Positive Steps to Increase Diversity in Our Communities

Bridget Gaudette makes an important point: It’s not enough to sign petitions and criticize others, we also need to take positive steps to encourage more diversity in atheist, skeptic, secular and humanist communities. It’s not an either/or, of course; we can and should do both. But she has this list of organizations that can help:

If you do, value diversity and feminism, I’d like to highlight some groups that are specifically focused on doing just that and at the end offer some suggestions for those who are truly committed to it.

The American Humanists Association has a Feminist Caucus.  Blog about it. Donate to it.  Spread the word.  OFFER TO HELP.

Secular Woman. Blog about it. Donate to it.  Spread the word.  OFFER TO HELP.

Black Nonbelievers. Blog about it. Donate to it.  Spread the word.  OFFER TO HELP.

Hispanic American Freethinkers. Blog about it. Donate to it.  Spread the word.  OFFER TO HELP.

Filipino Freethinkers. Blog about it. Donate to it.  Spread the word.  OFFER TO HELP.

Black Freethinkers. Blog about it. Donate to it.  Spread the word.  OFFER TO HELP.

I could go on and on.

Look at their missions and goals. SUPPORT THEM. And while you’re at it, check out the groups that make atheists look good for their charitable work like Foundation Beyond Belief (by the way, the staff is over half women.. ask the Executive Director how he was able to have a diverse, atheist staff).

As I said, this is not an either/or situation. We can and should point out and criticize sexist statements and actions in our communities when we see them (as Ophelia quite justifiably did with Michael Shermer recently, for example). And it needs to be said that a lot of the people who have been targeted by the slymepitters in all kinds of vile ways have also been doing real and important work of exactly the kind mentioned above.

Rebecca Watson and Amy Roth have raised a hell of a lot of money to send women to conferences that could not afford to do so. Rebecca has a list of female speakers to recommend to conference organizers. Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan and others have helped develop model anti-harassment policies for conferences. Just as importantly, they have helped give a voice to women who have been harassed and bullied.

More needs to be done, including by me. And we need to go beyond gender diversity and work also on increasing diversity in terms of race, sexual orientation and gender expression — and just as importantly, to those who left religions other than Christianity. That’s something we have tried to do at Freethought Blogs from the beginning, but there is more to be done. So while we are rightly criticizing behavior that thwarts those efforts, we also all need to do the work necessary to make more diversity a reality in all of our communities.

14 comments on this post.
  1. Michael Heath:

    I agree with the outreach effort, but not at the expense of threatening the practice of principles which define secularism, free-thinking, and science (hereafter, “SFS”). And I do observe threats to these principles by those joining the movement, though I don’t know if the rate is threatening to the principles of SFS or not.

    We know that one of the defects of the left, which rarely gets any traction in the U.S. except at some liberal institutions of higher learning, is the desire to suppress speech which is considered either politically incorrect to some progressive sentiments or hurtful to ideologues which express sloppy and indefensible arguments. The SFS groups flourish precisely because we respond to bad speech with more speech, sometimes giving it the ridicule its earned.

    At our best we don’t value only public forums where the government protects our speech, but also value private forums which protects those rights as well. In fact we have a moral obligation to demonstrate our committment to free speech by defending it in our own private forums, while recognizing that speech isn’t the only right in play in some cases. That the competing rights of others are sometimes superior than the speaker, e.g., a blogger booting a troll who adds nothing and is disruptive to the dialog and debate of various threads. I find Ed’s discretion here about as close to perfect as I’ve encountered elsewhere.

    Besides setting an example for others, it is these private SFS-friendly forums where we have the best opportunities to define our arguments; therefore it’s imperative we value others’ speech rights there as well – even when the expression of speech rights extends beyond the jurisdiction of government, and are instead controlled by private individuals or groups. We need to disparage the suppression of speech which is frequently misconstrued as harassment but is instead merely in ridicule of and demeaning to the speaker. If we’re not prepared to defend ridicule and demeaning people who make atrocious arguments in private forums, we have a moral obligation to quit ridiculing and demeaning conservative Christians, other authoritarians, and denialists. That is if we’re to avoid tribalist-motivated hypocrisy.

