Deep Rifts have become gaping, uncrossable chasms

Krista Cox, chair of the Leadership Council of the Feminist Humanist Alliance, has a few words about what the hiring of David Silverman means. This is a good summary of the Silverman Situation–it’s a rift so deep we’re separating into different continents.

Enter the newly hired executive director of Atheist Alliance International (AAI), a global federation of atheist groups and individuals who endeavor to “make the world a safer place for atheists.” On October 11, 2019, AAI announced that it had created the new ED position and hired former American Atheists president David Silverman. A week and a half later, on his “Firebrand for Good” YouTube page, Silverman declared that we, as a culture, are post-sexism. He went on to state that the gender pay gap is fake, the glass ceiling has been smashed (because it’s “better visually” for companies to hire women now), and that since second-wave feminism won, modern feminists can stop being so angry about inconsequential nonsense.

Silverman’s comments confirmed what I feared about the nontheistic movement, and his hiring both surprised and concerned me.

Silverman’s recent anti-feminist and anti-social justice statements, as well as associations with antagonists of both movements, are legion, but I’ll limit my coverage to just a few. On September 20 he wrote he is “no longer a progressive feminist” and admitted to being “red-pilled,” a reference to a quarantined Reddit forum for Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) widely known to be anti-feminist and rife with misogyny. In a September 22 podcast episode titled “Feminist Tyranny,” Silverman asserted personally or agreed with the host (MRA-adjacent Sargon of Akkad) on a number of concerning ideas, including that women are using feminism and the #MeToo movement to “secure personal privilege” and that social justice is a “cancerous social movement” that “has to be undone.” Around the same time he did an interview with female MRA Karen Straughan and the men behind Mythcon, the conference that controversially gave platforms to several anti-social-justice atheists; he retweeted an October 11 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Social Justice Warriors Won’t Listen, but You Should” that mocked concepts like white fragility and systemic complicity in white supremacy and misogyny; and on October 17 he shared a video suggesting that more rape allegations are false than we think (part of a video series that includes “Feminazi vs. Reality”).

“Bye regressive left,” Silverman tweeted on September 23. “I have a lot of regrets for being in your whiney culty immitation [sic] of feminism.”

A few years ago, Silverman’s supportive words for feminism and social justice convinced me to become a lifetime member of American Atheists. Can I get my money back? (Not really, AA did a good thing in giving Silverman the axe…I would be really pissed if he was still in charge there.)

This is way too familiar, though.

It’s becoming a repeated refrain: man holds himself up as a feminist; man experiences consequences for misogynistic actions; on reflection, man decides social justice warriors are the real problem.

I’d say you could kick me out of the movement if ever I become as hypocritical and repugnant as David Silverman, but it’s not much of a promise since I was de facto expelled already, years ago. I’d say “By regressive right”, except that “regressive” and “right” are synonyms, making it redundant.

Hey, you think they’ll finally let Dave into CPAC?


  1. Jeremy Shaffer says

    “Bye regressive left,” Silverman tweeted on September 23. “I have a lot of regrets for being in your whiney culty immitation [sic] of feminism.”

    This is like someone yelling “You can’t fire me because I quit” to their former employer a year after they were fired.

  2. jess says

    It’s becoming a repeated refrain: man holds himself up as a feminist;

    It’s almost like a small-time professor in a minor University who burnishes his feminist credentials by tossing natal women under a bus, laughs when women are excluded from women’s spaces and refuses to condemn the outright misogyny, hatred and violence directed towards womenn by men playing dress up.

  3. says

    Some years ago, back when I first started consuming content created by atheist activists and knew almost nothing about the community, I watched several atheist YouTube videos about religions, and the algorithm quickly started showing me one anti-feminism video after another as suggestions for what to watch next. I concluded that atheist activists are all a group of misogynistic white cis male assholes. I also wondered why these people call themselves “atheist activists” if “anti-feminism activists” would be more appropriate. At that point I quit searching for any atheist content. Only years later I accidentally stumbled upon some atheist activists who didn’t promote misogyny.

  4. says

    We already have laws protecting freedom of religion. So what justice for non-believers could Silverman possibly be aiming for but social justice?

    And, you know, a disproportionate number of Nobelists are atheists, agnostics, and/or advocates of strong secular values. I don’t doubt the same is true of CEOs. So that glass ceiling has been smashed.

    Surely, at this point, we can consider it proven that Silverman is simply using testerical claims of religious hegemony to gain personal privilege.

  5. Bruce Fuentes says

    I am confused by comment #3, Jess. Not sure what they are trying to express here. Are they just a troll?

  6. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    Bruce, they’re a TERF claiming that PZ isn’t a “real” feminist because he supports trans rights. So yes, a troll.

  7. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    I’d be interested in following the money. Clearly, AAI is uninterested in everybody they’re going to chase away by hiring this clown, so who are the big donors giving them the dosh TO hire Silverman?

  8. dangerousbeans says

    @ terf at number 3
    ‘Natal women’ cause nothing says feminism more than insisting people be permanently assigned gender groups based on patriarchal norms

  9. Susan Montgomery says

    I think Silverman’s the kind of guy who becomes a feminist hoping to get some “liberated” nookie, only to discover that liberation meant that women having sexual agency (being able to say “no” if they chose to) and has now run off in the predictable, hedonistic snit.

    @3 If you’re hate-reading the comments (and I know you are) then go fuck yourself. I’d try to find a way to make a clever and witty remark but, frankly, I’m not putting in more thinking than you have.

  10. chrislawson says

    Crip Dyke@5

    I agree with your broader point about Silverman’s pretzel logic, but the US has only moderately strong freedom of religion laws. While the constitution asserts freedom of religion, it is worded in such a way that there’s plenty of wriggle room and, in the realm of practical application, powerful religious groups use these laws to protect themselves from legal obligations while the more vulnerable religious groups get limited protection even from overtly criminal oppression.

    Freedom from religion in America works markedly in favour of conservative christians. Which rather undercuts its rationale.

    BTW, I like ‘testerical’. Nice neologism.

  11. says


    I agree with everything you’ve written here. If it wasn’t completely clear, I was articulating all that merely for the purpose of displaying the bankruptcy of Silverman adopting a secular activist position while denigrating the necessity and utility of feminist activism. I was not intending to go further than that and assert that secular activism is unnecessary or useless. I believe secular activism is exactly as necessary and useful as feminist activism, which is to say very.

    As for testerical, I like it too, but I didn’t coin it. It’s been bouncing around here & there for years. (I first heard it in the 90s but didn’t really start using it until a few years ago and still don’t use it too often.) Would be interesting to know who did first come up with that.