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.”
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 email@example.com, 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.
After the horrifying shootings at the Newtown, CT school, Bryan Fisher, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association proposed that God could have stopped the shootings, but didn’t because apparently it was God’s way of saying:
“Hey, I’d be glad to protect your children, but you have to invite me back into your world first. I’m not going to go where I’m not wanted. I am a gentleman.”
A Gentleman?! Fisher’s “gentleman” god sounds more like a child throwing a tantrum because he didn’t get what he wants. A gentleman doesn’t sit by while 20 children are killed in cold blood just because he wasn’t picked for the team on the playground. I will tell you who does act like this: a coward; a sociopath; a sick and twisted, sadist.
Fisher’s god is an iniquitous and malefic thug. A god who can stand by and allow 20 innocent children be massacred is not a god worthy of praise or worth following. If such a god does exist and wishes me to believe, never mind support, that the innocent must die for the sins of the guilty, then I will proudly stand before him and tell him to kiss my ass and to send me to hell. I’d rather spend an eternity in hell than give the slightest support to such a evil creature. I thought that Jesus was the innocent one who was supposed to died for all of our sins, or did he just not get it right and now God feels that he must allow tiny children to die instead in order to pay for the supposed ills of our society? Where does God’s mercy and forgiveness come into all this? Apparently it doesn’t.
The fact is that 20 innocent children and 7 adults are dead. They aren’t dead because God is punishing us. They aren’t gone forever because of homosexuality, secularism, evolution being taught in our schools, or Obambacare. There is only one reason that they are dead: because a man walked into to the school and shot them. Period.
I’m not going to try to make this a sermon about gun control, or better access to mental health care, or any other political or social issue. That is something that we, as a society, must decide to do something about (or, as is often the case, do nothing).
We like to try to place blame when terrible things happen to us. We can’t stand the thought that something so horrific could happen for no reason as all. The reality is that nature doesn’t care and the universe doesn’t care. They just are. We, on the other hand, can and do care. Instead of seeking a reason beyond the the simple one stated above, we need to care for each other, help each other, and most importantly, cherish each other, every moment of every day. We must stop worrying about what comes after this life and focus on living each day as if it were our last, because, as we’ve been seeing far to often lately, life can be taken from us in the blink of an eye.
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.
The Tea Party is the most dangerous threat to the American way of life and to American liberty its self than anything we’ve seen since the era of McCarthyism over 50 years ago. I’d say that they are an even greater threat. At least during McCarthyism we still held education, science, and technology in high esteem. In fact, it was science and technology that was going to save us from the communist threat. McCarthyism was a political motivated by a real fear of communist expansion (but that still didn’t justify the restriction of rights that occurred).
Fortunately, the majority of Americans do seem to believe in working together for a common goal and the common good. Unfortunately, most of them believe that we can accommodate the Tea Party and their ilk. The reason for this, I believe, is that most of these “other” American are Christian and this makes them reluctant to criticize other Christians. They buy into the anti-islamic, anti-atheist, anti-secular rhetoric of the Tea Party because they either don’t see the real threat or they are afraid to speak out. This is the same thing we saw in the Islamic world after the 9/11 attacks: the vast majority of Muslims abhorred there radicals who perpetrate acts to terror in the name of Islam, but they were afraid to speak out for fear of being branded an infidel or of breaking islamic unity.
The majority of Christian in this country are accomidationis. They believe that radical Christians can be reasoned with; can be accommodated; that compromises can be reached. Nothing can be further from the truth. Radical Christians, along with all religious radicals, can not be reasoned with or accommodated because for them this is a holy war, a fight against good and evil. As long as they believe that they are doing God’s work, nothing can make them compromise in the slightest thing.
Today, however, science and technology are viewed with great suspicion, even outright hostility by the religious right. This time, in contract to McCarthyism, the perceived enemy of the Tea Party crowd isn’t a foreign threat, it is other Americans. And unlike most of those within the secular movements, they have no room for compromise. You are either with them or against them. You can’t debate or argue them into changing their positions. Like most everyone who’s world view relies on blind faith and religious righteousness, they will never yield and never give up.
