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.


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.

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


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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.  

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.


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!



Mother Fucker!

It is men like these that make me want to castrate and/or kill a significant percentage of my so-called “brothers”.  Brothers!  Blech!  Guys like this make me truly embarrassed to have a Y chromosome and a penis.  We need to supercharge our space program and create a penal colony on an asteroid and send every man who preys on a woman, wether physically, emotionally, sexually or financially there for the rest of their days to work in mines.  They don’t deserve the privilege of walking among others of their species.

Now that I have vented, let me say that we need to do whatever we can to help future generations of boys become men who value and appreciate the existence of 50% of their species who carry the X chromosome, not to mention carrying every single one of every person who ever has, is, or will be.   The real challenge, of course, is how to achieve this.  I try to do my part by, first, raising my children to see and appreciate the equality of men and woman.  I say equality in the sense of rights, opportunities,  and respect.  Second, I write about feminism from a man’s point of view hoping that others will see that a man can be a feminist while still being “a man” (whatever that means).  I try to call out men (and some women as well) when they perpetuate the stupid and corrosive sense of male privilege that permeates most societies around the world.

I am not perfect, as much as I try to see what I’ve called “male privlones” in myself as I was recently reminded.  It is all about mindfulness.  Mindfulness of our words and actions effect’s on others.  We all need to stop and think before we open our mouths, put words to media, or raise a hand.

Little Assumptions

I’m stealing my title from Jen McCreight over at Blag Hag. She links to a picture of a public transit advertisement at Geek Feminism Blog.


It’s hard to see, but the Post-It note to the lower right of the yellow box says, “My mom has a PhD in Math”.

Stereotypes are insidious. They are woven into the very fabric of our society. In this case, it is the idea that your mom (or grandma, as is often the case) is an uneducated stay-at-home type who only knows house keeping, raising children and organizing church bake sales and Girl Scout cookie sales. The truth, of course, is much different.

Most women I know, including mothers and grandmothers, are well educated, well informed, working (or retired) women. Most of them have been to college and those who haven’t have moved up in the workforce to positions of responsibility that require technical and/or analytical skills. In many cases, these “moms” would be the ones explaining how to solve the puzzle to the younglings.

We see ads like this all the time. We hear the same theme echoed in the media daily and think nothing of it. It is subtle prejudices like this that continue to undermine women’s progress in society.

What can we do about it? Every time we see something like this ad, we need to contact whoever placed it and let them know why it is wrong. We need to raise awareness with advertisers, media outlets, and anywhere else we see these “little assumptions” and let them know that they offend and that they are unintentionally perpetuating stereotypical prejudices against women.

I went to the ITA website, but couldn’t find an email address to send my concerns to, so I had to do it the old fashioned way. Here is a copy of the letter I wrote to them to raise their awareness about the stereotype they perpetuate in their ad.


For those of you who would like to share their concern with ITA Software, you can download a Word doc of my letter. Just add your name and address and mail it to the address at the top.

Comments on Atheism and Gender Equality

Here is an illuminating comment on my earlier post from a reader, Sas, and my reply:

  1. Thanks for this . I have been appalled by some men’s attitudes – I left Christianity hoping for an equal world and was horrified to see the same old crap in the atheist camp. ” girls are naturally less intelligent that’s why they go to church ” No you twat, church has free childcare and you don’t get touched up.Treat women right and they’ll join you.Also try to understand that liking men and sex doesn’t mean they will sleep with any man – ESP not the older ones who think we are gagging for a father figure…wpid-94fe68a35b9b4a2c0ba2445621a62470-2011-02-8-16-27.jpg Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
  2. Ps lots of men don’t like sex and will make you feel bad for asking for it. Strangely they lie about that to their male friends.wpid-6f2daef3a2c555a4bdb80036526e0f36-2011-02-8-16-27.jpg Comment by Sas | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply
  3. Sas, I agree with you completely. Men need to understand that just because a woman is sexually liberated doesn’t mean she will sleep with everyone, especially them. Yes, biology is powerful. Yes, males evolved to try to have sex with as many females as possible in order to pass on their genes. But to use this as an excuse to treat women solely as sexual objects is disingenuous and wrong. This only supports the theists’ contention that atheists are all amoral darwinists. We are moral creatures who have the benefit of intelligence and rational thought to rise above our evolutionary imperatives, especially when they interfere with our ability to responsibly interact with each other.wpid-402c429e71fcb15b380d58cd3ca72867-2011-02-8-16-27.jpg Comment by Jay Walker | February 8, 2011 | Edit | Reply

Atheism and Gender Equality (or lack thereof)

I read a guest blog post at Blag Hag by Sharon Moss, President of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio with Lyz Liddell, Director of Campus Organizing at the Secular Student Alliance, about their experience at the American Atheists’ Southeast Regional Atheist Meet in Huntsville, Alabama. In it, they explain the sexism they encounter while there.

What is ironic is that the sexist attitudes were most evident at a panel about how atheist organizations can attract more women. I’ll let them explain in their own words:

A panel of five guys and one woman discussed what an atheist group should do to attract more women. The all-too-common problem came up of a woman showing up to a meeting and every dude there hitting on her. First, the panelists grabbed a theme that had been floating around all weekend: that men hitting on women is just biological (therefore excusable), making it sound like a woman in that kind of situation should just STFU and get over it.

