we’re actually very, very bad.- PZ Myers
The Gnu atheist movement is constantly telling us how bad, bad, BAD religion is. Jason Rosenhouse tells us, “For heaven’s sake, we’re drowning in evidence for the harmfulness of religion. Open your eyes!” Jerry Coyne asserts, “I’ve made the judgment, as have other New Atheists, that on balance religion is a negative force. No, I can’t produce data that absolutely prove this, but I’m convinced by what I see.”
Now, I have already noted that the very same approach could just as well be made against science/technology. But what if we took it a step further? What if we simply “open our eyes” to become “convinced by what we see?” Namely, that the Gnu atheist movement is a bad thing and we are drowning in evidence for its harmfulness.
Let’s overlook that fact that leaders in the Gnu movement have publicly accused each other of being racist, sexist, unscrupulous, and greedy. Instead, consider behavior of various Gnu activists. For starters, it does appear that the Gnu movement has a very serious problem with sexual harassment.
Consider why Gnu Rebecca Watson opted out of a recent Gnu convention:
Over the past several years, I’ve been groped, grabbed, touched in other nonconsensual ways, told I can expect to be raped, told I’m a whore, a slut, a bitch, a prude, a dyke, a cunt, a twat, told I should watch my back at conferences, told I’m too ugly to be raped, told I don’t have a say in my own treatment because I’ve posed for sexy photos, told I should get a better headshot because that one doesn’t convey how sexy I am in person, told I deserve to be raped – by skeptics and atheists. All by skeptics and atheists. Constantly.
Elsewhere, Watson recounts:
But after thinking this over for weeks, all I have is this: there are some truly terrible people out there, who define themselves by their hatred. Worse, these people aren’t the “others” that we might wish. They aren’t David Mabus, a crazed Christian holed away in Canada sending bizarre threats all day. They aren’t adolescent trolls who will grow out of it. These are “normal” adults, with jobs and families. They attend skeptic and atheist events. They probably have the ability to read and think and be compassionate, but they choose not to.
Here are a few examples of what they choose to do instead:
Abbie Smith at ERV was, as far as I could tell, the first to actively encourage people to replace intelligent discussion and inquiry with blind hatred and bile. That’s where the name “Rebeccunt Twatson” apparently arose – see? Impressive! If you listen hard enough, you can hear the ghost of Ambrose Bierce chuckling and nodding his head in approval.
Watson is not alone. Jen McCreight echoes the very same concerns:
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.
A 15 year old girl posted a photo of herself holding a Carl Sagan book to r/atheism and got a flood of rape jokes in return. The Amazing Atheist purposefully tried to trigger a rape survivor. Paula Kirby decided we’re all feminazis and femistasis. I’ve become used to being called a cunt or having people threaten to contact my employers because a feminist can’t be a good scientist. Rebecca Watson is still receiving constant rape and death threats a year after she said “Guys, don’t do that.” And mentioning her name is a Beetlejuice-like trigger for a new torrent of hate mail.
Some might be tempted to dismiss this as the concerns of overly-sensitive feminists, but Watson did a nice job of documenting how the 15 year old girl who posted a photo of herself holding a Carl Sagan book to r/atheism received a flood of rape jokes in return. You should check out the documentation of this disgusting behavior here.
And then there is the ongoing battle between PZ Myers and another Gnu activist, Thunderf00t. Myers has called out Thunderf00t as “treacherous hack” and “a dishonest scumbag.” Why? According to Myers:
for the past month, Thunderf00t took advantage of a security exploit to hack into our private mail server; when the hole was closed, he tried multiple time to use the same exploit to get back in. He knowingly and willfully violated a confidential email list. And worse, what he has since been doing (and this is how we discovered the security flaw in the first place) is disseminating some of this email to third parties.
Wow. But then according to Thunderf00t’s side of the story, he was trying to help someone who was being targeted by a group for making a mild, negative comment about FreeThoughtblogs:
Many emails on this list were on points on which “everyone” on FTBs agreed, simply for the applause of everyone who responded. There was a LOT of self-congratulation and self-re-enforcement (herding) behavior there. Conversely even modest disagreement was greeted with snide derision. The sad thing is that freethoughtblogs refer to themselves in humor as ‘the hive mind’ and as ‘free thought bullies’, when in reality both are actually fairly accurate descriptions. So why is any of that important?
