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This Week: Replacing Belief

SEXISM! IT EXISTS AMONGST AND BETWEEN ATHEISTS!

Blogs and podcasts are afire! We’ve seen hedging and hard-lining, demands and ultimatums, compromises, questions, excuses, and judgment all around one issue: the treatment of women in the atheist community.

I can’t say I’ve been hesitant to join the conversation. I can say I’ve been repulsed. I am so uncomfortable with the tone of the discourse surrounding these events and discussions that I’ve wanted nothing to do with them. But as a reader of blogs, an occasional conference speaker, an educator, and an engaged Humanist, I haven’t been able to avoid exposure to the discussions. Now I’m diving in, reputation be damned. So here goes.

What’s been happening?  Over the past year, prominent bloggers/speakers in the freethought community have been drawing attention to issues of sexism, sexual predation, and gendered power dynamics as they play out at conferences, conventions, at meetups, and online.  The discussion has been raw in many cases.

JREF President DJ Grothe wrote about why he thinks the discourse is “well-meaning” but “misguided, clumsy, and irresponsible,” and gave evidence to support that the vast majority TAM attendees report feeling welcome and don’t report assault or harassment.  He was lambasted over and over again.

One blog commenter with a male name lamented that if one doesn’t meet ideological standards of FreeThoughtBlogs (and I’ll add: by extension the Freethought community), you are labeled:

1. sexist; 2. misogynist; 3. a harrassment enabler; 4. a rape enabler; 5. a rape culture enabler; 6. an MRA zealot; 7. a Slimepit Denizen™; 8. an anti-feminist; 9. a liar; 10. a derailer; 11. a troll.

Approximately 1 hour after his post, readers were informed that the poster was a known troll from other Freethought Blogs and had been banned. I know not of the poster’s previous online behavior. However, his list and DJ’s points gave me pause.

They summed up everything I’m afraid of being labeled if I speak/write on this issue, and it’s everything I’ve seen males be labeled as they raise questions, respond to posts on the topic of sexual harrassment/predation, and answer questions posed by bloggers. And I’m speaking about men I know personally, whom I respect, and who respect me, in addition to posters unknown to me.

I am a woman. I have attended and spoken at conferences. I have diligently and thoughtfully explored and studied issues of sexism, privilege, social constructs, diversity, and equity. I was steeped in a college culture that, despite being single-sex, eschews gender binaries and celebrates women as integral components in all levels of society. I am a product of a college whose founder intended her institution to serve as “a perennial blessing to the country and the world” for educating women, a college whose tradition “educates women of promise for lives of distinction.” I continue to explore and study these issues as an educator dedicated to equitable opportunity and the ideals of egalitarian responsibility, and atheism/Humanism is a natural home for many seeking to be free of religion’s tendency to reinforce negative gender stereotypes and rigid gender roles through dogma.

That said, I am struck by the dogma that characterizes the discourse surrounding the issue of sexual harassment at atheist conferences. When prominent religious voices espouse dogma, we spot it and denigrate the thinking behind it with ease. I can’t help but listen in disbelief (ha!) as my female peers—gulp—dogmatically insist that any gathering worth its spit adopt and publicize a strict policy, indignantly assign sexual predation to entire categories of people (men), unflinchingly insist that speakers who make romantic advances are inherently abusive, and reactively denigrate and dismiss those who question the tone or content of these cries. Is our womanhood and feminism so holy that we cannot and will not open ourselves to criticism, discussion, and questions? Because the tone I’ve seen is unforgiving:

Also, did you just express “skepticism” over this? It’s a completely uncontroversial statement.

And capitalizes on turning shame on an entire social movement[emphasis mine]:

Naming and shaming only works in an atmosphere that has some shame itself. This movement does have some, but not enough.

-Almost Diamonds

The tone of feminist discourse cannot afford to be dogmatic if it is to succeed in the atheist community.  It cannot afford to engage in shaming tactics that were so insidiously used against those of us who escaped religion.

Skeptics are just that: skeptical. We’re primed and poised for argumentation. We’re not socialized by some construct to be that way; we socialize ourselves as such. Proverbial laying-down-of-the-law will only serve to alienate, not ally. Stating vaguely that there are men who women should avoid because they are predatory only serves to create a culture of paranoia, not partnership—at least not amongst and between men and women. What I do see forming is partnership between scared and/or indignant women against those who find the discourse unpalatable and increasingly destructive.

