A+ Atheists Turn on Each Other

Atheists are at each other’s throats again. This time, the rage and the hate seem to be confined to the A+ strain of New Atheism (the Radical Far Left wing of Gnu). From what I can tell, militant atheist Ophelia Benson has been accused of transphobia and being associated with TERFs* (Trans-exclusionary radical feminism). The war has spilled over into the pages of PZ Myers blog and one accuser lays out the case against Benson:

* Approvingly quote known TERFs, respond to gentle (yes, gentle!) notes that they are TERFs by attacking the commenters who say so and deleting their comments, then gaslighting them by saying you were never told they were TERFs…
* Responding to a question from a trans person about whether or not you recognize their identity by running to a TERF-run group to ask for aid in rebutting…
* Blocking and banning anyone who questions these actions, meanwhile becoming friends with prominent TERFs who have outright advocated against recognizing the rights of trans people to national and international bodies…
* Referring to any and all criticism of this behavior as a “witch hunt” or otherwise a campaign to smear and defame you…

PZ Myers is flummoxed:

The second problem, though, is one I’m wrestling with right now. I’m a cis male: I don’t get to tell people with a different perspective how they should feel about Ophelia’s comments. If you’re mad or hurt by them, I’m not going to tell you you shouldn’t feel that way. I can’t. All I know is that I’m treading in a mine field, and I can screw up, and I have to listen when someone tells me not to step there, and that goes for Ophelia, too. It’s also the case that if we choose to stroll in that minefield, we don’t get to demand that others give us step-by-step navigation instructions — it’s on us if we step wrongly and blow ourselves up.

Why else would you think I’ve been really reluctant to speak out on this?

Well, well. We have discovered something that can silence PZ – angry transsexuals.

*You can learn more about TERFs on the wikipedia page, where you will also learn about SWERFs and whorephobia.

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15 Responses to A+ Atheists Turn on Each Other

  1. whiskeybucks says:

    There are very few things I enjoy more than watching leftists fight viciously over something like this.

    “A woman is someone who is born with female genetics and physiology.”


    I mean, for all the esoteric bickering in theology, at least we are dealing with mysterious things.

  2. Kevin says:

    I read the blog post and the first 100 comments. My IQ was depleted by roughly 75 percent just from trying to comprehend that insanity. Thanks a lot, Michael!

  3. Andy says:


    A woman is someone who is born with female genetics and physiology.

    Alright, that means that someone who is genetically male but physiologically female cannot be a “woman” according to the definition you provide here. So, do you think that said someone would be a “man” instead, even though he(?) would look like this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_androgen_insensitivity_syndrome#/media/File:Complete_androgen_insensitivity_syndrome.jpg ?
    Or, alternatively, is this issue maybe not as black and white as you would like it to be?

  4. whiskeybucks says:

    I don’t build normative ontologies on medical defects. But now that you mention it, how do you square genetic or physiological anomolies present in gender-complicated individuals with the resistance in transgender dialectics against being “pathologized?”

    If transgenderism is a medical problem, obviously they need help, respect and love. I also believe gender has a lot of latitude to express in different ways. I can’t exactly think of a single gender social *norm* that is beyond a critical review. Byzantine Christianity had something like a third gender for eunuchs, though I’m not sure they would necessarily describe it in those terms, and I understand why they did that.

    But I’m not about to throw the entire concept of sex and gender under the umbrella of some kind of psuedo-gnostic deconstructionism where 5 year olds are being encouraged to pick a gender in the way they would pick a popsicle flavor.

    I mean, let’s go further down the rabbit hole. If a young boy experiencing gender dysmorphia gets surgery and hormone treatment to further identify as a trans-woman as a teenager and then experiences a resolution of their dysmorphia as they age and comes to regret the transformation, what do we call that person? I call them a victim of philosophical horse shit.

  5. TFBW says:

    And now, for your entertainment, “When Thought Police Collide.” Also, I wonder what the average person with androgen insensitivity thinks about being used as a pawn in hostile leftist rhetoric (per Andy’s comment) — even if they happen to have leftist leanings themselves? I can’t picture myself taking too kindly to it.

