Stedman: Right and Wrong on Islamophobia

Chris Stedman of the Harvard Humanists has a column at Religion Dispatches about atheism and Islamophobia that, in my view, gets some things right and some things wrong on the subject. The main problem, I think, is that he doesn’t make a distinction between criticism, even if it might be inaccurate, and hatred or bigotry. For instance, he quotes Dave Silverman and JT Eberhard:
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The Road Less Travelled Video – With PZ Myers, Chris Stedman, Leslie Cannold And Meredith Doig



The Road Less Travelled with Meredith Doig, PZ Myers, Chris Stedman, Leslie Cannold. “Can Atheists and Believers work together for the common good?”

On Monday 16 April 2012, the day after the fabulous Global Atheist Convention, we brought together three fiercely articulate freethinkers to argue the question “Can Atheists and Believers work together for the common good?” Chris Stedman is the first Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chapliancy at Harvard University. Chris writes for the Huffingtion Post, and Washington Post and his own blog, NonProphet Status. His book “Faitheist: how an atheist found common ground with the religious” will be published later in 2012. PZ Myers is professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, specialising in evolutionary biology. His blog “Pharyngula” has been listed by the journal Nature as the top-ranked blog written by a scientist. He is often cited as the ‘cranky curmudgeon’ of the freethought community. Leslie Cannold is an award-winning ethicist based at the University of Melbourne and noted as one of Australia’s most influential public intellectuals. A native New Yorker, she has made Australia home for the past 23 years. In addition to her prolific writing on a wide variety of ethical issues, her distinctive voice is heard across public and commercial radio. In 2011 Leslie was named Australian Humanist of the Year.
Moderated by Rationalist Society President Dr Meredith Doig, this spirited discussion will intrigue and entertain.

Token Skeptic Interview – On Faitheism With Chris Stedman

The latest Token Skeptic podcast is now out! Thanks to everyone who has been very patient while I’ve been busy with studies, checking that the podcast is ready to be released – and not keeping a very regular schedule with the show.

There should be two more Token Skeptic episodes at the very least coming out in April, but since there’s also at least three conferences in quick succession over the next two months (including my MC role at the Global Atheist Convention!) – well, I’m not promising a lot of action on the podcast-front until April is well and truly over.

I do have some news though – I’ll be involved with the Media 140 Digital Futures three day event here in Perth, but I’ll hold back on all the details until things have been properly finalised and some meetings and networking have been completed. I’ll certainly be focusing my podcasting efforts on producing more information about the tri-partite conference that’ll be happening from the 26-28th April in central Perth – called Digital Me, Digital Family and Digital Business.

Until then, enjoy the listen and remember to sign up for the Fringe events for the Global Atheist convention, especially the Road Less Traveled fringe event of the Global Atheist Convention, with PZ Myers, Chris Stedman, Leslie Cannold and Meridith Doig.

Chris Stedman is the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University and the Managing Director of State of Formation, a new initiative at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Chris received an MA in Religion from Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago, for which he was awarded the Billings Prize for Most Outstanding Scholastic Achievement. A graduate of Augsburg College with a summa cum laude B.A. in Religion, Chris is the founder and author of the blog NonProphet Status. His soon-to-be-released book is called Faitheist: How An Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious and he speaks on it regularly both by invitation and as a member of the Secular Student Alliance Speakers Bureau.

Here’s a partial transcript as to how the interview went (mp3 download here):

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The Stedman paradox

Ah, Chris Stedman. He visited Morris today, and gave a presentation at the Federated Church before sending people off to community activities. He was a very nice guy, and he told some very nice stories, and he was just generally nice. Nice. Lots of niceness. A whole afternoon of nice. So I will restrict myself to entirely constructive criticisms.

  • Why in a church? This was an event organized by Morris Freethinkers, representing their interest in promoting positive community interactions. I would have been more impressed if it were held in a secular venue, if it were made clear that these were atheists doing good, and challenging community Christians to join us. Instead, by putting it immediately under the umbrella of religion, the impression was made that we are following, not leading.

  • I’ve been in churches before, and this talk was indistinguishable from anything that might be said in a liberal Christian church anywhere: be kind, charity is rewarding, it’s good to help your fellow human beings. Aside from saying that he was an atheist a few times, there was nothing to make this talk stand out…absolutely nothing to explain why atheists also find virtue in kindness and charity and goodness. It does not make a case for atheism if you blend into the religious woodwork so thoroughly.

  • It didn’t help that, when describing his background, Stedman talked about being a religious studies major, a seminarian, doing interfaith work, hammering on his associations with the faithful. Oh, and by the way, he’s an atheist. Yeah? This is a guy who’s been neck-deep in Christianity his entire life, hasn’t removed himself from it at all but has made a career of immersing himself ever deeper in Jesus’ pisswater, and occasionally waves a tiny little flag that says “atheist” on it. I’d like to see Stedman actually challenge his audiences and make a real case for rejecting faith, while supporting good works, but I don’t think he could do it.

