Dear Atheist Leaders: If You Sound As Sexist As William Lane Craig, Ur Doin It Rong

Adam Lee at Daylight Atheism has read William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith column so we don’t have to. In the process, he found something that sounds almost exactly like some of our supposed leaders. Craig is responding to a woman who’s concerned about the sexist stereotyping Craig had been spewing. See who this response of his reminds you of:

First, Craig says in response, he’s noticed that the audiences for his lectures are nearly all men:

First is my observation that apologetics seems to have far more interest for men than for women. That observation is based upon an enormous amount of experience in speaking on university campuses, at apologetics conferences, and in classroom teaching… It became very evident to me not only that the audiences which came to these events were largely male but that in event after event only the men stood up to ask a question.

And why should apologetics classes appeal predominantly to men? To explain this, Craig dusts off the old saw, “women don’t do thinky“:

Second is my hypothesis that this disparity is to be explained by the fact that men respond more readily to a rational approach, whereas women tend to respond more to relational approaches.

You know, I’m torn. On the one hand, that sounded very much like Michael “A Lot of Women Have Accused Me of Sexual Assault and/or Rape” Shermer, who said “it’s more of a guy thing” when confronted with the dearth of women in atheism. But it’s also got a strong whiff of Sam “I’m Not a Sexist – My Wife and Editor (whom I pay) Love Me!” Harris, who babbled about an “estrogen vibe” when confronted with same.

Image shows a shocked-looking cat. Caption says, "I can't believe you said that"

I’m sure there are plenty of atheist bigshots who’ve mumbled similar around the feet in their mouths, so do feel free to quote them in the comments.

Adam brings up the same point that struck me the very instant I read Craig’s words and correlated them with what our ol’ atheist “thought leaders” have said.

It’s striking how much Craig, a staunch Christian apologist, sounds like some of our male atheist “leaders”. They, too, have fielded questions about the gender imbalance in their audiences; and they, too, have often responded with clueless, patronizing, armchair answers about how they’re just too unimpeachably rational to appeal to women – that is, when they’re not snarling about “social justice warriors”, or pining for the good old days before political correctness when men could grope women with no repercussions.

Here’s a novel suggestion for both atheists and Christians: if you want to know why women aren’t showing up at your classes or your lectures, try asking some women. Don’t just assume, with no evidence, that there are inherent biological reasons for it, or that women are instinctively repelled by logic and reason. Of course, I don’t expect Craig to heed this advice, from me or from anyone else – his lamentations over the increasing influence of women shows that he’s thoroughly absorbed the sexism intrinsic to fundamentalist Christianity. The only question is whether we in the atheist community aspire to be better than him.

And really, let’s be brutally honest, here: if you can’t manage to be a better human being than William Lane “Genocide is Peachy As Long As God Tells You to Murder Everybody” Craig, you’ve got absolutely no fucking business whatsoever leading a movement of any kind. Ever. Step down and enjoy some obscurity until you can manage to treat women and minorities with more respect than that jackass, at the very least.

Image shows a tortoiseshell kitten with its paw pointing off-camera. Caption says, "OUT."

This Pwnage Applies to All Sniveling Dictionary Atheists

Another day, another white male atheist stuffed full of himself to bursting, all eager to tell us icky feminists, people of color, LGBTQ folk, and other sundry social justice warrior types that we’re getting smudge marks all over his atheism. It’s pristine! It’s pure! It’s just a dictionary definition! Ewww, stop getting your SJW cooties all over it, yucky! *runs away screaming like the boys we used to chase at recess in the first grade*

Today, it’s Michael Luciano. Tomorrow, it’ll be some other dumbshit waving a dictionary around and pompously declaring atheism a pristine nothing. Well, if you’re the sort who likes to sit around feeling all smug and superior over nothing, fantastic. It’s a big ol’ world full of chairs, and you’re welcome to drag one into the corner and sit there enjoying the fact you played the Wednesday Adaams Game and came up with no for an answer.

Image is two stills from The Adaams Family. The top image has Wednesday standing next to an electric chair, saying, "We can play a game." Bottom image shows her strapping Pugsley into the chair, and saying, "It's called 'IS THERE A GOD?'"

Should you decide to sit in your chair and enjoy your triumph, perhaps gently sneering at churchgoers as they pass by your window, no one will worry a bit about the fact you’re a pathetic specimen of a human being. Seriously. What the hell use are you if all you can do is wave your arms and shout, “The dictionary definition of an atheist is all atheism is!”?

Like Buffy and the Scoobies said, “Where do we go from here?”

Cuz that ain’t it, muffin. That’s like answering a single question on Jeopardy! and then running around the set screaming, “I win! I win! I am better than Ken Jennings and everyone for all time!!!” You look like an absolute jackass, doing that shit in public. Especially when you go beyond the dictionary definition of atheism and start doing things like challenging creationism or public prayer. Where is your dictionary atheism now, buttwart?

Anyway. I could take the Smack-o-Matic down from the wall and administer some loving* correction, but it’s ever so much more fun to watch other people accomplish the job far better than I could. I shall allow them to take it from here.

Image is an orange and white kitty with its head in its paw. Caption says, "Oh, geez... ai splained it elebinty times."

