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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.

Comments

  1. amethyststarling says

    Extremely well said. I will not pretend that I understand everything that you have gone through (and will continue to go through), however I truly admire your bravery and steadfastness. Please keep up what you are doing.

  2. Aliasalpha says

    Hands up everyone else who was increasingly afraid this was an “I quit” post.

    Damn glad it’s not, you’re a third of the reason I come to FTB

    • Sphex says

      :::raising a hand:::

      Also relieved that it doesn’t seem to be, although Natalie, were you ever to move, I’d follow.

      • Devin Emarr says

        This.

        I have only just discovered you, Natalie, but everything you write is so on point that I always feel humbled. As a white, straight, cis male, that’s something that needs to happen.

        I knew a pittance about the issues you talk about before this, but not nearly enough. To paraphrase someone in a comment on one of your recent posts: Reading what you write makes me a better person.

        Now, as for me, I would count myself among the people trying to hammer these social justice values into the thick-skulled fabric of the atheist movement, but I cannot blame you for devoting your energies where they will do the most good. In fact, you’re doing something that I am not in a position to do, namely, offering insight into the issues faced by un-privileged groups, which I cannot count myself a part of. (I feel that the mantle of “atheist” is so insignificant that it does not bear mentioning as far as privilege goes.)

        All in all: Thank you, Natalie. You are fast becoming one of my heroes.

        • GordonWillis says

          I have a lot in common with Devin and very much second his comment. I think your post is extraordinarily lucid, Natalie, and seems to have touched accurately on every major point.

          My own thoughts as to “movements” in general are entirely skeptical: it’s a feature of my basic constitution that I distrust them. For me, there never was a “movement”, just the discovery of decent people free of thralldom to doctrine or ideology saying decent things, aspiring to accuracy of thought and perception and insisting on decent behaviour. That could be considered a “movement” in a somewhat fundamental sense, but that doesn’t seem to me to be of any importance. Movements develop orthodoxies and theories which give plenty of power to opportunists, and there will always be bandwagons for the self-interested. Being a “movement” is both unnecessary and a mistake.

          Being human is the only sense of “belonging” or “community” that counts for me, and I think that it is the antithesis of petty tribal groupings.

      • markelamb says

        Me 3. Only about 1% of the way through FTB’s recent materials… This blog is outstanding, even by FTB standards.

    • Daniel Schealler says

      Raises Hand

      Me too – also fantastically glad you’re not leaving.

      You’re a fantastic consciousness-raiser. You talk about things on a regular basis that I didn’t even know I was ignorant about. I’m not the only one.

      What you’re doing is incredibly valuable.

      Obviously, personal safety comes first, so I’d support you either way.

      But I’m very glad that this doesn’t seem to be an “I’m leaving outright” post.

      I’m sorely tempted to talk trash about Tf00t at this point… But you want out of it, so I’ll not raise it.

    • says

      Hand down, not up. Given a choice between having this blog and having Natalie…

      Then bye bye this blog.

      I was not ‘increasingly afraid’ about this post being a final post – I have real concern for Natalie’s safety when a ranting misogynistic douchebagge thinks it’s perfectly okay to use the threat of exposing her real life identity, and in effect compromising her safety as well, basically as a pawn in some irrational feud he has with a completely different party.

      In the circumstances I would support any action she has to take to keep herself safe.

      • says

        I see no conflict between understanding why Natalie might well have chosen to leave for her safety’s sake, and still being sad if that eventuality had occurred.

      • says

        oh, and I wouldn’t ever, in a thousand years think of trying to talk Natalie out of leaving had she decided that. But I’d still would have been sad to lose one of the best FTBloggers

      • Usernames are smart says

        I have real concern for Natalie’s safety when a ranting misogynistic douchebagge thinks it’s perfectly okay to use the threat of exposing her real life identity, and in effect compromising her safety as well, basically as a pawn in some irrational feud he has with a completely different party.

        Hopefully, legal action will be taken against said mysogynistic douchebag, and (should he be found guilty) he suffer the maximum penalty allowed by law, up to and including fines, jail, supervised release, restrictions (or outright prohibitions) on computer/’net use, etc.

      • bismarket says

        Oh wow, is that what he’s done, has he threatened or actually gone & released peoples identities? Where has he done that, can you show me, it’s a serious question because there are some types of people that would say those kinds of things to try & be dishonest about someone’s position in order to get people to think they were bad people or something. About a week ago, one of the add-ons to my browser was playing up & for some reason it looked as is Hemant Mehta (The friendly Atheist) had joined FtB, So i stayed away for a week & put a lot of thought into whether i would stay with TFA because of the way i saw FtB acting, i even sent an eMail to Hemant when i thought i saw he’d returned to Patheos expressing my relief. His reply saying he had no intention of joining FtB was what made me realise that i had a faulty add-on. The point i’m trying to make is that to me FtB isn’t about Atheism so much anymore & some of the bloggers have actually gone on the attack against it (Some single out MALE Atheists). I no longer feel that FtB is relevant to anything, except to itself & have unsubbed from all those blogs i was previously reading. Think back to how & why all this began, doesn’t it make you all so proud at your achievements? Such a shame the movement couldn’t have been left in even more tatters. I’m leaving you to it, have fun agreeing with each other. I’m sticking with Dawkins, Hirsi Ali, Harris & the late Christopher Hitchens, because at least they have something important to talk about☮

        • says

          Okay, you stick with them then. Good for you. So, um, what are you doing here?

          Thanks, by the way, for providing direct, immediate evidence of my thesis that many atheists go around thinking that it’s the only “relevant” or “important” issue.

          As for your question: No, as I clarified, Thunderf00t didn’t explicitly threaten the release of my identity. He explicitly threatened to publicize private e-mails that, if forwarded, would have the consequence of compromising my identity. I informed him of this and he didn’t back down. It was then later discovered that he (allegedly…always allegedly) had hacked into the private listserv and had indeed been forwarding e-mails from it. If any of the threads he forwarded contained any contribution from me whatsoever, that would have, again, had the consequence of compromising my identity, and this is far more likely to be the case than not. The only reason I’m responding here is because I do care about accuracy, and don’t want to open myself up to being accused of misleading anyone about what happened, but I’m NOT going to restate, over and over again, a clarification I’ve already made just because one of the angry “FTB is MISANDRIST and RUINING THE MOVEMENT!!!” people decides to get in a fit before making sure their concerns haven’t already been addressed.

    • Blueaussi says

      ::waves hand::

      I am one of those horribly oblivious cis people, and I have learned so much in such a short time by reading this blog. I would be terribly sad to see Natalie stop blogging here.

    • Dlcak says

      I had never read material like yours, particully your point of view until your blog. I learned a lot and would miss your blog. Please keep writing in a forum that the pubic can access.

    • betsumei says

      I don’t have enough hands to put up for this. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this distraught to imagine a blogger quitting (while completely understanding why she’d want to do so).

      • Chrisj says

        This. But I’d like to add this: Thank you, Natalie, for taking the time to explain so many things I didn’t previously understand – or didn’t even know that I didn’t understand. I think (and certainly hope) that reading your blog has made me a better person.

    • lochaber says

      same here. really disappointed to hear about things reaching this level, and more so about the possible threats it poses to you.

      Glad to hear you aren’t leaving altogether, I’ve really enjoyed your writing, and learned a lot from it, so thanks.

      I’m not so much interested in atheism, as I am in something that can fight against the worse aspects of religion (misogyny, racism, anti-science, homophobia, transphobia, etc., etc.).

      Anyways, whatever you decide to write about, I’m sure I’ll still enjoy (and probably learn from) reading it.

      Hope things work out in the best (least harmful?) way possible, and just wanted to voice my appreciation of your past efforts and writing.

    • Rieux says

      Count me in.

      It’s frightening to see how this episode has played out, and it would be entirely understandable and legitimate if Natalie took her work and her identity elsewhere—but FTB, if not indeed the world, would be poorer for it.

      As for the OP, I think the atheist movement is worth fighting for, but Natalie obviously has no obligation to do so, or to feel that our chances of beating back the haters justify the effort, grief, and risk.

    • Luna_the_cat says

      ::raises hand as well::

      Natalie, I read here much more than I comment, on the basis that listening instead of talking is helping me understand things I don’t really have to deal with in my own life. I learn from you. And by damn, can you write, too!

      I understand this much, though: being scared about your real-life id being made public, because of the issues you really truly have to deal with.

      But please, please, PLEASE don’t stop writing. If you don’t ever want to touch this whole “atheist” Unsinn again, I totally get that, and it’s not why I read you anyway. It’s the trans-feminism, the window into issues that I need to think about and help support people with, that I am here for.

      • Luna_the_cat says

        Having said that, of course I agree with the other people here who are saying “Do whatever you need to stay safe.” That IS most important.

        And I’m glad you are continuing to blog here, of course. But if you ever have to not do that, for whatever reason, then for the love of little green apples don’t feel guilt over it.

    • Pierce R. Butler says

      Handses!

      Eloquence + excellence, under pressure.

      “Natalie Reed” deserves a statue on the same pedestal as Sandra Fluke, Jessica Watson, and Jessica Ahlquist, as hero(in)es holding their ground and keeping their feet when suddenly, unexpectedly, & undeservedly subjected to torrents of viciously sexist verbal sewage.

    • BCat70 says

      I am a great ‘profiling’ candidate for those people Natalie discussed, but I want to say up front, I am NOT one of them. I have to honestly say that I don’t get quite a bit of what bloggers without my privileged background write about going through, because I haven’t gone through it. But because of that I FUCKING well pay attention and humbly try to learn about their problems. I used to like Tf00t, now I am learning to despise him.

      Fuck you Thunderf00t, for failing to do more, BE more than someone who mocks those who you think are less than you. Even if you were always right in the past, you have fallen to their level and I feel you will not rise again.

      I consider myself to be a “Freethinker”, in the long and liberal tradition that began when Giordano Bruno was killed by the Inquisition. I was under the impression that the Gnu Atheists were just current aspect of that movement. I was wrong- who I am and who WE are (I hope to include you, Natalie as a my fellow traveler. Its bluntly obvious to me though that I won’t unless you can include me as yours. How hard is that? ) is something that atheism -even the new, militant, stop theocracy atheism- is only a tiny fraction of. I will speak and work for “Free”, “Liberal”, “Equal” because goddammit, people like Natalie deserve my privileges, as much as I do who was born to them. It that simple.

      Thank you, Natalie for claiming the right to exist, publicly and privately. If I knew your other persona, I would be proud to call you friend.

    • StevoR says

      Hands up everyone else who was increasingly afraid this was an “I quit” post.

      Raises both hands.

      Internet (((hugs))) if you want them Natalie Reed. Well written post that makes me terribly sad.

    • Stephen Foster says

      Also a *HAND* sticking way up in the sky. Natalie, I’m sorry and thank you.

      This part:

      “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.”

  3. physioprof says

    I hope you decide that you can fight for the things you choose to fight for as a member of FreeThoughtBlogges. Because FreeThoughtBlogges is deeper and broader than just “atheism” or “skepticism” or whatever, and is defined by a deep abiding respect for genuine freedom of thought and freedom of being for everyone subject only to the constraints of objective reality.

  4. petterisulonen says

    De-lurking. I’ve followed FTB since it was SciB, but haven’t commented, until now.

    Thank you.

    I haven’t participated for reasons similar to yours, although I come from a very different place – cis, straight, white, male. I used to be active on alt.atheism back in the ’90’s and early noughties, but drifted off. The God question is so trivial that it’s not interesting to me, and my experience is that mere atheism is a very poor proxy for general rationality, let alone decency as a human being. And as human rights issues go, the ones faced by (white, straight, cis, male) atheists are pret-ty far down the priority list.

    Yet I believe very strongly that society should be secular. That laws and ethics should be formulated through rational debate and discussion rather than simple appeals to tradition. And above all that we should do everything we can to make things fair. The accident of birth deals wildly different hands. For me it’s ethically blindingly obvious that we should do all we can to correct that.

    So thank you, Natalie, for blogging. And thank you, Freethought Blogs.

  5. Dhorvath, OM says

    Fair enough. I have learned much, although not enough by far and that lack lays at my feet, from your words here and value your participation in a venue that exposed your ideas to me. Thank you for that, and I hope you can move beyond the petty natures you have found in the atheist movement.

  6. says

    MY atheism stands beside you. Beside rights for all. Beside HONESTY, INTEGRITY, and Honest discourse. Though I may not always agree with the conclusions you have come to, I respect your ability to discuss the issues, to bring to light failings of our world that we might seek to change in our lifetime. I only say this now because I can say what others cannot. You know better than most that there are a number of people lurking who cannot comment or who choose not to out of fear. I know a couple, and they would agree with what I just said. Please for their sakes, and for the sake of the movement going forward. Please keep writing. It doesn’t matter whether it’s here or on Neptune; whether it’s about skepticism or sexism or LGBTQ or the purple haired green eyed 3 toed wombat just keep writing. Awareness of all issues will keep pushing change. I only hope change comes in our lifetime.

    I do hope that you do not become a casualty of pettiness. I hope that small minds wake up and see that damaging you retards progression in a far more dangerous way than almost any other action.

  7. PDX_Greg says

    Very poignant post. I hope your security stays where it belongs, and that the Thunderpriv can maintain some sense of propriety on the behalf of simple human decency. It’s sad to think that major parts of your life and livelihood are at risk because of yet another individual’s infantile response to the exposing of his privilege that is baked into his self-righteous worldview.

  8. (e)m says

    Natalie, I have never felt myself as a part of the atheist movement. I am an atheist, but that is only a small part of me, and seeing how people have reacted to trying to put harrassment policies in place, has made me never want to be part of the atheist movement. Thank you for your writing. It has made me understand myself more. It has also made me think about many other things. I found you due to ftb, so I thank the atheist movement for that. If you decide to blog elsewhere, unrelated to the atheism/skepticism movement, please let us know. I want to continue to follow your writing.

  9. says

    As someone who believes in fighting for betterment of the skeptic and atheist brands, I’m sad that you no longer want in. But that’s totally your prerogative, and it would be silly to think any less of you for it. To some extent my ability to remain comfortable in the movement, despite numerous fiascos related to sexism, comes from my privilege to not be personally impacted by most of them.

  10. says

    Damn it, I’m not even in as deep as you’ve been and I recognize every word of this. What will I do without you? damn. We’re a hundred years too early, sister. What a hideous, but necessary, loss.

  11. Artemis says

    I’m just one reader, but I wanted to say that as long as you keep writing, I’ll keep reading. So you want to change some of the areas you write on? Your writing has been consistently eloquent, moving and thought provoking, regardless of the topic. If you need to move to a new blog host, one with better security I would happily read you there as well.

    I worked out I was an atheist all on my own, but it was people like you that helped me realise that I had gender issues, and that I could find my authentic self outside my assigned gender. But beyond that, you are just a great fucking writer and I hope everything turns out OK.

  12. zacevans says

    It sucks that a poison so toxic as you describe can spread through ‘The Movement'; and I reckon you’re probably making the right decision.

    I only recently started reading this blog, but I get the impression that you will offer a valuable contribution to the cause of clear and critical thought that skepticism and atheism are meant to be about, without necessarily being on the front line of some kind of (un)holy war. And it’s probably best to support those things without incidentally supporting the toxic club that you’ve described. So… as I said, I think you’re probably making the right decision.

    Stay strong.

  13. says

    I stand beside you. You will have my sword.

    And my bow.

    And my axe.

    …wait, that’s something else…

    Regardless, I stand with you in believing that skepticism and humanism imply valuing truth and justice and the like. And if the likes of Thunderybuttp00p want it otherwise? Let them have their little club. They are on the wrong side of history.

  14. dogeared, spotted and foxed says

    I just read Zinnia’s post and immediately came here.

    Fuck, I don’t even know what to say. That someone would threaten to out you to make a stupid point about nothing…it’s psychotic. Completely sick obsessive behavior.

    I’m with you. Fuck atheism, fuck skepticism, fuck whatever movement applauds stalking people and hurting people. Let the deep rifts happen. Let assholes like this and their vicious little peanut gallery sail off to Righteous Atheism Land and plant the flag. I’ll travel the uncharted waters.

  15. Robert B. says

    I hope you’re safe, you and all the other pseudonymous FTBloggers. I have every confidence that whatever battles you choose to fight will be good and honorable ones.

  16. says

    Wow.

    Thunderfoot’s a dick.

    (OMFSM is it okay to say dick or is that too much like cunt in reverse or… well, I have to use some word, and “idiot” won’t cut it.)

    I didn’t see too many of all these horrible things in the atheist movement, but then again, I don’t read too many blogs, and those I do read are mostly about precisely these topics (feminism, anti-racism, social justice), so it might have escaped my attention.

    Anyway, thanks for the post and thanks for writing posts at all!
    *holds up hands for Aliasalpha*

      • John Horstman says

        “Asshole” is body-shaming/-phobic. Pretty much all of our slurs function by analogy to something else deemed undesirable by normative culture. The only thing your can really do if you want to avoid the risk of pissing anyone off is stick to hyper-specific descriptions with a minimum of connotative meaning.

