Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 9.10

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. “‘To be honest, I don’t know what it is and I’m keen to listen to anyone’s suggestions. But until someone can tell me otherwise I’m going to go on thinking it’s a fairy.’
    Experts and the simply sceptical will no doubt point to explanations involving reflections, flashes or technical glitches. But then, that’s just taking all the magic out of it.”

    There is a basic diconnect between people who like puzzles because they like to solve them and people who like puzzles because they can look at all of the pieces and imagine what a fantastic thing it might be if it were solved.

  2. “Astonished by what she saw when she glimpsed at the picture, she has spent months seeking a rational explanation…. ‘No one I’ve shown the photos to has come up with any plausible explanation as to what the figure is.’ ”

    She has spent months not being able to find out that her shutter speed is too slow to capture only one position of the beating of moth/butterfly wings? Honestly?….. 0.o

    The “legs,” “arms,” and the appearance of serrated edges of a typical faerie wing design, are all because her camera caught each position in one shot… I find it hard to believe that she hasn’t taken a blurred action shot or seen multiple exposure photos.. whatever.

  3. Unitarian Universalism is a religion (isn’t it?). A magazine produced by a religious organization and sent to members of the religion having an ad from something called the Freedom From Religion Foundation does sound out of line to me. It seems kind of like getting my issue of Science this week and seeing an ad for the Creation Museum.

    I am a Hedge

  4. But after scouring the internet for pictures of butterflies, moths and beetles that might match it, she has drawn a blank.

    Has she tried looking at pictures of beetles in flight? Because that’s clearly what it is, judging mostly by how the legs are splayed.

  5. The UUs point has always seemed to be “we’re pretty much cool with what you believe.” In that context, I can certainly see them turning down those ads, not because they’re athiest, but because they’re actively antireligious.

  6. Regarding Race, Gender and Atheism:

    For all you white males out there, there aren’t any gods. They aren’t real. They’re just made up by people to explain things they don’t understand.

    For the white females, there also aren’t really any gods.

    If you are African, or relatively recently descended from Africans, there are no gods for you either.

    For the Asians and Pacific Islanders, NO GODS. They are all just pretend.

    Guess what Inuits… none of the gods are real.

    Oh, and if you happen to be gay, it turns out that there are still no gods.

    I am a Hedge

  7. If you approach a group with the attitude “Its a bunch of white guys. I don’t belong here” you are also contributing to the perpetuation of the status quo. I approach a new group with the attitude that I belong if I choose to belong. It takes a lot of evidence to convince me I was wrong. I don’t disagree with Greta’s blog – I’m adding to it.

    One of the things I like about this forum is that no one seems to care what race, gender, orientation, or species a contributor is. Mind you, it could be more welcoming to theists.

  8. One items that I think belongs in Greta’s list of solutions is what could be called the “Skepchick Solution”. Start a new group that represents an under-represented demographic.

    A new group is not a panacea. If that is all you do, then you end up with everyone boxed into their own demographic clubs and that is not good. But it does something important, it creates leaders of different stripes quickly…a lot more quickly than relying on turnover of existing groups to change the demographic.

  9. @Skepotter:

    Yes, I think it’s ironic that there’s a section of the blog titled “Self-fulfilling prophecy” (that isn’t actually about self fulfilling prophecy – wow, it’s double irony), and the whole thing is about how people that assume a certain group isn’t going to welcome them are upset when they feel that they haven’t been welcomed.

    “I knew these sexist racist homophobes wouldn’t let me play in their tree house.”

    I am a Hedge

  10. I’m a 99% big fan of Hemant Mehta, but his post on the FFRF ads falls into the remaining 1%. Here he is being tone deaf, as is the FFRF. Remember, you can still be tone deaf with your message, even if your message is correct.

    Yes, the UU magazine should be a great place to promote an organization that works for church/state separation. In principle, the ads could have been an excellent idea for both the UU and FFRF. Could have.