    Sometimes ridicule and disparagement is an effective response to absurd arguments, and therefore needs to be celebrated and protected in private venues. The new groups who join are going to need get thicker skin rather than expect us to dilute our principles. We shouldn’t sacrifice one of the key attributes which makes SFS so much more effective than other movements at driving a far superior debate; especially as a motivation to make sloppy thinkers and tribalists “feel” more welcome.

    Progressives are not perfect, and frequently deploy the same defective fallacies and reliance on tribalism we see from conservatives. While I celebrate a progressive movement which increasingly has sub-groups also defining themselves as secularists, freethinkers, and pro-science, I don’t welcome them expecting to enforce the same authoritarian tendencies they like to employ, they need to check those at the door. We’re right and they’re wrong.

    I thought Greta Christina’s book, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, was pitch-perfect on how we should frame our dialogue when debating issues where people’s point of reference is frequently driven by their religion-derived ideas, political ideology, and tribalism. I was especially pleased to find her on-point because she’s a leader in the A+ movement, a group whose name I absolutely abhor. Her objective and her group’s name makes her challenge even greater if she’s going to help pioneer a movement who rids the worst aspects of progressivism for the best aspects of freethinking and secularism as they overtly merge.

  2. Erik:

    Heath: I’m on my phone so I don’t think I’ll write at much length, but that’s one long rant for a response to a straw man. If you care about diversity of thought and opinion you could spare instead to spend some of that energy helping promote that goal as Gaudette is bidding us to do. But people like you never do. You have nothing to offer but sad complaints that people are asking you not to lend support to assholes like rape apologists. I know you’re not one of those assholes but you lend them aid and comfort by choosing to ignore them to instead attack strawmen of the people saying we shouldn’t tolerate them.

  3. Suido:

    @ Michael Heath #1

    Your post reminded me of this.

    We know that one of the defects of the left … is the desire to suppress speech which is considered either politically incorrect to some progressive sentiments or hurtful to ideologues which express sloppy and indefensible arguments.

    I’d say suppressing contrary opinions is a defect of almost every group of humans ever, rather than specifically the left. I suppose one way to say it’s a defect of the left would be to also say it’s a virtue of the right :P

    Given the current religious-political landscape, it seems to me that there is more effort to suppress speech by conservatives than progressives, and that progressives tend to be more pro-free speech. This can make it more confronting and news-worthy when it is discovered that progressives have been found to be acting in conflict with the principle of free speech, and opens the gateway to ‘everyone’s doing it’ type arguments. I agree that it’s something that progressives need to guard against, but no more than conservatives should as well.

    a movement who rids the worst aspects of progressivism for the best aspects of freethinking and secularism as they overtly merge.

    You mentioned suppressing free speech and ‘we’re right, you’re wrong’ mentalities, and I’m assuming these would make your list of ‘the worst aspects of progressivism’. However, these are not unique features of progressivism. Do you have any criticisms of progressivism that can not be attributed similarly to conservativism?

  4. iangould:

    Shorter Ed: Let’ reach out. but only to other Ameircans who already agree with uson everything.

    Shorter Michael: Well sure provided these newcomers understand coming in that we are completely righjt about everything and are not ot be questioned.

    You guys want some diversity: start by not tolerating Anti-Semitic and racist comments in discussions about Judaism and Islam. (To head off at least one straw man by “not tolerating” I mean taking issue with such statements and am not calling for censorship.

    By the way Ed looking forward to your post about how the gang rapes in India prove Hinduism is worthless, savage and contemptible – and to the hundred comment long discussion this generates with commentators competing to ehap as many insults as possible on Hindus.

  5. Suido:

    Shorter iangould:

    I have no idea who Avicenna, Crommunist, Jason Thibault, Kylie Sturgess and Taslima Nasreem are, nor do I intend to investigate the diversity available at FTB. I’ll just sit here and harp on about my pet peeves.

