Saturday, May 11, 2013

Atheist-skeptic politics.

Skeptics Play has an interesting summary of the current state of atheist-skeptic politics :

The atheist movement is its own tempest of internal politics.  Several years ago, there was a perpetual dispute between "accomodationists" and "militants" (those are the pejorative terms that each side used for the other side).  Skeptical activists sure got caught up in that argument, but that wasn't so bad.

Right now there is a much more bitter dispute between feminist atheists and not-so-feminist atheists.  There have always been arguments over this issue, but it reached popular awareness with "elevatorgate".  Then everything went to hell.  Elevatorgate is really old news now, but the whole dispute has gone through many many iterations with no signs of dying.

Skeptical leaders have made some major missteps with regard to the atheist feminist wars.  There was the whole story about The Amazing! Meeting not having a very good anti-harassment policy.  DJ Grothe (president of JREF, which organizes TAM) blamed the low female attendance at TAM on the talk of harrassment problems at conferences.  Soon afterwards, Surly Amy (one of the Skepchicks) got harassed at TAM.  The rest is history.

This has left a lot of feminist atheists feeling like organized skepticism is on the wrong side of the dispute.  And skeptical leaders' attempts to define the boundaries of skepticism doesn't help.  Skeptical leaders do care about including women and people of color, but they also strongly feel that feminism and anti-racism are beyond the scope of the movement.  Feminist atheists, on the other hand, say that all they are asking for is for skepticism to tackle testable claims related to feminism, humanism, and anti-racism, while also implementing the appropriate measures to ensure equal access. [link]

I wrote a little about the soap opera that was elevatorgate at the time and I weighted in with my two cents on the formation of atheist+.   But I wasn't aware of the increasing tensions between those who identify primarily as skeptics and those who identify as feminist atheists.

My views on the various dramas are mostly outlined [here].  In short, I see Atheism+, skepticism etc as modern day versions of the splintered politics of the left during the 1970s.  Incompatible goals, small movements which reply too heavily upon a single leader etc will prevent any unified movements from forming.  The best hope lies in influencing the mainstream political parties.

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