The New Atheist’s problems with sexual harassment are starting to move up the food chain on both the Left and the Right.
First, from the Left, we have Amanda Marcotte, who makes a rather startling observation:
When the Center for Inquiry, a major free-thought organization, held a conference titled Women in Secularism (full disclosure: I was a speaker at this conference), angry anti-feminists in the movement deluged the Twitter hashtag for the conference with so much misogynist garbage that it became unreadable. While sexual harassment is used as a weapon to strip women of their dignity and sense of safety in nearly all corners of society, for some reason it’s particularly bad when it comes to the skeptic/secularist community.
She is not alone in noticing it’s particularly bad when it comes to the skeptic/secularist community.
Recall that Jen McCreight wrote:
I can’t count how many times I publicly stressed that the atheist/skeptical movement, while not perfect, is still a safer place for women and other minorities.
But now I recognize that I was trying to convince myself that this is true.
I don’t feel safe as a woman in this community – and I feel less safe than I do as a woman in science, or a woman in gaming, or hell, as a woman walking down the fucking sidewalk.
So why is the problem of sexual harassment so particularly bad among the atheists? We’ll have to look at this later.
Marcotte also seems worried about all this because of the political fallout that may occur:
Feminism and secularism are tightly entwined movements, as they share a common foe: the religious right. To deny the importance of feminism means ignoring some of the biggest fights to defend science and religious freedom, such as the battle over reproductive rights.
Don’t worry, Amanda. I’m quite sure that those who sexually harass women in the atheist community are among the staunchest supporters of abortion without reliance on any form of feminism. How else are they supposed to clean up a harassment incident that got very messy?
From the Right, we have Robert McCain, who scores with two very clever lines:
And there is a certain Old Testament quality to the plagues being visited upon these atheist men. Whereas the Lord smote Egypt with such horrors as frogs, locusts, and rivers of blood, now atheist men find themselves plagued with angry feminists like Amanda Marcotte.
One is almost tempted to pray that God might have mercy on these poor fellows, but why should we trouble scientific types with our primitive superstitions?
McCain also makes a couple of points that are worthy of more discussion when the time is right:
By what standard do atheists judge right and wrong? Other than religion, is there anything that an atheist is obliged to regard as evil and, if so, why? To say that science and reason can be our only guide in every circumstance — that we should be as coldly logical as Star Trek’s fictional Spock — may seem an obvious enough answer, but at times the evidence is ambiguous and not every situation can be easily reduced to a clear syllogism. This is not a moot discussion, nor is it a matter of mere hypothetical speculation what science says about sexual equality, at least not for Benjamin Radford.
This is good. Anyone who has read my writings knows that, for years, I have focused on the fact that “at times the evidence is ambiguous and not every situation can be easily reduced to a clear syllogism.” After all, “at times” happens to be most of the time.
Apparently, then, the world of atheism is a sort of Hobbesian nightmare, the “war of all against all,” where no woman is safe from the predations of lecherous creeps who refuse to take no for an answer, where these brutish Men of Science tyrannize any woman who dares complain about their advances. Is anyone really surprised by this? Isn’t this vicious environment exactly what we might expect among those who are so adamantly godless?
Atheists are always demanding evidence for Christianity. I give you……the atheist community. Atheists can’t see or accept this evidence because in their minds, only a GAP can count as evidence.
Finally, I would take issue with the following:
Watson recounted the tale of being approached at 4 a.m. in a hotel elevator at an atheist conference by a loser whose failed line was, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” Watson’s complaint inspired much mirthful mockery on my part at the time: Here were these hapless believers in Darwinian evolution, apparently incapable of finding mates with whom to commit the procreative act.
I too once thought it funny that so much internet drama was sparked by such a mild incident. But then again, I am not part of the atheist community and have never attended any of their seminars. Now I am starting to understand the context of that incident better. I think it clear now that Watson was using this mild example as a symbol to represent the larger problem with the atheists. That it, it was her way to say, as gently as possible, “Hey guys, you really need to tone down all your sex talk, sex jokes, groping and touching, stalking, and stop trying to get in the pants of every woman who walks through the door.”
The problem is that it appears there are a huge number of men in the atheist community who would respond, “Well, if we agree to do that, we may as well go back to church!”