PZ’s gotcher dictionary definition right here:

Here’s a definition for you: “a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods”. There is an important word in there: “person”. Atheists are people. These dictionary atheists are always quick to forget that. People have responsibilities to each other, and further, the rejection of religion and the understanding that the universe, and we human beings, lack any kind of grand purpose, shapes the pattern of those responsibilities. You simply cannot pretend that atheism is meaningless outside one philosophical abstraction.

Well, I suppose you can…but then how can you find any reason to even be an atheist?

Heina’s got yer top 5 arguments you’re not allowed to use anymore. Here’s one:

Criticizing Islam based on Muhammad’s marriage to a child, anti-woman sentiments, and proscription of apostasy on pain of death is to use social issues to promote atheism. Pure, true atheists would do well to refrain from such criticisms and instead focus solely on the fact that there is no god. Social arguments are not relevant to believing in no gods.

Avicenna explains why beef is an atheist event:

Let’s say you aren’t all that enthralled by Beef Recipes (That sound you heard was Ed Brayton fainting at the mere thought). But we have a bunch of ex-Hindus for whom beef was a major taboo looking forward to eating beef. Now you may think a Big Mac is hardly an earth shattering meal to be consumed to thumb it’s nose at religion but you know what? A fair few Ex-Hindus look forward to eating it when we can. Hell? Penn wrote about a Jewish fan who was breaking Kosher law when he became an atheist who he took out for pork and shellfish.

So to you a Big Mac may not be an atheist event, but to me it is. And that’s the point of having a more inclusive atheism. You begin to realise that many atheists have different ideas.

But you don’t have to take part. No one’s forcing a gun to your head to eat a damn Big Mac.

Olivia patiently explains it’s a people thing, not a liberal or conservative thing:

Oddly enough, there are still some of us out there who are hoping that atheism and people with a shred of human decency are one and the same, and that’s what we’re appealing to. The people who are saying these things don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re liberal or conservative, but they do care if you are actively pushing them out of your movement, discriminating against them, and essentially treating them like worthless piles of shit. Oddly enough, the desire to be given basic human respect and equality is not associated with any political party. The inherent connection between equality and atheism is that there are people who are atheists who want to be treated equally. In case you haven’t figured out where the atheism comes from yet, it comes from the thousands of atheists who are female, people of color, disabled, queer, or any other minority who want an atheist community that lets them in.

Hank_Says talks about what atheism contains, and varieties of justice:

Atheism might not contain but it certainly strongly implies certain positions on social issues: mostly, that without a religious or supernatural source for morals, ethics, law and societal cohesion, humans have to work those things out themselves and base them on reason.

In the realm of social justice, discrimination against women, LGBT people, people of colour and non-religious people, have many religious justifications. Examined in the absence of those religious justifications, there more or less are no reasonable justifications for such discrimination. This implies that the discrimination, being unreasonable, is therefore unjust. Injustice demands opposition; it demands justice.

Atheists often point to the discrimination they experience at the hands of the religious due to their lack of belief; is opposing that discrimination not a social justice issue? What of keeping classrooms, local councils and other public areas and ceremonies secular, so as not to discriminate against non-believers or non-Christians? Is that not seeking justice?

Ed spells it out for the hard-of-thinking:

It should be entirely obvious that one of the damaging effects of religious belief is the denial of equal rights to women, to gay people and even to racial minorities. In all three cases, discriminatory policies are justified by the religious beliefs that atheist activists fight against. We cannot be effective in countering the negative effect of religion-based public policy (or more broadly, cultural norms and non-political societal structures) if we don’t take up those fights for equality.

And Ophelia sums up the frustration of many of us right here:

I’m so fed up with being any part of a movement that has this ridiculous childish hero-worship thing going on. Guys, get over it.

Listen. You can thump your dictionary all you like, Dictionary Atheist. I’m sure you and the Bible thumpers can have a marvelous time together, seeing who can thump their holy book the hardest. Sit in your chair and enjoy all the nothing you believe in. Heck, you can even rouse yourself enough to go out and try to kick religion out of the public sphere, if you wish (although you’ll need to turn in your dictionary for that – it ain’t in the definition of atheist. Sorry, bro). If you don’t want to go beyond that and be a decent, helpful human being who cares about other people and does your best to make the world better, that’s your business. As Avi said, no one’s forcing you at gunpoint. Most of us can’t even stand guns anyway.

But do, please, get the fuck out of the way of those who give a shit. And don’t wave that dictionary at me. I see it’s the Oxford Unabridged, and I assure you that one more wave will earn you a painful thump over the noggin with it.

Image is a gray cat lying atop a hardcover English dictionary, with a slightly annoyed expression. Caption says, "Do not tempt me, sir."

 

*Actually not loving. I kinda don’t like you.

Why I Won’t Be Sporting a Scarlet A Any Longer

The Out Campaign’s scarlet A no longer graces my blog or my social media feeds. I’m still an out and proud atheist, mind you. I still think atheism is important and can do the world some good. But the scarlet A, that doesn’t do enough. And I could put up the A+ logo derived from it, but while I support the idea of Atheism Plus, I want a different and better symbol, one that suitably reflects the fact that no one on the other side of the rift is interested in bridging any divides, and so those of us who want a heaping helping of social justice to go with their atheism are going it alone. Perhaps one of you here will design it, or point me to it.

Image shows me leaning against an a-shaped sea stack at Ruby Beach, WA. The Scarlet A has been superposed over the rock. A red X is drawn through the whole picture.

