Accessing celebrities is expensive work

Oh good, another shiny new secular project. We just can’t have enough of those, all the more so if they’re all run by the same people who say the same things.

The mission of Openly Secular is to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance by getting secular people – including atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and nonreligious people – to be open about their beliefs.

Ok, that’s fine. It’s good to eliminate discrimination and increase acceptance. I think their including should include theists, since some theists are also secularists according to one definition of secular, but perhaps they’re using a different definition. So, ok so far.

[Updating to add: Actually that was too hasty. I gave them that part mostly for rhetorical reasons, because I was going to disagree sharply with the next part. Well stuff rhetorical reasons. Not fine, not ok so far. Why? Because as Joe points outthis is what they’ve been doing all along, at least according to what they’ve been telling us.]

Openly Secular is the joint project of four of the best-known and respected secular organizations:

Richard Dawkins Foundation
Secular Coalition for America
Secular Student Alliance
Stiefel Freethought Foundation

Now less ok. Those aren’t my favorite secular organizations, to put it mildly. They’re too Dawkins-centered, too deferential to a handful of male pseudo-celebrities, too clueless, too right-wing.

We additionally seek to bring in Allies and Corporate Partners from outside of the movement: groups that support equality and fight discrimination such as LGBT groups, interfaith and civil liberties organizations, and other potential allied groups.

Note the conspicuous non-mention of feminist groups and anti-racism groups.

We will tell narratives of joy to demonstrate our values of Acceptance, Reason, and Love; express what we believe, show how love can flow despite differences, and that people are glad they became open. Ultimately, we strive to save relationships that might be lost to misunderstanding.

How You Can Help

All these exciting developments are why we need support of people like you. Doing these things costs money, especially to do them well and professionally. Working with a top-tier national PR firm and accessing celebrities is expensive work.

Interesting juxtaposition, isn’t it, from elevated slush complete with Capital Letters on Important Words, to “give us money.”

But more to the point (my point at least) – why do they need to “access celebrities” in the first place? Why even work with “a top-tier national PR firm”?

It’s just more of the same nonsense that made such a joke of the “Global Secular Council.”


  1. says

    At least in this case, calving a separate campaign seems absurd, when they were all doing this all along, as far as I know.

    I’m not going to say that about all campaigns, because some campaigns are more specific and targeted – and useful; CFI’s Safe and Secular Healthcare campaign for example.

    But this? Give us money so that we can access celebrities and hire a top PR firm? Nope nope nope.

  2. says

    That’s what I’m saying, in this case it is groups that already exist creating a separate campaign that needs more, different money. I’m not exactly sure what any of those groups are doing anyway, let alone why they need more, different money for the same people to do more of the not really sure what they’re doing?

  3. says

    I’m not either. It does look strikingly like saying “Hey we have a new campaign to do what we’ve been doing all along so give us a new tranche of money for that!”

  4. Claire Ramsey says

    what the hell kind of construction is “access celebrities”? eewww it makes my skin crawl. what a sickening corporate-y message.

  5. says

    I’m trying to wrap my brain around it… it is like if they asked for food money so you give them food money. Then they say “I need grocery money too” and play it off as “well, groceries is food, but not all food is groceries”… and then they declare that they also need steak money, pizza money, egg money, etc.

    In the meanwhile, you look in the fridge and all you see is a couple of bottles of water and some soy sauce packets from the local take-out place.

  6. says

    Claire – exactly, me too. These people – the same who came up with the “Global Secular Council” – are obsessed with celebrity. It’s gross.

  7. Seth says

    I think the Secular Student Alliance has done some good work in quite a few god-soaked areas; I’m not aware of it being Dawkins-centred or right-wing, but I’m open to more information on that.

    As for the quasi-deification of celebrities within and without the Atheist Movement ™…I didn’t become an atheist just to join another cult of personality largely by and for white dudes. While I still greatly admire Christopher Hitchens (and, less greatly, Sam Harris and Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins, to progressively lesser extents), Sam and Richard really need to learn when to let go of their unearned celebrity status. Christopher was a public intellectual, famous (in a limited way) for things beyond his atheist activism, and Dan seems indifferent to the spotlight…but the other two so-called “Horsemen” are really getting kind of pathetic, especially Richard. Their work should stand on its own; as it is, the thirst for acclaim is leading both men to ruin their reputations and poison the well for anyone who might have been receptive to the work they laid down a decade ago.

