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Does Social Justice Activism Mean Mission Drift for Atheism and Skepticism?

If the atheist and skeptical movements focus on political and social justice issues, will that constitute mission drift?

No.

Okay. I realize that’s not a very satisfying answer. How about this: Nothing that anyone I know is advocating in this department constitutes mission drift. Sure, there are some ways this could hypothetically happen, if that does ever wind up happening it’d be worth commenting on or even pushing back on… but it doesn’t automatically and by definition constitute that, and the kinds of things that the social-justice crowd are advocating don’t fall into that category at all.

That may not be satisfying, either. Let me spell it out in a little more detail.

mission statement bookMyself, and the other people I know of who are advocating for the atheist and skeptical movements to focus more on social justice issues, are not proposing that these movements change their basic missions in any way. We simply want for these movements to expand the appeal of atheism and skepticism to demographics we haven’t traditionally attracted, by focusing part of our attention on issues that these people care about and that are still totally in our wheelhouse. We are basically advocating for two things:

(1) that these movements expand the focus of their existing missions into new areas having to do with politics and social justice, in ways that are consistent with those existing missions and that constitute clear overlap between those missions and these issues;

(2) that the organizations in these movements pay attention to these issues in internal matters, such as hiring and event organizing.

Let’s take #1 first. And let’s look first at skepticism.

The skeptical movement, and the main skeptical organizations, are focused (at least in theory) on doing activism and education around applying rationality, critical thinking skills, the scientific method, and the prioritization of evidence to address testable questions about non-subjective reality. It’s not about advocating for any specific conclusions — it’s about advocating for the methods, and the principles of valuing reality and truth that underlie those methods. In practice, it often doesn’t play out this way — in practice, for instance, the skeptical movements are strongly pro-vaccination and anti-creationism, and are pretty comfortable supporting the one position and opposing the other quite vehemently, and doing so qua skeptics. But yes, at least in theory, you could be a skeptic and a vaccine denialist: there’s no position that constitutes a litmus test for being a skeptic.

Sure. Fine.

So why can’t all that rationality, critical thinking skills, scientific method, and prioritization of evidence be applied to testable claims having to do with social justice?

DEA: DEA agents in Detroit, Michigan Spike TVTestable claims about social justice issues get made all the time. Yes, some social justice questions have to do with basic values that can’t really be settled by methods of rationality… but a whole lot of them don’t. Lots of them are questions about what is and is not factually, testably true. The claim that people have unconscious racial biases which affect our behavior is a testable claim. The claim that children raised in same-sex relationships grow up with deep psychological problems is a testable claim. The claim that people act significantly differently towards infants we think are male and infants we think are female is a testable claim. Proponents of the drug war make testable claims that certain practices and policies have certain results: that zero-tolerance for drug law violations, long sentences for people who break drug laws, significant resources being spent on investigation and enforcement of drug laws, etc., will result in less drug use and fewer negative consequences from drug use. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Why would it constitute mission drift for the skeptical movement to focus attention and research — and the advocacy of rational, evidence-based thinking — on these claims?

In fact, the skeptical movement is already focusing on political and social justice issues: with its focus on global warming denialism, for instance, or its questioning of the value of organic food. Given that this is true, why is there such strong pushback from so many people against the very notion of the skeptical movement focusing on other political and social justice issues, and such fear that this will pull skepticism away from its roots?

And now let’s look at atheism. The atheist movement, and the main atheist organizations, are focused (at least in theory) on advocating for the acceptance and civil rights of atheists, advocating for church/state separation, creating communities and support systems for atheists, and opposing the harm done by religion. (With different focuses from different organizations, of course.)

abstinence chalkboardSo why would it constitute mission drift for the atheist movement to focus on how religion harms people by undermining social justice? Why would it be mission drift to focus on the harm done by abstinence-only sex education; by the influence of the religious right on reproductive rights; by the influence of the religious right on public education and economic policy; by fraudulent preachers and psychics preying on impoverished communities? Why would it constitute mission drift to work on making our communities and support systems more welcoming to a wider spectrum of people, and to look at ways that these communities might be alienating some populations without intending to? Why would it constitute mission drift to look at ways that advancing acceptance and civil rights for atheists might work differently in different communities and demographics, and to adapt our work accordingly?

And in fact, just like with the skeptical movement, the atheist movement is already doing this. The atheist movement has, for instance, taken on the issue of gay rights and same-sex marriage, and has done so with passion and energy. Religious bigotry against gay people, and the myriad ways this bigotry has injured so many people, is one of the most prominent issues for the atheist movement, and has been for years. Given that this is true, why is there such strong pushback from so many people against the very notion of the atheist movement focusing on other political and social justice issues, and such fear that this will pull atheism away from its roots?

Why should the people who are already in the skeptical and atheist movements, the people who have been in the skeptical movements for years, be the ones to decide which topics are core issues for atheism and skepticism, and which ones are on the fringe?

Why is the very idea of expanding the appeal of atheism and skepticism to demographics we haven’t traditionally attracted, by focusing on issues that these people care about and that are still very much in our wheelhouse, being viewed with such suspicion and hostility?

Why should the agenda get to be set by the old guard?

Okay. So now let’s take a quick look at #2: asking skeptical and atheist organizations to pay attention to social justice issues in internal matters, such as hiring and event organizing.

This one won’t take long. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Or it should be.

equal opportunity employer logoDoes it constitute mission drift for skeptical and atheist organizations to adopt fair hiring practices and be equal opportunity employers? To have day care at meetings and conferences? To have student rates for conferences? To have meetings and events near public transportation, as much as possible? To have sign language interpreters at events? To have events at locations that are wheelchair accessible?

How would any of this change the mission of these organizations? Any more than it would change the mission of IBM, or the Audubon Society?

And if it wouldn’t… then why would it be mission drift for skeptical and atheist organizations to adopt affirmative action practices in booking speakers? To oppose the overt harassment and misogyny persistently aimed at women in our communities? To have codes of conduct at conferences?

You might agree with all of these policies, or with none of them, or with some but not others. You might agree with some of them in principle, but have issues with how they’re currently playing out in practice. But why are objections to these policies being presented as “mission drift”?

Why should the people who are already in the skeptical and atheist movements, the people who have been in the skeptical movements for years, be the ones to decide which internal policies are core issues for atheism and skepticism, and which ones are on the fringe?

