The Morning Heresy 5/23/12: Your Bare Ankles Endanger My Immortal Soul

May 23, 2012

Your daily digest of relevant news and links from Paul Fidalgo

There's still a lot more digesting of the Women in Secularism conference in the atheosphere. One piece you're just going to have to read in its entirety is CFI chief Ron Lindsay's on his prime takeaway: we need more of these. I'm not going to blockquote it because you should read all of it. I know he's my boss and all, but it's true.

Ron laments the lack of male attendance at the conference (hey, I was there! I mean, I know I had to be there since I work for CFI, but I would have totally wanted to be there anyway, for reals) -- and Elyse at Skepchick looks at the broader theme of men's reticence to engage in anything with a hint of female-ness to it 

One comment that Jen McCreight made at her panel about commonly-showcased speakers who are also bad-actors toward women (not Hayden Christensen bad actors but those whose actions are bad) has begun a tough and unfortunately necessary discussion about how best to handle the issue, particularly for conference organizers.

Stephanie Zvan has a thoughtful post on some suggested guidelines which I think everyone should read

Lauren Lane at FA is wants to change the lens to a more broadly societal focus:

. . . I want to emphasize is that this is not purely a secular movement issue. It’s an overall issue, meaning that our small (but growing) community is a representation of the society that we all live in — one that does not always value women or respect their rights as individuals. 

Jen herself bounces off Stephanie's post, and expresses what is so difficult about bringing this issue to light:

Look at what happened to Rebecca Watson when she simply said “guys, don’t do that” about an anonymous conference attendee. Imagine the shitstorm if there were public accusations of sexual misconduct of some very famous speakers. I’m not ready for the flood of rape and death threats. I’m not ready to be blacklisted and have my atheist “career” ruined by people more powerful and influential than me. I’m not ready to be sued for libel or slander. I’m not ready for the SSA or other organizations I’m affiliated with to also be harmed by association. And that’s exactly how all of these other women feel – hence the silence 

Erika M. Johnson wants to name names, but tempers with this:

Naming and shaming should certainly not be the first step. Private conversations with these people have to come first. There will be resistance because it’s not easy being called out on doing something wrong. But these are our allies and we have to give them a chance to make amends. 

The fact that we have a prominent leader in our movement -- or anyone in our community -- who has to be concerned about a "flood of rape and death threats" has to be a screaming alarm for us to change our attitudes and confront reality. We are the reality-based community, after all. And we are also (many of us) humanists, and the fear and repression that this atmosphere represents is contrary to those values, contrary to basic morality, and is truly the very thing we as a community claim to be against when it comes in a religious context. I hope that a result of this discussion is not more vitriol and defensiveness, but a newfound resolve to act and make things better. We're hypocrites if we don't. 

Oh hey, let us introduce our overworked interns! Meet Stef McGraw and Tony Lakey

CFI's John Shook: Church-goers are an American minority. Wait, what? 

My latest piece at Friendly Atheist looks at what's scarier to New Jerseyans: God or the Jersey Devil 

Saudi Arabia is the last holdout among nations sending female athletes to the 2012 Olympics. (Hat tip to Ophelia.) I honestly don't know how they can in good conscience send men to the Olympics, since they will be the innocent victims of exposure to thousands upon thousands of women uncovered by scarves or burqas -- they will be visually assaulted by things like bare knees, ankles, arms, feet, and perhaps even bellies. Saudi Arabia should recognize that the immortal souls of their male athletes could be at risk. 

Meanwhile, here's Nasser Al-Sarami of Al-Arabiya on atheism in Saudi Arabia:

Holding those media [social networks] accountable betrays a great deal of ignorance since the reason for atheism is never the medium through which people voice their opinions. . . . we are not up against a wave of atheism like some people think, but rather an awareness crisis that springs for the traditional discourse’s inability to address the demands of modern times and younger generations and to become open to new ideas instead of resorting to repression and blaming freedom of expression for atheism.   

Look out for this, folks. Some pro-life and religious groups are gearing up for rallies on June 8 to "stand up for religious freedom," or, in other words, "stand up for church's freedom to dictate your sexual life." Insidiously (and not just insidious because they bastardize the term "religious freedom"), they are using the Obama campaign's all-caps "CHANGE" font all over their website so it looks, you know, hip and progressive-ish. Thanks to Jill Haughie for the tip.

Mark Turner at Friendly Atheist has a good analytical piece on this whole issue, and being from the UK, asks for a little help in understanding what the hell is going on over here 

Mr. Popey-head has been giving marching orders to the Legion of Doom on all of these hot button issues, warning his minions of a “threat of a season in which our fidelity to the Gospel may cost us dearly.”

Educators and religious groups are trying to come to terms with the fine line between religious bullying and free expression in schools, and their solution is a pamphlet. Solved! 

SETI founder to step back from searching for aliens to move to searching for dollars to fund the search for aliens 

NYT: Being black, liberal and mormon has its conflicts 

Stephen Prothero wonders at the impact Romney's Mormonism will yet have:

At least for now, evangelicals seem to have heard enough about Romney's faith. But given how little most Americans know about the LDS church, I suspect other voters are going to want to know more before they decide whether to replace the nation's first black president with its first Mormon one. 

FFRF fights Indiana tax subsidy for church's campus construction, Florida's American Atheists chapter are looking to nix a courthouse's Ten Commandments monument  

There's a "round, red ball of light" over this guy's house in San Antonio 

io9: That super-popular UFO video is really fake, even though you don't want it to be 

Oxford University and Switzerland's Lausanne Museum of Zoology are going to look for Bigfoot's DNA. Thank goodness. 

Now what was that other crazy-ass thing that turned up yesterday? Oh yeah. That North Carolina pastor who wants to round up the gays and put them in a zoo or something. 

Quote of the Day     

In Salon, Michael Lind diagnoses the flailing state of social conservatism:

Social conservatives are fighting a losing battle — not against a global secular humanist conspiracy, but against the social consequences of the pill, the automobile and the Internet. Short of reversing the industrial revolution, emptying the cities and restoring agrarian society . . . the best hope for social conservatives is to retreat to minority enclaves like those of the Amish. 

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. 

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