Disgusting »« “I Always Knew”

All In

This is the last post I will ever write about conflicts internal to the Atheist Movement.

I quit. Consider this my act of serving the movement my divorce papers.

There is a lot I’ve been thinking about lately, and I’ve been doing a great deal of reappraisal of how I relate to Atheism, to Skepticism, how I see myself fitting into it. The truth is that I’ve sort of found myself having lost faith in the faithless, as silly as that sounds, and no longer believing whether this is what I want my fight to be and the people with whom I wish to fight.

One way or another, I would have ended up writing this post sooner rather than later, but recent events have led me to feel like this is the moment it needs to be. This is no longer something I felt I wanted to write as a catharsis, but instead is now something that feels immediate and necessary.

I don’t know how many of you know or are invested in the story of how and why Thunderf00t was expelled from Freethought Blogs. I certainly never really wanted to be all that involved in that conflict myself, as by the time it happened I was already feeling worn out and exasperated by the ongoing petty warring in the wider community over issues that I was appalled weren’t already accepted as fundamental basics of creating inclusive, safe, progressive, non-horrible activist communities, like sexual harassment policies for conferences (Seriously, how was that controversial? What in the actual fuck is wrong with people that they would see it as such?). But I was asked by someone what my opinion on Thunderf00t’s expulsions was, and I replied with my assessment that the issue wasn’t so much the content of his posts (as ugly and inflammatory as they may have been), but his extremely unprofessional conduct behind the scenes, which was creating a situation that was severely inhibiting our ability to operate as a cohesive, functional network. There was just really no real option.

Thunderf00t saw the tweet, and responded with accusations that I was a liar. Which still doesn’t really make much sense to me, because unless he believed I was deliberately misrepresenting my own perceptions and opinion, there’s no way my subjective interpretation of his behaviour as unprofessional, and my perceptions of what PZ and Ed’s motives were, could be a lie. He could disagree with me, sure. He could hold a different opinion. He could think my interpretation was grossly inaccurate. All of that is fine, and to be honest, what I’d expect (people rarely believe of themselves that they’re acting like assholes). But the accusation that I was lying was just weird.

This led to something really creepy and scary when Thunderf00t began threatening to publish the confidential contents of FTB’s private listserv, to “prove” that I’d been “lying” about his behaviour. When I reminded him of the ethical problems with this, and hinted at the real danger it poses to me, he laughed and suggested that his treatment by PZ and FTB as a whole justified any actions he wanted to take. Soon after, several of the group who’ve sided themselves against FTB in the growing, petty, awful little “rift” of the atheist blogosphere began accusing me of attempting to bury evidence and hide the truth.

The content of the e-mails didn’t bother me at all. What scared me, and is one of the reasons we had the confidentiality clause of the listserv in the first place, was the issue of my pseudonymity.

Natalie Reed is not my “real name”. I use a different name for “real life”… for employment, for housing, for everything I don’t necessarily want connected to my being out as a transsexual, atheist blogger. There is a huge amount of highly personal, highly stigmatized issues I discuss on this blog, or in other venues under the name Natalie Reed. Transsexuality and transgenderism, my heroin addiction, stories from my life and past, my being a survivor of multiple rapes…I’ve even mentioned my being an incest survivor, an issue that’s incredibly, deeply painful for me. Most of these things I never, ever would have felt able to write about without feeling protected by this name.

It also protects my ability to pursue housing and employment without the threat of being outed as trans, a recovering addict, an atheist and so on by a simple five minute google search. It protects the possibility of my someday choosing to go “stealth” if I ever feel the desire or need, in which I could finally live as just a woman instead of always as a trans woman. It keeps me further removed from my birth name and images of my former self, and the life I led before transition. It protects my physical safety from those who feel the need to enforce their beliefs and feelings about gender through violence. It protects me from the countless rad-fems and HBSers who consistently out or dox trans women, often with the deliberate, explicit intent of exposing them to harassment, discrimination and violence.

Natalie Reed is my safety net.

