Friday, June 14, 2013

Atheist Cowardice

Recently Skepchick shared this wonderful video:

Respect to the Australian Chief of Army.

However it turns out that Skepchick merely used the incidence of sexual harassment and assault in the US and Australian militaries to segue into criticism of the atheist movement:
Recently, I’ve been discussing and sometimes arguing with friends about the current state of the skeptic and atheist communities. It is my firm belief that we are, as a “movement,” cowardly, and that is why we ultimately will fail. There are too many of us, and especially too many people in positions of power, who are unwilling or unable to take any real action that might help stop the incessant harassment of women in our ranks, or to take any other real moral stand. I’ve seen people who think of themselves as allies actively covering up sexual harassment at an event and then going on to invite the harasser back to speak. I’ve seen “skeptics” write blog posts defending Brian Dunning as a hero instead of an embarrassment. I’ve seen organization employees privately rage about the nonsense their boss is spewing but then refuse to even try to hold him accountable. If we’re going to get anywhere, we have to demand better. We need leaders who are more like Lt. Gen. Morrison. Hell, I’ll take leaders who are just a little less like this [criticism of Ron Lindsay] and this [criticism of DJ Grothe] and this [criticism of Michael Shermer].
To hold these leaders accountable, though, sometimes takes courage. If we want a better movement, some of us are going to have to give up certain things: our idolization of prominent men, our quiet anonymity, and our job security, for a start. I’ve already given all that up, and so have some others, but we’re not going to get anywhere until more people join in. I hope they do, eventually.

One could expect some discussion of the issue at hand from a self-proclaimed feminist, perhaps a few sentences about how demented military culture has formed and what could be done about it.

Instead of that, we've dove into criticizing five specific males.

Let's look at each one.

Brian Dunning
Who he is in the atheist/skeptic movement: Host of Skeptoid podcast
What he did wrong:  Dunning defrauded eBay, abused loopholes in eBay's affiliate program to make it look like he his websites were performing fantastically.
Why some people still defend him: They are fans of Dunning that perhaps underestimate the impact of white collar crime, perhaps see his crimes as 'Robin Hood' or perhaps view his moral choices in a 'everybody is doing it' lens.

Ron Lindsay:
Who he is in the atheist/skeptic movement: CEO of Center for Inquiry
What he did wrong: In an opening speech at "Women in Secularism 2", he had the audacity to  be an old white guy and to criticize feminists.
Why some people still defend him: They view the "scandal" as a tempest in a teapot.

DJ Grothe:
Who he is in the atheist/skeptic movement: CEO of JREF.
What he did wrong: Few can recall DJ Grothe's original sin, and fewer can concisely explain it in reasonable terms. Most recently, Grothe's crime was sending a newsletter that claimed JREF's meeting was a good deal.
Why some people still defend him: Most don't realize that there are people out there that criticize him. These defenders of Grothe are often described as "gainfully employed".

Michael Shermer:
Who he is in the atheist/skeptic movement: Publisher of SKEPTIC magazine.
What he did wrong:  Said "it's a guy thing". Later, he violated Godwin's law in his rebuttal to criticism he received.
Why some people still defend him: They like him more than they like the people that hold grudges against him.

Unnamed Male Harasser:
Who he is in the atheist/skeptic movement: Probably PZ Myers. If there is someone in the room telling off-color jokes and generally being creepy, they very likely blog for FTB.
What he did wrong: Harassed somebody. 
Why some people still defend him:    .... Nobody defends this guy.

So there we have the some of the cast of characters in this strange story.

To grab the full list of "prominent men" that the atheist/skeptic movements "idolize", we'd have to include at the very least:

Richard Dawkins:
Who is he in the atheist/skeptic movement: The Selfish Gene. The God Delusion. That TV special you saw the other day. That's Richard Dawkins.
What he did wrong: He thinks getting asked out in an elevator isn't a crisis. Also, he is racist.
Why some people still defend him: Who wouldn't?

Christopher Hitchens:
Who he is in the atheist/skeptic movement: god is not Great. The Portable Atheist. Hundreds of debates. It's that Christopher Hitchens. 
What he did wrong: He did a joke piece for Vanity Fair stating that women aren't funny. While he supported work opportunities for women, he didn't feel that they should be obligated to find formal employment. Additionally, he did not support abortion on demand for any and all possible reasons.
Why some people still defend him: He's Hitch. The man is immortal.

Bill Maher:
Who he is in the atheist/skeptic movement: Comic, progressive political talk show host
What he did wrong: Says shocking stuff for a laugh. So often one would think he is paid to do so.
Why some people still defend him: One is not actually convinced that Maher would even defend Maher.

 So this is a wider sample of the "idolized" males.

After all this madness, what can we say about the atheist movement?

It's probably cowardly

People are so cowardly in the atheist/skeptic community, that even harassment happens in a cowardly fashion.

Many in the atheist movement are patiently waiting for PZ Myers to actually call someone a "f**kbrained asshole" and "lying f**khead" while existing in the same timezone as his victim.

Next, someone should stand up and mock Harriet Hall's wardrobe on the weekend Hall was actually wearing the item in question.

Also, Richard Carrier can call someone a "sociopath" in person.

Finally, will someone actually stand up and call Dawkins a racist already? Do we have to bounce around the subject?

It's probably self-concerned

Remember that we started this discussion with an intro about sexual abuse (and presumably rape) in the military.

It quickly turned into a discussion about how Brian Dunning abused eBay.

eBay. Such a poor girl, seduced by Brian Dunning's acceptance of their contractual obligations.

Atheism/skepticism needs to be a safe space for eBay.

It will probably fail in its goals

Remember, the "atheist movement" or "skeptic movement" really only has two goals.
  1. Convince people to attend Skepticon and SkepchickCon
  2. Destroy the JREF by criticizing TAM
A year from now, will "skepticism" have achieved these goals? Not likely.

If this "movement" with a ton of Atheism+ has any other objectives, it's not immediately clear what they might be.

It can be said conclusively.

Atheism will fail.

Rampant misogyny will take over.

You better join the church now.


  1. Why some people still defend him: He's Hitch. The man is immortal.