  • I was entirely sympathetic to the planned community activities (assisting in the art gallery in town, visiting the elderly, doing a highway cleanup), but I couldn’t do them as part of a church group, as a matter of principle. Who was going to get credit for this work? The church, of course. I will not and can not do that; it’s providing support for beliefs I consider contemptible. What would have been better is something to inspire freethinkers to do these works without the framework of a church. We are free of that bogus crap, let’s not promote the illusion that charity is part of religion.

  • Please don’t ask me to participate in anything held in a church again. It felt icky. I really don’t like temples to ignorance, even liberal ignorance.

I know the students mean well. I know the students want to do good for entirely secular reasons. What we need, though, are tools and ideas and inspiration to do so that don’t fall back on the trappings of religion, which simply reinforce the entirely false notion that morality is a function of the church. That’s how we got into this cultural trap in the first place, by perpetually promoting the belief that goodness equals godliness, and Stedman’s approach provides no escape hatch.

PZ Myers, Leslie Cannold, Chris Stedman – The Road Less Traveled Fringe Event

I’m going to see if I can get more information about what they’ll be talking about precisely – but here’s the details and tickets are going fast! Do get one if you’re around after the Global Atheist convention!

Can believers and atheists work together for the common good? Join Chris Stedman, PZ Myers & Leslie Cannold in conversation with Meredith Doig. An oficial fringe event of the 2012 Global Atheist Convention.

Monday, April 16, 2012 – 6:00pm until 8:00pm
Elisabeth Murdoch, University of Melbourne
Tickets: Standard $22, Students $12
Order online: http://roadlesstraveled.eventbrite.com/

It’s on the Monday AFTER the Global Atheist Convention, and if you’re unable to afford the event – especially if you are a student – this is a fantastic way of getting to see three presenters (with the MC Meredith Doig, who was at the 2010 GAC) with lots of discussion and interaction. With PZ and Chris and Leslie – for two hours! This is a real bargain, quite frankly!

Me vs. Chris Stedman

How do I get myself talked into these things? I have two events with the slithery Chris Stedman coming up: first, he’s speaking at the Midwest Science of Origins Conference in Morris next week. He’s scheduled for April Fools’ Day, so I’m hoping the student organizers are just going to hand him an exploding cigar and then put out his flaming hair with a swirlie…but I suspect they’re actually going to take him seriously and give him time to annoy me.

Second, the day after the Global Atheist Convention, as part of their fringe events, I’m speaking at this event: PZ Myers, Leslie Cannold, Chris Stedman – The Road Less Traveled, in which I’m supposed to talk about whether believers and atheists can work together for the common good. My answer is simple: sure they can, but faith isn’t in the common good, and we have to work against it.

You know, one of my concluding lines in my Reason Rally talk was that I want to be bad without god. And by bad, I mean defy the bogus religious morality that the majority want to impose on us, and fight against the status quo.

To the fan of The Atheist Experience who asked them to ‘take me on': 62 reasons you suck

I published a post yesterday called ‘I’m sorry today’s atheist movement has inspired abuse. Are you sorry your religion has?‘ In it, I accept ideas linked to my worldview have motivated people to act badly and ask believers – instead of being defensive and dismissive when shown harm caused by religion – to do the same.

I’d been wondering where the angry mob were till Russell Glasser of The Atheist Experience forwarded me this email from a fan.

I’d love to see you guys take on this brand of college educated hipster atheist.  His particular bent is becoming quite loud amongst us and is doing the work of the religious while speaking in our voice.  He get’s a lot of things wrong but it seems he just lumps a whole bunch of human failings on to atheism.  He’s part of the “lets hate Dawkins/Harris at all costs” camp and at times I feel like he’s as dishonest as S.E. Cupp.

He starts this thing with 5 bullet points, all of which misrepresent the involvement of Atheism or the the responsibility of atheist ideas for the failings sited.
http://freethoughtblogs.com/godlessness/2014/11/17/im-sorry-todays-atheist-movement-has-inspired-abuse-are-you-sorry-your-religion-has/

Drew

‘Hipster atheist’. Was it the glasses? It was the glasses, wasn’t it?

They’re reading glasses.

What’s the ideal amount of education, one wonders? How much will make someone an atheist but not an atheist like me? How close to this golden mean is Richard Dawkins, who spent far longer at my university than I spent there?

Russell writes back:

Alex Gabriel is a good friend and a fine writer. I think his post makes some important points, and your characterization is not an accurate description of what he said.

Russell Glasser
The Atheist Experience

Drew doesn’t like that at all.

