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Dec 09 2012

Atheism is not enough (pt 1)

(a three part blog series)

Tectonic rift at Thingvellir, Iceland. (CC, click for source)

Building a Community with Insufficient Data

I keep chewing this thought over in my head, this one nagging meme that got planted there by way of innumerable trolls during innumerable battles in my tenure on the blogosphere. It’s been percolating in my brainpan at least since the inception of the label “Atheism Plus” and the community that coalesced around it. Longer than that, in fact. Playing over and over, like a drum beat.

That thought is, atheism is not enough.

It is good, important, even vital to become an atheist; to free yourself from the intellectual and in some cases physical impediments that religion imposes. But that should be the beginning of a journey into freethinking, not the end of it. Without a god or gods, you have no moral lawgiver, so you have to build your own morality.

I wrote an essay called Mission Creep not too long ago, wherein I detailed my own journey into, through and beyond atheism. I kind of thought that would be the end of that particular train of thought, given that I argued quite strongly that our communities are presently evolving, and this evolution entails recognizing a number of aspects of social justice that intersect heavily with contrareligious social justice causes.

But the meme kept surfacing elsewhere, in any argument that even approached in a sidelong way the idea that knowing someone’s an atheist isn’t enough to know whether they’re a good person. I’ll grant you that this did come up most noticeably when Atheism Plus was first coalescing into a real “thing”, but before that, any time an atheist on the blogosphere would discuss anything to do with feminism, gay rights, politics or social justice, you’d get the same sort of arguments: that belief or lack thereof in a god means absolutely nothing else.

And that argument’s correct. In a manner of speaking.

Though, if you’re one of these people, you may not like the way this argument’s correct.

Reflect for a moment on some famous atheists in the media. Three big ones spring to mind immediately: Bill Maher, Penn Jillette, and Richard Dawkins. I can, however, tell you with some confidence that all three disagree with me on a number of, to me, fundaental values, even where all four of us agree on the point that there is (with near certainty) no deity involved in any capacity with this universe or its happenings. All four of us likewise agree that organized religion is a power structure built by and maintained by people with a vested interest in controlling vast swathes of humankind.

But there are some important and, frankly, more significant differences in philosophy between us than the slim territory on which we agree.

Bill Maher has expressed hyperskepticism about the germ theory of disease and vaccinations, verging on governmental conspiracy theories about the topic — which would be hard enough to swallow if he weren’t also blatantly misogynistic. But the God thing? I’m right there with him. Yep, there aren’t any gods. Total agreement.

Penn Jillette uses his platform to promote libertarianism, and not the nice civil libertarianism, but the truly Randian, drastically self-centered and entirely morally bereft sort that would be impossible to build a functional society around. And that’s not to mention his own heaping helping of misogyny. But on the topic of deities, he and I could probably break bread amicably.

And Richard Dawkins, the closest thing some atheists seem to have to a saint, himself has feet of clay in some areas. Even where I have immense respect for his efforts in popularizing science, in advocating for the dismantling of various religious institutions, and in his exposition on the powerful idea of memetics (which predates him somewhat, but HIS meme travelled!), I must still take issue with his repeated and flagrant dismissal of sexism in anything but the absolute worst cases imaginable — if you’re not being forced into having your genitals mutilated, you’re experiencing zero bad, by his scalar value system. But again, I know you could find nothing but overlap between he and I, on our thoughts as to whether or not some higher power exists.

And that’s not even broaching the differences we have within the fraction of the community that exists primarily on the internet. I can’t even begin to parse the ways TJ Kincaid, The “Amazing” Atheist, and I disagree about close to every moral precept he’s ever evinced, because I find the majority of them to be objectively harmful in a number of ways to individuals within society, and to society as a whole. Suffice it to say, he represents my views on no topics outside of the existence of a god or gods. If we agree on anything else, I’ve yet to see it, and I would be honestly surprised.

So we call one another out on these fundamental philosophical differences. We do it here, and get labelled as bullies for it — even while people are really being bullied by the hypocritical and ostensibly anti-bully faction aligned against us. We all do it. We draw lines in the sand and we argue against people who cross them.

Why are we — all of us, on every side of every battle within the atheist blogosphere, even those of you who absolutely hate me, PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan, Rebecca Watson, Freethought Blogs, Skepchick, or any ally or friendly entity thereto — so willing to draw our personal lines so differently, and to call people to the carpet over differences in philosophy who might otherwise be our allies in the battle against religious privilege?

There’s a simple answer to that rhetorical question. Every one of us already realizes, practically innately, that atheism isn’t enough.

Continue to part 2.

63 comments

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  1. 1
    FelixBC

    Yes. Exactly. Keep going! I think the identification of “atheist” and/or “skeptic” has been artificially papering over cracks. Deep rifts even. It’s creating a group identity where there really isn’t one, in any way that matters except the one that says ‘no gods.’ Granfalloon, as Vonnegut put it.

    Looking forward to part 2.

    felix3333

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    For what it’s worth, parts 2 and 3 are already written, though I might refine them depending on the comments here. This is certainly not the whole argument, and in fact is practically just the “set-up”.

