Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

My Response to the CFI’s Response to the Skeptical Community’s Response to Ron Lindsay’s Opening Statement at the Women in Secularism 2 Conference

I’ve been out of action here for quite a while due to work and family and just life in general.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on in the skeptical and atheist communities.  There has been a lot going on there, but it took something unbelievably appalling and rage inducing to motivate me to start writing again.

As you can see by the title of this posts,  something happened at the Women in Secularism 2 Conference.  Something so unthinkably insensitive you would have thought it was said by one of the disgusting Republican, Tea Party loving, rape apologists.  But, no.  sadly , it was said by the leader of one of the leading and most influential secular groups in America; the Center for Inquiry, or CFI.

I won’t get into the particulars.  If you haven’t heard about it, you can read the outrage from different individuals here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.  The CFI response to all this outrage can be found here.  

My personal response, which I’ve emailed to the CFI Board of Directors is below.

June 22, 2013

To Tom Flynn & the CFI Board of Directors

Dear Mr. Flynn and CFI Board members,

I am writing today to express my outrage at your response to the outcry caused by Ron Lindsay’s opening statement at the Women in Secularism 2 conference.  

You have shown that you are either incapable, or unwilling, to take an definitive stand on sexism in the Skeptical community.   Your official statement regarding this issue, far from helping to quell the protests, only exacerbated the situation.  

Your refusal to issue an apology, either as an organization, or though Ron Lindsay personally, is a disgrace.   Your insipid claim to value equality in the community is woefully inadequate at best, and pretentiously self-serving at worse.

Over the past year or so, sexism has become possiblty the most important and divisive issue in the Skeptical community.  The examples of blatant misogyny and raw hatred by  a relatively small number of members of the community toward anyone who dares support feminism and women’s right are disgusting, abhorrent, and almost too numerous to count.  They include vile insults, threats of rape, and even death threats against those, mostly woman, who speak out against them.

By refusing to take a stand against these misogynistic, hate-spewing members of our community, you only encourage, enable, and by your silence, tacitly accept their continued hatred and harassment of those who work tirelessly towards equality for all in our community.

I can no longer support the CFI, given it’s stance regarding sexism within our community.  I will no longer be donating to your organization, and this includes renewing my subscription to Skeptical Inquirer magazine.  This last honestly pains me because not only do I feel that it is the best skeptical magazine tin existence, but having been published in it, I can no longer in good conscience submit my work to be published there.

I fervently hope that the leadership of CFI will take an unambiguous public stand in support of ridding our community of sexism, misogyny, and hatred.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. that I feel sums up my feelings toward the current state of the CFI leadership.

In his “Letter from a Birmingham jail” he said:  “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Sincerely,

James Walker


If this issue upsets you as much as it does me, please do something about it.  At the very least, let the CFI know how you feel.  You can email them, as I did, at tflynn@centerforinquiry.net, or snail mail them at:


Center for Inquiry Transnational
P.O. Box 741, Amherst, NY 14226


Do something!  Don’t let your “appalling silence” allow the injustice to continue.

June 22, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Feminism, GLBT, Humanism, secular humanism, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , | Leave a comment

Atheism+. Why I Am More Resolved Than Before To Support It

Jen McCreight quit blogging yesterday.  This from Almost Diamonds who wrote a post explaining some of the reason why.

I’m angry that Jen has been pushed to the point where she has to stop blogging.  She’s done so much, especially with the SSA, to help advance atheism.  The detractors say that those who support Atheism+ are trying to take over the atheist movement, that we are being hateful and divisive, that we are not thinking critically and are letting our emotions cloud our judgement.  

Of course it is emotional.  We are enraged and appalled at the misogyny that has become so apparent in the past year.  We aren’t automatons, but human.  Using our anger at the misogynists and others like them in the atheists movement to try to build something better is good, as Greta Christian says in her book.  

Anger can motivate people to right wrongs and gain rights and recognition in society.  We want to be seen as atheists who do more than just attack religion.  We want to take this movement to the masses, as it were, beyond the atheist community, by working openly, and publicly on important social issues that, until now, religion or other organizations have owned.  At least, that’s what I would like to see.  I think many who support Atheism+ feel this way too.

The people who drove Jen away want to attack anyone who doesn’t agree with them.  It can’t, and won’t, stand.  But, I’m not going to attack those people, I’m going to ignore them.  They aren’t worth my time.  Instead, I’m going to do something positive and try to make Atheism+ a thing that will unite all those atheists who want to focus on social issues instead of just bashing religion and slapping ourselves on the backs for how much more clever we are than theists.  

September 5, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Feminism, GLBT, Humanism, secular humanism, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , , | 10 Comments

Atheism+: Doing Good Without God.