So you think his assertion that “atheists join the anti-immigrant far right because they think Muslims are wicked, animal or ‘barbaric’ by nature.” Is a fair representation of atheism or any ideas atheists embody in any significant numbers?  Do you think it’s responsible?  Quotes like that seem to be the very thing I’ve heard you guys take to task on the show as being fallacious and dishonest.  He generally “straw mans” pretty hard in most of his writings.  Especially in the area of Dawkins and Harris.  He completely misrepresents their views to an audience who quite often is not familiar enough with their work to know better.  He openly calls them racist.  I’m characterizing, you can read his quotes in his writings.

Openly. I openly call people racist. I think things people do are racist and I say soOpenly. I know no shame.

He’s taking things that individual humans struggle with because we’re linguistically and/or logically imperfect and leveling them at atheists as if we exclusively get these traits as a byproduct of our atheism.  He’s committing one of the central fallacies we struggle with all the time.  Unlike religious believers who are often led to beliefs directly related to passages in wholly books, we have no such unity.  Our beliefs on gender equality or race are social and cannot be attributed to atheism, yet he does this repeatedly thus fueling the fire of illogical arguments we’re forced to fend off.

Don’t I just, though? Actually I don’t. I say

Simply being atheists isn’t these people’s motivation – atheism by itself prompts no more action than theism by itself – but the particular atheist school of thought we share . . . Beyond the absence of a god, [.] has plenty of distinctive ideas . . . And the beliefs above that make some atheists abusive – about believers’ mental or moral status, the barbarity of the ‘Islamic world’, the invalidity of all religious claims to victimhood, the all-explaining role of evolution and biology as pure unconstructed truth? These are distinctly New Atheist ideas.

Drew’s undeterred. He isn’t stalled by distractions like reading.

I have a hard time believing he represents any sensibilities I’ve come to expect from watching the show over the last 4 or 5 years.  You may know him as a nice person but have you read much of what he writes?  He seriously doesn’t align with anyone I’ve seen speak on the show.  If anything the overwhelming sentiment of the show seems to be a rejection of his kind of silliness.

Russell Glasser, one of several AXP hosts I’m friends and colleagues with, discussing me as a prospective Freethought Blogs member in August 2013: ‘I’ve already spent some time reading his blog. Enough for me to give an unqualified yes.’ (We know each other a lot better now.)

I actually don’t mean to make the thrust of this as a direct attack on him individually.

Phew.

He simply seems to be an obvious example of this divide I’m noticing and I cited him and the link in order to “figurehead” the general nature of the division that I see growing.  I actually see him as part of a larger social development akin to the so called 3rd wave feminist movement that has people divided as well.  We all know how that seeped into the atheist discussion in recent years.

Ahhhhhhhh.

The inclinations seem to be similar.  Anyway, I point all this out as an interesting subject to discuss and possibly work out on the show as it clearly pertains to atheist identity and perception in the world.

Best regards,
Drew

Russell again:

Drew,

‘So you think his assertion that “atheists join the anti-immigrant far right because they think Muslims are wicked, animal or ‘barbaric’ by nature” Is a fair representation of atheism or any ideas atheists embody in any significant numbers?  Do you think it’s responsible?’

Yeah, as a matter of fact I do. If you’d actually bothered to click on the links,  you’d see that the one for “wicked, animal or barbaric” is a link to an infuriated rant by Pat Condell, a guy I have also frequently criticized for charging right over the line between legitimate criticisms of Islam and blind, borderline racist hatred. I don’t have the stomach to watch the linked video right now, but I would not be at all surprised to hear Condell use those terms. And while I don’t know how significant the numbers are, I note that Pat Condell’s YouTube channel currently sports over 200,000 followers, which represents a non-trivial chunk of the atheist activist community.

Martin and I recently did a show on Islamophobia, so if you had any question about where we stand on this issue, you could have asked. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_pMcYmE5rs

‘He’s taking things that individual humans struggle with because we’re linguistically and/or logically imperfect and leveling them at atheists as if we exclusively get these traits as a byproduct of our atheism.’

No, he’s not doing that. Alex is a proud atheist, and he doesn’t think atheism inevitably results in those things. What he is doing is drawing attention to the fact that neither atheists nor the atheist movement are perfect; that people who are claiming to represent the rest of us sometimes say and do some pretty dumb shit.

It is because atheists don’t require heroes, idols, or infallible representatives that we should feel free to criticize that dumb shit when we hear it. Just because Dawkins or Harris says a thing doesn’t mean we’re required to follow along as if it were atheist gospel. It also doesn’t mean that when we criticize those guys — as we have, out loud, on the show — that we are saying they are evil people who must be shunned and denounced for every single thing they do from now on. It just means they said some dumb shit, and we acknowledged it. That’s it.