  6. Kevin says:

    Obviously someone whose mind and body do not align has some sort of disorder. We do not redefine man and woman based on disorders afflicting less than one percent of the population. A man who takes surgery to resemble a woman is a man surgically altered to resemble a woman. He is not a woman.

  7. itsonlyphotos says:

    I still have a few shreds of liberalism left in me – spending for welfare programs and government regulation of financial markets and strong protection of natural resources – and I like to consider myself someone who will try to hear out an argument. That said, I find this who gender relabeling movement really bizarre. It reminds me of counterintuitive Orwellian double speak, where if you simply point out the obvious – like a male has testicles and a female ovaries, neither of which can be come by through a surgical intervention – you’re somehow an ignorant redneck with a Dale Jarrett t-shirt. I think one goal of humanism is to redefine or invent terms until one feels unwashed for not having learned the new lingo. “Cis” is the perfect example, because it takes a very objective reality – in this case sex organs – and qualifies it against something that is very subjective, which is a person’s dysphoria with his/her natural gender. A coworker and I looked at a photo essay once that was of different individuals holding up placards proclaiming their genders. For example, one guy was a “gender queer” and another woman was a “femme dyke”, etc. I understand there are people who don’t feel as if they are in a particular category, but it seems so subjective as to defy a definition. Doubtless, there are issues with people not feeling up to their gender, and those people MUST be treated as human beings. That said, to simply stuff that person in a new box doesn’t seem to help. It’s patronizing and pointless. That person’s identity becomes less about them as an individual and something that is perhaps pathological. I will not use terms like cis. Absolutely not. It’s not necessary because fundamentally each person is ordered either male or female, or in the rare case both ways at birth, but even in this last case they’re ordered towards two concrete objective physical realities. The so-called freethinking people don’t seem so freethinking as they are simply following a new faddish trend with constantly moving targets. To get involved analyzing it is to catch a glimpse of the spectacle of insidious intellectual insanity.

  8. Andy says:


    I don’t build normative ontologies on medical defects.

    Cool. But if your “normative ontology” is based on definitions that demonstrably do not cover all cases (which certainly does seem to be the case), then your “normative ontology” also cannot be universal, and people who are not covered by your definitions have no reason to care about what your “normative ontology” says.

    But now that you mention it, how do you square genetic or physiological anomolies present in gender-complicated individuals with the resistance in transgender dialectics against being “pathologized?”

    1. The vast majority of trans people have no genetic anomalies (btw, the example I used in my first comment was not about transgenderism (afaict, XY women do not indentify as transsexual and are not considered to be transsexuals by any relevant experts)).
    2. Re “resistance in transgender dialectics against being “pathologized?”, I´m not sure what exactly you have in mind with that, but if you mean “pathologized” in a sense like “requiring medical assistance” – well, many trans people opt for some kind of medical assistance for transitioning. Maybe the “resistance” you are thinking about here is rather a resistance to the demonization and / or infantilization of trans people – like your insinuation that being trans is like “5 year olds [] being encouraged to pick a gender in the way they would pick a popsicle flavor”.

  9. Andy says:


    Also, I wonder what the average person with androgen insensitivity thinks about being used as a pawn in hostile leftist rhetoric (per Andy’s comment)

    Wow. So you experience even the mildest statement or question that doesn´t perfectly fit into your own idiosyncratic beliefs as “hostility” and you reflexively pigeonhole the source of this “hostility” as “leftist”, even if the issue at hand has literally nothing to do with the political left-right axis? (hint: if anything, this issue here maps to the progressive-conservative axis, not the left-right one)
    Your life must be very hard with all those people acting in a hostile manner towards you out there who are not exactly like you in every way.

    — even if they happen to have leftist leanings themselves? I can’t picture myself taking too kindly to it.