    Oh, and I always think of this Castlevania boss when I hear “Granfaloon.” That’s its Japanese name, where here we call it Legion.

    http://i3.ytimg.com/vi/Z2paOzh0nq4/mqdefault.jpg

  3. 3
    FelixBC

    Not sure what that is… I always think of Paul Theroux on his travels, on a train through China, meeting other Americans. They claim kinship (oh, you’re from X state too! Why fancy that!), meanwhile he despises their every utterance. But being suddenly in the minority in a foreign land, they’re expected to hang together and find common cause.

  4. 4
    Jason Thibeault

    It’s an area boss from a video game I like. A whole bunch of people clinging together for no other reason than to cling together, basically. A giant ball of people. Or more accurately, flesh golems. Fighting it is a war of attrition, with people practically dripping out of the ball to attack you in hordes. The Vonnegut coinage is probably where the boss got its name.

    Yes, the Theroux story is exactly right. They have one tiny similarity in coming from the same place (and thus speaking the same language), but they have no other commonalities or common causes.

  5. 5
    Rob

    Good stuff Jason. Kind of sad that you even need to say it though, since it falls into the ‘self evident’ category.

  6. 6
    FelixBC

    Flesh golems and hordes, eh? Whoa. I can see how it fits, tho. There’s one going after that UofT student right now.

    http://manboobz.com/2012/12/09/mra-paul-elam-launches-a-hate-campaign-against-a-college-student-for-attending-a-demonstration-and-making-twitter-jokes/

  7. 7
    John Horstman

    But there are some important and, frankly, more significant differences in philosophy between us than the slim territory on which we agree. [emphasis mine]

    Bingo. I, too, find many of these more significant. I’ll happily work with theists of all stripes on anti-misogyny or anti-racism projects, while I find it much more troubling to try to work with misogynists or racists on projects that oppose religious hegemony. I haven’t actually sat down to think through WHY I find those to be more significant areas of dis/agreement (well, cognitive heuristics of some sort, but I’m not self-aware of the specifics of their functioning), but I clearly do so.

  8. 8
    One Day Soon I Shall Invent A Funny Login

    I’ll just leave this here: Secular Wholeness. Pointers on the “search for secular ways to: …Weave a richly-connected, supportive community… enjoy the comfort of meaningful ritual… prepare for deaths, our own and those of ones we love…”

  9. 9
    Jason Thibeault

    Interesting that you should post another thing that I particularly disagree with, even where they claim to be part of the “secular community”. I don’t see ritual as particularly comforting. I see it as allowing your brain to slip into routine, a different cognitive process than actual thinking. I see it as a potential danger.

  10. 10
    Jonathan

    I must still take issue with his repeated and flagrant dismissal of sexism in anything but the absolute worst cases imaginable — if you’re not being forced into having your genitals mutilated, you’re experiencing zero bad, by his scalar value system.

    Have you got a quote to back this up?

  11. 11
    Raging Bee

    …while I find it much more troubling to try to work with misogynists or racists on projects that oppose religious hegemony.

    Do any such projects really exist where a significant number of racists or misogynists are supporting them?

  12. 12
    Eamon Knight

    Yeah, I’ve thought this since about the time I became an atheist. Don’t believe in God? Bully for you. Now are you a skeptic who rejects gods for the same reason as you reject homeopathy and accept vaccines, and do you work for a world where everyone — irrespective of religious identification — can have a shot at a decent happy life, by breaking down the ancient injustices about sex and race and economics and all the rest?

  13. 13
    Anthony K

    Have you got a quote to back this up?

    The original comments on the Pharygula post “Always Name Names” have disappeared into the Scienceblogs black hole, but Google Dawkins and “Dear Muslima” and “Zero bad” and you’ll find them:

    Dear Muslima:

    Dear Muslima

    Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

    Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

    And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

    Richard

    Zero bad:

    Many people seem to think it obvious that my post was wrong and I should apologise. Very few people have bothered to explain exactly why. The nearest approach I have heard goes something like this.

    I sarcastically compared Rebecca’s plight with that of women in Muslim countries or families dominated by Muslim men. Somebody made the worthwhile point (reiterated here by PZ) that it is no defence of something slightly bad to point to something worse. We should fight all bad things, the slightly bad as well as the very bad. Fair enough. But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by Rebecca was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad. A man asked her back to his room for coffee. She said no. End of story.

    But not everybody sees it as end of story. OK, let’s ask why not? The main reason seems to be that an elevator is a confined space from which there is no escape. This point has been made again and again in this thread, and the other one.

    No escape? I am now really puzzled. Here’s how you escape from an elevator. You press any one of the buttons conveniently provided. The elevator will obligingly stop at a floor, the door will open and you will no longer be in a confined space but in a well-lit corridor in a crowded hotel in the centre of Dublin.

    No, I obviously don’t get it. I will gladly apologise if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting.

    Richard

  14. 14
    Jonathan

    Anthony K:

    Thanks for the response. I did wonder whether “Dear Muslima” would be drawn upon as support. But the problem with that is that the first paragraph of DM itself contradicts what was said in the main post.

