Goddamnit, American Atheists

Not this again. It’s another wave of sexual harassment allegations, and big names stepping down.

Two board members of American Atheists, one of the nation’s best-known atheist advocacy organizations, resigned in the past month after ethical concerns were raised about their actions at conferences for nonbelievers.

One of them is Andrew Torrez, who I don’t know personally at all, but I have listened to his podcast, Opening Arguments. I’d heard rumors third hand, so this isn’t entirely surprising.

The other is Mandisa Thomas, and that is shocking! I’ve known her for years as an energetic leader of the Black Nonbelievers, and now, what’s worse is that there is a wave of resignations from other members of that organization. Bria Crutchfield is leaving? It’s hard to believe.

Embarrassing confession: in all my years, decades even, of atheist promotion and activism, I’ve never even been asked to serve on the board of any atheist or humanist organization. Not even so much as a tentative enquiry. I used to think it might have been that I was too controversial, but now I’m wondering…maybe I’m too boring? Too homely? Too unreliable? Too anti-Dawkins?

Anyway, if American Atheists (or other godless organization) would like to recruit a staid old atheist who is also incredibly unsexy (but also fundamentally monogamous), I’m available. I feel sad about saying this, but maybe I’ve been the uncontroversial atheist all along.


  1. wzrd1 says

    I’m starting to agree with the religionists, atheism has to be a religion. Given both groups seem utterly incapable of keeping their lower garments fastened.
    Well, that or people get insatiably horny whenever in a position of semi-authority.

    So no, they’ll not select you – you know how to keep your frigging zipper closed outside of your bedroom or bathroom.

    Lord Silent Bob preserve us!

  2. gijoel says

    @1 Meh, there’s plenty of sexual harassment in non-religious sectors, like the workplace, schools, volunteer groups. I see more as a pervasive culture thing.

  3. says

    “Anyway, if American Atheists (or other godless organization) would like to recruit a staid old atheist who is also incredibly unsexy (but also fundamentally monogamous), I’m available.”

    Go next door and talk to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. They’ve grown quite a bit over the last several years and have won a number church/state separation cases. Top ranking on Charity Navigator and the like, too.

  4. says

    @3 @Brony

    I think the problem here is at least as much failing to properly identify “what you are not” as it is organizing against “what you are not.” In particular, magical thinking, whether or not it encompasses a god belief, is the proper “what you are not” target for the anti-theocracy movement, even if one’s main concern is about theistic religion. You can’t have a society broadly accepting of magical thinking and not have religious and other nutters seeking to impose insane policy based upon their thoroughly irrational, immature, anti-empathetic beliefs; magical thinking can and will be used to justify every prejudice under the sun so long as it is a broadly acceptable mode of thinking. This is also why

    In particular in particular, libertarians can never be allies in the fight to beat back the oppressiveness of religion because they are a group of people who employ magical thinking to justify the oppression of people. Magical thinking about the free market, meritocracy, and the denial of the extent to which they are reliant on government services and product is the libertarian way of rationalizing “I’m going to take mine and fuck you” as a governing “philosophy.” They want to do almost exactly what the theocrats want to do based on the same essential magical thinking employed by the theocrats. Same for non-theistic patriarchalists and too many non-theistic believers in imposing their will on others based on magical thinking to count.

    When you define your enemy incorrectly, you are always going to look the wrong way for allies.

  5. Bruce Fuentes says

    It seems to me that a fair percentage of the people that rise to the top in orgs are fundamentally flawed. Abusers and those with ethical issues see it as easy pickings. If I belonged to any of these organizations I would choose you, but as they would never choose people like you, or I, I would not be a member.

  6. John Morales says

    It’s another wave of sexual harassment allegations, and big names stepping down.

    Surely it’s a good thing that they are stepping down due to ethical concerns being raised about their actions.

    At least relatively — at American Atheists ostensibly cares about ethical conduct.

  7. vereverum says

    Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), by Tavris & Aronson.

    I was on campus waiting for a bus after an ice storm. The intersection was ice covered. A man on the other side o the intersection started across the intersection and had his hands in his pockets. Well, it was cold. He slipped in the middle o the intersection. Who knew blood flows out o your nose when it’s cold? Subject number two who watched this walked across the same intersection and had his hands in his pockets. It was still cold. Who knew everybody has red blood? They were probably sophomores.