    But, as UU’s editor notes, the particular ad chosen is a very poor match for its target audience. They indeed should have worked with FFRF to tailor the message to the group. That’s what you always do in advertising. Failing to do so will cause a further problem that nobody has mentioned yet – They’ve now made it very hard for FFRF to continue advertising with UU, so they may lose the effectiveness of being a regular presence.

    So, don’t ask whether Mehta, the FFRF, and the ad are right or wrong. Instead, ask whether they’re tone deaf.

  11. On race, gender and atheism:

    I am a huge fan of Greta Christina but it is a fallacious claim that atheism is a “movement” consisting of mainly white men. Atheism is not an ideology of any kind. It is the personal, individualistic percept that there is no God. That’s it. And it is a notion that transcends race, gender, class and politics.

    What Greta correctly asserts is that visible activists who are campaigning for atheism and skepticism are mainly caucasian males. And I would also add that this activism is most prominent in religious societies such as the United States. Based on the stats, the majority of Swedish women are likely to be atheists and are not likely part of an atheist “movement”.

    In addition, atheists are a very ideologically diverse bunch. The feminist Germaine Greer, pornographer Larry Flynnt of Hustler Magazine and the late totalitarian dictator Joseph Stalin are/were atheists. The most irrational statement would be that these individuals are part of the same atheist “movement”.

    The vast majority of individuals don’t believe in Poseiden. There is no non-Poseiden movement and there is no talk of race or gender bias among the non-Poseidenists. Atheists simply go one step further and reject all that is supernatural. And it would indeed be irrational, racist and sexist to assume that there are no women or minorities who think this way. So why speak of an atheist movement when it really doesn’t exist?

  12. @Im a Hedge: You can’t ignore an issue and just expect it to correct itself. She is correct in that women and POC aren’t all that visible in the “movement” (ragdish’s points aside, there is a movement toward atheists being more visible, vocal, and accepeted), and that it’s an issue that needs to be adressed.

    Nowhere is she whining or saying, “We don’t belooooong and they don’t like ussss.” Instead, she is saying, “We DO belong!”

  13. Shorter privileged d00dz: “I don’t see a problem, and if there is one, it must be of your own making, so stop whining!”

    Thanks for demonstrating why Greta Christina’s post was so necessary. (And, no, Skepotter, you aren’t “supplementing” it; you’re derailing the discussion.)

  14. @Amanda: I can not imagine that my lack of any religious beliefs could ever cause me to join a movement or organization. I do support many ideas and principals as a result of my world view though. And even my local skeptic’s in the pub has become a bit of a religion bashing session that I’m finding somewhat boring and disappointing despite my view that religion certainly is fair game for skeptical rational discussion and even healthy doses of ridicule. What I find intellectually suspect and interpersonally difficult are the persons who only seem to be aggressively atheistic because they really hate religion. Rarely is there room for any rational discussion when this is the case.

  15. @James Fox: My lack of belief actually started my desire to join like-minded people, and then I discovered the skeptical movement, and went “AH-HAH!”

    But of course, I live in Arizona. Atheists are a rare breed here, and I appreciate knowing others like me.

    That said, I likely wouldn’t go to an atheist meet-up, if only because talking about religion and nothing but religion is fucking boring.

  16. Like it or not, “Athiesm” is more than simply believing that no gods exist. It’s a group and a movement, and there’s so much more to it than lack of religion. Just like any other group, some people might not feel welcome for many factors even if those people don’t believe in any gods. It would be great if Athiesm were just based on one shared belief, but that view is overly simplistic. Humans and human interaction are complicated, no matter how rational we try to be.

    Also, it’s a bit childish and naive to say “it’s their fault for not trying to join us in the first place”. The reality is that women and people of color aren’t welcome in some groups, and it’s not necessarily easy to know which groups will be accepting. I’m sure there have been times when even white men have assumed (consciously or subconsciously) that they are not welcome in certain groups, and they may be right or wrong about that. Still, it’s naive to expect people to assume the best of every group and join until they are kicked out. I’m not saying that it’s completely the group’s responsibility to be welcoming, only that you can’t just blame it on the people who don’t try to join.