My former Facebook profile pic. Fuggedaboutit. Time to replace this sucka.

Hank_Says has a succinct summary of the fuckery of the past few years, when we went from superficially-cohesive movement to Deep Rifts™. It’s what made me decide it was time to retire that particular atheist symbol:

The transition was relatively rapid, too: one minute everyone’s apparently (I’ll get to that) on the same page and looking in the same direction, the next – as soon as women identify problematic behaviour and request that we guys not do that then start talking about harassment policies – there’s an instant rift dug by people who for some reason viciously resent being told that some behaviour makes others uncomfortable. Then a few visible “leaders” say some thoughtless or petulant things, one blogger wonders if atheism can be about a little more than debunking myths and is vilified at length for the mere suggestion, a blogger or ‘tuber or two reveal themselves to be unapologetic misogynists, a parallel atheist community is born for the sole purpose of harassing and obsessively monitoring two blog networks and before you know it, women are being threatened with rape and death. With rape and death. And others are laughing at it. Including other women.

[snip]

Finally, I find it highly ironic that the leadership/s that brought us the scarlet letter “A” logo, a repurposing or “taking back” of the old tactic of publicly humiliating women who dared step out of the social boundaries prescribed by the men who essentially owned them, would be so solidly behind enabling and defending a sexist status quo, and in some cases being openly hostile to all women who challenge them, whether they’re accusing accuse “leaders” of assault or inappropriate sexual behaviour or of simply saying things that are mildly (but no less thoughtlessly) sexist. In light of the last three years of harassment, obsessive monitoring, threats, both mild casual sexism and unapologetic misogyny, all with nary a disapproving look from the leaders over the tops of their spectacles, followed by wagon-circling and dismissive responses to allegations of assault and rape (some going back years), that scarlet letter is more appropriate than ever.

Yes, it is – for them. They can have their narrow-minded dictionary atheism with its old-boys club mentality, its libertarian bullshit, and its sexual assaulter protection program. I’ve got different ideas for atheism. And there are other ways to go. Let them cling to scarlet letters and smug senses of (false) superiority. We have better things to do.

Their brand of atheism is too limited to be of much use to anyone outside the newly deconverted. For those of us ready to move on, it’s useless.

To paraphrase very wise and angry feminist Flavia Dzodan: My atheism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. Those atheists who don’t think working on social justice issues is important for atheism can fuck right off. A world without gods won’t be any less of a shithole if we don’t confront the oppressions that obviously remain when gods are swept into the dust bin. And yes, as much as I happen to hate religion, I’ll take a world with religion and true equality over a world simply without religion. Because, as our scarlet-A atheist douches have demonstrated, giving up god is only the first step in becoming a better human being.

Those who aren’t willing to take the next step can bugger off to the other side of the Deep Rift™ and stay there.

Image is a late 19th century photograph of a woman sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, getting ready to hurl a rock over. Caption says, "Taking a sounding to see if the deep rifts are deep enough yet."

Dear Richard Dawkins: I Want My Money Back

I feel you’ve defrauded me, sir. You see, I used to think your outrage at religion and creationism was genuine, that the ideas you expressed were due to sincerely held positions, and I bought books in good faith. Now I know this was just a scheme. Your passionate arguments and righteous anger weren’t at all real. That was fake outrage. You only ever wrote the things you did for money. I feel you have defrauded me, and I demand a refund in full.

I’m sure you understand, as you yourself would never wish to enrich those employing fake outrage. Let us be consistent, then. Your $135 million net worth can surely absorb the blow.

Here are the books I require you to reimburse me for:

Image is the cover of the God Delusion with "FAKE" stamped across it.The God Delusion

This is a book filled with outrage – which I now understand was faked, as no one writes from a position of impassioned and angry honesty, but only feigns these emotions for attention. This might explain the outrageous comparison of teaching a child about hell to abusing a child. I understood at the time that you believed some children were so traumatized by the fear they would end up in hell forever, it affected their psyche worse than physical abuse would have done. However, it appears now that you were just being an outrageous asshole and infuriating child abuse survivors for attention. Anything to sell another book, eh, Richard?

List price: $15.95

 

Image is the cover of The Greatest Show on Earth with "FAKE" stamped across it.The Greatest Show on Earth

This whole book is one huge sneer at creationists, but Chapter 6, in which you print creationist comments made to you, only to denigrate those poor misinformed people cruelly and make fun of their “crocoduck” and monkey arguments, is especially vicious. You had us all rolling with your readings from it when you toured. I know now your rapier wit with its bright edge of anger was not being employed in service of evolution and against creationists, but merely to pick our pockets. And since I bought this book brand-new at a Barnes and Noble, hardcover, with no discount, in order to have it there in case you deigned do a signing that night (either you did not, or I was unable to get your signature), I am asking for the full hardcover price.

List price: $30.00

Image is the cover of The Extended Phenotype with "FAKE" stamped across it.The Extended Phenotype

This one is mostly about evolution, and I don’t remember you being particularly outraged in it, but right at the very beginning, you say, “This is a work of unabashed advocacy.” As you are advocating for evolution, and I can only think you are advocating against creationists whenever you do so, this book counts as part of your fake outrage oeuvre.

Besides, it’s in 10 point font, which is an outrage all its own.

