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
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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

Disown Dawkins? Sounds good to me!

Via Vice, an article by Allegra Ringo which offers some advice to the Atheist Movement:

A woman was alleging that a man raped her when she was too drunk to give consent, and Dawkins’s immediate response was the mainstay of all conservatives: What if she’s lying? Plenty of Dawkins’s Twitter followers agreed with him. It’s her word against his, they cried. Rape accusations are serious business, they cried.

Yes, rape accusations are serious business. Actually, accusing anyone of a crime, especially a violent crime, is serious business. That’s why we have court systems in place that determine, to the best of their abilities, whether a given accusation is most likely true or false. We have this for virtually every crime. So why are Dawkins and his ilk so preoccupied about false accusations of rape in a world full of false accusations?

The “accuser-might-be-lying” theory inevitably pops up around every rape case. But false accusations of rape occur in only about 2 to 3 percent of cases. That’s roughly the same rate as false accusations of other violent crimes, according to the US Justice Department. Studies in the UK have yielded similar results, but the myth of the always-lying rape accuser persists.

Keir Starmer, England’s Director of Public Prosecutions, stated that rape investigations are “undermined by [the] belief that false accusations are rife.” Dawkins obviously fancies himself the king of reason, yet he buys wholesale into this frat-boy mentality. It’s reasonable to assume an accused person is innocent until proven guilty, but Dawkins is cherry-picking rape cases as the only focus of his doubt.

In a world where women are raped in huge numbers, all the fucking time, and where the rate of false rape accusations are comparatively low, it makes far more sense to believe the victims of rape.  If and when a would-be rapist makes it to trial (and we know that doesn’t happen very often), if they are judged not guilty based on the evidence presented, then people can readjust their opinions. But far too many people inflate the rate of false rape accusations. Dawkins is among those people (he, and other Rape Culture deniers ought to read this article).

Dawkins appears to have adopted the sexism and other forms of narrow-mindeness he purports to hate in religion (plus bonus defenses of pedophilia), proving his own mantras wrong with every new opinion he posts. Read Dawkins’s Twitter at any time for tweets about “objective reality” interspersed with paranoid tweets about Islam, and of course his regularly scheduled uninformed opinions on rape culture. Although he is gradually losing sympathizers, the so-called “new atheist” movement still holds him in too heroic a light. In his time, Dawkins didgroundbreaking work in the field of biology, but his relevance—especially in social matters—is fading quickly. If the new atheist movement wants to move beyond outdated idols preaching old-fashioned discrimination, they need to disown Dawkins—or, at the very least, subtract themselves from his more than 1 million Twitter followers.

Disowning Dawkins is not a problem for me. He had no role in my decision to become an atheist (nor did any of the Four Horsemen; I came into atheism because I took college courses on philosophy and logic in the 90s).  Hell, the only book I’ve read by any of the big name atheists was Dawkins’ The God Delusion and I just finished reading that last month.  I know that many people appreciate Dawkins’ candid words on religion. I think it is nice to see a public figure speak bluntly, without respect for religion.  We need more people like that. Religion is not the force for good in the world that many think it is, and far too many people accord religion and religious beliefs undeserved respect.

That said, Dawkins’ comments about Muslims, his ongoing sexist comments, his dismissal of the severity of child abuse compared to religious indoctrination, and his spreading of Rape Culture myths have resulted in my losing any respect I had for him.  This is compounded by the fact that he’s listening only to his supporters, many of whom are anti-feminists, so-called skeptics (more accurately hyper- or pseudo- skeptics, who demand absurd levels of evidence for ubiquitous crimes like rape; as if rape accusations require the same level of evidence they demand of godbotters), or Islamophobic bigots (like his buddy Sam Harris).  He’s paying little attention to the criticisms of others.  He’s locked himself in his ivory tower and refused to listen to the “little people”.  He refuses to acknowledge his privilege and address his biases and prejudices in an honest way. Hell, with regard to the bigotry he’s displayed, he doesn’t seem to even accept that he has biases and prejudices.

