Religion

Atheism, Youth, and One Unicorn Drawing

Warning: this is negative. I’ll try to perk it up a bit with cute pictures and bitter sarcasm.

Yesterday I was in Manhattan at a Daniel Dennett lecture sponsored by the Society for Ethical Culture and Center for Inquiry. It seemed like a pretty good turnout for a stormy Saturday afternoon — mostly older white fellows, of course, but whatever, I’m used to it. Just before the event began, the seat immediately next to mine was filled by one more older white fellow, who happened to smell like he was wearing a coat made of dirty gym socks. I mean, it was bad. My eyes started to water.

My new smelly friend went on to be one of maybe three men with obvious difficulties interacting with people in social situations, like when he had the nerve to lean into me and yell, “WHAT?” when I whispered something to my companion on my left. The other guys would randomly shout something while others were speaking and just generally be weird. It really made me think about how a new person might be less than likely to return to a group like that, particularly if the new person was of the sane, young, and/or female variety.

I had a lot of time to consider how we can deal with people like that in order to make events more friendly to newcomers, since the first hour of the Dennett event was devoted to playing two episodes of The Atheism Tapes, some kind of incredibly powerful video-based sedative available for purchase. It’s a series of interviews with atheists, and the first episode was Colin McGinn, who seems like a very intelligent and well-spoken man. He went over all the basics of philosophical discussion of atheism, like the ontological argument. It will probably be interesting to some people, but I’ve heard it all before and this format was unbearably dry. By the time that episode was over, the smell and boredom were too much and I left to go shopping. I didn’t get to see Dennett, but I got a really cute dress.

As I exited the Shops at Columbus Circle, I was happy to see a table manned by three guys representing New York City Atheists. We chatted for a little while about how to get more women involved in their organization, before I had to get back to the Dennett talk. I gave them my card and they gave me their most recent newsletter.

Well, today I had a long bus ride during which to read and consider the newsletter. And I am so totally horrified.

If you’re curious, you can read it as a PDF here, or you can just take my word for it, but holy mythical god is this insulting. One large section is the “Editor’s Q and A,” in which Julie from Brooklyn writes:

I enjoyed the performance of your play about Madalyn Murray O’Hair, The Most Hated Woman in America, on April 13 at Joe Franklin’s Comedy Club but I wondered why there were only a few people there my age. I’m 27. Everybody in the audience seemed older than me.

Fair enough concern, and one that many people have voiced and tried to solve, when it comes to atheist groups and skeptic groups. The editor (listed as Jane Everhart on the newsletter) responds by first suggesting that the play was about a woman who would be 89 today, and so many of the people who knew of her when she was alive are now a bit older, themselves. A good point, I think.

Sadly she doesn’t stop there. She goes on to list atheists who happen to be old, or who, um, were old before they died, like George Bernard Shaw, Paul Newman, Katherine Hepburn, and Andy Rooney. That sort of makes no sense in regards to Julie’s note, but okay. The editor concludes her list with, “Tell me, wouldn’t you rather converse with Jane Fonda, who has really lived, than, say, a Britney Spears?”

What?

No, seriously, what? What does Britney Spears have to do with anything? And what makes the editor think I have a damned thing to say to Jane Fonda? And why are we talking about this at all?

The next paragraph is all about the notable seniors who were in the audience at the play, including a retired detective, a travel agent, two professors, someone on O’Hair’s board of directors, and three millionaires. Three! Again, had she stopped there, I could have chalked that up to a slightly misplaced desire to inform young’uns that older people can be interesting, valuable members of society. Sadly, she follows it up with this gem: “I suggest you consider the possibility that it might have been more stimulating to talk to these people than to some recent grad on his first entry-level job.”

Oh no she didn’t. (Yes, she did.)

The funny thing is that by this point, I realized that the editor was totally giving us a very good reason for why there weren’t many young people in attendance — because the attitude of at least one older person is condescending and disrespectful. It’s absurd to dismiss a person in his late 20s as “some recent grad on his first entry-level job,” and then suggest that Julie just go make friends with Mr. Burns instead of trying to solve the problem of too few young people attending events.

I happen to be the same age as Julie and I think that I make a pretty good conversationalist. I mean, sure, I’m not ancient, but my inability to recall the Eisenhower administration or dive into a vault of gold coins Scrooge McDuck-style shouldn’t discourage anyone, young or old, from walking up to me and starting a conversation. Unless you smell like gym socks, then please don’t.

The final part of the editor’s answer is perhaps the least connected to reality. She describes “young people,” in general, as jaded, pseudo-sophisticated, confused, too urbane to picket, too embarrassed to march, and too “duped and bamboozled by TV and greed and false authorities to even figure out how a George W. Bush got into the White House, never mind how to get him out.” Yeah at that point I had to stop summarizing and just copied and pasted.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are a lot of problems with the kids these days. Like, Paris Hilton. But, there are also a lot of problems with the olds these days. Like, Dick Cheney. And, there are a lot of good things going on with the kids these days, too. They’re not too embarrassed to march and picket and fight — they’re doing it every damned day, for peace in Iraq, for affordable health care, and yes, for freedom of (and from) religion. Has the editor missed the entire Anonymous vs. Scientology thing, which is entirely the work of teens and 20-somethings?

All this brings me back around to the NYC Atheists asking me how they can get more women involved. The promising thing is that in this case, they acknowledge a problem. Imagine if Julie had written in asking about the lack of women, only to be told that women aren’t cut out for atheism and besides, men have so much more to offer. I’d love to help the NYC Atheists get more women involved, and I hope that in doing so I also help them drop their stereotypes about young people. An organization can benefit greatly from the wisdom of seniors, but it will only continue to grow and thrive on the promise and enthusiasm of youths.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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70 Comments

  1. It is disheartening to hear about that, Rebecca. Us youngsters have to put up with that crap sometimes. Whenever you happen upon it, it seems like the source is from the common misconception that young people are lazy and stupid with their video games and lewd dancing.

    From what I can tell, most generations seem to think the younger generation is stupider, lazier, and less respectful. Wouldn’t it be great if your membership in NYC Atheists could bridge that cultural gap between young and old?

    Good luck, Rebecca. Remember to keep off their lawn.

  2. It’s a crying shame the way this issue is still being handled (well, both issues). I, for one, would like to see more young people and more women get involved. Sadly, I haven’t got much in the way of suggestions. Best I can come up with is we need to do what we can to get the word out, and Rebecca, you at least, seem to be doing a Hell of a good job on that front around here.