  17. My husband and I have belonged to a UU congregation for several years. He is agnostic with strong atheist leanings; I am a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. We joined the congregation almost entirely for the children’s religious education classes. Our daughter was getting a LOT of flak from her mostly Catholic schoolmates as they began going through their First Communion classes (and she was not). Her Sunday RE classes cover the basics of a lot of different religious without demanding belief. They give her fodder for fighting back, as it were.

    Our congregation of 700+ used to be about evenly split between atheists/agnostics and theists of all stripes. People bend over backwards to be accepting of each other’s worldviews and beliefs.

    That said, we have noticed a HUGE uptick in the last couple of years in theists, especially liberal Christians who have abandoned their home churches for political reasons. They can find a home in UU congregations because we don’t judge their beliefs.

    As more theists come in, however, we have found our atheist position being challenged more and more by the very people who claim to be so open-minded. Suddenly there is a lot more god-talk than there used to be, and it’s really discouraging, to the point that once our daughter is high school age and no longer eligible for those types of classes, we will withdraw from the congregation. We no longer feel we belong there.

    To boil down this very long story: Oh yes, Unitarian Universalism is a religion. Very definitely. As soon as my husband and I saw the ad, we knew there would be fallout. Do I think it was inappropriate? Probably. Much more care should have been taken in crafting the message before it ever went to print.

  18. @Laura W: You know, when I started coming out as bisexual (well, coming out more officially I guess), I wanted to find a community that would accept me. I started looking at the UU LGBT churches around here. I couldn’t quite bring myself to attend service (the whole not believing in god thing, not because I didn’t think they’d accept me), but I’ve been volunteering for a local org that deals with equality and acceptance within faith a lot, and so I’ve had a chance to meet some of the religious leaders within those churches.

    Very nice, non-judgemental people. I don’t feel uncomfortable being an out atheist among them. Perhaps it’s because they understand being a minority more than others, I dunno.

    I could also have just been lucky.

  19. @Amanda:

    …. which is why you attempt to create a diverse group so that people who wish to join will look in and see, “Oh hey, there are people like me in this group, so they’ll accept me.” I thought her point was pretty clear.

    In this case “like me” is being used to mean “looks like me”, rather than “thinks like me” or “behaves like me”. It’s coming at a problem with a supposed solution that is simply a different take on the same problem. It’s this idea that only men are like men, and only women are like women. It even gets worse, down to things like “only black women are like black women” and “only asian men are like asian men”. It’s continuing to emphasis peripheral physical attributes as though they are the defining characteristics of people. If there really is a group of white males who think they can only relate to other white males, then why would any reasonable person want to become included in that group? If I encounter someone that won’t accept me on the basis of a difference in such trivial physical attributes (trivial in regards to what really makes people valuable), then I don’t want to be accepted by that person because I have no respect for that attitude. If that person is in a position of authority, then I might try to do something about it, as their lack of acceptance can cause me some real problems. If my interactions are purely social, then I will just want to avoid them.

    Do you think that Randi or Shermer or Plait or Kurtz or Novella (etc.) attained their positions of respect illegitimately, because they have penises and a sparse distribution of melanin? Do these guys now guard the gates and determine who can and cannot become a ‘leader’ or ‘visible’? If they do, do you think they make such determinations based on the outward physical appearance of the person being considered, in order to only allow in people that look like them?

    If so, why would you want to be involved with them?

    The argument seems to boil down to something like, there should be more not-white not-males in visible positions because not-white and not-male people are too shallow to see past that, and they only want to hang out with people that look like them. I think it’s patronizing, insulting, and wrong.

    I am a Hedge

  20. @catgirl: “Like it or not, “Atheism” is more than simply believing that no gods exist. It’s a group and a movement, and there’s so much more to it than lack of religion.”