    If you actually do wonder that, there is an easy way to find out – ask one of them if me using their condition to demonstrate that whiskeybucks’ definition of “woman” is, at best, only approximately true and limited in scope.

  10. Michael says:


    I know very little about this whole trans debate, so perhaps you can help. In the interview with Diane Sawyer, Bruce Jenner said, “My brain is much more female than it is male.” What does that even mean? What is the difference between a female brain and a male brain?

  11. whiskeybucks says:

    I’m kind of confused as to what your point even is. If you want merely broader categories of what constitutes “woman” then you’re either going to have to push the definition of the word into meaninglessness, or draw the line somewhere, which I don’t know how you can do that without being arbitrarily exclusionary to someone, somewhere, for some incomprehensible reason. Once you open the definition, how could you even know when or where to stop the opening. I, as a cis-male, could just start telling people that I am a woman, without changing a single thing about myself, and no one would be able to tell me otherwise, according to what you are introducing.

    If you introduce individuals who are not covered by the universally understood definition of the word “woman”, you make certain accommodations for such a poor soul: but you do not co-opt the entire category of woman and shoe-horn it into the anomoly, because then there IS NO CATEGORY LEFT.

    And I’m not infantalizing anyone. I’m critizing parents who are actually introducing the idea of selecting gender into their actual five-year old child’s lives. Because that’s where this insanity has taken us. I’m not annoyed by this because I’m afraid of men who like dresses, I’m annoyed because this is going to really fuck some people’s lives up.

    I also don’t believe for a second that you don’t know what I mean by patholigizing. This is the standard method of liberal gaslighting of this issue and it drives me insane. When the asinine idea that gender qua gender is just a purely free-floating social construct gets called out for the blatant lie that it is, suddenly every liberal in earshot has some medical causation for transgenderism to cite. Then the second someone suggests that these people have some kind of disorder, psychiatric, physical, whatever, the same person citing brain structure differences ten minutes ago reverts to the original social constructionism and “something-something essentialism,” and the whole thing starts over. I’m not playing that game with you.

  12. TFBW says:

    Andy, I withdraw the term “hostile”. Clearly, I should have said, “passive aggressive”.

  13. Squirrely says:

    I saw this quote the other day, from Saint Anthony in the 4th Century:

    “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, ‘You are mad, you are not like us’.”

  14. hikayamasan353 says:

    This is very upsetting to hear. What I know, is Zinnia Jones’s essay “Atheist Transphobia: Superstition over science”. There, she writes about how many people are transphobic because, not in spite, of their atheism. After all, given the New Atheists’ materialistic posturing, it’s very compatible to be LGBT-hating and using materialistic “science” as a “proof” against LGBT validity. Being cis/trans is not connected with theism/atheism at all. And there are religious movements that include LGBT people.

  15. Dhay says:

    Amplifying hikayamasan353’s quote and linking to the whole long essay:

    You can clearly see that these atheists have very positive attitudes toward the LGBT community – assuming the T stands for Thunderf00t. Really, what is going on here? From what I’ve been told, atheists should have no reason to treat us this way. And yet, here they are. So, does this mean that their transphobia is due to some failure to let go of religious views on trans people? Is it just a Judeo-Christian cultural value that they’ve absorbed, and haven’t yet overcome?

    I don’t think so. When you look at what these atheists are actually saying, their claims have nothing to do with religion. If you’re wondering how they can be transphobic despite being atheists, you’re asking precisely the wrong question. They aren’t transphobic in spite of their atheism. They’re transphobic because of their atheism.

    And I don’t mean that their atheism has made them merely indifferent. No – it’s actively made their transphobia worse. As unlikely as that might sound, it’s pretty obvious from the way they structure their arguments. It’s not an appeal to faith – far from it. They appeal to the values of science, observation, and reality, because they feel that these values support their transphobia.

    [The various emphases are original.]

    Contrary to the recently cancelled The Atheist Conference organisers’ implied claims and hopes, being an atheist doesn’t automatically make you a Liberal, even if you do — or perhaps especially if you do — come from a big blue city.

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