    This is me thanking you for that.

  3. Alot of the folks I work with are…ahem…older and I’m not sure it makes a huge difference whether they are Athiests or Pentecostals — in general, older people tend to feel unappreciated and disrepected in our culture (kind of like younger folks!), so it’s not uncommon to watch an intergenerational conversation grow from the simple exchange of reasonable demographic observations to full blown verbal warfare in the blink of an eye!
    Religions have found a million reasons to splinter and subdivide over the centuries, so it won’t be terribly shocking to watch Athiests do the same thing (old vs young, stinky socked vs just bathed, etc.) Funny and sad…

  4. Ok, so now we know how to get more young people involved.

    Tell self-important blowhards like the editor of the NYC Atheist newsletter to go fuck themselves and just start our own clubs.

    Seriously, anybody with that attitude deserves to sit in a room with a bunch of creepy old guys who smell like gym socks and Bengay and don’t know what to talk about apart from their aching joints and how hot Jane Fonda was in Barbarella

    I mean, seriously, Jane fucking Fonda? Are you fucking kidding me?

  5. Ok, to clarify here, I’ve been to quite a few events with the Harvard Secular Student Alliance, and they have absolutely none of this exclusionist attitude. Everybody’s invited, including people who gasp never went to Harvard! And even old people, too! SHOCK AND AWE.

    So, seriously, I guess that’s what we have left. If the existing groups are stuck with their “You damn kids!” mindset, fuck ’em. Let ’em stagnate and (literally, apparently) die out, while we start our own groups that aren’t made up of a bunch of crabby assholes.

  6. I can’t stand it when people generalize to such a ridiculous degree. “Would you rather talk to Jane Fonda or Britney Spears?” wtf? While I can imagine that Jane Fonda has “really lived” her life, whatever that means, more than Britney has, I hardly think she represents her age group any more than Britney represents mine. Jane Everhart needs a refresher course in critical thinking skills.

    Oh well, at least you got a new dress. Oh, and “Life is like a hurricane… here in Duckburg…

  7. Funny, my experiences with differing ages within the atheist community has been largely the opposite. At the American Atheists conference earlier this year, for example, I had no difficulty at all mingling with and being accepted by people of all ages. I was effortlessly befriended by both middle-aged-and-older veterans of atheism, and early-twenty-something college students.

    Of course, I’m extrapolating from my own experiences here, which is both entirely subjective and represents a tiny sample.

    I’m also an unusually youthful-looking 31 years old, which may give me a better ability than most to blend in with a broad range of ages. So that may have something to do with it as well.

  8. As somebody around the young/old border, my main reaction to this is to think about how much I wish I’d been introduced earlier in life to skeptical groups, “Demon-Haunted World,” Dawkins, SGU, etc.

    Swami is right that every generation tends to see the next one as lazier, more selfish, etc.

    But like any stereotype about a large group of people, it’s not very helpful–if they want to look at the world realistically, people who think that way have to realize that the “kids” are all individuals with different values, priorities, and abilities.

    On average, I would say young people are much more concerned about the environment and less tolerant of racism than when I was growing up.

    Anyway, the point I originally intended to make (my “oldish” mind sometimes wanders), is that I’m absolutely sure young people are positively influenced all the time by Skepchick, the SGU, and James Randi. I would’ve loved having these websites around when I was 15.

    But the fact is, back then I might not have realized how good these sites were…unless there was a smart, funny, attractive woman to initially get my attention.

    So these comments really shouldn’t get anybody down. I think it’s safe to say that Rebecca and friends are constantly increasing the number of young people who give skeptical thinking a second look.
    And I’m sure many of them will stay. I would have.

  9. Any group that wants to survive needs to bring in new people, especially young people. They’ll grow with the organization, and sometimes they’ll have more time and energy to devote to the group.

    I’m 40, and when I attend Ethical Humanist or American Humanist groups, I feel like I’m part of the youth movement. I hope that does change soon because I feel those groups have a lot to offer, and they should continue for another generation at least.

  10. I have to say that I’ve gotten the opposite reaction at the skeptical/atheist events I’ve been to. Generally the majority of the people are older but I’ve always been encouraged to join in and come back to more meetings. I’m not sure if my age (28) has anything to do with it. Most people just seem excited whenever a new person shows up and are eager to hear what they have to contribute, which is as it should be. Seems like the NYC Atheists, and their editor in particular, really need to think through what they’re saying before they say it. Hopefully they’re an exception rather than the rule.

    Oh, and Imrryr: “Race cars, lasers, airplanes! It’s a duck blur!”

  11. I’m glad to hear from those of you who haven’t had an experience of someone treating you like this editorial implies. I hope that her viewpoint is a rare one these days, since most people seem to understand that there are a lot of exciting things going on for young freethinkers.

  12. Jane Fonda or Britney Spears–can we say false dichotomy? I’m pretty sure there’s a whole wide spectrum of people that fall somewhere in between those two individuals. And it’s not like any of the New York atheist or skeptical groups even do that much in first place other than occasional meet ups, nothing like I’m led to believe The New England Skeptical Society does. I know I’d love to help start up something more active in the NYC area, preferably with fellow 20-somethings…and perhaps with a brightly colored van with a talking dog.

  13. Oh, definitely get involved with the NYC Skeptics, A-Team. They’re doing regular lectures, plus Drinking Skeptically, and are planning other things as well. I know quite a few of them (and gave a lecture for them a few months ago) so my opinion is biased, but I think they’re doing a fabulous job thus far. BUT, they could certainly benefit from someone with big Scooby-like plans.

    http://nycskeptics.com/

  14. I’m enjoying the comments here and agree that Rebecca and co. are doing a good job getting young people into skepticism. I’ve been a skeptic for over a decade but it wasn’t until I came to this site that I got an idea of how large and vibrant and interesting the skeptical community really was.

    And thank you peaches! I was hoping someone would chime in :)

  15. Gah…

    I’ve tried to get involved in some of the local atheist/humanist/SOMETHING groups here in Salt Lake a few times, and it’s hard to get involved for just this sort of reason.