I in no way deny that physical assaults and sexual harassment are unwanted, problematic, and should be eliminated. Based on statistics alone, I’ve no doubt these have occurred between active atheists. I don’t intend to sweep women aside, nor to ignore cases of intentional predation, nor to devalue discussion on the role of women in the freethought movement. To that end, I am buoyed by bloggers (here and here) who seem to be expanding the discussion to focus on comfort and safety for all: gay men, those with disabilities, those questioning their faith in secret. And I’m buoyed by those who address the questioners who are so summarily attacked or booted from comment threads with posts and discussion about the intricacies of social, sexual, and romantic interaction (here, here). It alarms me that the voices I find affinity with on this topic are largely male; it does not bode well for the diversity of female voices in our movement.

So, does all this make me a sexist, trolling, lying, enabler of harassment and rape culture? Or perhaps a bad feminist? I’ll have a hard time abandoning my Seven Sisters heritage, but if the new Good Atheist Feminist is characterized by reverence for some holy sacrament of outrage, I will settle for the latter.

Categories:
Opinion

About the Author: Becky Friedman

Becky works on the Ask An Atheist production team, frequently appears on episodes, and lends her voice to commercial announcements. She speaks Spanish, works as an educator in the Seattle-Tacoma area, and sits on the Board of Humanists of Washington.

Feedback and Commentary

45 Comments 1 Trackback
Thomas Lawson June 7, 2012 at 8:52 pm

If there’s a metaphorical lifeboat encapsulating everything you’ve just said, then I am in said lifeboat.

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 12:24 am

A classic text-book case of the oppressed becoming the oppressor.
Most of the bloggers on the now egregiously falsely name “Free Thought Blogs” have devolved into that which they set out to combat:
An un-self-skeptical, dogmatic theocratic fascist cult, where no dissent from the random contradictory nonsensical fiats from the Sainted Hierarchy Above (yes PZ, I mean you) is brooked.

Toe the party line, or they’ll burn you as a witch.
They might even do that based on patently absurd rumour alone. Or even less.

They are less observant than Lois Lane.

It is like the mental shock that is akin to witnessing the fervently righteous zeal of medieval Monks in mutual self-flagellation.

Malky June 8, 2012 at 12:29 am

I have been following all this on the web (mainly as a lurker) and couldn’t agree more with your summary above.

DT June 8, 2012 at 12:53 am

Well, what is a rose by any other name? So you get called a gender traitor, and mra, or a slimepit denizen (do stop by, the party is always growing, and we have potato cats).

Every time I have seen those words, I have actually checked to see what has warranted it, and nearly always the person doing the name calling ends up lacking credibility.

Can I guarantee others will be as reasonable? Unfortunately no. Should a movement of sceptics strive to scrutinise such name calling? Definitely.

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 1:22 am

DT, you make a remarkably poetic observation with your Shakespearean allusion.
But not is all slings and arrows for: terms originally designed as pejoratives, such as Slime-Pit-Denizen®, have evolved into badges-of-honour amongst the crusty residue of true free-thinkers, and the rejectors of lazy clone-like-robotic-iCult slacktivist popularity fads.

(Such as has been distilled into FfTB acolytes. “Distilled”, because the hazing processes boils off the rational independent thinkers, and leave the filthy residue, or alchemic DROSS; dross who by definition are neither rational, nor free-thinking, nor intellectually independent, nor even ‘grown-up’.)

Yes.
I wear my “Slime-Pit Denizen” Badge with outstanding pride!
It is a signal honour bestowed upon independent adult free-thinkers who refuse to toe the communist Ass. Prof Myers’/Greta Christina/Rebecca Watson party-line.

Kal-el H June 8, 2012 at 2:16 am

Lifelong atheist, but didn’t realize until recently how big the online community was. One of the first things I noticed was the huge overlap between the LGBT and feminist movements. Unfortunately this was just as that ‘elevator’ thing got started. I know it’s not P.C. to say so, but as a guy, that totally soured it for me and now I usually steer clear and let the more vocal people roast each other.

