Don’t Shit Where You Eat

Edited to tidy up some of the writing/spelling. This blog doesn’t normally get this much attention so I just ‘splurge’ into it.

I’m torn on whether to simply ignore Atheism Plus or to continue to criticise it. I see it as a dangerous, divisive and ultimately pointless effort that’s doing a lot of harm.

When it comes to regular atheist issues I tend to concentrate on Christianity. Christianity is more of a problem where I live (the UK) than other religions such as Islam, no matter how much more horrible and illiberal they are. It’s Christianity that has the influence and it’s a matter of prioritising the things that are the biggest problem in the public arena.

Atheism Plus is a problem to me, to us, because it is close to home. It’s occurring within the atheism/sceptic movement and it doesn’t get much closer to home than that. It’s destructive and undermining and so it is a problem that’s worth addressing rather than ignoring.

I’m going to give this entry the form of a reply to Greta Christina’s FTB ‘Atheism Plus, and some thoughts on divisiveness’ which you can find here. Though I’ll probably expand a bit from that as we go along.

Is it divisive to create a subset movement of atheism that focuses on atheism plus social justice — an “atheism plus” wave that explicitly focuses, not just on atheism, but on the intersections between atheism and racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other social justice issues?

In short. Yes. Atheism isn’t a community. At best it is a loosely corralled mass of cats who have only one, single thing definitely in common.

That they don’t believe in god.

When you start tacking on other things you start losing people. You narrow yourself down, you create fractures and oppositions. In this case you’re also setting yourself up as being ‘better’ than other people, which, perfectly naturally, they find insulting and presumptuous.

It’s already been tried and failed utterly for much the same reasons. It’s like nobody remembers what happened with the whole Brights thing.

Face it. This community is already divided. And it is divided in a way that is making many, many women feel cut out. For a solid year, far too many women in this community — and especially feminist women — have been relentlessly subjected to a torrent of hatred, harassment, and abuse… and to a torrent of people ignoring this behavior, rationalizing it, trivializing it, or getting angry at us for even talking about it.

And how are you helping, exactly, by creating a splinter group? How are you helping by propagating the myth that atheism is, somehow, a hotbed of misogyny and violence towards women? It most certainly is not.

Yes, people are subjected to a torrent of abuse, that’s the price of doing business on the internet, whether it’s for good or bad (protip: bad). It’s a price we pay for the upsides of relative anonymity and free expression online. The same anonymity that lets, for example, rape victims speak up without fear of reprisal and sceptics and atheists in repressive countries to gain a sense of community and support without being killed for blasphemy.

This is not a phenomenon unique to women, to feminist women or to feminist women atheists. It happens to everyone.

What does seem to be different is the reaction to such behaviour. For whatever reason the wing of the atheist movement (a better word than community I think) that seems to be instrumental in forming A+ takes these threats and trollings seriously. It seems like the internet wisdom of ‘Don’t feed the troll’ has utterly passed them by. Indeed the very idea of A+ can be seen as one of the greatest trolling successes of all time. The provokers and trolls have created a massive reaction an a huge amount of internet drama. The very thing they set out to do in the first place.

A+ assumes – insultingly – that people ignore the behaviour because they condone it. Rationalise it because they condone. Trivialise it because they condone it. Any attempt to explain or to point out that – however upsetting – it most likely is trivial is:

a) not an attack upon you and…
b) not an approval of such behaviour.

It’s just the facts.

Why is it “divisive” for some atheists to create one space in the world where we don’t have to deal with this shit? Why is that, when some atheists form a subset of the movement that’s dedicated, in part, to speaking and acting against these kinds of abuses, and to carving out a place in the movement where the people who perpetuate them are not welcome, it sends so many people into a frenzy of hand-wringing about “divisiveness”?

Well for one thing, that’s not what you’re doing. You’re sticking an enormous fucking target on your back that says ‘kick me’ to the arseholier-than-thou end of the internet. An easy target that they know they can get a reaction out of.

There’s also the implicit and insulting assumption that anyone who doesn’t buy into this is somehow part of the problem. ‘With us or against us’ is about as divisive an attituude as you can get.

A leader of a major skeptical organization speculated on the causes of low female attendance at his conference… and blamed it on women who were speaking out about sexual harassment. Why was that not “divisive”?

Because it might well be true?

Creating the erroneous impression that conferences are a hotbed of rape and unwanted attention is, understandably, going to put people off. While it may be a cause that means a lot to you surely the amount of such abuse going on at atheist conferences – if there’s any at all – is nanopotatoes compared to the rape and harassment issues that others suffer. Say, sex workers?

