Movement cohesion

Movement atheism is not a cohesive entity. Heads of orgs like American Atheists, in full-throated promotion of people like Jaclyn Glenn — especially those videos that attack movement feminists for being too firebrandey and poisoning movement atheism with all their “social justice warrior” stuff — they’ve evidently chosen sides. Let’s not mistake that there are, in fact, sides to choose in what amounts to a fundamental division between feminists and antifeminists within atheism. AA has chosen, expressly, the side of the antifeminists, and they’ve framed the issue such that the antifeminists are the ones demanding we stop talking about feminist ideas and the toxic anti-woman environment that these antifeminists inculcate in our movement.

Feminists are told to stop fighting. Antifeminists are asked absolutely nothing — they’re the “reasonable” ones for demanding that the status quo be maintained.

Fuck that.

The surest way to earn my enmity, my directed criticism, is to ask us to stop other fights so we can pretend we’re all one big happy big-tent family. It’s what bugged the hell out of me about courting secular pro-lifers at CPAC, it’s what bugged the hell out of me about the ongoing, constant, concerted attacks of big atheist vloggers like Thunderf00t and The Amazing Atheist against feminists despite the absolute hash they make of logic and reason and empathy in doing so. It’s what continues to bug me about basically every organization demanding that we go big-tent and allow every atheist in so we can all talk about how much God don’t real, but don’t you dare talk about the social impact of how we treat half the human fucking race. Not to mention every other issue that gets derided under the umbrella of “Social Justice Warrior”, like trans rights, gay rights, race issues, and every other aspect of humanism that involves having a shred of empathy for your fellow human being.

The necessity of feminism is evidenced by the comments everyplace it’s mentioned in anything but a negative, straw-feminist casting (take Laci Green’s recent video’s comments, for example). Especially so any time it’s mentioned in atheist settings, because there are precious few that aren’t expressly antifeminist and expressly anti-any-social-justice-but-secularism in bent, thanks to the vociferous libertarian quadrant of our “community” demographics.

There is no one single community. This inter-atheist fighting is necessary because we have coalesced communities around shared ideals, and there’s a shit-ton of you atheists out there who share almost no ideals in common with me outside of “god don’t real”.

I will not throw my other principles under the bus to be part of your hideous granfaloon.

Movement cohesion

75 thoughts on “Movement cohesion

  1. 4

    This is exactly right. I was appalled at the antics of those who went on eight minute rants on YouTube about women atheists, nitpicking everything they saw as anti-male rather than give women the same levels of respect that the misogynists feel they deserve simply for having a dick, or even other women deciding that the dick-owners were right, and feminists were just shrill harpies.

    Thank goodness I’m an avid PC gamer, so I was able to disconnect from that horseshit and go stomp Supermutants instead. What a cesspool of uncaring people. I would never want to be in the same “tent” as they. Ugh.

  2. 5

    But the Good Work of the Church will suffer if (horrible situation) is allowed to distract from the mission.

    Oh, wait, maybe “movement” instead of “Church.” That’ll make it totally different.

  3. 7

    Randomfactor @4:

    But the Good Work of the Church will suffer if (horrible situation) is allowed to distract from the mission.

    Oh, wait, maybe “movement” instead of “Church.” That’ll make it totally different.

    I think you’re on to something. We’re being asked to unite against a tremendous foe, one that’s never presented in specific detail, but nonetheless seems all-pervasive and is hoping to rob us of that which we cherish most. This foe is almost uniformly evil, with the exceptions being the ones who attack their peers with the same language as Glenn and others use. They must be shouted down and silenced at all cost. Don’t listen to their propaganda and lies!

    The way some atheists attack feminism, you’d think they were Christians attacking atheists.

  4. 10


    I will not throw my other principles under the bus to be part of your hideous granfaloon.

    Nor will I. It saddens me that American Atheists is siding with the anti-feminists and people like the Pitters-people who cannot seem to grasp the idea that religious beliefs have an effect on range of social issues. Their inability to understand that there are implications to not believing in a deity boggles my mind. But so long as they whine and moan and actively fight against equality for women, LGBTQI individuals, or PoC, they can go fuck themselves. I’ve no desire to be part of a big tent that allows such bigotry in their midst simply to have everyone together.