Jeff June 8, 2012 at 2:22 am

I’m turned off by the whole issue and find myself avoiding blogs because of it. I also believe it has no place being discussed so constantly on atheist websites, unless somebody is proposing that the problem is somehow worse in the atheist community. Otherwise, it’s a human issue across all communities, and is therefore no more relevant than to point out that some atheists cheat on their partners.

And I cannot believe how much of a hard-on people have for this issue. In the past few years, my girlfriend has been flashed multiple times, including by a guy who jumped out from behind a house at night before running away, and was even full-on crotch-groped by a handicapped guy in a convenience store. Neither she nor I have the enormous chip on our shoulders that some bloggers, male and female, have for this issue.

Please, please, please, let’s move on. Call it out in the time and place that it’s actually happening, but don’t bring it to the blog space constantly. I fear we’re seeing the start of the atheist community’s Great Schism, and it doesn’t even have anything to do with what we should be discussing.

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 2:38 am

Jeff:
Quite.
A ‘lack of theism’ has absolutely nought to do with neither feminism, nor anti-Calithumpianism, or Whatever-ism.
And the sooner the FfTB droogs realise this, the better.

rebecca June 8, 2012 at 2:49 am

I hope to publicly dispel any impression that I align myself with Mr. Gray’s positions. His rhetoric is incredibly damaging and offensive. I do not find the words of my peers to be “dross.” It is the issue of feminism on which I am critical. Ask an Atheist has happily hosted Dr. Myers and Greta Christina.

My intention is to change the current discourse into something constructive and open–something that I believe freethought bloggers actually *do* want. We’re seeking answers and solutions that improve the climate; my contention is that the current approach works at cross purposes to egalitarian outcomes.

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 3:09 am

His rhetoric is incredibly damaging and offensive

You, perchance, might find the time to justify these extraordinary concrete claims?
Incredibly Damaging to whom? (And why?)
Incredibly offensive to whom? (And why?)

Sam June 8, 2012 at 3:42 am

MKG:

I don’t know if you’re from FTB, or some other place so I can’t place you in a larger context. However, here on Ask an Atheist and right out of the gate you’re describing Watson and Myers as theocrats, fascists, communists, and cult-members.

These words mean things. These meanings are at odds with what we know about them, regardless of our opinions about how they choose to address feminism within the freethought context. At best, your claims about Waston and Myers are unsubstantiated, so in response to your request for justification, I can only ask that you put your money where your mouth is and justify your claims.

More likely, you’re just transparently using these claims as Power Words to heap scorn about people you dislike and disagree with, and your requests for justification are a defensive tactic for when you’re challenged. This is not interesting.

The entire point of Becky’s post is that she wants to move the main brunt of atheist feminist discussion to a more positive, constructive footing. If you think Becky’s disagreement with the dominant methodologies are worthwhile, you might want to consider her opinions as well as her fear that she’ll be outcast by the people behind these methodologies.

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 4:19 am

I address the anonymous “Sam”, despite that my remark was intedd as a response to Becky, but I shall let that rest in the interest of productive conversation.

I don’t know if you’re from FTB, or some other place so I can’t place you in a larger context.

And that means what, exactly? How is that supposed to add to our intercourse?
That you are unwilling or unable to simply cut-and-paste my globally unique name into a search-engine and press enter?
I think not. I suspect that you are laying a transparent pattern of plausible deniability, for subsequent deployment.

However, here on Ask an Atheist and right out of the gate

What do you imply by that remark “right out of the gate?” Where are the rules about how I must gently introduce a topic?
I did not spot them as a pre-requisite for responding, and that may well be my fault. I would be most obliged should you see your way toward showing me such rules, thank you. I am always willing to learn.

…you’re describing Watson and Myers as theocrats, fascists, communists, and cult-members.

Yes! Yes I am.

These words mean things.

Quite, and I mean them as per their dictionary definitions.

These meanings are at odds with what we know about them,

Who, EXACTLY, are the collective “we” to whom you refer? I shall not be satisfied unless you answer this startlingly simple question unequivocally.

…regardless of our opinions about how they choose to address feminism within the freethought context.

You commit the the fallacy of the unsubstantiated assumption that such is (in fact) what they are actually doing.

At best, your claims about Waston and Myers are unsubstantiated, so in response to your request for justification, I can only ask that you put your money where your mouth is and justify your claims.