So a week or so ago a guy called Michael Payton who works for CFI Canada (Center for Inquiry) put up a tweet about finding FTB unreadable. Now it turns out ironically Michael is on FTBs side on the issue of harassment policies at conferences (well mostly), however that didn’t matter if he was going to speak ill of freethoughtblogs and this precipitated an angry torrent of twitters from at least one FTBer and another to write an entire blog post about it (promoted by PZ Myers of course), and as with all such posts on FTB he (Payton) was repeatedly branded in the comments section with pejorative terms such as misogynist and MRA (the irony being that he posted an article on skepchick ‘speaking out against hate against women‘ FACEPALM). Indeed it turned out that merely hours after this tweet, CFI Canada had been contacted with calls for his dismissal. Yes his real life job was being threatened because of one tweet about FTBs!
That was a pretty disturbing turn of events having someones job targeted so quickly after a single tweet about FTBs, and after a brief chat with Michael, and knowing that FTB were going ballistic about this on their secret backchannel with some THIRTY messages being circulated on the backchannel about his single tweet, let him know what they were saying about him (naturally no personal details were passed on). Michael did not want to know, he did not need to know that personal info.
Wow. And then there is relationship between Richard Dawkins and his former web designer, Josh Timonen. Dawkins accused Timonen of embezzling $375,000 from his charity and filed a lawsuit:
Dawkins says he found out about the scam this year, when the Foundation decided to wrest control of the store from Timonen.
Timonen handed over financial books that detailed his embezzlement, Dawkins says, including $500 meals, trips to Timberline Lodge in Oregon and the Malibu Beach Inn, and $314,000 in “salaries” paid to Timonen and his girlfriend -though Timonen and the Foundation agreed that the $278,000 it was aware of paying him would be his combined salary for running the store and performing his other duties.
Timonen’s “significantly older” girlfriend, defendant Maureen Norton, allegedly used at least $100,000 of the charity’s money to upgrade her Sherman Oaks home before she put it on the market.
A recent real estate listing describes improvements such as a “custom backyard pool and spa area with a wonderful waterfall and glass block fire pit plus custom seating for the ultimate outdoor living and entertaining experience,” according to the complaint.
Dawkins claims Timonen made off with 92 percent of the money generated at the store in 3 years.
Yet Timonen insisted the charges were “baseless, improper and inflammatory allegations” and what happened when his lawyers requested documents from Dawkins’ Foundation?
Dawkins and his foundation are claiming that the documents that support their case were “lost forever”. Specifically, they’re claiming that Robin Cornwell had a computer crash, and lost all of her emails (even though most of her accounts are webmail and IMAP-based), and that Dawkins lost all of his emails when he retired from Oxford, and lost that email account (although he has others, including a mac.com address). Essentially saying “my dog ate my homework.” They also tried to throw their former trustee Karen Owens under the bus, saying she could have “thousands of documents” (including their emails?), that she didn’t turn over to them when she resigned.
Please see Karen Owens’ declaration where she states that she turned over all relevant documents to RDF on her resignation.
Dawkins ended up dropping the lawsuit.
And then there is the relationship between Dawkins and the Rational Response Squad.
On second thought, let’s not go there.
But you get the picture, don’t you? Gnus tell us to “open our eyes” and witness all the harm that religion does. Well, maybe the Gnus should open their eyes and look in the mirror. We’re told that if we could only get rid of religion, the world would be a much better place. Then why oh why isn’t the Gnu cyberworld a much better place? The movement is not even ten years old and is already saturated with accusations of sexual harassment, rape threats, embezzlement, censorship, computer hacking, conspiring to get people fired, and more. If the movement is not a fad, imagine what this list will look like in a hundred years.
Sorry, but Gnu behavior does not constitute evidence that the world would be a better place without religion.
“It is one thing to talk about ‘Good without God’ and have panel discussions about secular ethics, but it is quite another to take all that and make it part of your moral fiber and make a habit of doing good,” De Dora said. “I think that is something the community still needs to work on.”