Welcome to number fifteen in a series where I ask men in leadership roles to speak out against the hate we have seen directed at the women in our community.
Today, I bring you the words of, Paul Fidalgo who is the Communications Director for the Center for Inquiry. Paul talks about what he refers to as the, ‘skepto-atheosphere’ and explains why we need to move forward and fight for a better world, even if that means leaving some people behind.
Paul’s words after the jump.
The vaunted skepto-atheosphere: I have at times made the mistake of assuming that we’re all in this movement because we were spurred on by the same set of ideals and principles. Some are moved by social justice and civil rights, some by a devotion to reality and truth, some who simply want a community of intelligent, creative folks, and of course there will be some who want a faction to join in order to combat a nefarious “other.”
Probably most of us have a blend of all of these. For me, I think I began being moved by frustration with society’s aversion to facts, found that this aversion resulted in persecution and discrimination of reality-based dissenters, discovered the community of fascinating people with whom I can bond over more than mere nonbelief, and yes, I’ve gotten some kicks out of pointing and laughing at those who believe in absurd things.
But for some folks, that kind of factioning isn’t enough. It needs to go deeper. There needs to be an enemy. What is so deeply saddening to me is that for many who consider themselves part of this community, the enemy is women. And why? Because they’d like you to stop threatening them with rape and violence and treating them like chattel, thank you very much. I know. The nerve.
And of course this phenomenon spills out, and infects everything we do within the movement. People who ought to be friends and allies call for each other’s expulsion; one person takes an extreme position, another finds a shred of merit within the argument, and now all are painted with the same brush. It’s happening so quickly, and it’s dizzying. But it may be an inevitable side effect of the real problem.
We do this around all sorts of issues. Remember when all we cared about was who was and was not an “accomodationist”? I was guilty of overindulging on that particular brand of factioning (this person thinks Sam Harris is too callous? THEY MUST BE DESTROYED), and I regret it (but seriously, leave Sam alone). But now I’m beginning to miss those days, eye-roll-inducing as they are now.
So what I think might be helpful here is a distinguishing between those who simply operate in the skepto-atheosphere (on and off-line) and those who consider themselves part of a movement. Because you can be a skeptic and you can be an atheist and also be a rotten person who thinks little of your fellow humans who happen to have a double-X chromosome.
But I don’t think you can be part of this movement.
I know, I don’t get to decide these kinds of things. But if I did, it’d go something like this:
This movement (not merely the community of heretics, but the movement) is about lessening the power of religion, superstition, and credulous thinking because we want to live in a world guided by facts, science, and reason, because (and here’s the part I might lose some of you) we want to live in a world that maximizes human happiness, morality, freedom of thought and expression, and equality. Atheism and skepticism for their own sakes are not “causes.” They are not, in and of themselves, worthy of a movement. But we pursue these goals because we know they will bring about a society in which we are more free and equal, and in turn we will be more fulfilled and enriched as a result.
We want to save the world.
Isn’t that what a movement is all about? Activists fighting for LGBT marriage equality aren’t just fighting so that some gay folks can get hitched. It’s because it’s part of a larger project of bringing about a more moral, fairer, and better world.
There are a whole lot of folks in the skepto-atheosphere who don’t share that goal. Maybe they think they do, but in their actions, in their words, they prove otherwise.
So here is my opinion (not necessarily that of my employer). If you don’t share the goals outlined above, if you think it’s cool or funny or even necessary to debase or threaten women, then you’re just not part of the movement, even if you think you are. Because if making a fairer, better world is not your goal, then what are you fighting for? The right to terrorize people? The right to feel superior? Them’s small fries, my friend. You can do better.
If you’re not interested in doing better, you’re not part of this movement. You may be a skeptic, you may be an atheist, but you’re not part of this grand project. You’re not helping.
So of course I strongly echo the sentiments already expressed in this series. The kind of loathsome behavior we’ve seen directed at women in recent months is reprehensible, embarrassing, and shameful. It’s beneath any civilized human, but it’s outright unconscionable for those who profess to be part of this community, of this movement. We are better than that. Are you?
I mean, we get it. The Bible and the Koran are fiction and there’s no evidence for Bigfoot. So now what?
I’m going to join the movement that’s working on the “now what.” I’ll see you there when you’re ready to help.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Paul. I look forward to helping to build a better future with you.
Prior posts in this series can be found here:
More to come.