    From DM:

    Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you.

    And Jason said:

    I must still take issue with his repeated and flagrant dismissal of sexism in anything but the absolute worst cases imaginable — if you’re not being forced into having your genitals mutilated, you’re experiencing zero bad, by his scalar value system.

    Just by comparing the two it can be seen that RD mentioned more than simply genital mutilation as an example of sexism and misogyny. Being unable to drive a car isn’t the “absolute worst case imaginable”, as bad as it is, so that too argues against the way JT has characterised RD’s position.

    JT has made a pretty serious claim about RD, but the facts don’t seem to support it. I haven’t seen anything to suggest he dismisses sexism in “anything but the absolute worst cases imaginable”.

    PS: I would like to leave aside the whole EG issue for the moment as that has been argued to death over the past year or so. Regardless of anyone’s position on the matter, I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that it is far from the worst case imaginable.

  15. 15
    Anthony K

    JT has made a pretty serious claim about RD

    I am so not interested in the canard that “pretty serious claims” of misogyny are worse than the misogynistic dismissal itself.

    Hell, I’m now using my real name because I’ve been doxxed by the Slymepitters, which is only a “pretty serious” violation when it happens to them, of course.

    Regardless of anyone’s position on the matter, I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that it is far from the worst case imaginable.

    That’s not in dispute. What Dawkins did was use an extreme case to argue that Elevatorgate was ‘zero bad’.

    He’s the one committing the fallacy of the excluded middle, not those bringing his comments up.

  16. 16
    Raging Bee

    PS: I would like to leave aside the whole EG issue for the moment as that has been argued to death over the past year or so. Regardless of anyone’s position on the matter, I’m pretty sure everyone can agree that it is far from the worst case imaginable.

    First yousay you want to “leave aside” the EG issue; then you say something totally stupid about the EG issue. News flash: Rebecca Watson NEVER said or implied that her EG incident was anything more than a guy makiing a totally inappropriate move. The sum total of her criticism of EG (in an informal address that was mostly positive) was “guys, don’t do that.” That’s it. She never tried to retend it the worst thing a woman could suffer. Wankers like you who insist that “it is far from the worst case imaginable” are refuting an assertion that no one ever made.

  17. 17
    One Day Soon I Shall Invent A Funny Login

    Well, this seems to be spiraling into the accretion disk of the feminisim black hole but I’ll venture to reply to Blogmeister Jason,

    I don’t see ritual as particularly comforting. I see it as allowing your brain to slip into routine, a different cognitive process than actual thinking.

    I doubt strongly your life is ritual-free; almost no-one’s is. Christmas with prezzies and tree and family? New Year’s eve? Stand for the anthem at a ball game?

    I say rituals are how we bind time, assert control — comforting even if illusory — over the progress of time. Religions do an excellent job of parasitizing this, providing an array of rituals at all different frequencies, from prayer five times a day for Muslims to the big Christian annual events. I collected some suggestions on how we could take back ritual, use it in a conscious and intentional way to structure a secular life. Nothing earth-shaking about that, but I thought fairly practical. I think you would be pleased, if you actually read that chapter, by how it suggests the opposite of not-thinking, but rather recognizing where one has mindless routines and making them conscious and meaningful in ways that unique to yourself.

  18. 18
    Jonathan

    Raging Bee:

    First yousay you want to “leave aside” the EG issue; then you say something totally stupid about the EG issue. News flash: Rebecca Watson NEVER said or implied that her EG incident was anything more than a guy makiing a totally inappropriate move. The sum total of her criticism of EG (in an informal address that was mostly positive) was “guys, don’t do that.” That’s it. She never tried to retend it the worst thing a woman could suffer. Wankers like you who insist that “it is far from the worst case imaginable” are refuting an assertion that no one ever made.

    And I didn’t say that she did. What I meant to get across (though perhaps I didn’t explain it as well as I could) was that EG, a relatively minor occurrence at the time, is one specific instance that doesn’t really compare to the more serious instances of actual sexism and misogyny that JT was claiming in the initial post that Dawkins viewed as “zero bad”. “Repeated and flagrant” implies more than just the EG incident.

    I would also note that JT doesn’t directly mention EG in the original post, and that’s another reason I was attempting to put that particular issue to one side to focus on the topic of the post and what he actually said, rather than risk the thread being pushed off track.

    I hope that’s a little clearer; enough perhaps to avoid future unnecessary name-calling.

    Anthony K:

    Now that you’ve said it I recognised you as Brownian from Pharyngula (and other blogs you comment on, of course). Regarding the doxxing: as a test I typed “Brownian Pharyngula” into google, and literally the fourth entry down is an atheist nexus link that states your full name and alias in the title of the web page. Is this really what constitutes doxxing, because I had thought it involved finding information that was not readily available?

    That’s not in dispute. What Dawkins did was use an extreme case to argue that Elevatorgate was ‘zero bad’.

    I certainly agree he could have worded things a hell of a lot better than he did.

    He’s the one committing the fallacy of the excluded middle, not those bringing his comments up.

