The latest atheist scandal: Michael Sherlock, executive director of Atheist Alliance International, was a bit less than professional on Twitter. He called religion “retarded”, and when told that word has a lot of baggage, escalated the argument and ended up calling a woman a “cunt”. This has led to the organization suspending him without pay for one month, which seems like a reasonable rebuke to me, and the process leading to that punishment seems fair, as well. Atheist organizations have had a bit of trouble with poorly behaved leaders lately, so it’s a good idea to set standards and enforce them. If anything, the punishment was too light for an action that led to three board members announcing their resignation, and the Atheist Foundation of Australia severing their ties to AAI. I get the impression that Sherlock has been an antagonizing figure at AAI, especially given that they had recently appointed and then fired David Silverman.
Except…now Sherlock has become the newest cause célèbre for all those anti-SJW folks who are outraged at consequences — you know, what they’re calling “cancel culture”. Any effort to clean their room and tell the paid professionals who are supposed to be running the show to stand up straight is met with petulant whining from the spoiled children who otherwise adore people like Jordan Peterson. How dare you expect them to behave?
The funniest reaction comes from Atheists for Liberty, which claims that social justice is destroying atheist groups. To which I have to say, if they oppose social justice, let them be destroyed, along with the Catholic church and Islamic fundamentalism, two things they typically oppose for their lack of justice. Their rant is written by Justin Vacula, a terrible person with the same sensibilities as Sherlock, apparently, and he is mad about everything.
David Silverman was innocent, he suggests, his accuser was “screaming”, and the #metoo movement opposes due process. He takes a few swipes at me, too, calling me
social justice warrior PZ Myers who remains out of favor (wait, what? I was “cancelled”, and he’s fine with that?), citing a pair of wankers, Michael Nugent and Hemant Mehta, to justify that. So apparently women and PZ Myers can be cancelled, but no, not his regressive little buddies.
But here’s the real meat of the complaint:
The intrusion of social justice and woke ideology into atheist circles continues. To name just one example of many, Alex DiBranco spoke at the Secular Student Alliance’s 2020 National Convention, where she argued for “a feminist humanist approach” to “contest white, male, and cisgendered supremacism” saying, “the organized secular/atheist movement has over-emphasized opposition to religion or the belief in a god for its own sake, rather than prioritizing the problem of harm posed to social justice from any direction.”
Atheists for Liberty stands against destructive social justice entryism and the overblown response to an atheist activist calling religion a “retarded relic.” Atheists for Liberty instead prioritizes the free exchange of ideas, individual liberties, religious freedom (including non-belief), Enlightenment values, and secular government.
I think I like this Alex DiBranco. Yes, any atheist movement should fully embrace feminism and humanism, and seek to expand their remit to embrace human social values. Anything less and you collapse into the black hole of conservative insularity and a mob of smug men patting themselves on the back for being enlightened. You get creatures like Trump and Boris Johnson, amoral exploiters and abusers. Any movement that seeks to make fundamental changes in society, like the removal of the influence of religion, is fundamentally not conservative, and to succeed and gather influence must adopt a progressive stance — these libertarian, right-wing atheists are doomed to implode in contradictions. Social justice is the only thing that can save atheism, while it’s people like those at Atheists for Liberty that are destroying it.
To quote Amanda Marcotte:
The moral is there is no leftism that can function coherently without anti-racism and feminism at its center. What is obvious now — anti-government sentiment was just opposition to government showing any interest in equality — was always obvious to “social justice warriors”.
You’re saying now that atheism is not leftism, but I’ll reply that it should be. In this era when western civilization is clearly sick and capitalism has exposed itself as a Ponzi scheme, no viable philosophy can afford to ignore reality and pretend that these right-wing sympathizers are anything but a poison pill for progress.