This is not to say that something being worse excuses something less bad – but still bad – elsewhere, rather to say that resources could be better spent and more usefully than painting atheism conventions as Rape-A-Palooza when we’re also trying to popularise and increase the footprint of atheism.

If they are that bad then you’re part of a movement that is – if nothing else – generally speaking, amenable to logic reason and evidence. We can be convinced if such things are presented to us in support. You’re just going to have to do a lot better than Elevatorgate and not get bent out of shape when people don’t just take your word for it.

[List of outrages, small and big here]

Yes, some of those things are bad (I’ve never really understood American sensitivity over ‘cunt’ or any other bad language) but these are isolated incidents and not indicative of the whole.

Anecdotal data if you will.

You’re also assuming trolls to be representative of the whole – again. Which, again, is insulting and presumptive. J Random Arsehole with a broadband connection is not ‘all men in the atheist movement’. One would think people who hate stereotyping and bigotry would be watchful against that.

The suggestion was made that atheist and skeptical conferences, like virtually every other conference in the world, should have sexual harassment policies and codes of conduct, because some women had had bad experiences at cons of sexual harassment and other assaults and invasive behavior. And it sparked a firestorm of controversy, in which the very idea of harassment policies at conferences was derided as unnecessary and repressive, and in which women advocating these policies were targeted with hatred, abuse, vilification, slander, invasion of privacy, and graphic threats of violence, rape, and death. Why was that not “divisive”?

Yes, the idea of redundant harassment policies was divisive.

Is that not what you meant? Oh, well, let me explain.

The laws of the land already cover it. Atheist cons are not particularly renown for egregious sexual harassment and abuse and – again – it creates the impression that this virtual non-issue at these meetings is A BIG DEAL. It’s something we’re going through in geek/nerd circles as well at the moment and equally, it’s not a huge problem but is being treated as though it is.

It’s akin to putting a sign outside a restaurant proudly proclaiming: ‘We have a strict policy against poisoning our customers’. It makes you suspicious. It doesn’t make you feel safe. The law of the land already requires levels of hygiene and that poisonings not take place so why does this place have to specifically say it’s against it?

Let’s also not forget that criticism of the idea was met with gaping-mouthed disbelief, vilification,  slander  etc aimed the other way. At anyone who even dare to question the very idea of harassment policies in the first place. Thinking harassment policies are bunk does not mean you like or support harassing women.

You’re asking a sceptical community to swallow the insular concepts of the feminist (and other) echo chambers without examining them. That’s a fools errand. Then the reaction to those presumptions – questioning, examination and kicking the tyres to see if it will go – is treated as though it’s persecution or support for abuse/harassment/rape/whatever.

It isn’t.

We expect religious ideas and conceits to withstand examination and if they were real or true they would emerge unscathed and we would change our minds. Is that not correct? The same should be true of any proposition, religious or not.

People react to shit with shit. Start throwing about ‘misogynist’ and other ‘ism’ insults at people who are only guilty of not believing what you’re saying and asking for evidence is going to sound eerily familiar to people who spend a lot of time arguing with theists. It’s like pointing at someone and shouting ‘Witch!’

We can do better.

When atheist women speak out about online threats and harassment, we routinely get told that we should shut up about it because it’s “feeding the trolls.” Why is that not “divisive”?

It’s sound advice for one thing.

A female public figure in the atheist movement spoke about an incident where she was approached in an inappropriate time and place; said, “Guys, don’t do that”… and as a direct result, has been targeted with an unstoppable torrent of hatred, abuse, vilification, slander, and graphic threats of violence, rape, and death. A torrent that has lasted for over a year, and that continues to this day. And mentioning her name in any context starts the fight all over again. Why is that not “divisive”?

Because people don’t agree and, this being a sceptical community, it’s assumed we can have a discussion about it without being insulted.

Oops.

This particular incident is a prime example of the problem. A mountain out of a molehill constructed by a particularly unambitious mole. This whole thing rumbles on and any criticism of this overreaction is treated with the same outrage and bluster as genital mutilation. No sense of proportion.

Many of us don’t see the problem and see the reaction as meeting the stereotype of the so-called ‘straw feminist’. Rather than explain (not that that means we’re ever going to agree) the ‘ism and ‘ist nonsense starts up and turns it into a battleground.