        However, because there exists no (well, extremely limited) systemic discrimination/marginalization that oppresses men, using something like “dick” as a slur doesn’t serve to re-inscribe any sort of systemic oppression, so it’s far less problematic than something like “cunt”. I actually think it’s less problematic than “asshole”, as coprophobia and anal-related body-shaming are far more prevalent than misandry of any sort. Of course, one can always try to get non-identity-category-no-ability-inflected generalized slurs adopted, but given how hard it’s been to get even any sort of gender-neutral pronoun system in place and widely adopted, that sort of intentional linguistic engineering may not be feasible.

  17. Alukonis, metal ninja says

    Hear, hear.

    This is pretty much why I don’t have any interest in going to atheist conferences. I rather feel the same way.

    Thanks for writing this, and I hope that your identity remains protected. I know there are a lot of people that would do real harm to you for writing this blog (and, unfortunately, just existing) and that some asshole would expose you to that just because he got his little fee-fees hurt is unconscionable.

    • says

      Bullshit Sétar, that’s a completely fucked up metaphor and don’t dignify it by saying ‘this is the price we have to pay in this war’. Bullshit. This is someone deciding he might take out an ally because he knows they’re way more vulnerable to risk than the guy’s *actual* target, and he basically doesn’t care if it fucks up their real life. That is ethically monstrous. It’s completely arbitrary, unnecessary, and unjustifiable.

    • says

      This isn’t my last post. This is just the last time I’m posting anything about the fucking Atheist Movement and its stupid little squabbles.

      Also: it isn’t a war, and there shouldn’t be casualties. The fact that anyone is thinking of it as such is pretty disturbing, and if it is, I was definitely drafted, not a volunteer.

      • says

        Natalie,

        I’m relieved to hear from you directly that this isn’t your last post, and you aren’t closing the blog. I’m not all that interested in the internecine squabbles of the Atheist movement — I’m an atheist, and I like some of the writings to come out of the movement, but I’m not really a member of that community. But I do really enjoy reading, and profit from, your blog. I would be sad to see it end.

        I am horrified to hear that you have concerns for your safety & welfare from this incident. I hope that all is and continues to be well with you.

        And thanks for all the writing you’ve done, and (hopefully) will do.

        SF

  18. says

    Natalie, I really can’t add anything better than what you’ve already said upthread. Having seen the exchange of Tweets at the time, I really hope nothing hurts you in real life because of this situation, as it’s obviously beyond horrible that you’ve been dragged into it and have to deal with it. *hugs*

    • PatrickG says

      Seconded.

      I really hope nothing negative towards you happens (beyond what has) because of this. Really, really hope.

  19. Brian says

    Thank you Natalie, you’ve said exactly whats been on my mind recently about the ‘atheist’/’skeptic’ movements.

  20. Brownian says

    I can’t disagree with any of this.

    This is the atheist movement? These are the issues atheists care about? Protecting their white, male, dude to privilege? Being able to hit on whoever they want, wherever they want, using whatever language they think is lulzy?

    Fuck that noise.

    I’m glad you’re not leaving.

  21. Sphex says

    Tfoot is despicable, and I’m glad to hear that FTB is looking into the legal options.

    But Natalie, if there is anything I can do that would actually help you in “real life” please let me know.

  22. Joshua says

    Long time lurker here; I just wanted to say that I love your writing and I’ll follow your blog no matter the venue or topic.

    P.S.: That sounded less creepy in my head.

  23. benjaminsa says

    It is incredibly sad that Thunderf00t is threatening your anonymity, when that is exactly what happened to him on youtube and he denounced it in a video. I really hope he doesn’t out you, stay safe.

    I feel the same as you, and I think many in the community are feeling similar. This infighting is incredibly frustrating, but if it takes splintering the community to create safe spaces I am all for it. Atheism
    is a single position on a single question, and everything else associated we bring to it, it is time to have more discriminating club rules.

  24. HerbieTheBeagle says

    De-lurking to say that I’m incredibly sorry you are in this situation. There are no excuses for TF’s behaviour and no real words to convey my disgust at his actions. You are a fantastic writer and I have learnt a lot by reading your posts since you joined FTB – I am sure I’m not the only one, so you are making a difference. I hope you continue to write and work to make the world better. I still have hope for atheism as a movement and will continue to work at it, but we are poorer for no longer being able to count you among us.

  25. Pen says

    I believe there’s a genuine issue in atheism (small a)where some large proportion of the people have a very strong ethic and care deeply about ethical issues and some other large proportion abandoned morality along with their gods. I’ve encountered a significant number of such people. Hence why some people think social justice under a secular moral system is fundamental and others think it’s irrelevant.

    The Atheist Movement – I wasn’t aware such a thing existed. I never signed a membership form and I don’t intend to. I thought it was the atheist movement (small a, small m), ie, just atheists being more inclined to talk about atheism or related subjects on the internet. Some of the bloggers may be virtually professional atheists, but the commentariat, I’m sure, all have other lives.

    OK – apart from that, I just wanted to say, I really value your blog Nathalie, I hope you keep on writing great posts on whatever subject you think is important + what this Thunderfoot is doing sounds appalling, but the rumours are only just filtering through to me, I hardly know what to say.

    • says

      I don’t think anybody abandons morality along with their gods. I think some people aren’t moral because they’re deficient in empathy, or they have selective empathy. Whether they’re religious is a completely unrelated issue. People who help at soup kitchens do it with or without gods. People who treat other humans as chess pieces do so with or without gods. Although yeah, religion is often an excuse for putting people in yet another out-group.

  26. Emburii says

    I support you and I hope that Thunderf00l finds some basic, tiny, shred of empathy that will have him apologize. Better yet, that he might understand that he should not be threatening people’s very lives for his hurt feelings.

  27. says

    I agree with pretty much everything you said. I feel the same way. This is why I’m a human being who just happens to be an atheist. I’m not part of the “atheist community” because I don’t have much in common with the most vocal members of the “mainstream movement” or old boys’ club or whatever it is.

    Whatever you do, please keep writing. And keep yourself safe.

  28. Stacy says

    I’m going to keep fighting, but I grok where you’re coming from. If I have to choose between “skepticism” and social justice, I’ll take the epistemology I’ve learned from skepticism and apply it to social justice, and leave “skepticism” to debunk Bigfoot for the eleventy billionth time.

    Please keep blogging at FtB. I’ve learned a lot from you.

    As for Tf–fuck him and the horse he rode in on. I almost want to thank him for showing the world exactly what a specious and unprincipled ass he is.

  29. Konradius says

    Well, I don’t know if it helps, but you have a white, cis, straight, middleaged* friend in the Netherlands who considers you part of his ‘team’.
    The atheist, and all other, movements are not owned by anyone and they’re owned by everyone.
    I’m sure you’re aware of them, but if you’re not, read the ‘speaking out against hate’ series on skepchick.
    I’m looking forward to your new posts.

    *can I say that at 39?

  30. says

    Words fail.

    Naw, I have no words.

    The idea of any one group having a grasp on teh Troof fails.

    Especially if they feel they are in service to an end that justifies whatever means they can stomach.

    Do what you gotta do to stay safe.

  31. says

    THank you for this. I’ve felt this way for years, ever since I saw my first few bits up excusing crypto-racism and not-so-crypto sexism get excused because the person saying them was an atheist and wasn’t fighting religion more important? I got away from religion to get away from this crap.

    Ad like many people above, I’m really glad this wasn’t a goodbye post.

  32. says

    A few years ago, there was a minor incident on the JREF forums, when Rebecca Watson was accidentally given moderator privileges, and as a joke, banned several users. Needless to say, this incident is portrayed as a kind of second Holocaust in Slimepitter circles. I wonder if Thunderf00t will receive the same opprobrium?

  33. ischemgeek says

    And with that move, Thunderf00t has lost the last shred of respect I had for him.

    There is zero excuse for threating to drop docs on someone. None. If that person is threatening to harm someone else, by all means turn their info over to the cops if you have it along with screenshot evidence of their threats. Otherwise, don’t ruin anonymity. For someone in a situation like yours, it’s just dangerous.

    And on your point: I’m with you. If they want The Athiest Movement, they can have it. I might be an athiest, but I’m also bisexual, dealing with a chronic illness and a learning disability, and a woman. And I know people affected by racism, transphobia, and other forms of ableism I’m shielded from. Religious privilege is an important issue to deal with, but other social issues are just as important.

  34. A. Person says

    *Raises hand for Aliasalpha*

    Natalie, I’d much rather have your type of skepticism. I admire that you aren’t letting the threat of being doxed silence you.

  35. says

    What the fuck? Thunderf00t… he… it…
    What?
    The?
    Fuck!?
    I don’t grok the interior of that dude’s skull. At all. And I hope I never do, because if I did, I might get some of the crazy on me.
    Um… I’d like to offer some sort of concrete support, but Google Maps says there’s a meatspace distance of about 980 miles between us, which kind of limits my options. If any of your projects (present or future) could use an editor, a graphic artist, or a typesetter, please feel free to get in touch when you’re looking for the person to do that.

  36. says

    I fully support you, Natalie, and I hope TF comes to his senses. This has turned into an obsession. I do understand feeling angry over being wronged, but you have to try to use that anger to make something positive come from it. He’s not trying to make something positive come from his anger. He’s launching a campaign of personal destruction, and helping to divide the secular movement.

    Natalie, I hope you continue to value critical thinking and take some positive lessons from your involvement. I don’t always read your blog, but when I do, I’ve been very moved by your posts, and you’ve influenced my thinking on issues. Thanks, and I’m glad you’re staying at FTB.

    I’ll still stay active in my local skeptical group. There are people that I disagree with, but overall they are decent people. I’m not going to make room for an MRA or TF fan to move in.

    National groups, however, I’m going to have to take a closer look before I support any of them.

    I may not be a skeptical activist, but I still want to learn the lessons of skepticism and apply them towards social movements I support.

    I look forward to seeing more posts from you.

  37. Dunc says

    I’m simply fucking appalled. I wish I could say I was surprised, but sadly, I’m not. Apparently there are no depths that some people won’t sink to when they feel their privilege under threat.

  38. says

    “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”

    What? I never argued that. I simply argued that the discussion about non-Western, non-white-dominated religions should not be dominated by white people, because we collectively don’t have a clue what we’re talking about outside of the culture we’re raised in. The point isn’t that being atheist or anti-theist is inherently racist, it’s that critiquing non-white cultures as a white person inevitably leads to racist ends, and that we as white Westerners do not have sufficient experience in cultures we’re not a part of to give meaningful criticism. Many non-Western religions aren’t even necessarily religions in the Western sense, nor do they necessarily have a concept of the supernatural like we do. By injecting ourselves into those discussions instead of letting atheists within those communities do the talking, we exert white privilege. We do not have an objective understanding of other cultures like so many claim; our view of the world is biased according to embedded white, Christian heritage that runs deep into our cultural memes and fundamental ways of thinking about the world. That isn’t a call for cultural relativism, it’s just fact.

    I really don’t understand where you draw your interpretation of my original post from. It seems more like you found my argument to be similar enough to New Atheist talking points used to defend against attacks by pro-religion types, and so rounded down my argument to that talking point instead of seeing my actual point. There was so much grandstanding and misinterpretation going on in the rebuttal on your site that I didn’t even bother engaging, because it seemed like a lost cause. Everybody was rallying around an imagined pro-religion argument that wasn’t there to begin with.

    Criticism of New Atheism or anti-theist arguments among whites isn’t the same thing as being pro-religion or equating atheism with racism. You’re smart on a lot of issues, but you consistently drop the ball when it comes to understanding white privilege. I hope you keep working at it.

    I’m sorry you’ve gone through so much harassment at the hands of the atheist community, and for all the other drama that’s been going on.

    • 'Tis Himself says

      It was apparent to me that you were and still are saying “thou shalt not discuss non-white religions EVER because you don’t understand them and you’re a racist if you do discuss them, particularly in a negative manner.”

      Seemingly your stance is slightly more nuanced than that, but most people appear to take you at your word:

      …it’s that critiquing non-white cultures as a white person inevitably leads to racist ends, and that we as white Westerners do not have sufficient experience in cultures we’re not a part of to give meaningful criticism.

    • says

      I’m sorry if this is a derail, but you phrased it so broadly that what Natalie said was fair. You objected to the idea of white people making general critiques of religion even when non singling out non-Western, non-white-dominated religions in any way because their critique included said religions. For that matter, pretty much all religions except Wicca, Greek paganism and Norse Paganism are majority non-white. Your position seems to preclude all but the most narrow criticisms of religion, at least for Natalie.

      • Mal Adapted says

        I was about to ask “Which religions are the non-white ones?” My atheism, most succinctly, is a rejection of belief in the existence of deities. I’m at least dimly conscious of my own white privilege (much credit to Natalie), but how can I distinguish between white and non-white deities?

    • Anri says

      … critiquing non-white cultures as a white person inevitably leads to racist ends, and that we as white Westerners do not have sufficient experience in cultures we’re not a part of to give meaningful criticism.

      Is it inevitably racist for me to state that there is no good evidence that Vishnu is real?

      If not, I am perfectly capable of being critical of Hinduism, regardless of the hue of my skin or the place of my birth.

    • says

      What is that I don’t even.

      I suppose it was a mistake for Natalie to mention your name in the middle of her extremely personal, emotionally raw post. That said, can we please let this discussion be about what Natalie’s saying about the atheist movement, and not have it derailed with your entirely tangential talking points?

    • Gyeong Hwa says

      I agree with this in many ways. It is my impression that white New Atheists seems to think they are free from racial baggage and their own privilege simply because they are atheists. And also I think atheists of color are more than capable of criticizing their indigenous religions without the input of white people. It’s like, some atheist have this “savior” complex where they think brown people need them (or their opinions) to criticize religion.

      /sorry for the derail

      • says

        I agree with this in many ways. It is my impression that white New Atheists seems to think they are free from racial baggage and their own privilege simply because they are atheists.

        QFT.

        In particular, it’s been my experience that white New Atheists often veer into racism when talking about Islam and Muslims. (Pat Condell’s hate-filled rants against Muslim immigration; Sam Harris’ apologia for racial profiling; and the number of far-right racist assholes who came out of the woodwork to support “Draw Mohammed Day”, for instance.)

      • Wowbagger, Antipodean Dervish says

        I’ve come to the conclusion that white atheists – esp. white male atheists/skeptics – seem to think that, because they don’t believe in gods or bigfoot or UFOs or whatever, they can’t ever be wrong about anything, particular issues of equality and social justice.

        Really, it’s like they’ve replaced the word ‘faith’ with the word ‘skepticism’ to justify whatever beliefs they don’t want to give up.

    • IanK says

      And yet FGM is still repugnant by any measure. Almost forces you to believe in an objective morality! How can I not, as a thinking human, fail to appraise religion – especially where it intersects directly with my experience of culture and society. I don’t believe my skin colour is relevant as a criteria for thinking.

  39. Brisvegan says

    So sorry that this threat was/is hanging over you. Anyone who seems willing to “accidentally” risk outing someone to win an argument is clearly an asshole.

    Very glad you will still be writing. I don’t comment much, but I do read and love your blog. Your passion, thoughtfulness and intelligence shine from every word you write.

    Wishing you much support and many good things to help you feel better.

  40. Susan says

    comments: tl;dr

    If something happens, and your real name is outed, (which I sincerely hope does not happen) you can do things to protect yourself. In fact, you can do things to protect yourself even now. Just google reputation management.

    I’m sure a lot of other people have said this, but I totally understand where you are coming from. Petty little assholes arguing about things that don’t matter = very boring and unproductive movement.

  41. says

    I understand it is up to you to determine your personal boundaries.
    Please know that you have a tremendous positive impact on my life and the lives of many I care for, and we support you.

  42. says

    What. the. fuck.

    Natalie, when it comes down to it, I’d rather be part of whatever you are working towards than any fucking “skeptical” movement.

    That anyone would be so fucking privileged and childish as to potentially risk someone’s life and safety over being booted from a goddamn blog network is utterly disgusting.

  43. Greg says

    *HAND*

    I’m SO glad you aren’t walking away from us.

    I say and hear so often (in various situations) that certain groups need to police themselves. How can a group expect to be taken seriously, when certain parts of that group are radical? This is one of our areas. As a Youtuber, with my whopping 6,000 subs (thus, meaning I’m not that influential) I’ve remained quiet on various TF00t issues, because he seemed to still produce more positives than negatives. Also, because I’ve tried to stay clear of drama in an effort to not get bogged down in issues like this. That balance has swung the other way in recent weeks. Fellow Youubers have tried to police some of his more radical views up, but those efforts seem to of had minimal results.

    All that being said, I’m glad you’ll still be around for a while. =)

  44. says

    So sorry to see this Natalie (raises hand). TF has no business doing anything to make you less safe in any way. I’ve lost all respect for him.

    I’m a bit tongue-tied as to how to say this, but you have in me a loyal reader now. Please be well.

  45. cassmorrison says

    I’m glad you’re continuing to blog. I don’t know if it’s the skeptic or atheist “community but I totally agree that mainstream isn’t for me because of exactly the things you say.

  46. Quietmarc says

    I just wanted to say that I am so very, very glad that I found you back when you were on Skepchicks, and that I admire you’re writing and your way of thinking. So much of what you wrote here resonates with me. I’m probably never going to be a part of the “atheist movement” (whatever that really means), but I am 100% behind using skepticism as a tool to understand the world and to make it a better place for everyone.

