Atheist Activists Fight Over Another Conference

Those activist atheists are at it again.  After many previous failed attempts, they are trying to recapture the glory days of New Atheism and put together another…..conference.  This one is supposed to be called “The Anti-Theist International Convention.”  Since my time is limited, I’ll let atheist PZ Myers describe it to you:

It’s happening again. In this case, two people I never heard of announced an atheist conference in England and immediately got an endorsement from Richard Dawkins. It’s called the Anti-Theism International Convention. They got some respectable people, like Maryam Namazie and Stephen Law and Aron Ra, and then…Lawrence Krauss. A gaggle of YouTubers better known for their opposition to transgender issues and support for Rationality Rules. Lurking in their unused video promos is Richard Carrier. I think I can already detect a bias here — this is just another reaction to #MeToo, trying to whitewash misogyny.

One of the organizers is someone named John Richards, the publications director for Atheist Alliance International. You know, the organization that recently hired David Silverman. By this time, the whole thing is reeking of sliminess.

Then things really started to go off the rails when another of the organizers, Lance Gregorchuk, decided to do an interview:

If you watch the video, you’ll quickly figure out that Gregorchuk is a kook.  And he laughably strays into dangerous territory when he shares his views of women.

PZ Myers and Hemant Mehta then draw attention to this trainwreck, causing two of the previously booked speakers to back out.  John Richards then shows up on Mehta’s blog to inform everyone he has fired Gregorchuk. 

Someone posted the link to Richards’ comment on PZ Myers blog and he responded:

Don’t read the Friendly Atheist comments unless you want to enjoy a mob of unconstrained trolls and assholes babbling away. I guess Hemant doesn’t believe in curating his comments at all, and it makes his site pretty much unbearable.

Finally, Richards said he was open to being interviewed and feminist atheist Stephanie Zvan took him up on it.  They ended up in a dispute about security guards.

And that’s where is stands.

Will Dawkins back out of the conference?  Will it be canceled?  Stay tuned.


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13 Responses to Atheist Activists Fight Over Another Conference

  1. RobertM says:

    Imagine all the people living life in peace?

  2. nsr says:

    Who’d have thought a group of hedonistic narcissists wouldn’t get on?

    (NB: I’m not suggesting all atheists are that, just the activist ones)

  3. TFBW says:

    Is there a conference for people who don’t collect stamps yet?

  4. nsr says:

    From the interview with Richards:

    “The issues at stake here are the harm being done by the imposition of religious doctrines on government, education and society at large.”

    It staggers me how these people can behave the way they do even towards people who share the same ideology and still pat themselves on the back with the certainty that it’s all religion’s fault.

  5. Kevin says:

    It staggers me how these people can behave the way they do even towards people who share the same ideology and still pat themselves on the back with the certainty that it’s all religion’s fault.

    Such are the minds of bigots. Their only common cause is hatred of religion.

  6. Dhay says:

    Hemant Mehta has appended an UPDATE to his post (link in OP), most of which is a statement by Conference co-organizer John Richards (now sole organizer) on behalf of ‘Anti-Theism International’, which he asked Mehta to publish on his site; here’s the parts I want to comment on:

    Unfortunately, my former business partner, Lance Gregorchuk, got a little drunk and had a train wreck of a podcast interview, which has had some fallout on The Friendly Atheist Patheos site.

    Ah, excuses. I rather think his drunkenness was a self-inflicted injury. And it’s had a lot of fallout, fallout extending far beyond Friendly Atheist.

    Some commenters have interpreted his attitude as misogynistic so I have fired him; he no longer holds a position in the Anti-theism International organisation.

    Let’s translate that not-apology: Richards doesn’t accept that Gregorchuk was actually misogynistic; Richards won’t agree or acknowledge that Gregorchuk was misogynistic; Richards is claiming Gregorchuk was merely interpreted as misogynistic; when enough bloggers etc interpreted that Gregorchuk was misogynistic he fired Gregorchuk as a PR move.

    It’s intriguing that Richards could “fire” Gregorchuk: I saw nothing to suggest one was boss of the other on the web page that described the two and their respective roles, it seemed to be an equal partnership; perhaps Gregorchuk was persuaded to take a back seat out of the public eye.

    Consequently, I am not prepared to be intimidated by a few who have a singular [sic] focus, particular [sic] as improved female safety [sic] is a policy that we support.

    Both of these guys are failed authors of atheist books. With prose like that, I can readily see why they failed.

    If any of you would like to make suggestions for our celebrity judging panel, please let me know. The task is not onerous, being done online, and the reward is a free ticket for the Banquet.

    In another thread — it’s hard to know where to slot in observations, sometimes, so I find any thread with an OP or responses with a similar theme — I questioned who the judges were going to be, and by elimination concluded Richards and Gregorchuk would be the judges. From this quote it looks as if that organising twosome either about-faced from being the judges or had never made the decision who the judges would be: they are now seeking suggestions for who the “celebrity” judges should be.