It’s been said that getting atheists to agree on something is like herding cats.  I’d say it’s more like trying to herd cats into a tub of water.  Atheists tend to be an inquisitive bunch; an intellectually bunch.  We reject dogma and the authority that goes along with it, hence we are loathed to being told what to do and what to think.  You could say we are fiercely independent (at least I say that we are).  

Given all that, you can see why trying to get a consensus about where to go for breakfast might be hard enough, never mind were we should all stand on a particular social issue.  And that’s the real issue in getting us all to band together for a common cause: we don’t like to be told what we should think or feel.

Still, being openminded and skeptical (yes, they do go hand in hand) we are able to listen to each other and really consider what each one of us has to say.  This attitude tends to lead to civilized debates, respect for each other’s rights to express ideas, and compromise, or at least it should.  I believe that it can and that it does.

The atheist/humanist/secular/(add your own label here) movements have much more in common than they do differences.   Most of us in these movements (and most of us identify with more than one) understand this and this has allowed us to begin to come together in the past few years in greater numbers and with great effect in support of issues that we all feel that we have a stake in.

Still, there is an ugly side to us as well.  Anti-feminism has shown its self to be much more prevalent that most of us imagined it was.  This is both bad and good.  It is bad, for the obvious reason that it shows that we all are not as enlightened as we’d like to be.  It is bad because it distracts us from working together to achieve our common goals.

It is good, however, that this is now out in the open.  You can’t tackle a problem until you can first acknowledge it.  Also, it is an opportunity to clean house, as it were.  By exposing the misogynists in our midst ( actually they tend to expose themselves) we can shame them into recognizing  their misplace sense of privilege or shun them from our ranks.  It is vital that we do so because we have the fight of our lives with the religious and social conservitives on our hands.

This is where Atheism+ comes in.  The new movement is not an attempt to establish an atheist dogma, as some try to claim.  Atheism+ is an attempt to bring together atheists who believe that we have a responsibility to go beyond fighting against superstition or fighting for the separation of church and state.  We strongly believe that we have a responsibility as atheists to fight for social justice for everyone, theist and non-theist, the superstitious and the skeptical, the religious and the non-believers.  

Feminism, gay rights, separation of church and state are just a few of the issues that most of us feel are important and that we are doing a good job of brining to the forefront of the social and political forums.  

We have already begun to raise our profile in the general public’s minds.  Just this year we had the Reason Rally, which made the national news.  We also have many good organizations supporting critical thinking and humanist issues such as the Secular Student Alliance, CFI, FFRF, American Atheists, the JREF, and American Humanists.  

Except for American Atheists and the Secular Student Alliance, most of these, while they might have many atheists as members, are not atheistic groups.  What Atheism+ is, or can be, is a way for those of us who self-identify as atheists to get out and fight for social issues in public where we can meet “average” people and have them get to know us.  It will allow us to be seen as people who care for others, who do good things.  This is vitally important if atheists hope to ever become accepted by a society that currently sees us a amoral, selfish, heartless.

I urge those of you want to fight for social justice for everyone, who want to fight against misogyny, racism, bigotry, homophobia, poverty, and ignorance to consider joining the Atheist+ movement.  Talk about it with your friends and family (if they are still talking to you, that is), write about it, blog about it, tweet about it, set your Facebook profile picture to the Atheists+ symbol (see below), join the Atheist+ forum.

Let’s show the world that we are not only good without God, but we do good without God.

 

Apluslogo sm

Use me as your profile picture on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or any other site of your choice.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Feminism, GLBT, Humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Chick-Fil-A, Last Call

The Chick-Fil-A brouhaha had highlighted a real inequality in our society. That inequality is that religious institutions in general, and Christians in particular, feel that they have some special rights that imbue their beliefs with some kind of untouchability. There is an arrogant sense of entitlement that permeates their thinking and ideology which is inherently unjustified and invidious.

For those of you living in a hole for the past few weeks, gay rights groups called for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A because it’s owner said that his company operates by Christian values and one of those values tradition marriage. While he said that Chick-Fil-A does not discriminate against homosexuals in hiring or service to their customers, it believes that homosexuality is wrong and a sin. He was well within his rights to express this view. What he does not have a right to is to expect that others wouldn’t be outraged by his expression of his beliefs.

Unfortunately, other Christians didn’t see it this way. They were outraged that gay rights supporters called for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A. They claimed that it’s freedom of speech was being infringed upon and they called for those who supported Chick-Fil-A, and “traditional marriage” to go eat at Chick-Fil-A.

They seemed to feel that they were entitled to have their beliefs respected, but ignored or disrespected the beliefs of others.

Of course, they did not mention their calls for boycotts of businesses that support gay rights.

One Million Moms organized a Facebook campaign protest this week in response to JC Penney’s decision to hire DeGeneres, who is openly gay.

