Religion News 4.14.15

Charges against ‘Catholic Warrior’ dropped because she’s a Christian

Back in December, Susan Hemeryck walked into the state capitol Christmas display area, pre-apologized to two Florida Department of Law Enforcement Capitol Police officers, and then proceeded to vandalize a display erected by the Satanic Temple featuring the angel Lucifer being cast down from the heavens into hell.

But Hemeryck, like most intolerant conservative “Christians,” couldn’t handle the biblically-correct scene so she actively sought to destroy it. However, even though she is caught on camera handling the display, was caught red-handed by law enforcement officers, and freely admitted to the Associated Press that she “yanked that little devil off the fishing line” and “should have just done a better job and finished it off for good,” state prosecutors decided not to pursue the case.

As part of her defense, Hemeryck’s attorney accused the state of “basically putting an attack on Christians,” and prosecutors apparently backed down afterwards. Their lame excuse? Lack of evidence.

“The defendant is simply carrying the display,” prosecutors said in a statement. “No damages are apparent — it is simply disassembled.”

Yeah, tell that to the the Satanic Temple and all of the organizations and people who fought so hard to place the display on state grounds to symbolize true freedom of religion and religious tolerance.

I bet if a Muslim did the same thing, prosecutors would pursue the case. But since it’s a Christian, and they’re all so good and wholesome, she gets let off the hook.

Hmmm, is there a commandment about not vandalizing?

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Thanks to ‘religious and cultural reasons’, primary school students in London banned from watching solar eclipse

According to The Telegraph, students at North Primary School were only able to observe the rare eclipse from inside the school, watching it on video screens.

Located in area known as “Little India,” the community is considered diverse, but with a large a large Hindi population.

Headteacher Ivor Johnstone said the decision to bring the children inside was based on “religious and cultural” reasons

“The school made this decision when we became aware of religious and cultural concerns associated with observing an eclipse directly,” he explained. “Although we are sorry for any disappointment, pupils were still able to watch the eclipse on screens in classrooms.”

What about the students who aren’t Hindu? Are there any other Hindu rules and strictures they have to follow?

Some Hindu scriptures state that an eclipse makes believers impure, with fundamentalists saying believers must bathe immediately after an eclipse and chant the name of God to overcome the forces of darkness.

Hogwash. Like astrology, the position of the stars and planets doesn’t affect our psyche. And like astrology, there is no evidence to support such nonsense. No flavor of theist should be able to dictate to others what they can and cannot do, nor should they have any influence over anyone other than their followers. Don’t want to see an eclipse? Take your child out of school that day. Hell, I wish it was more than that. I wish theists had to offer evidence for their beliefs–most especially when they directly impact children.

Also, I have to laugh at the idea that it’s not ok to directly observe an eclipse, but viewing it indirectly is a-ok.

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 Are you ready for the world’s first gay Mormon superhero?

Independent comic book creator Brian Andersen (So Super Duper) is on a mission to make history with Stripling Warriorthe world’s first comic book series featuring a gay Mormon superhero.

The series tells the tale of Sam Shepard, a happily out and newly married gay man whose life is changed forever after he is visited by an angel from heaven on his wedding night and is summoned to be the Hand of God on Earth.

Why was he chosen? How does his sexuality impact his role as a servant of the divine? And how does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints react when it hears a gay man has been sent on a mission from the heavens? You’ll have to read the story to find out, but until then take a look at the eight-page preview below and then head over to the Stripling Warrior KickStarter page to lend your support to making comic book history.

Religious nonsense makes much more sense in a fictional comic book world than here in the real world.

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Speaking of religious rubbish, Vatican officials apparently believe that supernatural beings walk among us:

“There are those who try to turn people into vampires and make them drink other people’s blood, or encourage them to have special sexual relations to obtain special powers,” said Professor Giuseppe Ferrari at the meeting in Rome, which heard that the number of such possessions is rising globally. “These groups are attracted by the so-called beautiful young vampires that we’ve seen so much of in recent years.”

Professor Ferrari, who heads an Italian occult watchdog, The Group on Research and Socio-Religious Information, said exorcisms should only be conducted by properly trained priests. Although the Vatican regards genuine demonic possession as rare, with many suspected cases proving to be people with mental illnesses, Pope Francis has urged dioceses to ensure that they follow Catholic law and have at least one trained exorcist each.

Swiss exorcist Father Cesare Truqui told The Independent that this week’s course, attended by exorcists, priests and lay people, was vital in order to raise awareness and hone priests’ skills. “The ministry of performing exorcism is little known among priests. It’s like training to be a journalist without knowing how to do an interview,” he said, noting that dioceses in Italy and beyond were experiencing a surge in reports of symptoms of “possession”.

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I’ve heard some say that it is harmless to believe in demons or demonic possession. These people are ignorant of the cases where people have suffered or died as a result of being “treated” for their so-called possession. Here is the latest, tragic case:

Police in Texas  are searching for the parents who starved their “demon possessed” toddler to death before fleeing to Mexico following a failed resurrection. Acting on an anonymous tip that a two-year-old had died, and that the death had not been reported.

According to the tipster, a “rising ceremony” was held on March 22 to “attempt to resurrect Victim from the dead.” When that failed, the child was wrapped in a blanket and “taken back to Mexico,” for burial, according to a search warrant.

“We don’t know if this was to try and resurrect the spirit of he child and we don’t know if this was to try and resurrect the child themselves or what exactly that service or ceremony encompasses,” said Lt. Mark Maret.

The child died inside a Balch Springs home that functioned as Congregacional Pueblo De Dios, a church that was formed in 2007. The church is affiliated with Georgia-based Pentecostal denomination, the Hispanic Conference of the Congregational Holiness Church, according to NBC.

According to a woman who knew the boy’s mother, it was believed that the child was possessed by demons — and they attempted to starve the corruption out of the little boy, who was not fed in 25 days.

Video of the “rising ceremony” shows church secretary Aracely Meza babbling incoherently while praying for the toddler’s body, which she anoints with oils. Numerous congregants were present for the ritual, yet the crime was not reported until four days after the child’s death.

Meza breaks down crying when she fails to bring the little boy back to life with magic.

