS reader, before I realized.

    tip ‘o the hat

  26. Celeste says

    You had me right up to the part where she moved to England and then I glanced at the date on my RSS feed. *Phew!*

  27. Ichthyic says

    I’m fully aware of that. I was discussing emotional maturity

    LOL

    yeah, sure, oh gullible one.

Leave a Reply