And Alex is pointing out that atheists are capable of doing that, by way of contrasting Christians do the opposite. When a Christian is caught saying dumb shit, what we’d prefer is that they identify the wrong statement or action and state that they do not stand with that thing. Instead, we get wagon circling and coverups. We don’t want to follow that example.

Russell Glasser
The Atheist Experience

I decided I’d get in touch at this point.

Dear Drew,

I was interested to read your email asking my friend Russell to ‘take me on’.

If you’d like to talk to me directly instead, I’d be happy to hear how I’m doing religion’s work and why you feel I’m dishonest (in particular, why you compare me to Ms Cupp).

What do you think my agenda is, exactly?

Alex Gabriel

Wall of text number one:

Well first of all, as I plainly stated.  I’m not specifically calling for an attack on you personally.  More that you are a clear depiction of a certain set of ideas that can be fairly well compartmentalized.  People usually ask for examples or figureheads when framing an argument and you seem to fit the bill in this regard having written enough on these subjects to reference.  There is obviously a fracture occurring in the community of aware atheists and I feel you are representative of one of those sides.

In regard to the dishonesty I can start with one big obvious issue.  Islamophobia.  I’ve read a lot of what you think in this area and I just can’t get on board with the logic.  What you’ve written is ignorant to the facts and just purely dishonest.   At no point do you actually make any damning observations about Dawkins or Harris but yet you condemn them as islamophobic.  You seem to just keep re asserting the cry of racism but yet it isn’t there.  You go on a tirade of fallacious claims and emotional straw man arguments, all of which fall far short of any evidence of racism.  You seem to operate in a vacuum where you have never read or heard ether man speak directly to the claims you make and dismantle all concerns.

There is surely some irrational fear and racism that may warrant the term “islamophobia” certainly when it comes to protest over the Ground Zero Mosque or Qur’an burnings by religious leaders or fear mongering by conservative talk show hosts who are by the way, religious.  Maybe even people who’s sociopolitical leanings (libertarianism) take the lead in front of their atheism.  But you’re linking all that stuff to a rational run of the mill atheist critique of religion.  That is a blatantly dishonest argumentative technique. Sure Pat Condell can say some cooky things but he’s very clearly wearing his Libertarian hat when he says that stuff.  Particularly when it addresses government.

When you claim that Atheism inspires the abuses outlined in the piece I linked to Russel you do a great disservice to identifying the real causes.  When it comes to the gender issues you raise I get extremely angry.  As someone who has fought and advocated, even bled for gay rights and gender equality both in small communities at a personal level and through large national organizations, I take incredible offense to not just an insinuation that atheism fuels these conflicts but that it “inspires abuse.” Again you take amazing liberties with how you support these claims all of which continue to fall short.  Who are these national atheist leaders who condemn gays citing atheism as an underpinning?  Where are these highly visible atheists in media calling for the abuse of individuals with non traditional gender identities?  That’s something like what you would need to make your case and that is exactly what you have on the side of religion.  From where I sit all I can find are examples of prominent atheists calling for the highest form of gender identity equality and respect.  They’re all very clear about this.  In fact, far more clear than any other organized body of thought other than maybe Humanists which most prominent atheists in the media advocate for as well.  In the 20+ years I’ve spent living in the trenches with this issue, guess what I’ve seen as the major contributing factors.  All of which are supported by actual data.  Religion, lack of education, and poverty.  Not atheism.

Of your 5 bullet points in the article the first two boil down to – Stop reading the comments on Youtube, people are idiots over there.  You won’t find intellectual discussion on any topic.

The other 3 you give no supporting evidence.

You also perpetuate dumb religiously based tropes like “science-worshipping” as if that whole idea hasn’t been thoroughly debunked many times over. This one is even to the point where audiences groan when a debater launches into the assertion before they can finish their sentence.

All of this is very S.E.Cupp faux atheist,  Hey look at me, I’m an atheist who only talks about how shitty atheists are!

Drew

I bit.

‘I just can’t get on board with the logic’ – okay, but that’s not evidence of dishonesty, is it? I’d be interested to know what you think evidence of racism looks like, if not racialising language and double standards. Do you think the only form of racism is saying ‘Black people are inferior – quote me on that’?

‘You’re linking all that stuff to a rational run of the mill atheist critique of religion’ – I’m not. I criticise religion frequently and enthusiastically. I argue consistently for others to. I don’t think doing that has to entail punching down.

‘You claim that Atheism inspires the abuses outlined in the piece’ – I don’t. I claim today’s atheist movement (and ideas distinctive to its rhetoric and values) inspire them. I explicitly say atheism itself doesn’t. Today’s atheist movement (I say this too) has plenty of ideas other than ‘There’s no god’.