This is why I constantly speak out against religion being forced on us. This is why I continue to highlight the dangers and evils of religious thought and religious dogma that are passed off as patriotism. This is why I always try to highlight the delusion that is theism and supernaturalism, or magical thinking.
People use religion to foster hate and division. Those who are ardent believers can rationalize away any evil up to and including murder. If they are allowed to have their way, which they are getting more and more often, they would have this country become a Christian theocracy. Anything that goes against their religious laws will be punished, those of other religions will be discriminated against. Don’t believe it? Just google “christian theocracy in america”.
It is sad that the Tea Partiers had to take the Tea Party as their name. It is an insult to all those who took part in the actual, historical tea party. Those patriots fought for freedom from tyranny, not for the tyranny of a theocracy. They should have rightly called themselves the American Taliban, because they are no different in their aims of creating a Christian nation than the Taliban in Afghanistan are in creating an Islamic nation there.
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.
Use me as your profile picture on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or any other site of your choice.
September 4, 2012 Posted by James Walker | Atheism, Feminism, GLBT, Humanism, Social Justice | atheisim, Atheist, atheists, feminism, feminist, good, hate, homosexuality, love, religion, social justice | 1 Comment
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’ 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.
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,”
Many people have been posting on FB and in the other social media showing their support for Chick-fil-a. Good for them. What they are also doing is insinuating that the reason that people are boycotting Chick-fil-a is because the owner is a Christian.
Wrong. It is because the owner is, very publicly and openly, a homophobe. It has nothing to do with the owner being a Christian and has everything to do with hate and intolerance. As you know, I’m an atheist. Despite that, I still shop at Hobby Lobby and other well know Christian owned businesses, and I will continue to do so as long as they conduct their business in a, well, business like manner.
Alienating your customers is not good business. Publicly supporting intolerance against a specific segment of the population because their way of life goes against your religious beliefs is not just bad business, it’s stupid business. Why drive away customers who, up until now, probably didn’t care one way or another what you thought of homosexuals? But now that you have taken a stand, don’t be surprised that people suddenly don’t want to do business with you. And sure as hell don’t think that it’s because you are Christian.
I won’t eat at Chick-fil-a. Not because they are an openly Christian company, but because they are an openly bigoted one. It’s not about their religion, it’s about their hate. Pure and simple.
I stumbled into an unintended and upsetting FB conversation last night. It started with this:
So I commented that if you can’t afford food, you do.
What follows is the conversation that ensued. Much of the tone was expected, but some of it was a bit more… well, read on.
(The identities of the other commenters have been masked out, mainly to protect myself from being banned from FB for calling them cold, heartless, selfish, greedy bastards)
Ok, fair enough. Maybe she doesn’t understand that some people just find themselves in an unfortunate situations beyond their control. Although, I do abhor this whole “mooching off the taxpayers” crap. Doesn’t the U.S. Constitution say that one of the reasons that this government was created was to promote the general welfare? I’d think feeding those who need it part of the general welfare.
So I decided to pull from my own experience and give an example of why programs like Food Stamps are important.
She doesn’t seem to get the idea that I got laid off. I didn’t quite my job. I didn’t get fired for being a fuck up. I got laid off. That wasn’t a good enough excuse for her though.
Now the greed and avarice become plainly apparent. My comparison of paying taxes for food stamps to paying for fire departments didn’t fly. I guess if it doesn’t immediately benefit her, it isn’t a valid tax.
So I give a, sadly, too common example of how someone can find themselves and their children in a situation for which they have no responsibility at all. She never replied to my last point, but posted another pithy, pity-the-poor-tax-payer, image. Someone else, however, did respond. His response was as vile and repugnant as anything I’ve ever read.
Yeah. Read it again. If you aren’t angry enough to spit, then you better head off to Oz to ask the Great and Powerful Wizard for a heart.