Detectives have thus far been unable to locate the child’s parents or other congregants who fled to Mexico to bury the abused and neglected child. However, Meza has been charged with injury to a child by omission.

A young boy is dead now thanks to his parents’ belief in superstitious nonsense.

As an atheist, I dislike religion for reasons just like this.

Religion News 4.14.15
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Atheism, Humanism, and the Chapel Hill murders

Mohammad Abu-Salha was an artist.

Deah Shaddy Barakat worked to raise money to help Syrian refugees in Turkey to have access to dental care.

Yusor Mohammed was a bridge-builder, who sought to bring women in her community together, all while working on advancing her education.

Early today, their lives were taken in a horrific act of violence committed by this man, Craig Stephen Hicks:

Police said “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” might have been a factor in the shootings Tuesday evening but said they weren’t dismissing the possibility of a hate crime.

The victims — a newlywed couple and the bride’s younger sister — were shot in the head, sources told CNN affiliate WRAL.

Their families have said they believe the shootings were motivated by hate, and the suspect had threatened the three before, said family spokeswoman Linda Sarsour. The nature of the previous threats was unclear.

All three of the victims, Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were Muslim. And given their religion and comments the alleged shooter apparently left on a Facebook page, many social media users wondered what role the victims’ faith may have played.

The 46-year-old suspect, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with murder.

According to Hicks’ Facebook page, he was an atheist. Not only that, he was also an anti-theist. He didn’t just NOT believe in god. He was actively opposed to theism. In addition to that, he was quite likely an anti-Muslim bigot:

The father of two of three students shot to death in Chapel Hill on Tuesday says the shooting was a “hate crime” based on the Muslim identity of the victims.

Chapel Hill police said Wednesday morning that a dispute about parking in the neighborhood of rented condominiums near Meadowmont may have led Craig Stephen Hicks to shoot his neighbors, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, and his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Abu-Salha’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh.

But the women’s father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice in Clayton, said regardless of the precise trigger Tuesday night, Hicks’ underlying animosity toward Barakat and Abu-Salha was based on their religion and culture. Abu-Salha said police told him Hicks shot the three inside their apartment.

“It was execution style, a bullet in every head,” Abu-Salha said Wednesday morning. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”

Abu-Salha said his daughter who lived next door to Hicks wore a Muslim head scarf and told her family a week ago that she had “a hateful neighbor.”

“Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’” he said.

Barakat’s family held a press conference in Raleigh late Wednesday afternoon, urging people to celebrate the memories of their family members and urging authorities to treat their deaths as a hate crime.

While I accept that anger over parking spots may have played some role in his decision to kill three people, I don’t for a second believe it was the biggest motivating factor (unlike Richard the broken record Dawkins, who seems to think that repeating an assertion over and over makes it true). Absent any evidence that he suffered from a mental disorder, I’m also not going to attribute the murders to any hypothetical mental illness (unlike many people who are quick to label any action outside of normative behavior the result of a mental illness). Armchair internet psychiatric diagnoses help absolutely no one, and do nothing to advance our understanding of this horrible event. I think his anti-Muslim bigotry was the deciding factor here. And that worries me.

It worries me because there is a contingent of atheists in the online atheist/skeptical community who are anti-Muslim bigots. From pseudonymous online atheists to well-known non-believers like the asshole Sam Harris (who thinks you not only can, but should visually profile Muslims at airports; to the best of my knowledge he’s never explained how you can look at someone and determine they are Muslim, unless you’re assuming that Muslims all share certain physical characteristics, like say, skin color) and the repellent Pat Condell, anti-Muslim bigotry exists in the atheist community.

NOTE: I AM NOT SAYING, NOR WILL I SAY, THAT THE ATHEIST MOVEMENT HAS A GREATER PROBLEM WITH ANTI-MUSLIM BIGOTRY THAN ANY OTHER COMMUNITY.

I am saying that the atheist community has a problem with anti-Muslim bigotry (just as it has a problem with homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and ableism). How could it not? The atheist community is made up of people. People who are members of societies across the planet. Within these societies, anti-Muslim messages are propagated and absorbed by people. Some of these people are Christians. Some are Jews. Some are Scientologists. And some of them are atheists. As an atheist, I am appalled at the thought of sharing a community with bigots. I strongly oppose sexism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and anti-Muslim bigotry (often referred to as Islamophobia). I want no part of any of that shit. But I’m not going to abandon the atheist community nor the atheist movement and let the bigoted assholes have their way. The world is becoming more multicultural and more diverse, and these people are clinging to regressive, discriminatory, oppressive ideas and viewpoints. These ideas and views contribute to ongoing pain and suffering of human beings in the world, and I oppose that.

People who know me know that as an atheist, I do not believe in Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, Quetzalcoatl, Zeus, Hermes, Herakles, Ares, Thor, Isis, Osiris, or any of the other thousands of gods humanity has created. I think that religion contributes more to pain and suffering in the world than it alleviates, and I think the world would be better off without religion (I don’t however, think that religion is the root cause of evil in the world).

People who know me also know that I embrace the values of Humanism, a worldview that stresses the value and goodness of human beings, seeks rational, evidence based solutions to alleviating human suffering, and does not rely on authoritarian dictates from human beings masquerading as laws from a deity.

As I said following the murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff, I don’t think members of a group are obligated to denounce the horrific actions committed by other members of that group. Muslims are under no obligation to denounce the actions of the Charlie Hebdo terrorists. Nor am I under any obligation to denounce the actions of the Chapel Hill murderer. Just because you and a murderous asshole are part of the same community, it does not therefore follow that you endorse or condone the actions of said murderous asshole.