‘Who are these national atheist leaders who condemn gays citing atheism as an underpinning?’ – I don’t claim national atheist leaders ‘condemn gays’. I don’t [claim] any atheists do in that post.

‘Where are these highly visible atheists in media calling for the abuse of individuals with non traditional gender identities?’ – I didn’t say ‘highly visible atheists in [the] media’. I didn’t even say ‘most atheists’. I said ‘atheists’, linking to examples.

‘Stop reading the comments on Youtube, people are idiots over there’ – are you suggesting harassment and abuse don’t count when atheists carry them out on YouTube?

‘The other 3 [points] you give no supporting evidence’ – I gave plenty. Follow the links.

‘You also perpetuate dumb religiously based tropes like “science-worshipping”‘ – there’s nothing exclusively religious about opposing scientism and an uncritical ‘Because science said so’ mentality. I can think of plenty of (movement) atheists who’ve argued against that – Steven Law, Zinnia Jones, Sikivu Hutchinson, Ophelia Benson, Dan Fincke.

‘Look at me, I’m an atheist who only talks about how shitty atheists are!’ – I don’t. I talk at length about how bad religion is, and about lots of other things.

AG

Wall of text number two:

The things you claim are racism are actually highly debatable and you sum them up as racist with little explanation as to why.  I would contend that you are just plain wrong and could easily back that up if we were to spend a few thousand words going deep in specific areas.  You repeatedly abuse meaning and stretch interpretation when attacking Dawkins for instance.

When you connect bad behavior from one guilty party to another innocent one, you’re entering a fallacious argument. It’s dishonest

Much of what you talk about inspires a “what the fuck is he talking about” responce from those of us who would like you to just say what you’ve got to say.  The entire above sentence is gobledygook.  I know it looks like a well reasoned thoughtful statement but it ends up making no point.   “ideas distinctive to its rhetoric and values” Yeah I get what you’re asserting but maybe I’m just to smart to fall for it.

Maybe. Maybe.

You’re smuggling in a lot of stuff in there and expecting it all to just pass.  All of it needs unpacking and I’m sure there’s points to disagree on but you present it as if it’s been decided.

“I don’t claim national atheist leaders ‘condemn gays’. I don’t any atheists do in that post.” I stated that you’d need to cite some in order for your claims to hold weight.   We’d need such people to form or reflect the “values” and “rhetoric” of our “movement”  If we’re as ugly and organized as you claim we’d have some obvious names to name.  We don’t.

“Are you suggesting harassment and abuse don’t count when atheists carry them out on YouTube?”  No I’m acknowledging that Youtube is a cesspool of lowest common denominator thinking and just poorly framed to abusive discourse.   This also goes back to my original outreach to Russel observing that people like you exploit generally bad human behavior or inability to speak clearly or frame an argument properly.  Some people just don’t express complex thought well on the internet and others aren’t savy enough to spot linguistic shortcomings and traps.

Your conclusions are the troubling part.  Again smuggling in summations where a lot of discussion is needed.  “Pat Condell is a racist” doesn’t cut it

“There’s nothing exclusively religious about opposing scientism and an uncritical ‘Because science said so’ mentality. I can think of plenty of (movement) atheists who’ve argued against that – Steven Law, Zinnia Jones, Sikivu Hutchinson, Ophelia Benson, Dan Fincke.” Well there you said it “scientism” like it’s a real thing, you are a bit of a nutter now.   There is hardly a rational or kind way of refuting such an irrational claim so I’ll stop here.

In general your reactions to my statements are telling.  From beginning to end you’re falling into the trap of “if you’re against me on this idea you must conform with the opposing argument I know about” Like when Republicans attack critique as if it would only come from a liberal Democrat not realizing that many other views live on the political spectrum.

Drew

Drew. Drew? You’re reading, right? You are? Okay.

Listen – I have this embarrassing problem you need to know about. (Relax, this won’t end like that phone call from your ex.)

I’m an atheist… sort of professionally. I’m the kind of pro atheist, specifically, who talks a lot about religion being bad. Annoyingly, no matter how much I do that, I’m thrown in all the time with acceptability atheists like Andrew Brown, Chris Stedman and SE Cupp, who are paid to badmouth the rest of us and stick up for religion. When you recognise the atheist movement has faults or say stuff people find too progressive, they assume this is you.

I can’t stand acceptability atheists. Their cuddly, nonthreatening blandness feels like being waterboarded with mild yoghurt. In particular, I hate when people think I’m one. I want to bash religion: I want an atheist movement up to the task. When people think I’m too nice for that, it grates, so every now and then I have to demonstrate I’m not.

Here’s what we’re going to do.

Random.org is a website that generates a random number, by default between 1 and 100. I’m going to visit that site; I’m going to generate a number; and I’m going to tell you that many reasons you suck.