Why is the very idea of expanding the appeal of atheism and skepticism to demographics we haven’t traditionally attracted, by changing internal policies in ways that these people care about and that are still consistent with our missions, being viewed with such suspicion and hostility?

Why should the agenda get to be set by the old guard?

I know. It’s really one of those questions that answers itself… isn’t it?


Note: Since I’m starting to have issues with writings about controversies and debates within the movement that don’t say who and what exactly they’re responding to: This piece was written in response to Jamy Ian Swiss’s talk at the Orange County Freethought Alliance conference. However, it’s a idea I’ve been thinking about for some time: this talk was simply the catalyst.

Comments

  1. dickspringer says

    Most atheists agree with you on most of the issues you mention. The exceptions are the Ayn Rand aficianados among us; they demonize altruism and glorify self-aggrandizement.

  2. says

    Bravo!

    I’m especially disturbed by the fact that mainstream atheist organizations often focus on things like prayers at athletic events and the Ten Commandments being displayed in courthouses rather than on things like religiously-based legislation that undermines reproductive rights and sex-education curricula that go against scientific/medical consensus to teach children physically and emotionally harmful falsehoods about sexuality.

    Yes, I know that plenty of atheist organizations focus on these latter issues as well. And I know that school prayer is wrong. I just wish that people were a bit more mindful about the fact that some types people–women, queer folks, children–are disproportionately harmed by religious doctrine.

  3. says

    You know, if you have to ask whether your organization needs to have human rights policies in place of the sort that are in place at every major employer in the US — including Disneyland — then you’re probably asking the wrong question.

    Seriously. Who does not understand this? Other than the terminally and proudly ignorant (aka, the pit)?

    Mickey Freaking Mouse gets it. Why can’t you?

  4. says

    I don’t think so. Skepticism is about avoiding mistakes and getting the best answer using evidence reason and sound epistemology. Justice is about the same thing with a more specific focus on the question, “What’s the best way to behave towards each other?”. It is appropriate for important questions like this to find their way under the umbrella of skepticism. I don’t see this as drift on the part of skepticism, but rather the tendency of of difficult problems to move toward the best stance for finding solutions to them. This is skepticism’s raison d’etre.

    Atheism is more problematic. On one hand it’s merely a conclusion about the way the world really is, and while it informs our response to the world, it’s harder to attach a distinct objective to atheism. An atheist may, or may not agree that religion is all that harmful, but instead is just rather silly. Also, while a lot of atheists become so through rigorous skepticism and demand for evidence, one might just as well have crazy irrational reasons for being an unbeliever.

    I think the only necessities of atheism are to fight for the right of integrity; the right to be the one who articulates (in good faith of course) what your own beliefs (or unbeliefs) are, and the right to be taken at your word about it when you do. Then to demand the right to equal privilege. After that I think an atheist is free to simply (to quote the bus ads) stop worrying and enjoy their life, however they see fit. I don’t think atheism invokes the unbeliever into any other obligations.

  5. says

    jack: So you’re OK with every single President of the US for the past 50 years kissing Billy Graham’s ass? You’re OK with parsonage allowances for preachers? You’re OK with removing all the church properties from the tax rolls? You’re OK with the Catholic Church basically telling the US justice system that it’s not allowed to bring criminal charges against pedophiles? And on and on and on and on.

    Geez you’re blind to the real and actual harm that religion does. If you want to be the kind of atheist who is OK with being trivialized and marginalized and hated merely because you’re right, then just keep what you’re doing.

    Amazing. Just amazing.

    Do you walk into walls during the day expecting a door to magically appear?

  6. baal says

    “But why are objections to these policies being presented as “mission drift”?”

    I play MMO on-line games. There are some players who behave badly but are within the TOS – i.e. you can’t get the game owners to take action against them. A surprisingly high number of the bad behavior types also take objectionable names so one way to punish them for the behavior is to put in a ticket for a rename against them. It’s a form of collateral attack.

    I suspect ‘mission drift’ is a similar collateral attack (and here by drop the prior example of collateral attack). Disagreeing on a social justice issue is fraught. Frequently, one side is accused of hidden bias and the other of mind reading. It doesn’t help that the public discourse is flooded with RWA and oligarchic talking points so that mild or minor disagreement is easily categorized with clear hate speech. Given this linguistic and social context, rational folks turn to using other tools to convey the net outcome they want.

    ————

    The breaking of the impasse comes when the context is enriched with the tools needed for discussion. To wit, means must be made available (examples of acceptable disagreement) for having a discussion. That’s an uphill battle given the shear volume of noise from Faux News and its friends. Next, disagreement or nuance must be allowed – or at least rebutted proportionally. Applying the ‘principals of Charity’ (or even Dan Finke’s guide to public discourse) would help.

    A recognition by folks that if you had to have education seminars, class work or a bunch of meetings to get or be trained in a school of thought you are a specialist. Specialists have a burden to use the modes of discussion available to the public when talking to the public. For example, as a scientist, I could talk about introns, viri and viral payloads explaining cross species gene transfer but noone is going to understand. Worse, I’m pretty much guaranteed to get shunned at parties (unless its for science geeks or one for environmental science relevant to GMOS) for reciting what I think of as super basic stuff that everyone should get. This lack of public acceptance is not a failing of the public (depending on topic, you could blame schooling)!

    Lastly, whenever you float a change, you need to start with the status quo and argue out from there (even if this is just to point out the framing you’re about to move). If you skip that step, folks will have their ‘spider sense’ go off and fight you even though they would otherwise agree with you. I realize that many social justice rhetorical tools involve resetting the framing but the users of those tools must recognize that a segment of the audience will not only stop listening to you but be radicalized in the opposite direction (trigger the conspiracy mindset).

    PS: use of “white men” or “old white men” This term is too broad a brush. Many old white men read the adjectives and then, meeting the general meaning of those words, object to be categorized with the supporters of Faux News. To which the usual SJ response is, “I see you agree that X is bad, why do you automatically think I’m talking about you?” The answer is equally obvious, “you said ‘old. white. men.’ If you mean a specific subset of old white men, then say that otherwise it sounds like you’re sterotyping which in the SJ context, also adds on one charge of being a hypocrite.

  7. Greta Christina says

    Kevin @ #7: Please dial back on the hostility and sarcasm. This is not Pharyngula. I expect a basic level of civility in the comment discussions here, and I expect people to assume that arguments are being made in good faith unless it’s been demonstrated that this isn’t the case. Please take a look at my comment policy, and respect it. Thanks.

    jackjesberger @ #6: I’m not talking about what individual atheists should do to be identified as atheists. All that an individual has to do to be identified as an atheist is not believe in any gods. I’m talking about what issues the atheist movement, and the organizations within the atheist movement, should take on: both externally, and internally.