I’m not going to go into why people feel like they can be such assholes when the have the anonymity of the internet to protect them, a recent article in Scientific America covers that topic pretty well. What really disgusts and, honestly, frightens me, is that even though this bastard might feel emboldened to write this due to not having to actually look anyone who needs assistance in the eye while saying it, he surely believes it.
People like this talk about entitlement programs like they are a plague out to bring ruin to them. They don’t like “entitlement” programs, but in reality, they are just trying to protect their own sense of entitlement. The feel that they are entitled to everything they have, which is fine, we all deserve to enjoy the fruits of our labor, but they also seem to think that they are entitled to tell others what they can and can not have.
Yes, we all pay taxes and none of us like everything our taxes go to. I don’t like that my taxes went to bail out a bunch of greedy fucks on Wall Street, but I think that the bail out was needed to keep us out of a depression. I didn’t like my taxes going to a completely unnecessary war in Iraq. We can’t just have our taxes go to only the things we like. Living in a democracy means that sometimes you have to accept things you don’t like. When one party controls the government by 51%, 49% of the people have to deal with a government that they didn’t vote for. This is the price of living in a free, democratic society.
But this example I’ve given here speaks to more than just the reality of living in a democracy, it highlights the uncaring, selfishness and cupidity that seems to permeate our society. The mood in our society is one of contumely and avarice. There is no sense of charity or caring for anyone but ourselves and our families. We have gone from a great society of Americans bound together by a shared vision of liberty and equality to a band of millions of small, insignificant familial tribes who care only for their own interests. We have become a society of cold, heartless, selfish, greedy bastards.
The Omaha Coalition for Reason recently put up a billboard here in Omaha. The billboard simply says, “Don’t Believe in God? Join the Club.” It doesn’t say, or even imply, a dislike or disdain for religion in general or Christianity in particular. It just says that it is ok to not believe in God. The message isn’t aimed at the faithful, but at non-theists who might feel alone because everyone around them are believers.
Still, some Christians take offense at the billboard. KMTV News quoted Emlyn Forsuh as saying, “I was raised to believe in god and now someone says they don’t believe in god so I don’t like it.” As the writer of this article say in response to Emlyn, “Too Damn Bad!”
I’ve written about all the billboards around Omaha with quotes from God that I am exposed to. If you read what I wrote there you’ll see that I am offended at these billboards. But I also say that we shouldn’t try to have these billboards removed (as some Christians have tried, and succeeded at getting atheist billboards removed or not put up at all).
Everyone has the right to free speech and if they are willing to pay to have a billboard put up to express their views, more power to them. What none of us have is the right to not be offended. Everyone is offended by something at some point. So what? There are people who are offended that Jews or blacks exist or have the same rights as they do. That doesn’t mean we have to put jews back in concentration camps or enslave blacks again just because someone is offended.
If you are offended about something, go ahead and say so, but don’t expect others not to be offended that you are offended. And definitely don’t expect everyone to give a crap that you are offended. In fact, rather than saying “too damn bad”, I just say, “so what?”.
I’m offended at those Christian billboards. I’m also offended by the junk mail and spam I get trying to sell me stuff. So what? My offense isn’t your problem, unless, of course, you try to impose your beliefs or will upon me. Then it becomes an equal rights issue because you are trying to force something upon me which I don’t want, while insisting that your beliefs be free from reproach.
So, put up your billboards, write your letters to the editor, blog about whatever you like. Just don’t expect others not be offended. Your rights to believe to what you believe does not extend to having those beliefs respected. I will (and do) gladly respect your right to your beliefs, but I do not have to respect your beliefs. All beliefs and ideas are open to criticism and ridicule, including my own.
If you don’t respect my beliefs, fine. Want to talk about it? Great. Discussing and debating ideas are how we learn about each other. But don’t expect me not be offended by what you say, because I sure expect you to be offended by what I have to say.
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
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