I’m not on Twitter.  I don’t read his blog.  Nor will I. I want nothing to do with Dawkins because of his horrible behavior (which I will still call out as I find out about it, bc it is harmful).  For this atheist, Dawkins has been disowned.  Would that more people would do so.

Disown Dawkins? Sounds good to me!

Richard Dawkins-Here’s a clue about ‘witch hunts’

Rebecca Watson has the floor:

Dear Muslima Innocent People Murdered in Witch Hunts

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade were driven from your home in the dead of night by murderers, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car live, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative or you’ll be murdered, and your husband is allowed to beat you tried to murder you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery are seen anywhere near your home again. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters atheist polemicists have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick” himself a “Horseman of the Apocalypse”, and do you know what happened to herhim? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee People on the Internet took issue with something he said on stage. I am not exaggerating. He They really did. They even laughed at his word choice. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, he was able to reply, and no one censored him or tried to murder him, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima innocent people who were murdered in witch hunts, think you have misogyny witch hunts to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard

Richard Dawkins-Here’s a clue about ‘witch hunts’

Richard Dawkins-Here's a clue about 'witch hunts'

Rebecca Watson has the floor:

Dear Muslima Innocent People Murdered in Witch Hunts

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade were driven from your home in the dead of night by murderers, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car live, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative or you’ll be murdered, and your husband is allowed to beat you tried to murder you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery are seen anywhere near your home again. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters atheist polemicists have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick” himself a “Horseman of the Apocalypse”, and do you know what happened to herhim? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee People on the Internet took issue with something he said on stage. I am not exaggerating. He They really did. They even laughed at his word choice. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, he was able to reply, and no one censored him or tried to murder him, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima innocent people who were murdered in witch hunts, think you have misogyny witch hunts to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

Richard

Richard Dawkins-Here's a clue about 'witch hunts'

Dawkins continues to descend

Richard Dawkins continues his descent into the Pit:

I have elaborated elsewhere on my problems with Sam Harris’ comments. Suffice to say, he has some horrible gender essentialist ideas he needs to confront, and hopefully, reject (you can read my comments on Harris’ sexism here and here). I do want to discuss the thought police comment.

The critics of Harris, Dawkins, Shermer, Thunderf00t, the anti-feminists, the pro-harassment crowd, etc are not engaged in uncovering and punishing thoughtcrime or thought-criminals.

The Thought Police (thinkpol in Newspeak) are the secret police of Oceania in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.

It is the job of the Thought Police to uncover and punish thoughtcrime and thought-criminals. They use psychology and omnipresent surveillance (such as telescreens) to search, find, monitor and arrest members of society who could potentially challenge authority and status quo, even only by thought, hence the name Thought Police.  They use terror and torture to achieve their ends.

What those critics are doing…what we are doing, is calling out bad behavior and criticizing it.  If we see instances of sexism or misogyny, we’re criticizing it. If we see people being homophobic, we criticize it. If we see people being transphobic, we criticize it.  That’s it.  None of us is in any position of power over them.  We are not monitoring their every move.  When we criticize them, it’s bc they’ve spoken out in public and it’s been brought to our attention.  With the exception of rapists like Michael Shermer, we are not advocating for these people to be thrown in jail for their opinions.  We don’t have the power to see that happen even if that’s what we wanted.

Moreover, the label of ‘thought police’ is deeply ironic.  Which group is engaged in harassment and bullying?  Which group wants to maintain the status quo, and see no changes made?  Which group whined about harassment policies-policies intended to act as guidelines for proper behavior and help provide a safe environment at conventions? Which group whines and complains when their heroes-Shermer, Dawkins, or Harris-are criticized for their sexist beliefs? The people doing all that crap are on the other side of the Great Rifts.  Some of them are Pitters.  Some are followers of Dawkins, Shermer, and Harris (note, not all people in either camp are engage in such bad behavior).  They are the ones engaged in the type of behavior that thought police engage in.  These fuckers are projecting.