    Like I said in the piece: The atheist movement, and the organizations in it, are already focused on advocating for the acceptance and civil rights of atheists, advocating for church/state separation, creating communities and support systems for atheists, and opposing the harm done by religion. What I and others are pressing for is for these organizations, and for the movement as a whole, to focus on some social justice issues that already overlap with these missions, and to pay attention to these issues in internal matters. Some people are arguing that this would constitute mission drift for these organizations: I’m pointing out that this is not the case.

  8. says

    I just watched Jamy Ian Swiss’s TAM 2012 talk, and one thing that struck me was his reference to gay rights. JREF is run by two gay men, and my experience with local skeptical orgs is that there are lots of gay men there too, and skeptical orgs like to talk about the pseudoscience deployed against LGB people. And yet skeptical orgs are not gay rights orgs. It was a good example, and the problem is only that it appears untrue for other minority groups. When skeptical orgs have a greater number of women and people of color, that would just be so much more satisfying than the current state.

  9. Larry Poppins says

    I saw Swiss speak at the Freethought conference on Saturday and was really put off by it. I can’t say how it was different from the talk he gave at TAM but it did send me and my wife, who had never been to anything atheist related before, scurrying to our car as soon as he stopped yelling at us. The take away I got from it was that if I want to work for social justice I should join a secular humanist organization, just not A+. If I want JREF work towards social justice issues then “don’t let the tent flap hit you on your way out.” So okay, fine JREF is not going to be a place where I am welcome. They don’t want us and that’s good to know. What I see now is that Swiss and his organization will not be applying skepticism towards the issues that I care most about. No matter how he draws his Venn diagrams, or how loudly he shouts about his personal beliefs I don’t think we’re on the same team or celebrating each others’ victories. Should the leadership become willing to allow their mission to creep into areas that matter more to me than their current foci then I’ll give them another look.

  10. mdcaton says

    Great that this is being discussed since a lot of atheist/skeptic/etc. groups don’t have a clear idea of what their goals are in the first place. Apart from any objections to the specific items being added to agendas, I think the concerns people have basically come down to priorities, and cohesion. For priorities, usually it’s a matter of how important something is to a member vs. their being actively “against” it, but that leads to questions of cohesion – and not losing members (or splitting groups) as we expand interests to include those new demographics.

    And here I would implore rationalists of all stripes to remember that sometimes, you have to compromise a little and be in a group that may not focus on exactly what you want every minute of the day, in order for unity, which is very effective in the broader world. Every time there’s a split or open acrimony in the secular world you can bet that social conservative PR and campaign manager types are cackling with glee. That’s emphatically not to say “never rock the boat” but be very sure we recognize the tradeoff. So as an example, I’m a libertarian who probably ranks social justice at a lower priority than left-progressive secularists, but it doesn’t particularly bother me if I’m in a group that ranks it highly, I just don’t participate as much in that stuff since on the whole the group is doing good stuff.

  11. cotton says

    I’m really conflicted about the mission drift thing. I cast a very skeptical eye in ANY organization that always chooses ideological purity over mass appeal. For the record, I’d see no point in any organization that always chose mass appeal over ideology. The fact may be that there are a lot of atheists who want to work on the narrow topic of atheism who are also turned off by a more social justice stance. The amount of people, right or wrong, who, for lack of a better phrase, do not mesh well with the very liberal FTB understandings of feminism, queer theory, gender theory, race, colonialism, etc is much larger than the people who do. It is logically clear that it is easier to find people who agree on atheism than atheism and other stuff.

    This is why I personally like single issue groups. It allows me to buffet-pick among the cornucopia of organizations in order to choose the perfect affiliations for me. I like the ACLU and the American Red Cross but they don’t have the same mission and I wouldn’t want to turn Jehova’s Witnesses off to the ACLU b/c they were involved in blood donations. The real question to me, made concrete, is if there is room for an organization that allows the libertarian atheist crowd to work together with the A+ crowd. I dunno.

    I would like to add I’ve heard a LOT of horror stories about many of these conferences (unsolicited propositions for sex, offensive comments / jokes, groping) and prominent atheists online like Justin Vacula that make me question my questioning. That behavior has no place at any conference and I wouldn’t want to attend a conference that tolerated that behavior or the people propagating it elsewhere.

  12. says

    Bravo!

    I’m especially disturbed by the fact that mainstream atheist organizations often focus on things like prayers at athletic events and the Ten Commandments being displayed in courthouses rather than on things like religiously-based legislation that undermines reproductive rights and sex-education curricula that go against scientific/medical consensus to teach children physically and emotionally harmful falsehoods about sexuality.

    Yes, I know that plenty of atheist organizations focus on these latter issues as well. And I know that school prayer is wrong. I just wish that people were a bit more mindful about the fact that some types people–women, queer folks, children–are disproportionately harmed by religious doctrine.

    I second this notion, quite readily, thanks for wording it so succinctly.

    Thanks also to you too Greta for laying out very clearly and professionally why it’s perfectly in line with the mission values of new atheism to go ahead with social justice. People like me may well have people such as Miri and yourself, to thank for our very lives someday, should this social justice push become mainstream enough.

    Thanks so much for writing this <3

    :+)

    -Alice

  13. Calilasseia says

    At bottom, this is a non-problem. It’s a non-problem because atheism, in its rigorous formulation, is nothing more than a refusal to accept uncritically unsupported, blind supernaturalist assertions. In short, it consists of “YOU assert that your magic man exists, YOU support your assertions”.

    As a corollary of consisting of a suspicion of blind assertions from the supernaturalist camp, consistency demands that the same suspicion be directed at other blind assertions too. Which leads inexorably to the conclusion that one should be suspicious of any attempt to peddle an ideology, because at bottom, ideologies are founded upon the treatment of one or more blind assertions as purportedly constituting fact. Since we reject this when supernaturalists try to force this upon us, we should reject it from other quarters too. Indeed, any genuinely rigorous approach to the subject should lead one to reject ideology itself as purportedly constituting some privileged brand of “knowledge”. We should not need an “ideology” to tell us to treat our fellow human beings as such, all we need in order to do this is the evidence, available in abundance, of what happens when we don’t do this.

