A Refuge for Privileged Eccentrics

June 5, 2014

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.   

The Keep Health Care Safe and Secular campaign is underway. Our boss Ron Lindsay explains the reasoning behind the campaign:

Religious interference with the delivery of health care services is a serious matter—in some cases, a deadly serious matter. By all means, getting God off our currency would be a good thing, but frankly, it’s more of a priority to get God out of our physicians’ offices and our hospitals.

Ophelia Benson calls Safe & Secular "much needed." 

Ed Brayton points out the difference between CFI's activism on free expression and many Christian groups':

The Center for Inquiry has been pushing for the release of Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian woman in Sudan who has been sentenced to death by hanging for apostasy for refusing to renounce her religion. They’ve started email campaigns and protests over it contacted the Sudanese embassy over it. Can you think of a single instance where Christian groups that claim to fight for religious freedom, like the American Center for Law and Justice, have done anything like that on behalf of atheists like Albert Saber, Ben Baz and many others who have been imprisoned for blasphemy in Muslim countries?  

Stefano Bigliardi in Skeptical Inquirer delves into the strange world of Islamic creationism and its very prolific figurehead, Harun Yahya. 

Bakery in Saudi Arabia could be in trouble with the religious police for a cake that pokes fun at the religious police

This breaks my heart: Elmo is hawking homeopathy

But this is good: Lego celebrates women in science

Big kerfuffles in Boone County, Kentucky as Hemant Mehta's book gets passed out to students.

Sharpen your skepto-skills, folks. The Skeptic's Toolbox is coming in August

Rory Fenton encourages atheist students in the UK stand up for their rights:

There is no significant pressure from religious students to censor atheists and Humanists on campus, rather universities and unions are taking it upon themselves to be offended on behalf of religious students. 

The Murfreesboro mosque gets to stay right where it is after SCOTUS declines to hear the silly case against it. 

Yoga can't treat your asthma. No kidding. 

National Research Council report says NASA is definitely not on track to get humans on Mars

Tim Farley says forget Apple's WWDC (but Tim, third-party keyboards on iOS!!!!) and dig the work being done on the skeptic web:

It might surprise you to learn there is a great deal of peer-reviewed science going on around blogs, social media and other newer online technologies. Curiously, while I see skeptics blogging about studies in alt-med, psychology, biology or physics almost daily, I rarely see skeptic blog posts about studies on Internet technology.  

Tim also explores the various methods skepto-atheist event organizers are using to put on conferences. 

Some Catholic parents in Milwaukee are fuming over Common Core being introduced into Catholic schools, and are turning to home schooling. That seems like an overreaction to me.

The UN's next president (a largely ceremonial role) will be Uganda's Sam Kutesa, who has a bad record of corruption and big defender of the country's anti-gay laws. This seems like a bad pick.

On the other side, to keep parents from getting spooked by the evil Common Core, Cincinnati schools look to offer non-taxpayer-funded religious classes for school credit

Ben Radford's got a new book out: Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment

Llewllyn Hinkes-Jones says there is a crisis of scientists getting paid to sign their names to quackery and fraud in academic literature

Youth pastor in Virginia is charged with soliciting children for sex.

20 TV station owners in Pakistan get hauled before a judge for allegedly broadcasting something blasphemous

Apparently adulterers in the UK are more likely to be Christian than atheist, whatever that's worth. 

Convicted fake-psychic says she's still in prison because of discrimination against her as a disabled person

Steven Novella: Actually, no, don't delay vaccines for kids

Chobani yogurt says, "Nature got us to 100 calories, not scientists." What? 

Quote of the Day

Chris Hall at Salon on how the conversation about atheism has expanded to politics and social justice:

[I]n 2014, Hitchens is dead, and using Dawkins or Harris to make a case for or against atheism is about as relevant as writing about how Nirvana and Public Enemy are going to change pop music forever. ... But despite the organized hatefulness, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or just the malign neglect of old-school atheists, those who are demanding that atheism become more intersectional and diverse are not becoming silent or fading away into the background. It’s becoming more and more obvious that these critiques are essential if organized atheism is to transcend its stereotype as a refuge for privileged eccentrics.