Iam certainly able, but not sure whether it warrants the effort. What guarantee do I have that when I formally list their respective assaults against Free-thought, that you might reject them out-of-hand? This is a GENUINE inquiry, by the way. I really wish to know if extensive research effort on my behalf will be dismissed out-of-hand due to ideology.

More likely, you’re just transparently using these claims as Power Words to heap scorn about people you dislike and disagree with, and your requests for justification are a defensive tactic for when you’re challenged. This is not interesting.

An insightful and cogent analysis of my potential motivation, I’ll give you that.
It happens to be incorrect in this case.

The entire point of Becky’s post is that she wants to move the main brunt of atheist feminist discussion to a more positive, constructive footing. If you think Becky’s disagreement with the dominant methodologies are worthwhile, you might want to consider her opinions as well as her fear that she’ll be outcast by the people behind these methodologies.

I’ll have to take your word for it regarding your mind-reading of Becky’s intent.
Alas, I do not possess such occult powers.
But, as I see it, (if you have mind-read her correctly), Becky sees short-term political goals as exceeding my goals of “Truth & Reality beats comity any day”.
Cheers.

Jeff June 8, 2012 at 5:25 am

Wow, I rest my case. This has to stop.

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 5:39 am

Jeff, I agree most wholeheartedly.

The Devil's Towelboy June 8, 2012 at 6:01 am

Rebecca: My intention is to change the current discourse into something constructive and open–something that I believe freethought bloggers actually *do* want.

Good grief. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I believe DJ Grothe *also* believed that. Look at the way they are mutilating him. They have not listened to anything he has said – instead there is nothing other than misquotation, misrepresentation and wholesale slander. Ophelia Benson is comparing TAM to Nazi Germany, while Greta Christina is tweet-bombing nonsense like “Rebecca Watson pulling out of TAM.Not okay w/ DJ Grothe blaming women for speaking about harassment” where Grothe has NO CHANCE to defend himself. Meanwhile, PZ Myers himself is launching his second assault to destroy Abbie Smith/ERV professionally via his gopher Greg Laden posting formal, and spurious, complaint letters to anyone who’ll listen. You really don’t know what you are dealing with do you? These are the secular McCarthyists – the House Un-atheist Activities Committee. Play your cards right, and next victim tossed into the colloseum will be you. They aren’t fussy as long as there is a victim to create a spectacle out of.

Sam June 8, 2012 at 6:12 am

Again, to MKG:

And that means what, exactly? How is that supposed to add to our intercourse?
That you are unwilling or unable to simply cut-and-paste my globally unique name into a search-engine and press enter?

What it means is that I’m setting the context to the only what you’ve said here. It’s clear from *your* context that this is an ongoing concern, so I thought I would begin by setting the context. I’m taking you at your words, said here.

Meanwhile, if you’ll forgive me for not googling your name, I’ll forgive you for not checking our cast list.

I am certainly able, but not sure whether it warrants the effort.

Then your claims remain baseless, and the best policy is to ignore what you say.

*You are* making claims, the onus is upon *you* to prove it. You can’t pretend ignorance here: you just used this gambit on Becky earlier in the comment thread. You don’t get to make wild unsubstantiated claims about people (or anything) and not expect to be challenged.

Meanwhile, I’ve since corrected my earlier error of not looking you up. You say you’re holding back effort because you GENUINELY want us to consider your evidence, but labeling us “Ask an Ideolouge” isn’t exactly evidence of good faith or genuineness.

I’ll have to take your word for it regarding your mind-reading of Becky’s intent.
Alas, I do not possess such occult powers.

Not mind-reading, just regular-style-reading. To wit, from comment 9823:

My intention is to change the current discourse into something constructive and open–something that I believe freethought bloggers actually *do* want. We’re seeking answers and solutions that improve the climate; my contention is that the current approach works at cross purposes to egalitarian outcomes.

I’ll get to the point: shit or get off the pot.

If you believe in truth and reality over comity, give us that truth and reality. Give us a basis for your claims– otherwise, you have neither truth, reality, or well-meaningness.

Meanwhile, I’ll stop pretending to ignore that you’re making personal attacks and moving away from the core of the argument: where do you stand on feminism? Where do you stand on real and potential sexism within the freethought community?