    Indeed, trying to graft an ideology onto atheism only succeeds in providing the more duplicitous supernaturalists with a “justification” for their peddling the “atheism is a belief” canard, one which those who have been working hard to dismantle don’t want to see given new life by mistaken attempts to bolt arbitrary top-down decrees onto atheism. We should be in the business of subjecting such decrees to critical examination, not accepting them uncritically in the same manner that supernaturalists accept their pet collections of top-down decrees. Instead of building yet another ideology, and frankly, humans should be well and truly sick of these by now, given the pernicious influence they’ve exerted over history and human affairs,we should be in the business of pushing for valid objectives on the basis of evidence that those objectives are valid, and evidence of the harm dispensed to recipients of the relevant actions when those objectives are dismissed from the policy arena.

    I don’t need an ideology to tell me to treat women as fellow human beings. All I need is the abundant evidence of the harm inflicted upon women when they’re not treated as human beings. Same goes for ethnic minorities, the disabled, the LGBT community, etc. We should be leaving ideology to supernaturalists, right-wing politicians and “prosperity theology via austerity” economists.

  14. brucegorton says

    dickspringer

    I don’t think I can agree with that line of reasoning.

    A lot of the time the very worst behaviour Christian groups engage in will end up getting highlighted only for the response to be “well those are the fundies” right?

    Except a lot of the time it isn’t actually the fundies doing it. The fundies are basically just there to act as a get-out-of-dealing-with-it free card.

    By pushing it out to “Well that’s the libertarian types” we end up doing the same thing. We have to kind of deal with the fact that it isn’t really just the libertarians, it is members of every sector of the atheist community and we all have a responsibility to stop it happening as much.

  15. says

    So why would it constitute mission drift for the atheist movement to focus on how religion harms people by undermining social justice? Why would it be mission drift to focus on the harm done by abstinence-only sex education; by the influence of the religious right on reproductive rights; by the influence of the religious right on public education and economic policy; by fraudulent preachers and psychics preying on impoverished communities?

    Oh, I think that many of them wouldn’t have a problem with that
    They only have a problem once yo suggest that “better than the most right-wing fundy Xtian” isn’t good enough…

  16. Greta Christina says

    This is why I personally like single issue groups.

    cotton @ #13: I’m puzzled. How dies anything being proposed in this piece make either atheist or skeptic organizations any less of a single-issue group than they already are? Again: Nothing proposed in this piece — and nothing proposed by anyone I know in the “social justice” crowd — would make a significant change from what these organizations are already doing. It seems that you’re just repeating the point being addressed in my argument, without actually addressing any of the arguments.

    It is logically clear that it is easier to find people who agree on atheism than atheism and other stuff.

    Actually — that’s not the case. If organizations don’t focus on issues that are of primary concern to African-Americans, to Hispanics, to blue-collar people, to women, etc., they’re not going to draw very many people from those groups. And if organizations don’t pay attention to internal policies and practices that, without intending to, make people from these groups unwelcome, they’re not going to draw very many people from those groups.

  17. Greta Christina says

    trying to graft an ideology onto atheism

    Calilasseia @#15: I’ll say what I said to cotton in my previous comment: I’m puzzled. How does anything being proposed in this piece constitute “grafting an ideology” onto atheism or skepticism? Again: Nothing proposed in this piece — and nothing proposed by anyone I know in the “social justice” crowd — would make a significant change from what these organizations are already doing. None of it is “grafting an ideology,” or creating a litmus test, or anything like that. It’s simply saying, (a) “There are some issues that are already in our wheelhouse that we’re not paying attention to, and if we pay attention to them, we’ll appeal to some demographics we currently aren’t appealing to,” and (b) “There are some internal policies and practices that, without intending to, make many people feel unwelcome — let’s address those.”

    “Grafting an ideology” is more or less the same concept as “mission drift.” It seems that, like cotton, you’re just repeating the point being addressed in my argument, without actually addressing any of the arguments.

  18. Calilasseia says

    Once again, there is a difference between simply decreeing that we purportedly “should” do something, which is the supernaturalist approach, and saying “we choose to adopt a given policy because the evidence tells us that this is appropriate”. But even if we temporarily ignore this difference, from a rigorous standpoint, such policies are still something separate from atheism, as I’ve already explained. It’s perfectly possible to be an atheist and have totally different ideas on the subject. Whether you agree with anyone that does or not is a separate issue. And I still contend that unless the distinction is made robustly with respect to this matter, namely that you’re choosing to adopt certain policies because evidence points you in that direction, then you’ll simply be handing ammunition to duplicitous supernaturalists who peddle the “atheism is a belief” canard, a canard you yourself sought to dismiss in another blog post. The entire point I am making is that we should avoid falling into the trap of making such policies some sort of requirement to be a bona fide atheist, because they’re superfluous to requirements and irrelevant for this. All I need to do in order to be an atheist, is to tell supernaturalists that I don’t accept their assertions in the same uncritical manner that they do.

  19. Greta Christina says

    Once again, there is a difference between simply decreeing that we purportedly “should” do something, which is the supernaturalist approach…

    Calilasseia @ #20: How is saying we “should” do something a supernaturalist approach — as opposed to simply an ethical approach?

    …and saying “we choose to adopt a given policy because the evidence tells us that this is appropriate”.

    Please define what “appropriate” would mean in this context. And perhaps more to the point, please explain who gets to define that.

    The entire point I am making is that we should avoid falling into the trap of making such policies some sort of requirement to be a bona fide atheist

    Please point to the place in the article where I suggested doing this. In fact, please point to any place where anyone at all has suggested this.

    I have not seen a single person say that if you don’t want to work on social justice issues, you’re not really an atheist. This article is not about what should and should not define being an atheist, as an individual atheist. The article is about what issues the atheist movement, and what issues the organizations in the atheist movement, should and should not take on.

    And the point, once again, is that taking on political and social change issues are not mission drift for the atheist movement or for atheist organizations — since we/ they have already been doing this for many years, in arenas that clearly overlap with the traditional concerns of the atheist movement. Again, from the article: “The atheist movement, and the main atheist organizations, are focused (at least in theory) on advocating for the acceptance and civil rights of atheists, advocating for church/state separation, creating communities and support systems for atheists, and opposing the harm done by religion.” If we focus on social justice issues that clearly overlap with these missions, it will not constitute mission drift.