THAT SAID:

I do denounce the actions of Craig Hicks and the underlying hate that IMO was a significant factor in his decision to murder three innocent people. I do this in part to refute the idea that atheists live lives free of morality. I’m sure there will be no shortage of theists proclaiming that this is evidence that atheists are without morality. In my case (and in the case of many, many, many people I know) this is not the case. I also do this to establish what I, as an atheist and a Humanist, stand for and believe in. Unlike theists who often claim that a Christian who commits an act of violence isn’t a real Christian (which is the No True Scotsman Fallacy), I will not deny Hicks’ atheism. He is an atheist. I am an atheist. Like Hicks, I am also an anti-theist. I am opposed to religion. Period. But that’s pretty much it for the similarities between the two of us and I think it comes down to worldviews. While we both are atheists and anti-theists, I am also a Humanist. I do not condone, nor do I endorse violence as a solution to anything, and I find violence is only justified in a limited number of circumstances (such as self-defense). Moreover, unlike Craig Hicks, I am not an anti-Muslim bigot. My worldview includes a respect for the lives of other human beings. In addition, because of my worldview, I want to see less violence, less suffering, and less destruction in the world, not more.

I wrote this post knowing that some people think atheists are all like Craig Hicks: immoral deviants who stand for nothing…who believe in nothing…who have no respect for human life and worship only themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. My post, this post by Daz, this post by PZ Myers, this post by Aron Ra, this post by Heina Dadabhoy, this post by Greta Christina, this post by Dana Hunter, this post by Ed Brayton, this post by Ophelia Benson, this post from the bloggers of Atheist Experience, this post by Richard Carrier, this post by Hemant Mehta, and this post by Rebecca Watson put the lie to that. I’m sure in the coming days, more atheists who oppose violence as a means of achieving any end will speak up and condemn the actions of the Chapel Hill murderer.

* * * *

Update 1: Another atheist has eloquently spoken out against the actions of Craig Hicks. You ought to go read what Jason Thibeault has to say.

Update 2: T. Kirabo also has something to say about the Chapel Hill murders over at Notes From an Apostate. Sadaf Ali, over at The Burning Bush, shares her thoughts on the horrific murders.

Atheism, Humanism, and the Chapel Hill murders

Oh noes, the thought police are suppressing and bullying Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins seems to think his critics are suppressing and bullying him. During a recent speaking tour in San Francisco, he gave an interview in support of his new memoir and invited a reporter to sit down with him:

Bottom line: He stands by everything he has said — including comments that one form of rape or pedophilia is “worse” than another, and that a drunken woman who is raped might be responsible for her fate.

“I don’t take back anything that I’ve said,” Dawkins said from a shady spot in the leafy backyard of one of his Bay Area supporters. “I would not say it again, however, because I am now accustomed to being misunderstood and so I will … ”

He trailed off momentarily, gazing at his hands resting on a patio table.

“I feel muzzled, and a lot of other people do as well,” he continued. “There is a climate of bullying, a climate of intransigent thought police which is highly influential in the sense that it suppresses people like me.”

Oh dear. He won’t take back anything he’s said and stands by everything he’s said (so much for his apology for Dear Muslima earlier this year), he thinks he is misunderstood, and he thinks he has been bullied and muzzled (oh and he thinks the thought police are after him).  Is that true? Let’s take a look at some of his past comments. When he made his  ‘Dear Muslima‘ comment:

Dear Muslima
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so …
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
Richard

he was criticized by many for minimizing the sexism and misogyny that women in the Western world face. People told him that the horrible misogyny women deal with in one part of the world doesn’t erase the misogyny other women in the world face. Those critics read  ‘Dear Muslima’ and came away thinking that was Dawkins’ way of saying “you can’t complain about sexism and misogyny unless you have it this bad”.  

When he made his comments about aborting a fetus with Down Syndrome, he was criticized by many.

“If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down’s baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.”

He later said that he wasn’t trying to boss women around:

“Those who thought I was bossily telling a woman what to do rather than let her choose, of course this was absolutely not my intention and I apologise if brevity made it look that way. My true intention was, as stated at length above, simply to say what I personally would do, based upon my own assessment of the pragmatics of the case, and my own moral philosophy which in turn is based on a desire to increase happiness and reduce suffering.”

It’s clear to my eyes why people would criticize Richard Dawkins here. The words he wrote have subtext. They insinuate that if you don’t make the choice that  he, Richard Dawkins would make…if you choose to have a child diagnosed with Down’s, then you’ve made an immoral choice (either that or you don’t share in Dawkins’ morality which is essentially the same thing). He is offering his opinion of women who decide to have a Down’s child.  He is telling those women that he is better than them and that their choice is wrong. He also doesn’t seem to realize that people with Down Syndrome can and do live fulfilling lives.

When he said this:

he was criticized by many people for ranking rape and pedophilia.  They are both horrible. Both are violations of the bodily autonomy of an individual.  It serves no purpose to rank rape or pedophilia (a rapist or a pedophile may face a harsher sentence for their crimes, but that’s a courtroom assessment. It doesn’t mean that one bodily autonomy violating act is worse than another).

Looking back on some of the things he’s said, I can see quite clearly that Richard Dawkins has been the victim of the thought police…that he has been prevented from sharing his thoughts…that he has been bullied into…oh fuck this.

Richard Dawkins is not the victim of anything.  All that happened was people criticized him.  And that, I think, is one of his problems. He doesn’t like being criticized.  He can dole it out to religious leaders and lay believers. He can criticize Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and every other religion out there but he can’t take criticism leveled at him. Especially when it comes from other atheists.  Does he really think he should be immune to criticism? Does he think himself the Atheist Pope (there is no such thing)? Does he think he can do no wrong?

If so, he’s wrong.  And people have called him out on the things he has said. People have explained why his comments are problematic. To him though, the people criticizing him (like PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson) are thought police engaging in witch hunts using online lynch mobs to suppress and bully him (I desperately want someone to shove a dictionary in his face and so he can learn what “thought police”, “witch hunts”, and “lynch mobs” actually mean, bc the way he’s using the phrases?  He hasn’t a fucking clue what they mean).  When I look at the responses Dawkins has received, none of them call for violence against him. None of them say he doesn’t have a right to think what he wants. None of them call for criminally punishing him for having these thoughts. Nope.  All that has happened is that he has been criticized. And I find it laughable that he’s complaining about being suppressed while in an interview in the midst of a speaking tour.  

Dude, you’re not being suppressed or muzzled.  You won’t shut up!  No one has kept you from talking, though many people have wished that you’d get the fuck off Twitter (not like that would stop the sexism from flowing from your lips).  I know of no one with the power to affect your speaking engagements, so you’re not being hurt there. When the media wants to talk to an atheist, your name always comes up. FFS, you have your own blog where you can share your thoughts to the world.  In what way have you been suppressed?