000

Let’s go.

  1. You watched The Atheist Experience four or five years and missed that the hosts are my colleagues on this site.
  2. You watched it four or five years and missed everyone on it being a feminist.
  3. You watched it four or five years and missed all the ‘Islamophobia’ moments.
  4. You wanted the hosts to discuss why I suck. More people will read this post about why you suck than would have tuned in.
  5. Based on the ways people share things online… most of them are going to agree you suck.
  6. My guess is, hosts of The Atheist Experience will read this and agree you suck.
  7. Some of them, who knows, may even share how much you suck with folk who follow them.
  8. Craving their respect’s so precious. I did too once. I got it.
  9. ‘My original outreach to Russel’ – YOU CAN’T EVEN SPELL HIS NAME.
  10. You’ve ostensibly read ‘much of [my writing]’… but not the parts that bash religion.
  11. Or those about atheists needing to bash religion.
  12. Or about atheists like Cupp being awful.
  13. Or everything other than ‘how shitty atheists are’.
  14. Hundreds of thousands of people have read me bashing religion. I make a living from it. I’m better at it than you.
  15. My current most-viewed post, whose hits are in five-figure territory, talks about atheists like Cupp being awful. I’m better at it than you.
  16. Hundreds of people are reading this and thinking how completely, absurdly wrong you are to think I’m one of them.
  17. Thanks for providing that opportunity.
  18. At the same time: people are going to share your messages to illustrate how shitty atheists can be.
  19. Slymepitters are going to talk about this post and illustrate how shitty atheists can be,
  20. but even lots of them will think you’re a shit atheist.
  21. (You haven’t heard of Slymepitters, have you?)
  22. And whenever anyone now looks for a post of mine about shit atheists, they’re going to find you.
  23. Your surname’s not Peacock.
  24. Everyone reading just imagined your surname being Peacock.
  25. Everyone who remembers reading this will now remember you as Drew Peacock.
  26. You only just got it, didn’t you?
  27. I sent you a three-sentence email. You replied with a wall of text.
  28. At no point did it answer my question(s).
  29. It was a badly written wall of text.
  30. ‘Maybe I’m just to smart’.
  31. ‘Who’s’.
  32. ‘Responce’.
  33. You DOUBLE SPACE AFTER FULL STOPS. This isn’t the eighties. STEVE JOBS DIED.
  34. You put random ‘words’ in scare quotes thinking it’s ‘clever’. It’s like you just ‘discovered’ punctuation.
  35. You haven’t discovered the bits you need.
  36. You’ve consistently put words in my mouth and argued against them, not my actual ones.
  37. You’re doing exactly what you say I do.
  38. You think having gone to university makes me overeducated and devoid of common sense.
  39. You think having gone to university makes Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris wise and learned.
  40. You likely think having gone to university makes me spoilt and overprivileged. That’s cute.
  41. While I was at university I worked with the atheists you idolise, including Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. I can tell you they’re overrated IRL.
  42. You think my ideas have ‘been thoroughly debunked many times over’, then show how little secular thought you’ve really read…
  43. …and that you haven’t read (perhaps even heard of) the atheists who’ve debunked your ideas.
  44. I promise you they groaned at you as well.
  45. You’re so unread you’ve no clue how unread you are,
  46. but don’t worry, you’re rapidly getting read.
  47. WE’RE ALREADY AT FORTY-SEVEN.
  48. You think you can’t follow my logic because I’m dishonest.
  49. It’s actually because YOU’RE BASIC.
  50. You think racism’s awful… but not as bad as calling things racist openly.
  51. You’ve fought for gender equality. Not feminism, though. You know what women need.
  52. You’ve ‘even bled’ for gay rights. Not other queer folk’s, mind you. You don’t know about us.
  53. Definitely not folk ‘with nontraditional gender identities’. You’re not even sure how to refer to them.
  54. You’ve bled for us… so you think you can tell us to shut up when atheists are awful about us.
  55. You’ve bled for us… and lots of us really, really wish you hadn’t.
  56. At the same time, not all of us would have been too upset if you’d bled a bit more.
  57. You thought it wasn’t personal. It felt personal.
  58. Though probably not as personal as this.
  59. You’re probably going to write another angry wall of text when you’ve read this.
  60. It’s going to suck just as much as the others,
  61. but no one’s going to care.
  62. Any one of these sentences is a better ‘reason you suck’ than all your commentary on me.

Turn off your computer, Drew. Get into bed. Curl into a ball, pull the bedcovers up over your head and go to sleep. And if you wake up still thinking you won here, drift off again.

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Was it a sincere question?

Chris Stedman has a post at RNS replying to Peter Boghossian’s “why gay pride?” tweet. He is, you won’t be surprised to hear, much better at being even-tempered about it than I was.