The e-mail address I had been using on the FTB list was not under this name. It was under my real one.

So, yeah. Thunderf00t scared me. A lot.

He did not, to the best of my knowledge, at that time publish any e-mails. However, last week I was informed that there was reason to believe, with near certainty, that Thunderf00t had reaccessed the listserv after his expulsion by finding some kind of easy exploit in the security. This came to our attention when someone informed one of us that Thunderf00t had allegedly forwarded them a conversation we had been having in the listserv over the course of the previous couple days. One of our tech people apparently then found his e-mail address had been re-listed, and expelled it again while also fixing the flaw in the security. Allegedly, almost immediately afterward, Thunderf00t once again attempted to rejoin.

Apparently, he had been forwarding our private, confidential e-mails, after having been quite explicitly removed from the list. E-mails that each end with a clause stating that they are confidential and may not be forwarded or reproduced without the express consent of the author. That confidentiality being there for very good reason, to protect us from very real consequences. And then seemed to immediately attempt to again compromise that privacy after his breach of trust had been discovered.

We debated amongst ourselves for a bit how to respond to this, and it was decided that we’d remain quiet for a little while while we assessed our legal options, with the hope of trying to protect those with the most to lose if Thunderf00t decided to retaliate by leaking compromising or dangerous private information (like my name).

Yesterday, however, we discovered that he apparently somehow still had found access to the ongoing discussions. The listserv has been abandoned, and I’ve decided I don’t want to remain quiet. I don’t want to be intimidated. I don’t want other people to have all the cards. I don’t want to play these games, or be a part of this anymore.

If I’m going to be endlessly dragged into these petty, ridiculous conflicts within this movement, if I’m going to be threatened and put at risk in very real ways over what some people think Atheism should be all about, I at least reserve the right to express my disgust, and say just how little I care about these battles that keep affecting so many of us who never really wanted to stake a claim in the first place. If I’m going to be undoubtedly eviscerated as some ugly, horrible, tyrannical, feminazi, FTBully bitch whose helping ruin everything, if I’m going to maybe have my privacy destroyed, safety risked, and life potentially fucked up over the ego and grudge of some little man I’ve never met and never really gave a damn about, if I’m going to be a casualty of the fight over who gets to own The Atheist Movement, I want you to know just how little I think of what you’re fighting over, and what you’re trying to protect.

Fuck your atheism.

When I first got involved in this little pocket of the internet, atheism was never really my thing to begin with. I didn’t particularly care much about the question of God, I found apologetics boring, I didn’t think the Atheist Community was a very appealing group, and while I valued the importance of activists working on behalf of Secularism, and regarded (still regard) religion as one of the most dangerous and fucked up socio-cultural factors in our global society, those issues in their specificity weren’t where my own political passions really dwelt. I certainly didn’t primarily identify myself as an atheist, and in fact made it clear repeatedly that I didn’t want to be involved in groups or networks or blogs that explicitly prioritized atheism and identified as atheist. Although, if asked about my religious beliefs, I would unashamedly respond that I am an atheist, and although those really were (still are) my beliefs, that considering all currently available evidence and thinking the question through the only reasonable assumption to make is that there is no God, gods or divine will or intelligence of any kind, none of that seemed particularly important to me or my identity or my politics or my activism. The question mattered only in so far as believers made it matter, in their actions, their votes, their legislation… but it was hardly the only dangerous belief on which dangerous choices were being made.

Presented with the option of where I allocated my energies, what mattered to me were what the choices ended up being, regardless of what beliefs were driving them, and the underlying human processes of thought, perception and cognition that led us to adopting dangerous or irrational beliefs in the first place. I saw no reason to focus on the question of God specifically when I could focus instead on how humans arrive at any such dangerous beliefs (like misogyny, for instance), and on trying to minimize the actual damage humans do to one another, regardless of whether their motives were religious, spiritual or secular in nature.