List price: $19.99

 

 

Image is the cover of Climbing Mount Improbable with "FAKE" stamped across it.Climbing Mount Improbable

This book is basically nothing more than a gigantic “fuck you” to creationists, who think that evolution cannot possibly lead to such variation in forms as we see today. You shit all over religious metaphor in order to show creationists that Eden’s apple (which was, according to someone you heard lecture once, was actually a fig, and isn’t it silly anyone believes it matters because fake story is fake, duh) wasn’t designed, but evolved in a long series of tiny steps. I’m sure you wrote it just to upset creationists rather than any regard for the truth.

List price: $16.95

 

Image is the cover of The Blind Watchmaker with "FAKE" stamped across it.The Blind Watchmaker

You were really going all-out with this one, weren’t you, Richard? First you insult Paley’s work by filching his title and adding a sneering (ableist) word to it, then right in your new introduction, you call creationists “backwoodsmen.” Insult = outrage, and so this is a work of fake outrage rather than reasoned, dispassionate sifting of evidence for evolution. You spend the whole book bringing up creationist arguments only to stomp on them. According to you, criticism is fake outrage, and one only engages in it for the money, so you obviously didn’t believe a single word in this thick tome. All fraud. For shame, sir.

List price: $19.95

Image is the cover of The Selfish Gene with "FAKE" stamped across it.The Selfish Gene

Why, the whole of the new introduction is nothing but you criticizing your critics, and as we all know, criticism is fake outrage. Plus, you spend time calling God a “meme” and saying, “It provides a superficially plausible answer to deep and troubling questions about existence,” which seems to be unnecessarily provocative language – unless you were trying to drum up some outrage in order to nudge sales up a bit.

I tell you, it is unconscionable.

List price: $19.95

 

Image is the cover of River Out of Eden with "FAKE" stamped across it.River Out of Eden

At long last, have you no decency, sir? Fake outrage is one thing, but deliberately poking sharp sticks at the sincerely religious folk by titling your book after their treasured myth, and including as your title quote a verse from their most holy book, and then proceeding for nearly two hundred pages to bash their simple worldview? That is not only fake outrage (as we know you were only doing these things to sell more books), but bloody cheek. I should charge you double.

But I am an honorable person.

List price: $15.95

Image is the cover of The Ancestor's Tale with "FAKE" stamped across it.The Ancestor’s Tale

Your fake outrage is right there in the index, which is supposed to be the most dispassionate part of a book! Under “creationists,” you have the following:

“on alleged unevolvability of bacterial flagellar motor”

“going on about ‘gaps'”

“hopes dashed on improbability of large molecules”

“love of Cambrian Explosion”

So not only is the entire book a fine fuck-you to those who argue for a literal interpretation of Genesis, but you get snide in even the driest bits, and so I can only conclude you meant to drum up a lot of fake outrage to drive sales. Otherwise, you would have been relentlessly Vulcan in your language, I am sure.

List price: $16.95

Right. So that is a total of $155.69 US dollars you owe me for playing upon my good faith and my trusting emotions, sir. Now, I am nothing if not fair. I admit I seem to have had a small bump in traffic after blogging about yourself, your bosom pal Michael Shermer, and your buddy James Randi. I admit to using heated language against people who had done reprehensible things, which, by your estimation and that of your friends over there on your side of the Deep Rifts™, means I am an “outrage junkie” blogging for all that sweet, sweet victim money, of which there is lots. Give me a moment to tot up the total and deduct it from your bill.

Image shows a miffed-looking cat with an open textbook and its paw on a calculator. Capion says, "Calculator cat is not happeh with teh anser."

Oh, for… fine. Fine. Stupid !#?@ solar-powered crap in a place notorious for lack of sunshine.

Image shows a gray cat lying on its side with a pencil in its mouth. Caption says, "Right. I shall do this the wold-fashioned way."

Okay. After doing some strenuous math and diligently checking the figures, your new total is $153.83. You’ll find my donate button in the sidebar. I encourage you to make use of it, as that will save you the trouble of scrounging up your checkbook.

I shall be donating my copies of your tomes of faux outrage to our local no-kill animal shelter, which can always use things for the puppies to chew on.

 

Yes, You Can Be an Atheist and Like Bits of the Bible, Too

As with any collection of writings, even those chosen more for “God wants you to include this and will curse you if you don’t” rather than literary merit or storytelling chops, the Bible has a few gems of real value amongst all the religious dross. I don’t really approach it differently than any other body of mythology: I’m a writer, and I will damned well cannibalize anything. In fact, back before I was even an atheist, I had an atheist character who regularly spouted bits from the book of Revelation, and would have bopped the noggin of any one of the crowing Christians who love to scream “GOTCHA! You DO believe!” whenever he did so. Revelation spoke to him; God, not so much, and certainly less than the Norse gods. If he ever converts to anything, it will be something to do with Odin long before Yahweh gets an audition.

No, even the story he tells where Satan possesses him in an attempt to murder God while God just sits there and watches, drinking coffee, doesn’t mean he’s a believer. It means he’s a writer who knows how to use myth and powerful imagery to make a point.

Image shows a black cat and a white cat in the sky over a city against a stormy background. Caption says, "Basement cat vs. Ceiling Cat. Final Battle for our souls has begun."

I’ve become more like Chretien, as I’ve grown older. For one, I have become an atheist, and for another, I’ve fully accepted doing what I like with the Bible, just as I do Buddhist and Hindu and Norse texts. Any body of mythology is up for grabs; any stories people have told each other in order to make sense of the world and find their way in it can be powerful, and worth incorporating. And sometimes, the language is just pretty.