    This battle over the atheism movement needs to happen, but it’s a battle that has to happen pretty much everywhere. Being human, you absolutely have the right to choose where to direct your efforts.

    And so long as you keep writing (about whatever you choose) I hope to continue reading.

  47. says

    Well thank you for completely misrepresenting my position. This is why there is a problem in this community. Because instead of trying to understand each other, people here just try to demonize each other. Instead of having conversations, they name call, block, ban, etc. But whatever…

    • Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

      yeah, THAT’s the problem with the movement. Not the fucking laundry list of actual problems that Natalie listed – OH NO! The real problem is all about YOU.YOUYOUYOUYOUYOU

      You’ve got your white sausage fest movement, dude. GO BACK TO IT.

      • says

        That you for proving my point. You don’t care about all the things I have done in support of equal rights for all. All you care about is labeling those you don’t like bigots, racists, etc. Facts be damned. No rational discussion can be found here.

        • oh are you serious says

          “You don’t care about all the things I have done in support of equal rights for all.”

          Newsflash: THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU.

        • says

          You don’t care about all the things I have done in support of equal rights for all.

          You are precisely correct. Because doing those things (whatever they were) was good, but doesn’t excuse you from the obligation to admit error and apologize, and then try to fix the problem, when you screw up.

          Everybody fucks up, but when you refuse to admit you were wrong and double down, that’s when it goes from “you fucked up” to “you no longer have the right to claim ally status”.

    • karadoc says

      In general, if you say that your position has been misrepresented, then I think it’s a good idea to follow up by some kind of explanation of what your actual position is. If such an explanation is not given, then you’re essentially just forcing everyone to guess what your true meaning was; and guess whether or not you’re trying to backtrack from it; and guess which parts of the ‘misrepresented’ version are true.

      In my view, rather than saying “you misrepresented me and therefore you are the problem” you should have said “I think you misrepresented my position. The reason I did X was not Y, as you imply, but rather Z.

      Obviously if you throw insults at a blogger on their home turf, their fans will (rightfully) shout you down.

  48. says

    What surprises me the most is the naiveté of the prominent speakers in the community.
    At some point they must have deluded themselves that the internet, the atheist/skeptic community is some sort of hugbox where real life problems and divisions don’t exist.

    When confronted with reality and problems, they hide their head in the sand instead of confronting problems head-on.
    Armchair activism only gets you so far.

    I regret to see you leave the discussion, the community has lost another voice and you have contributed to the problem of lacking diversity.

    • tab says

      “and you have contributed to the problem of lacking diversity.”
      Not cool. Not cool at all. Stop victim blaming…

      • says

        I’m not “victim blaming”, I didn’t say it’s her fault to be a victim.
        Don’t make shit up.

        I’m criticizing her defeatism.

        If she thinks, as she said, that the minorities are underrepresented in the movement, it’s even -more- a reason to stay and endure.

        Rosa Parks didn’t suddenly quit her fight because she lost her job after the boycott. Especially if we take into account that if Natalie is right and Tf00t wanted to silence her, well, congratulation, he won (at least with atheism activism).

        It’s a question of conviction vs risk, Natalie just doesn’t care enough to endure the risk, and, as I said, I can understand that, but I’m still going to criticize her for it.

        Especially since she seems to ignore all the people that support her. I mean look at this comments section, there are ~150 comments here of which ~90% are positive and supportive of what she does.
        Not to mention there isn’t even a concrete risk yet, nothing was published, nothing puts her in any concrete danger.

        I find her decision to be disappointing.

        That is all.

        • ischemgeek says

          1) You are blaming Natalie. For ‘contributing to the lack of diversity’. How about blaming Thunderf00t for threatening her and making her feel unsafe?

          2) Seriously? You’re going to pull the “risk is not concrete” BS? Trans people get beaten and killed on a regular basis. By asking Natalie to stay in the movement when tf00t is threatening her anonymity, you’re literally asking her to risk her life. Trans people have enough martyrs. Let’s not make another.

          I second what Luna_the_cat said: It’s easy to be brave with someone else’s life.

          You don’t know what Natalie deals with. You don’t live with it. It’s easy for you to say she’s just not convicted enough and that she should take a page from Rosa Parks, but here’s a few things you forget about Rosa Parks: First, she had legal and financial support to make up for the costs of her activism. Second, her refusal to move was not premeditated; she said as much in interviews. That does not diminish what she did, but I do have to point out that she didn’t go into it intentionally and with both eyes open the way you ask Natalie to (and speaking from experience, doing something dangerous on spur-of-the-moment and knowingly doing something dangerous with premeditation are two completely different things emotionally). Finally, once she chose not to move, she was committed. If she backed down, she’d go to jail and her family would suffer financially. So she couldn’t really back out, since backing out would make things worse for her than staying the course.

          Which is not to say that Rosa Parks was not brave. Nor does it diminish her impact on American society. It does mean, though, that Rosa Parks made what she felt were the best choices for herself, just as Natalie is making the best choices she can.

  49. says

    As always, you are so very eloquent, Natalie. I have been feeling the same way for the past few months. I don’t regret my involvement with the atheist movement, but I no longer have the energy to care what happens within it because it is still dominated by people like Thunderfoot and DJ Grothe. Until the movement accepts that social justice is just the right thing to do, I don’t have any more use for it.

    I’d already rejected my local atheist community awhile back because I was told by the leader that if I wanted to be a part of it then I’d have to grow a thicker skin and deal with that fact that some of the members are homophobes or sexist or racist.

    Sorry, but if you’re defending people like that because that’s not the focus of the moment then I don’t want to be in your movement.

    I’m glad you’re sticking around, but your safety and well being come first, so I’m also glad you’ll do what you have to in order to take care of yourself.

    Thank you for all that you’ve taught me up to this point. I look forward to learning even more going forward.

  50. mcbender says

    This is a travesty, and I want to say it’s shocking that Thunderfoot would sink this low, but… it’s really not. His recent behaviour has been so appalling that this just seems a natural extension thereof, horrible as that is.

    I will say that as a cis straight white male, your perspective is one of the most valuable for me at FTB, and as many have said, you’ve forced me to think about issues I was too privileged to realise were issues. I would be sorry to see you go, and I’m glad you’re planning to continue blogging, but please prioritise your own safety and do what you need to do. If there is anything we can do to help, please say so.

    I’m not sure I’m quite ready to give up on movement atheism or movement scepticism yet, but that could easily be my privilege speaking. It’s becoming harder and harder to maintain that position when such a large portion of atheists and “sceptics” turn out to have such misplaced (or absent) priorities…

    • plutosdad says

      your perspective is one of the most valuable for me at FTB, and as many have said, you’ve forced me to think about issues I was too privileged to realise were issues

      This goes for me too.

    • LicoriceAllsort says

      your perspective is one of the most valuable for me at FTB, and as many have said, you’ve forced me to think about issues I was too privileged to realise were issues

      Thirded. Actually, I want to remove “one of” from the above–your perspective is THE most valuable for me at FTB, by virtue of being so thoroughly thought-out, and because perspectives from someone with your life experience so rarely receive a spotlight. You upend my own perspective with every post.

      I’m incredibly grateful–and sorry–for the sacrifices you make to post here for a largely privileged audience that is not worth the personal risk you take on yourself. I hope you’re able to find safety.

      This post has helped congeal my own thoughts on the deep rifts in atheism. You’re completely right that atheism is a safe risk that allows a mostly privileged group of people to feel like they’re living on the edge. It’s the equivalent of a BMW bike gang. The ugly stuff that bubbles to the surface isn’t incidental–it’s central to the bulk of people who’ve established the atheist movement. They try to co-opt your atheism to advance their atheism, when it’s convenient to do so, ignoring intersectionality and skirting the much larger risks that non-white, -male, -cis, -straight, -wealthy atheists expose themselves to when they involve themselves with the topic. Fuck that. Let them feel the same heat as the god-botherers, or more.

  51. trinioler says

    Natalie, if you read this, I wish you the best of luck in the future. You’re an incredible and insightful writer.

    Do what needs to be done for you, and your own safety and comfort. No one wants you to be a “casualty” of a war.

    I certainly don’t want this to be a war.

  52. Brisvegan says

    Sorry if my use of a swear word in my post awaiting moderation was out of line. Please feel free to remove it if you prefer.

    Again, wishing you support and safety.

  53. Sivi says

    Um, yeah. I’d been chalking up the focus on Atheism(tm) and the defensive, occasionally self-congratulatory attitudes on the fact that so much of the recent and online movement comes out of the US, where religious privilege is actually a thing, but I’ve been uncomfortable with the peoples’ uncritical acceptance of a bunch of things for a while. It’s why I moved away from my local group – pretty well everything you listed in your post.

    My hope is that people interested in skepticism/atheism will cohere around things like this blog (or heck, much of FTB) and not around the less self-critical parts of the ‘movement’.

    On another note, this post has reminded me how selective my reading list is, since I keep forgetting how many massive fail-y jerks there are compared to places like this.

  54. says

    I do no think anyones value comes from their looks. I have never said that, and I am sincerely sorry if I have given you that impression. Should you ever want to clarify something you think I have said, please feel free to email me at press@mallorienasrallah.com.
    I hope you keep blogging, I have suggested your blog to friends, and some of my trans clients. I have always heald you in high regard for your posts on many issues.

    • says

      No, that wasn’t meant to suggest that you were responsible for that issue. The thing about judging female atheists by appearance, and your name, were meant as totally separate items in that paragraph. I was mostly referring to your open letter a few months ago, I think around the same time as the Penn Jillette “unfunny cunt” debate, about why you don’t want the men in the movement to change and why you think the more outspoken feminist voices are unreasonable.

  55. says

    I also want to add that I agree with Sam Harris that the internet lasts forever and even though I have spend my entire life fighting for equal rights for everyone (women included) I have not been labeled a misogynist by a group of people who have a larger voice than I and who seem to not really care what I actually think. One person made an argument that I thought was interesting and so I commented that I would have to consider that argument and then I was told that I was “doubling down.” It bothers me that there are people in this community who don’t care if they ruin someone’s reputation as long as they can brag that they did a “takedown.” As a prominent blogger, you have a responsibility and you misused it. So now I am getting threats and hate-mail again. Thanks for that!

      • says

        You are in part responsible for the toxic environment you help to create. An environment that doesn’t care about people or reason. That is what Sam Harris, Paula Kirby, and many others are talking about. I try to stay out of it but you mentioned me by name.

        • Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

          Wow, you are a horrible person. A straight up victim-blaming, buck-passing horrible person.

        • Sassafras says

          Yeah, talk about her creating a toxic environment that doesn’t care about people, then cite support from a guy who supports racial profiling, and a woman who likes to call people who disagree with her nazis. Good job.

        • Quietmarc says

          If you are sincere about wanting equality for all (and even women! Gosh!), is it possible that your comments in this forum might be a bit misplaced? There’s room in the social justice community for disagreement, and sometimes it’s best to just step away. If you’re perceiving a hostile environment here, where most of the posts are basically supporting Natalie and wishing for her well-being, then maybe you’re taking things a bit too seriously and could use a break.

          Go out, do your thing for getting equal treatment for everyone, and maybe (maybe!) come back when you can see what this post was really about (hint: not you).

        • davros says

          Staks, contrast your comments to those of Mallorie Nasrallah just above. It is possible to disagree without being inflamatory. In my opinion, a classy comment like Mallorie’s is the better way to improve your online reputation.

  56. tigg13 says

    De-lurking. I have only just recently discovered your blog here at FTB and I truly appreciate your opinions and perspectives. I am one of those white guys for whom atheism has been my only concern but, thanks to you and others like Zinnia and Ed Brayton, I’m beginning to open my eyes a little more.

    Thank you.

    • Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

      You are also a horrible person. And an incredible hypocrite Mr. “WAAAAH Watson doesn’t remember WHICH misognystic slur I called her!”

    • says

      Aren’t you the crackpot who threw a shrieking fit when Rebecca Watson mixed your misogynistic insults up with someone else’s misogynistic insults? If so, you’re probably not the best person to talk about “hyperbole”.

  57. motherwolf says

    I found FTB by following you here and I’ve since found many of the other bloggers here to be well worth reading, but to me you are still the best. When you were posting every day I was amazed at the time and energy you must have been poring into it. I hope you keep posting but not to the extent that it wears you out. And I commend your decision to withdraw from certain discussions. I agree that sexism and male privilege are big problems in the atheist community (I’m a woman and I get it) and I commend those who point these issues out and fight against them, but I have a limited amount of energy and I have other issues in my life that I NEED to address now, so I am glad that your posts will deal with other issues. Also I really like the way you can lay out a valid argument but also leave yourself open to other points of view. You’re willing to be skeptical of yourself and that is something wonderful. I’m working on that myself. Thanks for all you write.

  58. gussnarp says

    Wow. I’m new to this whole atheist and skeptical community. As a parent of young children who lives in a very religious place, it has been so great for me to discover there were other people who generally think like I do. Perhaps entirely by coincidence, the atheist and skeptical blogs I have tended to follow have been those with a liberal, feminist, pro LGTB rights mindset, and I have not gotten involved really beyond reading blogs and commenting occasionally. But I couldn’t avoid seeing the fights, mainly over feminism, and being disappointed by the very fact of the fighting, even the fact that this was considered a question. But I want to believe that the people on the side of hate are a minority. I have to believe it. Nevertheless I too am disillusioned. But I do hope you are wrong about this, at least about how widespread it is, and about whether we can change it, and whether it’s worth it. I’m sadly certain you’re right about a lot of the nature of the problem. I’m even sadder to read this when I just discovered your blog yesterday, and find that you right so clearly and well about these issues. I don’t know what your plans are for this blog, but your voice will certainly be missed to the extent that it missing.

  59. says

    When I first came to the realization I was an atheist a few months ago, I quickly started searching out for voices similar to mine. (Call it “wanting reinforcement”). I quickly found your blog along with the rest of the FTB family. I saw some similarities in you and me — both trans skeptic feminists just wanting the world to be a better place. I’m (selfishly) glad this won’t be your last post, but I am worried about what may happen to you if Tft decides to out your real name. You’re a very smart woman so I won’t bother you with a bunch of cliched advice.

    I just want to thank you for all you’ve done in helping me clarify my own journey and highly look forward to your next chapter.

    PS – Yesterday’s post “Disgusting” had me in tears. While I have never had to go through what you did, I have several friends who have. Thank you for speaking out!

  60. doubtthat says

    I don’t know what to say. I’m a middle class white guy who came to atheism through 1) my parents not giving a shit about religion and 2) philosophy. I suppose I’m a quintessential example of the “Atheist Movement.”

    I really have no criticism of anything you wrote. I think you’re spot on about both the problems with the “movement” and the relative worth of philosophical atheism. “Atheism” is really only meaningful in contrast to the social dominance of religion. This is why all other forms of non-belief–as in tooth fairies, Norse Gods, and unicorns–are nothing.

    Atheism isn’t an end, in itself, and it has no value beyond the social, economic, and political gains that can be made by abandoning primitive, irrational belief systems. If we’re going to keep the primitive, irrational, regressive beliefs but just get rid of the dude in the sky, I see no real value to the “movement” either.

  61. daenyx says

    You’ve put words to a lot of the increasing discomfort with the Atheist Movement I’ve previously tried to ignore in the name of solidarity. And you’re right – if fighting over issues like basic decency and minimal social justice is a standard of the Community, solidarity isn’t something we should necessarily be seeking.

    Skepticism started for me as a response to the oppressive religions I grew up surrounded by (Bigfoot and ESP and UFOs never really facotred in). I began to identify as atheist, and to follow bloggers (notably PZ and Jen McCreight) who focused on atheism with a feminist bent. But frankly, I’ve stopped reading almost all articles discussing the fallacies of religion by now – not because they aren’t true or worthwhile, but because they don’t contribute anything new to my skepticism.

    I’ve spent a fair amount of time throughout my adult life considering/questioning/discussing gender and social justice, but that exploration has exploded over the last year, and I credit your application of skepticism to these concepts with a great deal of that new poking around and (I think) understanding. You ask questions I’d never seen before (largely due to the privilege of not having had to ask them), and it’s fucking glorious. Whether or not you and others see your writing as contributing to Teh Movement(!!11!1!), you do immense credit to everything you choose to talk about, and I’m so glad that I found your blog.

    Thanks for being awesome.

  62. dog is god backwards says

    You flatter yourself too much when you think your petty Internet squabbles are representative of ‘Atheist Movement’ if there ever was such a thing.

  63. Besomyka says

    For what it’s worth, I’m on your team. I came to atheism from general skepticism. I had resolved for myself that my epistemology was philosophical naturalism.

    I’ve always considered you to be a skeptic, and I refer to your writing as gender skepticism. Atheism is a bit more important to me because I live in Texas and do eventually want children who will end up in public schools. Secularism is a real world issue and I have to be activist about in a local context. But even then, it’s about rational inquiry, open-mindedness, and intellectual humility.

    I do have hope that the various skeptically related movements can be moved in a progressive direction. My hope is based on the fact that everyone generally supposes the same epistemology, which gives us a good hook that isn’t present with supernatural believers.

    Anyway, that’s all to say that I largely agree with you, I think I understand where you’re coming from, and I sincerely hope you’ll continue sharing your thoughts and observations. It’s a conversation that I enjoy and find personally rewarding.