  20. lekteur says

    I’m a first time commenter, here to congratulate and thank you, Greta Christina and almost all the commenters, for making it possible for me to witness a mostly civil discussion on issues that support a variety of positions. It’s a change to see arguments being adressed instead of people being attacked.

    My own personal resolution starting now is to try to really READ what is written and reflect on it while resisting the urge to jump at conclusions or fall prey to confirmation bias. I personally find it tempting to be drawn in by the echo in some forums. I’ll also pay attention to whether responses reflect a reasonable interpretation, in my humble opinion, of what I think i’ve read instead of a misunderstanding or distortion. Don’t worry: I realize i’m human too and very limited in my own ability to truly understand what others are trying to say :)

    Keep up the good job.

    Ps: I’m such a noob! I just got lost after signing uo to FTB and ended up posting this comment in Pharyngula and thanking Ophelia!! But i’m not upset. i stand by what I said :) Good job Greta Christina!

  21. cotton says

    In response to Greta: In your post it seems like you’re trying to say if a belief can be tested, it falls under the purview of atheism. I just don’t think so. There at a lot of Hayekian atheists (I presume) who are deep into Ayn Rand. Do these people have any more evidence to support their propositions than, say, fire breathing racists? No, they don’t. But there are a lot more Ayn Rand atheists than fire breathing racist atheists. Note I said “fire breathing” not “thinks Seth MacFarlane’s humor is totally cool and protected under the aegis that it is just a joke”. There are a lot of atheists like that (hi there!) who can contribute mightily to atheistic causes. It seems like many people here are “beyond” simple atheism. I can’t help but speculate that this is a result of being surrounded by arch liberals like themselves who make it easy to minimize religion in their own lives. If one is neck deep in gender theory then one has already (generally speaking) accepted atheism and has no desire to rehash it. As someone in rural Mississippi I think I have my hands full just trying to get teacher-led prayer and creationism out of schools, evolution in schools, and the 10 commandments statutes out of courthouses.

    To be fair maybe that’s just the blogs and I’m unfairly assuming that the people bloggers wish to engage with at conferences will be subjected to the same filters that bloggers apply towards the people they choose to engage online.

  22. cotton says

    Bah there is no editing here! I regret already aligning myself with Seth Macfarlane. The “We saw your boobs” thing was the last straw for me too :\. Still I don’t want to alienate those people when they could help accomplish my goals.

  23. John Horstman says

    @lekteur (#22): Your statement of your personal resolution reminded me a lot of this essay by one of our professors (Jane Gallop) – http://intensivecomposition.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/9/3/12938517/gallop_2000.pdf – discussing the practice of “close reading” (for those unfamiliar with the term, functionally, looking at what someone is actually saying with an eye to minimizing our own biases in interpretation – the essay itself has a good explanation) as an ethical mandate. I read it in a class taught by one of her doctoral advisees and thought it was pretty good.

  24. freemage says

    Bah there is no editing here! I regret already aligning myself with Seth Macfarlane. The “We saw your boobs” thing was the last straw for me too :\. Still I don’t want to alienate those people when they could help accomplish my goals.

    So you’d rather alienate the women and PoC who are turned off by the lack of support for social justice issues, than the Randbots? Because that’s what’s been the case in the past–it’s why the “old white men” situation came to pass in the first place.

    And purely as a pragmatic thing, the numbers are actually against you, here. The GOP is learning this lesson (see Rumsfield’s meltdown on Fox when they called it for Obama). If we can’t make inroads with women and PoCs, we are going to lose on demographics alone.

  25. Greta Christina says

    In your post it seems like you’re trying to say if a belief can be tested, it falls under the purview of atheism.

    cotton @ #23: I think you’re conflating two points. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that if a belief can be tested, it falls under the purview of skepticism. If an issue has to do with advocating for the acceptance and civil rights of atheists, advocating for church/state separation, creating communities and support systems for atheists, and opposing the harm done by religion…. then it falls under the purview of atheism.

    There are a lot of atheists like that (hi there!) who can contribute mightily to atheistic causes.

    If there are atheists who aren’t particularly interested in social justice generally, but who want to work for atheism, I’m fine with that. My problem comes when these people don’t want to work for social justice… and are actively trying to stop the atheist movement from doing it, at all, ever. And my problem comes when these people aren’t even willing to work on the very small area of social justice that constitutes paying attention to their own behavior and not acting like assholes.

    If you wants to focus your energies on traditional atheist movement issues like church/ state separation, awesome. We need people to do that. But don’t fight against those of us who want the atheist movement to make itself appealing and supportive to a wider base by taking on some different issues as well.

  26. cotton says

    To Greta: That’s all pretty reasonable from here. With A+ emerging there may be some shakeups as the existing groups evolve or new groups arise. I’m sure it will all filter out.

    To Freemage: I see the old white problem in the leadership, but in the membership it is largely young and white. Young, white, and a lot of libertarians I might add.And no, I don’t want to alienate them. I want boots on the ground. I’m all for appealing to as many people as possible, but there is no short-term replacing the legions of young white people largely disaffected with religion. Imagine the most average American for a moment: Average in political beliefs, outlook life, etc. Except: atheist. If you cannot work with this person on areas of agreement b/c they aren’t a feminist, or don’t believe white privilege is real, this is not good.

  27. Greta Christina says

    …there is no short-term replacing the legions of young white people largely disaffected with religion.

    cotton @ #28: I have spent an enormous amount of time with the young people — of all races — in this movement. I spend enormous amounts of time traveling around the country meeting with and speaking to student groups. The young people in this movement are overwhelmingly in favor of working on social justice, and of the atheist movement working on social justice issues in arenas where it’s appropriate. And many of them are being very put off by the sexism, racism, etc. in the atheist movement — and by the mulishly stubborn refusal of many atheists to work on these problems, or even acknowledge that they exist. If you want to make an argument from numbers and popularity — a terrible argument anyway from an ethical position — the argument is on my side, not yours.

    If you cannot work with this person on areas of agreement b/c they aren’t a feminist, or don’t believe white privilege is real, this is not good.

    If people don’t want to work on feminism or racism — of they choose to focus their energies elsewhere — I am fine with that.

    But when you ask me to work with people who aren’t feminist? Feminism is the proposition that women are people. It is the proposition that the genders are equal, and should be treated equally. Are you seriously asking me to work with people who don’t think that? Are you seriously asking me to work with people who think my gender makes me inferior?