I do try to stay away from overtly Christian themes, however – not because they’re terrible (although sometimes they are), not because I don’t want people claiming me for Christianity (although I’m sure they’ll try anyway), but because they’ve been done. Often, they’ve been done to death. But sometimes, you can incorporate them in such a way they’re fresh and relevant, and so I’ll do that (still not a Christian, Christians). Sometimes, it’s the character who’s Christian and, when that’s the case, the Christian theme is unavoidable. And sometimes, it’s because I’ve discovered something new (to me, at least) in that terribly old book.

All of this is a long lead-up to a Thing that was going around some time ago, about atheists and their favorite Bible verses. There are several bits that I sometimes enjoy, and a lot of things that are beautifully stated (not that their equivalent can’t be found elsewhere – what a long stint in reading history and comparative mythology taught me was that nothing was original to Christ, and often I can find the equivalent said by some non-Christians in profound and beautiful ways. Sorry, Christians who like to believe God said it first and best). However, one verse has rather come to the fore, both because it’s beautiful in and of itself, and because it’s the one that springs to mind whenever I see these Good Christians™ doing things like demanding we send children away to die, or enthusiastically endorsing the death penalty. It’s the one I hope Jesus says to these disgusting little shits should that particular myth prove to be true and he comes back to whup some ass. And it’s one that turns out to be Ed Brayton’s favorite, as well:

I was a little surprised that no one offered up my favorite verse, Matthew 25:40.

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

I have always found this to be a powerful statement of human compassion. It is the core of all moral reasoning, the idea that we must treat others well because we wish to be treated well.

That’s some powerful stuff, indeed. In context, it’s basically saying that the folks who refuse to give sanctuary to refugee children (because brown) or who advocate for the painful executions of possibly innocent people (because criminal and probably brown) aren’t getting that mansion in heaven they thought they already had the keys to. And there’s no extra credit for treating people well who looked and acted like you. That’s not difficult, after all. What’s hard is having empathy and taking care of people who are different or sick or even fuck-ups. Not all of us can live up to the standard of treating everyone well, but we should at the very least refrain from actually demanding harm.

So that’s a good verse.

The other bit I discovered recently whilst doing other things was one of the Proverbs I’d never read. Did you know that the first thing God created was Wisdom? And that Wisdom’s a woman? Well, definitely a she. Read it right here, for yourownself. I really like the final bit:

“And now, my children, listen to me:
happy are those who keep my ways.
Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
Happy is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord;
but those who miss me injure themselves;
all who hate me love death.”

Of course, I’m sure my definition of wisdom is different from religious people’s definition of wisdom. But it’s a very nice thing to have in my mental pocket, that, waiting to be unloaded on someone who insists upon being an ignorant dipshit.

Now, after encountering some of the folks who spout Bible verses and expect you to repent or be damned, or who claim you’re not an atheist just because you have some money in your pocket that has “In God We Trust” stamped upon it by the government (who really shouldn’t be doing that), you may be reluctant to even look at the bloody book, much less consider any verse of it worth keeping. And I don’t blame you. There have been times when I wish we could get rid of the whole sorry lot, too. But Valerie Tarico is right, here:

As a young adult, I struggled to recover from the crazy parts of my childhood. I once had a therapist who said, “You’ll know you are independent from your parents when you can do what you want for yourself even if they want it too.” To my mind, the Bible writers are like dysfunctional parents to our whole society, parents we have turned to, collectively and individually, for guidance. but who all too often instead have caused harm or trauma. One of the ways we will know that we have truly outgrown them is when we are able to claim what we believe to be useful and beautiful, even if they said it.

Indeed. So I’m bloody well calling dibs on some good bits. You can have the other 9/10ths that are either long boring stretches of begats or a bunch of horrifying drivel, dear Christianists. And the best part is, it will probably drive you into conniptions.

Image shows a cat with its eyes closed and tongue stuck out. Caption reads, "Phht. That is all."

Lest We Forget: Dawkins Wanted to Silence People On Shermer

Ophelia mentioned this before in one of her comments. Now she has a post up on the wall of silence that’s gone up round Shermer, and has included this jaw-dropping bit of fuckery:

Another datum on that: before all this, before the Oppenheimer article, even before the “let’s rank kinds of rape and if you don’t like it go away and learn how to think” tweets – at the end of our email conversation that resulted in the joint statement, Dawkins asked me to dissuade people from spreading the “libellous allegation that Michael Shermer is a rapist or a sexual predator.”

I must say, I stared at the screen in shocked disbelief for quite awhile when that came in. What was I supposed to do, tell people who reported their own experiences to stop doing that? On what authority? On the basis of what knowledge? I don’t know that they are not telling the truth, do I.

I so badly wanted to reply with something along the lines of “How would that be different from what the bishops have been doing for decades?” But that would have been a bad beginning to the post-joint-statement situation, so I didn’t…quite. I pointed out that these were first-person accounts and that I didn’t know they weren’t true, so I couldn’t dismiss them. I did conclude with “It’s too reminiscent of the Catholic church and the rapey priests.” I haven’t heard from him since.