    I disagree. JT has essentially said “if not genital mutilation, then zero bad” is RD’s viewpoint. That’s clearly not the case, as even the Dear Muslima post you provided in support of the statement shows. To me it seems like JT was making a generalisation for effect, and that’s something sceptics need to be careful about in my opinion.

  19. 19
    Nick Gotts

    TriffidPruner,

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting (certainly Jason isn’t) that one needs to eliminate all ritual. But many of us don’t feel the need for the kind of secular aping of religion you’re peddling.

  20. 20
    Anthony K

    Now that you’ve said it I recognised you as Brownian from Pharyngula (and other blogs you comment on, of course). Regarding the doxxing: as a test I typed “Brownian Pharyngula” into google, and literally the fourth entry down is an atheist nexus link that states your full name and alias in the title of the web page. Is this really what constitutes doxxing, because I had thought it involved finding information that was not readily available?

    If it’s readily available, then what would be the point of linking the identities other than an attempt to intimidate me for messing with the wrong guy? “Levelling the playing field” were the words used. There’s hardly a need if the playing field is already level.

    Man, the gymnastics skeptics go through to justify their bizarro obsessions would make any Catholic envious.

    That’s clearly not the case, as even the Dear Muslima post you provided in support of the statement shows.

    That’s twice you’ve not addressed the ‘zero bad’ comment.

  21. 21
    Anthony K

    I’ll have to read your chapter later, TriffidPruner, but I’d go further and suggest that you can safely drop the ‘almost’ from “I doubt strongly your life is ritual-free; almost no-one’s is.”

  22. 22
    Raging Bee

    I would also note that JT doesn’t directly mention EG in the original post, and that’s another reason I was attempting to put that particular issue to one side to focus on the topic of the post and what he actually said, rather than risk the thread being pushed off track.

    The “Dear Muslima” letter was in response to RW’s comments about the EG; so you can’t really separate the two. Dawkins’ totally disproportionate, self-serving, and inflammatory response was totally pointless (he wasn’t a party to the incident, and had no relevant expertise to offer), and was of aht main causes of the ongoing hate directed against someone who, in all likelihood, would haver have got this much attention were it not for Dawkins’ ignorant-assed stunt.

    You can quibble all you want about whether JT was exactly correct in everything he said about Dawkins’ letter — but either way, it was still a stupid, babyish, pointlessly mean-spirited thing for any grownup, let alone a famous writer and scientist, to do. There’s no excusing or justifying it.

  23. 23
    Raging Bee

    I certainly agree he could have worded things a hell of a lot better than he did.

    So why didn’t he? He’s a WRITER, who’s famous for his BOOKS, which atheists seem to love because they’re WELL WRITTEN. “He misspoke” doesn’t work as an excuse here.

  24. 24
    Jonathan

    Anthony K:

    That’s twice you’ve not addressed the ‘zero bad’ comment.

    That’s because it’s not relevant to the main point I was trying to make about what JT said. To repeat:

    “I must still take issue with his repeated and flagrant dismissal of sexism in anything but the absolute worst cases imaginable — if you’re not being forced into having your genitals mutilated, you’re experiencing zero bad, by his scalar value system. “

    As Raging Bee said the EG incident was nothing more than a guy making an inappropriate move. RD’s “zero bad” comment referred to that specific encounter in the elevator, and not to anything sexist or misogynist.

    What JT has done is unfairly conflate the two, implying a position that RD has not been shown to hold. That is the point I’m making.

  25. 25
    Anthony K

    As Raging Bee said the EG incident was nothing more than a guy making an inappropriate move. RD’s “zero bad” comment referred to that specific encounter in the elevator, and not to anything sexist or misogynist.

    I’m fucking done with liars.

  26. 26
    Raging Bee

    As Raging Bee said the EG incident was nothing more than a guy making an inappropriate move. RD’s “zero bad” comment referred to that specific encounter in the elevator, and not to anything sexist or misogynist.

    RD’s comment accused RW of making a big deal out of a minor incident, which she had not done. So basically he made fun of her for dong something she had not done, and pretty much demanded she shut up because her concerns weren’t important enough for his attebntion. That’s kinda sexist right there.

  27. 27
    Jason Thibeault

    I’m interested in this sidebar, because it’s particularly telling. Why is my characterizing his quote the way I do so grievous a mischaracterization, when he has — in the original quote Anthony K provided — himself made a severe mischaracterization of Rebecca Watson’s “guys don’t do that”?

    I mean, seriously, does he honestly think that Watson said “hey Muslim women, stop complaining about your genital mutilation and inability to drive cars alone”? Do YOU?

  28. 28
    Jason Thibeault

    Also: what the living crap. For all their whining about people “dropping dox”, they did it *again*? Despite their vociferous complaining that someone had Googled Justin Vacula and got a phone book entry that showed where he apparently lived?

    It’s like they don’t have mirrors in their world.

  29. 29
    Jonathan

    Anthony K:

    I’m fucking done with liars.

    I don’t believe what I said in comment 25 was incorrect, if it is could you point out where instead of slinging epithets?

