Monday, July 16, 2012

Maybe the belief that you'll never have to answer for your life has consequences.

From Religion News Service:

Do atheists have a sexual harassment problem?

Kimberly Winston | Jul 12, 2012 |

(RNS) As skeptics, atheists and humanists prepare to gather for their largest meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, attendance by women is expected to be down significantly. 
Officials for The Amazing Meeting, or TAM, said Wednesday (July 11) that women would make up 31 percent of the 1,200 conference attendees, down from 40 percent the year before. A month before the conference, pre-registration was only 18 percent women, organizers said. 
The explanations are many -- the bad economy, that women, as caregivers, are less able to get away, and that more men than women identify as skeptics, whose worldview rejects the supernatural and focuses on science and rationality. 
But in the weeks preceding TAM, another possible explanation has roiled the nontheist community. Online forums have crackled with charges of sexism in TAM’s leadership and calls for the ouster of D.J. Grothe, the male president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, TAM’s organizer. In June, Rebecca Watson, a skeptic blogger and speaker, canceled her TAM appearance because, she said on her blog, she does “not feel welcome or safe.” 
Other nontheists -- both male and female -- have shared stories of unwanted sexual attention at nontheist gatherings, including propositions for sex and unwelcome touching. Chatter has ranged from calls for more women to attend nontheist events to personal attacks on prominent female skeptics for discussing harassment. Meanwhile, two more skeptic/feminist bloggers announced they will not attend TAM.
The debate has had two major impacts -- a call for cooler tempers and the immediate implementation of sexual harassment policies by all of the major nontheist organizations, both national and regional. 
No one is suggesting that all nontheist events are unsafe for women. But the controversy has members of the nontheist community, which prides itself on its embrace of rational thinking, asking whether they have a sexual harassment problem. And if so, what should be done?

“We are a small movement, so it might be very important for some men and women to find a partner who shares their beliefs,” said Maggie Ardiente, director of development for theAmerican Humanist Association, which recently adopted a sexual harassment policy. “That does not mean sexual attention, when it is clearly rejected, is allowed. We need to be clear that these events are a great way to meet people, but there are appropriate ways to conduct yourselves. There are common-sense ways to address this for both men and women.” 
This is not the first time the skeptic community has struggled with sexual harassment charges
Last year, at another skeptic conference, Watson said she was approached late at night in an elevator by a man she believed was seeking sex. When she blogged about it, the “atheosphere” erupted in comments, both supportive and negative. British biologist Richard Dawkins, the best-selling author of “The God Delusion,” wrote that Watson should “stop whining” and “grow a thicker skin.” 
The current hullabaloo can be traced to May’s Women in Secularism Conference, a first-of-its-kind gathering about nontheist women. On a panel examining feminism and nontheism, Jennifer McCreight, an atheist blogger, said women speakers at nontheist events warn each other privately about male speakers who make unwanted sexual advances.

“They brought up a concern about harassment at conferences and I was not aware of that problem,” said Ron Lindsay, president of the Center for Inquiry, a humanist-skeptic group that organized the women’s conference. “Maybe I should have been. But once I became aware of that concern it wasn’t that difficult to come to a decision that we should have a policy in place to deal with that.” 
CFI unveiled its policy earlier this month. American Atheists, American Humanist Association, and several large regional groups have also announced policies in the last few weeks. Most organizations had sexual harassment policies covering their employees and workplaces, but the new policies are aimed at non-employee attendees at special events.
As these groups and others unveiled their policies, members of the skeptic community asked whether TAM had one in place. 
And that’s where things got ugly. In an appeal to assure women that TAM is welcoming and safe, Grothe made comments that upset some in the community. They accused him of underplaying, and even ignoring, reported harassment at past meetings, and of “blaming the victims” of the alleged incidents. Grothe apologized to Watson on her blog, Skepchick
“I believe strongly that women’s voices need to be taken seriously in the atheist and skeptics movements, that any reports of harassment or assault at atheist and skeptics events need to be taken seriously and recorded, and acted on effectively, and that those who make reports of such harassment shouldn’t ever be blamed for such,” Grothe wrote. 
Asked to comment for this story, Grothe said he stood by his online remarks. 
Those remarks continue, “I do not deny that there is a problem with sexism at atheist or skeptics conferences, nor any of the accounts blogged about in general terms by women who have attended TAM or similar kinds of events, but I would appreciate if such reports were balanced with an acknowledgment of the great effort the JREF goes to ensuring that TAM is a safe and welcoming environment for women.” 
This year, TAM has hired an outside consultant to deal with harassment incidents. And TAM is notable among nontheist conferences in that roughly half of its speakers are women, including keynote speaker Carol Tavris, a social psychologist. Many skeptic women say they have no plans to abandon the conference or the broader nontheist community. 
“We may not be able to ever completely solve misogyny online but we can absolutely do a better job ensuring that our physical events are welcoming and safe spaces for women and minorities than we have been,” said Amy Davis Roth, a longtime skeptic who has helped raise almost $8,000 for grants to send 22 women to this year’s TAM. 
“Anti-harassment polices are a good start because it sends the message that event organizers want everyone to feel safe and that harassment will not be tolerated by our community,” she said.