What I was, or thought I was, was a skeptic, and what I cared about, and was passionate enough about to become a part of all this, was skepticism. The skepticism I believed in wasn’t about some little club for people to get together and tell each other how smart they all are for not believing in incredibly silly things like UFOs, Bigfoot, psychics, ghosts and the Loch Ness Monster… nor was it even necessarily about activism focused on address dangerous misinformation and charlatanism, like “alternative medicine”, anti-vaccination propaganda, or the aforementioned psychics (though such activists absolutely had my respect and, whenever possible, support). What I saw in skepticism was a shared set of values… something similar to the intellectual humility and hesitation I valued and saw as necessary to helping human beings cope with our irrational, flawed perceptions and brains, and helping minimize the amount of harm we inflict on one another through the mistakes those flaws and limitations inevitably lead us to make.

I saw in skepticism a great deal of potential, too. It was a community that had until recently been very much based in the “hard” sciences and in addressing the more objectively falisfiable beliefs that people held, like cryptids, UFOs, alt-med and paranormal phenomena. But I saw absolutely no reason that skepticism couldn’t be compatible with the social justice issues I also cared about, like feminism. I saw in feminism a lot of repeated mistakes made due to a lack of critical inquiry and self-reflection, and rejection of the value of science and that kind of critical thought, and I also believed that a whole lot of what feminism, and other social justice movements, were trying to address was very similar kinds of irrational beliefs and assumptions, stemming from similar human needs and limitations as beliefs in the paranormal. Misogyny, sexism, cissexism, gender binarism, racism, able-ism… these things didn’t seem meaningfully different to me from pseudo-science, new age, woo, religious faith, occultism or the paranormal. All were human beings going for easy, intuitive conclusions based on what they most wanted or needed to believe, and on what most seemed to them to be true, without that moment of doubt, hesitation and humility that skepticism encourages.

What I felt skepticism could offer all of us, in enabling us to cope with our faulty perceptions and thought, was a certain kind of agency. An ability to make a choice about what we believe instead of just going with the comfortable and most apparent truthiness. And in allowing us that agency, in allowing us that choice… we could make the right choices. Instead of settling for what we are, how we tend to see, think and believe… we could try to be something better. We could look to what we could be, to how we could see, think and believe. It was something I felt had so much potential to be such a positive force, I saw in sites like Skepchick and Freethought Blogs a kernel of that possibility, that growth away from the Aren’t We Smrt 2 Kno There Ain’t No Bigfoot Club, and I wanted to be a part of that. Thought I could be a part of that.

It wasn’t, of course, what Skepticism really turned out to be, or what it was I ended up becoming a part of… what I ended up being dragged through. The shared values I thought I saw in the skeptic community and movement weren’t really there, or at least weren’t what defined it. While there were certainly people within that community, within that movement, who I shared a great deal with, with whom I developed real friendships and senses of solidarity, those weren’t what comprised the community itself, those values weren’t what held it together. It gradually became clear that our values were what were incidental, not the problematic elements I thought could be minimized to help the movement become the positive force I saw it as having the potential to become. Most people just wanted to get together to make fun of astrology and stuff.

In retrospect, I can’t help but wonder how much of that initial sense of community and belonging and understanding I saw in, or sought from, skepticism was just itself an instance of distorted perceptions. Seeing what I wanted, or maybe needed, to see.

And of course it was so intertwined, and inseparable from, and consistently overshadowed, by Atheism. Atheism always seemed to me like such a small and narrow subset of skepticism. The simple and obvious result when you apply some basic critical thinking to the question of deities, and let go of what you want to see while letting yourself see what’s there. That’s all. Just one little question, and not a particularly difficult one. Secularism was a broader issue, yes, but also one that existing in the realm of direct politics, not in terms of thought and values. But in terms of how the communities played out, skepticism seemed this tiny little village in comparison to the vast city of internet Atheism, and what I could never entirely shake was the sense that that Atheist community, the Atheist Movement, the r/atheism and everything else… that it was just another one of those systems, like religion, of allowing people to believe what the want to believe about themselves, about their place in the world, about their role.

