Friday, 31 August 2012

My final word on Atheism+ - Part 1

Let me make this very clear from the outset. I fully support the egalitarian principles that share atheism's and secularism's struggle for parity with those groups that wish to silence our perceived threat to the status quo. This includes gender and sexual identity, as well as all the other egalitarian principles put forward by Atheism+.

That said, in the year or so that has lead up to its inception, I have become increasingly frustrated at how atheism has taken a back seat in the atheism movement. Sure, if I genuinely support the statement made in my opening paragraph, I will continue to identify with those same egalitarian goals: and I do.

What I don't want to do, is to put my name to a group that - to my mind, and other reasonable and sceptical atheists - has co-opted the ongoing successes in our movement in order to wedge strategize a different agenda: hence diluting the hard work done by hundreds of atheist activists over a protracted period of time and undermining the credibility of the movement as a whole.

My personal forays into support for feminism (or at the very least gender and sexual identity equality) have been met with considerable vitriol, despite my support. The skeptic in me, though, does not allow me to permit people to call me a misogynist (I do not hate women) without some form of questioning or rebuttal. And so it was one day, on Google+, I commented on Ophelia Benson's withdrawal from TAM 2012. (Sorry, but I can't form links: I am blogging from my phone)

From the outset, I was enraged that the behavior of a few rotten types had lead to speakers pulling out from what should have been one of the year's top-draw events, but upon further inspection it appears that the threats claimed were not what I would recognise as a threat: not even a couched threat at that. Indeed, Ophelia herself did not deem them sufficiently threatening to inform the police, and she proceeded to dress me down for holding my own - commonly held - opinion. Maybe I do suffer from the miasma of privilege, but in isolating it to my being white, middle-class, straight and male, am I not also a victim of the heinous behavior of race, class, gender identity and sex discrimination of which I am accused? I was genuinely upset that the actions of the few were undermining the good work done by so many, and wanted to highlight that this sort of behavior should not be permitted. Quite how my support for feminists at this stage turned into a red flag event for my misogyny, I am afraid my accusers will have to elucidate. If this be a reasonable justification to be railed against in what would become Atheism+, so be it. Whilst my own experience of the debate was mystifying, my scepticism was aroused.

Not long after, my friend Justin Vacula was singled out for what has become the unofficial 'free thought' position of what I shall call non-slut-shaming. Like me, Justin had been politely supporting feminist issues, and like me, had also received a dressing down for his scepticism of the behavioral and logical positions of his interlocutors. Again, like myself, Justin kept a civil tone and concentrated on the subject at hand, rather than resorting to ad hominem attacks (I think I have, just once, called one of my interlocutors a moron. Not because she was female, but because out of the hundreds that had seen the offending blog post, she was the only person to twist the satirical nature of the article around - in true creationist style - to support her artificially generated vitriol against me). Justin - probably because of his wider renown and greater dedication - did not fare as easily as I did. What would go on to become the burgeoning supporters of Atheism+ (predominantly FtB bloggers) began to eschew some truly bizarre behavior and language at Justin: for merely asking people for clarifications and explanations. Off the top of my head now, sexist pig, misogynist and vacuous shitbag troll are just a taste of what he has had to put up with for politely doing what he has done from the outset of his atheist and sceptical activism.

Another incident involved Surly Amy. Justin posted a blog with an image derived from Amy's Surlyramics site. Some days later, he received a DMCA take-down notice claiming copyright infringement. 'Fair Use' issues aside, it turns out the named plaintiff was Amy herself. The notice was later retracted and as far as I am aware may not have been Amy at all, but one of her fangenda types. If it was Amy, her decision not to continue down this path was a wise one, but if it was made by someone other than Amy, this is considered a serious offence and I hope that the culprit is brought to justice.

Recently, Justin made an error of judgement in posting Surly Amy's address, despite it already being in the public domain. It was a poor decision which he has retracted and apologized for, but this is not enough for some apparently. Yesterday, Justin posted a video explaining the actions of an unnamed feminist that had published his address and had written to his parents informing them what a frightful character their son is. If this were not enough, this same feminist has started a state-wide campaign against him with the express aim of ruining his career. He/she claims to be an experienced journalist, but as a trained journalist myself, I know that he/she is much more likely to damage their own reputation and highlight Justin's activism. Seriously, has this 'experienced' journalist never heard of the Streisland effect?

So much for my final word on Atheism+. Blogging by phone is tiresome, and I have other things to attend to I shall have to change the title of this post to reflect the fact that this is part 1.

Your thoughts so far?


  1. I hear you. I am often embarrassed and flabbergasted watching supposed critical thinking fellow atheists eschew the very clarifying query's they champion to always and forever use to best reach the most accurate answer or reality to any topic.

    But when the exact same method of questioning is applied to a charged topic they emotionally adhere themselves to (sound familiar? Theism anyone?), not only is it shut out of their minds, but the questioner is defensively attacked as the enemy *MERELY FOR ASKING QUESTIONS*. It's infuriating that they don't see that they are doing *exactly* what they rail on theists for doing,profoundly disappointing that this is way too common in the atheist community, and unmistakably transparent and juvenile.

  2. The more I read about this, the more it seems like another example of bullying by some of the FtB crowd. Even if I agree with many of their goals (which I do), I'm skeptical that bullying those who disagree with them is the best way to pursue them.


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