It seems that atheist women are an endangered species. Endangered by atheist men.

It's predictable, I guess. It's a logical application of skepticism. If you're really a skeptic, and you believe you'll never be judged, why take "no" seriously?


  1. Stupid question, Mike. Here is your answer: the golden rule. Next.

  2. Absolutely right! I mean, it's not like any religious people have ever harassed or molested anyone. All those stories about Catholic priests? Just lies invented by liberals. Jerry Sandusky was a good Catholic, no matter what they say.
    -- NA

    1. That should say "...priests ABUSE children at the same rate..."


    2. Trish,

      Do you have figures concerning the incidence of child abuse amongst priests, compared to the figures amongst plumbers or car salesmen?

      I'm just curious. I wouldn't have thought that the figures would be available.

      As a rough guess, I would predict that the rate would be higher in professions in which there is child contact, such as the priesthood and school teaching, if only because offenders need opportunity to have contact with children, particularly in a position of authority. And also, some pedophiles might chose such professions in order to acquire the opportunities.

      Regarding sexual harassment at TAM. I think that it is very bad manners, not to be tolerated, but not a 'mortal sin'.

    3. When you understand that priests children at the same rate as say, car salesmen or plumbers, you begin to wonder why the media focuses so much attention on one group.

      Gee, when you have a group that claims to be members of an organization that is the moral bellweather for millions, and then it turns out they are no more able to live by those morals than car salesmen, it does seem odd that this would result in more attention being focused on them.

    4. Bachfiend,

      Here are a few links for you.


      You make the common mistake that plenty of nonbelievers make. You think that we think we are holier than thou. To the contrary, our belief is that human beings have a fallen nature. We're all sinners. All in all, we're pretty rotten. We never claimed to be without sin. If we were, we wouldn't need forgiveness.

      There is no good reason why one profession's sexual abuse should be the subject of a constant media campaign when another profession's is not.

      By the way, not only are priests no more likely to abuse than men generally, they are no more likely to abuse than clergy of other denominations. Why not pick on the Episcopalians? If I were to make your mistaken assumption, I'd say that they think they're a moral bellwether too.

      People who think that being a priest has something to do with being a child molester are really no better than people who think being an atheist has something to do with being a sexual harasser, or being black has something to do with being lazy.

      There's an unmistakable hatred at work here. Hating child molesters is still hate, and not particularly virtuous, although I can understand such an emotional reaction to someone who harms children. But those people don't hate priest child molesters because they're child molesters. They hate them because they're priests.


    5. You think that we think we are holier than thou.

      No. I don't. But if being a member of a supposedly moral organization doesn't make one any more likely to actually adhere to a moral code of conduct, then it seems that such an organization isn't doing a particularly good job is it?

      By the way, not only are priests no more likely to abuse than men generally, they are no more likely to abuse than clergy of other denominations. Why not pick on the Episcopalians? If I were to make your mistaken assumption, I'd say that they think they're a moral bellwether too.

      Which is a telling commentary on the value of religion in encouraging moral behavior. It appears that being religious is of no value whatsoever in making people behave any better than the lack of religion, which makes Egnor's entire argument in this post simply idiotic.

