I've Moved!

Atheist Morality is now West Coast Atheist at Wordpress. Stop on by and feel free to comment over there!

27 August, 2012

Blog Revamp

With the increase of traffic to this blog, I'm trying to update the layout a bit and make it more reader-friendly. I'm not super-techy, so I'm keeping it simple, but I'd love to know what kinds of things need improvement.

Let me know if you have any suggestions! I welcome your thoughts!

26 August, 2012

And Another Thing, Jen

Jen McCreight talks about how she is swarmed by people just because she wants to talk about topics she's interested in. She makes the claim that people hate diversity so much they want to shut her up. She doesn't understand why these people can't just not talk about those topics if they don't want to and leave her alone to talk about what she wants to.

Except it's not like that at all. Freethought Bloggers don't just talk about the topics they want to. They also redefine terms like misogynist so that they can label people who disagree with them on certain values or approaches to feminism, atheism, social justice, etc. They maliciously plot ways to prevent people they've labelled from speaking at events. They've sought to give a blogger a bad name by contacting the person's employer. They've clearly stated that if a person doesn't agree with them about a social justice issue, they are automatically against the idea of whatever social justice issue they are talking about.

If it were just a matter of you talking about what you want to talk about and me talking about whatever I want, that would be one thing. But it's not. It's about witch hunts, reputation burning and hurting people to further your own internet fame. That shit is bad for our movement.

Google Hangouts and a Bus

YouTube user Integralmath has an excellent video about Rebecca Watson and the new "Seattle Busgate" her and her ilk are dreaming up now. Apparently, us feeble women don't realize how much misogyny is involved in asking a woman her name on a bus. I literally had no idea. I thought people asking my name were trying to start a conversation. How foolish of me to be so duped!

I tried to watch more of the Hangout, I really did. Please don't fault me, I just couldn't stomach the self-justification of calling an entire movement racist, misogynist people who "hate diversity so much you can't even talk about it (about 14min in, Jen McCreight), and then acting like the movement's pushback against those labels is evidence that the labels apply. I almost threw up in my mouth.

I wonder if these people are really, really like this in real life or if they are just trying to be internet famous.

This Just In!

Apparently, the founder of the Atheism Plus movement is finally getting around to reading the most damning and controversial blog post about the "new wave." Despite the fact that hundreds of atheists have read and commented on the piece written almost a week ago by Richard Carrier, Jen McCreight has finally read it and denounced it via twitter. Thanks, Jen, for either being completely myopic and ignorant to the biggest cause of criticism for your silly, divisive movement. I'm sure that will win us over, being such a leader.

24 August, 2012

Welcome to the Internet

I just want to point out how easy it is to stop trolls on the internet, for anyone who might be new.

First rule, don't feed the trolls. Don't engage them at all. They want you to respond to their antics and they'll say whatever they think will make you angry enough to respond.

This brings us to the second rule: Don't let the trolls know what bothers you. If you make a big deal out of a troll calling you a certain name or saying something about someone you like, chances are more trolls will follow suit. The best thing to do in this situation is to follow rule number one.

Rule number three: Remember that trolls are just people behind a computer screen. In real life, these people are not the way the act on the internet. Look up any twenty-three year old's profile and then meet them in person. The inconsistency is astounding. There is something that trolls get from acting like douches on the internet. Follow rule number one, and they'll have to go somewhere else to get it.

Whatever you do, don't forget that the internet is full of trolls, but it's also full of good people. The reason the number of trolls seems so overwhelming is because they are the ones getting the attention. Follow rule number one, and they'll go away. Trolls do not represent any demographic or any group (other than /b/), so to base your opinions on, say, an entire fucking atheist movement on the actions of trolls who are fucking with you because you continue to break the three rules listed above, is actually really unfair.