    It seems to me like the editor of the NYC newsletter didn’t really understand the question that Julie was asking. What she asked was “Hey, where are all the young people?” What he heard was “Why are there a bunch of old people here?” Perhaps a subtle difference, but an important one. Indeed the headline added to her letter reflects that misunderstanding. It seems also that the editor was kind of predisposed to interpret her her letter as an attack on the old, perhaps because he himself is quick to attack the young.

    When I have attended atheist gatherings here, my wife (23) and I (28) always feel condescended to. When we attended a Unitarian service once and felt warmly welcomed (though it ultimately was not our thing — church is still church). When we attended the Humanists of Utah meeting in the same building, however, we felt very out of place as the only ones under 50 (maybe more) in the room, and we were, at least by all outward appearances, treated like we shouldn’t have been there, totally dismissed and welcomed by only one guy, who then asked us if we were there for a school project . Yeah, that’ll make us want to become part of your organization.

    Let me be clear, I would love to belong to and be active in an atheist/rationalist group of some kind with people of all ages. It’s not that having older people there is an issue — quite the contrary, I think EVERYONE has something to add.

  16. I have yet to attend any skeptical/atheist style meet ups. but what greenishblu talks about is one of my apprehensions of going to one. I would feel extremely out of place if I was the only, or one of very few younger people at any type of place (I’m 22). Not that I wouldn’t want to talk to older folks or anyone, but if I looked around and I’m the only one without grey hair i would feel quite uncomfortable.

    And this is on sort of another topic, but I’m also hispanic, and it seems like most of the skeptical movement is made up of white folks. Has anyones race made them feel out of place at a skeptical meet-up, and not just the age factor? Has anyone gotten anything weird from people on that front?

  17. Hang on a moment…

    Creepy people in the audience, check.

    Turning whole demographic groups away with bigotry, check.

    Telling people their opinion isn’t worth anything, and they should shut up and listen to their elders, check.

    Holy Noodly Appendages, it’s true! Atheism really is a religion!

  18. atheists who happen to be old, or who, um, were old before they died

    Oh, duh, I completely mis-parsed that sentence. Sorry! Must be my under-thirty, video-game-rotted, Britney-Spears-addled brain acting up again.

    I am really glad to see, judging from the comments here, that the editors opinion does not necessarily seem to be representative of most older atheists. I’d like to get involved in some sort of skeptical/atheist group (if such a one exists in Baltimore), and I’d hate to feel marginalized just because of my age in one of the few groups I’ve ever really felt a true affinity for.

  19. genoboost, I too am hispanic, on top of being under 30 and female, which I guess makes 3 strikes against the standard skeptic/atheist group demographic. I haven’t been to any specifically skeptical meetups, but I have spent some time in groups that tend to overlap with that set of people and I can’t say I’ve ever gotten anything “weird” from anyone on the basis of race. I do, however, find myself staying away from a lot of those groups now because what I find there can be frustratingly standard white liberal fare. I’m by no means a race radical and can feel equally alienated by militant minorities, but sometimes the lack of personal awareness about race issues or other cultural perspectives can be frustrating on top of the creeping discomfort that I know a lot of minorities get when surrounded by nothing but white folks.

    This is probably going to make me sound like a jackass, but another source of alienation for me in a lot of these contexts is just physical appearance. A healthy portion of skeptics/atheists/free thinkers seem to come from a position in society where they feel outside of the mainstream, and this seems to often be reflected in the way they look/present themselves (although age also plays a role here). For the most part, I couldn’t care less what somebody looks like, but it becomes an uncomfortable situation when I find myself sticking out like a sore thumb not only because I am young and ethnic looking but because my appearance conforms to many of our societal beauty standards for women as well as a pseudo-Italian need for dressiness. It sounds immensely superficial, but there’s more than one way to feel like an outsider and certainly the way a woman appears physically affects how both men and other women react to her, even in more enlightened circles.

  20. In line of the comment by kaiyote, I think there’s a slightly higher “nerd” ratio within the atheist/skeptical community (perhaps related to the fact that it takes a lot of thinking and rationalising to become a non-believer, which tends to occur more in people who hgave more time to spend thinking about life rather than living it).

    Anyway, it’s somehow seems likely you’ll stick out more if you’re a good-looking, well-dressed female, than if you’re a nerdy, balding, scruffy-looking guy. Especially if the activity involves sitting in a lecture room listening to presentations by old, white, balding guys.

    On the other hand, when the activity is chatting in a pub and drinking beer, and perhaps even taking to the dance floor after that, you’re very likely to lose most of those older white guys from the conference room, and gain a number of students and other “entry-level-job younger people” sorts of folks.

    Everyone is free to choose their own preferred activity, as long as anyone is welcome and accepted though. It’s hard enough being the odd one out in everyday life. It’s even worse if you’re still treated as the odd one out when you’re among like-minded people.

  21. Someone clued me into this post, and I’m glad they did. I blog for the NYC Atheists. Well, what can I say here about this?

    First, please don’t let the remarks of one person (the editor of the newsletter in this case) shape your opinion about the NYCA. I happen to know Jane (said Editor) and she can be prone to spewings of a not always completely-thought-out nature, but that should not make you brand all of us as cranky, out-of-touch “age-ists.”

    Granted, there is a slight problem with some of NYCA’s membership being heavy with the “older white men” demographic, but that may be a function of several different “complex” issues, some of which I don’t feel comfortable discussing in a public forum such as this. Suffice it to say, I (along with some of the NYCA membership) am trying to change this. But please do not lump us all into the older, uncool, and somewhat socially misfit bunch you seem to have simply because of the misguided musings of one person associated with the group. Trust me, Jane likely has her reasons for defending “older” folks as more interesting than “recent grads” but her personal take on this is NOT representative of our entire membership.

    Jane is rather political, and sometime rather politically incorrect, but she is of course entitled to her opinions and often has some rather eyebrow-raising takes on things. Other than that, she is bright, tries hard, and generally has her heart in the right place. In any case, some of the rest of us NYC atheists are a lot younger and also (at least privately) took some offense at her defense of the merits of those comfortably into middle-age and beyond.

    Check out the NYCA blog and maybe you’ll get a different taste for the group.

  22. I’m 28, and I didn’t really find the tone of the quoted piece “condescending and disrespectful”; I thought the message was less “young people suck”, and more “Hey, old people ain’t so bad”. Maybe a bit defensive, but not overly rude or anything (except towards the end), and it’s worthwhile to communicate to younger people how much there is to be learned from their elders, given the tendency amongst our generation to think of them as frail, senile and out-of-touch (which many of them are, just as many of our generation are “jaded, pseudo-sophisticated [and] confused”).