    Jason Thibeault:

    Why is my characterizing his quote the way I do so grievous a mischaracterization, when he has — in the original quote Andrew K provided — a severe mischaracterization of Rebecca Watson?

    If he has mischaracterised RW, does it make it okay to mischaracterise him? I was trying to deal with the original post rather than anything to do with RW, who was not mentioned specifically in the original post in any case. The discussion has got rather sidetracked, and I would rather deal with the main point I initially made before moving on to anything else, otherwise it will be hard to keep track!

    But since you’ve commented, let me ask: do you think it fair to claim that RD thinks that anything less than genital mutilation is “zero bad”? Especially given the fact that the first part of the “Dear Muslima” comment suggests otherwise? Not to

    I mean, seriously, does he honestly think that Watson said “hey Muslim women, stop complaining about your genital mutilation and inability to drive cars alone”? Do YOU?

    I can’t claim to know what he thinks. As for me, no, I don’t believe that she was saying that.

  30. 30
    Anthony K

    I don’t believe what I said in comment 25 was incorrect, if it is could you point out where instead of slinging epithets?

    For fuck’s fucking sake.

    RD’s “zero bad” comment referred to that specific encounter in the elevator, and not to anything sexist or misogynist

  31. 31
    Jason Thibeault

    I further contend that my “mischaracterization” is nothing but a description of the consequences of his argumentation. He intentionally misconstrued Watson’s intent, and mocked her by pretending that she was claiming that her “bad” was worse than others’. He then compared her experience to someone chewing gum next to him, and explicitly said it was “zero bad”.

    I stand by what I wrote in the original post. When you don’t elide the circumstances of what he said, I’ve made an entirely fair characterization.

  32. 32
    Anthony K

    More specifically, that was a dishonest attempt at inserting your opinion of the Elevatorgate incident, especially after writing “PS: I would like to leave aside the whole EG issue for the moment as that has been argued to death over the past year or so.”

  33. 33
    Jonathan

    Anthony K:

    RD’s “zero bad” comment referred to that specific encounter in the elevator, and not to anything sexist or misogynist

    As Raging Bee said in an earlier comment:

    Rebecca Watson NEVER said or implied that her EG incident was anything more than a guy makiing a totally inappropriate move.

    Was the incident itself sexist or misogynist? No. It was an inappropriate move, but not something sexist or based on hatred of women. The “zero bad” comment referred to EG. You yourself said that in an earlier comment.

    So where is the lie in what I have said?

    More specifically, that was a dishonest attempt at inserting your opinion of the Elevatorgate incident, especially after writing “PS: I would like to leave aside the whole EG issue for the moment as that has been argued to death over the past year or so.”

    Yet despite that you kept raising it. Would you have preferred me to ignore you? You even made a point of raising the fact that I had not responded to the “zero bad” comment, which relates to the EG incident as you yourself said. So which is it, am I to respond or not? You can’t have it both ways, and it’s certainly no justification for calling me a liar.

  34. 34
    Anthony K

    Is it your contention that Dear Muslima does not relate to EG?

  35. 35
    Jonathan

    Jason Thibeault:

    I stand by what I wrote in the original post. When you don’t elide the circumstances of what he said, I’ve made an entirely fair characterization.

    So for example. A woman in Saudi Arabia is not allowed to drive a car. This is less bad than genital mutilation. You have claimed that RD says that “if you’re not being forced into having your genitals mutilated, you’re experiencing zero bad, by his scalar value system”. Therefore you are implying that he thinks women in Saudi Arabia being discriminated against by not being allowed to drive is “zero bad”.

    And you think that characterisation is accurate, and reflected in his other writings?

  36. 36
    Anthony K

    Was the incident itself sexist or misogynist? No. It was an inappropriate move, but not something sexist

    And that’s the argument. You don’t get to assume your conclusion because you don’t want to talk about it.

  37. 37
    Anthony K

    To correct Raging Bee, RW’s use of the example in “Guys, don’t do that” was in fact a characterisation of the sexist nature of atheist gatherings, and specifically one of the reasons that gender parity doesn’t exist at many of them.

  38. 38
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh, I see. So because I only mentioned the worst of them, rather than mentioning *all* of the things that Dawkins pretended that Watson said, I am mischaracterizing him. Gotcha.

    So, shall I revise the original post to say ” if you’re not being forced into having your genitals mutilated and can’t drive a car alone and your husband’s allowed to beat you and you’ll be stoned to death for adultery, then the sexism you experienced is zero bad”?

    Or perhaps you’d instead like to tell me why you parse Dawkins so exceedingly generously and me so exceedingly finely.

  39. 39
    Jonathan

    Anthony K:

    Is it your contention that Dear Muslima does not relate to EG?

    Of course it does. But since both your statements in support of JT’s original post referenced it, I had no choice but to deal with it somehow. You provided me with no other evidence bar that.

    Note though that the first part of DM is what I emphasised, since that was sufficient to show that the black/white “either genital mutilation or zero bad” characterisation of RD’s position was incorrect, using the very quote you used to try and support it.

  40. 40
    Anthony K

    Of course it does. But since both your statements in support of JT’s original post referenced it, I had no choice but to deal with it somehow.