I found consolation in a lot of things. There was the political necessity of secularism. There was how strongly religion played an intersectional role in social issues, being just a versatile and emotionally powerful justification for…well, for almost anything… that it functioned as cornerstone of maintaining people’s biases about gender, sexuality, health, disability, race and other issues. And there was the fact that, at the end of the day, they were right. There’s no such thing as God.

But being able to answer that one question correctly, that one ridiculously obvious question, that never meant anything much in terms of one’s capacity to be a more rational, more intelligent, more moral, more perceptive, more insightful or better human being than anyone else. And I saw that confirmed over and over again in the awful, spiteful behaviours in that community, and beliefs adhered to with as much dogmatic fervor and irrational justification as any religious zealot. There were atheists who struck me as immensely more small-minded and cruel and self-absorbed and lacking in critical self-reflection as any of the theists I’d ever known, and in all honesty, as much as I found myself believing in the merit of atheist arguments, I found myself believing that had less and less to do with what makes someone a decent human being who I wanted much of anything to do with.

And then there were the demographic issues. The overwhelming degree to which the Atheist/Skeptic community (their distinctions no longer seeming relevant in terms of how it actually functioned, although it never stopped being relevant to what I valued and cared about) was dominated by men. By white people. By cis people. By straight people. And along with that, the privilege. The entitlement. The stubborn refusal to see the lack of diversity as their problem, but instead some kind of failure on the part of women and minorities to not see just how correct and awesome and intelligent they were. There was the repulsive, suffocating degree of misogyny, sexism, transphobia, racism and anti-feminism I saw over and over and over and over again, only being slightly less than a daily occurrence in certain particular pockets of the community that, as a result, were maligned as “radical feminist” or “far left” or any number of significantly more dehumanizing statements, simply for having the slightest capacity to look past their own limited experience and recognize that they don’t necessarily understand, and aren’t necessarily capable of speaking for, the entirety of human experience.

And there were the public demonstrations of that privileged, entitled myopia, like the “slaves obey your masters” billboard. It even eventually became to seem unsurprising amongst my own immediate colleagues (or former colleagues)… “men are testosterone-damaged women”, “stupid is a serious word that is used to torment more people than tranny does”, “you’re just playing martyr”, “diversity hire”, etc. As much as I loathed the perspectives of people like Be Scofield, Amy Dentata, Stephen Ira or Monica Roberts, who saw any public declaration of oneself as atheist or public criticism of religious faith as an inherently racist or racially problematic action, I couldn’t fail to see why outspoken atheists had become synonymous in their eyes with blatant privilege and insensitivity to social dynamics.

And, of course, the endless controversy over the most basic principles of feminism and women’s rights. Elevatorgate, now ongoing for over a year. The treatment of the 15 year old girl on r/reddit. The “controversy” of Staks Rosch’s all-male atheist-of-the-year list, and his ridiculous claims that it would be “tokenism” to have ANY women on a five person list, with insinuations that it would only start “making sense” for just ONE of half the world’s population to show up if it were a list twenty people long. The endless discussions of the merits of using the word “cunt” to harass and intimidate women. DJ Grothe’s insistent apologism for any dudes being “attacked” by the “radical feminist” contingent of Atheism who had some basic level of sense that all this fucked up shit was kind of fucked up. The sexual harassment issue. The blatant misogynistic appraisals of female atheist’s worth by their appearance. Mallorie Nasrallah. Paula Kirby. FTBullies. The Amazing Atheist’s meltdown while trying to deliberately trigger a rape survivor. Justin Trottier. The increasing incursion and overlap between the internet Atheist Movement and the Men’s Rights Movement. I got so sick of all that, having to see the same sexist garbage rehashed endlessly, with so much vitriol and fervor.