    Besides, they’re all gonna be dead soon, so why not let them feel important while they’re still around?

    P.S. Paul Newman is an atheist?! Good looks, rationality, AND salad dressing?! He’s got it all!!

  23. She describes “young people”, in general, as jaded,

    I’d expect this kind of comment from someone her age

    pseudo-sophisticated

    Hey, I wear a monocle and walk with a cane too, you know.

    confused

    What day is it? Where are my car keys?

    Too urbane to picket,

    Picketing is sooooo 1963, when people were all, like, rude and confrontational.

    Too embarrassed to march,

    That’s cuz people will be looking at me and stuff

    And too “duped and bamboozled by TV and greed and false authorities to even figure out how a George W. Bush got into the White House, never mind how to get him out”

    Stone Phillips told me that I could get hundreds of dollars from George W. Bush in my refund check. Why would I not like Bush? You know it’s funny I always thought Bush was that guy who sang Machinehead but it turns out it’s some old guy, who knew?

    I just finished reading the Newsletter and well, my advice to Julia, start your own group but make sure to use derogatory, old people comments. Frequently mention, diapers, alzheimers and bad driving. I’m sure there are some other condescending stereotypes you could throw in there as well. Ooh, geritol, definitely say something about geritol… or prune juice.

  24. From the newsletter under the section titled, Youth Letting Us Down,

    There is much confusion in the land right now:
    – The country that values self-determination is
    imposing its will on Iraq.
    – The country that spouts freedom is cutting down on
    all our freedoms.
    – The country that purports to care denies health
    care to 40 million citizens.
    – The country that has said, “give me your tired, your
    poor, your huddled masses” is keeping out the tired,
    the poor, the huddled masses with an electric fence.
    – The country that promises religious freedom is
    sneaking religion into schools, workplaces, politics,
    government, the armed forces.
    – The country that promises religious freedom hates
    those who have no religion.

    umm…. Aren’t these all issues that are being instigated/pushed (the War in Iraq, denial of healthcare) by Baby Boomers and their parents? Hey Baby Boomers quit screwing with our future and we won’t have such a hard time unburying ourselves for the next 100 years.

    Hey you know when you were young and *your* generation would segregate Black people and then *your* generation would complain about how uncultured and uneducated Black people are. Well, I hate to tell you this but *your* generation appears to have found another group to do it to.

  25. My wife and I along with a few of our friends have actually toyed around with the idea of starting a local skeptic/atheist group to supplement the existing ones. I suppose we should exhaust our options with the existing local groups. (Of course, Atheists of Utah has their meetings at the Sizzler. I mean, come on… the Sizzler.)

    Maybe we’re being too quick to judge these groups before we attend, based on our experience with the Humanists meeting (see my previous comment).

    Even if we did find a group we liked, maybe it’s a good idea to get a new group together anyway. Maybe even just a “Drinking Godlessly” event or something. :) Has anyone out there started such a group in your area with extremely limited resources? Any tips? Any thoughts? Any other SLCers out there that would be interested in getting things going?

  26. I think it’s important to keep in mind that, although the comments in the newsletter were indicative of a larger general issue, they are still just the comments of one person, and that person did (from my reading, anyway) misinterpret the original question as “Why are there so many old fogies here?”

    We must not make the same mistake and start accusing her entire generation of boxing us meddling kids into forsaken territory.

  27. M Dorian, thanks for posting the behind-the-scenes info! I certainly don’t think that everyone at NYC Atheists shares the viewpoint expressed . . . the problem is that the viewpoint is presented as an official word from the organization, which is worrying.

    I don’t want to turn anyone off from attending an NYCA meeting, but I did feel it was important to highlight a worrying possibility of what the attitude of some other high-standing members might be.

  28. As one who is sees years of past church attendance as pretty much a waste of time, it seems somewhat odd that atheists organize and have meetings, try to encourage young people to attend, and have things going on that will engage in and encourage new attendees etc.. Sounds like a typical church planning meeting. Gotta say I’m more than done with organizations and meetings that revolve around religion or not having one. Drinking and discussing the dangers of woo, good science, rational thinking and such is appealing and perhaps I’ll get involved at some point with starting a Drinking Skeptically event in my berg.

  29. James,
    I certainly can understand your POV and appreciate that not every atheist or skeptic feels it necessary to become part of a group, but for others, it’s nice to connect with like-minded people you might not otherwise get to know. It can feel pretty lonely sometimes, particularly in areas where atheism is considered abhorrent to all that is good (e.g., Utah). I don’t feel there is anything wrong with wanting to get together and hang out with others of the same mind set.

  30. Amen, James Fox. Make it fun! And Kaiyote: “pseudo-Italian need for dressiness” bwahaha! Love it. Are you in L.A.? We could start a fashionable atheist drinking club….I think us honeys could catch more flies than the vinegary gym sock . People are more likely to listen to people who look like what they like/would like to look like than some bitter old guy on a park bench…

  31. Surely the small amount of women in atheist groups is durectly related to the large number of women in religious groups. There are three women’s bible studies per week at my family church, while men have one a month. Seems to me like you have to get those women out of church before you can get them in the atheist groups. :)

  32. Rebecca, thanks for acknowledging my comments. Yes, it can appear worrisome that the remarks in the newsletter might be the “official” position of the NYC Atheists, but let me assure all of those interested that NYCA is a diverse, intelligent, and (somewhat) colorful bunch.

    Also, NYCA has attracted some excellent speakers at some of their recent monthly meetings including Massimo Pigliucci and Susan Jacoby. I do, however, think the group would do well with a booster shot of youthful enthusiasm, so anyone with the spunk, time, and energy is more than welcome to attend.

    Check our blog and this site for meetings and other fun stuff: http://atheists.meetup.com/24/

  33. as to whitebirds comment, a “fashionable atheist drinking club” in Los Angeles is Just what I need. We can discuss rational topics and I can also learn how to stop dressing like a dork!

  34. James Fox wrote:

    As one who is sees years of past church attendance as pretty much a waste of time, it seems somewhat odd that atheists organize and have meetings, try to encourage young people to attend, and have things going on that will engage in and encourage new attendees etc.. Sounds like a typical church planning meeting.