21 August, 2012

Thank You

I'm getting a lot more comments and traffic than this little blog has ever gotten, and I'd just like to say thank you. I had just come out to my family when I created this blog and I picked morality because it's a subject you can walk a safe line on without offending theists too much. It's grown and evolved over the years as I've felt more comfortable as an activist and member of the atheist community.

When I had my original fall-out with Rebecca Watson on twitter, I felt alone. She had not only shown herself to be very inconsistent, but when I asked her about it, she automatically went insulting and I (mistakenly, I now know) answered in kind.

Here was the famous Skepchick and the indomitable PZ Meyers and their horde of followers telling me my opinion didn't matter, that I was a troll, that they were glad that I had been shamed into silence. Oh, and also, assuming that I was a male from the gate because my twitter handle isn't clearly feminine and my picture at the time was a SF 49er logo.

I knew she was wrong to attack me, and I knew I was (somewhat) wrong to attack back with the angry reddit post, but I felt like I'd never have a place in the community again. I felt like the sweeping tide of their brand of feminism, their hatred for reddit (which I've found to be a very positive place), their smearing of other bloggers was too big to overcome.

Months later and here I see their dogma being pushed further and further back to the point where they are trying to start their very own movement. Well, good luck to them; I wish them the best. Whatever floats your boat, but it's empowering to know that I can and am a part of something bigger, something with room for any kind of "plus" we happen to be.

Thank you, everyone, for your support.

20 August, 2012


Atheism+ is the latest idea from Freethought Blogs in their attempt to completely alienate anyone that disagrees with them and distill their group into an elite gathering of purists who constantly validate each other so they can make themselves internet-famous. They want to create a "new wave" of atheism, with a Capital A and a focus on social issues. You might be thinking, "Isn't that Humanism?" but you'd be wrong. Because it's not really about focusing on social issues so much as getting rid of people they don't like.

Jen McCreight describes why she wants to begin this purification process on her blog:
I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people. We throw up billboards claiming we’re Good Without God, but how are we proving that as a movement? Litter clean-ups and blood drives can only say so much when you’re simultaneously threatening your fellow activists with rape and death.
That's an awfully damaging indictment of the atheist community and its activists. The problem is, they are doing the labeling. They paint these broad strokes across the community and define misogyny to include things that aren't actually misogynistic. Number one is disagreeing with a woman. If you don't agree with something a woman has to say about a guy accepting a "no" in an elevator, you are an example of misogyny 101, as Stef McGraw learned when she was the first outcast and shut down. There's no way someone could disagree with a woman unless it has something to do with her having a vag.

She describes the trolls of the movement, without realizing those are actually just trolls. The nasty emails and rape threats that are coming from the internet are just that: internet trolls, not atheist trolls. There are MRAs who are atheists, yes, but what does that have to do with anything? There are vegan atheists, too. At the Reason Rally, we saw a number of activists, performers, comedians and leaders speak. Which ones might be included on this list of trolls? Oh, that's right, they don't want to tell you.

Who is included in the list of activists who have been threatening others with rape or death? Oh look, the first example that comes to mind is one of their own, Greg Laden, who "resigned" from the Freethought Blogs network and sat on a panel shortly after with his FtB friends discussing gender roles, in which a comment was made that men are female brains damaged by testosterone.

So who else? Thunderf00t, who wrote an entry on his Freethought Blog which had some good points, and some bad points. PZ Meyers went on to write a blog that completely misrepresented Thunderf00t's entire blog post, yada yada yada, and both sides are now foaming at the mouth at each other to the point that FtB is conspiring to keep TF from ever engaging at a conference again.

Who can forget Paula Kirby's unforgivable trespass, or Justin Vacula's shameful opposition to FtB's levelheadedness? We might as well also include the controversial figure, Sam Harris, as part of the slime we need to dispose of, or Jean Kazez for not wanting to get involved. DJ Grothe and TAM were summarily attacked for pointing out that they do, in fact, have a harassment policy in place and that rumors of TAM being an unsafe place were grossly exaggerated (which, even with the three or four unreported anecdotes that came out after this debacle, is still a pretty damn safe event if you're not thin-skinned enough to cry over a t-shirt).

