Oh, look, I just alienated another 42,000 atheists!


A few months ago, I called out a couple of atheist Facebook pages. I wasn’t a member of either “Atheist Safehouse” or “The Thinking Atheist Fanpage”, but stupid obnoxious Facebook kept pestering me with suggestions that I join them…and I’d tell it “no!”, it would leave me alone, and then a few weeks later it would start up again. I was annoyed.

The reason I wasn’t interested was that they advertised themselves with a photomontage of Famous Atheists, you know, the usual suspects, some of whom I’d rather not ever meet again, and they were almost all men. It was just stunningly bad advertising, for one, since they were clearly aiming at a target demographic that was rather narrow, but it was also shallow and cult-like. It was too much trouble to portray an idea or a principle, so hey, let’s just make it clear that we’re a boys’ club and that we adhere to a dogma promoted by these modern prophets.

As I said, I didn’t join, for obvious reasons. But what if someone did join? Atheist Safehouse apparently has over 42,000 members, and is one of the biggest special interest groups in Facebook atheism. And what if they were a woman? And what if they pointed out the sexism of their advertising?

Chrys Stevenson entered their lair.

The equal representation of women in public and private spaces matters. It matters because saving women’s lives and maximising their wellbeing requires a tectonic cultural shift in our society that starts with recognising women’s contributions. It is, frankly, inconceivable that a group which prides itself on intellect and reason would choose a composite photo showing eight men – mostly white – to represent its mixed-gendered membership of 42,114 members.

I joined the group last night in order to comment. Naively, I thought it would be a simple matter of drawing the issue to the attention of the admins and getting the photo changed.

(Note: the one non-white man in the photo is Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is not and does not want to be associated with movement atheism at all. It would be nice if people would at least respect that. But at least he gets to join Charles Darwin in the list of scientists uncomfortable with atheism who get coopted anyway.)

What she discovered is that, rather than make a simple change to the profile photo of the group, they have rules that you’re not allowed to talk about the photo. They have encountered this complaint so many times before that the regulars were bored and predicted that the suggestion would be squashed…and it was.

If an atheist group of 41,114 (41,112 members now Cushla and I have been booted) cannot take the simple step of removing a single photo and replacing it with a more representative image, what hope is there that atheism can be rescued from the grip of the immature, socially inept, MRA man-babies who seem to have colonised the movement.

They use a photo of 8 famous atheist men to illustrate their “Atheist Safehouse”: two of them are dead, two, maybe three, are libertarian jack-offs, one is under investigation and has lost his prestigious position for sexual harassment, and one doesn’t want anything to do with the atheist movement. They refuse to even consider changing it.

I can maybe see their point. One could argue that the picture is a fair and honest portrait of the atheist movement today, so they’re just practicing truth in advertising.

Comments

  1. says

    What she discovered is that, rather than make a simple change to the profile photo of the group, they have rules that you’re not allowed to talk about the photo.

    The Venn diagram of members of that group, people who cry about “free speech” when some douche isn’t invited and pauid as a speaker and people who yell “triggered snowflake” at marginalised people is one circle.

  2. colinday says

    What she discovered is that, rather than make a simple change to the profile photo of the group, they have rules that you’re not allowed to talk about the photo.

    So the first rule of Atheist Club is no discussing Atheist club?

    @Giliell
    #1

    I’m sure there are plenty of theists who fall within the latter two groups.

  3. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin asserts this is analogous to banning images of Famous Prophets, such as Abraham, Moses, and Mohammad, to discourage idolatry.† Albeit, she points out, it’s in reverse. Because having images of Famous Atheists is not idolatry.

    The dissenters(to images of Famous Atheists), at whom the ban is presumably aimed, she observes, are heretics. They are not going with the received wisdom, so must be wrong. Keeping with the theme of being the same in reverse, she suggests these modern-day heretics won’t be burnt at the stake or fed to lions, but fed to hordes of screaming traitor don supporters carrying burning swastikas (made from rolled-up editions of the New York Times, Washington Post, Grauniad, and other Fake NEWS! printed media).