    Just because someone isn’t religious doesn’t mean they don’t like to socialize and hang out with like-minded people, have discussions about topics they care about, or learn more about the course in life they’ve chosen. In essence, the only difference between a theist and an atheist is the lack of belief in an invisible sky-daddy. All other needs remain.

  35. OK, since the League of Pompous Atheists has seen fit to jump into the fray on this, I’ll make one more comment, if I may:

    I quote Rebecca here:

    “I’d love to help the NYC Atheists get more women involved, and I hope that in doing so I also help them drop their stereotypes about young people. An organization can benefit greatly from the wisdom of seniors, but it will only continue to grow and thrive on the promise and enthusiasm of youths.”

    Let me make it perfectly clear that the NYC Atheists have no institutionalized stereotypes against young people, or against anyone for that matter (well, except for maybe evangelical fundamentalists). And, some of us who are not all that old ourselves not only welcome but court the input and attendance of our city’s youth. If, Rebecca, you really mean what you say about wanting to help, you should make some public mention of NYCA’s regular meetings, and maybe even show up yourself to some of them (I’m pretty sure you live within striking distance since you attended that NYC Skeptics event recently).

    Anyway, considering all the problems and resistance we atheists face, the last thing we really need is any counter-productive dissension within our own ranks. Don’t hate on your fellow nonbelievers (unless they really deserve it, and I know the NYC Atheists don’t merit this).

    Godlessly,
    M. Dorian (NYCA blogger)

  36. M. Dorian: I have no idea what spurred that last post, but it really bothers me — the sudden defensiveness, plus the demand that I be more helpful to your group is extraordinarily off-putting. I’ll try to answer without getting too annoyed.

    Let me make it perfectly clear that the NYC Atheists have no institutionalized stereotypes against young people, or against anyone for that matter (well, except for maybe evangelical fundamentalists)

    I think I made it clear that my post is based on the opinion of one person — one person who happens to speak on behalf of the NYCA (and, by the way, is listed as the Director of Communications as well as editor of the newsletter).

    If, Rebecca, you really mean what you say about wanting to help, you should make some public mention of NYCA’s regular meetings, and maybe even show up yourself to some of them (I’m pretty sure you live within striking distance since you attended that NYC Skeptics event recently).

    First of all, you already gave the NYCA meetings a plug. It is not my job to do so and I have no reason to mention any particular future event right now, since that was not the point of the post.

    Second of all, I already offered to attend an event, and to speak at length with the NYCA about how to further promote events to women, explicitly offering to help by mentioning them on Skepchick. This is despite the fact that I live in Boston, a 4.5-hour bus ride away. Why? Because like I said, I want to help. I have no idea why you’re suggesting I’m not being helpful enough when the entire point of this post is to highlight a serious attitude problem with a high-standing member of the NYCA.

    Anyway, considering all the problems and resistance we atheists face, the last thing we really need is any counter-productive dissension within our own ranks. Don’t hate on your fellow nonbelievers (unless they really deserve it, and I know the NYC Atheists don’t merit this).

    Wrong. First of all, there is no hate, there is only a very rightful condemnation of one official NYCA member’s opinion. This is not counter-productive dissension, this is dissension that is perfectly healthy and justified. Atheists are not free from criticism just because they don’t buy into the supernatural.

    If your Director of Communications had slammed any other group, I would be equally as vociferous: women, Hispanics, blacks, lefties, red-heads, I don’t care. It’s extremely counterproductive to suggest that nonbelievers can’t openly disagree, and it is also counterproductive to allow a person in a position of power to discriminate against young people.

    So, I stand by my post as well as my offer to help the NYCA, though I admit that after reading your response I’m so turned off that I’m not sure why I would.

  37. OK, I guess I over-reacted. I was trying to clear the air but it seems I went too far. Please accept this as an apology. I didn’t mean to make this a brouhaha.

    You obviously have no obligation to help, but I’m sure NYCA appreciates your offer nonetheless. You’re entitled to your opinion, which is clearer now after these comments above, and so is the editor of NYCA’s newsletter entitled to hers. I honestly just think this went too far too fast.

    I say, let’s let bygones be bygones. I’d rather have all of us fighting the good fight against irrationality and separation of church and state (etc.) than bickering amongst ourselves.

    My only intention was to try to prevent NYCA from being tagged as something they’re not. So this is my genuine “mea culpa” about this whole affair. Please don’t let my hasty reply be any reason to judge us unjustly.

  38. Wow M Dorian, you really should’ve quit while you were behind. For a minute there you had me believing that the only thing wrong with your organization was that you needed a new spokesperson.

  39. FWIW, I’m involved with a local freethought group and everyone is awesome regardless of their age,

    http://freethoughtfortwayne.org

    Two-thirds of our group are 30-something white guys. The other third are either 30-something white girls or a few white college kids and a smattering of white 40 plus-ers.

    The guys part seems to be about par for the course for atheist/skeptics groups in general.

    The white part seems to be par for the course plus we are in Indiana (not exactly the melting pot) which is kind of a double-whammy against our brown friends, but I suppose that’s another 20-foot hurdle, ay, beltway.

    Anyway my point is everyone gets along great and we have a blast. We’re just happy to have a group regardless of age, sex, race or any other artificial barrier that apparently some other groups want to target. We enjoy laughing about the same things, having common interests and making fun of our moron Congressman.

    Our 2 biggest problems are increasing our numbers, period, regardless of what “special” (i.e., not 30-something white guys) group you represent and figuring out how to generate enough funds to bring some “big name” speakers to our area.

    One thing this whole pointless kurfuffle has done at least for me has been to make me aware that as our group continues to grow we should be more aware that a new member may be intimidated or at least uncomfortable if they don’t fit the prevailing demographic of the group (and since I’m currently in the prevailing demographic this probably wouldn’t have occurred to me otherwise).

    I should be thanking Rebecca for bringing this to my attention, the editor of the NYCA for being a jerk and the other commenters on here for IMO handing them their asses.

    I trust that the next NYCA newsletter has an apology (that would mean swallowing your pride) for painting such a broad stroke based on personal prejudice. I wonder what the NYCA would have done if the NY Times had an editorial about how atheists were [fill in the blank bad thing].

  40. I’m coming to this late, but:

    1. A-Team, you are more than welcome at NYC Skeptics events….

    2. One of the most heartening things I’ve discovered since we started NYC Skeptics is the number of young people who come to our events (and women! Our last Drinking Skeptically had 16 women out of 31 attendees).