    (As an example of Richards’ incompetent communication skills, try working out definitively whether the “not onerous task” is suggesting or judging, and whether it’s the suggester or the suggested judge who gets the free ticket. I’ve got my own answer, but the ambiguity is cringe-worthy.)


    I had a strong suspicion that Aron Ra had been earmarked for one of the ‘Atty’ Awards, the categories looked so tailored. If he’s not now going to attend, that rather throws a spanner in the works.

  7. Dhay says:

    Inviting Lawrence Krauss was always going to be controversial and attract a good deal of attention and adverse comment. Obviously both of the Conference organisers were happy to invite Krauss and to give him the most prominent role there — a main speaker and awarding Richard Dawkins an ‘Atty’ Award. So whose initial idea was it to invite Krauss?

    I think the most probable answer can be found by looking at the blurbs to John Richards’ two books, at his Patreon page, at the Conference web page about the organisers and his reply to Hemant Mehta (link in OP) where it’s thrown in irrelevantly: “I’m a retired Science teacher who can’t stop teaching Science.”

    Yes, it’s a mantra he knee-jerks out at every opportunity; he probably introduces himself thus at parties and to the receptionist at his doctor’s surgery. Richards seems to be what WM Briggs terms a ‘scidolator’; he probably worships the ground Krauss — who is both a science promotion superstar and New Atheist superstar — walks on.

    The OP’s last link, to Stephanie Zvan’s blog and her sorted-into-chronological-order reproduction of her interaction with Richards in Mehta’s Comments, includes this reply to her from Richards:

    There will be security guards.
    You do realize you are impuning [sic] the reputations of the other speakers?
    What would stop them from suing you?

    “We already know you’re not screening your co-organizers or speakers.”
    I have SACKED Lance Gregorchuk as those of us who can read will have discovered.

    It was Richards who suggested that having security guards will prevent misogynist hands from straying inside thighs. (No doubt he plans to station a security guard under each table.)

    Is it me, or has Richards learned from Krauss that the most effective way of shutting up accusers and shutting down accusations is to threaten to sue. Somehow I don’t see some poorly paid guard taking on Krauss (in particular) or other speakers in the courts, nor do I see Richards being able to afford to, either. And has Richards here just threatened Zvan, shut up or you know what might happen…?

    That “I have SACKED Lance Gregorchuk” — ignoring the issue of screening the speakers — is a non-reply, an evasion.

    I don’t know whether screening of whatever kind would have screened out Gregorchuk on any evidence available before his video interview — there’s evidence now, of course. The question I ask myself is whether Richards would (and should) pass such screening.

    It seems to me that this Conference’s organisers’ words and behaviours confirm what we have learned from previous conferences and how complaints of inappropriate behaviour at them have been handled: when it comes to atheist conferences the rot starts at the top.

  8. Dhay says:

    PZ Myers, OP > … Atheist Alliance International. You know, the organization that recently hired David Silverman. By this time, the whole thing is reeking of sliminess.

    A French saying has it that, The more it changes, the more it stays the same. Silverman has continued his sliminess. Silverman, newly employed by Atheist Alliance International, has been suspended by them and is presumably in danger of being sacked again — he thinks so himself.

    (Well he’ll surely have one ally among the AAI Directors, namely the misogynistic fellow anti-theist John Richards.)

    As a student I was in a cell of rooms including a Law student, and being who I am I devoured his books on Case Law (legal precedents). One such was a thug who hit a man who had an abnormally thin skull, and he killed him; his counsel argued in court that the thug could not possibly have known of that weakness, so the charge should be reduced to assault, not manslaughter; but the judge was having none of it, and declared, “You take your victim as you find him”; or in less cryptic language, the responsibility and blame for the severity of the harm rests upon the perpetrator, not the victim.

    How is this remotely relevant? Well, Rebecca Vitsmun, the woman Silverman touched inappropriately, has suffered psychological trauma; she has lost sensation in her shoulders, where Silverman touched her first as she bent to fix her shoes on, so was unaware of it (though a friend witnessed him touching her there) but was very sensitive indeed (and receiving PT – physiotherapy?) in the lower back; she reacted physically very strongly and then objected very strongly.

    Silverman wanted it hushed up, but after a month and conversations with her psychological counsellor she went public on her FaceBook page; David (Gee) McAfee, and more lately Myers, have now publicised it further. (Hemant Mehta has not yet blogged on it.)

    And AAI has suspended him on full pay while the matter is investigated.


    One of Vitsmun’s FB Friends has kindly linked to a research survey and its diagram showing where men and women are comfortable having people of various levels of closeness (partner-stranger) touch their bodies — and where they are not; see Fig 1.:

    Click to access 1519231112.full.pdf

    I don’t expect Silverman to be a scientist or to be up with the latest relevant research, but I note there’s no surprises there for me, nor should the conclusions have been a surprise to him.