Among their many problems is that they don’t like being criticized. They don’t like having their beliefs and opinions challenged.  They think they should be able to say what they want, when they want, and not be called out for it.  They don’t want to be held responsible for their words.  They think free speech is absolute, and that there should be no repercussions-such as criticism-for what they say.  I hate to tell them (not really), but that’s not how free speech works.  You can call someone a ‘cunt’, and we can, in turn call you a nincomfuck, or a raging shitstain (note that on this side of the Great Rifts, the use of gendered, homophobic, racist, or ableist slurs is condemned).  Our actions are not those of any “thought police”.  We don’t seek to criminalize the use of gendered insults.  What we’d like is for these people to see the harm done in using gendered slurs and choose not to use them.  I don’t call someone a ‘cunt’ for the same reason I wouldn’t want someone to call me a ‘faggot’ or a ‘nigger’.  I wouldn’t advocate criminalizing people who use that language, but I fully support publicly criticizing people who use such words, and harshly.  If people want to shame the hell out of bigots, that’s great. But that’s as far as it goes.  None of us is acting anything like the thought police and once again Dawkins shows off what an asshole he is.

Dawkins continues to descend

I’m glad I never had atheist heroes

If I had, and they went by the name of Richard Dawkins or Michael Shermer, I’d be deeply disgusted with them.  Oh, wait, there’s another name to add to that:  Sam Harris.

I also asked Harris at the event why the vast majority of atheists — and many of those who buy his books — are male, a topic which has prompted some to raise questions of sexism in the atheist community. Harris’ answer was both silly and then provocative.

It can only be attributed to my “overwhelming lack of sex appeal,” he said to huge laughter.

“I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people..People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree instrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this – it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”

Atheism-it’s more of a guy thing (reminds me of Shermer’s comments a while back).  No Sam Harris, atheism isn’t a guy thing. It isn’t a masculine thing.  Having a “critical posture”-whatever the fuck that is-isn’t something intrinsic to men that women lack.  Hell, critical posture-or what he more than likely means, critical thinking– in general is something everyone has to work at. I’d hardly say it’s intrinsic to anyone.  It’s a tool that has to be learned and honed.  Atheism, like “critical posture”, doesn’t have a testosterone vibe, as you seem to think it does and it’s both insulting and deeply sexist to claim otherwise.  What about all the women out there who are atheists and are good at critical thinking?  Do they count for nothing?  Are they of no value to you?  If they are atheists-and generally I take women at their word when they self-identify-what does that say about your belief that atheism is more attractive to men?

But wait, there’s more:  Harris is a believer in gender essentialist bullshit.  Women aren’t inherently nurturing. They’re reared in a society that pushes that as a virtue for them.  Moreover, men can be and often are, nurturing as well.  Men and women are not as different as Harris seems to think:

Physical strength between men and women using data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s long jump, high jump, and javelin throw competitions shows distinct differences between the sexes. Assertiveness as based on self-reported measures of competitiveness, decisiveness, sense of superiority, persistence, confidence, and the ability to stand up under pressure does not show the same gender gap.

For 122 different characteristics, from empathy to sexuality to science inclination to extroversion, a statistical analysis of 13,301 individuals did not reveal any distinct differences between men and women.

Gender can be a predictor for stereotypic activities like scrapbooking or boxing, but men and women don’t think about their relationships in “qualitatively different” ways, no matter what self-help books like Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus may claim.

While there are average differences between the sexes, they aren’t consistent enough to accurately characterize the entire group. Just because a man or woman fits into one stereotype for their gender doesn’t mean they will fit into another.

“The possession of traits associated with gender is not as simple as ‘this or that'” the authors write.