As for the bullying accusation, I find I can’t take that seriously when the worst that has happened to Dawkins is that he’s been criticized for saying things.  Last I checked, that’s not psychological bullying. It’s not emotional bullying.  It’s not physical bullying.  Verbal bullying? Maybe that’s what he means, but again, he has only been criticized.  If he thinks that the criticism he’s faced is the same thing as bullying…he has to explain how, and he hasn’t done that. To me, Dawkins comes off as someone who thinks his right to free speech means “the right to say what I want without criticism”.

Here’s my advice to Dawkins: stay off social media. If you don’t want your words criticized, then don’t fucking express them.  As long as you continue to publicly do so, and as long as you make the insensitive, sexist, misogynistic, Rape Culture enabling comments that you’ve become known for, you’re going to get criticism.  And rightly so.

Oh noes, the thought police are suppressing and bullying Richard Dawkins

Really, JREF?

Michael Shermer is a serial womanizer. When new women come into the movement, they’re often warned about certain older men like Shermer.  He raped Alison Smith.  And you, JREF, want to promote him?

Fuck You.

Really, JREF?

Blaise Pascal Has A Lot To Answer For

It may be an old post, but Daz does a great job of shredding Pascal’s Wager.

Blaise Pascal Has A Lot To Answer For

Tauriq Moosa is not happy with the atheist movement

I won’t be part of a movement resolutely more focused on shielding rich, white dudes than by being inclusive of marganlised, non-male, non-white people. Count me out. Call me back when we give a shit about women and you can admit those of us writing in a small corner of the internet actually care about moral action, not money, for what we do.

You can and ought to read the rest here.

Here’s my response to his post:

There are so many things about this whole crapfest that piss me off. One of the biggest is the refusal of Dawkins, Harris, Shermer, and Nugent, as well as their followers to apply the same tools of logic, reason, and skepticism to their own views. They’re all sooooo ready to use those tools to shred the entrenched views of others (provided they’re religious), but to apply the tools internally? Hell no. They *can’t* do that. To allow others to criticize them and explain in detail why they need to reexamine themselves? Hell no. They *can’t* do that.
Instead of doing that, they double down.
Instead of doing that they whine about being bulled.
Instead of doing that, we get labeled as the ‘thought police’, ‘feminazi’s’, ‘jackbooted thugs’, ‘lynch mobs’, and other hyperbolic B.S. that doesn’t hold up upon examination (I question if Dawkins even understands what Orwell meant by the ‘Thought Police’).
Gah. If not for the fact that I’ve found a subset of the atheist community that does confront their own biases as well as those of others, that actively works to excise their own prejudices and expects the same of others…I don’t think I’d want anything to do with the atheist movement. Which I guess is what that crowd wants. They don’t want more LGBT People of Color among their ranks-at least not unless its on their terms; and for all that they sit upon their ivory throne in their ivory tower, they are not my lords, kings, or bosses. They do not get to dictate the terms of my participation. They *will* treat me with respect. They *will* treat women, LGBT people, and People of Color with respect. Or they will be part of an ever shrinking movement that wants nothing to do with they and their status quo.

Tauriq Moosa is not happy with the atheist movement

The baggage of religious belief

Over at En Tequila es Verdad, Dana wrote (in response to this post):

Getting over gods is a great start, but it’s only a beginning. Once the gods are gone, we’re left with people, and civilization, and all of the imperfections that plague both. I’m sorry, but losing religion doesn’t mean all problems are solved. Religion amplifies some of our worst qualities, but those are still human qualities, and they remain once religion is gone.

I used to think it would be easier to fix things like sexism and homophobia and racism once religion was gone. But looking at how so many of our atheist celebrities and their fans have reacted to even the most mild requests to please not make sexist assumptions or do sexist things, I’ve realized it can actually be harder. The men (and some women) who have let go of gods seem so assured of their own rightness that they refuse to listen to the people affected by their words and actions. They sneer at the evidence presented, although they pretend that evidence is important to them. They don’t question their assumptions. They don’t do the hard work, but worse, don’t believe they need to. They got what they feel is the most important question right. They coast on that. And when people don’t go along for the ride, they get pissed.

I agree with her (obviously). Eliminating religion and religious belief will likely make the world a little better, but it’s not going to make the world a harmonious one because there are a host of other problems that exist. These problems are independent of religion, but they are also interconnected with religion. Religious belief helps sustain and propagate many of the social ills in the world.  As I wrote on Dana’s blog:

Continue reading “The baggage of religious belief”

The baggage of religious belief

No, I’ll not be taking the Atheist positivity challenge

Content Note:  Long rant ahead

In an article titled ‘Cut it out, atheists! Why it’s time to stop behaving like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins’, Salon writer Steve Neumann argues that atheists need to work on our image so that we can be seen as more positive:

If you’re at all familiar with atheism in America, then the following two scenes should probably come as no surprise: Biologist Richard Dawkins exhorting his followers to mock and ridicule believers with contempt, Bill Maher telling MSNBC host Joe Scarborough that “religion is a neurological disorder.” As an atheist who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian milieu, I admit that this rhetoric is not without its appeal. But the atmosphere this kind of animus creates has become as pungent and disagreeable as the stale bread and cheap wine of the church I grew up in.

So I got to thinking: First there was the Ice Bucket Challenge, then there was the Positivity Challenge (wherein you have to write 3 or 4 positive things as your Facebook status every day for 7 days). So why not get into the act and start my own?

I’d like to challenge all atheists, myself included, to refrain from posting disparaging commentary about Christian newsmakers on Facebook and other social media sites — including blogs — for one month. Let’s call it The Atheist Positivity Challenge, or the APC for short. The purpose of this challenge is to draw attention to two things: The fact that gloating about the lunacy and misdeeds of specific Christians is not only unnecessary, but probably counterproductive; and the need to rehabilitate the reputation of atheism in America.