A significant stream in the atheist movement — a minority, but not a trivial minority, and a very visible one — is actively devoted to driving feminists out of atheism. A significant stream in the atheist movement is allied with the Men’s Rights Activist movement: a movement that is beingscrutinized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the organization that exposes and fights hate groups. And these atheists consistently use hateful MRA language and ideas in their ongoing harassment of women. Why is that not “divisive”?

Would you think it fair to judge all feminists by their outlying extremists?

Are you denying that there are issues where men have particular problems because of their agenda?

Are you sure it’s not just scepticism of some feminist ideas that’s being treated as an effort to drive you out? Just because people don’t agree with you doesn’t mean they’re trying to drive you away. Remember, all atheists have in common is that we don’t believe in god/s.

That’s it.

The reality for prominent feminist women in the atheist movement is that harassment, hate, and threats have become routine. The reality is that, when an atheist targets me with a brutal, graphic threat of rape and sexualized death, directed personally at me by name — as happenedjust last week — my basic reaction is, “Oh, yeah. This again.” And this has an effect on women who aren’t public figures. I get emails and comments all the time from women who tell me, “I’m an atheist, I really want to be part of the atheist community and the atheist movement… but WTF? How can I possibly be part of this?” Every feminist atheist blogger I know gets these emails and comments. Why is that not “divisive”?

This is the reality for human beings on the internet. Especially if you’re out about your opinions and they aren’t agreeable to some people or they mark you out as someone who can easily be wound up.

You are not special.

Your treatment is not unique to you, nor unique to women.

I wrote an article on why rape is a valid tool in storytelling that shouldn’t be removed and you wouldn’t believe the threats and vitriol (including rape threats no less!) I got from that. A lot of it is just trolling. Some of it not, some of it from ‘progressive activists’. So I cannot understand why you are so surprised or so sensitive to it.

Your reaction of ‘Oh yeah, this again’ is probably the healthiest reaction, but again, you’re conflating the actions of trolls on the internet with the broader atheist movement. I’d bet you good money that the majority are ‘just’ trolls who have about as much to do with the atheist movement as the Pope does.

And the reality for me — a reality that makes me sick and sad, a reality that I can hardly bear to talk about — is that, as a public figure, the people I fear the most, the people I am most genuinely concerned about doing me physical harm, are not religious extremists. The people I fear most are other atheists. Why is that not “divisive”?

It is divisive but it’s divisive because you’re assuming your fellow travellers are the source. To belabour the point that’s very insulting and is bound to get a chaps back up. It’s also an irrational fear presented to a movement that tends not to give irrational things a pass.

An atheist movement cannot be inclusive of atheist women… and also be inclusive of people who publicly call women ugly, fat, sluts, whores, cunts, and worse; who persistently harass us; who deliberately invade our privacy and make our personal information public; and/or who routinely threaten us with grisly violence, rape, and death.

Yes it can. All that unites us is that we don’t believe in god. There are going to be arseholes – on all sides come to that. The abusive fucknuggets are likely not the people you regularly interact with though.

We have the same issue in ‘Geek Culture’. People within the broad definition of ‘Geek’ or ‘Nerd’ regularly make the mistake of thinking that just because you like Star Trek and I like comics that we must somehow be soulmates who agree on everything and act with perfect love and respect for each other.

That’s obviously bollocks.

Within the atheist community all you need to agree about is that you don’t believe in god. We’re free to disagree, argue, fight and debate on anything and everything else. Don’t expect special dispensation or immunity just because you have boobs and why would you want special dispensation anyway? Wouldn’t that be sexist?

The people who are hand-wringing about how Atheism Plus is “divisive” are basically saying that they are entitled to me. They may not intend to say that — but that’s the upshot. They are saying that they are entitled to my work, my ideas, my fundraising efforts, my late nights, my grueling travel schedule, my passion, my exhaustion, my efforts to make atheism stronger and more visible.

Not at all. Bugger off if you want.

What I think those of us concerned about this worry about is that A+ appears to be putting ideology above reality. Which is dangerous whether you’re talking about religion, Marxism or laissez-faire freemarket capitalism.

There’s an unwillingness to acknowledge or understand criticism. Appeals for evidence and backing or attempts to understand are characterised as ‘derailing’ or even support for sexism, racism, homophobia or whatever else. This witch-hunting and overreaction is being passed off as some kind of heroic, progressive move.

It isn’t.

You’re taking your ball and going home. It’s childish quite frankly. It’s ‘You can’t fire me, I quit’.