Many atheists, such as LGBTQ atheist author Greta Christina, responded—but Boghossian dug in and continued to defend his statement, tweeting additional statements like “Questioning that one can be proud to be gay is a leftist blasphemy.” [Read more…]

Radical Humanists in the Hood: Moving Social Justice 2014

CFI parking lot Kim Jenn Darren J

Black Skeptics Chicago, BSLA, Chocolate City Skeptics & Black Atheists of Philadelphia represent

Black Church LGBTQ

“Confronting Homophobia & Transphobia” in the Black Church w/Jenn Taylor, Raina Rhoades, Rev M. Moises & Teka Lark Fleming

By Sikivu Hutchinson

It was fitting that our recent Moving Social Justice conference in Los Angeles coincided with the Week of Resistance in Ferguson and a Week of Action against school push-out of black and brown youth.  In the midst of massive mobilizations around state violence and police terrorism much ink has been spilled over whether or not social justice “conforms” to atheist orthodoxy.  The majority of the naysayers have been white dudebros (and a few status quo POCs) shrieking from their perches of privilege about the corruption of atheism by people of color and white allies who give a fuck about the deepening socioeconomic, racial and gender divide in the imperialist U.S.  With the GOP potentially poised to take over the Senate and further cement its far right neoliberal anti-human rights agenda for generations to come (with the help of corporate Dems) the political stakes for communities of color couldn’t be higher.  Given this climate, the tantrums of first world atheist “purists” are not surprising.  When black people talk about the connection between racist prison pipelining and Jim Crow in STEM education of course white atheists want to deflect with how all black folk need is a trip to Darwin Day.  For the first time atheist and humanist activists of color are getting organized around an agenda that isn’t all about religion bashing and caricaturing black and Latino believers.  This new brand of activist refuses to let the dudebros and POC apologists do their colorblind shuck and jive in the name of some fake atheist solidarity.

That said, Moving Social Justice was a beautiful thing.  It was a multiethnic, multi-regional, intergenerational gathering of atheists and religious allies of color who live, work in and/or identify with “the hood” and POC legacies of resistance struggle.  For the first time ever racial justice—without apology or accommodation to white people’s let’s-ghettoize-this-into-a-diversity-panel reflex—was the focal point of an atheist-humanist conference.

BSLA's Daniel Myatt w/Claremont & Pitzer Colleges students

BSLA’s Daniel Myatt w/Claremont & Pitzer Colleges students

Sponsored by the People of Color Beyond Faith network, Black Skeptics Group, African Americans for Humanism, CFI and the Secular Student Alliance, the conference spotlighted the intersection of secular humanism, social justice activism and interfaith coalition building.  The event was emceed by hip hop artist and Chocolate City Skeptics member MC Brooks. It kicked off with a panel on “Confronting Homophobia and Transphobia in the Black Church” moderated by Teka-Lark Fleming of the Morningside Park Chronicle, the discussion featured Raina Rhoades of Chocolate City Skeptics, Jenn Taylor of Black Atheists of Philadelphia and Reverend Meredith Moises.  The panelist critiqued the culture of religious abuse, black male heterosexism, corruption and the “quelling of unrest” in Ferguson by some black churches.  During the “LGBTQ Atheists of Color and Social Justice” panel, Reverend Meredith Moise, a practicing Buddhist and spiritual humanist, captured the sentiment of the event when she said “I don’t live in the (white) gay ghettoes I live in the hood and I roll with ya’ll.”  Skillfully moderated by Black Freethinkers founder Kimberly Veal, the panel debunked mainstream myths and stereotypes about interracial queer solidarity in an age of rigid segregation and police state violence.  Veal informed the audience that recent CDC grants for HIV/AIDS prevention shafted black organizations.  Panelists Debbie Goddard and A.J. Johnson drew comparisons between white atheists’ fixation on their “underdog” status and that of white gay men.  All four women slammed the hypocrisy of mainstream gay and lesbian emphasis on marriage equality while queer and trans people of color deal with epidemic rates of HIV/AIDS contraction, homelessness, joblessness and anti-trans violence (trans people of color have the highest rates of violent assault among trans communities).