    Also, you need to do a post on comics. I need to know more about that woman that was putting super-villains and hero’s alike in their place!

  64. antialiasis says

    This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read.

    I’ve had that nagging feeling about many internet atheists before and could never quite put my finger on it, but you nailed it so exquisitely my head is still spinning. The bit about people being attracted to the movement because it gives a sense of being the hero of a narrative is extremely insightful, and I think there’s considerable truth to it: some utterly privileged people seem massively and disproportionately focused on atheism as The Important Issue, campaigning against anti-atheist discrimination like they’re the most horribly oppressed people on the planet while ignoring other oppression.

    I’m fine with people not personally making social justice into their focal subject matter. I don’t mind if someone focuses on promoting skepticism or secularization or even atheism. But sometimes you get that nagging feeling that the person who wrote what you’re reading or made the video you’re watching fancies themself a rebel hero simply for being an atheist and is subsisting on that thrill without caring about anything real. And though I wouldn’t personally cut ties with the broader idea of an atheist movement, I feel your urge to distance yourself from that.

    • says

      This this this. It’s not just atheists, it’s a thing within social justice movements where people start talking the talk because they want to seem edgy, cool, or heroes. Being told you’re helping people is great, but being called “cool” is often useless or missing the point.

  65. tab says

    A lot of these issues boiled over for me about a month or two ago and caused me to mostly cut ties with the movement in the small way that I was even still apart of it. I had secretly held out some hope for it, but even only seeing things on the periphery through friends still involved has been killing that hope. I’m glad to see that someone with more of a voice in the community than I have has pretty much came to the exact same conclusions- if only cause it’s a check on how jaded I am with it. These issues have killed off my interest in the community- even the better parts of it- because I just don’t have the energy to be constantly heartbroken by it.

    So thanks for writing this. Thanks for putting it much more eloquently than I ever could. For what it’s worth I hope that you can continue writing without getting sucked back in on all of these problems, even as I feel that I now have to divorce myself even further from the community.

    • I.Cook says

      Off topic I know, but your username compelled me to ask, are you the same Tab of Khaos fame? If so, small world.

  66. says

    Wow I’m so sorry this is happening, Natalie. My mind boggles at how uncaring some people are. Thunderf00t will throw pretty much anyone under the bus if he thinks he will benefit from it. It’s disgusting.

  67. Thomathy, Holy Trinity of Conflation: Atheist-Secularist-Darwinist says

    That was an excellent post. I’ve felt this way about the atheist/sceptic community for a long time now, but haven’t found a way to articulate it.

    I don’t think this community is for me. I feel like minorities are having to fight their way into it and beat away the, for lack of a better word, bigots who stand in our way. It’s problematic and I think you have the right of it; this is because they have put atheism and scepticism about everything else. I also think it’s because they stop there. I think, especially in the case of scepticism, because I wouldn’t claim that atheists are especially sceptical, that being sceptical is reserved for only certain things, that there’s an ideal scepticism that mustn’t be tainted by anything but alt med or UFOs or the like, certainly not by things like gay or trans- rights or feminism or racism.

    Still, I’ve fought my way so far as I have and I’m not stopping now. It makes me very happy that you support that choice, considering all you’ve gone through and how far you’ve fought, having a blog here and everything. So, thank you. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful and articulate post on your own feelings and thank you for airing the dirty laundry. And thank you so much for having waded into this mess at all; it is empowering.

  68. says

    I am really sorry this is happening to you. This post seems to have made an impact with my friends on Facebook, though. This was a perfect response. I feel the same way, even if I’ve been guilty myself of team-drawing on occasion.

  69. Ganner says

    All that bullshit you don’t want to fight? That’s fine. It shouldn’t have to be your fight. It isn’t right that you should have to fight for that stuff. If this is a “movement” of mostly straight white cis men, then it should be on us straight white cis men to make sure people who aren’t straight white cis men aren’t shit on. I feel like I have to keep fighting – religion is more than just a belief system, it’s a huge part of social infrastructure in our society. If it’s to be diminished, a lot of that social infrastructure has to be replaced with secular alternatives. And if we expect to grow in society, we can’t just be a place for straight white cis men. Religions are bad enough for women and lgbt people – non-religious groups should be a safe place to leave to, not another place to get shit on. And with an approaching future where non-hispanic whites are a minority in America, we’ll greatly marginalize ourselves if we’re just a club for white dudes. You go be you. You rock. Hopefully we white dudes who care enough (along with all the awesome not white-cis-dudes demanding an equal, safe, respected place in the movement) can change things so that in the future this crap won’t be as much of an issue.

  70. Bjarte Foshaug says

    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.

    Amen to that! Critical thinking was never about group membership anyway. Btw. isn’t it ironic how those who shout loudest about “keeping politics out of skepticism” etc. always seem to view the most conservative and downright reactionary views imaginable as the “unpolitical”, “neutral” position?

  71. Onamission5 says

    I have a major sad (with tears) that I can’t even find words to express. Your voice is one that will be missed dearly. Thank you for the effort, the vulnerability, the time you took sharing with us this small window into your mind and your life. I wish you the best, Natalie, in all of your endeavors, from the bottom of my heart.

    • Rasmus says

      Hey, don’t cry! If I got it right Natalie’s gonna keep blogging. At least for the time being. Don’t delete your bookmark/RSS-feed just yet…

      I think that a lot of the bloggers and podcasters and organizers in the North American atheist-skeptic sphere are thinking about a ways forward. For some of these people the answer could be to move their focus to other issues that they care about.

      • Onamission5 says

        Can’t help it, I’m a crier.

        I sure hope I understood incorrectly, and that she will keep blogging, although if she didn’t, I would understand.

        • Rasmus says

          Okay. :)

          Yeah, I guess she’s gonna keep blogging as long as it makes sense for her to keep blogging. There’s been talk of a comic book script also…

  72. says

    The whole dustup in the atheist “community” over something as simple as having a sexual harassment clause at our conventions really opened my eyes to the blatant disregard for people that seems to exist in some corners of our movement.

    I am sorry to see you shy away from the atheist brand, but it is completely understandable. It also gets me thinking about how I can help the problem. I’m in the process of starting a group for secular students at Georgia State University, and I’m going to make damned sure that our constitution, mission statement, bylaws, and every other foundational document includes some pretty hefty anti-discrimination and pro-inclusiveness clauses. Perhaps if my fellow students come to associate a secular organization with social tolerance, maybe the next generation of atheist leaders won’t be so messed up.

    On a more personal level, I really am glad this wasn’t an “I Quit” post. I have enjoyed your posts here more than I have enjoyed just about anything I’ve ever read. An earlier commenter said you were a fantastic consciousness-raiser, and I have to concur. Thank you.

  73. sammywol says

    This is appalling! I am so sorry that you have been put through this. I am a long time lurker on the FtB site but this is certainly worth delurking over. I used to read Pharyngula over on Scienceblogs and followed it here like a good little rant-addict but very quickly found my horizons being expanded in ways I had not anticipated. Of all the blogs here I have learned the most from yours and come smack up against aspects of my own privilege in a positively instructive manner. Thankyou! I owe you a lot. You have made me grow. I would be very sad to lose you from FtB and from the atheist/skeptic world but after this I cannot blame you if you did decide to leave us all to stew.

  74. abb3w says

    I hope you won’t mind a passing plug to some of Dr. Bob Altemeyer’s sociology research that seems related. If you’ve not encountered it, you might find it interesting reading.

    Most of the personality types you seem to be complaining about (MRAs, libertarians, white supremacists, antisemitic conspiracy theorists) strike me (subjectively; in a few cases, measured in the literature) as likely tending to be high-SDO types. While religiosity is (in the west) correlated to high-RWA types, it is only slightly correlated to SDO.

    It also seems subjectively likely that low-RWA/high-SDO types are particularly likely to be in any skeptics movement — low-RWA leaving them relatively indisposed to acceptance of “it is known” traditional beliefs or other such authority, and high-SDO leaving them particularly disposed to value their own judgement. This may be an intrinsic problem.

    (As asides: The Christian Right seems overall more high-RWA than high-SDO, but there seem a lot of high-SDO types in it as well, particularly “double highs”. Also, many though not all rad-fems, whether transphobic or not, seem high-SDO; some may even be the very rare high-LWA type.)

  75. kagekiri says

    Gah, that sucks horribly. I’m glad you’re still going to be writing about other issues, because you’ve helped immensely with changing my perspectives on LGBT issues as I moved out of my old fundie thinking.

    Thank you so much for your writing, it has been tremendously horizon-broadening and life-changing for me. Is there anything we can do to help?

  76. Peter says

    For whatever it’s worth, I have learned a lot from you, I have enjoyed reading your posts, and I am sorry that things have gotten to this point. The nastiness that has been running rampant is disgusting, and you shouldn’t need to deal with it.
    If you keep blogging, and I hope you do, I’ll keep reading.

  77. hjhornbeck says

    I just fired this off to Pharyngula:

    Let’s see if I got this straight.

    Thunderf00t became so pissed off that most of Freethoughtblogs didn’t agree with his views on harassment policies, and that they would deny him the privilege of having a blog under their banner, that he repeatedly hacked into a private listserv in order to dig up blackmail material. He then threatened to hit Natalie Reed with this info, even though she’s gone out of her way to remain on the sidelines of the harassment policy debate.

    Fuck you, Thunderf00t. By bragging about breaking the law, and threatening to violate the privacy of other people who have asked to remain pseudo-nonymous, you have outed yourself as a contemptible human being who makes me ashamed for my species. Go choke on a lawsuit.

  78. Tobinius says

    Reading about the behaviour of TF and the threat to your safety that his actions have caused, I can’t help but be reminded by your previous post: Disgusting!

    As one of the “entitled little white cis straight dudes,” my heart goes out to you, and to everyone who lives with the same fear of being outed.

    I am glad that this post was not an “I quit” post, and look forward to being informed further on the issues that drive your blogging.

  79. Stevarious says

    Oh I was absolutely terrified when I started reading this post because it sounded like you were shutting down the blog over this garbage, and that would have been a terrible loss. I’m so glad to see that my fears were unfounded. That said, I also find myself in full agreement with you.

    If I have to choose between the ‘atheism’ movement and the ‘social justice’ movement, I’ll pick social justice in a heartbeat. Those turds can have atheism if it means so much to them that they’re willing to fuck over the social justice movement to keep the ‘Atheist’ brand name lily white and cis-worshiping.

    I’ve studiously avoided getting involved with the local atheist group (who are responsible for the execrable ‘Slaves Obey Your Masters’ billboard) because of the rampant racism, homophobia, and cissexism present there. I just can’t be bothered to hang around assholes like that. They can fucking have it. I’ll be over in the social justice movement, getting shit done.

    I used to identify as an atheist first, and everything else second – but you are right, Natalie. It’s incredibly fucking trivial to not believe in a god. It’s huge to believe in social justice. So those douchebags who want to just sit around and pat each other on the back for being so fucking awesome for not believing in Santa Clause or whatever, and use that as a justification to continue their own douchebag behavior, can go fuck themselves.

  80. D-Dave says

    Hi Natalie,

    Whatever else happens, I hope you are safe and that your ability to live life hasn’t been and won’t be compromised by any fallout from this. I also hope you choose to continue to write, whatever ‘camp’ you want to write in/from.

    Reading your writings is almost always enlightening in some way for me. I’m living life on the ‘Easy’ setting, and until relatively recently I didn’t even properly understand that there were other difficulty settings. I just want you to know that I’ve had several ‘Oh’ moments by reading your blog, and I think ‘meeting’ you as part of this blog network has left me a better person for it.

    Wishing you the best of luck (and hoping you won’t need it),

    -The other David B.

  81. says

    Natalie, I’m horrified by this. You’ve taught me a tremendous amount. It’s been a privilege. And I expect that whatever you chose to write about in future will teach me lots more.

    I’m far from perfect. I have a tendency to engage the keyboard before my brain, as I’m sure some of your regular readers have noticed. But I fervently, desperately hope I never risk anyone’s safety because I’m in a snit.

    If you need a meatspace bolt-hole in the Canary Islands, you’ve got it. I suspect that it’s too far away to be any practical help, but the offer’s sincere.

  82. sambarge says

    Let me add my voice to the chorus of “Thank Goodness you’re not quitting FtB”!

    What has been done is despicable and I’m so sorry for the personal cost to you. I would like to assist in any way possible to support those FtBloggers who have had their privacy compromised.

    I know it’s not your job to educate me on trans issues but I’ve learned a lot from your writing. You are doing very good work and I hope that you are driven from it by bigots.

  83. Azou says

    There’s a seriously fucked-up hypocrisy here when you consider that Thunderf00t had a similar situation with his real name being leaked. What broke his sense of empathy?

  84. Woc says

    Thanks for being one of those rare feminists who are not skeptical of science and who do not exclude scientists (and anyone else who might have a dissenting opinion) from the dialogue under the guise of “you are a horrible person and this is a regulated safe space in which you don’t deserve to be heard”. You write with such honesty and humility and I have learnt much from your cogent writings. Please be safe and well. All the best.

  85. w00dview says

    Natalie, this article was one of the best I have ever read regarding the stupid bullshit that has infested the atheist/skeptic movement ever since Rebecca Watson said “Guys, don’t do that”. It just sums up everything wrong with the community at the moment so well and needs to be read by everyone until they get it into their thick skulls that their attitudes are making life difficult for people less privileged than they are. Sorry you had to deal with this crap. Fuck Thunderf00t.

  86. Nick says

    You’re a fantastic writer, and a passionate advocate for making the world a better place to live in. First time to your blog and I was riveted, impressed, and motivated to go forth and do good. Thank You.

  87. says

    I have been involved in sites where anonymity was completely dependant on the user. In that time people who had a lot to lose by telling me their real names still gave them to me. Some of them and I had a falling out and not once did it make sense to me to expose who they were to the world, even after I hated them.

    The only thing that makes me want to expose a persons real id if they choose to keep it private is the safety of someone. I would still only then openly expose them if it could prevent the harm. Not as a means of payback.

    I am sorry that putting faith in people routinely backfires when we have so much to lose. I can’t much argue for you to continue putting faith and can only hope that eventually fellow atheists and skeptics as a movement eventually become worthy of trust. I can hope and as long as I have enough strength i can keep fighting to make this place safe for all.

    Thank you for your contributions to atheism, secularism, and social justice thus far.

    • Rasmus says

      I wouldn’t expose anyone openly for any reason. Outing someone publicly and accusing them of having said something may be grounds for a lawsuit or criminal prosecution even if you’re only exposing the truth and have evidence to back it up (depending on the laws where you live of course!).

      I would however expose a threatening or severely harassing person to his or her victim or victims even if I didn’t think there was any immediate danger.

      Nothing that I’ve read of the stuff that the slimepitters have written has been anywhere near the point where I would out any one of them if I knew who they were. Several of them do indeed write under their real full names.

      • NateHevens says

        I think you misread Willow. I think Willow was saying that (s)he would only out someone if doing so would prevent the physical harm of somebody else.

        Like, if you know the identity of an anonymous who threatened to rape somebody else and then find out that an attempt was already made, you might have a duty to out the anonymous, if not publicly, then at least to the potential victim.

  88. says

    I don’t recall that you’ve ever written anything that I strongly disagreed with, and today is no exception. I don’t comment very often because I so rarely have anything to add to your eloquence. I am very glad to hear that you will continue blogging, but if at any time you feel your safety is compromise, of course do what you have to. If there’s a way that I can help or offer more than moral support, let me know. TF is a contemptible excuse for a human being, the kind of person who taints every group with which he is associated be whatever means, including but not limited to atheism, skepticism, the male gender, and the order hominidae.

  89. LauraA says

    I am so very sorry to hear this. I am so very sorry you feel unsafe because of what some asshole has done. I am just sorry for you. Concerns for safety are never trivial even when one is pretty sure that there isn’t an actual threat. And no real threat has been made.

    This is horrible.

  90. Sarah Jane says

    Natalie,
    Two disclaimers: I am new here and I have not read all 147 responses that are currently before me. I may be uninformed and also may be repeating what others have said. I am sorry if this is so. I just want to say that the only way for you to be truly free from the oppression of others is to discard your fear of being exposed. Yes, it may complicate things for you, but I suspect that you would survive it, and you would no longer be subject to the threat of others in this manner. This is obviously something you are extremely uncomfortable with. I am not talking about outing yourself, unless that is something you want to do, but I am talking about letting go of the fear of that happening. I hope that at some point you will be able to embrace your complicated past that you feel demands your anonymity, and live openly as your authentic self. Think of the biographies of the many free thinkers who have come before you…the complex, messy places that people come from. You are one of them. Your story should be just what it is — and attached to your real name.
    All the best to you.

    • Luna_the_cat says

      This is easy enough to say when *your* housing and employment are not threatened. YOU aren’t the one risking unemployment, homelessness, poverty, or being beat up.

      Natalie is the one who has to deal with real-world housing and employment consequences. She is the only one in a position to realistically assess her level of genuine risk. Life is not Disney. Fear is a protective reflex. “Letting go of your fear” does not automatically mean that actually it will all be ok and bad things won’t happen.

      Let her make her own decisions without preaching at her. She is better placed to know the reality, and you really aren’t in a position to know that her fears aren’t there for a reason.

