Like I have any clout with American Atheists at all

For some reason, some atheists write to me expecting that I will agree 100% with their atheism uber alles views, and that in particular, my knee will jerk and that I will oppose anything American Atheists tries to do. But that isn’t true! In the past, AA has pissed me off — especially in the David Silverman era — but there are other things where I see AA supporting a progressive agenda, and I support them totally.

For instance, Alison Gill, their vice president, has declared support for the Equality Act.

By ensuring protections for LGBTQ people under national civil rights laws, the Equality Act would strengthen protections for everyone. For example, the bill expands the meaning of “public accommodations” to include retail stores; transportation services like airports, taxis, and bus stations; and service providers like accountants.

The Equality Act would also protect youth in child welfare services by preventing state-funded religious foster care and adoption agencies from discriminating against LGBTQ people. Currently, 11 states have laws on the books that allow discrimination in adoption and foster care on the basis of religion, and other states are considering this issue.

Stop more states from adopting discriminatory legislation in the name of religion! Support the Equality Act!

Well, yes, obviously. Supporting civil rights and strengthening protections for everyone is a good and righteous position for an atheist organization to take.

But would you believe I get email complaining about AA’s position?

The membership of AA is becoming increasingly
alarmed re Alison Gill’s role and activities in AA
which openly favor the LGBTQ cause.
We members feel this is a dereliction of duty
toward the Atheist cause, which, as a paid
employee of AA, Alison Gill is obligated to
support and promote solely and primarily.

Please note that this person does not speak for the “membership of AA”, or for even just the “AA Life Members”, as the letter is signed (I happen to be an AA Life Member), or particularly for me. Supporting the LGBTQ cause should be a natural for atheists, since this strengthens protections for everyone.

But that isn’t even the worst complaint.

What has the LGBT community done to support the rights of Atheists? Not a damn thing. When the Boy Scouts ended its ban on Gays but continued its ban on Atheists, did Gays stand behind Atheists and protest the continued bias against them by the BSA? No, of course not, although the LGBT people have demanded the support of Atheist and Humanist groups for their own narrow interests.

What the fuck…? Whatever happened to the golden rule, and doing things because they’re right, not because we expect immediate reciprocation? This is not a transaction. Civil rights are not something you fight for for one group, but not another.

I don’t even know why they’re complaining at me, I have zero influence with any atheist organization, and if I did, I’d be telling Alison Gill and American Atheists to keep it up and do more.


  1. robro says

    I learned a new concept a few months back while reading something about the former con man: transactional. Everything he does is transactional in nature. I suspect many people are similar. We’re a bunch of apes covered with fleas and mites. I scratch your back, you scratch mine.

  2. brucej says

    Let me get this straight…supporting legislation that prevents religious organizations from imposing their views on non-believers is not in the baliwick of American Atheists, an organization founded by [checks notes] a woman sho successfully won a Supreme Court case preventing religious organizations from imposing their views on non-believers.

  3. says

    The Equality Act isn’t even all that radical. Similar legislation has been introduced to congress since the 1970s. It’s just making explicit what the Supreme Court found in Bostock vs Clayton County, in a 6-3 decision. This legislation is past due.

    What has the LGBT community done to support the rights of Atheists?

    I remember a decade ago when atheists were one of the most pro-LGBT demographics, and we were proud of it. That pride is gone now.

  4. Akira MacKenzie says

    Ugh! Just got off with an Ayn Rand fuckboi on Twitter who claimed that some atheists aren’t rational because we embrace the religion of “wholeness.”

    I just wish these fascist sociopaths would just find Jesus and stop giving atheists a bad name.

  5. Rich Woods says

    Let’s get this straight. On the one hand, the US believes itself to be the leader of the free world. On the other, it doesn’t have enforceable equality principles generally described as an Equality Act.

    Useless wankers.

  6. says

    Consciousness Razor wins the thread, but I just want to say that I’m queer as fuck, I’m trans, and I’ve supported lots of causes & made many statements/arguments on the internet that I hope advanced the causes of religious freedom & secular government.

    These things aren’t separate and can’t be separate because the demands do not come from separate bodies of people. We overlap. To a dramatic extent.

  7. ANB says

    Dr. Myers, thank you for your consistent thoughtful commentary. On most anything I can think of. FYI, My dad was a scientist (2 B.A.’s; 2 M.A.’s and a Ph.D.–in entomology–and my three remaining sibs are scientists (I got my B.A. in “Bible and Religion,” but have advanced degrees in other subjects). This is just to say I ain’t no scientist, but know one (or 50).

    I like the way you think. Because you are transparent in your thinking process. And know your shit.

  8. hemidactylus says

    I think I may have encountered the notion of “transactional” alongside instrumentality or treating people as means to your own strategic agenda. Early Critical Theory could be taken as a post-Kantian Critique of Instrumental Reason where Kant himself (Critique of Practical Reason?) had emphasized treating people as ends.

    So when logicbros say “reason shall prevail” they are probably thinking in terms of instrumental reason and how nature and people are to be subjugated to the whims of classic liberal ideology with its overarching commodification of everything and thinking purely in terms of exchange. Yeah exchange is more or less a matter of transaction.

