Then there remain the many social issues

An interesting comment at PZ’s by Keith Monaghan.

Irish Atheist here. I used to be a supporter and paying member of Atheist Ireland until all this went down and Nugent went off the rails. He has poisoned the entire organisation with his willingness to defend abusers and provide a forum to known harassers. Not to mention his embarrassing brown nosing of our great “thought leaders” Dawkins, et al. It’s a real shame because many in Atheist Ireland have been doing great work regarding raising awareness about our ridiculous blasphemy law and the overwhelming control of our schools by the Catholic Church among a great many other abuses committed in the name of religion.

But just as the charitable acts of the Catholic Church do not outweigh the many abuses it allowed and in many ways fostered under its watch, AI does not get off the hook either. With the organisation choosing to side with Nugent in all this I had to question their commitment towards fighting against sexism and abuse within our community and for the well-being of atheists in general.

Do they only care about sexism and harassment when it comes to achieving their goals against religion only to turn a blind eye when it happens within our own community? I suspect that they do care but are unaware (and possibly unwilling to see) how their recent actions call that into question. The blind hypocrisy from an organisation, and from Nugent in particular, that has criticised the church for its culture of silence and abuse is rather appalling.

So when it came time for my membership to be renewed I emailed them asking that I be taken off their membership lists and I cited Michael Nugent’s behaviour and how it reflects on AI as my reason for leaving. Given Nugent’s insistence on professionalism and maintaining the right tone you will be shocked by the nature of the response I got from their head of Membership, Kevin Sheehan… Or more likely you won’t be shocked at all.

Basically all I got was this quote from the Chair of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva:

Then there remain the many social issues that have been raised by colleagues. The Magdalene laundries, the Mother and Baby homes, the child abuse, the symphysiotomy. It is quite a collection, and it is a collection that has carried on beyond any period that it is hard to imagine any State Party tolerating.
And I can’t prevent myself from observing that all of them are not disconnected from the institutional belief system that has predominated in the State Party, and which occasionally has sought to dominate the State Party.

… and a link to a related article on the AI website.

And that’s it.

There was no attempt to address my concerns or even acknowledge that I had any in the first place. No confirmation that my membership had been ended at my request. No “We’re sorry to see you go”. Just the quote and link that, to my mind, clearly implies (whether through simple foolishness or malicious design) that, by discontinuing my support, I no longer care about those horrendous injustices. As though AI is the only organisation fighting for justice in those cases.

I find it very difficult to believe the message was a good faith attempt to change my mind (how could anyone think think something as dismissive and insulting as that would bring me back into the fold?). Rather I suspect that it was a pathetically childish (not to mention wholly unprofessional) attempt to have the last word. It only served to confirm my initial conclusions about the organisation and my decision to leave.

It would be great if they could clean up their act. That we need coordinated efforts to root out religious privilege and abuses in this country is without question but I am not prepared to sacrifice my fellow atheists’ well being as well as my own integrity in the pursuit of such and it saddens me that AI has seemingly chosen to do so.

It is sad.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    At least Atheist Ireland did not accuse Keith Monaghan of getting all crankypants. Yet.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    No confirmation that my membership had been ended at my request.

    Sorry, Mr. Monaghan: Atheist Ireland only disassociates itself from non-members.

  3. themann1086 says

    So he doesn’t know that his membership was canceled? Because you know, there are other organizations in Ireland that make it difficult/impossible to leave…

  4. says

    Well, given my reply to that email, if it wasn’t cancelled before it most probably is now. I was a tad irrate.

    I should also add that Atheist Ireland made changes last year to their membership system that required them to cancel all automatic yearly subscriptions. It was for this reason that I received an email from them that, should I wish to reinstate my membership, I should do so ASAP. The email also said that if I wanted to cancel my membership (to stop receiving these requests) I could email them at a given address. As I had no longer any intentions of renewing my membership I did just that. And the above is the response I got. Given what I’ve since heard it seems that that’s pretty much a standard response to those who wish to cancel their membership. Classy.

  5. says

    Classy and oh so professional.

    In fact it sounds like the “Secular Policy Institute,” with its eccentric policy of inviting people to join and then berating and insulting them when they decline.

  6. Reality_Based_Community says

    While I don’t typically support shunning, I am somewhat gratified that somebody has called PZ out on his bullshit. What is his evidence that AI harbors or provides a safe haven for rapists? Some people make horrible comments on Slymepit. Some people from Slymepit, which may or may not be the same people that made the aforementioned comments, also comment on AI’s blog. It doesn’t even rise to the level of McCarthyism. At least McCarthy’s accusations of guilt by association involved some kind of actual association. PZ makes a case for guilt by association three or four degrees removed. In fact, his entire case, based on his latest post, is comprised on comments from Slymepit, not made on AI.

    I guess “disassociating” oneself from that is a nonsensical gesture, as PZ noted. Rather the same as “washing my hands” of Dawkins, as PZ also said.

    Can we all get a grip here, people?