    Then, since you knew both comments referred specifically to Dawkins on EG, you should not have written: “PS: I would like to leave aside the whole EG issue for the moment as that has been argued to death over the past year or so.”, and if you were honest, you especially would not have then presupposed your conclusion to slip in your little editorials.

    Further dishonesty: “I certainly agree he could have worded things a hell of a lot better than he did.”

    You do? Better? Why? As you said, “I can’t claim to know what he thinks.”

    If that’s the case, then you cannot claim he could have worded things any better than he did, because all you have to go on is exactly what he wrote.

    Again, Dawkins used the hyperbolic contrast to disingenuously diminish RW’s claim. And now you’re all pissy because of a “very serious claim.”

  41. 41
    Jonathan

    JT:

    Oh, I see. So because I only mentioned the worst of them, rather than mentioning *all* of the things that Dawkins pretended that Watson said, I am mischaracterizing him. Gotcha.

    You are mischaracterising him because you claimed that RD thinks that anything less than genital mutilation is “zero bad” without even directly referencing RW in the post. That implied it was a broad view of his that was not solely about this incident.

    ” I must still take issue with his repeated and flagrant dismissal of sexism in anything but the absolute worst cases imaginable”

    Your words. No reference to RW.

    So, shall I revise the original post to say ” if you’re not being forced into having your genitals mutilated and can’t drive a car alone and your husband’s allowed to beat you and you’ll be stoned to death for adultery, then the sexism you experienced is zero bad”?

    If you do you should break the sentence into two so it’ll read better.

    Or perhaps you’d instead like to tell me why you parse Dawkins so exceedingly generously and me so exceedingly finely.

    Because after reading your post I was sceptical of the claim that you made, and after looking at the evidence you have provided I still believe that you are wilfully mischaracterising him. That’s what sceptics do, look at the evidence.

  42. 42
    Anthony K

    That’s what sceptics do, look at the evidence.

    Right. That’s what I’m doing, and that’s why I called you a liar.

    Maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re just slightly dishonest, or not nearly as careful of your words as you insist others should be.

  43. 43
    Jonathan

    Anthony K:

    Then, since you knew both comments referred specifically to Dawkins on EG, you should not have written: “PS: I would like to leave aside the whole EG issue for the moment as that has been argued to death over the past year or so.”, and if you were honest, you especially would not have then presupposed your conclusion to slip in your little editorials.

    So why did you not immediately point this out rather than continue the discussion and only accuse me of lying when it suited you? I note, again, that you have ignored what I said about the first part of DM being sufficient to disprove the claim in the original post.

    Further dishonesty: “I certainly agree he could have worded things a hell of a lot better than he did.”

    You do? Better? Why? As you said, “I can’t claim to know what he thinks.”

    If that’s the case, then you cannot claim he could have worded things any better than he did, because all you have to go on is exactly what he wrote.

    This doesn’t make sense. My opinion that he could have written things better does not need me to be able to read his mind.

  44. 44
    Anthony K

    I must still take issue with his repeated and flagrant dismissal of sexism in anything but the absolute worst cases imaginable

    Dawkins’ use of “Dear Muslima” and “Zero bad” are again an example of Dawkin’s black-and-white thinking, not anyone else’s.

  45. 45
    Anthony K

    This doesn’t make sense. My opinion that he could have written things better does not need me to be able to read his mind.

    If ‘better’ as in “more well written”, then no, you don’t. Is that your argument?

    Because, if you mean ‘better’ in the way you do, as in trying to shift Dawkins’ fallacy of the excluded middle onto others, then yes, you are insisting that what he wrote was not what he meant.

  46. 46
    Anthony K

    So why did you not immediately point this out rather than continue the discussion and only accuse me of lying when it suited you?

    Because you hadn’t assumed a conclusion about EG yet, dumbass, namely that it had nothing to do with sexism.

    I note, again, that you have ignored what I said about the first part of DM being sufficient to disprove the claim in the original post.

    You can deal with JT on whether singling out FGM out of “yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery”. Frankly, it’s beside the point.

    Using these two quotes, JT would not be wrong to write “if you’re not being forced into having your genitals mutilated and can’t drive a car alone and your husband’s allowed to beat you and you’ll be stoned to death for adultery, then the sexism you experienced is zero bad”.

    As you agreed.

  47. 47
    Jonathan

    Anthony K:

    Because you hadn’t assumed a conclusion about EG yet, dumbass, namely that it had nothing to do with sexism.

    Now who is claiming to read whose mind?

    Using these two quotes, JT would not be wrong to write “if you’re not being forced into having your genitals mutilated and can’t drive a car alone and your husband’s allowed to beat you and you’ll be stoned to death for adultery, then the sexism you experienced is zero bad”.

    As you agreed.

    As I would have thought was obvious, I wasn’t being serious with the comment about breaking it up into multiple sentences. I didn’t agree it was accurate.

    The hour’s getting late here so I’ll have to pick this thread up again in the morning. Thanks for the discussion.

  48. 48
    Anthony K
    Or perhaps you’d instead like to tell me why you parse Dawkins so exceedingly generously and me so exceedingly finely.

    Because after reading your post I was sceptical of the claim that you made, and after looking at the evidence you have provided I still believe that you are wilfully mischaracterising him. That’s what sceptics do, look at the evidence.

    Willfully mischaracterising? Because in context, the point is completely lost if Dawkins referred to FGM, unescorted driving and travel restrictions, and threats of violence and death, rather than simply FGM. Right.

    Because you hadn’t assumed a conclusion about EG yet, dumbass, namely that it had nothing to do with sexism.

    Now who is claiming to read whose mind?

    Okay, you are an idiot. You hadn’t yet assumed a conclusion in what you’d written here.

    If this kind of wilfully obtuse wanking mixed with affronted hyperskepticality is what skeptics do, then it’s no wonder so fucking many people still believe in angels and homeopathy.

  49. 49
    Anthony K

    What a fucking waste of time.

  50. 50
    Jason Thibeault

    Anthony K obviously meant that you hadn’t yet made a statement that assumes a conclusion about Elevatorgate. I can tell this because I can totally read his mind. (Also, reading comprehension skills. You did shortly afterward.)

    I could go on with other examples of Dawkins saying things that are misogynistic in the sense of dismissive of sexism aimed at women. But I’m having so much fun with you flailing on this one.

  51. 51
    Jason Thibeault

    Yeah. Sorry Anthony, I don’t attract as amusing a class of SIWOTI around these parts as PZ might.

  52. 52
    Anthony K

    Meh. I actually don’t find SIWOTI amusing; just annoying. I’ve made similar such comments on PZ’s blog.

    Maybe I’m getting too old for this shit.

    (Which is kind of funny, since according to the slymy doxxers I’m still living in my parents’ basement. They’ve made photoshops. Spent a lot of time on them. The irony isn’t lost on me. I just don’t find stupid amusing.)

  53. 53
    Jonathan

    I know I said I was done for the night, but I realised that I made a mistake. When Anthony said “assumed a conclusion” I thought he was talking about knowing what I was thinking, not what I said about the EG incident not being sexist or misogynist. That was a mistake on my part and a pretty careless one so I apologise for that.

  54. 54
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Jason, there used to be a feature on the RDF.net website where derailing comments in a thread could be moved to an alternate thread. At times when you have idiots like Jonathan — whose denial of Dawkins’ cultural insensitivity and lamentably pedestrian sexist attitudes is mind-numbing proof of his ineptitude — you could sweep away the derail to the alternate thread to, you know, allow intelligent conversation to occur? Which sadly is lacking from his comments, and which contribute to pretty much no discussion of your actual post having occurred in well over half the thread to this point. Anthony’s frustration at having to answer Jonathan’s foolishness is evident: multiply that by the number of those readers who read and engage with the comments.

    For me, the attacks on developments within atheism such as Gnu atheism or Atheism plus underline that concepts such as an ‘atheist movement’ (or substitute, skeptical, feminist, humanist, etc, etc) are exceedingly weak coalitions, and it’s a social fallacy to believe that because A is friends with B, C, D, and so on, that B, C, and D are obliged to be friends with one another. And as atheism is only a matter of not having religious, theistic belief, which is a relatively unimportant matter or qualifier if you are atheist, then it follows that there are a number of more important qualities that you would like to see reflected in the people you count as allies or friends.

    Furthermore, it’s both natural and desirable to draw personal boundaries in social interactions with other people. People can be assholes, and there’s no obligation requiring anyone that they must, on pain of social ostracism and opprobrium, be forced to remain friends with people who ride roughshod over other people’s boundaries. A curious feature of the current rift is the resemblance to the male separatist wing of the ‘Men’s Right Movement’, known as MGTOWs: they say they want nothing to do with women as they’ve Manfully Gone Their Own Way, yet they can’t help sniping at and stalking the people whom they’ve supposedly left behind. (It goes without saying that it’s pathetic to define your activism by the people you want to stop from going on and about their business without reference to you, but the negative evidence continues to amount.)

  55. 55
    Jonathan

    I think this will be my last post on this thread, since the discussion seems to have hit a wall.

    Anthony K:

    Willfully mischaracterising? Because in context, the point is completely lost if Dawkins referred to FGM, unescorted driving and travel restrictions, and threats of violence and death, rather than simply FGM. Right.

    My point, as I have stated many times, is that Dawkins has never claimed anything less than FGM is “zero bad”. The DM comment that you used in support of JT’s generalisation actually shows it to be wrong. The “zero bad” comment referred to a specific incident, yet in his post JT did not make reference to that, allowing it to appear as if it was a broader opinion of RD’s. This is incorrect.

    JT:

    I could go on with other examples of Dawkins saying things that are misogynistic in the sense of dismissive of sexism aimed at women. But I’m having so much fun with you flailing on this one.

    I’ve actually enjoyed the discussion as well, for what it is worth. And perhaps you could supply examples. But they still would not show that “anything less than FGM is zero bad” in the eyes of Dawkins, as I could easily point out instances where he has argued against sexism and misogyny.