Sure looks like a whole group of misogynistic homophobes, alright. Oh wait, it's Freethought Blogs who constantly use "douche" as an insult while insisting we end gender-based insults. It's funny, too, that a woman wanting to be identified as a skeptic, rather than singled out as a woman skeptic, would be seen as denigrating and harassing.

Richard Carrier, who deserves a great deal of credit and respect for the work he does, has lost my respect as a humanist when he talks about the need to "cut free the dead weight so we can kick the C.H.U.D.’s back into the sewers and finally disown them, once and for all." How very Final Solution of him. Atheism+ is just their own proverbial Kristallnacht, after all; we knew this was coming.

Even if some of the people attacked weren't in the right all the time, they deserved better than to be vilified and shunned, especially in a community that prides itself on skepticism and free thought. None of those people are misogynistic, homophobic, or making rape threats, but they're being lumped in with those that are or do. The people who don't even want to get involved are being told they are enablers and rape apologists.

While their forty or so bloggers are putting on conventions where hugs come with permission slips and the men go-a-courtin' while the ladies fan their faces, the rest of us will keep our movement. The movement that brought you Skepticon, Reason Rally, The God Delusion, Skeptic Women, atheist billboards, Supreme Court wins on the separation of church and state, and the ability to state our non-belief without feeling completely alone. Because even if they were right in their dogmatic feminism, it would still have nothing to do with non-belief in gods. For other activism, we join Humanist groups or Feminist groups.

When Atheism+ becomes divided over all their plusses (can't wait for the vegans vs. pescetarians, or the Atheism+anti-declaw community), we'll be here actually doing something for atheism.

18 August, 2012

A Letter

Dear pseudo-feminists at Freethought Blogs,

please tell me the many ways in which I should be afraid of strange men when I'm more likely to be sexually assaulted by someone I know.

Please remind me of the weakness of my sex and my powerlessness so I don't mistakenly go out at night.

I've been far too comfortable lately, only having that chilling fear in the back of my mind when I'm in a dark parking lot, and I even expect some men to have that same irrational fear of the dark, but you've shown me I'm wrong. I should feel that ALL THE TIME.

Same when I'm at home alone and that long-hidden human fear of the dark creeps up and I peek under the bed (even at 28 years old). You've shown me I shouldn't just think I'm being silly, but I should take it as evidence that I am oppressed by a pro-boogie monster culture.

Please, Ophelia, Stephanie, Rebecca, Amy, etc, keep reminding me of these things so I don't forget to be afraid.


A Weak Little Women Who Should Really Be More Afraid.

PS, I'd like to point out ikonografie's post for giving me the idea to write this letter.

17 August, 2012

Lay off of r/atheism already.

People complain about /r/atheism on reddit being too demeaning toward religion, and sometimes they have a point, but for the most part I'm of the mind that r/atheism is the place for this. Hear me out.

I've been posting a lot on Facebook about LGBT equality and the religious leaders who oppose it. I've posted about Mitt Romney and his church's poor history on civil rights.

Nothing of what I posted called Christianity or belief in a higher power wrong, stupid, or demeaned it in any way. Some posts point out the malicious actions of religious leaders, but still, I tread lightly on facebook.

I don't post memes I find on reddit unless they are directly related to the LGBT issue. I no longer question the existence of gods in status updates. A year ago, my own sister refused to come to my wedding because I posted a positive status update about how much more free I feel now that I don't wonder all the time if I pissed God off.

I even tread lightly when posting about philosophy. I've taken the Sagan, Adams and Dawkins quotes from my profile and removed my religious affiliation from Facebook altogether. I've completely censored myself because I know that merely saying that I do not believe is offensive to those who take a god's existence for granted as something obvious.