Let me first say that I don’t like the idea of mocking and ridiculing people for their beliefs.  As an atheist, I don’t do that. I will mock and ridicule the beliefs themselves, but I’m not going to do so for the believers. So when Richard Dawkins advocates doing so, well, I’m not going to listen to him.  As for Bill Maher, he’s neither a psychiatrist, nor a psychologist, and he has no place trying to diagnose believers with any form of mental illness. Such actions serve to do nothing other than shame his targets, and have the added “perk” of causing splash damage to those people who do suffer from mental disabilities.  Unlike Steve Neumann, such rhetoric does not appeal to me in the slightest.  That behavior attacks the people, rather than their harmful beliefs.

It may come as a shock after reaching the end of this post, but I also agree with the idea of ‘rehabilitating the reputation of atheism in America the United States’ (note to Neumann-‘America’ can mean South America, Latin America, or the United States of America). With the behavior of high profile atheists like Sam Harris (with his recent sexist comments about the lack of women in the atheist movement or his follow-up “explanation” as well as his irrational anti-Muslim bigotry), Richard Dawkins (who has diminished the harm of child sexual abuseengaged in rape apologia, and who-along with Jerry Coyne– deploys overwrought histrionics at the very thought the he’s a sexist fuckwit, which further drives home the point of his critics-that he needs to examine his assumptions of gender), and the sexual predator and rapist Michael Shermerit is not hard for me to see how one might view atheists as assholes.  Such an opinion-which lumps all atheists together, as if we’re one monolithic entity with no differing views-is wrong, but I understand how people can reach that conclusion.  

Even without the “helpful” assistance of asshole atheists like Harris, Dawkins, and Shermer, the public perception of atheists is quite poor.  The only group viewed as untrustworthy as atheists are rapists:

According to the Vancouver Sun, University of British Columbia researchers conducted a total of six experiments on 350 Americans and 420 UBC students, of varying religions (67% of the Americans were Christian). In one experiment, they presented participants with the story of an “archetypal freerider” who cheats and steals a lot, and asked what group they thought that person might belong to. Participants were more likely to categorize the person as an atheist than as a Christian, Jew, Muslim, gay person, or feminist (some of the groups were chosen because they were “often described as threatening to majority religious values and morality”). Only rapists fared as poorly — participants were about as likely to put the “freerider” in this group. According to the study, “People did not significantly differentiate atheists from rapists.”

A 2014 Pew Research survey, the ‘Religion and Public Life Project’ further supports the idea that atheists are viewed poorly by the American public:

Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are viewed warmly by the American public. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating – all three groups receive an average rating of 60 or higher (63 for Jews, 62 for Catholics and 61 for evangelical Christians). And 44% of the public rates all three groups in the warmest part of the scale (67 or higher).

Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons receive neutral ratings on average, ranging from 48 for Mormons to 53 for Buddhists. The public views atheists and Muslims more coldly; atheists receive an average rating of 41, and Muslims an average rating of 40. Fully 41% of the public rates Muslims in the coldest part of the thermometer (33 or below), and 40% rate atheists in the coldest part.

All of that makes me sympathetic to Neumann’s desire to help transform the public’s view of atheists. With that said however, I don’t agree with Neumann’s challenge.  When I criticize religion or religious beliefs, I do so not to gloat or to belittle others. I do so because I genuinely believe religion and religious beliefs are a net harm to society.  While many people use their religious beliefs to justify their good deeds or moral beliefs, many others use their religious beliefs in ways that actively cause harm to others. Whether we’re discussing the Quiverfull movements use of women as little more than human incubators, the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and contraception, the refusal of Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept blood transfusions,  or the anti-LGBT bigotry of prominent Christian organizations, religious beliefs often cause demonstrable harm, and can and DO lead to people being killed.  Even that, however is but the tip of the iceberg.  Religious beliefs are used to support policies that oppose anthropogenic global warming, healthcare reform,  and environmental regulation.  Of course it doesn’t end there either.  The Boy Scout ban on atheist members and leaders, the near impossibility of getting an open atheist elected to high office, the Christian Right’s support for corporal punishment (I initially typed ‘abuse’, then erased it, but I really should have left it-corporal punishment IS child abuse), and the discrimination faced by nonreligious students are further examples of harm done in the name of religious beliefs. I could keep going by mentioning the lies the Catholic Church has told about condom use in Africa, the child sexual abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church, the baby trafficking scandal in Spain (where nearly 300,000 babies were stolen from their parents over a period of 5 decades), Ireland’s infamous Magdalene Laundries, and more still.  I’m not arguing that all of these are examples of harm done solely due to religious beliefs. Rather, I’m arguing that religious beliefs have been used to justify or cover up these harms and are often found, front and center, where awful shit is occurring.  

Thus, when Steve Neumann argues for us to be nicer (read: accommodate religious beliefs) to improve the image of atheists, he’s asking atheists to stop criticizing the harms done by religion. He’s asking us to not comment on the child sexual abuse, the anti-LGBT bigotry, the selling of babies, the treatment of women as human incubators, and more. “Wait”, some may argue. “He’s not saying to ignore all that stuff, he’s saying we shouldn’t criticize the small stuff”. On the surface, this does seem to be what Neumann is saying:

The idea for the APC came to me when I read a post last week from atheist blogger Libby Anne, who wrote about the continued downhill slide of mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll. In this post, Libby Anne draws our attention to something Driscoll had said on a message board in 2001, where he opined about the relationship between men and women from an allegedly biblical perspective. He wrote: “Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.” I don’t doubt that Driscoll wrote that, or even that he sincerely believes it. But the problem with focusing on clowns like Driscoll is that it’s much too easy to single out for righteous indignation the most visibly disgraceful member of a group. And the unavoidable implication that others get from this is that the entire group must hold those beliefs as well.

My first big problem is that Neumann is saying “ignore the fact that some religious leaders say harmful, misogynistic shit about women”.  Treating women as if they are nothing more than homes for a penis is deeply misogynistic. It denies the fact that women are people, and treats them as mere objects for the satisfaction of men, while dressing that satisfaction up in god talk.  That’s a problem, to say the least. One can take a look at Reddit subthreats or 4chan (neither of which will I link to, as I want nothing to do with those cesspools and I don’t want to give them any traffic) to see examples of people who think women exist to satisfy the desires of men.  Sexism pervades our society and attitudes like Driscoll’s, while perhaps not held by the mainstream, do exist on a spectrum of misogyny and sexism.  Neumann seems to be of the opinion that such beliefs should not be criticized.  I wonder if it’s because he’s a man who hasn’t had to deal with this shit.  No matter the reason, to not call out these beliefs is to give them tacit support and approval.  People need to know that sexism and misogyny are wrong and should not be tolerated.

The second problem I have is that the “unavoidable implication that the entire group must hold these beliefs” is false.  That’s not the implication. Libby Anne is quite careful to not make such a blanket generalization. She’s talking about the harmful beliefs of one individual and how those beliefs can influence others.  At no point does she hint that all Christians feel the same as Driscoll, and it’s a highly dishonest reading of her post to claim otherwise.

The third problem I have with Neumann’s comments is that he ignores how much influence Driscoll has. As Avicenna writes at A Million Gods:

By contrast? Mark Driscoll has millions of fans. I repeat. Millions of people listen to this douche. Calling out his bullshit is quite necessary particularly in a movement that struggles to treat women better within its own ranks. We can’t just say “sorry Libby! You got to be nicer to Mark Driscoll! You are making us look like angry harridans!”. I say  “goddamn Mark Driscoll! This kind of stuff is precisely why young men grow up to be young douchebags like Mark Driscoll who think women were put on this earth for the fucking penises to live in”.

The fourth problem I have with Neumann is his use of Libby Anne’s post as an example of what atheists need to not do, which is call out sexism and misogyny.  He’s effectively telling women in general, and Libby Anne specifically, to sit down and shut up.  Sure he’s couching it in civil terms, but he’s saying her comments are not helpful. He’s saying that it is more important to be nice to theists than to call out their harmful bullshit, and he’s doing it as a member of a movement which has a big problem with sexism and misogyny.  Dude, you’re not helping.  Some of us want an atheist movement that is welcoming to women and other oppressed groups.  Telling them to sit down, shut up, and not complain is not the way to go.  In fact, it treats their concerns as if the’re unimportant.  Here’s both middle fingers to you for that.

One might say “Mark Driscoll is merely one example Neumann uses. He’s talking about individual Christians. He’s saying that we shouldn’t criticize them.”  To which I’d say “Duh. I know that.”  That’s part of my point.  Neumann is asking atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, Humanists, and secularists to not criticize the harmful beliefs of religious people (though he limits it to Christians).  Given the plethora of examples I gave above concerning the harm done in the name of religion and religious beliefs, I find Neumann’s suggestion to be laden with privilege.  He doesn’t seem to see much of the harm done in the name of religious beliefs, whether that harm is on an individual level or national level (if he is aware of the harm, he minimizes it greatly).

In the end, Steve Neumann is sounding a call to civility. He wants nonbelievers and their allies to not be so mean to religion and religious beliefs.  He thinks that is important.  As I said above, that is important, but it is NOT more important than criticizing the injustices done to human beings in the name of religion and religious beliefs.  As long as he is asking for that, my response is “Fuck your Atheist Positivity Challenge”.

No, I’ll not be taking the Atheist positivity challenge

No, I'll not be taking the Atheist positivity challenge

Content Note:  Long rant ahead

In an article titled ‘Cut it out, atheists! Why it’s time to stop behaving like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins’, Salon writer Steve Neumann argues that atheists need to work on our image so that we can be seen as more positive:

If you’re at all familiar with atheism in America, then the following two scenes should probably come as no surprise: Biologist Richard Dawkins exhorting his followers to mock and ridicule believers with contempt, Bill Maher telling MSNBC host Joe Scarborough that “religion is a neurological disorder.” As an atheist who grew up in a fundamentalist Christian milieu, I admit that this rhetoric is not without its appeal. But the atmosphere this kind of animus creates has become as pungent and disagreeable as the stale bread and cheap wine of the church I grew up in.

So I got to thinking: First there was the Ice Bucket Challenge, then there was the Positivity Challenge (wherein you have to write 3 or 4 positive things as your Facebook status every day for 7 days). So why not get into the act and start my own?

I’d like to challenge all atheists, myself included, to refrain from posting disparaging commentary about Christian newsmakers on Facebook and other social media sites — including blogs — for one month. Let’s call it The Atheist Positivity Challenge, or the APC for short. The purpose of this challenge is to draw attention to two things: The fact that gloating about the lunacy and misdeeds of specific Christians is not only unnecessary, but probably counterproductive; and the need to rehabilitate the reputation of atheism in America.

Let me first say that I don’t like the idea of mocking and ridiculing people for their beliefs.  As an atheist, I don’t do that. I will mock and ridicule the beliefs themselves, but I’m not going to do so for the believers. So when Richard Dawkins advocates doing so, well, I’m not going to listen to him.  As for Bill Maher, he’s neither a psychiatrist, nor a psychologist, and he has no place trying to diagnose believers with any form of mental illness. Such actions serve to do nothing other than shame his targets, and have the added “perk” of causing splash damage to those people who do suffer from mental disabilities.  Unlike Steve Neumann, such rhetoric does not appeal to me in the slightest.  That behavior attacks the people, rather than their harmful beliefs.

It may come as a shock after reaching the end of this post, but I also agree with the idea of ‘rehabilitating the reputation of atheism in America the United States’ (note to Neumann-‘America’ can mean South America, Latin America, or the United States of America). With the behavior of high profile atheists like Sam Harris (with his recent sexist comments about the lack of women in the atheist movement or his follow-up “explanation” as well as his irrational anti-Muslim bigotry), Richard Dawkins (who has diminished the harm of child sexual abuseengaged in rape apologia, and who-along with Jerry Coyne– deploys overwrought histrionics at the very thought the he’s a sexist fuckwit, which further drives home the point of his critics-that he needs to examine his assumptions of gender), and the sexual predator and rapist Michael Shermerit is not hard for me to see how one might view atheists as assholes.  Such an opinion-which lumps all atheists together, as if we’re one monolithic entity with no differing views-is wrong, but I understand how people can reach that conclusion.  

Even without the “helpful” assistance of asshole atheists like Harris, Dawkins, and Shermer, the public perception of atheists is quite poor.  The only group viewed as untrustworthy as atheists are rapists:

According to the Vancouver Sun, University of British Columbia researchers conducted a total of six experiments on 350 Americans and 420 UBC students, of varying religions (67% of the Americans were Christian). In one experiment, they presented participants with the story of an “archetypal freerider” who cheats and steals a lot, and asked what group they thought that person might belong to. Participants were more likely to categorize the person as an atheist than as a Christian, Jew, Muslim, gay person, or feminist (some of the groups were chosen because they were “often described as threatening to majority religious values and morality”). Only rapists fared as poorly — participants were about as likely to put the “freerider” in this group. According to the study, “People did not significantly differentiate atheists from rapists.”

A 2014 Pew Research survey, the ‘Religion and Public Life Project’ further supports the idea that atheists are viewed poorly by the American public:

Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are viewed warmly by the American public. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating – all three groups receive an average rating of 60 or higher (63 for Jews, 62 for Catholics and 61 for evangelical Christians). And 44% of the public rates all three groups in the warmest part of the scale (67 or higher).

Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons receive neutral ratings on average, ranging from 48 for Mormons to 53 for Buddhists. The public views atheists and Muslims more coldly; atheists receive an average rating of 41, and Muslims an average rating of 40. Fully 41% of the public rates Muslims in the coldest part of the thermometer (33 or below), and 40% rate atheists in the coldest part.

All of that makes me sympathetic to Neumann’s desire to help transform the public’s view of atheists. With that said however, I don’t agree with Neumann’s challenge.  When I criticize religion or religious beliefs, I do so not to gloat or to belittle others. I do so because I genuinely believe religion and religious beliefs are a net harm to society.  While many people use their religious beliefs to justify their good deeds or moral beliefs, many others use their religious beliefs in ways that actively cause harm to others. Whether we’re discussing the Quiverfull movements use of women as little more than human incubators, the Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion and contraception, the refusal of Jehovah’s Witnesses to accept blood transfusions,  or the anti-LGBT bigotry of prominent Christian organizations, religious beliefs often cause demonstrable harm, and can and DO lead to people being killed.  Even that, however is but the tip of the iceberg.  Religious beliefs are used to support policies that oppose anthropogenic global warming, healthcare reform,  and environmental regulation.  Of course it doesn’t end there either.  The Boy Scout ban on atheist members and leaders, the near impossibility of getting an open atheist elected to high office, the Christian Right’s support for corporal punishment (I initially typed ‘abuse’, then erased it, but I really should have left it-corporal punishment IS child abuse), and the discrimination faced by nonreligious students are further examples of harm done in the name of religious beliefs. I could keep going by mentioning the lies the Catholic Church has told about condom use in Africa, the child sexual abuse scandal rocking the Catholic Church, the baby trafficking scandal in Spain (where nearly 300,000 babies were stolen from their parents over a period of 5 decades), Ireland’s infamous Magdalene Laundries, and more still.  I’m not arguing that all of these are examples of harm done solely due to religious beliefs. Rather, I’m arguing that religious beliefs have been used to justify or cover up these harms and are often found, front and center, where awful shit is occurring.  

Thus, when Steve Neumann argues for us to be nicer (read: accommodate religious beliefs) to improve the image of atheists, he’s asking atheists to stop criticizing the harms done by religion. He’s asking us to not comment on the child sexual abuse, the anti-LGBT bigotry, the selling of babies, the treatment of women as human incubators, and more. “Wait”, some may argue. “He’s not saying to ignore all that stuff, he’s saying we shouldn’t criticize the small stuff”. On the surface, this does seem to be what Neumann is saying:

The idea for the APC came to me when I read a post last week from atheist blogger Libby Anne, who wrote about the continued downhill slide of mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll. In this post, Libby Anne draws our attention to something Driscoll had said on a message board in 2001, where he opined about the relationship between men and women from an allegedly biblical perspective. He wrote: “Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.” I don’t doubt that Driscoll wrote that, or even that he sincerely believes it. But the problem with focusing on clowns like Driscoll is that it’s much too easy to single out for righteous indignation the most visibly disgraceful member of a group. And the unavoidable implication that others get from this is that the entire group must hold those beliefs as well.

My first big problem is that Neumann is saying “ignore the fact that some religious leaders say harmful, misogynistic shit about women”.  Treating women as if they are nothing more than homes for a penis is deeply misogynistic. It denies the fact that women are people, and treats them as mere objects for the satisfaction of men, while dressing that satisfaction up in god talk.  That’s a problem, to say the least. One can take a look at Reddit subthreats or 4chan (neither of which will I link to, as I want nothing to do with those cesspools and I don’t want to give them any traffic) to see examples of people who think women exist to satisfy the desires of men.  Sexism pervades our society and attitudes like Driscoll’s, while perhaps not held by the mainstream, do exist on a spectrum of misogyny and sexism.  Neumann seems to be of the opinion that such beliefs should not be criticized.  I wonder if it’s because he’s a man who hasn’t had to deal with this shit.  No matter the reason, to not call out these beliefs is to give them tacit support and approval.  People need to know that sexism and misogyny are wrong and should not be tolerated.

The second problem I have is that the “unavoidable implication that the entire group must hold these beliefs” is false.  That’s not the implication. Libby Anne is quite careful to not make such a blanket generalization. She’s talking about the harmful beliefs of one individual and how those beliefs can influence others.  At no point does she hint that all Christians feel the same as Driscoll, and it’s a highly dishonest reading of her post to claim otherwise.

The third problem I have with Neumann’s comments is that he ignores how much influence Driscoll has. As Avicenna writes at A Million Gods:

By contrast? Mark Driscoll has millions of fans. I repeat. Millions of people listen to this douche. Calling out his bullshit is quite necessary particularly in a movement that struggles to treat women better within its own ranks. We can’t just say “sorry Libby! You got to be nicer to Mark Driscoll! You are making us look like angry harridans!”. I say  “goddamn Mark Driscoll! This kind of stuff is precisely why young men grow up to be young douchebags like Mark Driscoll who think women were put on this earth for the fucking penises to live in”.

The fourth problem I have with Neumann is his use of Libby Anne’s post as an example of what atheists need to not do, which is call out sexism and misogyny.  He’s effectively telling women in general, and Libby Anne specifically, to sit down and shut up.  Sure he’s couching it in civil terms, but he’s saying her comments are not helpful. He’s saying that it is more important to be nice to theists than to call out their harmful bullshit, and he’s doing it as a member of a movement which has a big problem with sexism and misogyny.  Dude, you’re not helping.  Some of us want an atheist movement that is welcoming to women and other oppressed groups.  Telling them to sit down, shut up, and not complain is not the way to go.  In fact, it treats their concerns as if the’re unimportant.  Here’s both middle fingers to you for that.

One might say “Mark Driscoll is merely one example Neumann uses. He’s talking about individual Christians. He’s saying that we shouldn’t criticize them.”  To which I’d say “Duh. I know that.”  That’s part of my point.  Neumann is asking atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, Humanists, and secularists to not criticize the harmful beliefs of religious people (though he limits it to Christians).  Given the plethora of examples I gave above concerning the harm done in the name of religion and religious beliefs, I find Neumann’s suggestion to be laden with privilege.  He doesn’t seem to see much of the harm done in the name of religious beliefs, whether that harm is on an individual level or national level (if he is aware of the harm, he minimizes it greatly).

In the end, Steve Neumann is sounding a call to civility. He wants nonbelievers and their allies to not be so mean to religion and religious beliefs.  He thinks that is important.  As I said above, that is important, but it is NOT more important than criticizing the injustices done to human beings in the name of religion and religious beliefs.  As long as he is asking for that, my response is “Fuck your Atheist Positivity Challenge”.

No, I'll not be taking the Atheist positivity challenge

Richard Dawkins isn’t so bright any more

At The Guardian, Adam Lee writes about the current shitstorm that Richard Dawkins has stirred up.

(excerpt)

The atheist movement – a loosely-knit community of conference-goers, advocacy organizations, writers and activists – has been wracked by infighting the last few years over its persistent gender imbalance and the causes of it. Many female atheists have explained that they don’t get more involved because of the casual sexism endemic to the movement: parts of it see nothing problematic about hosting conferences with all-male speakers or having all-male leadership – and that’s before you get to the vitriolic and dangerous sexual harassment, online and off, that’s designed to intimidate women into silence.

Richard Dawkins has involved himself in some of these controversies, and rarely for the better  – as with his infamous “Dear Muslima”  letter in 2011, in which he essentially argued that, because women in Muslim countries suffer more from sexist mistreatment, women in the west shouldn’t speak up about sexual harassment or physical intimidation. There was also his sneer at women who advocate anti-sexual harassment policies .

But over the last few months, Dawkins showed signs of détente with his feminist critics – even progress. He signed a joint letter with the writer Ophelia Benson, denouncing and rejecting harassment ; he even apologized for the “Dear Muslima” letter . On stage at a conference in Oxford in August, Dawkins claimed to be a feminist  and said that everyone else should be, too.

Then another prominent male atheist, Sam Harris, crammed his foot in his mouth and said that atheist activism lacks an “estrogen vibe” and was “to some degree intrinsically male” . And, just like that, the brief Dawkins Spring was over.

On Twitter these last few days, Dawkins has reverted to his old, sexist ways and then some. He’s been very busy snarling about how feminists are shrill harridans who just want an excuse to take offense, and how Harris’s critics (and his own) are not unlike thought police witch-hunter lynch mobs . Dawkins claimed that his critics are engaged in “clickbait for profit” , that they “fake outrage” , and that he wished there were some way to penalize them.

For good measure, Dawkins argued that rape victims shouldn’t be considered trustworthy if they were drinking .

Benson, with whom Dawkins had signed the anti-harassment letter just weeks earlier, was not impressed. “I’m surprised and, frankly, shocked by Richard’s belligerent remarks about feminist bloggers over the past couple of days,” she told me. “Part of what made The God Delusion so popular was, surely, its indignant bluntness about religion. It was a best-seller; does that mean he ‘faked’ his outrage?”

There’s no denying that Dawkins played a formative role in the atheist movement, but it’s grown beyond just him. Remarks like these make him a liability at best, a punchline at worst. He may have convinced himself that he’s the Most Rational Man Alive, but if his goal is to persuade everyone else that atheism is a welcoming and attractive option, Richard Dawkins is doing a terrible job. Blogger and author Greta Christina  told me, “I can’t tell you how many women, people of color, other marginalized people I’ve talked with who’ve told me, ‘I’m an atheist, but I don’t want anything to do with organized atheism if these guys are the leaders.’”

It’s not just women who are outraged by Dawkins these days: author and blogger PZ Myers  told me, “At a time when our movement needs to expand its reach, it’s a tragedy that our most eminent spokesman has so enthusiastically expressed such a regressive attitude.”

What’s so frustrating, from the standpoint of the large and growing non-religious demographic , is that Dawkins is failing badly to live up to his own standards. As both an atheist and a scientist, he should be the first to defend the principle that no one is above criticism, and that any idea can be challenged, especially an idea in accord with popular prejudices. Instead, with no discernible sense of irony, Dawkins is publicly recycling the bad arguments so often used against him as an atheist: accusing his critics of being “outrage junkies” who are only picking fights for the sake of notoriety; roaring about “thought police” as though it were a bad thing to argue that someone is mistaken and attempt to change their mind; scoffing that they’re “looking for excuses to be angry” as though the tone of the argument, rather than its factual merits, were the most important thing; encouraging those who are targets of criticism to ignore it rather than respond.

It’s incredibly unfortunate to watch Dawkins walk down this path. Despite his claims, he is arguing in favor of maintaining the status quo. He doesn’t actively champion efforts to fight against sexism and sexual harassment in the atheist community (or in the wider culture). In fact, his words help provide support for such actions. Sam Harris is no better. Christopher Hitchens was no better. For all that these Horsemen proclaim to be ‘bright’ shining beacons of rationality and logic, on the subject of social justice issues, especially women’s rights, they are the Religious Right of the Atheist Movement. It’s time for them to shut up and move out of the limelight.

Richard Dawkins isn’t so bright any more