      † Whilst her example is motivated some Islamic Ḥadīth, it must be pointed out aniconism is not exclusive to Islam (or more precisely, some Islamic traditions).

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    A really awful montage, too, with Lawrence Krauss front and center in the most (melo)dramatic pose.

    … and they were almost all men.

    Almost? Have I missed another memo about who’s really a Reptilian?

  5. Gregory Greenwood says

    Another laceration in movement Atheism’s death by a thousand cuts, its relevancy and moral authority bled away by its increasingly homogeneous membership’s misogyny (among other bigotries), obsessions with (almost exclusively White and male) ‘thought leaders’, and clannish inability to take any constrictive criticism from outside its narrow in-group.

    Chrys Stevenson’s description of this kind of group could hardly be more apposite;

    If an atheist group of 41,114 (41,112 members now Cushla and I have been booted) cannot take the simple step of removing a single photo and replacing it with a more representative image, what hope is there that atheism can be rescued from the grip of the immature, socially inept, MRA man-babies who seem to have colonised the movement.

    There was a time, when I was still callow and naive, when I honestly thought that Atheism as a movement might be able to do some real good in the world, and start to lead us away from the old fears and prejudices promoted by religion, chief among them a pathological hostility toward, and suspicion of, women. How sadly deluded I was. I can only agree with Chrys Stevenson – movement Atheism is so severely infested with misogynists, white supremacists, and all flavours of alt-Right bigots that it is wholly beyond saving at this point.

    Still, not all is darkness and despair. Atheism+ might not have worked out, but I still think it is possible to build a more representative, progressive, and generally positive public voice for people who reject the pernicious influence of mythology treated as evidence on scientific endeavours, political decision making, social mores and public life in general. The more the entitled man children who have poisoned movement Atheism rant and rave about how ‘evil’ such a project is, the more likely we will be to be on the correct track.

  6. sarah00 says

    It’s funny really. Many, many moons ago I found this blog through Talk Origins, and it was my gateway drug into the atheist/skeptic community. In time I learned not only about Creationism but about all sorts of pseudoscience and the problems of religious fundamentalism. I became an atheist (from the more typical British ‘dontcareist’) and a skeptic and while I was only ever really a lurker, I was an avid reader of everything to do with the movement. In time I became more aware of feminism and realised that what I was really interested in was equality and fairness. What annoyed me about psuedoscience was the way it misled and harmed vulnerable people, whether intentionally by charlatans, or accidentally by true believers. Similarly religion seemed to be hugely damaging, telling people they were bad and needed to apologise for being human.

    And so feminism seemed the natural progression. So many of the problems seemed to stem, as the late great Terry Pratchett wrote, from treating people as things. And feminism seemed to be about recognising the humanity in everyone, male and female. It seemed to me to be obvious that the atheist movement should be on the same page, recognising that people need to look out for others, that we’re all in this together.

    So it really surprised me when Elevatorgate happened and I was forced to realise that I was mistaken. The problems of religion – that desire to have power over others – was just as prevalent in atheist and skeptic communities as they were in religious ones. And just as the church protects its own, so too does every other community – they circle the wagons, force out ‘troublemakers’ and enforce conformity – and this community was no different despite its claims of superiority. Even worse, I started to see that the demands to think critically and to examine personal biases were completely ignored whenever the subject turned to feminism. ‘The plural of anecdote isn’t data’ was thrown in the face of every woman who recounted experiences of sexism and sexual assault. All the while ‘I’ve never seen that’ was somehow a perfectly acceptable counter.

    I could fill a bingo-card of poor arguments against feminism: motivated reasoning; people working back from their conclusion and finding evidence to support it (however poor); hyper-skepticism; arguments saying that those personally affected are too biased to discuss a topic; and many other methods of denying that there are issues that affect women as a result of their gender that need to be addressed if we are ever going to achieve a more equal and equitable society. And I’m exhausted that the movement refuses to recognise the problem. What’s the point of being skeptical about bigfoot if you can’t work out that the gender pay gap exists? What’s the point of campaigning against the church hiding sexual predators if you do the same?