  8. beholder says

    Seconding John Morales. Atheists can’t keep all the predators out, but we can kick them out and alert the proper authorities when we find evidence of skeevy behavior, which is a step up from the religious orgs who seems to prefer to 1.) Actively enable the behavior or pretend it’s not happening, 2.) Hire an investigator when the optics look bad enough that they must do something, and 3.) Fire the investigator quietly when the press cycle blows over.

    The part I found disturbing (in addition to the harrassment, of course) was:

    I’d heard rumors third hand, so this isn’t entirely surprising.

    I know you’ve been burned before by a certain asshole who attempted to ruin your finances with a frivolous lawsuit, but c’mon. The whisper network could’ve told the rest of us so we would no longer unknowingly associate with a creep, considering they sat on these allegations since 2017(!). Post anonymously if you have to, but get the word out there as soon as you can, and preferably do it outside of a dark web chat room that no one else can access.

  9. indianajones says

    I agree with all of the above. And I try not to have heroes too. But this is a tough one as I listen to and respect and hell pay many of the projects and podcasts he is associated with. The evidence as presented is pretty damning. And, if/when this all comes out as true I hope that all the people I still respect have nothing more to do with him too.

    But please somebody credibly say it aint so. Because wow what a gut punch to the victims and to the rest of the community at large.

  10. Alt-X says

    I’m an Atheist, I’ve spent the past decade debating religious promoters and despise religion.

    But. I’ve met some absolute #ankers in the Atheist movement. What I’ve discovered, is these middle aged people seem to think that because we don’t follow the morality of the bible, we’re all some sort of hedonistic sex crazed people that will to have sex with anyone at the drop of a hat.

    For example: I good friend of our family, (an Atheist), her husband passed away from cancer, she hadn’t dated in decades after his passing, she went finally went out on a date, with a UK professor (another Atheist), after the date, he wanted to have sex with her. She said no, she’s not interested in sex after the first date. His reply was “what are you, a religious fundamentalist?!”. These guys have it stuck in their head Atheist women are easy. They’re not atheists because religions are man made BS, but because they want the freedom to sleep around.

    And honestly, one of the names on that list doesn’t surprise me. I remember getting creep vibes from him. It’s funny because only recently I started telling myself I’m reading too much into it. And here we are! I need to trust my instincts more.

  11. StevoR says

    ^ Marcus Ranum :

    No movement? No progress?


    Depends what you mean by “”movement” I guess?

    Also which way(s) and how we choose to move?

    Choose wisely.

  12. Akira MacKenzie says

    No movement.

    Well, when the Bible-humpers inevitably come to lynch you, you’re on your own.

    What was the Ben Franklin quote? “We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately.”

  13. cicely says

    I suspect it’s a Human Problem; wherever there is Authority, there will be people looking to take advantage of it to abuse other people.

    It’s a thing that pretty much any organization needs to be aware of, and put procedures in place to spot the instances and prune them—then, actually use those procedures, and sooner, rather than later.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    MLK cheated on his wife, but he still made a very big contribution to human rights. As long as stuff is consentual and no one is hurt I am prepared to accept people with a modest level of “being an asshole”.

    Sweden became a reasonably enlightened place because of the tireless work by many and varied grassroots movements. Some of the leading characters had values that today would be condemned as racist or misogynic.
    Today we should demand high standards but be willing to accept some flaws if people are willing to change for the better.

  15. lotharloo says

    You need to lower your expectations of all humans and I mean literally all humans. It’s pointless to have a perfectionist attitude with respect to humans. Everyone has been as asshole at some point of their lives. So with regards to this story, it’s bad that these leaders had caused harm and they did the right thing by resigning and hopefully they will attempt to do amends or whatever that’s necessary to do inline with whatever they did and the relevant policies should be changed to reduce the chances of stuff like these happening.
    Humans are going to always fuck up. If there’s any hope for secular institutions, it lies in their potential to change policies, and put reasonable mechanisms in place to prevent or reduce the number of instances like this.