    Xanthe:

    I admire your bravery in insulting me from behind the shelter of your keyboard. It’s telling that in all your attacks on me you failed to engage with anything I said. Clearly you didn’t consider that worthwhile, which is fair enough. I am curious about how my addressing a specific part of JT’s post could be considered derailing, but since I will probably be met with further insults it is perhaps best that I leave this here.

    Thank you for the discussion, everyone.

  56. 56
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    Jonathan, hush please. Your cheerleading for Dawkins is lowering the signal to noise ratio of the thread.

  57. 57
    Raging Bee

    My point, as I have stated many times, is that Dawkins has never claimed anything less than FGM is “zero bad”.

    And my point, as I have stated at least once, is SO FUCKING WHAT?! Dawkins’ behavior in this instance is just plain abysmal, childish, and inexcusable. Trying to rescue his rep by quibbling over whether Jason’s critique is literally accurate in every word, is just plain pathetic and ridiculous.

    Dick to the Dawks made an unmitigated ass of himself — in response to a casual bit of advice that wasn’t even directed in his vicinity — and his junior-high phallocratic BS put a lasting burden on someone who had done no harm; and AFAIK he still hasn’t had the guts to admit he did anythying wrong. And all his fanbois can do is bitch and quibble over his critics’ choice of words. Seriously, are you guys TRYING to make the atheist movement look stupid?

  58. 58
    SallyStrange

    My point, as I have stated many times, is that Dawkins has never claimed anything less than FGM is “zero bad”.

    Dawkins claimed that what Rebecca Watson experienced was zero bad and not indicative of sexism or misogyny. He’s wrong. It was bad because it was disrespectful and inconsiderate and creepy, and it was sexist because it fits with a larger pattern of men feeling entitled to ignore women’s stated boundaries, so long as there’s a minute chance that pushing said boundaries will lead to them getting their dicks wet. It doesn’t matter what EG intended by it, the fact is that this pattern of behavior–ignoring what women say in favor of pushing their boundaries and trying to coerce, trick, or seduce them into sex in the face of repeated refusals–exists in society because of sexism, and if men want to come off as something other than sexist, they have to behave in ways that don’t fit a sexist pattern of behavior. No, it isn’t easy, and no it isn’t fair, but then sexism isn’t fair so go fuck yourself if you have a problem with it.

    He has also claimed that religious indoctrination of children is worse than the sexual abuse of children. He’s wrong. He even used his status as a survivor of childhood abuse to prop up this claim, which I find insensitive in the extreme. His experiences with childhood sexual abuse are not representative, nor are his experiences of childhood religious indoctrination.

    Dawkins fucked up. He’s speaking from ignorance combined with privilege and it makes him look like an ass. Doesn’t mean that everything else he’s done is worthless. But your hero has feet of clay.

    Fucking deal with it, Mr. “Skeptic.” Sounds to me like you’re suffering from the Halo Effect that Jason mentions.

  59. 59
    ildi

    Lattice of coincidence: I was just reading the interview on Alternet with Blake Page, the West Point cadet who quit over religious discrimination and he said:

    There are no Humanist chaplains. The army officially refuses to recognize Humanist chaplains and refuses to allow us to put Humanist on our dog tags. I have atheist on my dog tags even though atheism doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s not a philosophy. Humanism means something: We should be good for the sake of being good; we should care about other human beings. That means something, but I’m not allowed to say that on my tags, and we don’t have chaplains out there representing our worldview.

  60. 60
    antialiasis

    For Christ’s sake. Jonathan, the “anything less than genital mutilation is zero bad” comment was hyperbole, and really obviously so at that. When somebody says “I’ve said this a million times”, do you ask for sources for exactly one million previous times the person has made this statement, or do you assume that what they mean by it is “I’ve said this a lot”? Similarly, when somebody says “Richard Dawkins seems to think anything less than female genital mutilation is zero bad”, you should read it as “Richard Dawkins only seems to see sexism when it’s blatant and extreme, while being blind to the little everyday things”, because no, of course they don’t literally mean that he thinks the only type of sexism ever is female genital mutilation.

  61. 61
    Raging Bee

    To correct Raging Bee, RW’s use of the example in “Guys, don’t do that” was in fact a characterisation of the sexist nature of atheist gatherings, and specifically one of the reasons that gender parity doesn’t exist at many of them.

    Actually, IIRC, RW’s “guys, don’t do that” comment came in a purely informal speech where she was mostly talking about what a great time she had at the conference. Her mention of the EG was as the sole non-wonderful incident in an otherwise enjoyable conference.

  62. 62
    mofa

    SS said :”disrespectful and inconsiderate and creepy”

    How do you know he was creepy, were you there? He started a conversation with another human being in an elevator, that’s what some of us do instead of looking down at our shoes. Are you are advocating a look down and shut up kind of world where everyone is suspicious of each other…now that IS creepy!

  63. 63
    Argle Bargle

    Comment by mofa blocked. [unhush]​[show comment]

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    Karen Locke at Last! » En Tequila Es Verdad

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    Privilege, Dialogue, Harassment, and the Anti-Availability Heuristic » Lousy Canuck

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