Keep in mind, this was about a year after various unconnected sources came forward and said that Shermer had harassed and/or assaulted them. And he’s still busy covering Shermer’s ass. Even after so many women have come forward under their own names, he still won’t admit there may be something to this. And the little hyperskeptic lickspittles he’s got crowded round his feet are happy to help out, demanding evidence well beyond what they’d require to denounce a homeopath.

I used to get rather upset with smarmy religious assholes calling Dawkins our pope, but that’s exactly what he’s acting like – right down to covering for sexual abusers.

no-game-no-life-anime

“There Is the Great Disappointment”

You know, I never thought I’d see the day when PZ Myers, the fire-breathing atheist whose passion for science and reason launched me full-tilt at science blogging, would despair of the atheist movement. But here that day is:

There is the great disappointment. The movement, whose whole premise demands a sweeping change of the culture, has discovered that it is far easier to defend the status quo than to change it. We’re willing to ask other people to think long and hard about their beliefs, to question and change, but all that other stuff that our culture planted in our heads, like beliefs about the sexes and races, like the rigid gender binary, like the suitability of women to thinking critically, like the automatic conferral of status by wealth, like the dehumanization of people who look like they might have had different great-grandparents than us, like the utility of simply killing people who disagree with us…oh, no, don’t ask us to change. We’re just here to promote atheism! One thing at a time! Once we’ve cleared away the deadwood of religion, then maybe we can think about encouraging a rational world that will have those nice things you’re talking about. Atheism is only about separation of church and state issues, or only about science and naturalism, or only about scholarly discussion of the accuracy of ancient texts, or only about fighting the barbarous customs of non-Western peoples…it’s only about the non-existence of gods, we can’t possibly consider side issues, like the harassment of women or the oppression of black communities or the diminishing educational opportunities of the poor, to be part of our brief!

Well, I’ve got news for the atheist movement: it all matters.

[snip]

I will make a prediction, right here and now. The number of people identifying as “nones” will grow in this country in coming years, because we’re on the right side of history, and because organized religion is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on other-worldly issues that don’t help people. The number of people identifying as atheists will stagnate or even shrink, because organized atheism is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on irrelevant metaphysical differences that don’t help people.

I can’t say that’s a bad thing. The name of atheism has been burdened with unfair and inaccurate stigma for a great many years, and we’re now drifting into an era in which atheism will be burdened with a totally fair and accurate stigma.

Unless we change.

I don’t know that we can.

Image is a grayscale photo of a cat with its head in its paws. Caption says, "I has a sad."

And it’s not just PZ, or the people he mentions within his post, who are disillusioned. I’ve seen comments from a goodly number of people who are either walking away or walked a long time ago. These are people who could be contributing to the movement: volunteers, donors, activists that we’ve lost because the leaders of our orgs can’t extract their heads from their asses. (Perhaps they would understand what right shits they’ve been if they read this excellent poem by our own Digital Cuttlefish. I value my continued existence too much to hold my breath, thought.)

I think the current incarnation of movement atheism is going to perish. It’s too self-satisfied, too unrepentantly sexist, too hostile to people of color, too ignorant of the poor, too opposed to social justice, to survive to the next generation. The churches are losing people who are needlessly cruel to others, dogmatically refuse to change, and then wonder where all the young people went. The atheist orgs will find themselves facing the same problem. They’ll be wondering where the women, the people of color, the majority of the LGBTQ folk have gone. They’ll sneer and say “Good riddance!” when they realize we’ve ended up over here, on the opposite side of the rift. They’ll retreat to their own enclaves, and they will think they’re important, but they won’t be the ones making a difference.

We will.

Because, despite disillusionment, we know that what we’re doing is necessary. It’s important. It matters.

Listen to RQ, answering PZ’s despairing “I don’t know that we can” with a firm yes, we can:

I can’t afford to believe that we can’t. None of us can (in my opinion). That being said, it’s awfully difficult sometimes. But I refuse to give up all hope, even if I have to force myself to do so with a conscious, bull-headed effort. I can’t afford to.

Maybe I’m not old or tired or worn out enough yet, but the day I give up all hope will be a day I die a death far more meaningful than the physical one. And I don’t think I will like myself after that day.

We won’t give up. We’ll just take our activism and our dollars and our passion elsewhere.

Listen to George Wiman, who lays out some options:

I’m sure not going to start believing in gods because a bunch of atheists are sexist yobs. I’m stuck as an atheist whatever the “movement” does. So I could disavow atheism and embrace “humanism” (which is too kind to religion for my taste)

Keep my head down and still my voice.

Identify as a humanist atheist or an A+ or something else which says “Keep your gods and your oppressive culture too.”

There’s the third option. We’ll be over here, taking our atheism and building something of value. We’ll be working on a better moral foundation. We’ll be applying our critical thinking skills to our society and culture. We’ll be going beyond realizing there’s no gods, and asking what comes next.

Listen to consciousness razor, who knows that atheism is a beginning, not a finish line:

We should* all realize, as atheists, that we have to take it upon ourselves to make the world a better place. No benevolent magic being is going to do it for us, and there also aren’t demons or some such which we can blame the bad stuff on. And there are no other (not god-like) mysterious, purposeful forces at work, which guides things toward a certain end. And we don’t get second chances, because death is a real thing that happens, not only a transition to some other kind of reality. So there really is no other good option. That’s our job as good rational human beings, because we cannot consistently come up with a good excuse for not doing it. If you’re not buying into that, yet call yourself an “atheist” anyway, what legitimate reason do you actually have to justify any of it?