LGBTQ Atheists of Color w/M. Moises, AJ Johnson, Debbie Goddard & Kim Veal

LGBTQ Atheists of Color w/M. Moises, AJ Johnson, Debbie Goddard & Kim Veal

Queer white youth aren’t disproportionately bounced out of school or sent to prison for minor infractions.  Yet these disparities are reflected in the high rates of criminalization of queer, trans and straight youth of color.  At the schools I work at the majority of those who are being suspended, arrested and shipped off campus are African American.  A few months ago Black Skeptics joined the Dignity in Schools campaign, a national coalition to redress the push-out regime in public schools.  During the conference, a panel entitled “Busting the School-to-Prison Pipeline” featured activists from three leading L.A.-based juvenile justice and prisoner advocacy organizations.  Moderated by Thandisizwe Chimurenga, author of No Doubt: The Murder(s) of Oscar Grant, the panel highlighted the destructive impact of mass incarceration on black and Latino communities nationwide.  Tanisha Denard from the Youth Justice Coalition became an activist after being briefly incarcerated for truancy tickets as a student in the Los Angeles Unified School District.  The Dignity and Power Coalition’s Mark Anthony discussed how his organization has spearheaded the effort to create a civilian review board with the power to curb rampant inmate abuse in the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.

Moving out of the insular world of social media and the Internet, the “#beyondsolidarityisforwhitewomen: Feminism(s) of Color” panel highlighted the work of L.A.-based feminist organizers from working class communities of color.  All of the women on the panel spoke of the need for intersectional alliances and organizing strategies that recognize the complexities of class, geography, sexuality and gender in one of the most segregated regions in the U.S.  Organizer Yolanda Alaniz of the socialist organization Radical Women spoke of the importance of interracial labor activism in a neoliberal economy where public employee unions—many of which are dominated by women of color members—are being gutted and demonized.  There was heated discussion about the implications of respectability politics for black women.  Moderator Angela Plaid of The Feminist Wire and Nourbese Flint of Black Women for Wellness commented that black women have always been constructed as sexually promiscuous “hos” and that the monomaniacal focus on sex-positivity by some white feminists is irrelevant for feminists of color fighting against

Feminisms of Color w/Yolanda Alaniz, Marlene Montanez, Heina D., Nourbese F, & Andrea Plaid

Feminisms of Color w/Yolanda Alaniz, Marlene Montanez, Heina Dadabhoy, Nourbese Flint, & Andrea Plaid

criminalization and economic disenfranchisement in militarized communities.  Considering schisms between black and Latino communities over immigration, jobs and language, the panelists also stressed the need to complicate mainstream views of undocumented communities due to the frequent exclusion of African and Asian immigrants from liberal-progressive campaigns for immigrant rights.  Freethought Blogs writer Heina Dadabhoy reflected on being socialized into the dominant culture’s divisive model minority myth which is based on the stereotype that Asian Americans bootstrapped their way to success in contrast to “less high-achieving” African Americans and Latinos.  Panelists also discussed the media’s portrayal of the Ray Rice case vis-à-vis how sexist misogynist condemnations of Janae Rice intersected with racial stereotypes about black male violence.

In a panel entitled “What’s Race Got to Do With It?” six atheists of color discussed the pros and cons of “inclusivity” versus “accommodation” as well as racism and intersectionality in the atheist movement.  Much of the panel unpacked the constant pressure people of color feel to educate “well-meaning” white people about their investment in racism, white privilege and white supremacy.  Panelists Georgina Capetillo of Secular Common Ground and Frank Anderson of Black Skeptics Chicago acknowledged the insidiousness of white privilege in the movement but argued that white allies need to be actively engaged.  Raina Rhoades, Anthony Pinn of Rice University and Donald Wright of the Houston Black Non-Believers contended that it was incumbent upon white people to educate themselves and stop expecting people of color to play the role of native informant.  Moderator Daniel Myatt of Black Skeptics Los Angeles asked panelists to evaluate the impact of secular organizations of color on social justice versus that of black churches.  Wright argued that, given the relative newness and scarcity of secular POC social justice organizations, it remains to be seen what impact they will have.

Racism & Intersectionality w/Frank Anderson, Georgina Capetillo, Sergio Ortega, Donald Wright & Tony Pinn

Racism & Intersectionality w/Frank Anderson, Georgina Capetillo, Sergio Ortega, Donald Wright,Tony Pinn & Daniel Myatt

This is an important caveat as the backlash against anti-racist intersectional atheism continues and white atheist organizations reveal themselves to be less interested in POC communities than “minority” dollars and “minority” faces at conferences.  Next year’s conference will be held in Houston, Texas.

MC Brooks closes with original work

MC Brooks closes with original work

Openly Secular

Kimberly Winston reports on the Openly Secular campaign.

A new coalition of atheists, humanists and other nonreligious groups is taking a page from the gay rights movement and encouraging people to admit they are “openly secular.”

The coalition — unprecedented in its scope — is broadening a trend of reaching out to religious people and religious groups by making the secular label a catchall for people who are not religious.

I’m not sure how making the secular label a catchall for people who are not religious is reaching out to religious people, but maybe the idea is that “secular” comes across as less antagonistic than “atheist.” People can of course be both secular and religious under one meaning of the word – but that one meaning isn’t the only one, so we get clashes and arguments. [Read more…]