At first I saw this as circumstantial, something we could, and should, fight to change. Maybe it is. I thought that maybe it was a simple byproduct of the relative lack of diversity in the community, which in turn could be tied to other factors: the socio-economic effects on who can and can’t access education, the degree of importance churches and other religious gathering places serve in community cohesion for threatened minority sub-cultures, the degree to which religion has been tied to civil rights movements, the fact that Atheism had built itself on the internet which inherently tilts towards anonymity, monoculture and assimilation, how privilege and more conservative attitudes (libertarianism was especially prevalant) entrench and sustain themselves and limit the capacity of new demographics to feel welcome participating in a movement, etc. All of that stuff, intimidating and complex and problematic as it was, seemed addressable. It seemed like we could fix it, and build atheism and skepticism into the inclusive, welcoming, safe, socially conscious movement it could be, in which we work together through realization of how we’re all mutually benefited by supporting critical inquiry, thought, discussion, science, evidence, the ability to question ourselves, and the support of secular political structures.

But that volume? You see that stuff so much, it wears down your hope of ever being able to fight it. And at a certain point, you have to start asking whether it’s really just a coincidence. And recently, I began considering the possibility that these issues weren’t a result of the present configuration of the atheist movement, a comparatively easy fix in terms of just gradually working to change how we do things, but were in fact something connected to the actual fundamental roots of what an Atheist Movement actually is, and how it would by its own nature be structured.

Any kind of Atheist Movement would by necessity be primarily composed of people who’ve chosen to prioritize atheism and secularism as a particularly important part of their lives and activism. At first how I assumed this went was people generally thinking “secularism is one of many important issues presently going on, and one that I happen to feel especially passionate about, so that’s where I’m going to be put a significant chunk of my energy and attention”. Cool. And I’m sure lots of atheists do have that as their approach. I’m fine with that, and think it’s important, because we do need a contingent of activists putting significant energy into maintaining political secularism and helping prevent the emergence of theocracy. But lately it seems to me that a much more significant percentage than I’d assumed are people thinking “atheism is the most important issue, so that’s the one I’m going to focus on”.

Or, worse, when considered in light of the demographics that comprise the movement, “atheism is the only real civil rights issue, because I’m not personally affected by, and haven’t personally seen, any others, so they must either not exist or not really matter. DAWKINS RULES!”

The creepy thought that the reason a lot of outspoken, committed, passionate atheists are choosing this as their arena is because they’re too selfish, too entitled, or too sheltered, to allow any other issues to really matter to them. That they choose this ONE civil rights issue to dedicate themselves to, because it’s the ONLY legitimate civil rights issue that actually effects them, secure in their absence of ovaries, melanin, exogenous hormones, medical devices/supports, welfare checks, track scars and rainbow flags.

But it is at least a legitimate issue of civil rights, which in contrast to certain…um…other things…calls to mind more nuanced interpretations when one considers that people don’t always wait for something to actually be a real political issue before adopting this pose, and that’s something that suggests a lot of creepy implications in the apparently increasing association of Atheism with Men’s Rights.

Since being involved with feminism and social justice work, I’ve come to notice that people, especially those with the most relative power and privilege, love casting themselves as persecuted underdogs. We see this in white supremacists, in MRAs, in transphobic rad-fems, in anti-semetic conspiracy theorists and, yes, in the Christian right. Very much so. In virtually every imaginable hate group comprised of those in the position of power, they case themselves as the victim of some kind of rising, all-powerful conspiracy of minorities (usually imagined as elites) who are pushing them down, robbing them of their rights. That they are the oppressed. “persecuted Christians”, “the liberal media”, “the Jewish banking conspiracy”, “the gynocracy”, “handmaidens of the patriarchy”, etc. etc. etc.

It seems that there’s some kind of weird psychological need that a lot of people, perhaps in response to feelings that their belief of their privileges being earned is under threat, valorize and mythologize themselves as valiant Robin Hoods who dare to speak truth to power and stand up for the little guy against the tyrannical… …. Jews? Blacks? Trans people? Atheists? Women? The theme is always the same, however.