    Also, am I alone in being slightly suspicious that the project was launched so soon after Hobby Lobby? The website seems pretty…unfinished, like it was rushed, perhaps to take advantage of the wave of outrage and disgust that’s rising in the wake of the decision?

  8. Andrew B. says

    I think I’ve made this point before, but this seems like a form of sock-puppetry. “Hey, look at all of our affiliated groups! There’s the World Secular Team (which we also run), the Global Enterprise of Religious Freedom (which we also run) and the Alliance for Atheist Voices (which we also run).” Meanwhile it’s just the same dozen assholes changing hats.

    You know how meaningful, effective groups form? FIRST you start with committed people that REGULARLY do quality shit, THEN you form your fucking group. Isn’t this how freethoughblogs started? You all had your own blogs, regular pumping out ideas and commentary, and THEN you got together to form the community. These new Global Secular groups seem like a bunch of guys who don’t play any instruments forming a band because it’s a great way to get laid.

    Also, there’s a reason that these groups stress the value of celebrity: that’s what they value, and that’s how they understand movements. Celebrities are really skilled at SELF-PROMOTION, and not necessarily meaningful contribution, and that’s all these groups are. Webpages, mission statements and group photos of smirking assholes.

  9. says

    Seth – I admire Dennett much more than Dawkins or Harris. He’s a mensch, for one thing.

    For your question: actually this thing launched in early May. They for some reason tweeted about it as “new” today, but when I explored the site I found stuff going back 2 months. So no connection to Hobby Lobby.

  10. shari says

    “We will tell narratives of joy to demonstrate our values of Acceptance, Reason, and Love; express what we believe, show how love can flow despite differences, and that people are glad they became open. Ultimately, we strive to save relationships that might be lost to misunderstanding.”

    Er, what’s Dawkin’s track record on Acceptance and Love, again? Or saving relationships that might be lost to misunderstanding….?

    Not sure how much you’d get for your $’s worth.

  11. Al Dente says

    accessing celebrities is expensive work.

    There are certain celebrities who don’t acknowledge your existence if you don’t first present them with a check. Not all of them will remain bought after you’ve paid them.

  12. Claire Ramsey says

    It’s an odd view of the world: celebrities’ values and/or political stances are available for purchase. Being secular is simply one more income-generating activity for celebrities, although they need to give a cut of the income to the middle-men (I use men advisedly here). And we, the stinky non-celebrities, should be glad to pay the middle-persons so they in turn can pay the celebrities for being “secular” and saying so.

    jesus h christ what an ugly business.

  13. screechymonkey says

    Ah, damn, and here I was about to suggest that Ophelia make “we will tell narratives of joy” the official motto of B&W, but now it’s taken.

  14. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I’m starting the Universal Secular Atheist Travel Squad, so people can pay me to fly to England and see Dawkins’ house. Like a journey to Jerusalem or Mecca.

    /bitter sarcasm

  15. Ed says

    9) I’m also getting tired of Dawkins`attitudes towards women, his lack of research on religion before talking in detail about it, and his inability to understand the difference between a strong critique of Islam and the separate issue of “Islamophobia” in the cultural sense (as when he condemned the punishment of known nationalist fanatics who desecrated a mosque and cruelly intimidated the man praying inside).

    But I fail to see where his status as a celebrity is false or manufactured. He’s been a first rate science writer for decades and was an Oxford professor. He invented the concept of memes and championed a gene-centered understand of evolution. “The Blind Watchmaker” and “The Selfish Gene” alone made him a significant public intellectual.

    Similarly, Dennett was already an influential philosopher and author of several highly stimulating books and countless articles, and hasn’t to my knowledge become a personality cultist like Dawkins, anyway. Plus, he has ten times the manners and diplomacy of the other three put together.

    Harris is the only one whose celebrity seems a little too dependent on his brave but comparatively light books “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation.” But he was too young at the time to have already had a distinguished career and it was the reading public who unexpectedly made a cult phenomenon out of him. And in the years since then, he has become a neuroscientist and written interesting material on the brain and consciousness , ethics, free will, mystical experiences (interpreted from an atheistic point of view), etc.

  16. Ed says

    Oh, crap!! Sorry about the double post! I usually have to hit the button twice on this device for a post to go through.

  17. says

    The thing about Dawkins is that he has a new level and kind of celebrity because of The God Delusion. That celebrity is “earned” in a sense, but it’s also inflated (so in that sense partly unearned) by the boring way people keep recycling him as if he were the only interesting atheist. And he keeps using it to get applause for ridiculous assertions and provocations on Twitter.