  5. 13

    It’s one of Atheism’s limits. It’s wrapped around the lack of belief in some thing. But outside of the one narrow area, it doesn’t say anything about what a person actually believes in. And, alas, plenty of Atheists are major A-holes who believe in a lot of awful things.

  6. 15

    Who else among us “Boomers” besides me is having flashbacks to when the anti-war movement was forced to confront its own sex/rac-ism lo these many decades ago?

  7. 16

    Funny how the common suggestion made by antifeminist atheists is that feminism is “just like religion” but they use the tactics of creationists fixating on atheists trying to disprove their reasserting their own rights by using tired old tropes. The “Social Justice Warrior” refrain, the “divisive” refrain, the “you should be fighting for rights of X and Y equally” refrain (eliding that X is disadvantaged and Y is privileged as all get out!) — all of it reminds me of creationists using the same few bullets loaded in their rhetorical six-shooters, to be spent in rapid fire then they retire from the field while another anti-feminist warrior steps to the front row to do the same.

  8. 18

    Damien Reinhardt@16:

    What atheism really needs now is more infighting about feminism.

    Dude, the people endorsing feminism won.

    Look at how quickly Muscato yanked down his post. Look at how long Dawkins has been providing child care at conventions. The JREF pushed hard to get 50/50 gender parity at TAM. At the last Women in Secularism, someone from the audience angrily asked what CFI was doing about reproductive rights; Debbie Goddard rattled off something like four separate programs.

    Every big organization has sided with feminism. Where there’s any clash, it’s at an individual level over what “feminism” means. Glenn is arguing “feminism” consists of granola-munching airheads who whip into an angry frenzy at the merest hint of appropriation, even as she complains about the sexist bullshit aimed at her. DJ Grothe is perfectly fine with “feminism,” or at least a defanged kind that doesn’t deal with any form of patriarchy short of blatant, open discrimination.

    That is where the infighting is. And even there, it’s mostly due to a small number of bigoted asssholes who didn’t get the memo, aided by a much larger number of clueless people just parroting along.

  9. 19

    Oh Damion, that was a marvelous comment @ 16, really and truly compelling. Just makes me wanna lay down rhetorical arms and love up on some creepy creep like TJ Kincaid, because that scene will win some hearts and minds, boy howdy. Yup. Let’s get it on, baby.

    In seriousness, tho, as the MRAs are finally reaching the international spotlight and everyone is finding out how disgusting they are, how long will it be before they find out how overwhelmingly atheist they are, and that they’re socially connected to prominent voices in atheism and skepticism? How well will that advance the cause?

    The schism is the only chance organized atheism has to survive the turdpocalypse your side is sowing.

  10. 21

    Damion Reinhardt, do you ever post anything of substance? All I ever see is vague, content-free whines about feminism. Why do you hang around on FTB?

  11. 23


    I just… I’m getting sick and fucking tired of this. Relatively little-known atheist makes decent atheist videos, get promoted at different sites, including here, make great points and even says some things in some videos that hint at some decent understand of just what social justice is and makes the occasional remark that suggests that they are aware of the wider workings of the world and then…



    I literally cannot explain the level of relief and excitement I had when I saw that ZOMGItsCriss joined FTB and then basically started posting actually really good shit. But she appears to be… like… the only one. She’s the only one who fucking gets it. Seems like everyone else who gets it are bloggers.

    Okay okay… there’s Some Grey Bloke and… um…


    Help me out, here…

    I was really hoping that Glenn would turn out to be one of the good ones.

    I just… why?

  12. Ed

    I’m starting to look at the whole situation as not so much being about one “movement” that everyone is either a friend or enemy of, but three partially overlapping intellectual/political subcultures which have an array of organizations and informal followers.

    [1]”Naturalism”–The best term I can think of for worldviews which reject supernaturalism and includes atheists, skeptics, agnostics,etc.

    The agenda of organizations primarily defined by naturalism tends to be limited to arguing for naturalism, criticizing supernaturalism, demanding the right to openly hold such views without being subject to official discrimination and social stigma, and opposing special privileges for religion (creationism and prayer in schools, public religious symbols, etc.)

    This population tends to be left-leaning on average but may include people with any political views besides explicitly religious ones.

    [2] Those who identify with “Humanism”, “Atheism Plus” and similar concepts.–People with a naturalistic worldview who are also explicitly committed to the ideal of human wellbeing and equality. I’d put myself in this category.

    [3] “Progressives”–People and groups whose political and social views and activities promote human wellbeing and equality, wherever they stand on religious and metaphysical questions. Organizations in this category usually don’t have an official stance on matters of faith or lack thereof beyond tolerance.

    So people within [2] by definition define themselves a bit more “narrowly” than the other two and are (I would say unfairly) criticized for this, as if they are somehow required to compromise on their basic values and self -definition.

    At the same time, I would argue that there is a difference between the hostile demand for Humanism itself to be a “big tent” and Humanists making common cause with others on issues when interests and goals overlap.

    On the other side, Protestant fundamentalists, Catholic traditionalists, Mormons and similar people are certainly able to enter into coalitions while retaining their often very exclusive identities.

  13. 25

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop #10:

    people who cannot seem to grasp the idea that religious beliefs have an effect on range of social issues.

    Yeah, but those social issues don’t (they think) affect them as much as whether or not there’s a cross in the 9/11 museum, so why should they care?

    @NateHevens #21:

    I was really hoping that Glenn would turn out to be one of the good ones.

    The “good ones” are mostly either bullied off YouTube by its toxic environment or leave movement atheism for other subjects (see: Laci Green). It’s akin something that I noticed years ago after several years of blogging on atheoskeptical issues: eventually, you run out of stuff to talk about. Eventually you’ve said all you can say about religion in schools and homeopathy and bigfoot and shit, and everything else feels like repetition. It’s no surprise that people whose interests are broader than “gods don’t real” go off to find other things to talk about, especially since there are generally bigger issues affecting people than whether or not there are gods.

    @Damion Reinhardt #16:

    What atheism really needs now is more infighting about feminism.

    No, what atheism really needs now is the same thing it always needs: asshole spokespeople and billboards! That’s what, line one of the American Atheists charter?

  14. 26

    Here’s the thing I don’t get: we all know the famous phrase “religion poisons everything” by Hitchens*. A great line in it’s simplicity and truth. We can see how religion poisons the world in a myriad of ways and some of these ways result in damage that disproportionately lands on minority sub-groups of the human population. The toxic nature of religion manifests itself in sexism, racism, classism, homophobia etc. And atheists like Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris have never shied away from pointing to the real-world examples in their own arguments to convince readers/listeners why they shouldn’t believe and why they should oppose religion. I assume Jaclyn Glenn would also take no issue with citing examples of stoning, burqas, genital mutilation and other ways in which religion harms people and restricts their freedom. So it’s ok to point to these atrocities to sway people towards atheism/sell books but it’s not ok to notice or mention when they fall under a broader set of attacks on a specific group because now that would bring in a feminist/gay rights etc., agenda! Wtf? We can (and should) make everyone aware of the harm that religion does to humans, but only if we don’t mention who the victims are or what attributes they share, lest we politicize the discussion? This makes no sense at all. If we are trying to draw people away from religion in order to diminish the evil that religion does, why would we trash people who want to talk about how to diminish the evil that religion does? I mean Dawkins et al admit that one of the reasons he wants to rid the world of religion is because of things like honor killings that are justified by religion, right? So why is it then verboten to have conversations aimed at actually addressing honor killings?

    One doesn’t have to look real far to see the poison of religion. The Supreme Court just gave us a couple pretty damn good examples with five Catholic believers restricting the rights of Americans and used religious freedom as the justification. In a bonus, the rulings targeted women, exclusively in Hobby Lobby and disproportionately in the buffer zone case. In principle this is no different than Sharia Law requiring women in Islamic countries to have their freedom to dress however they like infringed on the basis of somebody else’s silly, centuries-old superstition. Not to mention the physical harms of Hobby Lobby employees who have to risk their lives with unwanted pregnancies and the inevitable terrorist action we will eventually see at an abortion clinic. In both cases (Islamic countries and the US) we have religion restricting freedom and enabling actual physical harm. Now I don’t expect Dawkins or Glenn to cite Hobby Lobby or the buffer zone the next time they want to illustrate the evils of religion (way too Feminist for their blood…) but I fail to see a difference between these and the evils that they WILL cite. Sadly, I’m guessing the answer is that it’s all good so long as nobody mentions the fact that the victims are women (or gays, PoC, the poor etc.) That’s the apparent line that can never be crossed.

    *Who just for the record, I used to think was brilliant but I now see more like a very eloquent, sexist, Islamophobic, warmongering broken-clock who just happened to share my non-faith.

  15. RSJ

    I came here from Jaclyn Glen’s video attacking Atheism+ as I didn’t know atheist infighting was a thing, and it bothered, me because it seems atheists have enough opposition without creating more for ourselves.

    Having read this I’m wondering if you might be right; I can quite see how religious belief and lack thereof, having an impact as it does on our treatment of our fellow human beings, is necessarily connected to feminism, LGBT and other social justice issues, and I don’t want to be affiliated with people who take a regressive stance on those.

    I still can’t shake the desire to reach a compromise position though. Guess I’m a diplomat at heart. Still, good job.

  16. 28


    To the extent that feminism entails providing child care at conventions, pushing for gender parity in the movement, and promoting reproductive rights, I haven’t seen anyone fighting about it. If both sides value those things, then probably issues aren’t going to have any impact movement cohesion. Which is good, I’d say.

    “Look at how quickly Muscato yanked down his post.”

    This post?

  17. 29

    I kept Damion out of moderation specifically because he posted infrequently, and his posts were so passive-aggressive they were almost amusing in a way.

    However, his latest bout of storifying me and others last night really makes me think it’s not a benign sort of passive-aggressiveness. It’s a level of fixation that I need to distance myself from.

    I realize that my putting him in moderation here is probably just going to lead to him finding things to storify me on, thus throwing his name in my face repeatedly, despite my stated preference here that he not do so any longer. That transgression against consent is exactly the sort of thing that will crystallize my opinion of him as being “creepy”, though.

    We’ll see how this plays out. :/

  18. 30

    He commented on my blog and I broke the link to his site as well as neutering the content of his post, as I recall. One) I know Justin Crapula is or was affiliated with his site, Two) If I let crap like that through moderation, I’d have to respond to it personally, because I don’t have the commentariat FTB has. I don’t feel like wasting my time on it presently.

  19. 32

    I don’t want to say “obsessive” because there’s peeps with OCD who don’t need that used as a slur… In avoiding ableism, we are left with “creep” and “stalker.” Time to use the magic of slanguage to kick it up a notch:

    Fifteen minutes? Multiple guys? Man, these dudes are some stalktastic-ass creepheads.

  20. 33

    Damion seems to be trying to demonstrate that anyone can storify creepy stuff with no comment to prove some sort of point maybe? With his paltry 300 or so storifies he is no where near the king of the obsessive losers, ElevatorGate, with ~30K. Long way to go dude!

  21. 34

    I am an atheist. But atheism is not the most important thing to me. Yet the “movement” seems to be saying that atheism must not only be the most important thing, but pretty much the only thing one cares about in order to be part of it. So “movement atheism” can pretty much go fornicate itself (intercourse the penguin!) as far as I’m concerned. I would have donated, I might have volunteered, but the beloved thought leaders have made it abundantly clear that my kind ain’t welcome in this here town. So they can have it. Congratulations, atheist movement, you’ve lost a potential member. Go get your asses kissed by Vacula and Reinhardt and all those shit-for-brains narcissists, but never forget that they will turn on you in a heartbeat if you don’t toe their line.

    *drops mic, moons American Atheists*

  22. RSJ

    I agree with the above, it’s boring and counter productive when leaders of a movement try to dictate terms of involvement. Just as well you don’t have to be a signed-up member to share its views. Like the “spiritual” religious who don’t follow a church, atheists can represent the cause while giving the finger to those who take it too seriously and consider themselves the arbiters of how others should act on its behalf.

  23. 36

    I agree with those commenters who have been criticizing the video. I watched it and thought it was rather stupid, and that is being kind. But I am having trouble understanding how you go from Dave Muscato’s tweet supporting the video to the conclusion that “Orgs like American Atheists, in full-throated promotion of people like Jaclyn Glenn.”

    Maybe I am missing some previous tweets and blogs. But Muscato said on his tweet that his tweet does not necessarily reflect the official view of AA. Has AA issued any statements regarding the feminism/anti-feminism divide or this particular video that warrants the claim that AA is now taking the side of anti-feminists?

  24. 37

    No, when you say “orgs like American Atheists”, in promotion of “people like Jaclyn Glenn”, that implies that the org backs her but on the wider scope, it states that orgs LIKE them promote people LIKE her. How many times must an org or that org’s representatives promote antifeminist nonsense before some of the splash from that actually gets on the org?

  25. 38

    I am still trying to understand how Dave Muscato’s tweet constitutes AA’s promotion of Jaclyn Glenn’s video or the views expressed in it. Muscato said on the tweet that his tweet does not necessarily reflect the views of AA. Am I to assume he is lying? If so, why?

    What statements from AA itself – not tweets from people who work for AA – support the claim that AA endorses the views of Jaclyn Glenn and others like her?

  26. 40

    Isn’t the division around politics? There are right-wing, conservative, and propertarian atheists, and there are left-wing, liberal, social-democratic, and left-libertarian atheists. As organized atheism got bigger, and more people across the spectrum began to identify as atheists, some of the left-leaning ones started to be more vocal. And the Right panicked. They wanted the movement all to themselves, like everything else they think they deserve.

    These conservatives are right to fight against religious privilege and discrimination in the U.S. However, they are mistaken if they think that that is the last remaining oppression here.

    Not to mention every other issue that gets derided under the umbrella of “Social Justice Warrior”…

    Every time I see someone use that term seriously, I interpret them as mocking the very idea of egalitarianism and favoring social hierarchy and unmerited status. They seem to find it funny that there could be people who think that justice has not already been realized by legislation.

    But the best part is that these critics lack the courage to identify themselves publicly as being against equality, for unearned status, and in favor of injustices that are beyond the reach of laws.

    …and empathy in doing so. … having a shred of empathy for your fellow human being. …

    But, Jason, haven’t you heard? Empathy for lessers is a sign of weakness. Empathy is for (shudder) Christians.

  27. 41

    I’m still unsure whether it was in part a thinly veiled attack on Christina Rad for her harsh but well deserved criticism of Jaclyn’s video on Elliot Rodgers wasn’t a misogynist.

    I know there can differences in opinion but really stereotyping the opposition is a childish way to ignore the issue. To quote my favorite author:

    “It was so much easier to blame it on Them. It was bleakly depressing to think They were Us. If it was Them, then nothing was anyone’s fault. If it was Us, then what did that make Me? After all, I’m one of Us. I must be. I’ve certainly never thought of myself as one of Them. No one ever thinks of themselves as one of Them. We’re always one of Us. It’s Them that do bad things.” Terry Pratchett Jingo

  28. 42

    @38 UnknownEric the Apostate

    How about the fact that AA as a whole has been wholeheartedly endorsing her as a “rising star of atheism”?

    Perhaps to you this signifies endorsement of her views on feminism, but it does not to me. Promoting her as a rising star of atheism does not in-of-itself constitute an endorsement of a person’s views on every topic under the Sun. Now maybe AA does actually endorse her views on feminism or the one’s expressed in the video, but your comment above does not establish this claim. To convince me you are going to need more than the mere assertion that it is true. You and others are making a claim here. Time to actually provide something of substance to support the claim. And don’t mistake this as a defense of Jaclyn Glenn. Until the post here, and the ones by PZ and Ophelia, I had never heard of the woman. I watched the video, and as I said up-thread, I was not impressed. But my question about how you get from Muscato’s promotion of the video on his tweet to an endorsement by AA of the views expressed, well I just don’t see it.

  29. 43

    Perhaps you’re right. I don’t have a smoking gun. I certainly admit I could be wrong about AA. It’s just that every single time I’ve tried to engage someone from AA on the topic of feminism/social justice, I’ve been immediately shut down and told that “we’re all allies.” Basically, “shut up and go sit in the corner, we don’t care what you think.” Which, in my opinion, doesn’t speak well for their organization as a whole.

