The Morning Heresy 4/18/12: Jumping About Like Mountain Goats

April 18, 2012

Your daily digest of relevant news and links from Paul Fidalgo

CFI's John Shook on the struggle with labels and "the whole belief thing" for atheists, humanists, etc., etc. 

Relatedly, Leah Libresco explains her frustration with the humanist label 

Ophelia Benson calls out an "anonymous bully" on the RDF boards dissing the Women in Secularism conference

Author's note: Look, people, and yes guys, I'm talking to you specifically. This conference is not about "separating" women from men, it's about having the spine as a movement to say that women deal with prejudices and oppression that are unique to them, thanks to religion, and at the same time recognizing that our own community has a LOT of work to do in how we treat, acknowledge, and highlight our female half. It's not a conference exclusively FOR women, but yes, about them. Our boss Ron Lindsay says men absolutely should attend. PZ Myers says men should attend. And I'm telling you, too. If you think it's a problem to have a conference like this, I challenge you to buy a ticket, show your face, and talk about it like a grownup. No more nameless Internet thuggery. 

And guess what? There are super-cheap student prices for registration, and if you want to help send more students, you can donate

Okay, back to the links. 

Via Hemant: Eastern Connecticut Atheist and Freethinker Fellowship offering science for Bibles!

Try to follow this logic: "Environmentalism" allegedly has some hallmarks of religion, and since we can't teach religious dogma instead of science in schools, why should we teach environmentalism? Yeah, I know.

Stephanie Zvan praises CFI for our support of Unite Women (thank you, Stephanie!) 

The Advocate's video series looks at the history and misunderstanding of church-state separation

Kansas City Star's positive coverage of "Ask an Atheist/Ask a Christian" event 

Though I am sickened to give any page views to the Daily Caller, I must: Illinois bishop says Obama on a "similar path" to that of Hitler and Stalin 

Meanwhile, the Bishops take a pause on attacking Obama and go after the Ryan Budget for being too hard on the poor 

Asian Human Rights Commission reports on:

". . . the arrest and trial of Alexander Aan, a 31-year-old civil servant in Padang, West Sumatra [Indonesia], who was arrested for posting a status on Facebook questioning the existence of god and administering a Facebook group called Ateis Minang (Minang Atheists). He is also being charged for uploading a note and comic depicting and insulting Prophet Muhammad. He has been indicted with three charges, including for disseminating religious hatred on the internet, which might lead to six-years imprisonment."  

Amnesty International demands unconditional release of Indonesian Shiite man detained for blasphemy after anti-Shiite mob attacks his village 

AI also fighting to keep Kuwaiti Twitter-blasphemer from receiving the death penalty 

AP: Judge to decide on merits of NASA's firing of Intelligent Design-espousing employee

LiveScience: Stonehenge's younger sister

Seattle reverend gets applause for refusing to back anti-gay referendum 

BUT! New Tennessee bill (yes, Tennessee again) looks to ban any mention of homosexuality in schools 

Neurologica: "Homeopaths (and CAM proponents in general) want to rely on weak evidence, because rigorous evidence does not support their fairy tales."  

Smart Company advice column on outing oneself as an atheist to a wide-eyed employee 

Another arrest sought in psychic bilking of poor old lady 

Arkansas man offers his house in exchange for Bigfoot 

Canadian fashions Bigfoot footwear 

AP: AU asks Reno County, Kansas commission to stop with the prayers at meetings 

Via Ed Brayton: the late Amy Winehouse "waving her magic wand" from Heaven as she talks to her family via psychic medium 

Quote of the Day  

Moscow State University paleontologist Valentina Nazarova, on the alleged discovery of eggs in Chechnya:

"Dinosaurs didn't lay eggs while jumping about like mountain goats."

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI . Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is. 

Follow CFI on Twitter: @center4inquiry 

Got a tip for the Heresy? Send it to press(at)! 


#1 SimonSays on Wednesday April 18, 2012 at 7:45am

I challenge you to buy a ticket, show your face, and talk about it like a grownup. No more nameless Internet thuggery.

Heck, I’d settle for talking about it like a grownup period!

#2 Ophelia Benson on Wednesday April 18, 2012 at 10:19am

Yeah! Thanks for that, Paul.