I am sick to death of people calling Atheism Plus “divisive”… and yet somehow not applying that word to the hate, abuse, harassment, violation of privacy, threats, and more that women in this community are subjected to as a matter of course, or to the stubborn, hyper-skeptical, willfully ignorant defenses of those behaviors.

A+ is an organised and self-appointed group. These abuse-monkeys are individuals.

I agree with almost all of A+’s goals, but I do not see them as part of atheism. Furthermore as someone who has spent a considerable amount of time explaining that atheism =/= communism and that it is not a belief system, political ideology or a religion, someone coming along and creating something under the atheism name that has a dogma and very much does look like the ‘progressive liberal conspiracy’ that some of these people fear is really un-fucking-helpful.

A+, like the harassment policies, is unnecessary, divisive and insulting to others. If it hadn’t called itself ‘atheism’ it may not have attracted so much ire, but as things stand it is undoing a lot of good work and giving atheism’s critics a lot more ammo.

In summary, it pisses me off and makes me feel that it is divisive because it won’t brook criticism, it paints atheism as something its not (a horrible, nasty, misogynist-riddled hatefest) and because it’s completely and utterly unnecessary.

Pax.

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Four Reasons that Don’t Hold Up

The author of the Blog My Reasons seems to have made me a project to debate these reasons they believe in god, but having a debate hidden away purely in the comments isn’t a great way to proceed. I’ve taken a look at their reasons in the hopes that it would be something different and new but alas, it seems not. If this post seems curt it’s because these are mostly old hat and have been dealt with many times before.

1. Complexity

There’s a lot of stuff listed here but unfortunately it’s mostly redundant. The basic idea is that the modern cell is so complicated that it couldn’t possibly have evolved. Well, there’s a problem with that right away. The modern cell is itself the result of around 3.75 billion years of evolution and not the simple replicator that the first proto-cell or proto DNA/RNA would have been. There are two great primers and indications of how simple early replicators can be. Firstly Dr Szostak’s work on early replicators and secondly Spiegalman’s Monster.

The blog also cites non-organic material but in actuality planets, galaxies, stars etc are all pretty damn simple. They’re just BIG. Gravity and motion is all it takes to explain any of them.

The problem is really that a) complexity is not indicative of design and b) irreducible complexity… isn’t.

2. Religions Point to a Deity

Well the earliest religions are more animistic, pointing to ‘spirits’ and we see no indication of those either. Most religions have been polytheistic, but if you’re trying to argue for ‘a’ god, then that’s singularly unhelpful. Right off the bat it’s obvious that this is an argumentum ad populum and so can be dismissed without further ado.

That said there are other reasons why humans would have this common weakness for religion. Humans tend to false pattern recognition with a particular weakness for seeing human agency or imagery. We think we see a human face in the moon. Is it a human face? No. This is pareidolia. Similarly we expect concious, human agency where there is none. “OK, who hid my car keys?”

Why does this happen? Evolutionary Psychology suggests that there must be an evolutionary reason but that doesn’t mean our modern conclusions are correct. Humans are social animals who live in a social context. Amongst other humans most interactions and events DO have agency and erring on the side of suspecting and accounting for that would have survival value. Similarly there’s survival value in being paranoid. Mr Caveman is walking through the woods when he hears a twig snap. Should he assume it’s a sabretooth and run for his life or brush it off and ignore it? Even if it isn’t a sabretooth most of the time, paranoid caveman is more likely to survive and father children and pass on the ‘RUN!’ meme socially.

3. Pascal’s Wager

I cover some of the profound issues that shoot this argument to shit in a previous post. Little point going over it again.

4. NDEs

Are hallucinations caused by the release of DMT in the brain under extreme duress and ‘coming up’ out of oxygen starvation to the brain. Some include Out of Body experiences but these have similarly been debunked and have been artificially induced. Skepdic has a good summation of NDE claims and debunking.

The only variance here is the claim that the congenitally blind can have visual NDEs. Well, as it turns out only 10% of people who are legally blind are actually completely blind and even they often have some sense of light and of spatial awareness.

The study most often cited examined a whole 30 blind people who had supposedly had NDEs and reported 80% had had visual hallucinations in their NDEs. Keep in mind that 10% of 30 is only three and that this really doesn’t constitute a good example. Furthermore their star witness did not report full visual hallucinations but ones without colour. This is good reason to suspect that they might simply be reporting what they were expected to or how sight had been described to them.