  9. billseymour says

    I really wish the A+ business had caught on big-time.  I simply cannot imagine that my atheism requires amorality.  Morality is required of all of us, theist and atheist; and atheism requires that morality be informed by humanism.

    I’m no ethicist, but I treat as axiomatic that
    1.  people are more important than things, and
    2.  it’s not all about me (and by extension, not all about my tribe).

    Basic human decency requires that we treat all folks with kindness and not assume that they’re evil if they’re different from us.  Whether one is a theist or an atheist strikes me as irrelevant.

    <slightly off-topic rant>
    I just watched about half of an American Experience film on PBS’ World Channel about the divide between the cities of Ferguson and Kinloch in northern St. Louis County.

    I grew up in western St. Louis County and now live in the southern part of the county.  I had not known that there was an actual physical barrier between the two cities because the folks in (originally all-white) Ferguson wanted to keep all the black folks in Kinloch out.  That’s an important story that needs to be told.  Unfortunately, it seemed to me that the filmmakers were less interested in telling the story and more interested in saying, “Look at how artsy-craftsy we are!”  I had to turn it off after about 45 minutes because it was just too annoying.
    </slightly off-topic rant>

  10. Bruce says

    The only reason LGBTQ people can’t live their lives in peace and harmony is because religious people won’t let them. That includes bigots influenced by religion, even if they don’t know it. Thus, this bigotry is a big example of the harm caused by religion. Thus, atheists have a moral duty to resist this bigotry, if we want to live consistently and honorably, while being aware of implications.

  11. John Morales says


    The only reason LGBTQ people can’t live their lives in peace and harmony is because religious people won’t let them.

    What? No.

    Anti-trans bigots most certainly are not limited to the religious.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Akira MacKenzie @ 6

    Re. Ayn randians/libertarians /conservatives
    “Like it or not, history shows that taxes and bureaucracy are cornerstones of democracy”

    Wow! You mean, libertarians are somehow mistaken, even though tories and Republicans keep saying taxes and bureaucracy are inherently eevul?
    Since Ayn Rand insisted people should follow logic to its (aka her preferred) conclusion, I assume all randians now will embrace bureucracy and taxes as science has proven them beneficial…
    (sound of crickets)

    Also, the Nordic countries have more billionaires per capita than USA, so strong social services and free education are good for capitalism? Now the Republicans will stampede to introduce such a system ,as facts have proven it more useful…
    (sound of crickets)

  13. birgerjohansson says

    Billseymour @ 14
    “I’m no ethicist, but I treat as axiomatic that
    1. people are more important than things, and
    2. it’s not all about me (and by extension, not all about my tribe).”

    What? No, it is all about das Volk. Also, class. And sacrificing to the right sky god. And having no beard/ absolutely having a beard. For further detalis read the Murdoch press/Pravda/whatever the fuck they read in Riyadh.

  14. chrislawson says

    I don’t think this guy’s problem is that he’s a transactional sociopath. I think his problem is that he’s a rampant homophobe/transphobe who doesn’t want his atheism adulterated (heh!) by universal human rights.

    Although on further reflection, maybe he’s both.

    The fact that Alison Gill is upsetting people like him is a good sign.

  15. chrislawson says


    I’ve never understood this right-wing/libertarian objection to the existence of bureaucracy. They’re always fellating large business interests…the most transparently self-serving, anti-democratic and monopolistic bureaucracies on the planet, much worse than any civil service.

    If they really hated bureaucracy the way the claim to, they should be anarchists. But I guess the great hallmark of today’s libertarianism and conservatism is theatrically-enraged opposition to coherent thinking and evidence.

  16. raven says

    That should have been “wokeness,” but autocorrect had other ideas.

    This isn’t even wrong.
    It is just an insult like “liberal”,”social justice warrior” or “normal person”.

    If wokeness is a religion so is fascism, Trumpism, loonytarianism, supply side economics, and the GOP.

  17. raven says

    Re. Ayn randians/libertarians /conservatives
    “Like it or not, history shows that taxes and bureaucracy are cornerstones of democracy”

    That has been known for decades.

    A recent book, widely read for these types (academic poly sci), summarizes it.
    “Why Nations Fail. ”
    They take an empirical approach looking at successful and unsuccessful nations.
    You need;
    .1. Taxes at least 10% of GDP.
    .2. A strong central government.
    .3. Rule of Law meaning a level playing field.

    It’s the opposite of Loonytarianism.
    The Third World is mostly the Third World because they don’t have Rule of Law. They have rule by the economic oligarchy, a few wealthy families usually heavily intermarried.

    Anyone who has been paying attention to the last 4 years will note that one of the central programs of Trump and the GOP was to kill off…Rule of Law. It was an openly corrupt regime from the president, Senate, and Department of Justice.

    And oh yeah, the free market doesn’t even exist by itself!!!
    As Reich points out, markets are created by humans.
    The only reason something resembling a free market exists is when people design, make, and enforce them. Without human intervention, markets all tend towards monopoly and oligarchic control.