A jackass with big words is still a jackass.

Erik June 8, 2012 at 6:26 am

I think both sides are wrong here. DJ Grothe almost got it right, he should admit that harassment is a problem, but then go on to make it known that it is not the norm among attendees. The other side is inadvertently harming their cause. Psychologically it has been shown in studies that pointing out the cases that it does happen actually causes it to happen more as it becomes the norm. For instance there was a study done of national parks they did different trails and put different littering signs up. The one that told people how much littering there was actually saw a rise in littering. The one that told people that while littering does happen, the majority of people do not litter saw a decrease in littering. This held true in a study of hotel towel reuse. The people who were told about how many others don’t do it saw a decrease in the activity. My point is the people on this side have their hearts in the right place and it is a problem(even if its only happening a little, it shouldn’t happen at all), but their strategy may backfire.

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 6:47 am

To the (still) shamelessly and cowardly anonymous “Sam”

What it means is that I’m setting the context to the only what[sic] you’ve said here. It’s clear from *your* context that this is an ongoing concern, so I thought I would begin by setting the context.

I think that I understand ‘where you are coming from’, but am a trifle unsure…
What do you mean by the passive “this is”?
It could mean several contradictory things.
Please excuse me. I am autistic.

Meanwhile, if you’ll forgive me for not googling your name,

No. Not ‘forgiven’ whatever that snide aside means.
Not forgiven in any shape nor manner, sir.
It is your bounden duty, when randomly casting libellous aspersions, to perform the most cursory detective-work as slacktivism will allow.

I’ll forgive you for not checking our cast list.

Oh! Congratters old chap!
An ad hominem combined with an incipient tu quoque!
Then your claims remain baseless, and the best policy is to ignore what you say.
*You are* making claims, the onus is upon *you* to prove it.
Quite correct.
All that I am requesting is an earnest pledge of faith that you you(? anonymous as you are) would treat my efforts fairly, and ensure that I do not waste my time, (again, and again)
That is all that I ask in order for you to garner a positive response.
A simple pledge that you will analyse my responses in a skeptical manner. OK?

You can’t pretend ignorance here: you just used this gambit on Becky earlier in the comment thread. You don’t get to make wild unsubstantiated claims about people (or anything) and not expect to be challenged.

I concur.

…where do you stand on feminism?

I am a radical equity feminist.

Where do you stand on real and potential sexism within the freethought community?

There is no such thing as either the artificial construct as a “freethought community, nor does equity feminism have any meaningful correlation to any concept that I am able to image involving “freethought”.
To ask such a question labels ones-self as such implies a level of category-confusion that frankly boggles the mind.

A jackass with big words is still a jackass.

Yep, again, I agree 100%. Out of the mouths of babes.

Jeff June 8, 2012 at 6:57 am

Michael, I don’t think Sam is anonymous. And I think there is a very good reason he knows Becky’s intent better than most.

Sam June 8, 2012 at 7:03 am

Jeff:

Correct, I’m not anonymous, but changing my nick to make the point is not trivial. And while I do have Becky’s ear more than most others, I’m only working with what she’s written. Might spoil this week’s show otherwise.

Jeff June 8, 2012 at 7:10 am

Sam, why are you (AanA) promoting this kind of infighting by posting about it? This topic needs to die as quickly as possible. It’s only causing damage to us, and for what? It’s irrelevant. I have a blog too, not as big as your show of course, and this topic is banned (meaning I won’t be posting about it and giving it any more life than it already has).

That said, I’m not a fan of the hard time Michael is giving you. He may have some points, but has exaggerated them to an extreme and I find his attitude over-the-top and unhelpful. You can practically taste the poison in his writing.

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 7:11 am

Jeff:

Michael, I don’t think Sam is anonymous.

Utterly fascinating.
And utterly irrelevant.
Unless you are able to reliably reveal his adult identity.
After all, you all have the opportunity, should you desire, of knowing EXACTLY who I am, without having to leave your keyboards.
I cannot say the same about my “brave” interlocutors.

And I think there is a very good reason he knows Becky’s intent better than most.

Do you now?
And how does that revelation help to propel this intercourse in a forward direction, eh?
Just asking, as that is the point of the original post.