  91. Pareidolius says

    What a post! This middle-aged, white, bearded, cis, queer man thinks you are a brilliant thinker and writer, very brave and that I am a smarter and better human for having read your posts. Thank you Natalie Reed.

  92. Steinar says

    I just want to say I am grateful that you continue writing. You are one of the very few bloggers I feel I constantly learn new things from and force me to rethink positions that seemed evident… until reading your article.

    Thank you.

    (And if you do need to quit, please consider continue writing under another pseudonym. Perhaps I personally will not find your new articles again, but you write too well about too important matters to be silent.)

  93. Sethra says

    Words seem inadequate in the face of what Thunderfoot has done here, but my internal ranting can best be summed up as:

    Social justice is vastly more important than supporting a bunch of entitled fuckwits who think “straight white male” is the default setting for human beings.

    Thank you, Natalie, I’ve learned a lot from your posts.

  94. Epinephrine says

    Thanks for everything, Natalie – I know it isn’t a going away post, but I still want to thank you. Like Zinc Avenger (above me as I type, but possibly several posts higher by the time I hit Submit) you have opened my eyes. I came to all this via atheism, which is something I do care about, but it’s all wrapped together for me – skepticism, atheism, humanism, secularism, feminism, etc. I’m glad I’ll continue to be able to drop by and learn from your writings, even if they never touch on atheism. I am a white cis straight male, but I don’t want a “club for entitled little white cis straight dudes,” so I’ll keep posting, and trying to make sure we don’t end up that way.

  95. clydey2times says

    Reading the first part of your post, I felt real sympathy for you. I suppose I still do, since you certainly do not deserve to have your life turned upside down. However, the rest of the entry was little more than a sexist, racist, self-righteous rant.

    And make no mistake, referring generally to men and white people with such disdain is both sexist and racist. I don’t give a fuck what you say about privilege. That doesn’t give you the right to shit on every straight white male.

    You have my sympathy. All the same, fuck you for perpetuating such obscene generalisations. And you wonder why people are turned off to your cause?

    • Psychopomp Gecko says

      So, you are saying “fuck you” to a woman and saying she’s sexist and racist because she wrote about how damaging Thunderfoot is to her personally and to any kind of organized movement by going out of his way to violate terms of privacy and hold potentially damaging information over her head all over his own petty disagreement over a common sense policy that shouldn’t have been objectionable at all and was useful to everyone? Seriously? She’s racist and sexist for saying a white male is doing something bad…when a white male is clearly doing something bad?

      You want to hang out at Conservapedia some time and write about how Joe McCarthy was one of America’s greatest oppressed heroes?

    • Forbidden Snowflake says

      Also, I couldn’t help but notice that you fail to quote any segment of the OP to support your whiny accusations. Maybe it’s just the general feeling of not being deferred to that set you off?

    • NateHevens says

      The only white male I saw Natalie talking about was Thunderf00t.

      You’re claims require lots of evidence.

      Please directly quote exactly what sections you felt were bigoted.

      Thank you.

  96. Marcelo says

    I just want to say I’ll mourn that a talented writer will no longer write about a subject I feel passionate about.

  97. ricko says

    Hand up, forever up.

    You write a very sensitive and effective piece. I will never know what you have gone through or are going through… But you have every right to explain that to whoever you want, in whatever way you want, with whatever things you feel you need to keep it as private as YOU feel comfortable with.

    Thank you for sticking around.

  98. david says

    I’m very sorry you’ve been put to such grief, by people who elevate their petty squabbles to a higher level of importance than the larger issues the community could stand for. One of the important advantages of atheism, to me, is that it allows for a moral code that is not based on authority but rather is based on a respect for people’s dignity. That seems to have been forgotten. My best wishes to you.

  99. F says

    No loss there. Just keep writing about what is important to you, which you do so well. Let the Atheist Movement, whatever that is, implode or not on its own. You certainly have more important battles to fight and other thoughts to think. You have a deep educational value in gender issues, whether they involve atheism or not.

  100. Proxer says

    I loved this bit:

    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 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.

    There are a lot of people who left their religions because they felt that it couldn’t be “fixed from the inside”. I don’t feel the same way about the Atheist movement yet, but you’ve presented a good argument; I’m going to have to think on that for a while.

    • PG says

      That bit is one of the biggest load of dung I’ve ever read.

      “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 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.”

      Disguised for something to do with atheism, but is, in fact, just a random derisive remark against middle-class white men. Because that has everything to do with atheism. Perhaps in Natalie Reed’s world (sorry, Bizarro world) this is somehow relevant and actually makes complete sense. However, in mine (the *real* world) we consider such jibes a non-sequitur filled with fiction and excessive amounts of hyperbole. Oh well.

      • says

        So you haven’t run into the problem of people who just want to make Internet memes about the “religitards” and never do anything of consequence? Who say that feminism has nothign to do with atheism because atheism is just not believing in a God, yet mocking creationists has everything to atheism? What sites have you been frequenting? I wish to go there.

  101. Jon Hanson says

    I’m so sorry Natalie, this shit isn’t worth risking anything over.

    I am worried though, I’m not sure you can be a blogger and stay anonymous. You’re incredibly smart, if anyone can do it, it would be you, but honestly if you want to be anonymous every post online is like playing roulette.

  102. says

    I feel your pain. I sometimes feel the same way about feminism (get back to me when you fix your TERF problem, among others) and trans-feminism (get back to me when you fix your HBS problem). And atheism? Wow. That’s always been a problem. The first book on atheism I ever read was George Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God, a book written from a snotty objectivist point of view. I already hated Randianism, so it kinda put me off movement atheism at the outset. I like to think things have improved because of people like you and Greta and the Skepchicks, but it hasn’t.

    By way of example: I had a run-in with a dude at Skepticon* last year who was in a fine fury at the notion that women-only groups and spaces in the skeptic/atheist community were necessary. There was a strong paternalism and white knight tinge to his (admittedly drunken) arguments, but at the core of his outrage was the notion that women might want to go somewhere where he couldn’t hit on them. His mode of argument, by the way, was to privilege his point of view over mine and the other woman who was arguing with him at the top of his lungs. The worst part of it was his refusal to disengage when it was clear that we weren’t interested in arguing with him any more, as if he wasn’t going to back down until we capitulated to his point of view, even if he had to follow us to our hotel rooms to do it. It was very unpleasant and very scary, truth be told, even if it didn’t rise to the level of sexual harassment.

    The whole thing has tainted the “community” as being run by a bunch of aggrieved and entitled little boys who roll around on the ground unless they get their way.* Thunderf00t seems like a particularly rotten example in a barrel of bad apples.

    So fuck movement atheism. Take your ball and go play somewhere else, little boys.

    Be safe and have fun in Seattle. We’ll have a chat when you get back about how to proceed with the comic.

    *I should mention that Skepticon is a pretty great event in spite of this little incident, with a nice emphasis on diversity AND safety (and a field for “Gender Identity” rather than “Sex” or “Gender” on their registration form, BTW). There’s also a strong social justice component to some of their speakers. They’re doing it right.

  103. says

    I’m a cissexual, cisgendered, white male, American, middle class, blah blah privileged.

    THANK YOU for this. I appreciate FTB’s support of feminism, of gender equality, of awareness of privilege. I’m a huge fan of PZ Myers, and greatly respect his opinions. I feel I learn from him.

    Similarly, I hope to learn from you. I have been moved and deeply interested in the unfolding of “elevatorgate” and the stupidity that is MRA and the many permutations that have come out of RW’s simply admonishment to “Guys, don’t do that.”

    I hope to learn more about privilege. About humanism, and about being a basically decent human being.

    I will be reading this blog regularly from now on.

    So… thank you. :)

  104. Myoo says

    I’m just posting to say that your blog has greatly helped me. I had realized that I had a great deal of transphobic feelings and misinformation and in looking for sources of information to combat that, I stumbled across your blog posts on trans* issues and those, combined with other sources, have helped me not be such an asshole.
    I also want to say that I hope that your identity won’t be compromised and that you remain safe.

  105. Danni says

    Hey Natalie. Thanks for writing this. You, Greta, Zinnia among others are the reasons I come to freethought blogs. Really happy that your still going to continue to write (my heart jumped when you said I quit then I read the rest).

    You have introduced me to so many SJ issues that I had been completely oblivious. And they have become equally and sometimes more important to me then the main goals of atheism that originally led me to join the atheist community. I look forward to your future writing :D

  106. phil zombi says

    FWIW I am in love with your writing. I am constantly playing catch-up because it is hard for me to find time during the work week to really dive into the long form (not a complaint) style that you have cultivated. You always challenge me to step outside my own perspective (cis white dude) and see the world through your eyes. Thank you for that. Like many others I am glad that you will continue to blog here.

    As far as the Atheist community, I sympathize with your position. Prior to the Reason Rally, I had a hell of a time convincing my wife that atheists groups could be something other than some sort of intellectual circle-jerk. It’s easy to feel outnumbered by vocal shitbags. And maybe we are. I don’t know anymore.

    In closing: I would never presume to tell you what you should write about. But so long as you continue to demonstrate the kind of skeptical thought that many of lack (myself included at times) I will keep reading. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  107. Brandon says

    Don’t associate youtubers with “the movement”. People like thunderf00t have a subscriber base of 12 year olds going through a phase. Keep him away from events or at least don’t let him speak or play any role in them. I haven’t watched thunderf00t in more than a year and don’t follow these blogs, so I’m terribly out of the loop. The people I follow and the people I listen to are worth joining. Don’t let this get you down.

    I hope things get resolved and thunderf00t admits his mistakes.

  108. frankb says

    Raises hand from Comment #2.

    I don’t know any trans people so I desperately need Natalie to learn from. Keep writing please.

  109. Matthew Vaughan says

    Well, I only got here as a result of this whole blow up. I was only peripherally aware of FTB. I knew the names PZ Myers and Greta Christina but that was about it really. I have been following the atheist arguments for a few years and, whilst I badly want there to be an ‘Atheist Movement’ I’ve hung back for a variety of reasons. The vitriolic nature of posts I have read on certain forums has always bothered me. The smug self satisfaction of people who profess themselves “the reasonable ones” has also rings my alarm bells. I remember discovering T’F00t and whilst, on one hand being amused by some of his arguments, right from the start I was saddened that he had chosen for his title, “Why People Laugh at Creationists” rather than perhaps, “Why People Laugh at Creationism”. Some people may see this as unimportant semantics but I think it is very revealing that from the beginning, T’f00t chose to laugh at the person rather than the idea.

    I strongly believe that no idea should be immune from scrutiny and perhaps even a little mockery but it must be the idea not the person. We all have crap ideas from time to time but that doesn’t make us crap. But I digress. All i really wanted to say is that I am really sorry that this nastiness is occurring. It’s taken me a few days to figure out where I stand on this but this post has been a clincher. I’m with Natalie and many of the earlier commentators here, what matters is how we behave towards each other and finding ways of improving that globally and for all. Richard Dawkins is very fond of touting the value of “What is actually true” and whilst I agree with him this must never be a stand alone value. After all what is the point of knowing what is true if it doesn’t help us to make things better for each other and ourselves. If there is no god too care and if the universe truly is pitilessly indifferent toward us, as i suspect it might be, then surely it behooves us to at least try our best to care for each other.

    There is so much more to say but it’s late and I’m tired. I will certainly be back though and, if the insight demonstrated by this post is anything to go by, i look forward with great excitement to exploring your blog in depth and FTB in general. And, though I am greatly saddened by this whole horrible business, I am very glad that my attention has be drawn here. I dare to hope that maybe there is a home for me in the online skeptical community.

    Best wishes and great admiration from a new fan,

    Matt.

  110. Kyle says

    So as an entitled white cis straight male (with blond hair blue eyes no less), I have this to say:

    You put into words a lot of concerns that I have had for a while, but not spoken of. The growing anti-feminist sentiment in the community, and the childish feuds, all make me very uncomfortable.

    I do not think that I have read enough or understand enough to comfortably consider myself a feminist, but I consider myself at least an ally. I have been getting more involved for about 5-6 years, though mostly I was interested in gender psychology research. It is only recently that in the wake of “elevatorgate” that I realized that I had a choice between taking the side of a group of sexist bullies, or admitting the first real crack between myself and the atheist movement that I could not rationalize away.

    I also consider myself an atheist and a free thinker. To me those words speak of evidenced based thinking, and a constant need to be ready to be proven wrong with someone with better information.

    Now I find myself in a spot where I do not see myself quite fitting in with the feminist community completely, but there is also a growing rift between me and the “atheist community”.

    Now if only someone could come up with a nice name for this so we could start our own group, become popular, and then turn on each other… lol

      • says

        The picture of the heroin?

        NO. FUCKING. SHIT.

        I hope he has some inkling of how incredibly angry I am about that carelessness. NOT the kind of shit I need to have thrown in my face right now.

        • punchdrunk says

          What? This is just straight-up trolling, yea? The Breaking Bad reference and everything?
          This looks intentionally triggering to me.
          Maybe I’m misunderstanding something?

        • Kyle says

          Ya I do not know what blocking/deleting capabilities you have on this site (I am very new) but that was pretty F*cked up.

          • says

            THe name ‘Heisenberg’ is clearly a reference to the programme that is the reigning champion of television drug porn right now, /Breaking Bad/. This was clearly a trojan trigger to cause incredible distress for recovering ID drug users.

            Hey, Heisenberg? Got any luscious #thinspo? I’m feeling hungry right now and some picslips of Allison Harvard’s collar bones would be fabulous? You know, since you’re so into triggering people in recovery and all. What a charming little hobby.

            PS: Walt will not end well. We both know it.

          • says

            They are broaging of their trolling on Thunderf00t’s blog now. Apparently, they have a grudge because Natalie “banned them just for disagreeing” at Skepchick. Needless to say, that’s a very selective version of events.

          • says

            It’s impossible for me to have banned “them” for “just disagreeing” at Skepchick, because a) I never had the power to ban anyone at Skepchick. Only Rebecca did. b) There was only ONE person I ever recommended having banned at Skepchick, and that was the guy who later turned out to be the German-Song-Lyrics troll who subsequently got banned “just for disagreeing” from about a dozen different individual blogs at FTB, each time for gross violation of comment policies and blatant trolling, before being the first person to EVER be (effectively) banned from the network as a whole.

  111. artnut says

    Please, be safe, your own personal privacy and right to define your own life as you see fit…is way more important than the infighting and endless merry go round that has been going on. It’s chilling to think, this guy has this information…forever. You are so intelligent, and your writing so informative and strong, I think there are a lot of other really great causes, campaigns, fights and battles and actions and well…people…more worthy of your time. I have to say one thing, I was very upset when several women’s rights conventions/meet ups excluded trans gender women from attending.. Sophie Hirschfeld has written about this, the infighting in the women’s rights movement, can they “trust” trans gender women..are they women. She is of course as upset about the exclusions as most skeptic women. There are so many battles, if simply things like transgender women being forced to be in men’s prisons…or you mention drug addiction, to be forced to room with a man in rehab. You fight more than one fight in your life, atheism is something that while your voice has been proud and strong, I’m also thinking another movmement without the sword of some idiot with your real name hanging over your head, deserves you. I would say, who knows who he has told, and then they also have this to hold over you…it goes on and on…it’s reached a point of nuttiness. Good luck and I know you will, perhaps under another name (let’s face it, I feel almost ill that your name here will also be a possible danger to you if he has told people “oh Natalie, you know who she really is…?”) continue to make a difference.

  112. Scott Cunningham says

    I’m lost for words.

    If the time comes that you decide to write elsewhere, even under another ‘nym, I’ll find it. And regardless of what you decide, take care of yourself. We’d all rather know you’re safe than have new posts to read.

    Thank you for all you’ve written.

  113. says

    @141–I don’t want to be unnecessarily critical, but you might want to consider a warning before linking to images like that. I don’t have any drug usage history but I feel like that could potentially be very unpleasant/triggering for someone with that history to see.

  114. f. says

    I am so sorry you’re going through this. “The atheist movement” isn’t my fight either, but I share your hope as to what skepticism could mean for social justice.

    Your work here is amazing, and I understand the ways that pseudonymity has allowed you to be open about things that you can’t safely tie to your real name. You shouldn’t be made to feel unsafe because of what you have said here. I hope you’ll be OK.

  115. Russ Ingram says

    As one of the older straight white male privileged persons that perpetuates much of what is amiss in our society, I need to read more of your eloquent and insightful words. It’s hard for I guy like me empathize and understand the struggle others have just to gain simple security and acceptance for who they are. Your writing has helped to remove the somewhat bigoted and misogynistic veil that has obscured my view of things. Please keep posting your excellent work

  116. Gabbeh says

    I am so sorry to hear this… contemptible little rat is threatening you like this. Stay safe and take care of yourself out there. And I hope you’re able to keep writing. You’ve done more than almost any other writer I’ve read to push me and a lot of other people here to think. And to feel like we’re not alone in what we deal with in life. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you, and I hope you’re holding up okay through this.