Then the moderator asked the women in the audience, as if it were a rewording of the same question, whether they would feel harassed or flattered if they showed up to an event and a few guys started flirting with them. We women in the audience, pressured to respond to the question at hand but feeling duped because we knew it wasn’t the same thing, gave an honest response. Sure, a few guys flirting with us is sexy. BUT!!! (we all screamed in our heads, even though the panel never let us say it out loud) 20 guys our father’s age blatantly staring at and talking to our cleavage is a totally different situation! It’s not sexy, it’s gross and creepy.

It was extremely frustrating. So I wasn’t surprised when the young woman who finally stood up and started challenging the panel snapped. First, despite her having her hand raised for most of the discussion, the panel never even acknowledged her or invited her opinion (despite soliciting the opinion of several guys both on and off the panel. Finally, she just stood up and started shouting to make her voice heard. Her question focused on the language the panel had been using – “female” instead of “woman,” and pointed out that it made us sound like livestock rather than people.

But did the panel address the question, perhaps looking for the point at which the discussion took on the word “female” so universally? Did they take the opportunity to discuss how things like language can make a group uncomfortable for women, and what we could do to make it better? No! The woman asking the question was viciously torn apart and ridiculed for even bringing it up. First, a combination of panelists and audience members tried to defend themselves by saying that feminists won’t let men use the word “women” off-limits because it has “men” in it. Then a commotion of everyone talking at once, which was cut off by one panelist’s definitive comment: “What do you want us to say, ‘the weaker sex?”

She got upset (and who wouldn’t be?) and left the room. I – a member of the audience, not one of the event organizers – went after her. While there were a few odd calls from the audience for the panelist to apologize, the moderator sort of awkwardly pushed the discussion on to a new topic, with an embarrassed air of “Sorry for the disturbance.” No apology, no discussing a better way it could have been handled. Not even a joking “This is how *not* to be welcoming” comment. Just “nothing to see here, move along.”
From there, the conversation wandered into a weird discussion about how men’s biology drives them to frequently (if not constantly) pursue sex, and since it’s biology, no one should get upset at, judge, or think less of men for any skirt-chasing they might engage in. (Because we never intellectually overcome our animal instincts in other areas of our biology, right?) The attitude in the room shifted: suddenly women were the bad guys for saying no to men’s propositions because it denies the men’s innate biology. Most of the guys in the room loved it, but as a woman in the audience – it was really uncomfortable. It was demeaning, frustrating, and not what you want to say to attract more women into this movement. And the attitude stuck around.

All these people got presented with a totally skewed perspective on our movement’s views on gender equality and sexuality. The message was loud and clear: it’s totally ok for guys to be assholes. Women should just STFU when men treat them like sex objects. The appropriate way to solve the problem of gender imbalance is to ask a bunch of guys about it (oh, and the entire problem is just because women won’t let men have sex with them whenever they want to). The way to handle women’s input is to ridicule them.

This whole experience would be laughable, like something from a bad Saturday Night Live skit, if it weren’t for the fact that it really happened, and happened in the context of a discussion of how to attract more women to the atheist movement.

This sort of thing makes me ashamed to be a man, not to mention a white, middle-aged, male atheist, and rightly so. The insufferable sense of male privilege permeates the description of the conference and I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a woman in attendance. I can tell you that had I been there I certainly would have, for one, apologized for my insensitive and idiotic fellow white males, and then I would have ripped them a new one for being to fatuously insensitive to 30% of the audience present.

I believe that if atheist organizations want to make their organizations more open and welcoming to women, they need to, first and foremost, actively seek out women to be, not just members, but organizers. I know, that is putting the cart before then horse, but they must at lease try to truly understand the discrimination and sexism that woman face in our society. They need to educate themselves on this subject and take what they learn to heart.

There is no excuse for these kinds of sexist attitudes or behavior at an atheist conference, unless these are some kind of male only atheist organizations, in which case, who needs them?

Religion Kills Another Child

In Bangladesh, a religious cleric ordered a 14 year old girl to be given 100 lashes with a bamboo pole for supposedly having an illicit relationship with a married cousin. The man’s wife said that she saw the girl speaking to her husband near their home and notified the village cleric who order the husband and the girl to undergo the punishment of 100 lashes. The girl collapsed half way through the beating and was taken to hospital where she died a week later.

If this weren’t horrifying enough, the wife tried to claim that her husband was raping the girl and upon hearing the girl’s cries, the wife ran in and began beating the girl. Let me repeat that. Upon supposedly hearing a 14 year old girl being raped by her husband, the wife said that she ran in and beat the girl! The police aren’t buying that story, but what does it say about these people that she would think that beating the girl who was being raped was actually justification for her death?

This incident speaks volumes about the almost non-human status of woman in many religions and cultures. While it may be true that some of the attitude toward women is cultural, it is almost always supported by religious writings and teachings.

Wether the girl was just talking to her cousin, who is a male relative after all, or if there was an illicit relationship ilvolved, murder is not an appropriate punishment, especially for a young, impressionable 14 year old child.

I am reminded of a quote by Nobel laureate and physicist Steven Weinberg:

        “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil – but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”