I'm generally quiet about challenging the theology itself. When I want to vent and feel like I'm not alone in a sea of people who would discriminate me or think less of me for my lack of belief, I go to /r/atheism. It is the one place in the world and online that I do not have to censor myself. People say, "Can't r/atheism just be nicer about it?" I'm telling you, it doesn't matter how nice you are, a theist will find a way to be offended by anything you post. The only way to keep r/atheism a place where people are safe from accusations of bigotry and hatred is to keep it the one place where atheists can say whatever they want.

This is the end of your regularly scheduled, relevant blog post. For my take on a recent, petty facebook fight between me and a family member, continue.

Now, for those who care, here is the story of what happened between my mom and I, as an example of how far someone will go to be offended.

This was the post that did it for her, apparently. http://i.imgur.com/OQYgV.jpg Her first comment was "Ole JFS eh? He is a descendant of Joseph Smith the Prophet of Mormonism. I think some of them are wacky." Her cousin then posted something about the underwear Mormons wear and she lost her shit after that. She compared making fun of religious clothing to Nazism. When I pointed out how ridiculous an analogy that was, she posted this comment, which I've edited and put on imgur, http://i.imgur.com/nCx8G.jpg

This isn't about my attitude or anything I've done. Even what her cousin said was just a joke. What happened here is that a theist sees something fundamentally flawed with my character because I no longer believe. It doesn't matter what I say, it will still be "less" because I've lost something in losing belief.

My mom and I finally made up, but I finally had to tell her I don't care that she believes that God puts a special light or love in people's hearts. I told her that she's wrong to think that and obviously doesn't spend enough time around me to make a judgement like that based on a facebook post. I usually don't tell her she's wrong about something in her belief system, but this was too much. To be viewed as lacking something or less of a person because she believes that God is a requirement for a "soft heart" is too offensive not to combat with reason and argument.

I feel good about standing up for myself, but in the end, I feel like I am a little angrier, a little less soft-hearted, but it's not because I lost something by becoming an atheist; it's because I constantly have to deal with being worried about how I will be viewed by theists, including my own family. No wonder people who have been atheist longer than me are "militant;" they're just fed up with the bullshit.

15 August, 2012

This is Getting Ridiculous

I am so tired of seeing extreme straw men made out of the opposition to people like Surly Amy and Rebecca Watson. The latest can be found in Surly Amy's series of asking white guys to condemn sexism and harassment of women (as if anyone denies sexism exists. The problem all along has been that not everyone agrees with what constitutes harassment and how we should police behavior, but the straw man is much easier for them to attack).

From Paul Fidalgo's contribution:
"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..."

Really? There are actually "many" in the community who have said these very things? That they'd rather treat women poorly? Citation fucking needed.

It's almost automatic to be told that a woman is a trader to their sex taking advantage of Male Privilege to say requiring verbal permission to hug your friends at conferences is a bit much.

You're a misogynist and will be painted as such in front of a large conference audience if you are a women who actually likes male attention and you say so on YouTube.

If your twitter handle doesn't show your gender, people automatically assume you are a male MRA if you think that elevator guy is actually a good example of not raping women when he accepted Rebecca Watson's "No" for an answer.

If you are female and you disagree with something said by a panel of women, you suddenly have a giant backlash from these pseudo-feminists. If you admit that because of that backlash you are now scared to post your opinion, you are told "good," because they want to shut you up. (It's only okay to fight for a woman's right to speak her mind if it echoes the hive-mind of the pseudo-intellectual bloggers with formidable communications degrees).

Now, it's even okay to DMCA people you don't agree with. To those of you around a few years ago to witness the Christian attack and subsequent suspension of YouTube users, this last bit is particularly telling of the mindset of these people.

What is really, really sad is that the examples I've listed are also cases where sexism and harassment have been involved. What is really sad is that they haven't just made women their enemy, they've made anyone with honest questions to their deplorable behavior their enemy.