And what I worry is how much Atheism might be offering a similar sort of feeling without requiring the same levels of divorcing oneself from reality and diving into some kind of Bizarro World inversion of actual social dynamics. That what atheism is offering so many middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men is the capacity to see themselves as these savvy, smart, daring, controversial rogues who are standing up against an oppressive dogma in order to liberate the deluded sheeple. They’re, like, totally against swallowing the blue pill, dude. And so they get to be the heroes of their own narratives, instead of a passive passenger adrift on social forces more or less beyond their control… social forces that happened to guide them into a relatively safe and comfy position.

No matter how limited your views, no matter how much privilege you have, when you prop yourself up against Christianity, you get to be clever, and you get to be the rebel.

We see this not just in the flirtations of Atheism with MRAs and libertarianism and that kind of thing, but in the postures adopted in relation to all the internal conflicts I’ve been describing. Various networks and personalities within this blogosphere are repeatedly cast in the roles of heroes and villains, those “burying the truth” and those “fighting the tyrants”, those “fighting for social justice” and the “slime pit”, the “baboons” and “bullies” against the “REAL feminists, REAL women, REAL atheists, working for REAL goals”, and the same again all in reverse. Every one of us, whether we ever cared about an Atheist Movement or not, end up pulled in and dressed up as players in the epics and operas of everyone’s private interpretation of the myth.

(at the very least, what the prevalence of this kind of attitude hints at is how atheists are perhaps as often as not driven by exactly what my values, my interpretation of skepticism, what skepticism meant to me, were always built in opposition to)

This brings us back to Thunderf00t. What seemed clear to me in that discussion we had on twitter was that in his perception, he was the hero and we were the villains. His actions were determined and justified by that dichotomy. Whatever methods he found to bring us to justice were reasonable, because we were the bad guys, the tyrants, the liars, the ones hiding the truth, and that was all that the ethical considerations required.

I hope I’m wrong. I really do. I hope he proves me to be.

Maybe I’m wrong about where these problems have come from, what’s been motivating this movement, and what most strongly defines it. Again, that’s something I genuinely hope I am wrong about, and really want to be proven so. Maybe all of this really does have that potential I saw in it. Maybe those issues of diversity and privilege and sexism and everything are solveable, just an effect of the way we’ve been doing this, not what we’re doing. But I don’t think I can allow this to be my fight anymore, my win to believe in.

What are the stakes of the fight, the terms of engagement? The terms of victory? What are these people we’ve been fighting against clinging so much to? Is it to be able to keep the concept of Atheism, or the Atheist Movement for themselves? Is it about whose politics get to be the representative politics of the movement? Freethought Blogs has countless times been admonished as a “hive mind”, despite the diversity in our backgrounds and views, on the general accusation of us having a generally feminist and left-wing tilt, and having a rather dim view of libertarianism and MRAs. But no such admonishments exist for those things we do genuinely all agree on, such as atheism, evolution, the value of science, etc. Those aren’t perceived as problems because our critics ALSO agree with those things. They might say that those are scientific, objective issues, not political ones, but to be perfectly honest, we see stuff like “women should have policies in place to keep them from being sexually assaulted by random dudes at conferences” as equally fucking obvious. And nobody complains about the fact that we, as a hive mind, agree Stalin was a very bad man (political, subjective, not an issue of science). The fact is that what is really perceived as our failing isn’t that we happen to agree on some really basic stuff, but that we don’t collectively agree with other things those critics believe.

If this is what it’s really about, what politics are perceived as being the politics of The Atheist Movement… if it’s just a squabble over that brand… I’m cool with just letting them fucking have it. The Atheist Movement doesn’t have a monopoly on atheism. Anyone can simply come to the conclusion that religion is kind of silly and dangerous. The Movement doesn’t have a monopoly on secularism. Anyone can pitch in and help fight to keep religion from influencing legislation. The Movement doesn’t have a monopoly on skepticism. It barely practices it. Anyone can learn to value critical thought, doubt, hesitation, humility, honesty and questioning their perceptions and biases. And none of us need their permission. We don’t need DJ Grothe or Richard Dawkins or Justin Fucking Vacula’s seals of approval to do any of this.

