Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Taking Sides

There has been a battle going on in the atheists/skeptical movement over the past year or so.  It is a battle about sexism.  I won’t go into the details because there are too many incidents and opinions to mention here.  For an introduction, if you are not familiar with what’s been happening, see PZ Myers’ blog post.  Make sure you visit the links there, and the links in those links.  

PZ feels that it is time to take sides, and I agree.

Sexism is wrong.  Rape is horrible and wrong.  Anyone who supports these things whether openly, through making excuses for them, or just pretending they don’t matter is wrong; period.  These people try to explain away sexism, to rationalize it, to excuse it in any way they can.  They make threats of violence, rape, and even death agains the women who come forward with their experiences of being victimized.  

These are the same people who claim to be rational.  They deride the religious for being irrational in their beliefs; for supporting and rationalizing their beliefs with senseless excuses and rationalizations while they do exactly the same thing in their defense and denial of sexism in the atheist and skeptical communities. 

These people are wrong and no amount of rationalization can change that.  They are immoral, plain and simple.

I take the side of every woman, all women, who live with sexism every day.  I take the side of inclusion.  I take the side of equality and fairness.  I take the side of humanism.  I take the side of what is right and moral; the idea that every woman has the right to not just be safe, but feel safe, at all atheist and skeptical conferences and events, to never have to live with threats of violence, rape, and death just for speaking out about their experiences with sexism.

These are painful times we are going through, but if we want to advance the causes of atheist and skepticism, we must clean our own house or we can never claim the high moral ground against the religious, who use their gods to claim the same.

We must demand of our conference organizers that they not invite speakers who are known to engage in sexist and predatory behavior.  We must demand that they bar these people from all conferences and events.   If they refuse, then we must refuse to attend their events and to contribute to their organizations.  We must insist that the CFI, the JREF, and all other atheist and skeptical organizations refuse these sexists and predators venues for their speeches and writings.  We must insist that they remove these people from their organizations.  If they don’t, then they don’t get our support or our money.  

As a society of atheists and skeptics, we must shun those sexist predators and all who support them.  This is not a war, but a boycott.  We must boycott their speeches, their appearances, their books, and their podcasts.     We must make them outcasts and pariahs.   

It is time to take sides.  If you truly care about your community and what it should stand for, then take the side of what is right and moral, or be left in the dustbin of history.

August 15, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Feminism, Humanism, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , | 3 Comments

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+: 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

Follow-up and Apology

I posted the other day about some comments DJ Grothe made about women feeling safe at TAM.  I was dismayed and angry about how his words were perceived as sexist.

I overreacted.  I’ve had a chance to read more from other sides of the issue and I can no longer stand by my condemnation of DJ.  He has done much to help the skeptical community become more inclusive and I was wrong to be so quick to judge him.

I let my emotions get the best of me.  I allowed my bias (the fact that Rebecca was the first one to really inspire me to become a skeptic) to get in the way of clear thinking.  Worst of all, I didn’t do any digging to find out more about all sides of the issue.  I didn’t use reason, but I let emotion guide my writing.  It was a disgraceful performance equal to the sloppy woo ridden drivel that I constantly rail about here.  

To DJ, and to all of my readers, I most sincerely apologize.

June 7, 2012 Posted by | Feminism, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , | 5 Comments

Paying For Sex With Your Taxes

Rush Limbaugh has sparked an intense controversy with his sexist, misogynistic, and immoral statements about Sandra Fluke’s testimony supporting mandated provision of contraceptives by health insurers.   Besides his horrendous comments and personal attacks against Sandra Fluke, his comments also begat a strange, terribly misinformed notion that American taxpayers are paying for women to get free contraception, in essence, we are all paying for women to have sex.

First of all, the foundation of this argument is totally bogus.  Taxpayers are not paying for anything here.  Insurers are paying for it.  These insurers pass the cost of free contraception (just as they do free pre-natal care, yearly physicals, etc) onto employers in the form of insurance premiums.  The employers then pay their portion of the premiums and the employee pays their’s.  Nowhere does the taxpayer pay one penny for contraceptives, except for government programs like Medicaid.

So Limbaugh’s argument, which is being taken up by the religious right, is false.  I might give him and others the benefit of doubt that they are just clueless, but I find it hard to believe that anyone in the public sphere, especially legislators, are ignorant of the reality.  They are simple liars, lying to promote their particular political agendas.

But, for sake of argument, let’s assume that Limbaugh’s argument it valid and that taxpayer money is being spent to provide contraceptives.  If that is the case, then it is no different than paying for Viagra for old, impotent men.  Why should we pay for these men to have sex?  There isn’t even any corollary argument for it, as with contraceptive.  Contraceptives prevent pregnancy, STDs (in the case of condoms), help some women regulate periods and treat ovarian cysts. Viagra has no other benefit except to give a man a hard-on.  So all these aging white men can stop getting viagra at taxpayer expense.  I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to pay for Rush Limbaugh to have sex, never mind actually watching him do it on video (as he suggested Sandra Fluke do).