    No where in the quite extensive wiki definition of atheism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism) does it appear that a movement or organization is a defining aspect of one being an atheist or atheism. I joined nothing when I concluded there was no rationale for belief in anything supernatural.

  21. @Im a Hedge: No, you missed the point.
    Minorities experience discrimination from people in the majority. If I, as a minority, look to join a group and see that no other minorities are included, then I have no sign that the group will accept me and treat me as they treat their other members. However, if a group is diverse and does include minorites, I can perhaps take it as a sign that those members of the group who are not minorities will not discriminate against me.

  22. @Im a Hedge: “If there really is a group of white males who think they can only relate to other white males, then why would any reasonable person want to become included in that group?”

    The point is that the skeptical/atheist movement ISN’T full of white males who think they can only relate to other white males. It’s just a product of our society that the white males are more visible and vocal, that’s all, and it’s something we have to work against.

    It’s not so much that they won’t accept us (us being women, here), but rather there is just a lack of a voice coming from women (and other minorities), and because of that, minorities don’t always feel comfortable involving themselves.

    “Do you think that Randi or Shermer or Plait or Kurtz or Novella (etc.) attained their positions of respect illegitimately, because they have penises and a sparse distribution of melanin?”

    They didn’t attain anything illegitimately, but yes, it was likely easier for them to get where they are because they are white males, and to deny that is naive.

    “Do these guys now guard the gates and determine who can and cannot become a ‘leader’ or ‘visible’? “

    That’s not how it works. It’s a lot more subtle than that. Look at the lack of women and minorities in many other groups we’ve discussed here — like science.

    “The argument seems to boil down to something like, there should be more not-white not-males in visible positions because not-white and not-male people are too shallow to see past that, and they only want to hang out with people that look like them. “

    That’s not it at ALL! There SHOULD be more not-white not-males visible, but not because we think not-white and not-white males are somehow less shallow, but rather because diversity is a good thing and we should always strive for diversity. Period. Just like any other group where minorities or people of color are underrepresented.

  23. @Amanda:

    @Im a Hedge: No, you missed the point.

    It’s a hobby of mine.

    If I, as a minority, look to join a group and see that no other minorities are included, then I have no sign that the group will accept me and treat me as they treat their other members.

    Which the briefest look at either ‘atheist movement’ or ‘skeptic movement’ will show to be not the case. While that reasoning may apply to some groups, I think it’s a stretch to apply it here.

    I am a Hedge

  24. @James Fox:

    Wikipedia is not the ultimate authority on all things. I never said that atheism requires groups. However, it is simple reality that many atheists form groups. This is true of nearly any belief. And there’s more to the group simply sharing the one belief of not believing that any gods exist. That’s why it’s possible and even easy for someone to hold the belief that there are no gods, but still not feel welcome (or be welcome) in an atheist group.

    You even pointed out that you are losing interest in your local skeptics in the pub group because they focus too much on the topic of religion-bashing. This is a perfect example of how you can be atheist and still not want to be part of an atheist group, although in this case it’s not because of real or perceived discrimination against you.

    It’s just too simplistic and naive to think that someone only has to hold one specific viewpoint to fit into a group of atheists or any other group.

  25. @marilove:

    but rather because diversity is a good thing and we should always strive for diversity. Period.

    Do you mean diversity as an end, or as a means to some other end? For a bit more clarification, do you mean diversity with regards to the peripheral physical attributes, or with regards to something more significant such as experiences and abilities?

    I am a Hedge

  26. Some people are more susceptible to seeing diversity, or lack thereof, than others. And you don’t want to lose potential members in a movement because the diversity that is there isn’t evident.

    Example: I’m going to use Big Bang Theory again, I’m SORRY! But, my friend and I would watch the show (both Caucasian female science grad students) and enjoy it very much. However, I felt like I totally related to the characters because I laughed at their jokes and such. She only did to an extent, and pointed out numerous times that there was no good female geek character, like us, to relate to. She picked up on that, I didn’t. I realize it now that I’ve been made aware of it.