One Million Moms’ expressed their wrath agaist DC Comics because of their story line for their character, The Green Lantern, who was revealed to be gay. It wasn’t just One Million Moms, Alan Caruba, of Canada Free Press, called for a boycott as well. The same with Marvel Comics for showing a gay wedding. They also called for a boycott of Toys R Us for carrying the comic book.

Christians also called for a boycott of video game maker Electronic Arts, for adding characters in same-sex relationships to its games.

And how can we forget the rainbow Oreo?

Where was the outrage that these businesses were being targeted for boycotts for their stance on gay rights? Where were the supporters of gay rights claiming that these business’ right to freedom of speech was being threatened by the boycotts? Where was the call for those who support gay rights to line up at Toy’s R Us, or JC Penny to show their support for these businesses?

They were nowhere because these business and their supporters know that anyone has a right to call for a boycott of their products if they don’t agree with their stance on gay rights or any other issue. They where nowhere because there isn’t the sense of entitlement that exists within the Christian community that their beliefs should somehow be above reproach and ridicule.

Christians like to claim that there is a war on religion, that their beliefs are being infringed upon by actions like the call for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A. They have the arrogance to believes that they are somehow a persecuted minority.

The fact is that Christians make up something like 70% of the population of the U.S., hardly a minority. Theiy have their prayers recited at public ceremonies across the country, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution; they have their beliefs ingrained in our culture.

Religious establishments have a sense of entitlement in our society that is unwarranted and they get outraged when others insist that they be treated just like anyone else.

As John Stewart said:

“You have confused a war on religion with not always getting everything you want. It’s called being part of a society – not everything goes your way,”

August 4, 2012 Posted by | GLBT, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Religion Is Your Religion, Not Everyone Elses

I’ve been pretty harsh in my views toward superstitious beliefs in general and religion in particular.  You find what I have to say offensive.  Thats fine, because I find things you have to say offensive as well.  There is nothing wrong with being offended. It happens to everyone about something or other at some point.

What I find annoying and sad is when you feel that I am somehow persecuting you by my stance on these issues.  This is just plain wrong.  That you feel persecuted reflects your sense of privilege and superiority because you feel that  you are right because your god tells you so.  It is exactly this self righteous attitude that I despise and rail against.  It isn’t your beliefs I find offensive, but the effects of those beliefs upon everyone else.

I believe that everyone has a right to believe whatever they want to believe; to worship (or not) as they wish.  The one caveat is that your beliefs and your worshiping are yours, not everyone else’s.   Talk about them to others if you (and they) wish,  but don’t preach.   Express your views on morality, but don’t seek to impose your morality upon others.

This also goes for your actions.  If you believe that prayer alone can cure you, great.  Just don’t insist on only using prayer when your child or someone else you love is ill.  If they are receiving medical treatment and you think prayer will help, fine.  But don’t insist that god will save your loved one by prayer alone because plenty of people have died needlessly because prayer was substituted for sound medical treatment.

Also, don’t try to legislate your morality so that it is imposed upon all of us.  The current GOP/Religious Right’s war against women and LGTB’s is a perfect example.  It is religion that causes the party of small government that does not intrude into our private lives to perpatrate the hypocrisy of passing laws that intrude into the most private parts of our lives: reproductive rights and the right to chose who to love and who to commit your life to.

It has often been said that religion cause good people to do terrible things.  History certainly seems to bear this out.   The imposition of Islam upon those that they conquered; the crusades where the Christian did the same to the Muslims and Jews; the hundreds of years of wars and the burning of thousands at the stake over differing versions of Christianity; the thousands of Muslim and Hindus killed in the partitioning of India.

So, feel free to hold your beliefs dear to you.  Worship as you wish.  But, keep these things out of the public sphere where they can do no harm, or infringe upon the rights of the rest of us.

April 7, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, GLBT, Humanism, Religion, Science, Social Justice | , , , , | 3 Comments

Religious Freedom: Your Rights Are Special; Your Religion Is Not

No one’s beliefs are beyond question or criticism.  Insisting on special special status for your religious beliefs has nothing to do with your freedom of religion and everything to do with your belief that your religion is somehow better than everyone else’s.  You have the freedom to believe what you choose and to live your life accordingly, unless you try to infringe upon the rights of others.  You do not have the freedom to insist that everyone else live by your beliefs.

I respect your right to believe as you wish but that respect only goes as far as me not trying to stop you from believing as you do, or insist that you believe as I do.  That respect does not include respect for your religion’s ideas, concepts, or particular moral code.

I expect you to question my beliefs and to challenge them.  I have no problems or qualms accepting your challenges to my beliefs.  I believe that if we don’t constantly question, we stagnate, then we stop learning and stop growing.  I question everything, even my own beliefs, constantly.  This brings a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me.