Do I dislike people like Surly Amy, Rebecca Watson, etc? Absolutely. Because they're divisive, attacking, insulting and attention seeking behavior is bad for the atheist movement. If they had dicks, I'd still be saying the same thing. They are just shitty people.

Privileged Male playing Cap'n Save-a-blogger #14 (or is it 13? 15? Who cares, it could be thirty and it would still be irrelevant), also says this about the Enemy of people asking for clarity or civility:

"I don’t think you can be part of this movement."

If by "this movement" he means the pseudo-feminist attempt to prevent harassment by policing behavior so harshly that even offending someone warrants a ban and a list of new rules, then so be it. But if he's talking about the movement to get atheists and skeptics accepted into the wider majority and to fight back against religious oppression, then he needs to check himself. He has neither the power nor the privilege to tell anyone that they don't belong here just because they have a different brand of feminism or different ideals about flirting or sex.

04 August, 2012

And a Third for the day.

I just want to point to my twitter feed, @tkmlac. It's clear that bullying, name calling and vitriol is never okay. Unless you do it on Freethought Blogs. *sigh* The stoopid, it hurts!

Ugh, So I Just Wrote That Last Blog

And I stumble upon this gem on the Freethought Blogs. Granted, this person and his posts are generally more diplomatic and civil than the people who make FtB famous, but I can't get over the fact that he complains about the audacity of Richard Dawkins to criticize a Skepchick at all, as if they are untouchable when their expressed views are, or can be seen as inconsistent.

He goes on to explain why the strong regulations of hugs at American Atheists and the Hug Me, I'm Vaccinated event don't conflict with each other, but his arguments are weak. What about the people who want vaccination but don't want a hug?

He says things like:
The thing about consent is that it is often negotiated by the neurotypical without verbalizing or formalizing. One can offer a hug by opening one’s arms, and letting the other person approach if they choose.
That is exactly how hugs in real life work, so why does it need to be explicitly stated in a harassment policy that hugs should be asked for? What support does he provide that verbally asking for consent to hug a person is less important at this event?

 Even asking or motioning, though, crosses some people’s comfort barriers, so setting the expectation — verbally, via that blog post and via the title of the campaign — that hugs are on the table explicitly, and in advance, actually does people like that a huge service.
Oh, so because the word "Hug" is in the title of the event, it's already being verbally asked for. So what if someone feels they have to choose between getting an important vaccination and having to navigate and duck a sea of open arms?
And in fact, some people are even bothered by the very offer of a hug, so those people must needs make that apparent before they partake in the free vaccination services offered, because the whole event is predicated on something that might be to them a trigger, if not a simple preference.
It's up to the person that doesn't want a hug to say so when offered, or, because it has hug in the title, not go. Welcome to special pleading. The practices for giving and rejecting hugs, the non-verbal cues, etc, are all well and good for your own event, even though the event itself could be a "trigger," but they are not okay for adults attending atheist conferences.

He also mentions in the blog how a consent to hug policy is in effect at an event he went to where he got a lot of hugs"enthusiastically consented-to," and I just imagine everyone in the room adding, "Can I have a hug," with their arms stiff at their sides before receiving a "yes." Soooooo realistic, despite the fact that body language is about half or more of human communication. /sarcasm. I'm willing to bet that it's not at all like that, and if it were, it wouldn't be an event I would want to attend.

Some Thoughts on The Skeptic Movement

I don't post here often. When I do, it's usually from a smartphone and full of errors and typos. My four subscribers, thank you for hitting that button on the sidebar and sticking around, (especially you, Mom, being that you're a theist).

But things have been bothering me lately about the sexual harassment issue in the skeptical community. I find the entire thing disgusting, with one side never being satisfied with adults being able to handle themselves without a laundry list of things like, "Ask before hugging, watch what you make jokes about," another side being a group of trolls shouting "You're too sensitive, go get raped!" and the rest of us caught in the middle, trying to find some way we don't rip our movement apart trying to find a way to make the other side wrong.