*But obviously, we don’t all in fact do what we should. That’s not surprising in the least, or any reason to be “disillusioned.”

I’m disappointed, but not disillusioned. I expected better of our leaders, but I’m not surprised they didn’t deliver. And there will definitely be disappointments going forward, but they won’t stop me. It’s like Jon Scalzi says:

I think internalizing the fact that no opinion/belief/enthusiasm inoculates either you or anyone else from the baser aspects of the human condition, or the larger social milieu in which we all exist, is probably a very smart thing to do. It helps manage the disappointment when the cool new group you find yourself with is eventually revealed to be full of flawed and fallible human beings, and it helps to free you from the initial desire to rationalize shitty behavior within a group merely for the sake of identity politics. And on the rare occasions when everyone in the group is actually good and decent, it allows you to appreciate just how nice that really is.

All this bullshit? It’s been a booster shot. If the people who are supposedly leading movement atheism are terrible failures, so be it. There have been terrible people in every social movement. We can brush them aside and continue the necessary work. They don’t define us, and they won’t end our good work.

PZ’s the one who inspired me all those years ago. He lit the fire. He turned me into an unapologetic atheist. He rekindled my passion for science and gave me the conviction and the courage to blog it. He showed me that we could forge a better world without gods. He gave me hope. And I’ll be damned if I let a few assholes in the movement take that away. I don’t care if we have to tear the entire movement down and rebuild it from the foundation up. I don’t care how much that makes smug assholes like Dawkins and Harris howl, I don’t care how much it makes reported serial sexual harassers like Shermer shriek. I don’t care how many fuckwads scream and whine and try to flood our channels with death and rape threats. This isn’t their movement. They don’t get to define it.

Over the next several weeks, I won’t let up on the supposed leaders who are failing so spectacularly. But I’m not here to only tear down, but to build up. I’ll be bringing people and organizations to your attention who are doing excellent work. I’ll be finding work that deserves our support. In the coming months, I’ll be tracking down books and podcasts to replace those the ones we found invaluable before their creators turned out to be such spectacular failures as human beings. I’ll be giving you some humor boosts, and hopefully helpful memes with which to illustrate your own posts about the Deep Rifts™.

We don’t need the leaders who have failed us. We have each other. And we have it within us to change the world.

Let’s do this thing.

Image is a grayscale cat with round dark steampunk sunglasses. Caption says, "Let's do this!"

Sponsor Jamila Bey, And She’ll Talk About All the Verboten Topics!

Let’s do something positive for public atheism: sponsor Jamila Bey! This sounds awesome:

“The Sex Politics And Religon Hour: SPAR with Jamila Show” considers all the topics one was never supposed to raise in polite company. It’s coming back as a podcast. You can be part of its glorious relaunch!”

Says it all, doesn’t it? If you want more information on the project, or want to pledge your support, visit her Beacon page. But do it fast – the fundraiser ends tomorrow!

Image shows Jamila Bey looking over her shoulder and grinning.

Photo of Jamila Bey from her G+ page.

This is the kind of thing we can throw our support to, with so many of the atheist orgs treating us like they can have their sexist bullshit and our dollars, too. Let’s support independent atheists who can put together the kind of media that will inspire whole new batches of freethinkers while feeding our own need for change:

We’ll discuss the more interesting things in our world and our lives. These shows and blog posts will investigate the role of race, gender, political affiliation and other alleged private beliefs and assumptions that bear upon the news and newsmakers.

If you can, please do go throw some funds Jamila’s way. Search for her videos on YouTube. And if you want to learn how to pronounce her name and get a taste of her merciless humor, watch this all the way through. (Just don’t come crying to me about how meaaan she is if you’re a Republican, cuz you earned every damn word.)

“We Are Not Holding Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins to Some Impossible Standard”

Continuing the theme of expecting better, here’s Tony on standards and the possibility thereof:

As I started to compose this comment, I thought: we’re not asking much of people like Dawkins and Harris. That all people are asking is that they listen to what we’re saying. That they open themselves up to criticism and accept that they can be wrong. That they peel back their layers of privilege and recognize the signs of the internalized sexism they’ve carried with them their entire lives.

But then I thought:

Framing it that way appears as if this is an easy task.
I remember when I started confronting my biases. It *wasn’t* easy. I remember when I started seeing how women were treated. When I started listening to what women were saying. When I started recognizing the signs of sexism.
I was horrified.
It was everywhere.
I couldn’t escape it.
I couldn’t go to work and escape it.
I couldn’t go to a gay bar and escape it.
I couldn’t go to the movies or turn on the tv and escape it.
I saw it in the way people dressed.
I saw it in the way people acted.
I saw it in the way people spoke.
I saw it in the way people interacted.

One of the most striking moments for me came when I was sitting at a local gay bar and having a conversation with a friend. We were talking about effeminate gay men and drag queens and dating sites and more. This was maybe 2 years ago. I’d accepted that feminism was a worthy cause and was becoming comfortable calling myself one. But I was still in the process of understanding the sexist views I had.

Well one of those sexist views up and slapped me across the head right then and there.