  41. Spot on, Rebecca. Along with your talk in NY, I think fits into a more general problem I’ve noticed in the “skeptics movement”. We attract this, “Tough shit. I’m logic incarnate. I tell it how it is. Wanna cry about it?” crowd. This crowd doesn’t put much emphasis on social skills. They don’t notice when they’ve been rude, and assume anyone that takes offense is being “illogical.”

    They usually have a hissy fit when anyone points out their bad manners. Whenever I notice this behavior, I usually think to myself, “This person is more concerned with looking smart than convincing anyone of anything.” Any schism blows into a debacle of epic proportions, because “I’m sorry” is synonymous with “I’m wrong” is synonymous with “I’m not the smartest.”

    Educating people requires having the discipline to temper our strident attitude with patience (Sagan), genuine respect for others (Sagan), a sense of humor (Sagan), humility (Sagan), and optimism (Sagan). If we’re going to change the world at all, we’re going to have to be kind and welcome people of all different kinds with all different backgrounds.

    Sadly, too many of our spokespeople are setting a bad example here.

    P.S. Please forgive any typos. Tornado sirens are sounding. I should probably go downstairs at this point… :P

  42. Uh, Kristopher, so by that reasoning one could assume that you’d suggest that everyone “shun” Americans. (GW Bush is an “a-hole,” wouldn’t you say?)

    This prejudicial thinking is exactly why I thought I should try to defend the NYC Atheists. Just because one person wrote some things in a newsletter is NOT cause for avoiding the whole group.

  43. M Dorian, I just wanted to mention that I appreciate your apology and will gladly help with your future endeavors at NYCA. I do agree that the best thing to do is to move forward and continue to try to make things better.

  44. Greetings Rebbecca,

    I make my way here via links that were left by a thread that addressed some NYC Atheist (Jane Everhart) drama. I think NYC Atheists tried to address concern over attracting young people by asking a 25 year old speaker, Rook Hawkins, to address their flock 2008Aug10. He tends to present him self as an Historian and expert in ancient texts. Impressive! Does he know Latin, Koine or Attic Greek, Syro-Aramaic, or any one of a handful of Semetic languages? Nah, but he’s still a self-proclaimed expert in ancient text. Rook’s part of the Rational Response Squad, an organization that is known for the blasphemy challenge which to be fair is a good marketing gimmick to the younger generation, and to someone totally oblivious to reality might seem like a good thing to keep the kids entertained.

    Super excited Jane plastered some claims that he was a “public historian”, a claim that suggests some education and training. She tried to switch it to bible specialist, which the ACSI requires at least a BA in biblical studies to even consider a temporary certification.

    Here’s were my tale is similar to yours. She was trying to defend “autodidacts”, not that this was the issue. She sited that, “My father was one. He too never went to college–or even high school–but was very well informed and could speak 5 languages.. Abe Lincoln never went to college, nor did George Bernard Shaw, nor did the guy who invented the geodesic dome.”

    1) George Bernard Shaw spent 17 years or so in school
    2) The geodesic dome guy, I presume Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller went to Harvard. He was expelled twice and later got his terminal degree, a Sc.D. from Bates in Lewiston, Maine.
    3) Good old Abe didn’t go to college, and did become president, but he’s not really a good example of an autodidact. He didn’t grasp the legal, economic, or social issues of the situation and his actions resulted in 7 Billion in 1860 dollars on a war, 20 million sent to war with losses estimated close to 3/4 million, another estimated 7 Billion in loss in trade, and 1-5 Billion in property loss. All of this to address a political divide that Abe was largely responsible for. The British just paid about 50 pound a head in 1833 to free their slaves. But Abe freed the slaves. Granted he never addressed the issue of “then” what leading to starvation, ghettos, later “hey boy laws”. I wouldn’t call him an autodidact, I’d call him a demagogue and fascist. And this is coming from a northerner.
    4) Whether Rook is an autodidact isn’t the issue. Presenting him as being part of an academic field is.

    I later law her press release that had two more claims
    2) Rook translated the bible from Greek by age 25
    3) Rook, who to be fair is unpublished, was invited to write for an academic series.

    (2) doesn’t even pass the sniff test. Dr. Nick Nicholas for example took years to translate the book of Mark from Greek (I presume modern) to Klingon. Odd, but the man has his PhD in linguistics and he does specialize in medieval Greek and artificial languages (Lojban, Esperanto, Klingon). Yet Jane expects people to believe Rook did something it takes organizations of thousands 5-20 years to do?

    (3) Rook did try to claim that he was invited to write for the Copenhagen International Seminar, and was asked by the editor, Thomas L. Thompson, to remove that claim. http://igepanda.blogspot.com/2008/08/brian-sapient-cutler-on-self-publishing.html

    So what was Jane’s response to these claims not being true?
    “These people know me, they see me at all the meetings all the time. They know I don’t lie. You are a troll, sneaking around the web, defaming and slandering people. If you are an atheist, why don’t I know you? You are a sneaky, masked, stealthy creep doing your dirty work for the Vatican and probably abusing alter boys in your spare time, you scumbag. Leave Rook alone! He’s a great, honest kid, doing his best trying to be heard against your insults. –Jane Everhart 2008Aug9 10:54pm

    You may find out more on this issue on the following sites

    richarddawkins.net
    Rantsnraves.net
    Encyclopedia Dramatica
    NYC Atheists Meetup censored thread
    PDFs of messages removed by NYCA moderators.

    I don’t have anything against NYC Atheists, but their representative Jane Everhart, took it upon her self to deal with legit criticism regarding how she presented a person who to be fair is an enthusiastic amateur in biblical studies and turned it into a Vatican conspiracy theory.

    Kenneth and Bill C would seem to support the censorship campaign, but at least they are not actively promoting the idea that Vatican commandos are invading the blogsphere to discredit Rook Hawkins and the philosophical position of atheism. This is so far off the deep end it’s not even funny.