I'm going to assume here that my reader knows something about Elevatorgate and Dawkins, TAM and DJ Grothe, American Atheist's policy, Freethought Blog, Thunderf00t, and a number of other things that have been going on in our community. If you don't, please ask in the comments.

My husband and our friends often laugh at off-color humor. Last night, we were conversing and someone said something in a way that could have been interpreted as much more perverted than he meant it. Pretty soon we were all laughing at a subject that is very serious. We weren't making light of it, because in a serious conversation, we'd all agree it needs to be addressed.

What was funny was that we were being absurd and outlandish in our jokes. We wouldn't make these jokes with kids or people we don't know, but we're all adults and we know the difference between comedy and reality.

Our brains are fascinating and can parse these things without walking out later in the day thinking, "Wow. That joke really made me thing that subject X isn't a real problem. In fact, sometimes when done right, humor can make a person think more about that problem.

The other thing that bothers me is that if you take the position that the "watch your hugs and jokes" crowd, you get lumped in with the people who are trolling back with, "Go get raped, you vagina slut."

Why on earth would anyone do that in the skeptical community? Perhaps because blogs aren't held to a standard that encourages discussion. Blogs tend to be internet soap-boxes where people can shout out their opinions whether anyone asked or not (such as I admittedly do here), and the ones that get attention are the ones that cause the biggest stir.

Maybe it's the celebrity factor. They get to imagine themselves important if they have enough followers or get the attention of big name authors and activists (such as Richard Dawkins).

Maybe they honestly have their intentions in the right place, but refuse to admit that anything they say about the subject might be wrong, so they back themselves into a corner until they're endorsing harassment policies that regulate common human interactions, such as hugging, as if we can't rely on these adults to be aware of body language, cultural markers or even the ability of a person to say, "I'm uncomfortable with hugs."

I imagine it's a little of both. Even though Rebecca Watson was completely rude to me unnecessarily and PZ Meyers blogs more about insulting people than science anymore, I like to think that most of the motivation is the latter. These are people who already have bad personalities and awkward social skills who have found a voice on the internet where they can be respected and revered. The problem is, once they say something, they have to back it up. Humans are less likely to change positions when their opinions and beliefs are stated publicly.

That being said, I have had a few vitriolic posts in the past about these two people in particular. Anyone following my twitter feed has seen my shock turn into insults when they start pulling their antics on people. Getting so frustrated with them, I suddenly realized I was doing exactly what I disliked about them and their friends. For that, I apologize. I really mean that. Here I am publicly changing my tone so I'm not stuck in the "Us vs. Them" battle anymore.

I hereby solemnly swear I will try to gear this blog toward discussion of differences, avoid insults and work toward solutions. Anyone is welcome to comment, but please don't feed the trolls.

01 August, 2012

Moron Redditor Calls for More Clarity on an Already Clear HarassmentPolicy

I don't know who user hauntedchippy is, but they are either trolling or completely ignorant. In the exchange between s/he and my reddit account, tkmlac, they continue to express that the policy needs to include details about harassment training the staff and volunteers have gone through (unnecessary) and how they need to be more clear on what constitutes harassment.

Check out the comments for yourself:

This person really thinks that an "includes but not limited to" list of examples isn't effective enough and that the staff could brush off the claims of victims for no good reason.

What this person is really asking for without realizing is a list of every possible situation and every possible response by the staff. Instead of accepting that harassment is so complex that each individual situation requires a unique response, s/he tries to paint the issue with huge brush strokes that assume one approach works for all.

This person is simply trying find something wrong with the policy, grasping at straws and disregarding common sense when backed into a corner. I won't quote it, you can read for yourself. All of their comments were downvoted right away, which was funny. Mine had 3-4 upvotes until about half hour ago, which means s/he either put it on SRS or got some other Downvoted brigade to jump on. This subreddit for atheist women are generally level-headed, so I know it's not them. Anyway. Check it out if you can stomach it.