  18. raven says

    The current champion of Loonytarian fail is Texas and their recent cold wave.
    It’s an atrocity.

    When their electric grid failed, the price of electricity went from 12 cents a kilowatt to $9 a kilowatt in the free power market.
    Ordinary people are now getting bills for a month’s electricity of something like $17,000.
    The actual amount of excess profits for the electric companies is in the billions of dollars.

    The state of Texas has two ways to deal with this.
    .1. Demand that the federal government pay the electric companies to profit from an unusual storm, massive incompetence, and grotesque profiteering.
    .2. Allow the electric companies to spread their huge bills over a decade or so. To prevent large numbers of Texans from just declaring bankruptcy, I guess.

    The better way is to just prevent the power companies providing an essential service from profiting from human misery.
    I’d just give them a choice.
    Lose your business license and get charged for theft by profiteering, or knock all those zeroes off of your bills.

  19. says

    There is already a lawsuit for price gouging during a disaster. Though the wrong entity may be being targeted.. But I suppose they could have threatened a price gouging lawsuit themselves. So screw them.

  20. mnb0 says

    “I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free. The freedom of other people, far from negating or limiting my freedom, is, on the contrary, its necessary premise and confirmation.”
    Mikhail Bakunin, somewhere in the 19th Century.
    This is transaction enough for me.

  21. whheydt says

    From what I’ve read about the extreme power bills in Texas, they were the results from one (or a few) small companies that people signed up with with the explicit arrangement that they got–and paid for–power on the spot market. This has had the benefit of, on average, lower power costs than from companies with either fixed rates or some kind of rate averaging.

    At least one company (Griddy), when the storm was seen coming, advised their customers to sign up with someone else before the storm hit as the company anticipated that spot power prices were going to go pretty high. Customers either didn’t react in time, or ran into for delays for switching providers and got caught still paying spot market prices.

    This is not to say that there weren’t things seriously amiss in the Texas power grid pricing, but it appears that, by and large, the enormous power bills were the customers own making by choosing to have their power provided at spot market prices and failing to react to a clear, approaching disaster.

    While I think there would be some justice in the state of Texas bailing people out (since it was Texas that laid the groundwork for the problems by refusing to be part of the larger grids), I don’t see that it is the Federal governments job to bail these people out, since the reason Texas isn’t tied to the main interstate grids was explicitly to avoid Federal regulation. Alternatively, the Federal government should provide bailouts with the proviso that Texas connect to one or both interstate grids and accept the Federal oversight that comes with doing so.

    And note that El Paso and environs did NOT have power problems from the storm. That area is on the Western Interconnect.

  22. raven says

    Your analysis seems to make Texas out to be several orders of magnitude more competent and less malevolent then they really are.
    Source WSJ, hardly a bleeding heart newspaper.

    WallStreetjournal today
    Nearly 20 years ago, Texas shifted from using full-service regulated utilities to generate power and deliver it to consumers. The state deregulated power generation, creating the system that failed last week.
    And it required nearly 60% of consumers to buy their electricity from one of many retail power companies, rather than a local utility.

    Those deregulated Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for their power since 2004 than they would have paid at the rates charged to the customers of the state’s traditional utilities, according to the Journal’s analysis of data from the federal Energy Information Administration.

    .1. 60% of Texans have retail power companies.
    .2. This is mandatory rather than elective.
    .3. This system has been failing since 2004.

    The lucky and bright might have been able to switch power providers at short notice. Most people probably have no idea how to do it.
    A lot of people aren’t even connected to the internet, especially the old and immigrants,

    I don’t see that it is complicated to place the blame for this whole multi-functional group of failures.

  23. raven says

    Bloomberg news

    Texans Will Pay for Decades as Crisis Tacks Billions Onto Bills
    By Mark Chediak, Naureen S Malik, and Josh Saul
    February 22, 2021, 2:38 PM PST Updated on February 23, 2021, 4:00 AM PST

    Power sales totaled $50.6 billion vs. $4.2 billion week prior
    Utilities will look to pass costs onto consumers, taxpayers

    I just looked up just how much price gouging there was.
    It was $46 billion more than the usual.
    That is a lot of money for a few days worth of power.

  24. DanDare says

    Robro @1 the former con man was only faux transactionsl because he preferred to renegotiate after you had fulfilled your part of the originsl agreement.

  25. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I guess people’s attitudes are um multidimensional. IE attitude about religion is a different axis than about race or gender or sexual orientation, etc. Being an atheist does not necessarily mean being tolerant of orientation. oh well

  26. lanir says

    Everyone has a kink, I guess. Some people just have a sort of mass impersonal pervy kink about being important and involved with every sex act, as though no one can have any sort of sex without their approval. Personally I’ve run into a lot of different kinks in my life, many of which I don’t share. But that one is by far the weirdest damn shit I have ever come across.

    Like most kinks if you have this one you should find your people and then generally keep it within your group. It’s never reasonable time ask the rest of the world to change just because you want to live out some weird sexual fantasies. But within your group? Let your freak flag fly. :)