    Maybe it is unconscious, maybe it is conscious, but there can be an internal bias that steers one away from a group that seems to homogeneous. And I think that’s what Greta is saying. That’s just Part I, I still need to read part 2.

    Also, that’s not Tinkerbell, it’s the Green Fairy!

  27. @marilove:

    @Im a Hedge: It’s interesting to me that a white male is…

    Two things:

    1. Have you checked to verify your assumptions?

    2.You will of course recognize this as a perfect example of the ad hominem fallacy. You are disregarding actual arguments based on who I am (or, at least, who you think I am), not based on what I have said.

    I am a Hedge

  28. Maybe I’m missing something but my question is who is stopping anyone one from being more visible?

    Isn’t Skepchick an example of a diverse group that is quite visible and vocal, and from the make up of the contributors and those of us that comment very diverse? This site is definately not dominated by white males, and as a white male I feel welcome here, as I’m sure every other person that visits this site daily.

    When you’re out of what is considered the mainstream then you have to try twice as hard to get your message out, and from what I’ve seen those that make the effort, no matter what gender, race, orientation, get noticed.

  29. …has anyone here actually read Greta Christina’s article? The whole way through? Right to the very interesting ending about how we need to look to the LGBT movement as an example of what to avoid in the beginnings of a group?

  30. @marilove:

    @Im a Hedge: Also you seem to be missing the point:

    Yes, yes. As I’ve said, it’s my hobby. You can appreciate how effective the practice is making me.

    By not including minorities more often, we’re missing a large group of people with the experience, abilities, and opinions that we very much need.

    I think we’re getting somewhere now. It’s not the physical attributes that are important, it is the experience, abilities, and opinions. Is it valid to use the physical attributes as proxies for these important things? Does increasing diversity of the physical traits accomplish the goal of ringing in new experience, abilities, and opinions? If so, is it effective enough to justify the dehumanizing effects of this?

    I am a Hedge

  31. @Im a Hedge: I was going to ask, but I didn’t want to be rude, and then I regretted making that comment (even I have my biases, I am so not perfect). So I apologize.

    Still, to just discredit someone’s experiences is not what you should be doing.

    HOWEVER, it is still very common for white males to discredit the experiences of minorities. VERY common.

  32. @teambanzai: I don’t think it’s a question of anyone being stopped, especially consciously. But the call is (now that I’ve read part 2) for organizers in the atheist movement to be more inclusive of women and minority speakers. And what I don’t think Greta said explicitly, but I’ll say here, is that women/minorities should make an effort to speak more, write more, and be more visible, and make an effort to not be intimidated by the white-male dominated front. I have a feeling that it’s the kind of boys club where if a girl says, “hey dude, let me play, too” the answer will be “Sure!” And you are right, the Skepchicks have done just that.

    “…and from what I’ve seen those that make the effort, no matter what gender, race, orientation, get noticed.”

    But it’s hard to count those that have tried and failed because by definition, they have failed. I would think.

    Anyway, it can’t hurt to keep talking about it and keep it high on our level of awareness, because that will remind us to keep doing something about it.

  33. @marilove:

    @Im a Hedge: I was going to ask, but I didn’t want to be rude…

    hang on,…I want to note this on my calendar.

    So I apologize.

    Very well. I wish I hadn’t given out the amount of demographic details that I already have, as I like people to focus on the ideas instead of putting me in some mental box they already have. I want people to argue with my ideas, if they think I am wrong. I just want it to be about the ideas, not about who I am.

    I actually get amused when people conclude incorrect things about me based on some comment I have made. (Sometimes I also get a bit upset about it, but that’s just being silly.) A common pattern is like this:

    Hedge: “Argument A against Proposition B is a bad argument”.

    Someone Else: “So you think Proposition B is a good idea?”

    Hedge: “No, I think Argument A is a bad argument”

    Someone Else: “I can’t believe you support Proposition B. You must be Type of Person C.”