    I am not touchy-feely with strangers or acquaintances myself: I’ll hug men or women when they expect me to, but when a rugby-player type casually put his arm around my shoulders I was surprised how much I objected (though I did nothing except note, Stay away); the colleague who twice pinched my cheek would have got hit the third time; the colleague who groped me when up a ladder got hit immediately and hard. I can readily sympathise with women who, without consent or attempt to discern consent, are touched against their will.


    Don’t suppose Silverman to be a nice guy who made a mistake — well, I’m absolutely sure it was a mistake, the point is, he’s not a nice guy. Vitsmun’s FB page includes screenshots of his exchanges with her while pleading she keep quiet, and his exchanges with Vitsmun’s partner berating her, neither is nice.

    With her:

    Rebecca Vitsmun
    5 December at 14:16 ·
    Alright, well, here is the stuff.
    The moment he said he “wouldn’t walk away alive,” I was scared shitless.
    Every time he mentioned “suicide”, I was scared shitless.
    It’s not the party’s fault; it’s his behavior.
    It’s not the weed’s fault; it’s his behavior.
    It’s not anything about other people.
    It’s about him and his behavior.
    Why does he whine so much about his accusers “lying”?
    He literally says in his current story that he pulled R’s hair before ever communicating anything about BDSM.
    That is consent after the fact. She couldn’t give consent after the fact. He stole her ability to give consent by taking the choice away from her.
    On November 2nd, David Silverman caressed the small of my back while I was bent over to get my shoes at a party.
    On November 4th, I recorded every detail of what happened.
    On November 7th, I recorded why I was going to reach out to him.
    On November 7th, he scared the shit out of me.
    On November 14th, I told him to never speak to me again.
    On November 21st, I finally showed someone these screenshots I still felt like I was hiding because no one had seen them other than me.
    On Novevember 25th, I had a nightmare that I was hiding a dead body for a murderer and then another person went missing and I ran to the police and told them that I hid a body and they kept asking me why I hid the first body and I kept saying I didn’t know why.
    On November 27th, my therapist told me I didn’t have to hide.
    I feel worried that he will touch other women like he did to me. I feel worried that he will try to silence others like he tried to with me.
    And to all humans on the planet:
    NEVER, EVER, violate me and then tell me I can’t talk about it. According to my therapist, that is predatory behavior and I do not owe you silence.
    If FB is glitching, you can find the ss here: [Link]
    [Screenshots — do read them.]

    With her partner, nasty:

    Rebecca Vitsmun is with David G. McAfee and 9 others.
    5 December at 23:04 ·
    David Silverman messaged my partner. Seems to suggest he is entitled to own the voice of people he violates. Seems to believe autonomy violations are “tiny”. Seems to believe caressing the back of a woman who is bent over isn’t creepy. Wonders why my partner, who held me as I shook and cried after he violated me, is defending me. Thinks I’m a poor woman….I’m strong as fuck. And on and on and on.
    [Screenshots — do read them.]

    I’m sure Silverman is utterly charming – until crossed.

  9. Dhay says:

    Back in 2017 I spotted, linked from the American Atheists site::

    Atheist Alliance International has been running an Atheist Census project for the past several years. One of the striking results of this project has been the gross gender imbalance in participation (and, presumably, self-identification) that the project has consistently shown. AAI believes that this gender imbalance is a problem within the atheist movement and community that needs to be rectified. This report – a compilation of research on the causes of the imbalance, as well as possible solutions, was compiled as a response to this issue.

    While Atheist Alliance International does not believe that we can solve this problem on our own, we do believe that it is a significant and urgent issue that should be seriously addressed by movement and community leaders in order to strengthen the foundations of our community and forward our movement.

    This report was compiled in 2016 by AAI Board Members …

    [My link to the report is now broken, but the data is at:

    I wonder why there’s such a strong gender imbalance. And I wonder how it could be supposed that appointing David Silverman in the top job could be expected to lessen — not increase — that imbalance.

  10. stcordova says:

    Lawrence Krauss? After he’s been booted for harassing women? I hope some feminists come to the conference and heckle him. More elevator gate please.

  11. Dhay says:

    Richards in Mehta’s Comments > “I have SACKED Lance Gregorchuk as those of us who can read will have discovered.”

    There’s a bit of misdirection going on there with “SACKED”. The Gala Award Banquet is hosted by Atheist Parents; although “Atheist Parents” sounds like it might be a charity, it isn’t; although it sounds like it might be an organised group of people with a treasurer and AGM, it isn’t: it’s a euphemism for Gregorchuk his solitary self. “Sacking” Gregorchuk as Convention organiser leaves him in place as Banquet organiser (or “host”), so he’s merely stepped back in disgrace from a publicity and promotion role which he performed woodenly until animated by alcohol, he’s merely stepped back from a secondary role.

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