As you can see in the following Twitter exchange, captured by Elevatorgate, it sounds like the Women in Secularism 2 conference got off to an interesting start yesterday. Dr. Ron Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, opened the conference. From what I observed on Twitter (#wiscfi), the reactions to Dr. Lindsay's opening comments were quite negative. Some felt that he minimized the role of privilege. Others accused him of "mansplaining." And many seemed to be upset primarily because Dr. Lindsay, a man, opened the conference.
Dr. Lindsay said that he will post his comments online so they can be read by anyone who is interested. He was true to his word, and you can find the text of his talk here. I think this is a wise move, and I look forward to reading it.
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May 18, 2013
May 17, 2013
|Email Icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I was recently asked an interesting question via email by an atheist who indicated that she is feeling disillusioned with the online secular community due to what she described as the "irrationality" and "intolerance of dissent" she attributed to some prominent bloggers and many of their more vocal fans. I can certainly understand that sentiment. After telling me that she is thinking of having nothing further to do with online atheism because of this, she posed a question I wasn't expecting:
If you were just starting out today and had seen all this shit, would you even bother starting an atheist blog?This question caught me off guard, and I was not initially sure how best to respond. I knew where she was coming from. I have heard this sentiment from others, and I'd be lying if I were to say that I'd never had similar thoughts. Yes, I think I would start an atheist blog today. I do not think I would be deterred by the toxic elements in the atheist blogosphere. There are plenty of things happening in the online secular community today that might give me pause in considering whether I would want to start a new atheist blog, but I do not believe this would be one of them.
May 16, 2013
|Userpage icon for pro-choice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Feminism continues to be a controversial topic for many atheists. Some in our community have had difficulty separating feminism from the bad behavior of a small minority of prominent atheist bloggers who identify themselves as feminists; others have found it tough to separate disagreement from misogyny. And so the atheist world turns.
The controversy received a recent jump-start in the form of a recent article on Women in Secularism 2 in The Houston Chronicle. The author, intentionally or otherwise, seemed to pit Justin Vacula against Amanda Marcotte on the subject of whether atheism is consistent with feminism and/or pro-choice positions. Justin has been getting some heat for one part of the article in particular:
As Justin Vacula of Skeptic Ink Network said in response to another piece from conference speaker Amanda Marcotte, “I fail to see how refusing to believe in God leads to the ‘logical conclusion’ of abandoning the belief that women exist to serve men.”I come to this as someone previously unfamiliar with Marcotte's work and as someone who has the impression that some of the parties involved in discussing atheism and feminism seem to be talking past each other. This may be amplifying disagreement unnecessarily. Frankly, I think that both feminism and atheism are important enough that we should be able to have meaningful discussions of them.
|The "free speech zone" at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Take Fox "News" as an example of what I'm talking about. It seems to have been created, at least in part, to preserve bad ideas by insulating them from criticism. This keeps discredited ideas (e.g., "trickle-down" economics) relevant long after they should have disappeared.
Organized religion is perhaps the best example of all, as it has managed to convince many people that their claims should be exempt from criticism. Those who dare to criticize religious claims are viewed as insensitive or intolerant, and the discussion quickly shifts from the content of the criticism to the act of criticizing. Far too many bad ideas have been preserved in this manner.
As we have all observed, my quaint idea of the public forum may not reflect the modern reality of "he who yells the loudest wins." Perhaps the public forum only works when all parties are willing to participate "in good faith." If not, the process can be manipulated to the point where it ceases to function for the public good. Maybe the public forum is merely a convenient fiction, one that must be maintained because we lack a viable alternative.
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May 15, 2013
|Fire and Blood (Game of Thrones) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
At the repeated urging of a friend, I watched a few episodes from a previous season of Game of Thrones. One of the things that struck me was how some of the characters on the show swore loyalty oaths in which they mentioned both "the old gods and the new gods." I thought this was a brilliant illustration of the absurdity of the Pascal's wager argument of which many Christians are so fond.
As I have noted previously, Pascal's wager need not lead someone to the Christian god any more than it lead them to any other sort of god(s). The characters in Game of Thrones seemed to be hedging the bets by trying to acknowledge all the various gods in which their group had believed. And why not? It isn't like there is more evidence for one god over another. If one really bought into Pascal's wager, wouldn't it be wise to worship as many gods as possible to maximize one's chances of being correct?
I realize that Game of Thrones is fictional; however, I found myself wondering if there was a historical precedent for people feeling trapped between the old gods of their ancestors and whichever new one(s) they are expected to worship. It seems like there would have been many ancient societies in which that could have been the case. During the Christianization of Norway, for example, I wonder if there were Norwegians who tried to split their allegiance both the the pagan gods of their ancestors and to the new Christian faith. It seems likely.
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