The way to settle this would probably be to induce an NDE like experience in a person who was congenitally blind while scanning them in an fMRI for activity in the visual parts of the brain. We’ll have to see if this ever happens but in the meantime the paucity of evidence and its suspicious cast forces one to suspend judgement and hold the proposition false under the burden of proof.

Outside of this particular wrinkle, NDEs (and OOBEs) have been more than adequately explained at this point.

Why do people report similar experiences? Similar situations and stresses upon the body will induce similar effects just as certain drugs induce similar effects. Prior to the popularisation of  the ‘typical’ NDE, reports were very much varied according to cultural inculcation and tradition. It is only with the emergence of the typical NDE story that we have seen this homogenisation. It’s a similar phenomenon to how alien ‘abductees’ used to report a panapoly of different aliens from hairy dwarfs to giant lizard men but the popularisation of the ‘grey’ has homogenised that.

 

Cool Story Bro

I’ve lived the majority of my life neck deep in stories, fiction, ‘made up shit’. Roleplaying games, computer games, science fiction and fantasy. Because of this some people seem to wonder why I don’t buy in to mythology and superstition. Their argument seems to be that because I think stories about magic, UFOs, Moon Nazis, telepathy and so on are cool and great that somehow this translates to me believing in them in reality.

I just don’t follow this line of thinking.

I can appreciate religious myths on that storytelling and metaphorical level, even if I think they’re metaphors for shitty things or that they’re so wide of the mark they couldn’t see the mark in the Hubble Deep Field.

Indeed, I credit my honed fictonaut states with my keenly callibrated bullshitometer. If you’re immersed in fiction you can tell more easily, I think, when you’re being fed a line. You can recognise more easily the line between fantasy and reality and differentiate the one from the other.

Just because some of these people can’t tell a story from what’s real I don’t see why they should extend that to me. Weirdos.

So, Atheism+ eh?

I somehow missed all this getting started but I’ve spent today trying to catch up between bouts of work, driving lessons and other interruptions. I think I’m up to speed but there was a lot to catch up on and if I have the wrong end of the stick do be sure and correct me.

What it seems to be is people doubling down on what I already made a post about a little while back. (Short version is that I asserted that it was bloody stupid to assume that just because we’re both atheist that we agree on everything else). This A+ idea seems to be an actual bold and ‘out’ attempt to conflate a whole bunch of stuff with atheism.

On the face of it, there’s nothing you could or should object to. This is how it’s put in one place:

We are…
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism.

Great! I care about social justice. I support women’s rights (and mens). I protest racism. I fight homophobia and don’t have anything against trans people. I use critical thinking and scepticism! I should fit right in then eh?

Well maybe, but I’m a bit suspicious. For one thing I don’t want atheism getting tangled up in a bunch of other political and ideological strings because I’ve spent a great deal of time getting it through people’s skulls that all it means is ‘I don’t believe in god/s’ and that’s it. After all, they already conflate atheism with Communism and think one’s t’other and vice versa and that’s a whole lot of stupid one has to correct. Now I’m going to be confronted by people, fearful of some ‘liberal conspiracy’ pointing at A+ and gibbering in abject terror and that’s going to be much harder to refute.

If you’re putting ideology over truth, ideals over scepticism, ought over is, then you’re heading for trouble and the evidence I’ve seen up to this point rather suggests that’s what’s going to happen here.

You’ve got the rootless accusations of misogyny, the poor treatment of thunderf00t at the hands of the ideologues, the stupidity surrounding Elevatorgate, the scaremongeringly unhelpful harassment policy push, the number of times we see The Claim and Cause Entwined going on. There’s a near total lack of willingness to apply the supposedly lauded trait of scepticism to claims around these progressive elements and if you do dare to question it’s presumed that you’re against whatever it is that’s being promoted.

“You know… I’m not sure these rape statistics are entirely kosher.”

MISOGYNIST!

“I think you’ll find it is true that there are racial differences in rates of criminality but I suspect the cause to be economic…”

RACIST!

“Chromosomaly you’re still male of course.”

TRANSPHOBE!

Question the data, even if you don’t question the cause, and well… people might as well just point at you and shriek ‘WITCH!’ Once the accusation is made, you’re fucked, no matter what the truth is.

This seems like a supremely bad, elitist (oh the irony) dick move but is probably doomed to be another failure.

Remember ‘Brights’?

How do you solve a Problem like Assange?

With purchase of same.