#3 Syd LeRoy on Wednesday April 18, 2012 at 8:41pm

Paul. This.

#4 Paul the Morning Heretic on Thursday April 19, 2012 at 6:45am

Thanks, y’all.

#5 Steersman on Sunday April 22, 2012 at 3:09pm

Great “blog” – I think I’ll have to put it on my required reading list.

But relative to today’s post, I’m happy to see the scheduling of the forthcoming Women in Secularism conference and will be looking forward to reading about what transpires there. As you said, the case is quite clear that “women deal with prejudices and oppression that are unique to them”. Although I would argue that that is not due entirely just to religion – which the history of feminism and the social benefits derived therefrom, illustrates rather well. For example, the Canadian suffragette Nellie McClung asserted that “no nation rises higher than its women”. Which one might extend by asserting that the same applies to every political and social movement.

However, one might reasonably ask whether the topics to be discussed at the conference will include the problematic features of feminism itself, particularly as they relate to the atheist and secular humanist communities.  And, generally speaking, I would say that the book Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women by the noted author and former philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers – who I see is apparently and unfortunately not one of the speakers at that conference – provides a credible overview of some of those features. For instance, she faults “gender feminism” [my sex, right or wrong], as opposed to “equity feminism” [equal civil rights], because of:

… its irrational hostility to men, its recklessness with facts and statistics, and its inability to take seriously the possibility that the sexes are equal—but different.

And, more specifically, one might reasonably argue that, within the atheist and secular humanist communities at least, the tendency to meet any criticism of women with dismissive accusations of misogyny probably qualifies as a case in point. While there are, no doubt and quite regrettably, more than a few cases of actions of people in those communities which might be so characterized, I would say that it is a serious stretch, and rank stereotyping, to argue that all such criticisms qualify as that in spite of being so characterized.

For instance, Ophelia Benson’s description of a poster on RDF as an “anonymous bully” seems decidedly over-the-top and looks more like an effort to shut someone down rather than deal with the issues raised. For one thing, virtually everyone on that site, as on many similar ones, was and is anonymous. In addition, Wikipedia describes bullying as “a form of aggressive behaviour manifested by the use of force or coercion to affect others”. Rather questionable, and highly problematic, sensibilities to characterize someone’s verbal argument on a forum largely open to the free exchange of opinions as “bullying” – particularly as I thought those posts discussed a few of the aforementioned problematic aspects, even if they betrayed a few questionable stereotypes of their own.

Considering the quite reasonable efforts of many in the atheist and secular humanist communities to champion free speech, I would say that it is decidedly incongruous, if not a case of shooting oneself in the foot, to be attempting to silence those who disagree with one’s own precepts and values. If free speech is to mean anything it has to mean the freedom of others to criticize our own positions.

#6 SimonSays on Sunday April 22, 2012 at 4:46pm

Steersman: Re: what are the topics being discussed at the Women in Secularism conference, see here:

Re: Ophelia Benson, my understanding is she has her own blog and presumably you could discuss this matter over there…

#7 Steersman on Monday April 23, 2012 at 1:39am

SimonSays (#6),

Thanks for the schedule – didn’t see it earlier. And while I don’t see a lot that is going to be addressing the concerns mentioned, there is a talk by Susan Jacoby – who I see is apparently affiliated with the CFI – titled “The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement: Let’s Look in the Mirror” which is a hopeful sign. Although one might hope that all concerned will be motivated more by reason and honest reflection than by vanity ….

Thanks also for the reference to Ophelia Benson’s blog. However, since Paul Fidalgo prefaced the quite reasonable plug for the Women in Secularism conference by characterizing some apparently reasonable criticism of it as “dissing”, and since that was in turn based on Benson’s evaluation, I thought it was appropriate and justified to raise some questions here about the credibility of that evaluation and the degree to which it might be typical of some negative aspects of feminism.

Seems to me that feminism itself is anything but a monolithic belief system or set of principles, and that there are more than a few somewhat contradictory but fairly large “sects” within it. And while I certainly don’t have a great handle on all of those and their various ramifications it also appears that they might have some relevance to the topic that Jacoby is planning to address.

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