  6. Suido:

    For iangould’s benefit, from OP:

    Filipino Freethinkers. Blog about it. Donate to it. Spread the word. OFFER TO HELP.

    Since you claim Ed only want to reach out to Americans, can you just let me know when the Philippines became the 51st state?

  7. dingojack:

    Suido – that would be between 11 April 1899 and 4 July 1946. Don’t they teach history in the US?
    Dingo

  8. Edward Gemmer:

    I wonder, are there any atheist outreach groups to prisons or jails?

  9. Michael Heath:

    Erik writes to me:

    If you care about diversity of thought and opinion you could spare instead to spend some of that energy helping promote that goal as Gaudette is bidding us to do. But people like you never do.

    What an incredibly delusional response. You have no idea what entails the full set of my activities. This is no different than creationists arguing scientists, “don’t know” certain facts to maintain their false beliefs.

    Your post also serves as a perfect illustration regarding what I noted in my previous post that you responded to, where I wrote:

    Progressives are not perfect, and frequently deploy the same defective fallacies and reliance on tribalism we see from conservatives.

  10. Michael Heath:

    I wrote:

    We know that one of the defects of the left … is the desire to suppress speech which is considered either politically incorrect to some progressive sentiments or hurtful to ideologues which express sloppy and indefensible arguments.

    Suido responds:

    I’d say suppressing contrary opinions is a defect of almost every group of humans ever, rather than specifically the left.

    I never claimed this defect was specific to the left. Please re-read what I wrote and what you blockquoted and you’ll easily confirm your dissent is based on an assertion I never made, nor is it even relevant to my point.

    Suido writes:

    Given the current religious-political landscape, it seems to me that there is more effort to suppress speech by conservatives than progressives, and that progressives tend to be more pro-free speech.

    I’m not sure if that’s true or not though I suspect you’re correct; we do know that conservatives predominately have closed personalities and predominately demonstrate epistemic closure; but again, that’s not relevant here to my post since my post isn’t about conservatives but instead about progressives.

    What is relevant as I noted previously is that we do observe attempts to suppress speech in some left-friendly venues where I have repeatedly observed this behavior displayed as a subset of atheists attempt to create a new movement within progressivism. What is also relevant is that liberalism at its best promotes more speech where our behaving more like conservatives in terms of closed/open is not something we should emulate but instead energetically avoid. Openness is a feature of liberalism we need to defend, not allow to be infringed upon.

    Suido writes:

    [Progressives squelching speech] can make it more confronting and news-worthy when it is discovered that progressives have been found to be acting in conflict with the principle of free speech, and opens the gateway to ‘everyone’s doing it’ type arguments.

    That’s not relevant to the post which you reply to since my concern has nothing to do with what I’ve seen reported in the media, but instead specific people and groups attempting to suppress speech in direct opposition we promote more speech while yes, pragmatically setting limits which pollute the water in certain venues or meets an accurate definition of harrassment – and not a definition which encroaches on speech which ridicules absurdly crafted arguments that doesn’t meet the definition of harrassment.

    Suido writes:

    Do you have any criticisms of progressivism that can not be attributed similarly to conservativism?

    I don’t see how that’s relevant, precisely because I’m holding us (liberals) up to high objective standards while simultaneously arguing we shouldn’t behave relative to how conservatives behave, or only marginally better. Conservatism provides few lessons on how we should act and many lessons on how not to act. Chris Mooney’s latest book attempts to list some conservative features that are worthy of emulation (e.g., conscientiousness, organized), I found his evidence this is true only of conservatives unconvincing (though mildly compelling), and those items are not related to the topic of this blog or my post.

    I’ll do my best to watch the Haidt video this evening.

  11. Michael Heath:

    iangould mangles my first post with his analysis:

    Shorter Michael: Well sure provided these newcomers understand coming in that we are completely righjt about everything and are not ot be questioned.