    And do you seriously want me — and people of color — to work with people who will not acknowledge the widely and clearly documented fact of racism, because they don’t want to go to the trouble of changing their behavior?

    If so: Your concerns are noted. Thank you for sharing.

  28. cotton says

    A lot of people, I would hope most men, would agree that women are people and deserve equal treatment. I would also imagine a lot of the guys who would agree with that also do or think things that wouldn’t go over well on a site like feministe.com. For example, a lot of guys would object to the idea that an all white male panel on some topic is, by default, a failure. “Hey if they’re the best qualified….etc”

    I’m naturally wary of the idea that I can’t work with someone on problem X because I can’t stand his opinion on problem Y. As I write that, though, I can see it might be easier for me. There’s a difference between someone having an offensive idea that I merely disagree with, and an offensive idea about me or those I care about.

    This is rather difficult to figure out. I would like to emphatically say I did not mean that you should work with people who have positively offensive and misogynistic views. The type of person I’m talking about is an average one. Not a Stephanie Zvan but not a Rush Limbaugh either. I apologize for not making that clear.

  29. Greta Christina says

    A lot of people, I would hope most men, would agree that women are people and deserve equal treatment. I would also imagine a lot of the guys who would agree with that also do or think things that wouldn’t go over well on a site like feministe.com.

    cotton @ #30: Just to make it really clear: You don’t have to agree with everything they say on Feministe to be a feminist. You don’t have to agree with everything that anyone says to be a feminist. There’s this straw-man (straw-woman?) image of feminism peddled by anti-feminists that portrays it as rigid and dogmatic, when in fact there is tremendous variety and range of views within feminism, and significant disagreement and debate.

    I do think that, when so many panels are all-white, it’s worth questioning why that is. When conference organizers make a conscious effort to make their panels and speaker lineups more diverse, they generally find that they haven’t been getting the most qualified lineups by having all or mostly white men, and there are a whole bunch of very qualified people they’ve been overlooking. The point of this sort of conscious, affirmative-action effort is that we all have unconscious biases we’re not aware of (what with them being unconscious), including the reflexive tendency to see white men as leaders and authority figures. When you make a conscious effort to widen your talent search, you suddenly find yourself dipping into a deeper talent pool — and therefore getting more talent. How likely is it that in every panel made of up all white men, those men really are the most qualified?

    And thanks for being civil in this conversation, and for genuinely listening. It makes a difference. I appreciate it.

  30. atheist says

    @Calilasseia – May 7, 2013 at 5:18 am (UTC -4)

    As a corollary of consisting of a suspicion of blind assertions from the supernaturalist camp, consistency demands that the same suspicion be directed at other blind assertions too. Which leads inexorably to the conclusion that one should be suspicious of any attempt to peddle an ideology, because at bottom, ideologies are founded upon the treatment of one or more blind assertions as purportedly constituting fact. …

    I don’t need an ideology to tell me to treat women as fellow human beings. All I need is the abundant evidence of the harm inflicted upon women when they’re not treated as human beings. Same goes for ethnic minorities, the disabled, the LGBT community, etc. We should be leaving ideology to supernaturalists, right-wing politicians and “prosperity theology via austerity” economists.

    Your comment is very interesting and you make a key argument… there should be no need for ideology (as you define it) in a skeptical worldview. This is a very well-written version of an argument that I disagree with, thank you for making it. It seems to me that ideology is not just a superstructure grafted onto one’s worldview — though I admit that ideology can often be shallow in exactly that way. Ideology is more properly understood as being the same as one’s worldview. Ideology does not always stop at a level that decides whether taxes are too high or whether we need to attack Iran. Often, it permeates the entire psyche.

    As evidence for this view, consider the way left-wing blogs used to joke about former liberals who, shocked by the 9/11 attacks, became complete right wingers. There was even a joking phrase, “I used to consider myself a Democrat, but thanks to 9/11, I’m outraged by Chappaquiddick.“, to describe the phenomenon. This suggests that when ideology changes the entire worldview can change too.

    You argue you don’t need ideology to support women’s rights. I’d argue that the fact that you consider women to be people in exactly the same way as men, is your ideology. I understand your frustration with conservative ideology preventing progress. I just think the problem goes deeper.

  31. freemage says

    cotton: I don’t know if it’s deliberate or not, but you’re engaging in a bit of definition-shifting.

    First, you talk about how you see mostly young white men, many of them libertarians, at the conferences, and you’re of the opinion that we can’t afford to alienate these groups.

    But then you turn around and talk about looking to find ‘average Americans’ who are average in every respect, save their atheism.

    The problem, as I note, is the demographic shift that says that even before you add in libertarianism, ‘average American’ doesn’t mean straight white dude anymore, and that trend is going to increase. (If straight white libertarian men were the ‘average American’, we’d be one year into the first term of the Ron Paul Presidency by now.)

    The demographic you’re fighting to keep (and, for the record, the one to which I belong, outside of the political views) is the demographic that is going away. Or at least, experiencing a massive diminishing of influence.

    Line-separation is to make it clear that the rest of this post is NOT directed at Cotton, because it’s going to be a bit more aggressive–as Greta noted, cotton, you’re being civil, and deserving of similar treatment.

    ********

    I do think that the ‘mission drift’ argument is an attempt at derailing. Specifically, it’s an effort at undermining the efforts to make changes ~internally~ (harassment policies, panel diversity), by complaining about how we’re altering the movement’s external actions.

    When I first started reading Pharyngula and other skeptical sites, there was never any complaints about the idea that we should point out how sexist/racist/homophobic society was, because that was an excellent tool to attack the religions that had created those attitudes. It was only when we turned that gaze inward and started suggesting more inclusive behavior within the movement that it suddenly became all about whether or not God exists and nothing about the rest of the baggage that comes along with religious privilege.

  32. cotton says

    To Greta: That’s all pretty cool. For the record I was just characterizing the argument of all white dude panels. Good talking to you. Now that that’s all pretty wrapped up, might as well say I’ve been reading for a while and its been great. :)

    Freemage: I don’t see libertarian white dudes as the definition of “average american”. My average american was more a political creature of middle-of-the-road politics. My entire skeptical eye towards this whole mission drift thing is the idea that a few real real liberal peoples would find themselves unable to work with others b/c they disagree on largely unrelated issues. To put it concrete, could you work with me to get creationism out of schools (if that was your bag) in light of the fact I’m a gun owner (if that is totally not your bag)? If so, cool beans.