Of course, the above argument is just a spurious as Limbaugh’s.  The real lesson here is that this is one more attempt by privileged men to control women.  The latest outrage is taking place in Arizona (that hotbed of radical religious inspired insanity).  Read Rebecca Watson’s take on the new law that would force doctors to lie to their female patients about the health of their unborn child.

If you don’t think that there is a war on women being waged by the religious right and the GOP (which have become one and the same), there have been dozens of similar attempts to allow the state to control a woman’s body.  For a party that claims that they are for less government and putting a stop to government’s intrusion into our personal lives, they sure don’t seem to think that applies to women.  I supposed that as long as the government isn’t trying to regulate your guns or property, everything else is fair game.

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Feminism, Religion, Social Justice | , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?  you might ask.  Well, in India, quite a bit, if you are a girl named “Nakusa” or “Nakushi,” which mean “unwanted” in Hindi.  In a heartwarming CBSNEWS World article, 285 girls changed their names to reflect a new beginning in their lives.

It is hard to imagine, in our society, that parents could choose such a cruel name for their child.  This  reflects, I think, the sad social insistence in many countries on having male children.

It is known that in many cultures in the past, baby girls were buried in the sand, thrown into rivers, lakes, and seas, or left out in the wilderness to die of exposure and starvation, or be eaten by wild animals.  Where this horrible concept that a female child is worthless came from is hard to understand.  Ok, I get the idea that many cultures desired male children for the purposes of inheritance, protection, wage earning, and so on.  Also, many of those same cultures required that the parents of a daughter pay a dowery when she married, which can be seen as a financial burden.  Still, why was no thought given to the fact that females are needed for reproduction, or that a marriage of a daughter to a man from a good family could be a benefit?  Then there is the most important reason of all to value daughters:  that hey are humans begins just as worthy of love and caring as any male.

These misogynistic ideas have their roots in a major change in human social development.

In their book, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá trace the origins of misogyny to the advent of agriculture, which “…changed everything about human society, from sexuality to politics to economics to health to diet to exercise patterns to work-versus-rest patterns. It introduced the notion of property into sexuality.” (Ryan and Jethá, 2010)

What we see here is the result of the male desire to secure a claim to property for himself and his offspring.  In order for this to work, the woman becomes property as well.  These attitudes have prevailed for close to 10,000 years even though there is really no longer any reason to treat woman as property.

We have made great strides toward sexual equality in the past 100 years or so, at least in the West.  I hope that the cross pollination of cultures we have seen in the past couple of decades will have a positive influence on less enlightens cultures around the world.  Until then, more girls will be shamefully labeled “unwanted”, both in practice as well as in name.

 

References:

Ryan, Christopher and Jethá, Cacilda, 2010, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, Harpers Collins

 

 

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Feminism, Social Justice | , , | Leave a comment

Women in Science

There is a very cool article on the Smithsonian web site called Ten Historic Female Scientists You Should Know. It is a wonderful example of the contribution of women to the sciences throughout history.

There are, of course (since they only listed 10), many more women who have played important role in the history of science. Here are just a few  of them:

Hypatia (b. ca. AD 350–370, d. March 415) was a Greek scholar from Alexandria, Egypt, head of the Platonist school at Alexandria and mathematician. As head of the Platonist school at Alexandria, she also taught philosophy and astronomy. As a Neoplatonist philosopher, she belonged to the mathematic tradition of the Academy of Athens, as represented by Eudoxus of Cnidus; she was of the intellectual school of the 3rd century thinker Plotinus, which encouraged logic and mathematical study in place of empirical enquiry and strongly encouraged law in place of nature. Hypatia lived in Roman Egypt, and was murdered by a Christian mob which accused her of causing religious turmoil.[9] Kathleen Wilder proposes that the murder of Hypatia marked the end of Classical antiquity, while Maria Dzielska and Christian Wildberg note that Hellenistic philosophy continued to flourish in the 5th and 6th centuries, and perhaps until the age of Justinian.  (Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia_of_Alexandria.)

Ada Byron – Considered by many as the first computer programer, man or woman.  She assisted Charles Babbage on his analytical engine, creating the first ever computer program for it that could calculate Bernoulli numbers.

Grace Hopper - Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy officer. A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language.[1][2][3][4][5] She conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is credited with popularizing the term “debugging” for fixing computer glitches (motivated by an actual moth removed from the computer). Because of the breadth of her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as “Amazing Grace”. (Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper)

These are just a small sample of woman scientists.  If you are interested in find out more about all the wonderful woman who have had a major impact on science, visit these links:

http://www.women-scientists-in-history.com/historia.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_science

http://womenshistory.about.com/od/airspacesciencemath/tp/Famous-Women-Scientists.htm

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Feminism, Science | , , , | Leave a comment

A Brief History of Women in Science, Told by Marie Curie

To all the girls and woman out there with even a hint of an interest in science; listen to Marie Curie (or at least her zombie).  You can change the world, as have many women before you (too bad men got all the credit, not to mention the Nobel prizes.  Grr!)