    Plus, they employ Paul Loebe, who has spent the past couple years going out of his way to be the biggest douchebag humanly possible. I mean, he mocked Helen Keller, for fuck’s sake.

  30. 44

    Tom Foss @ #24:

    The “good ones” are mostly either bullied off YouTube by its toxic environment or leave movement atheism for other subjects (see: Laci Green). It’s akin something that I noticed years ago after several years of blogging on atheoskeptical issues: eventually, you run out of stuff to talk about. Eventually you’ve said all you can say about religion in schools and homeopathy and bigfoot and shit, and everything else feels like repetition. It’s no surprise that people whose interests are broader than “gods don’t real” go off to find other things to talk about, especially since there are generally bigger issues affecting people than whether or not there are gods.

    First… now I legitimately feel terrible. I think the reason I missed Laci Green is because she hasn’t vlogged about atheism in so long that I totally forgot about her gogreen18 channel. But I also just stumbled upon an email I sent to her a long while back asking if she’d ever do an atheism video again. I never got a response. I always thought she was one of the most articulate and brilliant atheist vloggers, and now she’s my favorite feminist/sex-ed vlogger (seriously… she needs to design the sex-ed curriculum for the entire US, IMO). So the fact that I forgot her makes me feel very terrible.

    So sorry, Laci.

    Second… I see your point.

    I guess… I really got caught up in the “atheist movement” via YouTube. In fact, it was Thunderf00t’s “Why Do People Laugh at Creationists” that really drew me in (after the arguments on… yes… Mugglenet… and reading The God Delusion). And the saga of VenomFangX was one of the first big “issues” I really participated in (which is why I defend Thunderf00t against the claims that he just harassed that “poor boy”… I was there and watched it unfold in real time… VFX broke the law multiple times, including false DMCAs and stealing money from a children’s hospital, was a serial harasser himself, was misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, transphobic, etc, and at the end of the day… and I do know the problematic wording, here, but can’t think of a better way to put it… brought all of it on himself; he needed to be stopped). So after TGD, my “atheist community” was the YouTube atheist community.

    Yet it seems that most of them either left YouTube or are just incredibly terrible people… atheists of the Ayn Rand variety as opposed to… well… the Laci Green variety. And that’s infuriating.

  31. 46

    This is exactly the problem, well, one of them anyway, with movement atheism: Atheists don’t agree on anything except “God Don’t Real.” Why not just be a feminist, LGBTQ rights activist, and secularist?

  32. 47

    AA also posted that Cinco de Mayo tweet of Dave Silverman in a sombrero that told people to come to their conference in Puerto Rico. Rather than apologizing, Muscato repeatedly insisted that Cinco de Mayo is a Latin American holiday and that a sombrero isn’t an offensive stereotype.

  33. 48

    I made a tiny change to the OP in order to curtail arguments about how American Atheists is a sainted organization that can do no wrong because Dave Muscato, their PR director, is “going rogue” on this one. I changed “Orgs like” to “Heads of orgs like”.

    I did not make this change because I think AA is not responsible for the splash damage their employees are causing when people like Dave Silverman, their president, and Dave Muscato, their PR director, throw women in general under the bus to cozy up to people who want to undercut women. I made this change only to stop people from these wild tangents. I am fully aware those wild tangents will continue, because the tangent-makers appear to believe that the president and the PR director do not represent significant power within the company, and they appear to further believe that the company will not be affected by the ideologies of the people in these positions.

    Can you tell what I think of those beliefs?

  34. 49

    Davis Collins: I absolutely agree. The problem is, when we try to be, as you say, more intersectional, and we find ourselves being told to shut up about those other things and just be part of a big tent with the same people who are fighting against our other causes.

    I would rather movement atheism / secularism become smarter about and more humanist about these other topics, and realise that when they cozy up to those people fighting against our causes, they will not, actually, increase the size of the tent as is their stated desire.

  35. 50

    Wes Aaron: that was almost certainly who she was aiming at, between the blonde wig and Rad being the most in-her-sphere person to give her a righteous smacking down over the Rodger video. Having seen those other parts of the ongoing fight, and having seen movement heads promote her odious video about Rodger, I feel confident in saying that movement atheism in general has exactly one path to celebrity within it: fight feminists.

Comments are closed.