So Assange has had his ‘life of Brian’ moment at the window of the Ecuadorian embassy and really that’s done sod all to change anything for all the hype leading up to it. All he really did was to make a rather vague statement that few people could really object to.

So the situation continues.

Assange seems to present something of a problem for a lot of the other progressive and activist people that I know. Why? Well, on he one hand he’s something of a folk hero despite being (unquestionably) a self-aggrandising prick and, apparently, an inconsiderate lover. Wikileaks represented a Citizen Media fightback and a way to get embarrassing information out there despite government controls and blocks.

On the other hand he’s been accused of rape and, at the risk of drawing ire again, there is a tendency amongst quite a large number of progressive types to tend to the ‘guilty until proven innocent’ when it comes to sexual allegations. The Assange case then, tears these people in half.

Let’s just pause a moment and note that he is accused only, that he has not been found guilty of any offence. He should not be judged by us as the public before he has actually been found guilty in a court of law. Jumping to conclusions rarely goes well. There are many reasons why an innocent man might run.

Assange may or may not be guilty but, given the treatment of people like Bradley Manning there are good reasons to be wary. There’s also the fact that one of his accusers published a blog with detailed instructions on how to get revenge on a man using some methods that now seem rather familiar.

There is reason to suspect the charges are somewhat spurious and in what leaked detail we do have they seem like a guy being a dick and two women, scorned, seeking to prove the adage about hell and fury.

Again though, we don’t have a lot to go on. The timing is suspicious, the nature of the accusations is suspicious and the past of at least one of the accusers is suspicious. It’s, perhaps, more likely that both Assange and his detractors have leapt upon the opportunity to wield his political hot-potato status as a weapon.

I don’t think he could get a fair trial anywhere, but he may – perhaps – have a better chance in Sweden and they’re less likely to extradite than the UK is. They’re also, I think, more likely to find him guilty of sexual misconduct that might be viewed more frivolously elsewhere.

Whether you think that’s good or bad is up to you.

Still, let’s just remember he’s accused, not guilty, yeah? Also that doing good things doesn’t preclude one from also doing bad things, and vice versa.

No More Ebay Hokum-Pocus?

So it seems eBay has decided to crack down on woo (or fraud as it’s otherwise known). While reaction in the neo-pagan and other woo-communities has been predictably shrill there remains some confusion over what is and isn’t allowed to be sold now. Spells, it seems, are not allowed so you can’t pay someone $6.66 to cast a love spell on your behalf. Understandably it’s bloody difficult to even know if someone’s done ANYTHING when they say they cast a spell and getting your money back when your amour doesn’t fall panting at your feet is going to be irksome.

Of course, they all cover their arses with the ‘entertainment purposes only’ and ‘no refunds’ despite the fact that a lot of them claim to believe in their magic spells, healing energies and so on. That just makes it even trickier.

The confusion seems to arise when there are physical items also involved. You may well still be able to buy crystals, dream catchers, wands, books of spells and so on which means there’s still a route for people to get shaken down by charlatans and pious liars but at least it’s an improvement.

I don’t imagine eBay will be banning the sale of bibles or homeopathic remedies any time soon though, more’s the pity. At the very least these sorts of things are doing financial harm to the buyer and I wonder if the ban extends to the claims, blessings etc of other religions.

It’ll be interesting to see where this all ends up and whether anyone will try to assert that it’s religious discrimination. Maybe we can take a leaf out of the new tobacco restrictions and label all religio-spiritual items with the word ‘BULLSHIT!’ and nothing else.

If I were of a more exploitative frame of mind I’d be registering SorcerEbay right now.

Just a Reminder

As atheists the one and only thing that unifies us is this statement or some variety thereof:

“I don’t believe in god/s.”

That’s it.

Nothing more than that. We may have tendencies to being socially progressive, sceptical, left of centre and so on as an overall demographic but really, this is the one and only thing that binds us all together.

Expecting every atheist to agree to a particular set of political or social beliefs – especially if they’re towards some particularly extreme end of Berkeleyesque newspeak – is a recipe for disappointment. It’s also an act of stupidity to act surprised, horrified and offended when a group known for being sceptical questions your ideological blinkers.

Atheism is a broad church (ha ha) and trying to impose a particular point of view over an atheist community, symposium, conference or whatever else is not only doomed to create the problems it’s supposed to address but will fracture the community (such as it is) and concentrate it on internal disagreement.

It’s a waste of effort and it’s pathetically naive. It also plays against our strength:

Diversity.