    I’m an apatheist. I call my self this to distance my self from fundamental born again atheists, and I reach this position from apathy. So long as I don’t bump into a talking snake, burning bush, or get a booming voice from the heavens I can safely say god(s) don’t interaction with me and as such I don’t care about their existence. I was born into a Catholic family who over time slowly became disenchanted with the organization. I never was what you would call a strong believer, and you could say I subscribe to soft-atheism. My interest in this matter is pointing out the obvious, the critics in this case are atheists who know that your average strong-theist LOVES the Rational Response Squad and loves it when leaders of atheist groups like Jane Everhart go off the deep end with their conspiracy theories. They are more than happy to sit back, let them rant and rave because it makes believing in a man who walked on water and rise from the dead just a little bit less nutty. Think about it

    1) A calm seeming rational person telling you about a guy who rose from the Dead.
    2) A person speaking of a present day about Vatican commandos invading the blogsphere.

    Ok, I stand corrected, both are things to void.

  45. Hi Rebecca

    Speaking as a female member of the “mature” crowd, I’d just like to say that there are a lot of us who have a great deal of respect and admiration for the young atheists in our midst.

    I participate on an atheist / christian debating news group as well as a couple of atheist news groups and have been repeatedly impressed by the intelligence and knowledge of the young atheists on these sites.

    I’ve read some of Rook Hawkins material on Rational Responders as well. It’s well-written, incisive and intelligent as is much of the other material on the site.

    So, while I can defend the Rational Responders group of young people who are quite impressive I can’t comment on the NYCA because I really don’t know anything about them or Jane Everhart.

    I agree with your open and honest criticism of her published remarks but have some concern about people like Xevius who anonymously spread rumors on the internet.

    This kind of behavior makes me question their purpose, intent, and agenda.

    I wish you well in your efforts to bring more young women into the activist atheist camp.

    We need that :-).

    Trance Gemini

  46. “I’ve read some of Rook Hawkins material on Rational Responders as well. It’s well-written, incisive and intelligent as is much of the other material on the site.”

    Trancegemini, I can’t understand how you say that. His writing is pretty awful, but to be fair he writes on the 10th grade level. His attempt at erotica used the phrase “ample moaning and warm breath(sic)”. I generally ignore spelling errors but in Rook’s case they are so common that it does effect one’s ability to read it. He uses a faux scholarly style, and often uses the big words out of place.

    Take his visit to the museum for example
    http://www.rationalresponders.com/visit_upenn_archaeology_and_anthropology_museum
    Here is some commentary on his writing
    http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=38435&start=625#p1015727

    A good rule of thumb is to not take history lessons from “activists” with someone to prove. Rook’s central theme is Jesus Mythicism, a belief that Jesus did not exist and all the people who wrote about him did so as a mythical character. Bill C did a good risk analysis, same as I’ve done in the past.
    a) Jesus did exist as the gospels said
    b) Jesus did exist, but over time he was embellished, a few prophets were merged into one
    c) Jesus never existed.

    Rook proposes (c) but when asked for an explanation why a mythical Jesus became “real” since there is no reason to presume (c) over (b), well his explanation is there is no reason to presume (b) over (c). His “thesis” which he never really states can be boiled down to
    “The Bible is crap, Jesus never existed, because there is no reason to think he did”.
    And that’s a problem. There isn’t “much” evidence to support a dude who told a few parables who had a small cult following, there are a few scraps. If you are going to propose this, you need to a plausible explanation. I don’t know if there was a historic Jesus, but that should be the default position of any historian. Don’t know, go and find out.

    Misrepresenting the bible is an old trick, and it doesn’t matter if you are an atheist or a Christian, it’s still intellectual fraud.

    I the past I could say I liked Rook. Smart reasonably well read kid who can point out some “interesting” things like various contributions that led to a the present image that is the biblical Jesus. But as of late he’s gotten ultra arrogant. In his NYC presentation, he inundated the audience with names and terms that would require an average Joe two weeks of back reading to follow the lecture. Worse yet he threw in Greek into his presentation just to look cool when the Latinised spelling would do. In fact, much of his Greek was Latinized but covered in a Greek font. As I’m not well versed in Greek I discussed this with RaspK on richarddawkins.net
    http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=38435&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=825

    Rook’s presentation might have been entertaining if Jane was honest and presented him as someone in the process of learning biblical history, and researching the likelihood of a historic Jesus. But she, or Rook, lied and claimed the boy translated the bible (about 750,000 words) from Greek, presuming modern would take someone 5 years @ 17wpm 4hrs/day.

    He doesn’t take criticism well, and actually prefers to pretend that if you didn’t get it, you are stupid. I had a hard time following his presentation but it was just fulled with so much crap. For example, identifying Jesus by his wounds was just like what they did in Homer’s Odyssey, so it must be fiction. More likely, this was a technique known in classical times, something that the Romans figured out or learned from the Greeks which was ultra handy after a crucifiction. It’s like saying any medical reference to lupus disease is fictional because they talk about it on Dr. House MD. Homers works are template pieces, well known and are templates. The reasoning is flawed. Romulus Ascension legion? Why is this even relevant? Again, during the Classical period it’s reasonable to presume that your average literate Joe on the street, in a Roman occupied territory would know this. I’ll have to reread this, but I believe he covers a concept that is like our mnemonic devices which again, just because it’s a mnemonic device doesn’t make it fiction.

    The thesis and lecture in short is an epic fail. And the thing is Jane invited him because of criticism that there were not enough in the way of young speakers. I would be VERY insulted. While I’m not as versed in the bible as Rook is, nor am I as well read in secondary sources, even I can see that it’s a dude going out of his way to do the same thing small time preachers do, take the bible out of context to prove the point, that it’s crap. We already know it’s crap. If your an atheist, why would you even care if the bible is crap? You do need validation?

    You can arrive at atheism from many ways, but it is at best a philosophical position. Do you need evidence to support your lack of belief in god(s)? You shouldn’t. If you are creating an environment excusably to validate a philosophical position, you have a church. You want an atheist church, that’s your business. I would submit that focusing of secular matters would be far more productive, because these debates and postulations are nothing new, we’ve been doing it for millenia and they have gotten us NO WHERE. It’s perfectly fine to reject the presupposition that god(s) exist, but you shouldn’t need any more evidence than a lack of talking snakes, burning bushes, or George Burns making it rain inside your car.

  47. IGExpandingPanda.

    You appear to have a personal grudge of some sort against Rook and I’m not really interested in getting in the middle of that.

    My only comment to you is that you posted this message on Atheism vs Christianity under the alias Xevious.

    I’m a moderator there and I’m the one that put your message through.

    Not because I agree with you but because I’m a free speech advocate and believe strongly that everyone has a right to present their viewpoint.

