It’s not news that allies can’t always agree on everything. People who rely on reason rather than dogma to think about the world are bound to disagree about some things.
Disagreement is inevitable, but bullying and harassment are not. If we want secularism and atheism to gain respect, we have to be able to disagree with each other without trying to destroy each other.
In other words we have to be able to manage disagreement ethically, like reasonable adults, as opposed to brawling like enraged children who need a nap. It should go without saying, but this means no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets.
Richard adds: I’m told that some people think I tacitly endorse such things even if I don’t indulge in them. Needless to say, I’m horrified by that suggestion. Any person who tries to intimidate members of our community with threats or harassment is in no way my ally and is only weakening the atheist movement by silencing its voices and driving away support.
I am pleased, and cautiously optimistic. This doesn’t erase years of sexist and racist behavior from Dawkins, of course. And it makes me sad that “no death threats, rape threats, attacks on people’s appearance, age, race, sex, size, haircut; no photoshopping people into demeaning images, no vulgar epithets” should be such a controversial issue that a prominent leader has to speak out against it. (Also, I’m not so sure about the “vulgar epithets” part — I reserve the right to call people assholes if I think they’re being assholes.) But I am nevertheless pleased, and cautiously optimistic. I doubt that this will get the worst of the harassers to change their behavior — but I hope that it will get the people saying “There’s wrong on both sides” and “Why do we have to be divisive?” and “I don’t agree with everything they say, but…” to stop and think about what they’re really saying, and to knock it off. And I hope this will get Dawkins himself to speak more carefully about these issues, and to be more careful about whose work he praises and promotes.