    Seth wasn’t saying Dennett has unearned celebrity; rather the contrary.

  18. Pieter B, FCD says

    It could mean that in order to attract Names to their cause they have to Throw The Right Kind Of Party, and those are expensive. I remember an epidemiologist I used to work with coming back from an international AIDS symposium in the mid-’80s, absolutely livid at the amount of money AMFAR must have spent to throw a party in Amsterdam, and swore he’d never have a thing to do with them. They rented the Stock Exchange for a night. Here’s a photo.

  19. Ed says

    OK,I misunderstood about Dennett. I think he should be a celebrity, though.

    But yea, I agree that while “The God Delusion” was an important breakthrough in introducing atheism to people who normally wouldn’t think about it and definitely had some great passages, it was ultimately a very limited book. Much narrower in scope than early Harris, actually.

    In Dawkins` role as hero of recently de-converted atheists, he did tend to repeat the same fairly basic if generally valid arguments and (at first) funny insults over and over and soak up the attention. Now he’s becoming a parody of himself.

  20. Blanche Quizno says

    But…but…Ophelia! You’re overlooking the narratives of joy! Not to mention values, love, and people becoming glad. Perhaps you, too, could become glad, if you just join their cause through opening your wallet. What could anyone possibly have against gladness??

    Why, oh why, are you so against narratives of joy?? Are you one of those malcontent misanthropes who just goes looking for puppies to kick?? Surrounded by grim-mongers like you, what do you suppose is going to happen to their beautiful narratives of joy that could uplift us all, as boats on a rising tide, if it weren’t for all that raining on the parade??

    Wouldn’t you feel elated and fulfilled if they were able to access a celebrity like Kim Kardashian? She’d do WONDERS for their visibility! Oh, don’t tell me you’re one of those who, if you were waiting at a red light and looked up and saw Kim K in the crosswalk in front of you, you’d reflexively stomp on the gas!

    Stop! Don’t! I JUST DON’T WANT TO KNOW!!! >runs off with hands over ears<

  21. Silentbob says

    We will tell narratives of joy to demonstrate our values of Acceptance, Reason, and Love; express what we believe, show how love can flow despite differences, and that people are glad they became open. Ultimately, we strive to save relationships that might be lost to misunderstanding.

    Sheesh, who’s writing the copy – Deepak Chopra?
    (Sounds more New Age than New Atheist.)

  22. Bjarte Foshaug says

    If god is not Great had been the last thing we ever heard from any of the “Four Horsemen”, I’m sure I would still view their contribution to public discourse as a net gain. At this point, however, if I could chose between the kind of atheist movement that considers them “thought leaders” and no atheist movement at all, I would chose the latter any time.

    I have never been anything but an “atheist” although I no longer identify with the label (largely because it’s so widely associated with people like Dawkins and organizations like AA). I became an outspoken atheist after 9/11, and so the horsemen (with the possible exception of Dennett) didn’t really bring up any arguments I wasn’t familiar with already. But they were eloquent and fearless, and above all, they challenged the ingrained assumption that “deeply held” religious beliefs – even if “deeply held” for impossibly shitty reasons – were automatically worthy of respect. It was an exiting time. Things were in motion.

    Then a woman said “Guys, don’t do that”, and Dawkins showed his true colors, and it’s been a race to the bottom ever since. As far as I’m concerned, we past the point where the horsemen had done more harm than good ages ago, and no amount of newly converted atheists is ever going to change that.

    There are still days when I catch myself wishing that “Dear Muslima” had never been written, and the whole Atheist War on Women had been avoided. But then I remind myself that nothing would really be different except that the horrible people in “the movement” would never have been found out, and women would continue to suffer misogyny and sexism in silence. I’m also reminded of the awful stuff I used to accept myself (*blush*), and even find positively amusing (Richard Feynman’s raging misogyny and sexism in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman etc.) before the explosion triggered by “Elevatorgate” blew away my blinders. Then I’m thankful that the cat is out of the bag, and the atheists who were never actually friends or allies in the first place have been exposed as the horrible people they truly are.

  23. Al Dente says

    Blanche Quizno @25

    Wouldn’t you feel elated and fulfilled if they were able to access a celebrity like Kim Kardashian?

    Is Paris Hilton available? How about Brendan Fraser?

  24. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I just want to know if accessing celebrities is like that movie Being John Malkovich.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *