A Reintroduction

Hi all. I’m back after a bit of a self-imposed break from the internet. I’m going to do my best to get back to regular posting quickly, but given the restart of school and today’s release of the last book in the Wheel of Time series, that may not happen for a bit. We shall see.

In any case, I wanted to take some time not just to talk about the last piece I wrote before going on break, wherein I said some, well, controversial things about two big atheist organizations, but also to give the new readers here something of a reintroduction to who I am and why I think what I do. This blog’s readership isn’t huge yet, but it has exploded over the past four months as I’ve started posting regularly.

So, given that, hello again. My name is Andrew, and I’m a senior studying philosophy and art history at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. My work focuses on ethics, political philosophy, feminism, critical race theory, aesthetics, and how all of them intersect. I’m also, as you might have noticed, an atheist, and furthermore, I’m one of those super evil nonreligious people who think that nonbelievers, and everyone, for a matter of fact, should concern themselves with social justice issues and work to make the world a more just place. i.e. I want to kill your freeze peaches, MRA’s and associated enablers of oppression. To that end, I do activism in not just atheist spaces, but also in the realms of feminism, trans* issues, and race issues.

Regarding that, I write a lot about how the atheist movement works and why I feel it is lacking, particularly in the case of the larger, more recognizable groups like American Atheists and the Freedom from Religion Foundation, who I criticized for what I believe is lackluster activism in regards to their activities during the holiday season. There was a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, from a lot of spaces, some surprising, some far less so. I’m not going to go through and respond to every critic in this post, because I just do not have the willpower. Rather, I want to try to explain, in a bit greater detail, why I hold the beliefs I do about those groups, and why I think AA in particular is not doing good activism.

Firstly, I have argued in the past that atheism alone does not engender goodness, or a ethical selfhood. We know this by simple observation of the movement as it exists today; by any decent standard, the people who constantly harass Amy Davis Roth, Rebecca Watson, Melody Hensley, Sarah Moglia, and other feminist atheists, are not good people. They sometimes even put their targets’ safety at risk as did Justin Vacula when he posted Amy’s address on the internet, or thunderf00t did when he hacked FreethoughtBlogs and stole personal information of Natalie Reed’s. The people who do such things are only too proud declare themselves atheists, free of the religious dogma they so love to lampoon, and yet they act like middle school bullies.

I am not lumping Dave Silverman or Annie Laurie Gaylor in with them; I don’t particularly care for the Silverman’s style, but he’s not anywhere near the category that Vacula or Ed Clint are. I merely use the example to illustrate that atheism does not equal goodness automatically, which is a belief that both Silverman and Gaylor seem to hold. At least, this is what seems, to me, to be indicated by their advertising campaigns. American Atheists put up big, flashy, if not particularly well designed or copy edited, PR stunts to drive membership and attempt to bring people to atheism. The FFRF fights for the separation of church and state first and foremost, but also uses billboards to indicate to the average passerby that atheists do exist, are good people, and aren’t baby-eating monsters.

This is all well and good. I would be rightly pilloried were I to say that I didn’t want there to be more people holding a secular worldview in our society, or that I did not want the influence of religion to decline in our government and those elsewhere. However, where it seems Silverman simply wants to get our numbers up, to the point where he seems to deliberately misread statistics to claim there are far more American nonbelievers than there are, I want people to become members of the atheist movement for the right reasons. I want people to be attracted to atheism because atheists are good people who do good works, not simply because we all don’t believe in any gods. I want atheism to be a proper movement, one that works together with our natural allies to end oppression, rather than what it still is now, a white boys’ club that is hostile to traditionally marginalized groups like women, people of color, people outside the gender binary, and people with disabilities. Right now, most of the big atheist organizations are not doing that; they are making PR stunts, looking for numbers, not for complications. We need to convince people to join the secular movement because it is a good thing, because the movement is an ethical, change-driven one, not just because, as AA endlessly points out, religion is dumb.

To that end, what you are going to find on this blog is going to vary widely. I will probably talk about the newest snafus in the movement and try to analyze what goes on. I will talk about feminism, particularly regarding chivalry, on which I plan to have a series of posts coming in the next weeks. I will talk about queer issues, about ableism, about violence, about racism. I will use my training as a budding historian of art and architecture to show how aesthetics and how we interact with our world intersect and work to hold up systemic oppressions. I will attempt to prove to you, using evidence, reason, skepticism, and rationality, backed by my knowledge of philosophy and radical activism, how all of these things intersect, and why we cannot just simply look at religion as the cause of everything that is bad, but how we as atheists can work to bring down the whole structure of injustice and violence that we exist in.

Ambitious, I know. But I’m going to do my damnedest to live up to it. I hope you’ll stick around and join the conversation with me, and with my new coblogger who I will be introducing tomorrow. I hope you’ll agree with me that it’s one worth having.

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14 thoughts on “A Reintroduction

  1. I’ve been checking the atheism schism for a while now and I still don’t know what did Ed Clint do to Rebecca Watson, at least prior to the critique of her talk on EvoPsych, maybe something on a social media site.
    I did see her lumping him as a ‘date rapist’ after he did the critique by a very clever bait-and switch. This is my opinion, Andrew, If the “harrassees” -and I am using the definition lightly- had my sympathy before I starting researching the matter, some of them have outdone their critics in the dishonest tactics that they have engaged in themselves.
    You are a Philosophy student? Think about this:
    Be careful when you fight the monsters, lest you become one.
    Friedrich Nietzsche

    • What Ed did was trivialize sexual assault and declare himself a “serial rapist” on a Facebook thread. He constantly strawmans Ed Brayton on Facebook, and seems to be completely obsessed with Rebecca Watson, to the point where it’s getting creepy (though this last one is a trait that all Slymepitters seem to share).

      Also, as for monsters, thanks for the admittal that the MRA sect of atheism have no moral compass. I appreciate the Nietzschean concern trolling, really I do, but I assure you I’ll never become an apologist for rapists.

      • I don’t know Ed or have any close friendships with anyone on any side of the schism, but any public person will get some fair and unfair criticism, that’s just the nature of the game. I will not comment on what anyone puts on their facebook because I just don’t know. But, on that particular post that you refer to, and that I only know about because it appeared on Skepchick, if you follow the line of evidence all the way to the beginning, a discussion about a sitcom episode in which one of the characters initiates sex after having been drinking… Could a hypothetical discussion like this not degenerate into a person saying that they see no harm in a person having sex after drinking (maybe he refers to a glass of wine, two beers, how many?) and another person interpreting this as a rape apology.
        In the second paragraph, you make untrue assumptions about me or my intentions. you accuse me of existential concern trolling, and claim the moral high-ground by claiming that you are not a rape apologist.
        *slow clap* thanks!

      • No, actually, it can’t. Because when someone is drunk, they cannot consent. That’s not me being a preachy feminist, that’s the law. And Ed clearly said he saw no problem having sex with a drunk person; the trivializing came when he declared himself a serial rapist. He has shown time and again that he has no desire to engage with these issues in a fair, evenhanded way, nor has he ever, to my knowledge, admitted fault. So, yes, as long as he keeps making hurtful comments like those, I will continue to call him on it.

        Sorry, but when someone comes along and tells me I’m staring into the abyss, they’re either concern trolling or waaaaaaaaay too postmodern for me. Your comment came off as attempting to be profound and helpful and fell flat on its ass.

    • You’re lying. He criticized Rebecca’s overly simplistic and intentionally provocative tweet, which said that if someone is drunk they cannot consent to sex, so it is rape. She did not qualify at all how drunk someone would have to be before they could not consent. To all of us adults who have used alcohol and had sex, it understandably came across as absurd. People have sex under the influence of alcohol all the time without it amounting to “rape”. Watson trivializes sexual assault when she takes to twitter and makes intentionally vague, provocative statements she knows will start non-constructive Internet flame wars.

      There was a long discussion of this on Ed’s page, and Rebecca singled out a SINGLE comment, out of a thread at least fifty comments long, where Ed was *facetiously* playing with the simplistic “logic” in Watson’s original tweet. It was dishonest, and now you’re continuing it.

      She has yet to respond to Ed’s critical analysis of her problematic evo psych speech.

  2. Maybe is not to late for you, but I already see the abyss gazing back. I re-read to give you credit and some thing we may have a lot of agreement and some minor disagreements, but dishonesty is creeping, or maybe you deliverately misread the account of Thunderf00t hacking into FTBs. By going with your narration of the events would lead an uninformed reader to believe that he targeted Natalie Reed.
    If one of the “focuses of your work is ethics”, then put it in practice.

    • Well, he did target Natalie. Ignorant or not of what the leak of the information he stole would mean to her, he targeted her, along with every other person on FTB. You’d know that if you had read her post on the matter, or weren’t so willfully ignorant.

      It takes a giant cheek to talk about ethics, from where you’re standing. You stand with the people who would ruin people’s lives based on ego and intolerance. Go apply some of that skepticism that you all speak so highly of.

  3. Yes, from where I’m standing it takes huge cheeks to talk about ethics. Let’s do a word game, a mind experiment that philosophers enjoy:
    I’ll be the devil’s advocate, and assume that these people: Justin Vacula, Ed Clint, Thunderf00t and every-single-slymepitter are despicable characters and in the court of public opinion the righteous are against them.
    Now assume, the you are the prosecutor and without any uncertainty, a jury of their peer would declare them guilty.
    If this is the case, why not present the evidence without tampering? Why bring in false witnesses? Why ask leading questions?
    The guilty deserves a fair trail as much as the innocent. Otherwise, you are just making a mockery of the court of public opinion.
    I will disengage from this conversation, for your sake, because I believe your time would be better spent reading Spinoza.

  4. Andrew, do you have the full thread in which Ed made his comment? No you don’t. Therefore you simply do not have the context in which it was made. He was quote-mined. Quote-mined to look as bad as possible. When Ed made the comment he was discussing the generalised nature of Rebecca’s original tweet. Which simply said that anyone who is drunk cannot give consent and therefore it is rape. Note, she did not say too drunk too consent. She did note say blotto or smashed drunk. It simply stated that if they are drunk they are too drunk too give consent. It is an extremely broad statement which covers a swath of situations.

    For instance, my girlfriend has nights out with her friends every so often, she comes home and if I am still up we sometimes have sex, sometimes we don’t, it depends who we feel. But based on Rebecca’s generalised definition above, every time we did have sex, I was apparently raping her. So like Ed, I too am a rapist many times over. And is this too which he was referring too.

    I think labeling someone a rapist based on a quote-mine is reprehensible to say the least.

  5. Peter Ferguson here, for some odd reason I can’t login with my wordpress account again.

    That isn’t the thread where the quote Rebecca Watson used is taken from. Also even if you did have access to it, it still doesn’t mean she didn’t quote-mine him. And agreed, if someone is too drunk to consent, then that is rape, but that is not what Rebecca Watson said now is it?

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