Let them have The Movement. Let it be a club for entitled little white cis straight dudes to get together and tell each other how fucking smart they all are to know that John Edwards is lying, and there’s no bearded sky daddy doling out favour on the basis of how rarely you eat shellfish or have hot queer sex. Let them go right on thinking of themselves as the few insightful rebels who could see through The Matrix and now fight against the evil machinations of Andrew Schlafy and Jennifer McCreight. Let them live in their mythologies. Let them sink, bit by bit, into self-congratulatory, insulated irrelevance, while the rest of us get on with actually trying to help make the world a bit less of a mess.

See, I don’t want to be part of their club. I never did. We, as individuals, as human beings and activists and compassionate people who happen to care about the world around them, who happen to be atheists and skeptics, we can be so much better than this. We could do so much. And we don’t need to take them with us. I don’t want to be of their club, I don’t want to be part of their fight, I don’t want to be on the same team as people who go to war and hold bitter grudges and take shotgun approaches where everyone associated with their “enemies” deserves to burn and threaten to compromise confidential e-mails and out people’s names and fuck up people’s lives over the issue of having basic sexual harassment policies at conferences, I don’t want to trust people who betray my trust, I don’t want to be associated with the kind of people who think that their “free speech” rights to not to be criticized for any bigoted thing they say outweighs the rights of those their bigoted statements victimize, and I definitely don’t want to be allies with people who had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into thinking of me, or women in general, as actual human beings deserving of some basic consideration.

So please don’t expect me to participate in dragging them.

If you believe in this movement, if you believe it’s worth fighting for, if you believe it can be fixed, if you believe I’m wrong… good. You really do have all my support. If this is what you care about and you think it can be done and is worth the fight, by all means, don’t let a single thing I’ve said get in the way of that. I hope you win. And I hope you make things better for people along the way.

But there are other movements to which I belong, other things I care about, other fights I believe in, and this one is no longer a fight I can consider my own. I can just as easily be a trans-feminist who works to help people understand the values of skepticism, science and critical thought, and the dangers of religion, as I can continue being a skeptic running herself ragged trying to convince people that social justice has a place in atheism and skepticism. And I’m no longer sure it necessarily does. Maybe we have been the “drift” away from the “proper” goals all along. And if that’s the case, I’m fine with just drifting away instead, and placing my heart and energy and work where I feel it’s capable of helping in proportion to the consequences I end up having to face.

I’ll carry on being an atheist, and valuing skepticism, but I’m done with trying to fight for those terms to mean to anyone else what they mean for me. And you all can carry on with your own values and battles. You can keep squabbling and tearing each other down to determine what The Atheist Movement is to be. I won’t ever try to stop you.

But please leave me out of it.

I have other work to do.

(P.S. I really quite meant it when I said this is the last thing I mean to write about these things. So please don’t expect me to elaborate on any of this in the comment thread. I’ve said everything I felt I needed to say).

EDIT FOR CLARIFICATION: Something I noticed in the comments that I’m a bit worried about, and might make things worse, is people thinking Thunderf00t has directly threatened to out me or my name, or has suggested this is something he intends to do, for its own sake. That hasn’t happened. A few weeks ago, he threatened to publish private e-mails that would have resulted in my name being compromised, and seemed to persist in these threats after I suggested the possible consequences. Following that event, it came to light that he allegedly had regained access to the listserv (through some kind of hack or exploit or something) and was forwarding private e-mails. If that is the case, and any of those e-mail threads contained any contribution from me, my name and privacy would have compromised, and in my appraisal of the situation, it’s much more likely than not that that has already happened, but my name and safety is not something Thunderf00t has directly threatened to compromise.

In situations like this, it’s important that we err on the side of accuracy. If legal situations do come to a boil, it’s important that none of us come across as having intentionally misrepresented his actions, or stated as certainties things that have not yet been proven to be true. Hence the use of “allegedly”, “apparently”, “seemed”, and hence why I want to be very clear about what I allege to have happened.