You, on the other hand, recoil in dismay when your beliefs are questioned and claim that you are being persecuted and that your right to freedom of religion is being infringed upon.  You are wrong.  Your beliefs are being questions, challenged, and even ridiculed.  Your right to believe them are not being questioned.  Your right to practice your beliefs and to worship are not being questioned.

Freedom of religion does not give your the right to insist that every public meeting or event be preceded with a prayer to your god.  It does not give you the right to insist that laws be passed to restrict the actions and speech of others not of your faith just because they don’t hold to the same moral beliefs as you.  Freedom of religion, as stated in the U.S. Constitution, also implies the freedom to have different religions, or even freedom from religion.  It implies freedom of conscience.

The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution was enacted in order to prevent this country becoming a theocracy, as were most countries of Europe at the time, where Kings reigned by the grace of God.  The Founding Fathers,  in whose memories of the vicious religious wars of scant generations past were still a powerful and terrible memory, created the Establishment Clause to forestall just such terrible religious inspired strife in this country.

Today we see our society polarized by religiously motivated groups on the right who would push their vision of a Christian nation under their particular god upon all of us.  Their titular political arm, the Republican party, which once fought against religiously supported slavery, has now become a tool for those who breed hatred against,  homosexuals, the poor, women, and the non-christian or non-religious.  Their justification?  Their religion.  Their Bible.

Their belief that their Bible tells them that homosexuality is a sin worthy of death(1) that the poor will always be with us(2) and will be rewarded in heaven(3) and therefore somehow can be ignored here on earth); that women must be silent(4) and submit to their husbands(5). They claim that their god is a god of love and mercy.  Their Bible, their words, and their actions show otherwise; that their God is an angry, merciless, and vengeful god and that they are a bigoted, racist, misogynistic people who use their holy book to foist their twisted view of morality on the rest of us.

 

We all have the right to our own religion, our own beliefs.  We all have the right to worship as we wish.  We do not have the right, none of us, is to have our beliefs put up on a pedestal that is above question, challenge or even ridicule.  What none of us has is the privilege of having our special religious beliefs, modes of worship, and morals elevated above those of anyone else.  The freedom of religion granted by the U.S. Constitution implies, above all, equality of all beliefs, where no one belief or religion, especially that of majority, is above any other.

 

1 Leviticus 18 and 20

2 Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, John 12:8

3 Matthew 5:3, Luke 6:20

4 1 Corinthians 14:34

5 1 Peter 3:5

February 19, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Feminism, GLBT, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Homophobia Rears it’s Ugly Head, Again.

Montana has wide open spaces, big sky, and homophobic bigots running their state legislature.   Commenting on the failure of a bill that would repeal a law that criminalizes homosexuality, Rep. Ken Peterson, R-Billings, says that the law, ruled unconstitutional  by the Montana Court in 1997, thinks that the law may still apply in some situations.

According to an article published in the Missoula Independent:

According Peterson, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, there are at least two prosecutable offenses—felonies punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $50,000 fine. One is the “recruitment” of non-gays. “Homosexuals can’t go out into the heterosexual community and try to recruit people, or try to enlist them in homosexual acts,” Peterson says. He provides an example: “‘Here, young man, your hormones are raging. Let’s go in this bedroom, and we’ll engage in some homosexual acts. You’ll find you like it.’” Peterson hasn’t actually seen this happen, he says, because “I don’t associate with that group of people at all… I’ve associated with mainstream people all my life.”

The other offense, in Peterson’s legal opinion, is the public display of homosexuality, since he believes the Supreme Court’s decision only applies to private acts behind closed doors. Being gay in public, he says, is a wholly different matter:

“In my mind, if they were engaging in acts in public that could be construed as homosexual, it would violate that statute. It has to be more than affection. It has to be overt homosexual acts of some kind or another… If kissing goes to that extent, yes. If it’s more than that, yes.”

Peterson says that he never intended to offend the LGBT community with his comments.  That’s like calling the Tuskegee Airmen, “A fine bunch of patriotic nig#$@s”, and being surprised that you caused them offense.

Other lawmakers were even more brazenly open with their homophobia; one opposing witness of the bill went so far as to say all pedophiles are either gay or bisexual.

What really gets me is the supreme arrogance of these people.  For a political group that claims it is fighting for less government interference in people’s lives, the Tea Party crowd sure likes to tell other people how to live their lives.  I guess it is one thing to have the government try to control the sale of guns, but completely another to have it tell you who you can love and who you can’t.  The hypocrisy is so blatantly obviously that I can only conclude that these people are either diabolical liars or so clueless that they have to wear hats to keep their brains from falling out.  It is like some Saturday Night Live sketch come to life and gone horribly wrong.  It would be funny except for the fact that these people are electing either liars or idiots to office.  Either way, it is us, the people, who lose.

May 2, 2011 Posted by | GLBT, Humanism, Social Justice | 4 Comments

   

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 391 other followers