Jeff June 8, 2012 at 7:21 am

You’re here and you seriously don’t know who Sam is? You will owe him an apology for the “shamelessly and cowardly” remark. It would take you less time to figure out who Sam is from your keyboard than it would take us to find you. Your attitude is absolutely horrible, and that’s coming from a guy who frequently gets told how horrible his attitude is. I’ve only “known” you for a couple of hours or so, but you have one of the most extreme personalities I’ve ever encountered.

Dude, chill.

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 7:22 am

Jeff:(#9837)

That said, I’m not a fan of the hard time Michael is giving you. He may have some points, but has exaggerated them to an extreme and I find his attitude over-the-top and unhelpful.

You are most perspicacious, Sir!
For I find that guarded exaggeration and extreme hyperbole is able to motivate swift change.

You can practically taste the poison in his writing.

Again! A wonderful description, nay: distillation of my intentionally invective prose, aimed at those more obtuse than thee (Sir Knight).
From this diagnostic characteristic, I do
not aver, sir.

Jeff June 8, 2012 at 7:30 am

And if you truly agree with me that this needs to stop, then STOP! Why do you keep attacking, attacking, attacking!? Sam and Becky do a tremendous amount of work for the benefit of our community, and they deserve some slack, credit and respect. You’re treating them like trash.

Chill, get some sleep.

Sam June 8, 2012 at 7:30 am

Sam, why are you (AanA) promoting this kind of infighting by posting about it? This topic needs to die as quickly as possible. It’s only causing damage to us, and for what? It’s irrelevant. I have a blog too, not as big as your show of course, and this topic is banned (meaning I won’t be posting about it and giving it any more life than it already has).

For the most part, while we’ve a fair amount of material about feminism, we’ve stayed away from this nexus of personal controversy. But the infighting exists in the atheism community, and it’s reached a point where someone on Ask an Atheist felt the need to talk about it.

We can’t discuss the infighting without inviting it to sit at the table with us for a little while. So here we are. After all, I’ve always said we’d talk about atheism, “warts and all”.

CommanderTuvok June 8, 2012 at 7:44 am

Re: Sam’s anonymity.

Always name names…

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 7:55 am

Sam:

For the most part, while we’ve a fair amount of material about feminism, we’ve stayed away from this nexus of personal controversy. But the infighting exists in the atheism community, and it’s reached a point where someone on Ask an Atheist felt the need to talk about it.
We can’t discuss the infighting without inviting it to sit at the table with us for a little while. So here we are. After all, I’ve always said we’d talk about atheism, “warts and all”.

Good point(s), well put.
I contend:
1. Feminism & a-theism are un-correlated concepts, save for historical conflation.
2. That I, or anyone else for that matter, is made to feel quite unwelcome because they challenge your orthodoxy, or received dogma on subjects quite unrelated to ‘a lack of theism’, is both disturbingly pervasive, and becoming an orthodox ‘meme’ that one ‘should’ follow if one wishes to be accepted into the fold of the cult.

Kooky Atheist Raelian? You’re excluded from the clique.
Slime-pit Denizen? You’re excluded from the clique.
Vote Republican? You’re excluded from the clique.
Own a Humvee? You’re excluded from the clique.

‘Tis not I, an independent non-US free-thinker who needs to get a grip, it is the gaggle of wannabe hordes of privileged podgy white Yanks who need to check their cocksure arrogance at the door.
Free-Thinking?
Hah!

Michael Kingsford Gray June 8, 2012 at 8:30 am

It would take you less time to figure out who Sam is from your keyboard than it would take us to find you.

Au contraire mon petit m.
I have searched for “Sam” with almost no concrete results.
Bags that ‘almost’. Zero concrete results.
I am a newbie to your clique, and I expected better.
That is my fault, I admit.
I expect that, as an Atheist, posing a conundrum to “Ask An Atheist”, I should have been more gently treated, even if I had been a raving Islamist, or Baptist.
You guys have a great ‘bedside manner’.
Tell neophytes who are essentially ‘on your side’ to fuck themselves sideways with a rusty porcupine.
Or at least that is how it FELT to me.

Ask an Atheist a question?
One may as well shag a barbed-wire G-String, for all the civility of a reply will get you.