    I know the saying about atheists and herding cats, but if in a group of 42k people you can’t come to some sort of consensus about whether a banner containing 8 men (including known harassers, assaulters and arseholes) is in need of changing then why even bother?

  7. mnb0 says

    But … but … but, PZ, when they “pester you again with suggestions that I join them” it’s clear what to do. Join them indeed and as a first step send in a complaint about unequal representation. They’ll get rid of you forever.

  8. kestrel says

    @sarah00, #6: you’ve said it far more eloquently than I could have. I agree with you. I was so flummoxed by “elevatorgate” and had a hard time grokking the fact that it was the reaction of MOST of the “skeptical” community. You must not be very skeptical if you never take a look at your own thoughts and reasons for doing something. There was even a chapter in “Why People Believe Weird Things” about why intelligent people believe weird things, but no one seems to have read it, including the author. I would add, that chapter is also true for why stupid people believe weird things.

  9. ramases2 says

    Well that was fun. I sent a request to join the group and was accepted in due course. I wrote a post pointing out all-male nature of the banner and suggested Krauss and Dawkins could be replaced by Rebecca Watson and Gretta Christiana. I immediately received a whole lot of angry misogynous posts calling me a SJW and telling me to stuff off. One accused me of being a closet christian for some reason. About fifteen minutes later I was banned.

  10. secondtofirstworld says

    @Gregory Greenwood #5:

    There was an episode with Charlie Sheen guest starring on Friends, playing Phoebe’s beau, where they mutually drag each other into scratching the rash (not the usual Sheen would give) brought on by smallpox, if I recall.

    It’s not hard to understand why the lack of empiricism is crucial, otherwise, when you encounter it as an adult, it mostly leads to inevitable itching. I’m talking here about the fact that regardless of how progressive people are… look at the census. The effects of white flight have not been reversed and gentrification only serves to push out less affluent non-white people from neighborhoods.

    Of course, women are being belittled when the societal norm is and has been for decades that the man is the breadwinner, and even if they have to divorce, alimony is supposedly enough to not force a woman to work. It’s not hateful populists won the stupid argument… they won the void between communities. In effect most American communities envision America based on the sample they exist in (hence why the coastal elite caught on so quickly).

    Critical thinking will remain on the losing end as long as they fail to discover, the strength of unity comes from actually knowing each other. It’s the balm against the anonymous hatred psychos settle for. Young white male atheists criticize the authority of organized religion, not its fruits of labor, they see that as something based in biology.

  11. Ichthyic says

    So it really surprised me when Elevatorgate happened and I was forced to realise that I was mistaken. The problems of religion – that desire to have power over others – was just as prevalent in atheist and skeptic communities as they were in religious ones. And just as the church protects its own, so too does every other community – they circle the wagons, force out ‘troublemakers’ and enforce conformity – and this community was no different despite its claims of superiority.

    sociologists gave this a name long ago.

    authoritarianism.

    this will likely be an eye opener for you if you haven’t yet read it:

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

  12. secondtofirstworld says

    @Ichthyic #13:

    I would rather use self-divination, a big reason young male atheists denounce organized religion is exactly because they despise authority that isn’t theirs.

    Consequently, they won’t just accept any leader. Take for example ThunderF00t. You couldn’t call him a friend of women and yet, he’s not a leading figure in that crowd, Carl of Swindon is. This might have to do with the fact that F00t doesn’t couple his denouncement of female competence with a fascistic ideal (nor does he stalk women).

  13. susans says

    sarah00, I don’t remember you from talk.origins, but I’ve probably forgotten several people. Were you strictly a lurker?

  14. sarah00 says

    susans, I was strictly a lurker.

    My anthropology class had this awesome assignment: we had to compare two websites, Talk Origins and a one on the Aquatic Ape hypothesis. We had to determine which one had the most credible evidence. It taught me that slick website design wasn’t a sign of credibility and it inadvertently opened up a whole new aspect of the internet to me as I’d never heard of blogs or online communities before (this was back in 2004). But I was too timid to ever venture my own opinion! Even now I’m much happier reading than commenting.

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