  117. Ana says

    Fuck “the movement”. Fuck the status quo, and the people who want to shut you up, and the people who want to make life an “us against them” story. Fuck them all.
    Honestly, you’re one of the greatest bloggers I’ve ever had the honor of learning from, an amazing woman who I’ve admired ever since your first guest post on Skepchick, and I’ll follow you, wherever you go. Please, just tell me you’re going SOMEWHERE, because the idea of not being able to hear from you anymore makes me want to cry.
    You know, I dream of the same thing you do – a movement of people who not only know, by heart, the arguments for believing in X and not in Y, but understand the why’s and apply skeptical thinking to everything in their lives. Wanna start it from scratch?
    THANK YOU for everything you write, for everything you’ve taught me. you’ve made me a better person, more conscious of my own biases and privileges. You took me down the rabbit hole, and I don’t regret it a bit. Lots of love***

  118. quog says

    You’re a great writer and blogger and human, Natalie–in a sane, sensible world, the release of your identity would bring you respect, not harm. I think your work is helping to make the world a saner, more sensible place, and I’m glad you’re going to keep writing.

    Thunderfoot’s saga, like Elevatorgate, is an eye-opener for people who, like me, could never have imagined how deep is the cesspool of Hatred of The Other. It’s just sickening. May the FSM grant you passage through this unscathed.

  119. The MadPanda, FCD says

    One more white straight cis male admitting that your work has been a mind-expanding, eye-opening catalyst for changing his opinion on a whole laundry list of things. For all that the ‘movement’ makes you (and Rebecca Watson, and Ophelia Benson, and…) targets of such juvenile jackholery for daring to tell us that we ain’t prefect, we need to improve, we could do TONS better with something so basic…well, that’s a pretty good sign that we should be listening, not talking.

    (Everything else I could add has been stated, more clearly and with greater skill, by several someones further up-thread. Alas for my lack of eloquence! Perhaps I need more coffee…)

    The MadPanda, FCD

  120. Mary P says

    All I can say is keep writing. You let me learn about and see parts of a world that I do not see in my small part of it. I find some of your writing poetic (DTES post) and beautiful. Some of it I find too painful to read. And I understand your fears. A family member and I just had a conversation about the consequences should our “real” names become known by certain people.

  121. Anna says

    Natalie, this was an amazing read, and you’ve basically gone through a much larger and more explosive version of what I’ve personally experienced with The Atheist Movement and came out the other end with much better written words to show for it.

    Thank you for writing this, and it gives me the strength to say “I’m done” with The Atheist Movement myself even though I have been. Social Justice is much more compelling to me, and as much as I share your beliefs that using skepticism and rational thinking rather naturally leads itself to social justice and feminism–well, let’s put it this way, it pains me to write the phrase “rational thinking” here as it has been forever tainted by privileged white cis fuckers who use that to enable their own concern trolling or assert BIOTRUTHS.

    This was a beautiful post, and it’s a tragedy that it had to be borne of some manchild who wants to put you in danger as a pawn in his fucking power games because he’s mad about *not harassing women at conventions*.

  122. Jesse Parrish says

    Natalie Reed,

    I’ve followed this blog for a while now, if only irregularly. I’ll break lurking to say this: if ever you feel your personal safety has been compromised, you can contact me. I’m sure you have others closer to you with whom you would feel safer and more comfortable relying on, but I am happy to offer whatever I can – slim though my means are – if I can be of help. And I’m sure others would do the same.

    Looking forward to more of your writing,

    Jesse Parrish

  123. ckekrik says

    Being myself a newcomer, not to atheism per se, but to the forum of its public expression, I am moved to tell you just how fortunate I consider myself to have read your words at this early stage of my exploration. You’ve helped me to better focus my search for meaningful, enlightened dialog, and (I would hope) to avoid the many pitfalls awaiting the naive.

    In an odd way, the rightful call to hesitation actually strengthens my resolve to press on.

    Thank you, Natalie, for helping to change at least my little corner of the world for the better.

  124. NateHevens says

    I wrote a blog post on it all, but I wanted to show my support to you as well, Natalie. I’m quite happy to read that you aren’t leaving completely, because FtB and the blogosphere as a whole would be so much poorer without your incredible words being shared.

    I think it really is time for a new movement, one centered around Secular Humanism, Feminism, and Social Justice. I think maybe it’s time the mature among us move along, because I’m starting to think that there isn’t anything in the so-called “Atheist Movement” to hold on to.

    Thanks for everything, Natalie, and I continue to look forward to your writing, whatever it will be about.

  125. eNeMeE says

    +1 to the supporting posts, and thanks for the education, and glad you’ll continue doing what you want to do instead of what you feel forced to do.

    …That’s all I got on account of lots of other people have already said it better and more comprehensively.

  126. ik says

    Natalie Reed? Are you staying on Freethought Blogs at all? Are you continuing to blog about any atheism-related stuff at all?

  127. ik says

    I really, really want to take back the atheist movement, from both obligatory non-religion-related social justice AND from these horrible MRA-type creeps. This whole thing is very sad for me, on every side, just some much, much worse than others. ALthough specifically-atheism is still pretty important and still really does need a movement for it. Jessica Ahquist and stuff.

    … I’m the guy heavily emotionally invested in ‘redeeming Europe’, whatever that means. I tend to pick losing battles.

  128. Sash says

    One thing I became well aware of quickly in the pseudo solidarity that comes with focusing on any empty or unfulfilled cause (atheism included) is that humans will in general tend to fill the void of ideology with a set of principles & in the case of atheism, adhering to it’s religiously bow tied principles with all the dogma that comes along with the formation of any ideology. The hunters soon become the hunted. Atheism is not an ideal, it is merely a byproduct of personal freedom via introspection. Yet as humans we are often seeking answers, we turn to those that offer them be it true or discretely disguised as truth just as the humans of old turned to priests & oracles for guidance, so walks in the figureheads of atheism completing it’s journey through the vacuous realms of doubt to an ideology within it’s own right proving just why the ‘Ism’ was attached to atheos in the 1st place.

    But what is important? A belief or a lack there of? Well until we achieve the level of the ultimate tyranny employing thought police to weed out those we can determine what we will disagree with, respect of each others beliefs must be paramount if we are to be respected for our own.

    Haters need the thrill of a fight to fulfill meaning in their lives. People that in the era of peace, need to play the victim in order to justify war. What I have noticed in all areas of belief/disbelief is the difference between those that accept diversity & those that accept adversity. Beings that aim to bring together & beings that aim to divide. People that only know the term ‘us’ & people that also know the term ‘them’.

    The key to fulfillment is to have self respect & not demand respect to fill the void of the former.

    Stand for something, not against something, leave that to the haters.

    • PatrickG says

      @ Sash:

      Stand for something, not against something, leave that to the haters.

      I like that sentiment in general, as I sometimes get so riled up I forget why I’m riled up. However, part of standing for something is fighting against people who are actively fighting back.

      Though now I’m considering whether I’m for or against overuse of italics tags.

      Silly aside, well, aside… it’s something I consider vital to learning what a person’s worldview is upon first meeting them. I don’t really care what they’re against, per se, I care what they’re for.

      And just another random shoutout: it’s why I love Natalie’s blog. It’s so very evident what she’s for, and more importantly (to me), I learn things every time I come here.

  129. Beowulf says

    Wait! So Natalie Read isn’t your real name?!?!?! So, does that mean the pictures a drawings of your face are also not of you real face?! Does that mean you also don’t live in Vancouver?! What else isn’t true about Natalie Read and is just made up to create a credible character? Did you really had drug addiction problems? Were you really sexually abused? Are you really transexual? I don’t think what Thunderf00t did about hacking into the mailing list, whatever the loophole was, was right. But this is exposing some important information regarding this whole network/group of people. I mean, I understand the need for anonymity, but then make it clear that you are trying to remain anonymous (you know, Beowulf isn’t my real name, and there are reasons for that). But trying to create a persona to just t make your post more credible, is just wrong, and is intentionally misleading your readers. Yes, you should stop blogging for sure, and you just made a big disservice to the causes you supposedly fight for. I don’t care about your real name, I don’t even car about who you are, and again, I think what Thunderf00t did was wrong, but I’m happy that this lie has been uncovered, because that’s what it was, a lie. And now, nobody really knows how much of it is true and how much is a lie. Really disappointed!

    • says

      This isn’t a “persona” except in so far as all bloggers are personas, and I’ve never lied about anything about myself or made false claims about my hsitory. I use a pseudonym, and have never claimed it was my real name. Yr pretty ridic to think “WHAT YOU USED A PSEUDONYM?! SO YOU’VE BEEN LYING ABOUT EVERYTHING!!!”

      • Beowulf says

        Hi Natalie, I didn’t say because you use a pseudonym now everything is a lie. The thing is, all your blog is highly personalized. It reflects on issues from the perspective of a real identifiable person to which those issues are more relevant too. Or it least it looked like it was. By revealing Natalie Reed isn’t really an identifiable person (although it is clearly created by a real person), you’re breaking one of the things that made your blog most interesting. And that seriously affects the credibility of everything else. I might even believe it’s all true (and I want to believe it is), but I just impossible to know where to draw the line now.

        • says

          She is a real, identifiable person. She goes to conventions. If you approach her there and say “Hey, Natalie” she turns her head. She’s done several local appearances in Vancouver that you would now about if you read this blog. There are pictures of her hanging out with people, possibly including some you know, at these events. Natalie Reed may not be the name on her driver’s license, but she is still a real person who does the things in this blog and who you can meet and have a beer with. Why this obsession with her legal name unless you believe in name magic?

          • Beowulf says

            First, why do you insist in this name magic thing, when I never mentioned anything of the sorts.

            Second, and most important (ironically), that’s great to be reassured that people know her personally, and that she makes public appearances and all that. But then I have to ask, why was she so afraid to have her real (legal) name revealed by whoever that was? I honestly don’t get it. Maybe this whole thing about being really afraid of person whoever revealing details about her and putting her at danger was a bit of an over reaction? What he did was wrong yes, and a bit silly to be honest. What was he expecting to achieve by getting himself back to a forum where he knew he was not welcome? But surely, that fact alone is enough to crucify him, no? Is there a real need to say he put someone, who apparently is so easily identifiable, in danger? I don’t know, it sounds like a really serious accusation, but the it’s substantiation appears to be a bit roppy.

        • Luna_the_cat says

          Beowulf, are you HONESTLY this stupid?

          Natalie Reed has never made a secret of the fact that this is a pseudonym. And people blog about their real lives and real, true things under pseudonyms all the damn time. Are you new to the internet?

          • GlazedMcGuffin says

            Hey Beowulf, I saw you had some trouble understanding why someone would use a pseudonym. I just thought I would offer some tips that might help you get it.

            1: Blog about your life, and the intimate details of your struggles and triumphs. Try including things that are extremely difficult to talk about, and that people would hold against you if they were jerks.

            2: Be a member of a minority that is only about 1-2.5% of the total population, but accounts for 20% of all murders and 40% of police-initiated violence.

            3: Be aware that there is an 85% chance that you will be harrassed or abused for simply being a member of that minority, and that this will likely raise to just under 100% if you are visibly so for any amount of time.

            4: Understand that you can be fired legally for being just being a member of this minority in most states, as well as being booted from your home.

            5: Keep in mind that anyone you know, when they learn this minority status about you, could attack or kill you, and that “well I just found out that [the victim] was a [member of specific minority] and panicked” is a still a valid legal defense in many areas of your country.

            6: Go fuck yourself.

            Let me know if any of these steps helped, and good luck with your experiment.

    • says

      http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IKnowYourTrueName

      The only explanation I can come up with for the above post is that you actually believe the above. Names are not personas nor vice-versa. Look at James Frey, who wrote under a false persona and his real name. Vancouver is a big place. Saying she lives there isn’t giving much away and the pictures won’t help anyone find her house if they get mad about something she wrote nor will they come up when potential suitors Google her legal name.

      • Beowulf says

        It’s not about the name, it’s about the fact that the blog gave the idea that was the actual name she used and that would make her identifiable, as I say above. The thing is, if you are afraid of being found out, I mean, really afraid, you don’t take any chances. Just look at Thunderf00t (I’m not using this example for any reason related with is falling out with FtB, but it is a good example for this), who never personalized his video, and still somebody found out who he was. If somebody really want to fin out who Natalie really is and where she lives, giving them a picture and place where to narrow down the search, really makes it that much easier. The real name, one you have all this personal information, is just a detail really.

        • NateHevens says

          Really, dude? This is the first time you’ve found out about the name Natalie Reed being a pseudonym? I’ve known that for a while now. I think it’s relatively common knowledge.

          People choose to protect their identity for various different reasons. Just because Natalie Reed is not her real name doe snot mean she’s lied about everything else. There’s a reason for the pseudonym, and she explains quite clearly in this blog.

          If you can’t get or accept that, it’s nobody’s problem but yours. Get over this “always honest or never honest” crap. A person doesn’t have to use their real name to be honest.

          Seriously.

        • says

          It’s not about the name, it’s about the fact that the blog gave the idea that was the actual name she used and that would make her identifiable, as I say above.

          How, exactly did the blog do that? She’s been upfront about this being a pseudonym. Are you seriously arguing that all people using pen names have a duty to make them sound fake lest someone miss the part where they say it’s a pen name and get the wrong idea?

        • says

          No, I didn’t. I’ve consistently been entirely upfront about the fact that Natalie Reed is a pseudonym. I’ve even talked about that extensively in some posts.

          You’re ridiculous and annoying and you’re done now. Bye!

    • nattaruk says

      Oh look everyone, here’s the mighty warrior of legend, Beowulf, slayer of monsters and dragons! Watch and admire the skilful way he wields his sword back and fro. But wait, what’s happening…. oh NO! He’s chopped his own leg off!
      Turns out he isn’t the real Beowulf after all.
      Beowulf, just how lacking in perspicacity can you be, to think your argument can possibly be taken seriously when you yourself are hiding behind a pseudonym? You’re position is ridiculous and untenable.

      Pseudonyms, because they are chosen, can actually be quite revealing about the person behind them. What sort of person would opt for ‘Beowulf’? I think there are two main posibilities:
      1. They are a legendary hero, who died in combat with a dragon in order to protect others.
      2. They are an immature adolescent boy, and have absolutely nothing in common with the legend.
      I wonder which it is….

    • Coroxn says

      Beowulf, when I first realised that Natalie Reed’s surname was not actually Reed (which I learned quite a while ago, as she has never been deceptive about it), I was also a tad disappointed. I felt, when I read what she wrote, that I had built up an understanding of this person, and learning that something as fundamental as their name wasn’t something I knew revealed that this imaginary relationship was imaginary, and that was a bit disappointing.

      Then, however, (and this is the step you should be aiming for next) is that just because the name she gives us isn’t the one she uses in real life, that’s for very good reasons and also doesn’t touch the quality or meaningfulness of the amazing writing she’s produced. Bitching about her like this is just ridiculous. Everything she’s said before is still as valid and as true. Although, if you don’t know why a trans person would hide their name after reading this blog, you haven’t been reading all that closely.

  130. jerramfahey says

    The number of times the word “entitled” got thrown about in there was hard to bear, but I guess I agree with you for the most part.

  131. Katy says

    I read, but have never commented. This has brought me out of lurkdom – sorry for the long waffle. I started reading pharyngula a few years back for the science and atheism – I met a student on an archaeological site who’d somehow got to the end of her second year in an archaeology degree here in the UK whilst believing the world was only 6000 years old, and I was gobsmacked. Pharyngula was where I went to get the tools to refute her, and to improve my own grasp of the evidence.

    When FTB came along, I followed, and discovered so much more. I’ve always been interested in social justice issues, but I grew up thinking that battles had been won before my birth. I called myself a humanist rather than a feminist, because I didn’t think feminism was needed any more, and I simply didn’t notice the discrimination still faced by many other marginised groups. FTB introduced me to the concept of my own privilage, and hateful as this last year has been, I’ve realised that it’s even more important than ever to identify as a feminist and to stand in support of anyone who needs it. In the last year, I’ve also concluded that social justice trumps atheism when I have to choose, and thank you for articulating that so well.

    Your blog is one of the places where I’ve learnt most, and I’m a better person for reading you. You’ve made me consider things I’d never thought of before, and I hope someday I’m able to help someone else in return. I wish I could reach your level of eloquence, and look forward to reading your new posts. I came out of lurking because I was worried that this post in my feed reader indicated that you were giving up blogging. I just wanted to echo the comments above, saying how much your work is valued. Please don’t quit, and if you ever leave FTB, please tell us where we can follow you to.

  132. says

    Glad you’re not writing an “I quit” letter. I haven’t been to your site before that I remember, but you’re a thoughtful commenter, and I always hate to lose such voices. There are so few of them.

    I’ve never been much into skepticism as an identity. I don’t think of myself as a “skeptic”, IOW. Skepticism is a mental tool to use when trying to understand an issue, so saying I’m a skeptic is like saying I’m a mathematician because I sometimes calculate averages and make charts and histograms.

    I’ve been an atheist before I left elementary school, so it’s not something I feel the need to write about all that often, either.

    So, if you have a subject that moves you, then I’d say you’re wise to write about that, and avoid the subjects that annoy you.

  133. Thom says

    Hi, I’m very new to this site and was linked here by the Blag Hag. I’m shocked to hear about this whole thunderfoot debacle, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I know a lot of atheists are unnecessarily argumentative and catty but it’s really sad to see something like this happen after only a couple days of visiting FTB. I originally typed out a huge rant here about how right you are, but it wasn’t nearly as eloquent as you put it. Let me just say that I’m happy to hear you aren’t leaving. You seem like a really balanced person, something that seems to be sorely lacking these days.