Parge June 8, 2012 at 9:19 am

I toyed with the idea of jumping in here as a mediator. I liked the gist of the post and was glad to see the sentiment popping up somewhere other than the blogs of the usual suspects.

I hope to publicly dispel any impression that I align myself with Mr. Gray’s positions. His rhetoric is incredibly damaging and offensive.

I assure you that Mr. Gray, contrary to your assertion, is a person with whom you have actually aligned yourself, like it or not. You may not like his tone, and I can’t rightly assume that it has been born out of the wanton absence of civility over at FTB. If it has though, it has been earned many times over. You see, if he does take a swipe at you with lyrical invective, he will have done so by – or after – making a point. Unlike some at FTB, he won’t try to discredit your position with some ad-hominem talking point, telling you to check your privilege or calling you a misogynist or an MRA. He will address what you’ve written and defend his position first with sound arguments. And – and this might surprise you – if he finds that he has put himself in an untenable position, he will retreat. On FTB, he’d be shot for cowardice.

Now, strangely, my description of Michael may sound a little like a skeptic. As a few of you might have noticed, that is the whole point of that tediously long thread over at ERV. But read it. Read every last jot of it. If you do, you will see why it’s there. And you’ll notice that ever embarrassing tangent of disagreement on that thread still exists, unedited, undeleted. No one has been blocked or banned. Points are challenged. Bullshit is called out. It exists as the pure antithesis of the lion’s share of FTB.

He doesn’t need me to defend him though. He does quite well by himself. I just think it’d be a shame to find others who finally came to the conclusion that “Freethought Blogs” was a misnomer, only to be run over by the welcome wagon.

And please:

A jackass with big words is still a jackass.

Can we not throw anti-intellectualism into the mix?

Oh, and while you’re at it, you might want to check out the Phawrongula Wiki or Grey Lining. Bunch of the same people. Bunch of the same tone. But lots and lots of facts and links and tools used to dispel myths. Good stuff. But that’s one man’s opinion.

Sam June 8, 2012 at 9:29 am

MKG:

You’re getting as good as you’re giving. We believe in “equal response”, and that’s what I’m doing. And I do mean “we”, that you haven’t figured out who I am by now is either some sort of conversational gambit or a severe lack of reading comprehension and contextual understanding.

Either way, let’s have an end to it: I am a producer for this radio show. I am on it frequently. Any further than that is irrelevant because I’m not some sort of atheist rock star. Either what I’m saying is meaningful or it isn’t.

Meanwhile, on one hand you say that “Truth & Reality beats comity any day”, but complain when you I ask you to substantiate your claims and think you’re a jerk when you say you don’t have the time or energy?

Right.

I have made no claims. Ad hominem? Not really, I don’t think my opinion on your potential jackass-hood invalidates any claims you made. The fact that you’ve not substantiated anything invalidates your claims. Until you substantiate them.

Sam June 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

This also goes for everyone else:

If you’re making claims about people in the atheism blogosphere, provide some evidence. In this case it is not just a demand for rigor, it might get used on the show.

Sam June 8, 2012 at 9:46 am

Parge:

Can we not throw anti-intellectualism into the mix?

There’s a difference between anti-intellectualism and using vocabulary as a cloak. A big lexicon does not necessarily mean a good intellect or strong arguments.

Parge June 8, 2012 at 10:00 am

There’s a difference between anti-intellectualism and using vocabulary as a cloak. A big lexicon does not necessarily mean a good intellect or strong arguments.

Yes, but the comment was a double-layered ad hominem. Well, sort of. He’ll freely admit he’s a jackass. It’s the “big words” part that bugs me. I see it as trying to discredit what he’s saying by the way that he says it. You probably don’t believe you’re doing that. That’s just the way it reads. But claiming he uses his vocabulary as a cloak? As a rhetorical tool, maybe. It seems ingenuous to claim he’s hiding behind his prose. A big lexicon does not necessarily mean a poor intellect or weak arguments either. It’s a matter of personal expression.

Sam June 8, 2012 at 10:15 am

Parge:

You’re clearly his friend, and I think it clouds it a bit. I do not know him. All I see is someone making ridiculous claims, and when called upon to back them up, he gets wordy and vaguely insulting. Yeah, I’d call it a lexical cloak.