    I never claimed or even insinuated, even covertly, that secularists, freethinkers, and scientists are, “right about everything”. I didn’t even refer to what we generally conclude in total; what an enormous lie.

    I instead asserted that I think these three groups’ traditional attribute of promoting more speech needs to be defended. Not with no limitations, that would be idiotic because other rights exist which are sometimes more worthy of protection than unlimited speech, e.g.
    a) the right not to be harrassed,
    b) the right of someone who controls a venue to minimize disruptive speech which isn’t adding to the debate but disrupting the debate with fatally defective arguments.
    Two examples of (b) is a blogger like Ed who bans trolls, and scientific journals which demand passing a peer-review process prior to publishing an article.

    I do think we should be both skeptical and deeply question efforts by groups who seek to suppress speech. That we should instead note when their progressive attributes aren’t always features but bugs. Where I don’t want to see their bugs become an attribute of secularism, freethinking, or scientific methodology.

    Progressivism has a lot to offer atheists, freethinkers, and scientists. But that doesn’t mean we should co-opt their negatives, we should instead seek to improve the behavior of all sets in a way that also reduces the poor behavior of all sets as well.

  12. Suido:

    @ Dingojack

    Nice thinking outside the box, but no.

    Hawaii only became a state in 1959, so even if the Philippines had been granted statehood during that time, they still wouldn’t have been the 51st state.

    Hat tip to my Australian education ;)

  13. Suido:

    @ Michael Heath:

    I disagree that it’s irrelevant. Your comment discusses progressivism, and I’m challenging your characterisation of progressivism.

    I did recognise that your post did not attribute those qualities only to progressives. My dissent was based on your framing of the issue, culminating in your use of the phrase ‘worst aspects of progressivism.’

    This is disingenuous, as it implies that suppressing freedom of speech is an aspect of progressivism. Progressivism is about gradual reform of the socio-economic and political landscapes. The word ‘gradual’ is important, as it implies having to change the minds of populations through education and persuasion – ie free speech to debate topics.

    Yes, suppressing free speech can and has been used by progressives as a tool for dishonestly influencing public opinion, but can you really say that it is an aspect of progressivism? By the same token, I could say that suppressing free speech is one of the worst aspects of secularism or freethinking, as it is possible for a person hoping to promote these ideals to censor contrary arguments – and I have no doubt that this has occurred somewhere in the world.

    So, I ask again, if you look forward to a merger between the freethinking, secularism and progressivism, can you name any ‘worst aspects of progressivism’ that are actually aspects of progressivism?

  14. Michael Heath:

    Suido writes to me about my post @ 1:

    Your post reminded me of this.

    Yes, it does, partly because I’m reading some of the same research he cites and adapting my positions accordingly. I celebrate the fact liberals are open and that’s worthy of defending against some authoritarian progressives who seek to suppress speech. Progressives who are enabled and even supported by other tribalist-friendly liberals who’d rather concede broad private protections of speech in order to not fight within the tribe.

    However, I did not find Mr. Haidt’s descriptions of conservatives, at least those in the U.S. entirely accurate. It’s grossly out of date. For example, who would have thought we’d encounter conservatives mimicing nihilists like we encounter in the debt ceiling debates and other current events. In addition Burkean conservatism as Haidt describes it advocates we protect institutions and policies which have succeeded in the past, that change comes with unpredictable results. And yet it is American conservatives who advocate blowing-up successful American establishmentarian policy practices; like the practice of monetary policy at the Fed, or how we fund and deliver Social Security along with Medicare benefits. And then hypocritically blowing-up the latter two only for the younger generation given their conservative-friendly sense of entitlement.

    Conservatism in the U.S. has evolved so far from the type of [arguably] laudable Burkean conservatism once practiced, primarily due to its merging with religious fundamentalism, that some learned experts on conservatives are arguing American conservatives are no longer true conservatives. The most famous example promoting the “no true Scotsman” argument is Andrew Sullivan. I happen to disagree with Sullivan, I think what we observe here in the states should be considered an expected outcome of conservative as time progresses.

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