  7. screechymonkey says

    “Can we all get a grip here, people?”

    Go ahead, whenever you’re ready. Of course, that would require you to accurate quote what PZ actually said instead of Nugent’s conveniently edited version of it, but that wouldn’t fit your agenda, would it?

  8. Reality_Based_Community says

    Sorry, I was responding to PZ’s latest post re the issue. His evidence that AI harbors rapists consists entirely of quotes from Slymepit. Oddly, none of the quotes actually support his assertion. They were just in bad taste. He provides no evidence from the AI blog itself. Just that some people on Slymepit say horrible things, and some people that post to Slymepit also post to AI. Am I missing something?

  9. Reality_Based_Community says

    Just a hint? Or perhaps a vague or just slightly obscure reference? Cause I still believe that accusing AI of harboring rapists is just wrong, if there is no evidence for it. But that’s just me.

  10. Reality_Based_Community says

    PZ tweeted: “It’s not about what he thinks, but what he’s doing: defending & providing a haven for harassers, misogynists, and rapists.”

    Was that a fair statement?

    For a start, I fail to comprehend how PZ can possible rebut any suggestion that he ought to tone it down when he is called on his own rape fantasies involving fetid porcupines (TONE TROLLER), but not when others say substantively the same thing. If AI is a haven for rapists, then make the case with reasoned evidence. Do you really believe that AI supports rape? Far less violent imagery from AI than from PZ, quite frankly.

  11. Donnie says

    @16: Reality_Based_Community:

    on his own rape fantasies involving fetid porcupines (TONE TROLLER), but not when others say substantively the same thing.

    Well, first, you can stop reading the Slymepit and AI, and get your facts straight.

    – The rape was a false rape accusation by a student that PZ handle quickly, promptly, and professionally,
    – The fantasy was a weird dream he recounted about his students turning into mermaids and such
    – The ‘shoving a porcupine up your ass’ was by the PZ commetariate they they, after the switch in focus that caused a lot of posters to be banned and slink off to the basition of ‘freeze peach’ the slymepit, decided to stop it because of the rape and dehumanization aspect of the phrase.

    So, yes, go get your facts from the source and understand the issues.

  12. says

    As for RBC – you talked about a “latest post” but then you quote a months-old tweet. Then you misrepresent what it says, and you talk about AI when you mean a person. (AI is not a person.) You’re incoherent and misinformed.

  13. Reality_Based_Community says

    Fair enough, OB. I did get the history a little off on this…the chronology at least. I understand that AI is not a person, something that people right around here don’t seem to understand. But do you really think that Michael Nugent is “harboring rapists?” That is just dishonesty in the service of ego. Can’t we raise the level of discourse a little?

  14. Reality_Based_Community says

    For example, from you own post: “He has poisoned the entire organisation with his willingness to defend abusers and provide a forum to known harassers.”

    give me a name of an abuser or known harasser. Is there any evidence for this statement, or is it just character assassination? If the second, is that the sort of thing you want to support?

  15. says

    There is a mass of evidence for it. I could give you 60 names. If you don’t know enough about this subject to know that, you have no business hassling me about it.

  16. Reality_Based_Community says

    I’m not trying to hassle you, OB. Can you just give me one name, and an explanation? What abuser has Nugent defended? Not a setup. Not looking for an argument. Not trying to be right. It’s a sincere question.

  17. says

    Yes you are, RBC. The information you seek is all in here. You can use the search box. It is hassling to bounce in years on in a conflict and demand basic information. The internet makes it very easy to find information for yourself, and it is hassling people to demand that they provide you personally with basic info.

  18. Reality_Based_Community says

    I searched the intertubes re M. Nugent. I’ve found no evidence that he is harboring rapists. None. Nada. Do you not see how profoundly destructive these sorts of accusation are? It’s sort of reminiscent of McCarthyism. If Nugent fucked up, I’ll be the first to admit it. Perhaps you shouldn’t tell potential allies to just fuck off. I have a great deal of sympathy re your point of view. I have no sympathy re McCarthyism.

  19. Reality_Based_Community says

    No, *you* didn’t say “harboring rapists,” I believe PZ said that, viz: “It’s not about what he thinks, but what he’s doing: defending & providing a haven for harassers, misogynists, and rapists.” But what you do seem to endorse, via this post, is “He has poisoned the entire organisation with his willingness to defend abusers and provide a forum to known harassers.” And the post appears to also defend PZ, including the aforementioned statement.

    Do you really not understand why some people might look askance on these types of accusations? The charge is made in your post, but is not supported by a solitary shred of evidence in same post. When I ask you, you just suggest “it’s common knowledge, go look it up.” Do you really not understand why many well meaning folks might consider all of that to be horrendously awful?

  20. says

    Reality_Based_Community – but you didn’t ask me that; you asked me a different question, about something not in this post. Your question @ 29 is a different question, and one I probably could have answered quickly.

    Do you really not understand how frustrating it is to move the goalposts with every comment?

Leave a Reply

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