Listen to the whispers

As PZ already has covered, there has been some revelations about problems with two former board members of American Atheists. One was Mandisa Thomas, who has been a major voice among Black American atheists, but whose behavior has caused major rifts in that community. I have little knowledge about neither Mandisa Thomas nor the situation, but I firmly support the people who have left Black Nonbelievers as a result of Mandisa Thomas’ behavior.

The other former board member of AA was Andrew Torrez, someone I know a lot more about. Andrew Torrez was a popular legal podcaster as the co-host of Opening Arguments and Cleanup on Aisle 45. I was a supporter on both podcasts on Patreon. As the stories of his behavior have started to come out, it has also become clear that several organizations and associates, including several podcast hosts, had heard about these problems as far back as in 2017. It appear that there was an incident in 2017 that was shared broadly.

What is certainly clear, is that there has been rumors about Torrez on the whisper network for years (something PZ alludes to in his original post on the subject). The problem with the whisper network is that it is by nature vague, and that you only hear it if you are connected to it in some way. This makes it easy to ignore, but that’s a mistake. The reason why the rumors tend to be vague, is that there is a constant worry of law threats (something we certainly know the risk of here at Freethoughtblogs), especially when it involves a lawyer.

I am not particularly connected to the whisper network, but I have occasionally heard names through it, and in just about every case, later revelations have show the whisper network to be right.

This is also the case for Torrez – someone I had really hoped the network was wrong about, but which it again turned out to be right about. Looking back, I really should have known better than to ignore it enough to financially support the podcasts, thus helping platform an abuser. I apologize for that. What I did do right, was to stop recommending the podcasts as soon as I heard the whispers – and this is something we all can do. If we hear that someone is problematic, stop recommending them, until you have looked into the allegations at depth.

I don’t say that you should uncritically believe any rumor you hear, but you should remember that when people step forward, even just on the whisper network, they risk serious repercussions, so it is not something that most people would do frivolously, so you definitely shouldn’t them out of hand.

Atheists for Liberty are anti-vax

There are a number of Atheist organizations out there, working to promote atheism and try to protect the rights of atheists. Some of them are good, such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, others are more problematic, and some are outright horrible.

In the latter group, falls Atheists for Liberty, a right-winged organization which participates in CPAC, and have David P. Silverman as the advisory board chair.

Atheists for Liberty at CPAC tweet

As their pinned tweet shows, they are proud of both of these things.

If there is any doubt about how horrible, the organization is, on the whole, just take a look at the books they promote, and the words they use to sell them.

This is nearly a literal who’s who of horrible people connected to atheism (some more of these can be found in the organization’s board of advisors)

Looking at the Atheists for Liberty’s website, I was not surprised to see that their major cause right now, is to allow atheist to get exemptions from the vaccine mandate. They couch it in the argument that allowing religious exemptions only, is discriminatory towards atheists, but instead of trying to get the religious exemptions removed, they are instead trying to get them expanded, showing that they are supporting the anti-vaxers.

Atheists for Liberty writes on their website:

Vaccine Mandate Equality Project

Atheists for Liberty has a firm stance on vaccine mandates:  Atheists musts be treated equally.  Across this nation, atheists, like our client/member Patrick Wilmers who are opposed to the Covid Vaccine, are being fired, while their religious counterparts are being allowed to stay because of “religious exemptions”.  This policy writ large, as promoted by the US Government, effectively thins atheists from the workforce while allowing religious people to stay.  It’s religious discrimination and it’s illegal.

Left unchallenged, it would set nationwide precedent – we would effectively lose a right – the right to equal treatment – and it would surely be used against us in the future as precedent for even more erosion.

We simply cannot stand and let our rights be reduced under the guise of safety.  Civil rights still count, even and especially in difficult times.  Atheists for Liberty ALONE (so far) is working to defend equal protection under the law for atheists with regards to vaccine mandates. We seek plaintiffs, lawyers, and your financial support for this important effort.

On the surface, it might seem like a reasonable stance that it is discriminatory to allow for religious exemptions, but not secular ones, but the right remedy would be to work for the removal of religious exemptions, not for allowing atheists to not be vaccinated when holding jobs as nurses or working together with other people in large companies. This probably explains why Atheists for Liberty are “ALONE” in working for this.

One of the Atheists for Liberty people at CPAC, was transbigot and Trump-fan Arielle Scarcella, who is actively promoting anti-vax propaganda by retweeting it

All in all, it is pretty clear that Atheists for Liberty are anti-vax, but I guess that is hardly surprising for a group that have notorious bigot and anti-vax promoter, James Lindsay on it’s board of advisors.

Welcome to OnlySky Media

A new blogging network opened up this month –, which bills itself as the “first explicitly secular multimedia platform” (quote from Adam Lee’s blogpost about the new platform). I think the choice of the word “multimedia” is intentional, since both Freethought Blogs and the Orbit are secular blogging networks, and the same could probably be said of ScienceBlogs. So far, I haven’t seen any other media context, so I find it a bit premature to make that claim (also, Freethough Blogs make the occational pod-/vlogcast, so in a sense, this network can be called multimedia as well).

OnlySky is an exodus of atheist blogs from Patheos, due to new restrictions made to secular bloggers at Patheos. It is a long time since I have visited any blog at Patheos, due to the incredible invasive ads and the horrible layout, so I applaud the move, which will allow me to read some of the many great bloggers there. It might also mean that links to blogposts on social media, will make it clearer which blog it links to, making it easier to avoid giving click to bloggers that you don’t want to support.

Anyway, aside from the quibble about the claim about being the first network, I am entirely happy to see a new atheist network. My only worry is the attempt of defining the network as a movement

Help support independent secular storytelling and journalism.

OnlySky covers the human experience from an explicitly secular point of view. Support from our readers safeguards our essential editorial independence, emboldening us to find and publish stories that others won’t. We seek to secure an influential place for secular values in our culture, and change the cultural narrative regarding the nonreligious.

From the Support OnlySky page.

Having had too many bad experiences with atheist movements, which often provide cover for the worst kind of racism and misogynism, I have absolutely no intention of supporting anything claiming to be a movement. Also, isn’t it a bit arrogant to try to cast your own commercial venture into a movement? Hopefully, they will realize that they are heading down the wrong path with this language.

One area of worry, is the fact that OnlySky media has a science section, but as far as I can see, the ranks of contributors don’t really contain any scientists – hopefully this will change over time.