Parge June 8, 2012 at 11:16 am

Friends? Acquaintances at best. I like him and most of what he writes, and for all I know he likes me back. This is the Internet. I can’t claim anyone as a friend until I’ve hugged them IRL. We share common cause and ooze in the same Slime Pit. My opinions are not clouded by my association with him. He and others on ERV have trundled down many an untenable alleyway as I spoke of above, and I had no reservations about disagreeing with them (though may not have bothered to care about speaking up about it at the time). Though to rescue my besmirched objectivity, I may have to do that at this time. As far as ridiculous claims go, I have only seen one on this thread – that of your anonymity. Of course if he would have just clicked that goddamned “Cast” link at the top, he would have figured it out. Hell, he may have been purposely obtuse to wind you up. One shouldn’t drink and debate.

As for the rest, follow those linkies I provided and draw your own conclusions. It’s a lot to digest. If you have specific objections, address them to the author.

Sam June 8, 2012 at 11:37 am

I will. Thank you.

KiwiInOz June 8, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Hi Sam and Becky. I had never heard about AAA until I read it on ERV’s truly endless thread. I like what I’ve seen so far.

I’m a dabbler in the Slimepit, having given up on Pharyngula after watching it become a travesty, and the very thing it started out deriding. Abyss, stare, meet thy selves.

The denizens of the pit love arguing, slaughtering and bbq-ing sacred cows, and ranging lyrical from truly juvenile to very high brow.

Most do not take themselves seriously, but are serious about challenging anything, with evidence and logic. (The rest of us are just there for the music, bad taste jokes, and sausage rolls).

MKG, for example, is razor sharp, and loves playing with words, phrases, and left field allusions (as do I). He seems to expect the same standards in arguments of himself as he does of others. Call him on bullshit and he will self correct.

Jeff June 9, 2012 at 5:48 pm

“MKG, for example, is razor sharp, and loves playing with words, phrases, and left field allusions (as do I). He seems to expect the same standards in arguments of himself as he does of others.”

I think he’s just an ass who gets off on treating other people badly, is too lazy to click the Cast button to learn who Sam is (seriously, he didn’t even have to leave this website), and puts way too much meaning into whether or not people post everything online with their full name and photo attached to it. Does he honestly not know why he’s asked to leave the “clique”? It’s because he’s intolerable. If he’s like that in real life, I feel sorry for people who have to put up with him. He owes Sam a major apology for his “shameless” and “coward” comments.

Jeff June 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm

And next he’ll probably go to the Atheist Experience website and wonder why this guy who keeps posting as “Matt D.” won’t reveal his last name.

Fabricio June 9, 2012 at 8:37 pm

LOL at the guy not realizing who this anonymous “Sam” guy may be. This is Grade-A comedic material.

Next thing, he will realize that he really doesn’t know who this “Becky” chick is. Or what this “Ask An Atheist” site is. Or what this “planet Earth” really is.

On topic: Thank you, Becky-whoever-you-may-be, for pointing exactly how stupid and boring all this bullshit became.

Fabricio June 9, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Oh well, PZ Meyers, Rebeca Watson, Greta Christina et al are in the web to show us that Nietzche was (again) right. “He who fights monsters…”

I’m such a fanboy for Nietzche and his ridiculous mustache and his self-empowering, anti-Christian philosophy, that I raelly can’t get that mad with them. Please continue to show that the Mr. N was right all along, guys and gals!

KiwiInOz June 9, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Jeff 2 #9879 – my perception and your perception are not necessarily mutually exclusive! :-)

My perception is coloured by knowing that he is further along the Asperger’s spectrum than myself, so perhaps I excuse some of his intolerability. His rules of engagement are his rules of engagement.

So the choices are:
1) ignore
2) address based on own rules of engagement
3) address based on his rules of engagement
4) understand his rules and adapt strategy accordingly
5) say, piss off, these are my rules and this is my house

I disagree with his interpretation of the intent and actions of Sam and Becky, and will say so on ERV after I have finished the report I’m currently working on.

Sam June 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Closing the thread in favor of this week’s episode post:

http://askanatheist.tv/2012/06/10/the-problem-of-dogmatic-feminism/

Ask An Atheist » A Response to Ophelia Benson December 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm

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