    Hedge: “Actually, I just think Argument A is a bad argument. That doesn’t mean I support Proposition B.”

    Someone Else: “I don’t like to talk to Type C People. Leave me alone.”

    @marilove:

    HOWEVER, it is still very common for white males to discredit the experiences of minorities. VERY common.

    Sure enough.

    I am a Hedge

  34. It’s not the physical attributes that are important, it is the experience, abilities, and opinions. Is it valid to use the physical attributes as proxies for these important things? Does increasing diversity of the physical traits accomplish the goal of ringing in new experience, abilities, and opinions? If so, is it effective enough to justify the dehumanizing effects of this?

    I have yet to see any of the “everything must be 100% equal crowd” provide justification for the above.

    Nice job on calling bullshit, I am a hedge.

  35. @catgirl: While one may believe there are no gods it seems to me that the rational conclusion based on available evidence is that there are no gods. This is not a belief of mine, rather it is a conclusion based on available information. And I never said wiki was definitive, just that the definition provided was extensive.

    You respond that “I never said that atheism requires groups.”. When in fact you said ”It’s a group and a movement…” . You also state”It’s just too simplistic and naive to think that someone only has to hold one specific viewpoint to fit into a group of atheists or any other group.”. I have no idea what this means in context of the discussion given I made no statement or implication that this was the case with me or anyone else. My point was that atheism as I understand the definition and its permutations generally excludes any notion of de-facto membership in a group or organization and any definition I’ve read does not involve collective associations with respect to being an atheist .

  36. @mxracer652: “I have yet to see any of the “everything must be 100% equal crowd” ”

    I don’t remember anyone EVER saying that, or even implying that. We’re only saying that there needs to be more diversity, and that we need to work toward that, not that we need to have an equal representation of everyone at all times. We just need a more minority friendly environment, is all, which means including more minorities in panel discussions, etc.

  37. @marilove: To clarify, if you’re a white male, your experiences are going to be vastly different from an African American woman (which is why it is SO COMMON for white males to shrug off the experiences of minorities and to pretend like it doesn’t exist — because they don’t experience or it, they think it doesn’t exist). So yes, it is important sometimes to know that, even if it is just you personally acknowledging to yourself that your white male status is very well coloring your perspective.

    (Note this is a general you.)

  38. @marilove:

    But who you are does color your perspective and opinions. You can’t deny that at all.

    I don’t deny that. I do deny that “who I am” can be accurately represented by demographic details, or meaningfully inferred from those details. I do question how effective physical attributes are as a means of assessing what someone’s perspectives and opinions will be. I think things like gender, skin tone, height, weight, age, hair color, and so on, are used as crude proxies for things with which they may, in fact, only be weakly correlated – if correlated at all. I think using these things as proxies may be unavoidable, but should not be promoted as a positive thing to do. It overlooks the individuals, many of whom will be poorly described by the correlations associated with their physical attributes.

    I am a Hedge

  39. To people who think there is no problem with the current limited demographics of skeptical groups, let me make a (hopefully not vain) attempt to swing this discussion in another direction.

    This whole thing isn’t about who owes who what. If we white men are in social groups that only have other white men in them, do we owe women and racial minorities outreach to get them into our groups? No, we don’t. We have the right to hang around with our limited little circles and do nothing to try to expand them.

    The question is, why would we want to do that? We aren’t talking about a few people who hang out together here. Skepticism (if not atheism) is a movement. We have goals. We want to educate. We want to protect science in schools. We want to argue our views. We have real societal goals. We need everyone we can get on board. We can’t afford to leave out over half the population. We need them.

    Now, if you don’t give a shit about any of the skeptical movement’s goals, then fine. Some of us do, and I will never understand why there are those of us who do care but don’t see the problem with us remaining a white male club. It just beggars logic.

    Plus, if someone does feel unwelcome because of who they are, don’t you want to fix that? Even if they are totally wrong, why isn’t your first reaction to say, “Of course you are welcome! Come on in. Let me show you around,” and do just that? Isn’t that the decent human reaction in such a situation?