  134. smhll says

    Natalie –

    You are valuable to me because you are a person. In addition, you are valuable to me because you are a writer in possession of knowledge that I don’t have and you are generous enough to pour it out here where I may learn from it.

    I have the good fortune to live in a “blue state” where Xtians are not (currently) making big efforts to impose on me. So, for me, other social justice issues are far, far more important than many of the things regressive skeptics think are hot topics.

    Equal rights are for everybody. Everybody. This is my creed.

  135. says

    I’m happy you’re not leaving because your blog is important to me, and you’ve taught me a lot. I really mean that. You’ve written some of the most powerful, thought provoking posts I’ve read on FTB.

    I’m upset that you’ve been put in this situation. It’s unnecessary, pointless, and unethical. I’ve tried to stay well away from the FTB/Thunderf00t thing, but I’m going to state now that I am disgusted by the whole mess. Now more than ever I am disgusted, because a fight between PZ and TF is one thing, but knowingly performing an act that might endanger a third party is something I can’t imagine doing for any reason.

  136. alecrezz says

    Yep. Thunderf00t is a detestable, underhanded cad for “hacking” into an email server he didn’t have permission to access, but PZ is a hero for “hacking” into a phone conference with a code he didn’t have permission to use. Makes perfect sense.

    • Sassafras says

      It makes perfect sense because there’s no comparison between the two situations. PZ called in to a single public conference call that was open to anyone, gained no confidential information, and when he was asked to leave, he left.

      Thunderf00t spied on a private mail list for a month even after he was told to go away, secretly distributed private emails to third parties, and kept trying to access the list even after he was specifically locked out. And even after his underhanded spying, the best he could come up with was that FtB bloggers dislike it when people talk bullshit about them and break into their private emails. Oooh, big scandal there.

      You cheerleaders don’t realize that to everyone else, this shit is obvious; sneaking into a private email list and eavesdropping on people for a month out of petty revenge rightfully makes Thunderf00t look like the biggest scumbag in the trash-pile, and that’s not going to go away.

  137. neonsequitur says

    This post was truly beautiful to read, and I could not agree more: there are more important issues, for all of us, compared to the BS that’s been dragging down FTB the last few months. Through it all, I don’t mind saying I’ve been increasingly disgusted, and sometimes let down by bloggers I used to admire.

    But I’ve also been deeply moved by some that I hadn’t read before, and this post is one of the best to appear on FTB in the site’s short history. Thank you for bringing some sanity to the discussion. This needed saying.

  138. says

    I read this on a plane and wanted to cheer aloud at the end. I hope you find greater satisfaction after refocusing your efforts and clarifying what is important to you. I have often felt the same way.

  139. scenario says

    I’m glad you’re not leaving. I’ve learned a lot from you and look forward to reading more from you. Especially in a new movement, there are always going to be a few self centered jerks who just don’t get it. There will always be some posters who don’t get it but it is disappointing when the leaders don’t get it.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you that there are some things that should be a no brainer. Having rules of conduct for large groups of people is one of them. But there’s a kind of group think I’ve seen in business many times that I call “Blindsided by the obvious.” That’s where a business has a problem that they can’t see despite being warned about it over and over again. They get totally caught by surprise by something that should be obvious. “Problem, what problem?” Seems to be the rule at a lot of businesses. Sometimes they really are clueless and other times they’re afraid if they admit thee’s a problem they might have to pay to fix it.

    As far as I can tell, TF is an adult who still thinks like a 14 year old. Unfortunately, he’s in the position to hurt innocent people with his immaturity. But any large group has a few like him.

  140. beccaturner says

    Just to add another supporting voice– like everything you write this was a fantastic piece. I always was wary of the organized atheism movement for the reasons you described, and I too have been disappointed by organized skepticism. I had hope, because of Skepchick and because of many of the folks at FtB. I hadn’t been paying that much attention though, so it came as a shock to discover just how much backlash there has been.

    Anyway, I do hope that if you leave this spot but continue writing somewhere else that you’ll leave us a forwarding address! I love your writing and regularly find myself sharing it with one person or another.

  141. TruthfulPinecone says

    Dear Natalie –

    Thank you for outing yourself as a transsexual.

    This will lead to awkward questions about my own sexuality.

    Yours truly…

    Confused

    P.S. Please continue being a transsexual, and win awards.

  142. Bia says

    I can’t agree with you more Natalie. I think Neil sums up my opinion of the Atheist movement. We need more people like him.

    • Marcelo says

      Speaking of Neil DeGrasse on this post just reminded of this one: http://freethoughtblogs.com/axp/2012/04/30/neil-degrasse-tyson-posts-a-surprisingly-disappointing-video/

      For me the bottom line is what she said herself

      (…) 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. (…)

      That’s one of the things I like the most about Forethought blogs, made me see I wasn’t the only one making the link between religion and social issues, it’s a blast form me to read about it from people more educated than me on these subjects.

      And if I’m not crazy, Natalie’s disconnection to atheism here is pretty much like Neil’s on the video I linked, it’s a disconnection from the movement, not from the idea of atheism itself.

  143. says

    I am heartsick that this post was even necessary, but it needed to be said. I’ve learned so much from the short time I’ve been reading your blog; just wanted to delurk and let you know that. I hope your privacy remains protected.

  144. leni says

    Too long but read the whole thing anyway :)

    More seriously, I just want to say that I’ve been increasingly getting the impression that the people of the atheist/skeptic man-o-sphere or whatever I don’t really know what to call it, are the ones who just don’t get it. My hope (and maybe even expectation) is that they eventually will, but if they don’t? Fuck ‘em.

    My mother is a feminist of the 70’s. Much as I love her, and much as I agree with her, admire her, and am grateful to her and to the women of her generation (and of course all those prior) who made possible what I have now, I know it’s not the 70’s anymore. Sometimes it’s just time to move on. But if she were still staging bra-burning protests? Yeah… maybe not so much ;)

    At some point, the rest of us need to move it along. You help us do that and as far as I’m concerned? Fuck ‘em.

  145. says

    I come from what I’m now realising is a very different culture from the USA.

    In Britain, the vast majority of the population are functionally agnostic; acknowledging that God most probably isn’t real, with a sense (and even this tends to diminish with each generation’s passing) that you are supposed to pretend to believe in him anyway. To the average Briton, a sincere in the existence of a God is tantamount to a sincere belief that 2 + 2 = 5. The idea that anyone might actually take the Biblical account of creation any more seriously than any other myth is alien.

    Creationists in Britain are basically looked upon as intellectually equal to those who believe television sets contain tiny people who act out all he programmes. We have no more need of an “atheist movement” than a “cathode ray tubist movement”.

    • says

      That sounds like my culture, growing up in New Jersey along the NYC-Philly train line (that’s the part most people think of as like all of NJ, it isn’t), where it was also impolite to talk too strongly about religion. But most places in the US are, yeah, different. And I’m amazed by how much people in the SF Bay Area want to believe in stuff.

  146. AZGeo says

    I was once one of those white, male, straight, cis, priveleged people who thought that the atheist movement was THE movement, as you put it. This was because I came from a completely deluded religious conservative background, and losing my religion was my first step into the light of reason. Unfortunately, many of my other rightist baggage took longer to be rid of. I was transphobic and completely misunderstood and detested feminism at first. It was largely thanks to writers such as yourself (and the Godless Bitches) that I realized how ridiculous and harmful my positions were. For that I thank you profusely, and I feel absolutely terrible about how many in the movement at large have behaved of late.
    I still intend to be involved in the secular movement, trying to fight religious extremism and maybe reform the movement from within, though the task seems increasingly daunting. Again, thanks largely to yourself I have discovered the importance of fighting for all forms of social justice. Secularism is a particular strength of mine, so that’s where I will devote much of my effort, but I now know the importance of embracing the fight against privilege and bigotry in all its forms.
    I hope someday there will be a convenient label for us all to form a united front around, rather than intermingling overmuch with those who agree with us on only the most trivial issues. Perhaps it is time for a schism in the sceptical movement.
    Anyways, this has become overlong. Mainly I wanted to say thank you for what you have done and let you know that you HAVE been able to change the atheist movement for the better, at least in my case. I look forward to learning more from your writings, and wish you happier times in the future.
    Solidarity,
    -AZGeo

  147. Jordan says

    When I started identifying as an atheist I was kind of excited, to be honest, at the prospect of being part of a minority. (I’m a straight white cis male.) I guess I thought I’d get new, unpriviliged insights into discrimination and social strata or something.

    But I quickly realized that apart from some disapproving looks and the occasional “atheists-in-foxholes” condescension, my life was pretty much the same after I came out. By virtue of having a tolerant friend circle and a home not in the deep South, I personally faced no significant discrimination at all.

    I fear that those like me will do what I did and think “Huh. I guess this is what being a minority is like: a mild inconvenience at worst.” Could this explain the propensity for privilege and general shittiness in the “Atheist Movement”?

    Extraordinarily perceptive and necessary post, Natalie.

  148. says

    When I mentioned this post and the context to my roommate, a 40 year old white cis man who used to be a Randroid, he said “Yes. Thank you for saving me from that.” He credits me with arguing him out of his Randism, through repeated application of empirical facts and citations.

  149. sundiver says

    Really glad you’re not totally bailing out (your F**K Anti-Science entry made me want to stand up and cheer); I do understand the disappointment felt when someone (read thunderf00t) from a group of people one would expect to be more enlightened goes and behaves like (searches for sufficiently forceful adjective) a shitheel. The uproar over Rebecca Watson E-Gate incident was a bit amusing, initially. When the shitstorm really began blowing though I was baffled. I mean, what in the name of the FSM (bless its noodly appendages) were all the MRAs upset about? “Guys, don’t do that” is a helluva lot milder than some of the rebukes the I’ve seen, say, the formidable Judith Martin deal out as Miss Manners. And yet all these MRAs and PUAs had their dicks in a wringer over it. Now, thunderfOOt’s rectocranial inversion takes the goddamn cake. I recall my dad saying something to the effect that no matter what side of an issue you’re on there always be someone on your side you wish wasn’t. Natalie, do whatever you need to do to feel safe. As a cis-normal, white, hetero, male well past “middle-age” I cannot have a clue as to the depth of your fear/concern so all I can do is offer cyberhugs and just hope you continue to blog here. Even if I don’t always grok your entries that’s just me not having the experiences you’ve had. Hell, your F**k Anti-Science entry by itself made reading your blog worthwhile to say nothing of those that have revealed to me all the assumptions I didn’t know I was making.

  150. maddog1129 says

    Another voice saying that I very much appreciate YOUR voice, Natalie. I learn new things here all the time. I think your presence on FtB makes the entire world a better place.

  151. Bjarni says

    I don’t have anything useful to add, but I’m going to comment anyway.

    Love your work, appreciate your fears, wish you all the best and happiness. I only wish I could do more.

    I look forward to seeing more of your posts on other topics, as I’ve enjoyed learning from them.

  152. says

    Recently John Loftis of the blog “Debunking Christianity” has, well, given up, quit – tired of fighting the same fight over and over endlessly. He has graciously turned the blog over to others to take up the gauntlet. But I sympathize with his resignation for I too am tired of reading blogs arguing the merits of non-belief, I don’t need or crave the reinforcement. Organizations such as FFRF (Freedom From Religion Foundation) do good boots-on-the-ground legal work and I support them with financial contributions.

    Over a long period of time I lost what shaky belief I tentatively held and am now clearly and confidently an Atheist. If someone asks (which rarely happens) I don’t hide that I am an Atheist, but I don’t elaborate and explain the various positions and arguments. I am sure people apply their stereotypes to me and make incorrect assumptions about what that may imply my beliefs are on ancillary issues… I have no control over that and it won’t change anyone’s mind anyway.

    An Atheist is not what “I am”, it’s just a position I hold, one of many on a variety of topics. I don’t agree with a lot of my Atheist friends on some of these other topics.

    Anyway, for fear of rambling on… excellent essay.

    • says

      Thank you for the overall sentiment, but I’d be hesitant to describe anything John Loftus does as “gracious”, and to be honest, he strikes me as very much one of the primarily ego-driven, messianic, underdog-heroes-of-their-own-mythology types of atheists who prioritizes it due to failing to understand the importance and relevance of other issues.

  153. Corintur says

    This is the first post of yours that I’ve read and I have to say I like it very much and I’ll keep an eye on your blog from now on.

    I belong to the privileged side in most categories and I find encouraging the fact that there are quite a few of us reading blogs like yours and commenting and trying to improve our understanding of important issues that don’t impact us directly.

    About the whole FTB/Thunderfoot drama. It doesn’t matter who I initially thought was right in this whole train wreck of an argument. All I can say is that the increasingly childish, irrational and indecent behaviour of all sides has left me with a really nasty taste in my mouth and that this post had some of that toothpaste I badly need right now.

    And now a short rant about something that’s been stuck in my brain since the start of the post and while I skimmed the comments:
    You say your continued anonimity is important to you… so then WHY IN ALL THE INFINITY OF HELLS DID YOU USE AN EMAIL WITH YOUR TRUE NAME!?!?!? When will people learn that there is no such thing as “secure” in the digital world, that things like passwords, firewalls etc. are just tools to make this electronic mayhem just a little bit less insecure! If you don’t want something online and available to everyone, then don’t put it online, not even on a secure server or not even on a PC at all if its really important to you. Likewise, if you want for example your true identity not to be connected to your internet persona… you dont create links between them. Its simple, just don’t create any links no matter how “secure” between things you don’t want connected. Its a simple guide line and you just follow it in proportion to how important the issue is to you.

    Ok, that said, its 4AM and I need to go so cya and I wish you all the best.

    Corintur

    • says

      Likewise, if you want for example your true identity not to be connected to your internet persona… you dont create links between them

      Exactly.

      But I needed an e-mail address to be on the f-ing server and get this blog set up in the first place, and that was my f-ing e-mail address, which I set up BEFORE having to deal with having a public internet persona, and VERY MUCH BEFORE realizing that persona was going to become as public as it did and get dragged into a bunch of conflicts that have nothing to do with me. I didn’t “create links” between them, and avoided any links or connections wherever it was possible.

      Guess I was SUCH an IDIOT for EVER actually TRUSTING people! “You know, if your real name was important to you, you never should have risked it blogging in the first place”.

      I’m rather impressed you think this kind of comment qualifies as helpful. CYA!

      • says

        That’s what bugs me about a lot of the security advice I’m seeing. It seems to amount to “you should never trust anyone about anything.” You should never say anything online, even in private, that you wouldn’t want published in the newspaper, and such. Their Internet sounds less useful than the one I live in.

        • punchdrunk says

          Like a lot of ‘advice’, it’s really:
          “Why you so stupid, dumbass?
          What’d I do?! Why you mad!?”

        • Corintur says

          Actually both the internet as you see it and the internet as I see it are actually the same one. Its the simple fact that 99.999999% of the time people get away with doing the stuff they shouldn’t that makes the internet work… mostly.

      • Corintur says

        It wasn’t my intention to play the annoying guy with perfect hindsight and oh so wise advice, but I guess that was exactly what I did so I apologise for that.

        Now if you’ll bear with me I’ll repeat my ‘sin’ just a bit more.
        But the fact that you made a mistake by using that email address still stands, or not changing it later when your blog became more popular. Setting up a new email takes less than 5min and its free.

        And no, I’m not trying to imply you were an idiot either for making that simple mistake from convenience or for trusting other people not to exploit that mistake. I’m simply trying to point out that mistake to you and say be more careful in the future. Ok?

        Just one more thing. “You know, if your real name was important to you, you never should have risked it blogging in the first place”.
        I went over my comment carefully and I never said that, it might have been unintentionally implied in my ‘advice’ but I never would have said it like that. It just sounds too much like: “It’s the protesters own fault that the police beat them up, they shouldn’t have been protesting in the first place”
        I think that you are doing a good thing with your blog and raising important issues that need to be thought through and argued about and I would never intentionally imply that you shouldn’t be doing that.

        “Guess I was SUCH an IDIOT for EVER actually TRUSTING people!”
        No. It never was about trusting people, its about trusting the system. And this time it was the failure of the system’s parts that needed to prevent misuse that caused damage. It doesn’t matter that there was a malicious intruder or that security wasn’t tight enough, those are just negative variables that the system should have dealt with but it couldn’t and now the damage is done and its time to learn from mistakes and improve.

        *sigh* another too long comment by

        Corintur

      • tbs says

        This issue is something I totally struggle with.

        I hate psueds. I have a perfectly good name, and see no reason why I need to become awesomeguy69 on internets, and it also I think encourages a mental laziness. I am not always proud of what I say, but I need to own it.

        And that was a totally awesome philosophy for a while. The trans thing in my lofe just makes that different. There are people I dont want to know, and some people that dont need to know out of fairness to my fiancee. However, I do remain awfully proud of her, and never want to even mentally think in terms of secrets.

        Even on this blog, I think I have given enough info that my identity is compromised. I figure anyone reading ftb wouldnt be trouble for us. (Though considering the main topic of this post, mayhaps I am incorrect).

        I do think it is kind of silly on the whole though to point oit this kind of thing to a trans person. I mean, we negotiate these problems on internets, most trans people have to juggle this EVERY DAY OF THIER LIFE.

    • Rasmus says

      Sharing your identity and other info with people who you work with or interact with could potentially open doors for you somewhere down the road. Using a pseudonym and other fake personal info is likely to decrease your gains from any professional networking that you do.