  33. lancifer says

    Greta Christina,

    The simple fact that you use the words “social justice” so glibly as a universally accepted positive term demonstrates your insensitivity to the many atheists that do not share your political ideology.

    Social justice is a faith based term. Justice is quantized and any attempt to pluralize the concept beyond individuals is unintelligible and encourages irrational, scientifically unsupportable and socially toxic group identities.

    But I didn’t write this post to change your ideological framework. Unlike you, I have no problem accepting the fact that many, perhaps most, atheists do not share my political or philosophical viewpoint. I only expect that they share my views on deities, or more precisely, the lack thereof.

    If you wish to alienate the sizable subset of atheists that do not share your political ideology then by all means proceed with your political crusade, but don’t expect we atheists that don’t share your ideology to follow.

    Do you suppose there are atheists among the political allies you seek that have for some reason been waiting for some excuse to join our cause? Do you suppose then that secularism is a priority to them even though they have, so far, failed to rally to our cause?

    Perhaps you seek a pogrom of atheists that don’t conform to your ideology purity test? Excuse me if I don’t enthusiastically rush for the exit.

  34. Calilasseia says

    In answer to post 32 above …

    The thesis I advance is that ideology is more than merely “one-s world view”, as you put it, but is any world view based upon unsupported assertions, and is synonymous with doctrine. That’s how people use the term in most discourse I’ve engaged in – they use it to refer to any world view based upon one or more assertions, presented as purportedly constituting “axioms” about the world. As a corollary, I don’t regard basing a world view upon evidence as an “ideology” – I regard it as the very antithesis of an ideology. To me, the moment you subject assertions to scrutiny, and discard those assertions that fail to withstand said scrutiny, you’re not in the business of “ideology”. I cite as evidence for this, the fact that every political ideology you care to name, be it Marxism, Nazism or capitalism, is ultimately based upon assertions treated as axioms. The moment core assertions thereof are questioned, and this process is applied consistently across the board, then as far as I’m concerned, by definition one is not engaged in anything I recognise as an “ideological” process,. Adherents of genuine ideologies seek to force-fit apologetically observational evidence to their doctrines,it’s a defining feature of ideological processes, that one sees all the time arising from adherents, whether the underlying doctrines are based upon supernaturalist assertions or assertions about economic and political entities.

    As a corollary, I contend that my thesis still stands. The moment you rely upon evidence to arrive at a decision, instead of a priori assumptions treated as axioms, “ideology” doesn’t apply. And I still contend that any consistent application of the principle of testing assertions to destruction, then discarding those assertions failing that test, of the sort that is applied by atheists to supernaturalist assertions, is the approach that should be being promoted, instead of expecting atheists to abandon critical scrutiny of assertions whenever those assertions happen to be “sacred” to those of a particular political persuasion.

  35. lancifer says

    Calilasseia,

    So anyone that agrees with your world view is “…testing assertions to destruction, then discarding those assertions failing that test… ” and anyone that doesn’t agree with your political views is “…abandon(ing) critical scrutiny of assertions whenever those assertions happen to be ‘sacred’ to those of a particular political persuasion.”

    Perhaps you can explain these statement in a way that doesn’t come off as arrogant and self-blind.

    Has it not occurred to you that even two scientists in the same field can view data on the same phenomenon and still disagree on its meaning? Now think about the possible range of opinions on topics as squishy as “social justice”.

  36. Calilasseia says

    Ah, caricature time. Wondered when this would happen.

    First of all, any scientist will tell you, that disagreements arising with respect to hypotheses in empirical science is a sign that more data is needed , because the current data set is insufficient to resolve the issue. indeed, I recall Jerry Coyne saying much the same thing – “just add data!”.

    Second, I never mentioned politics at all.I simply concerned myself with the matter of whether or not a given assertion enjoys evidential support or not. If it doesn’t, it is to be discarded. If it does, we keep it for the time being, until new data tells us a rethink is needed. Please inform me what is “arrogant and self-blind” about insisting upon this entirely proper discoursive process being applied consistently?

    Third, you have refuted your own assertions in this vein, precisely by pointing out the “squishy” nature of social justice issues. Which surely benefit even more from due diligence and attention to rigour than issues that are, to use your vernacular, less “squishy”.

    Quite simply, the world is littered with doctrines founded upon unsupported assertions, that then erect grandiose claims about what we purportedly should or should not do. Quite a few of these doctrines, as history teaches us, have led adherents to perpetrate all sorts of horrors, and my thesis is that unsupported assertions treated as purportedly constituting “fact” leads inexorably to such outcomes. Because if you don’t bother finding out if reality agrees with your assertions before doing so, you end up adopting the same position as, for example, creationists, which can succinctly be encapsulated as “if reality and doctrine differ, reality is wrong and doctrine is right”.

    For the record, I think it’s entirely noble to entertain proper concerns about our fellow human beings, but I do so not because of any ideological diktat, but because real world evidence tells me what happens when we don’t do this. We have evidence in abundance with respect to this, and indeed, certain politicians both in the USA and Europe appear to be striving to add to that body of evidence. What I am cautioning against, and you manifestly didn’t grasp this when posting your caricature of my position, is the erection of yet another doctrine founded upon more unsupported assertions treated as purportedly constituting “fact”. Humanity has had enough of these, and many of them have come with a high price tag attached, in some cases paid in blood. Please take time to read my actual words in future, and desist from projecting attitudes thereupon that I simply do not posses.

  37. lancifer says

    Calilasseia,

    How does anything you said have anything to do with whether atheist organizations should expand their agendas to include “social justice” issues? Which, in case it escaped you, is the topic of this thread.

    If you are claiming that “social justice” is a “cut and dry” issue to which you can apply your super-duper powers of rational and empirical discernment that nothing to do with ideological views you are confusing human values and motivations with measurable, physical properties of energy and matter.

    Humans have a wide range of values and viewpoints on social interaction and there is no one answer to what is the correct value in many many instances, no matter how much “observational evidence” you consider.

  38. says

    Greta, I agree with you about the distinction between individual atheism and identification with movement atheism up to a point. I agree with you that social justice issues DO NOT constitute mission drift for the movement. My context for thinking about your question were two extremes. One being the starting point for movement atheism, where it is wholly on the losing end, with all the things you raged about in your book are in full flower. The other being a hypothetical world where movement atheism has grown to the point where it has won out over religious privilege and the more insidious and harmful aspects of religion out of favor. Everybody might not be an atheist. Atheists might even still be a technical minority, but we would be past the point where being an atheist would be that big a deal, and definitely past any reason for “movement atheism” to exist. There would be little “atheist work” left to do that wasn’t just focusing on specific issues beyond mere atheism.