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The Morning Heresy: "I actually read it." - Hemant Mehta


#1 Tim P. Farley on Thursday June 05, 2014 at 8:17am

Thanks for the links to my blog!  I love how that Chobani hashtag got hijacked - I’d missed that.

#2 Randy (Guest) on Saturday June 07, 2014 at 1:15am

“But despite the organized hatefulness, racism, misogyny, transphobia, or just the malign neglect of old-school atheists”

Citation needed.

Although I’ve been atheist for most of my life, it’s only in the last handful of years that I’ve discovered and connected with any atheist community.  So I can’t speak about the old-school.

The only significant hate that I’ve seen within this atheist community is from A+ feminists toward people who ask them legitimate questions for which they have no rational answer.  It isn’t merely hate though.  It’s accompanied by attempts to wipe people out… blocking them from internet fora they like, trying to ban them from real-world atheist events, and sometimes attempting to terminate their employment.  Ironically, I considered myself feminist until I saw this happen repeatedly to reasonable people, and now I oppose that same feminism.  As with religion, my “deconversion” happened after these incidents prompted me to read more of what feminists actually write, and I discovered it wasn’t what I thought it was (“women are people too”).  Being anti-feminist is often mislabeled as being misogynist, and I assume that is the mistake the author made.  I can’t think of any atheist who promoted male superiority, or a hatred of women, or violence toward women.  As with any large group, there probably are some, but plainly it’s insignificant, like the atheist murderers, and atheist bank robbers.

I have encountered just one atheist who nitpicks about labeling someone male or female, instead of simply taking the person’s preferred pronouns, and they are routinely called out on it.  As part of the larger society, we should expect some atheist transphobes, but this is hardly a defining feature of atheists, during a time when the larger society is even more slowly coming to terms with these issues.  This person’s transphobia is independent of their atheism, and this person’s rights are still being violated by religious people.  We are a big enough tent, and big enough people, to handle that.

Despite what creationist Christians always say about us, I can’t think of any cases of racism among popular atheists.  Surely it must happen, as we are in the same world as everyone else, but I don’t recall anything.  Would Neil deGrasse Tyson be the current cultural hero of a racist atheism, even as he says he rejects the atheist label?  Would atheists have been openly musing that Obama is a secret atheist, despite ever-increasing evidence to the contrary, if our movement was filled with racism?  It’s absurd.

While atheist organizations may not have learned yet how to message different communities more effectively, as a recruitment tool, it’s certainly not from hatred, but from lack of resources and experience (you HAVE seen the billboards, right?  this is not our strong suit) and a frequent distaste for the whole idea of recruitment (and being recruited) in the first place.

Yet, atheism is NOT other causes, and nor should it be.  Atheism, humanism, anti-theism, and skepticism are quite different things, and require different organizations to focus on their issues effectively.  If you want to be sure your child can eat without being indoctrinated by the chef, that’s an issue most of those groups could work on, without needing to limit it with categories of class and race and gender. Further, these groups could coordinate with established charities and professionals already addressing issues of class, and race, and gender to bring their expertise to the issue.  Forging reliable relationships that can be called on when issues overlap, while maintaining focus on our unique population, is the better way, particularly as we are still relatively young and can’t even convince a court that capital-G “God”, is indeed a religious concept, applicable to certain religions more than others.

On justice—Here’s a surprise: we’re not all going to agree on what the right thing to do is.  Justice means different things to different people, and that’s OK.  Atheism is compatible with libertarianism, communism, and North American liberalism (among others).  But these are not compatible with each other.  If you want politics, start an atheist political party.  Start an atheist “church”.  But don’t expect to be unopposed, by other atheists who are just as valid.

A+ promoters saw their audience shrink since its heyday, and it’s rarely talked about any more.  That’s the (old) news that the author seems willing to overlook.  Atheism survived the fracture and has moved on.

Stereotypes?  Let’s stop promoting them amongst ourselves, for a start.

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