    6. Trish:

      By the way, not only are priests no more likely to abuse than men generally, they are no more likely to abuse than clergy of other denominations.

      What's your source for this?

    7. Trish,

      So your comment about priests being no more likely to abuse children than plumbers or car salesmen is just hyperbole?

      Your two references do little to confound my assertion that the incidence of child abuse depends on the inclination of the offender and the offender's access to children.

      Child abuse is very much an under reported crime. We don't have a good idea of its real incidence. Just defining what it is is difficult enough.

  3. There's an unstated major premise fallacy: Egnor is assuming that Christians (whether catholic or not, I'm not sure he'd count non-catholics though) don't have these problems. As far as I remember there's studies that indicates similar problems, but that they're not made as public. If that's true then this news article indicates that skeptics are more open about these problems and are quickly taking public measures to deal with them.

  4. Many men, who find themselves struggling with their homosexual leanings, either do to the social stigma of being a homosexual, or because they believe it’s a sin that will get them tortured forever, immerse themselves in religion in an attempt to fight their predilections. So you end up with anti-gays sexually repressed closeted homosexuals joining the priesthood, soliciting gay sex in airport restrooms, hiring boy-toys to “carry their luggage”, and sharing meth with male prostitutes.

    The Catholic priesthood is a den of repressed homosexuals, who not only prey on the children of their flock, but then cover for one another to avoid responsibility, and dip into the Vatican slush-fund to buy-off their victims. The open conversation of the atheist community at the first sign of trouble stands in great contrast to the decade’s long institutional child rape of the Catholic Church.


    1. There are gay men, then there are the self loathing gay men who believe they will be tortured forever if the openly succumb to their urges who gravitate toward the priesthood. Joining the priesthood and vowing a life of celibacy at least shows there’re trying. If they slip up and molest a few boys, oh well, say ten Our Fathers and fifteen Hail Mary’s and enjoy getting to know the flock in your new town.


    2. @ CruseREX

      Your definition of homosexual is wrong.

      Homosexuals desire members of the same sex. Some may stick to consenting adult members, but that is not part of the definition. Men who have sex with boys are homosexuals. Men who have sex with men are homosexuals too. Age and consent are not relevant to the definition.


    3. Anonymous, while that's semantically true, in reality human psychology isn't that simple.

    4. Joey,

      Men or women how have sex with children are paedophiles.
      A homosexual is a person who has sexual relations with members of the same sex. Homosexual rights, for example, do not protect child molesters. A gay priest or teacher may be defrocked or fired for conduct unbecoming (depending on the Church or region the school is in), but a child molester has broken a serious taboo and the law. There are paedophiles with heterosexual tendencies and paedophiles with homosexual tendencies, and many without a preference. Their 'target' is children.
      They violate the innocent, not satiate their urges on the willing.
      There is a profound distinction between the two mindsets. Surely you see that?

    5. KW,

      You logic fails as usual.
      Molesting boys is not 'trying'. Molesting boys is WORSE by a magnitude. If they truly felt 'a few hail Marys' would find them absolution for sexual deviant behaviour, why not just be gay? Answer? Because they want KIDS. Not other men, not other women - KIDS.

      A priest or teacher that does so is using their position to get access to children. That was their desire ALL ALONG. That is why paedophiles gravitate to such positions as teachers, scout leaders, coaches, priests, etc etc. They are turned into paedophiles by their office, they USE the office to get access to their marks/targets of predation.

    6. CrusadeRex,,

      Actually, I generally agree with you. But did you actually mean what you wrote in the last sentence? Shouldn't it have read 'they are NOT turned into pedophiles by their office, ...?'

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Child rape is, no matter in what community or country, pretty much right up there as the most disgusting, and overall condemned crime. Yet it's STILL not enough to get you excommunicated from the catholic church if you're involved. Perhaps just shuffled off to the next town maybe..Out of sight, out of mind.

    1. Terrible stuff.

      What's also terrible is the use of evil that afflicts society broadly to whip up hate against a religious group.

      Pedophiles have a sick sexual proclivity.

      What proclivity do anti-Catholic bigots have?