I’d also criticize the writer of this piece, Michelle Boorstein, for asking the question in the first place. Perhaps the public face of the atheist movement is largely male, but atheists in general?  Does Boorstein have evidence of that, or was she making an assumption?  I suspect the latter.  If so, you know what assuming does…

****

Update:

It seems I was right to question whether or not the vast majority of atheists are men.  It turns out they’re not.  Over at Greta Christina’s blog, she reveals some interesting information:

According to the WIN-Gallup International “Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism 2012,” August 6, 2012 (PDF, Table 8, page 20 of 25), when asked, “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?”, 60% of men and 57% of women said “A religious person.” 23% of men and 23% of women said, “Not a religious person.” 12% of men and 14% of women said “A convinced atheist.” (“Don’t know/no response” got 5% from men and 6% from women.)

I’m glad I never had atheist heroes

I'm glad I never had atheist heroes

If I had, and they went by the name of Richard Dawkins or Michael Shermer, I’d be deeply disgusted with them.  Oh, wait, there’s another name to add to that:  Sam Harris.

I also asked Harris at the event why the vast majority of atheists — and many of those who buy his books — are male, a topic which has prompted some to raise questions of sexism in the atheist community. Harris’ answer was both silly and then provocative.

It can only be attributed to my “overwhelming lack of sex appeal,” he said to huge laughter.

“I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people..People just don’t like to have their ideas criticized. There’s something about that critical posture that is to some degree instrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women,” he said. “The atheist variable just has this – it doesn’t obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men.”

Atheism-it’s more of a guy thing (reminds me of Shermer’s comments a while back).  No Sam Harris, atheism isn’t a guy thing. It isn’t a masculine thing.  Having a “critical posture”-whatever the fuck that is-isn’t something intrinsic to men that women lack.  Hell, critical posture-or what he more than likely means, critical thinking– in general is something everyone has to work at. I’d hardly say it’s intrinsic to anyone.  It’s a tool that has to be learned and honed.  Atheism, like “critical posture”, doesn’t have a testosterone vibe, as you seem to think it does and it’s both insulting and deeply sexist to claim otherwise.  What about all the women out there who are atheists and are good at critical thinking?  Do they count for nothing?  Are they of no value to you?  If they are atheists-and generally I take women at their word when they self-identify-what does that say about your belief that atheism is more attractive to men?

But wait, there’s more:  Harris is a believer in gender essentialist bullshit.  Women aren’t inherently nurturing. They’re reared in a society that pushes that as a virtue for them.  Moreover, men can be and often are, nurturing as well.  Men and women are not as different as Harris seems to think:

Physical strength between men and women using data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s long jump, high jump, and javelin throw competitions shows distinct differences between the sexes. Assertiveness as based on self-reported measures of competitiveness, decisiveness, sense of superiority, persistence, confidence, and the ability to stand up under pressure does not show the same gender gap.

For 122 different characteristics, from empathy to sexuality to science inclination to extroversion, a statistical analysis of 13,301 individuals did not reveal any distinct differences between men and women.

Gender can be a predictor for stereotypic activities like scrapbooking or boxing, but men and women don’t think about their relationships in “qualitatively different” ways, no matter what self-help books like Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus may claim.

While there are average differences between the sexes, they aren’t consistent enough to accurately characterize the entire group. Just because a man or woman fits into one stereotype for their gender doesn’t mean they will fit into another.

“The possession of traits associated with gender is not as simple as ‘this or that'” the authors write.

I’d also criticize the writer of this piece, Michelle Boorstein, for asking the question in the first place. Perhaps the public face of the atheist movement is largely male, but atheists in general?  Does Boorstein have evidence of that, or was she making an assumption?  I suspect the latter.  If so, you know what assuming does…

****

Update:

It seems I was right to question whether or not the vast majority of atheists are men.  It turns out they’re not.  Over at Greta Christina’s blog, she reveals some interesting information:

According to the WIN-Gallup International “Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism 2012,” August 6, 2012 (PDF, Table 8, page 20 of 25), when asked, “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?”, 60% of men and 57% of women said “A religious person.” 23% of men and 23% of women said, “Not a religious person.” 12% of men and 14% of women said “A convinced atheist.” (“Don’t know/no response” got 5% from men and 6% from women.)

I'm glad I never had atheist heroes