May 9, 2011 Posted by | Feminism | , , , | Leave a comment

If You Care About Women’s Rights, Vote for Obama

 

<!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } A:link { so-language: zxx } –>

Obama is running for reelection. I voted for Obama and I will do so again. It is not that I am particularly impressed with his tenure as President, I’m not. He has certainly not lived up to the vast majority of promises he made in his campaign. His failure to roll back much of Dubya’s disastrous social programs is disappointing, to say the least (I’m going with infuriating).

A friend of mine said that one of the reasons she will vote for him again is that he has already appointed two Supreme Court Justices to the high court and that appointments to the high court are possibely the most important, and certainly the longest lasting legacy, any President can hope to have.  Obama’s appointments are two women:

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Age: 56. Liberal.

Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Age 50. Presumed liberal.

There is also:

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Age: 77. Appointed by William Clinton in 1993. Liberal.

The reason these women are so important to have on the court (and given their ages we can hope to have all of them there for at least another decade, and two of them for many decades to come) is that we need these liberal, female judges to counteract the conservative bent of the current court.

This is vitally important given the current conservative war on women currently being waged in congress. A republican in the White House would be a disaster for the rights of every woman in this country. Women’s rights are in already in precarious position with laws being introduced in the House to limit women’s reproductive rights, including trying to redefine rape so that women and girls who are raped can’t get a legal abortion.

There is a huge push across this country by conservatives to strip women of their rights, from the national level all the way down to the local level. Even If these rights aren’t yet being limited legally, the idea of doing so is becoming culturally and socially acceptable.   When it becomes culturally and socially acceptable to curtail people’s rights, legal means to do so aren’t usually far behind. Just ask any Japanese American over the age of 60.  

April 4, 2011 Posted by | Feminism, Social Justice | , , , | 2 Comments

Pornography and Feminism – Why Woman Should Be Able to Watch Porn if They Want To.

NOTE:  I borrow heavily from a similar post on my personal blog, but hey, they are both my blogs so why reinvent the wheel?  WARNING: the descriptions of sex acts and the language there is explicit. If this bothers you, then I’d suggest avoiding it.

I’ve been wanting to do a post about pornography for a while now, but I just haven’t had the time.  This is a subject that I really haven’t had many discussions about with others, especially my female friends.  I am a firm believer that women have as much of a right as men to enjoy pornography if they wish.

One of the blogs I follow is Our Porn, Ourselves that has the tagline, “Women like to watch porn. Deal with it.” In their Origins section of the blog, they have the following to say:

For women who are pro-porn and all those who support us. WE are the answer to anti-porn feminists. All genders welcome.

A little further down we find:

We women are tired of people trying to control our sexuality by telling us what we should or shouldn’t like sexually (porn) based on what someone else thinks is best for us. It’s like keeping women in a perpetual state of being children about sex. And women who say they are feminists make it worse by discounting all the women who find porn to be an empowering sex toy. Or if not, to at least give us the benefit of the doubt that we can make that decision for ourselves, thank you very much.

Bravo!

The notion that porn is somehow bad for women is outdate (if it was ever valid to begin with).  Today there are plenty of women within the professional porn industry like Nina Hartley, Annie Sprinkle, and Sharon Mitchell who are dedicated to both producing porn for both women and couples. as well as advocating for the workers in the adult film industry, especially woman.  Sharon Mitchell, for example, is currently the Director of the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation, which she established in 1998.

These are woman who came into a male dominated business and took control of their lives, bodies, and careers.  They made sex, and watching sex, acceptable and enjoyable for women and couples alike. They are successful not only because they performed sex on screen, but because they worked their asses off to succeed business.  Just because it happens to be the business of sex doesn’t make their achievements any less admirable or important.

For people, especially feminists, to try to tell other woman that they shouldn’t watch, engage in, or support porn is as deeming to women as any possible degradation porn it’s self could be.  Real equality for women must include the right to choose to watch, support or participate in pornography if they wish.  It is a part of human sexuality that by extension makes it a part of female sexuality.  The desire to watch pornography is no different than the desire to engage in BDSM, water sports, role playing, strap-on, or any other “alternative” sexual activity.  Of course some of the very same people who rile against  pornography probably find these activities degrading to women as well.  What they fail to see is that it isn’t their choice.  By insisting that women are somehow unconsciously degraded by these acts is to call the very women they claim to support stupid, shallow, and weak minded.  What an insult!

 

 

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Feminism, Social Justice | , , , | 2 Comments

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 391 other followers