I realized as my friend and I spoke, that all those people talking about how they won’t date a “girly gay man”…
•or those times when I said that phrase, followed by “I want to date a man bc he’s a man. I don’t want a date a man who acts like a girl”…
•or those people who put at the top of the Adam4Adam, Manhunt, or Grindr profile “not interested in nellie men, only want masculine men”
…I realized then and there that we…I…was trapped in thinking about gender in very rigid terms. I realized that I thought “men are supposed to be this way, and women are supposed to be this way”. I thought that any deviation from that was wrong. I thought that there was something wrong with a man acting like a woman, or having traits or characteristics typically associated with women. I realized how deep sexism ran. It runs so deep it affects how we view ourselves, as well as the people around us. It shapes our opinions of our friends, our family, our coworkers, even strangers.
It.
Runs.
Deep.

Reflecting on that, I realize now, that we *are* asking for a lot from Dawkins and Harris.

But you know what?
We’re not asking the impossible.

[snip]

I…We are not holding Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins to some impossible standard. We’re holding them to same standard we hold ourselves and others to. They continue to fail to measure up to that standard.

One day I hope they’ll recognize what they’re doing and dig deep…deep into their core and realize that they have some shit to come to terms with. I hope they do this because not believing in gods is NOT. FUCKING. ENOUGH.

Read the whole thing.

Image shows a black kitten poking its head up over a fence with big, eager eyes. Caption reads, "K, I not beweive in any gawds. Nao wut?"

Adorable kitten photo by Tony Alter via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

And for those who haven’t done the hard work yet: yes, it sucks. What Tony said up there about confronting biases, and recognizing sexism, and being horrified because it’s bloody everywhere? That’s truth. It is horrible, especially when you realize you’re not exempt. I’ve been there and go through that daily: finding new pockets of sexism left by a lifetime living in this sexist culture, and having to scrape them out of myself. It’s like having an infection in your jawbone, and every time you think it’s gone, it comes back, or your hygienist finds yet another bit of it that has to be tediously and painfully scraped out. It’s not fun. It’s not pleasant. But ignoring it doesn’t make the problem go away: it makes it worse.

Getting over gods is a great start, but it’s only a beginning. Once the gods are gone, we’re left with people, and civilization, and all of the imperfections that plague both. I’m sorry, but losing religion doesn’t mean all problems are solved. Religion amplifies some of our worst qualities, but those are still human qualities, and they remain once religion is gone.

I used to think it would be easier to fix things like sexism and homophobia and racism once religion was gone. But looking at how so many of our atheist celebrities and their fans have reacted to even the most mild requests to please not make sexist assumptions or do sexist things, I’ve realized it can actually be harder. The men (and some women) who have let go of gods seem so assured of their own rightness that they refuse to listen to the people affected by their words and actions. They sneer at the evidence presented, although they pretend that evidence is important to them. They don’t question their assumptions. They don’t do the hard work, but worse, don’t believe they need to. They got what they feel is the most important question right. They coast on that. And when people don’t go along for the ride, they get pissed.

Having gone from oblivious asshole to painfully aware, I’m not willing to cut them any slack. If a headstrong peon like myself can do the hard work, the lofty intellects at the top are certainly capable of the same. Let’s demand they do it.

Image shows a puma with its paws crossed and its ears flattened, gazing at the camera as if disappointed and annoyed. Caption says, "We expect better of you than this."

Puma photo by Beatrice Murch via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Why It Matters

I shall now shamelessly filch a bit of Ophelia’s pointed post, and Quote it For Truth. I ask that all the people who, now or in the future, wish to whine about how we’re so mean and if we don’t like it just ignore it, please pay attention. We can’t ignore big-name atheists when they indulge in this shit.

Ok wait a second, a partisan of the Dawkins-Coyne faction might say here. Hold on. Why have people been documenting the things Dawkins types? It’s just because you’re looking for fodder for click-bait, right? Right?

No. It’s because Dawkins matters. It’s because he’s not just some random atheist; he’s the most un-random atheist we’ve got. He is by far the most famous recognizable celebrity-like person in the Anglophone atheist movement. (Anglophone, please note. Michael Nugent keeps complaining that global atheism isn’t American atheism, as if we obnoxious Yanks had been pretending otherwise. No, of course it’s not. I’m talking about Anglophone atheism here.) Now an atheist celebrity isn’t a real celebrity by the usual standards; Dawkins isn’t a movie star or rock star or basketball star; but he is a celeb in this particular niche. He’s the celeb.

As such, he does a lot to set the tone of said atheist movement.

That tone sucks.

We – we naughty critics, we bad people who keep documenting what Dawkins says on Twitter – we would like to have a better atheist movement with a less sucky tone. We would like to have an atheist movement that’s not sometimes absent-mindedly and sometimes determinedly contemptuous of women. We think it would help if Dawkins set a better tone.

Or at least I do. I think the others do too; I think that’s basically why any of us do this; but I haven’t polled them and I don’t know that they would word it this way.
But I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of it. The atheist movement is way too riddled with casual sexism, and Dawkins has done a lot to make it that way, and we would like him to stop doing that and do the opposite instead.

I’m one of those others. That’s my motivation in a nutshell. So that’s at least two of us. I’ll eventually have a longer post up explaining why I take off after atheist leaders doing sexist (and other awful) things, but that’s the basics. We expect better, and we need them to do better, and they’re never going to if lots of people don’t demand better.

Image shows a puma with its paws crossed and its ears flattened, gazing at the camera as if disappointed and annoyed. Caption says, "We expect better of you than this."

Puma photo by Beatrice Murch via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)