Friday, March 29, 2013

SkepChicks ask: Are atheists assholes?

One can hopefully be forgiven for forgetting a post by Adam Lee.

Amy from SkepChicks has created a series of articles titled "Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women".

The latest append to her list of perhaps a dozen authors is the one and only Adam "DaylightAtheism" Lee.

People with normal lives will give it a pass because they've already read Lee's gigantic survey and perhaps think they already know all of Adam Lee's talking points.

Those people have good instincts.

However when Ophelia Benson throws down in support of Adam Lee's arguments, perhaps it's time to open this book again and see just what's up. Maybe, just maybe, the sequel will allow the plot to make sense.

Benson titles her copy & paste of Lee's arguments: "Distinctions, always distinctions"

Benson quotes Lee:
Most of us became atheists for intellectual reasons, because we find the arguments for theism unconvincing, or for moral reasons, because we find its teachings intolerable. But it seems to me that there’s a small number of men (and a smaller number of women) who are atheists purely because they delight in being offensive, because they believe no one has the right to tell them what to do. They think this community is a place where they can indulge those impulses: where they can be as crass and boorish as they want, where they can leer at or hit on women in any way they want, or cheer on those who do. And too often, we’ve seen that when women object to this treatment, however politely, they become the targets of a campaign of violent threats, abusive hate mail and dehumanizing filth.
No contest here - Adam Lee is right!

Some people are atheists because they must be in order to defend their behavior.

When Adam Lee goes on Twitter to call everyone misogynists or when PZ Myers documents his host desecration on his blog it is painfully obvious what these men are thinking - "Hell yeah, atheism! We're going to say and do what we want!"

Ophelia adds her own line of reasoning:
It’s even trickier than that, because there is some merit in being “offensive,” depending on a lot of particulars. But there’s offensive and then there’s offensive. There’s telling the Catholic church it’s an evil institution, and there’s telling a particular nun that she’s ugly and repellent. Or to put it another way, there’s offensive and there’s mean. The people Adam is talking about are blind to that distinction.
 In the reality that Ophelia Benson land, atheists run around convents telling nuns they're hideous. That is when they aren't throwing acid in their face.

It is a wonder of the world how Catholicism exists. Why don't we just tell nuns they're sexy more often?

Perhaps this is a bunch of hyperbole.

Adam Lee continues:
But the sexists are not the future of atheism. No matter how much noise they make, they’ll never be anything but an ignorant, resentful minority. I’m confident that most atheists are good, decent people who don’t condone harassment. But to those good and decent people, especially us atheist men, I want to say this: This isn’t just a women’s fight, it’s your fight too. We all have a stake in the future of this movement, so raise your voice, speak out, make yourself heard! Call out the trolls and the harassers; tell them that their behavior is wrong and unacceptable. Don’t sanction them by your silence. They do what they do because they believe that it’s socially condoned, that people who don’t speak up must approve of their behavior.
What exactly is this atheism thing anyways?

Is atheism some sort of social club that emerged after Adam Lee graduated from college?

Read enough Adam Lee and you'll start believing secularism is some version of the Stonecutters.

Benson adds:
Don’t sanction them by your silence. And you know what else don’t do? Don’t encourage them by your “dialogue.” Don’t say “we have to start somewhere” when the somewhere in question is just more of the same old harassment. Don’t talk about “grievances” on “both sides.” Don’t encourage the harassers.
[Emphasis Benson's]

How is the layman "encouraging" the "harassers"? Also, who are the "harassers" harassing?

Adam Lee continues:
On the surface this fight is about the treatment of women, but ultimately it’s about what kind of community we want atheism to be. Do we want it to be an insular and impotent subculture, where we do nothing but complain that the world doesn’t understand us? Or do we want it to be a mass movement that fills streets, that strikes fear in the hearts of theocrats, that shifts the course of history? If we’re willing to do the work necessary to broaden our appeal as much as possible, to make the atheist community a welcoming and tolerant landing place for all kinds of people, it can be the latter. If we divide ourselves and chase away allies by allowing prejudice and hate to spread unchecked, it can only be the former.
Does nobody else find it ironic that the word "impotent" is used here?

Benson adds:
To put it another way, you gain harassers but you lose people who dislike harassment. Is that really a good bargain?

In "SkepChick" and "FreeThoughtBlog" land, the only reason secularism hasn't claimed victory yet is that secularists keep saying bad things about women.

So let's stop now.

Let's stop saying bad things about Mother Teresa. Burn that book Hitchens wrote!

Let's stop saying bad things about Sarah Palin.

Let's stop saying bad things about Ann Coulter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, and Phyllis Schlafly.

Then all the women in pious countries will endorse secularism wholeheartedly. Even those in Iran!

Now of course Benson and Lee aren't talking about treating women in general with deference and respect. They'll continue blasting anti-contraception, pro-life homophobes regardless of gender.

The tactics for secularism that Benson and Lee are proposing are nuanced than that.

Apparently the biggest tragedy in the history of secularism is that upper class, educated women on Twitter are discouraged by slurs directed at men and women opining about gender relations on their blogs.

Now, one might say, these "SkepChicks" and "FreeThought" bloggers have a wider portfolio than that! They also talk about atheism being underrepresented in minority communities.

Which leads to another point. How would these hard science heads read any discrepancy between races?

If it can be shown that religion is more popular among black and Hispanic communities in the USA, what does this tell us?

It tells us that secularists are racist, right?

We know this scientifically, because:

  1. Other criterion such as economic, educational outcomes can be ignored!
  2. The only country in the world that counts is the Excited States of America!
  3. Angry bloggers said so!
No skepticism needed!

So the 'feminist' secularists have given us our prescription. Of course they'll continue saying whatever they want, yelling at women (even women in their fanclub) and apologizing to no one about it - the important thing to remember is they don't have a problem, you have a problem.

In case some neo-'feminist' white knights happen to have read this far, it is important to point out that the last bit was mostly "sarcasm".


  1. You left out PZ posting the pick of Michelle Bachmann eating a corn dog. Since that blowhard is incapable of making an apology, he merely disappeared the post.
    And who can forget him doubling down on the bunny carton?

    1. He actually posted the pic? Wow! I actually mentioned the Bachmann pic in "The Rape Card" post, I wasn't aware FTB had actually hosted the picture at one point...

      I also wasn't aware of the bunny cartoon fiasco! Thanks for letting me know.