    I see this transition from unified single purpose solidarity to normalized heterogeneity as gradual, desirable consequence of movement success. As our boundaries grow outward they will overlap with larger segments of our societies, the boundaries becoming more porous and less defined. Granted this can happen too soon as a result of failed solidarity, but taking that seriously is the entire subtext of your article, so again I think we’re on the same page.

    Kevin. Don’t get me wrong. I lean toward the part of atheism that thinks the relentless no-holds barred, bare knuckle fighters against religion are (if you’ll pardon the expression) GOD DAMNED NECESSARY (Hi PZ !). I felt Greta was asking a more nuanced question, and I was merely doing my best to give a nuanced answer. My view is this. Not every atheist, or even every movement atheist has to be an atheist gladiator. There are other things to have than fights. That said, I wouldn’t give in to accomodationists who want there to be NO gladiators and no fighting. Fuck. That.

  39. Calilasseia says

    Calilasseia,


    You rang?

    How does anything you said have anything to do with whether atheist organizations should expand their agendas to include “social justice” issues? Which, in case it escaped you, is the topic of this thread.


    Actually it didn’t escape me. But please, continue putting words into my mouth I never uttered. What I actually said, if you bother to pay attention to my words, as opposed to a fictional version of your own formulation thereof, is that IF atheist organisations are going to become involved in social justice issues, then they should do it for the right reasons. I don’t regard ideological diktat, no matter how well intentioned, as being a proper reason for this, and unfortunately, that appears to be where this project is heading.

    If you are claiming that “social justice” is a “cut and dry” issue to which you can apply your super-duper powers of rational and empirical discernment that nothing to do with ideological views you are confusing human values and motivations with measurable, physical properties of energy and matter.


    Oh you think it’s impossible to observe the effects arising from failing to treat our fellow human beings as such? Please run that past, for example, Susan B. Anthony, who I gather wrote much about this, and documented in detail quite a few of those very effects. I don’t claim special powers in this regard, instead what I actually claim is that said evidence is readily available to anyone who exercises a certain minimum diligence, and that it is on the basis of this evidence, much of it provided by assertionist ideologues of various species through their words and their actions, we should be acting. For example, I think few here will dispute that large tracts of religious mythology are rampantly misogynistic, and that uncritical acceptance of mythological assertions has had manifest deleterious effects upon those women unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of the consequences of this. Unless of course you wish to assert that I am peddling some sort of fiction here, in which case I refer you in part to the aforementioned Susan B. Anthony.

    Indeed I find it quite incredible, given that uncritical acceptance of unsupported mythological assertions by supernaturalists has resulted in a large and readily observable body of malign influences upon human affairs, and that as an atheist, you presumably accept the evidence pointing to this, only to find you erecting wholly specious objections to my applying the same refusal to accept uncritically unsupported assertions elsewhere. But I’ve noticed that the vanishing of consistency is a readily obnservable part of the aetiology of uncritical acceptance of assertions, regardless of the species of assertion being thus accepted, and I cite as evidence for this YOUR posting to Greta Christina in post #35 the words “Perhaps you seek a pogrom of atheists that don’t conform to your ideology purity test? Excuse me if I don’t enthusiastically rush for the exit”, then excoriating me in subsequent posts for holding a view not essentially different to the one contained in your own words.

    Humans have a wide range of values and viewpoints on social interaction


    No kidding? Did I ever assert otherwise? Indeed I recognised this back in post #20, where I said ” It’s perfectly possible to be an atheist and have totally different ideas on the subject”.

    and there is no one answer to what is the correct value in many many instances, no matter how much “observational evidence” you consider.


    And once again, failure to take account of observational evidence, apart from being something we should avoid at all costs (because this is what supernaturalists do when they insist that their assorted mythologies somehow magically dictate to reality), is at the root of much injustice. Such as failure to observe the evidence for our common humanity, and instead insist that blind assertions about this magically dictate how people behave, and how they should be treated as a corollary. Indeed, there’s a lot of observational evidence available right now, to the effect that the ideological pedlars of “austerity economics” are quitre happy to see injustice writ large, in pursuit of a nightmare Randroid fantasy depicting rich people as being the new gods we must all worship, whilst the poor are viewed as “parasites”, “scroungers”, “takers” etc., the propaganda being peddled in some parts to this effect being viciously Streicher-esque. A particularly nasty example was peddled recently in the UK where I live, courtesy of an infamous right-wing “newspaper” whose past history includes being cheerleaders for the Brownshirts in the 1930s. I don’t need “super-duper powers of rational and empirical discernment” to take note of this, there are something like 20 million or more people here in the UK experiencing this as a visceral immediacy, and who will be quite happy to tell you, if you ask them, all about the iniquities they are facing. So please, once again, spare me your tiresome cariactures of my thoughts.

  40. Greta Christina says

    IF atheist organisations are going to become involved in social justice issues, then they should do it for the right reasons.I don’t regard ideological diktat, no matter how well intentioned, as being a proper reason for this, and unfortunately, that appears to be where this project is heading.

    Calilasseia @ #41: Citation seriously needed.

    I have not seen anyone advocating for atheist organizations to become involved in social justice issues who is advocating for ideological diktat, or who is motivated by such. What I have seen is a huge amount of evidence and reasoned arguments for why this is a good idea ethically, why it’s a good idea pragmatically, and why it’s consistent with the existing missions of atheist organizations.

    To say, “Sure, we can get involved in social justice issues, as long as we aren’t motivated by ideological diktat” is like saying “Sure, we can get involved in social justice issues, as long as we don’t set fire to puppies” or “as long as we don’t make military alliances with North Korea” or “as long as we’re not motivated by an ultimate desire to blow up the moon.” To the best of my knowledge, nobody is doing that. Nobody is advocating doing that. Unless you have some actual citations for that happening, then raising the alarm that it maybe could happen if we’re not careful is just… well, alarmist.

  41. EDWARD FINCH says

    No idea what this is all about. How on earth did declining to accept far fetched beliefs simply on others’ say-so become a movement? It’s just common sense. if you make it a movement and form groups then you’ve missed the point. In my humble white male middle class European opinion.

    But then common sense is a bit more deeply entrenched in the UK than the US, it seems.

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