      Even the most secretive of pseudonymous writers tend to have at least two professional contacts (in case one dies…) who know who they are. I bet most pseudonymous writers have a bunch of contacts who know who they are. Unmaskings happen. There’s always a trade-off.

  154. A Hermit says

    Thanks for this Natalie. You’ve given us as good an assessment of the state of the atheist “movement” as I’ve seen anywhere.

    Like you I’ve always seen atheism itself as a fairly simple proposition; that there is no “greater power” looking out for, watching over or judging us. For me, the consequence of that belief i humanism; the idea that we are the ones who must look out for each other, but in the end it’s the looking out for each other, not the disbelief, which is really important.

    My humanism is inspired far more by the example of my Grandfather, a Mennonite preacher who embraced and accepted his youngest son’s homosexuality without hesitation and who encouraged his daughters to be strong, smart outspoken leaders, then by smug, arrogant hyper-skeptics more interested in proving their own cleverness than in actually making the world around them a better place. I’ll never be able to accept my Grandfather’s belief in a deity, but in all other ways it’s his example that I will continue to follow.

    Reason and intellect are worth nothing if not combined with compassion and empathy. Thank you, Natalie, for showing us how to have both.

  155. says

    Natalie, I just want to say thank you for writing this, and I hope that you are safe. Most of my participation in atheism has been reading books and blogs, occasionally making donations, sometimes writing. I’ve always considered secularism, especially, to be extremely important, one one of many areas where there is need for civil rights improvements. I’ve been apalled at the way in which some atheists get infuriated over something like nativity scenes funded with public money or prayer at council meetings, while dismissing concerns about sexism, racism, anti-LGBT discrimination, ableism, etc. It’s not that the former aren’t important (they are) but lack of concern (and even endorsement of) the latter betrays on the part of certain atheists that they only care when atheists who are not in the minority in any other way are discriminated against. It shows shows that the criticism they may express of sexism, anti-LGBT discrimination, etc. when done by religion is just an attempt to win an argument with a religious opponent, not due to genuine concern. Again, thanks for writing.

  156. tbs says

    I, for one, was wondering what such a cool chick like you was doing mixed up in all that sturm und drag anyway.

    You have plenty to say, and an unusual and important voice to speak to skepicisim in promotion of that mindset, without the baggage of the atheist movement.

    I read your blog for many reasons, your story is personally immediate to me, I use you to self-correct my thinking and perceptions, you write damn well, and it is interesting. None of these are dependent on atheisim.

    I can see where this post came from. I concurr and support.

  157. Ethan Hobart says

    I hope you are going to continue writing here, or somewhere else, even if it isn’t about atheism ever again.

    Your essays have led me to examine many ideas and prejudices I wasn’t even consciously aware that I had, before seeing things from your point of view. It hasn’t been comfortable, and it isn’t something I’ve written a great deal about on my facebook(the only place where I write anything regularly) but I value it.

    I am grateful to you(and to some other people I need to thank personally) for this.

    Ethan Hobart

  158. ... says

    although it never stopped being relevant to what I valued and cared about) was dominated by men

    Like Wafa Sultan. Like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Like Suzanne Zeller-Hirzel. Like Nonie Darwish…

    By white people.

    Yeah. Like Ibn Warraq. Like the members of the Ex-Muslim Council of Britain. Like Maryam Namazie. Like the freethought movements of India.

    e. And along with that, the privilege. The entitlement.

    The way these people as you’d phrase it have to live under constant threat of death with fuck-all support from the likes of you?

    No. There is a privileged, pampered spoilt minority who has never had to face the rough side of anything and never sticks up for anything that involves a risk.

    That would be you. That’s you. Look in the mirror.

    I am sick to death of fucking pointless norteamericanos who believe their lil’ problems are the be-all and end-all of everything. Whine, whine, whine, moan, moan, moan, poor-lil-me… And they never do anything.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    Fuck your atheism

    And fuck yours. You may not have noticed, but… the day when dumb-ass north american brats could dictate to the rest of the world is over. It’s finished and it’s never, ever coming back. India is rising. China is rising. Both of those have immense numbers devoted to the principles of the Enlightenment. There are struggles all over the Africa and the lands of the ancient Caliphate. And Europe was the cradle of the Enlightenment.

    We don’t need you. Don’t let the door catch your ass on the way out.

  159. markelamb says

    I am slightly confused about this situation (started lurking just as the dust was starting to settle) but I’m very glad the damage hasn’t been worse.

    Before checking out FTB (and godless bitches and a couple of other sources) I never really thought about things like gender issues and views, beyond a broad agreement with equal rights and responsibilities, and a hopefully reasonable disgust when exposed to bigotry.
    I have learned a lot in the last while, but I have you to thank for giving me a really informative look into trans issues and cissexism, as well as the entertaining if sometimes heartbreaking story of you and how you became you.

    I’m about halfway through your archived posts – You’ve opened my eyes. You have my sincerest gratitude, thank you for sharing your experiences and insight.

    FWIW I think you’re handling it well, refusing to tiptoe around pure asshattery and spite, I’d be a tragedy if you were silenced by these bullying creeps. You go girl!

  160. Sergio says

    I’m glad your not leaving the blog you have allowed us to understand and often lied about and maligned group of people as well as the gender views that rule out lives
    Glad you are staying

  161. Jeff says

    Not sure what caused the initial rift but it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Natalie would be involved. Nat, you are drawn to conflict and hostility. There is hardly a post in your entire blog when you aren’t attacking someone. I assume therefore that Thunderfoot is in the right, inasmuch as he was dealing with an antisocial person.

      • tbs says

        Ace of sevens, you are right. It is almost like she has some sort of *reason* folks treat her different, and is trying to tell us about it. Totally not beacon of light ;)

    • BCat70 says

      Wow. This post is truly retarded. You “are (n)ot sure what caused the initial rift”, so you”assume therefore that Thunderfoot is in the right” ?? Since you do not have a factual basis for your opinion don’t share it until you do.. Nat was not directly involved with the Tfoot debacle, she was responding to his having unethically (possibly illegally) cracking the FTB server.

      • Jeff says

        Unethical? You mean like lying to your sexual partners about your gender history and status in order to get them to sleep with you? Which is what Natalie advocated on this blog. That FTB allows this person to continue to blog here after advocating that, which is little different than rape by deception, says a lot about FTB.

        • tbs says

          Hey Jeff, you just posted the dumbest thing I have seen on the internet. Well done! You are so many ways in error, you aren’t even wrong, just offensive and nonsensical.

          You perhaps need to meet actual other people, and as a transwoman would be a stretch, (and no, despite what you think YOU wouldn’t read one) maybe start with just any woman at all? Most I know given an asinine attitude you have would kick you right back into whatever hole you inhabit.

          As far as I am concerned you should stay under your rock.

          Cheers,
          TBS

        • says

          Hey Jeff do you inform that you are a transphobic jerk to all your sexual partners? If not you are pretty much committing “rape by deception.”

          People are not obligated to dispell erroneous assumptions about themselves to everyone or anyone they fuck.

          Ps No better way to trivialize rape than to call stuff rape that is not actually rape.

          • Jeff says

            Yup, but what Natalie was endorsing was rape by deception. And it is good to call rape what it is. BTW, note that she finds rape funny, lol’ing about it above. This is what passes for legitimate discourse on FTB apparently. Hopefully, the laughter will fade away when she is taken into police custody after one of her trysts figures out her con and files a complaint.

          • says

            Yeah, sorry, but legal precedent does not require trans people, specifically, to disclose non-harmful aspects of their medical history, and in facts PROTECTS the right to that privacy. If anyone here is disrespecting rape and its severity, it’s you with your patently absurd comparisons.

          • Stevarious says

            No, having sex with someone without disclosing that you are trans is not ‘rape by deception’. If you are that transphobic then it’s up to you to ask.

            She wasn’t laughing at rape, or laughing at the idea of rape. She was laughing because the accusation of ‘rape by deception’ for not announcing beforehand that she’s trans is on it’s face absurd.

            (Unless you are so transphobic that you think having consensual sex with a trans person when you don’t know they are trans is the same thing as rape. And really, if you are THAT transphobic, what are you even doing here?)

        • Rasmus says

          In case anyone is reading this and wondering WTF Jeff is alluding to, it’s most likely the article about the presumed The “Ethical Imperative” Of Disclosure.

          Does it say that “lying to your sexual partners about your gender history and status in order to get them to sleep with you” is okay?

          Unless my reading skills suck that article says that if you’re a person who’s attracted to a trans woman and you want to have sex with her, then she’s not obliged to stop you and ask you if you’re aware of her history.

          My opinion is that if you are a person who does not want to have sex with trans women for whatever reason then it’s on you to say that before you have sex. It’s on you to explain to her how important it is to you and how devastating it would be to you if you would find out that you had had sex with a trans woman. If you do that then I think that the woman has an ethical imperative disclose whether she is cis or trans, since you asked her and made clear that it is important.

          I think the same applies to people who believe in the one drop theory with regards to race. If a person does not want to sleep with someone who has black ancestors (or as in the criminal case in Israel – two Arab parents) it’s on that person to ask before jumping into bed.

  162. says

    Natalie, I suspect that you’re going to be interacting with the Atheist movement, in some way or another, for the foreseeable future. Because a lot of the things you’re fighting against, well, religion is a very strong enabling factor for them. And who, other than atheists, is even trying to dismantle the friggin’ privilege and unearned respect and etc that religion enjoys? So under the “any port in a storm” principle, it seems likely that you’re going to be working with atheists for part of your overall mission, simply by virtue of the absence of anyone else who even pretends to oppose religion.

    • says

      Sure. I’m fine with interacting with atheists and collaborating with them. And I still AM an atheist. I’m still on FTB for the foreseeable future, and I’ll be appearing at Eschaton 2012, and so on. The point, though, is that I no longer identify myself as a member of the Atheist Movement, no longer place that as a prioritized aspect of my identity or cause, and most importantly will no longer be actively involving myself in issues (especially conflicts and “controversies”) internal to the Atheism Movement (even A+), or otherwise acting as a participant in that community.

      • marcus says

        i don’t see any foreseeable future for you in FTB…move on.
        the A.C.L.U. is everything you want less atheism, a perfect match.

  163. says

    I just want to say that I have been following your blog since your move to FtB. I have learned an awful lot about trans life and the issues in the community–issues that I had not been exposed to before.

    The simple purpose of this comment is to say that I have miised your posts these past 2 weeks, and I look forward to your return.

  164. rapiddominance says

    Contents from the FtB listserv were posed as a threat to your “safety net”.

    You didn’t want others “holding all the cards”.

    You dropped the atheist movement.

    You’re still with the FtBs.

    Is your blog now an island or do you consider yourself to still be a member of this team?

    Did anything really change at all?

    None of this adds up.

      • rapiddominance says

        I get that. In fact, I myself almost never talk about issues related to religious belief when I pop in.

        Think about her comment on not wanting others to hold all the cards. Are not the same “others”, essentially, still holding all the cards?

        Also, was there not some degree of awkwardness between this blogger and the other FtB bloggers generated by her public “divorce” from atheism?. Did she not send this particular “free thought” community into something of a damage control mode?

        Its not that I think she should make all her important activists decision based on the wishes of team FtB or that she’s done anything wrong at all. But it is a curious thing (to me, at least) as to what actual benefit she thought she might gain (or has already gained) from her departure from the atheist movement.

        Her “safety” was threatened.

        Does she feel any safer now?

        It goes back to my earlier question: “Did anything really change at all?”

        (As if this shit is any of my business to begin with. For me, the entire debacle has unfolded as something of an amusing trainwreck. Still, I am interested in the blogger’s well being.)

  165. says

    I am not a scholar of any university of sciences. I am not a doctor in any field of medicine or science. I have an associates degree in something that is of relatively little use outside of a specific sector of government work, a career inhabited by an exorbitant majority of sexist, misogynistic, self-important, ableistic, homophobic and generally white men. But I read, and I listen. I think and I dissect. I read the encyclopedia, the science journals and their respective reviews. I read and absorb, introspect and outwardly reflect on my life much of my waking hours. Honestly, it gives me headaches sometimes. I don’t have a well known name or title to drop, but I’d like to make an inference of several things I have noticed about our culture, and humanity. We don’t understand ourselves nearly as well as we claim, we can be mistaken about our world and do so on a regular basis, and as the title of Dan Ariel’s book says, we are “Predictably Irrational”.

    He isn’t the only one who has done ground breaking research that as totally blown away our cultural perceptions and unchecked intuitions about how humans really behave, nor will he be the last. Fact is this… Science has been blowing apart the traditional concepts society so prizes every day. I can’t say for sure if it’s an intrinsic human quality, but I have noticed that our culture has a tendency to oversimplify, to be intellectually lazy or dishonest. I’d even argue that to rule either human behavior or culture as the sole cause would also be a oversimplification. Their are places, people, and systems that are getting it right, or at least better than us. If they can get it right, so can we, and we should. But our culture, Westernized Cultures specifically, does facilitate this oversimplified, lazy, black and white kind of thinking. In my own scribblings I have referred to this as Binaryism (or the tendency of a group, society or a culture to frequently engage in black and white thinking, the creation of false dichotomies/dilemmas, stereotyped or oversimplified thought processes when dealing with, thinking about, or discussing complex dynamic systems, issues or concepts).

    Binaryist Entitlement/Privilege would be the position of privilege granted to those who take clear “black/white” positions, to the disadvantage of people who take nuanced, or complex positions, or who by virtue lie in the middle ground of a contested issue, even with solid evidence to hold such a position. Additionally, the tendency to demonize, dehumanize, or otherwise discriminate against someone for holding an indifferent, middle-of-the-road, complex or opposing view to your own. This concept originally came out of my need to define the issue with people who vehemently defend the gender binary, but I realized in looking beyond this, that it was a culturally and socially broader problem than just one with gender. Everything from political campaigns to sexism. A seemingly overwhelming desire to simplify complex topics into neat easy to handle proportions, and to polarize (sometimes aggressively) around those issues. Perhaps there is a word/complex for this already.

    No one is more hated than the person who “rides the fence” or doesn’t take a clear position of opposition to another under such premises. Our westernized culture seems to be too “absolutist”, and mingled with an air of “totalitarianism”. I think in some degrees, that this aspect is an undertone for this very issue. Certainly some of this is rooted in human behavior, but with the influence of Judea-Christian religions in Westernized Cultures, that this problem becomes especially more pronounced. Religions like the Abrahamic Faiths are totalitarian in nature. I’d argue that it’s easy to see where totalitarianistic thought leads to “us verses them”, “black and white”, “good and evil” archetypes. So perhaps then, Binaryism (perhaps a better word already exists) is a product of totalitarian thinking? When I think about it, when I look at my government in the US, and religion, or the GOP, and the right-wing I see it. It’s hard not to.

    Perhaps I am creating new words and definitions to explain a phenomenon that already has a name, or perhaps I am just thinking too much. But through my observations, I can’t help but feel that this thinking is totalitarianistic, and through it binary thinking contributes to this issue. If I am wrong, I’ll gladly listen to that evidence and position, or if perhaps this is part of something already discussed elsewhere I’ll gladly incorporate it. I just see this as an overarching phenomenon of all those things you mentioned. Perhaps this is just the consequences of totalitarianism. I’m interested in your thoughts if you have time.

  166. Dora says

    I’ve been following some of the controversy over misogyny in the atheism culture because I ended up at some of Rebecca Watson’s posts from a feminist thread on comic books. I have to say that this is the most eloquent summary of it.

    But what’s making me comment is this: Can you write, or direct me to, a kind of skepticism 101 that’s YOUR kind of skepticism? Because I don’t find that pretty much anywhere, and I’d like to. The skepticism that’s about questioning assumptions with humility, not taking the easy road, being a more honest and better person, and coming to conclusions you can trust?

    I used to be able to do this in college. But at the time I was also, conveniently, questioning the things I’d been taught and was able to cast myself in a heroic role. 20 years later I just feel exhausted and find myself falling into knee-jerk responses to things because the world is just so goddamn tiring.

    But I’d like to be able to think again.

    How does one start? I can’t remember what spark happened in my first philosophy class. I can’t seem to reignite it by reading intro or advanced philosophy.

    Maybe when I was 18 I didn’t really have big investment in my identity. I was eager to shed it. Maybe now I have more to lose so I wrap myself in things that reinforce that identity. There’s probably some of that going on. But most of it just feels like exhaustion.

    So, any books or blog posts or kernels of ideas that once inspired you, please share. The world needs more of the kind of skepticism you value and did not find. This post is the best statement of it I’ve found.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Natalie Reed explains why (the links were added by omniz over at Atheist Logic; I’ll be linking to that post below): 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 same the sexist garbage rehashed endlessly, with so much vitriol and fervor. […]

  2. […] She related that, following the expulsion of the blogger Thunderf00t from Freethought Blogs after he used the platform to slander the organization and generally make a gigantic, heaving, shit-spewing ass out of himself, that after being removed from the system, he hacked back into the private channels and  managed to acquire incredibly private details about her, including the name she goes by in real life, that if released would damage her life in irreparable ways. That name, were it to get out, would put her in very real danger and probably destroy her life, which isn’t, by her account, fairies and butterflies in the first place. […]

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