    We, on Atheism vs Christianity have a policy of not banning anyone because of their opinion.

    Now, you posted your comments, and you have not returned to explain yourself or respond to questions or comments that members have put to you. Essentially your posting was nothing more than a drive-by/spam posting.

    The behavior you’re displaying, in my opinion, is that of a person with an agenda who is only interested in spreading rumors and not interested in dealing with the issues you are raising or resolving any problems.

    Rebecca’s approach is very different from yours.

    1. She made the full, unedited viewpoint which she was criticizing available.
    2. She spoke directly to the people involved openly and honestly expressing her concerns.
    3. She is volunteering to work with them to resolve her concerns.

    These are the acts of an honest person.

    You, on the other hand are doing the following:

    1. Posting complaints anonymously on news groups all over the Internet.
    2. Not providing the full references or anything else to support your claims regarding what was said.
    3. Passing personal judgments on written material without providing the actual content.
    4. Not talking directly to the people whose behavior you are objecting to.
    5. Not making any active effort to actually work with them to resolve your concerns.

    This is the behavior of a dishonest person who has something to hide and whose motives and intentions are not good.

    You have provided links to people who are responding to your rumors.

    I suggest you look at those links and read the comments because those people are not supporting you or your position.

    I’m not interested in getting into a debate about Rook or the other lady in question.

    I am questioning your motives for doing what you’re doing in the way that you’re doing it.

    Trance Gemini

  48. trancegemini?

    What are you talking about. I got both the removed comment and this one, and I’m not Rebecca. I know nothing of Rebecca’s issue, other than I too have had an exchange with Jane, and my experience was similar. I will address one point in your post.

    “Not talking directly to the people whose behavior you are objecting to.”

    http://igepanda.blogspot.com/2008/08/e-mail-correspondence-with-jane.html

    As this is not my blog it would be rude to use this do address concerns I have bought directly to NYC Atheists which resulted in accusations of working for the Vatican and molesting alterboys. Richarddawkins.net is moderated and would be a better venue.
    http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=55333

    To be clear. I’m not Skepchick, never met her, only had a similar experience.

  49. Skepchick: Apologies for using your blog to post this, unfortunately Trance has chosen the venue and I feel the record needs to be put straight where the incident occurred. I won’t disturb you again.

    —————————————————–

    Dear Trance Gemini

    Congratulations on being a free speech advocate, we need more of those and censorship plays a heavy part of the New York City Atheists story, except there they claimed to allow freedom of speech and expression and that they would not censor just before indulging in a wholesale purge of posts and posters which I am sure you condemn.

    I want to encourage you to join the discussion at Richard Dawkins.net on this issue as I think you have got hold of the wrong end of the stick on several counts and the discussion could do with the point of view of someone who has the opinion that we are mistaken.

    1.That Xevious is the same user as IGExpandingPanda – you can see from IEGs’ confusion that he has no idea what you are talking about and thinks you are confusing him with SkepChick. If you look through the thread about Rook Hawkins and New York City Atheists you can spot quite quickly which user is Xevious. I think you owe IGExpandingPanda a little apology to be honest.

    2.That this has much to do with Rook Hawkins anymore. None of the critics know what Rook said to Jane Everhart of New York City Atheists, but she claims to have it on tape. This started because Jane sent out a press release misrepresenting

    3.That this was not taken up with Jane Everhart and Rook Hawkins directly. This was the first thing that was done, in private, using e-mails and faxes to both Jane Everhart and Rook Hawkins seeking to get the press release corrected as soon as possible.

    4.IGExpandingPanda is a critic of Rook Hawkins’ current approach, this does not require a grudge to be held. Once put under the microscope this approach deserves criticism, with the ideal response being either a defense of the approach or a change in direction.

    5.That the full unedited viewpoint was not made available. This has all been done and summarised. It was even linked from the post made by Xevious.

    Lastly I want to criticise your approach. You advocate taking things up directly with people (which, as I said, was done), and yet we see these two posts and the ones on Google Groups.
    Excuse me for reproaching you but to rush into a situation throwing accusations about motivation around without getting even a basic grasp of the facts whilst understandable totally undermines your posting here and on Google Groups. Given the entire story was linked to from the first post made by Xevious and you as a moderator approved the post I’m not sure why you did this. You also say that you don’t want to get into “a debate about Rook or the other lady”, very confusing given what you have written.

    Still we all do rash things from time to time, but your 1-5 just demonstrates you don’t have a basic grasp of the facts and your reaction is curiously over aggressive.

    Regards

    Dr Doctor.

  50. For some reason, it amuses me that Organised Atheism, at least in one local branch, is now fully church-politics-compliant.

    It just goes to show: it’s the fact that it’s organised, not the beliefs or lack thereof.

  51. Righto since my story is related to your story, verified since Jane Everhart e-mailed Natty Adams stating clearly that they invited Rook Hawkins to speak not for education but to “encourage young people to speak out” I toss you links to my YT vids. This entry is cited.

    To me, this screams misrepresenting education for activism, a huge no-no, just keep the 20 something crowd happy.

    The story continues with the NYCA official position that this was a theist conspiracy that were “threatened” published in their Jan 2009 edition of their rag. I got a copy of an interview Sept 2008 that was never used for one of the secular mags.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch7EyICevnc

  52. She’s at it again in their latest newsletter.

    I’m pretty annoyed by it.

    First off, I have to admit to being 45 and therefore no sprincg chicken. For all of that, I’m horrified by what is essentially an agist attack on young people. She really needs to get her facts right, and one of the claims that she repeats is the one about young people not getting involved in protest.

    That is plain wrong. The most active protesters tend to be young. Think of the “Plane Stupid” group, who are protesting at the building of an additional runway in Hethrow. Think of Greenpeace – largely staffed by young volunteers. Think of the huge protests against the invasion of Iraq. There were very many young people involved in those.

    Living in Paris, I see major protests about job creation and about entry-level positions for new graduates. All young people.

    Her problem is that young people aren’t protesting about the issues that she cares about.

    Regarding her stupid comments about whether you’d prefer to speak to Jane Fonda or Britney Spears, the issue there is not age. I’m sure that as a young woman Jane Fonda had intersting views. I’m not sure that Britney will be a flowing conversationalist in her old age. Hell, think of Zsa Zsa Gabor.

    Jane might wish to reconsider her own attitude in assessing why there are so few young people in NYCA.

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