    Why the defensiveness or apathy? I just don’t get it.

  40. In response to Amanda’s comment:

    “@ragdish: I will echo Greta Christina’s response to a similar comment on her blog.

    This is not about whether or not there is an atheist movement and that topic is indeed rather beaten to death.”

    I would ask you and others to ponder over the following. I once asked a feminist friend of mine “why aren’t all feminists atheists?” given that women have been historically the victims of organized religions. And her response was “why aren’t all atheists feminists?”

    She added that there are plenty of theists who strive towards equality, a lot of misogynist atheists and vice versa. So why doesn’t atheism automatically lead to feminism? Why doesn’t atheism lead to equality and social justice? Because atheism is in and of itself not a movement. It is the product of number of movements including feminism.

    Indeed, it is possible to be a racist, sexist, fascist neo-Nazi and be an atheist. It is possible to be a Marxist radical and be atheist. An ultra-libertarian capitalist can be an atheist. And the list goes on.

    What is the status quo right now? We have multiple vocal atheist groups that have arisen in response to the pervasive malignant influence of the ultra-religious. Why do they tend to be mainly white males? I’ll concede that there is a strong element of privilege involved here. But also, is it possible that the lion share of atheist women are simply devoting their efforts towards feminism and in doing so aligning themselves with theist feminists? Could the same be true for black atheists? I don’t know.

    Let’s face it, when arguing for reproductive rights, affirmative action, breaking the glass ceiling, ending violence against women, etc… would an atheist woman devote her energies to all that or fight tooth and nail to remove a Christmas tree from a public school. With the atheist bus campaigns and removal of religious symbols from public institutions, these issues seem to pale in comparison with more pressing sociocultural issues regarding justice and equality that women and minorities face.

    Seriously, for the most part all these atheist groups do is show how irrational theists are. And I include myself in this milieu. We have no collective program or blueprint towards a more progressive society. And in this respect, I don’t consider any of the mainstream atheist groups to be progressive movements and I’m therefore not surprised that more women and minorities are not lining up to become members.

    That said, is there a cause to which atheists can truly be said to be a movement which embraces diversity. Yes!!! And what is that cause? It is the promotion of public scientific literacy including those who have been historically marginalized and excluded because of racism, sexism, classism and homophobia. And yes, this movement has to include people who are religious. The current mantra of religion bashing will steer atheist groups away from this cause and they will never truly emerge as movements engaged in progressive social change. BTW, did Greta say all this?

  41. @Im a Hedge said:

    A common pattern is like this:

    Hedge: “Argument A against Proposition B is a bad argument”.

    Someone Else: “So you think Proposition B is a good idea?”

    Hedge: “No, I think Argument A is a bad argument”

    Someone Else: “I can’t believe you support Proposition B. You must be Type of Person C.”

    Hedge: “Actually, I just think Argument A is a bad argument. That doesn’t mean I support Proposition B.”

    Someone Else: “I don’t like to talk to Type C People. Leave me alone.”

    Yikes. That happens to me here all the time with me being the Hedge, temporarily of course, and some others being someone else.

    No fun at all. And even though I am a professional writer, I can’t help but be constantly worried that I am somehow, consistently, inexplicabley mis-stating myself. Always. Weird.

    I agree whole heartedly with the need for more diversity in skpetical groups, atheistical groups, hell, diversity in everytyhing. Diversity is healthy. However, I think the near-constant assumption in arguments like this that the principle reason for lack of diversity is almost invariabley the fault of white males.

    That gets pretty darn tiresome. Maybe non-white, non-males are, for their own well defined and self-chosen and personally empowered reasons simply not interested. Why is that never broached as a legitimate possibility? Why such black and white narrow thinking?

    Yes, of course sexism, racism, and all our favourite “isms” exist. But to invariabley bring them up as as sole causal factors in lack of diversity or representation is weak, lacks critical thinking, and limits the discussion by creating an irrational emotional playing field.

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