[Editorial] Atheism, Feminism and Ego

In our quiet little corner of the internet, we've been happily posting about the world around us without much anger or ire for our fellow atheists, agnostics or skeptics. We post about the wrongs of the many religions of the world, the great accomplishments of humanity, the politics of the United States and Europe. Sometimes we share our personal lives. Our hopes, our fears, our losses.

Some of us are ardent atheists, who voraciously read blogs, forums and news sites always looking for things that will make our day or give us reason to rage. Others are content to live their lives, free of the drama, with an occasional foray into online activism or vocal support for atheist endeavors. And there are those that put their feet on the ground, outside the internet, and actually get their hands dirty, helping to put a positive face on the atheism community. There are probably those that are a combination of some or all of these types.

We've been relatively happy. Atheism has been talked about more openly, in this country at least, more than any other time in history. We do care. We can be good without a god. But, this week something happened that may change this. For those of you here that haven't seen this headline, I'll link it, then try to explain it's genesis. Please take the time to read the article first.

Do atheists have a sexual harassment problem?

To begin with, I'll use quoted text from the article above:

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.

The underlined text is the key to the entire story. The perception of one person, in one incident, created a very surreal reaction in the skeptical/freethought world.

Watson posted the video blog on Youtube, in which she mentions the guy in the elevator. The video was nothing special, a normal vlog in which this incident is related, and her feelings about what happened. Normal stuff.

But some see the encounter differently or ask for more details and some even doubt it happened. This is the beginning of the year-long shit storm that was called Elevatorgate. If you would like to see a pretty thorough timeline of events, please go here.

If you've spent the hour you should have reading through that link, you'll see the players and websites involved is bringing us to the point where a national newspaper is asking the above question. PZ Meyers, Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson, Jennifer McCreight, Greg Laden and numerous posters at Freethought Blogs, Skepchick, Blag Hag and related sites.

You're probably wondering why I'm not mentioning Rose St. Clair, Stef McGraw, Abbie Smith, Richard Dawkins or Thunderf00t (even though he's not mentioned in the Elevatorgate link, he was involved more recently). These are the ones that questioned or commented in a way that didn't make Rebecca Watson, et al. happy. Instead of opening a dialogue and discussing their questions or concerns, or even ignoring them completely, she decides that since they did question, they must be gender traitors, not real feminists or, for the men, misogynists.

And this became the theme for every encounter regarding this incident. You either joined the Watson camp or you were immediately persona non grata on their blogs. One whiff of opposition and you're branded by the horde. And an ugly horde it was.

It was a really disgusting display for so-called freethinkers and skeptics. One that I can't bring myself to admit I was once a part of, in PZ's earlier blogging at Science Blogs. Even then there was an element of authoritarianism developing in the comments. Agree with PZ or feel the wrath of his horde of minions. Pretty effective way of always being right.

How did this all come about? In my opinion it was all ego. Rebecca Watson's ego was hurt with the doubting and questions. Then when the others, with more recognizable names, joined in, they had their own ego's to keep placated. Ego's that have been stroked endlessly by the their followers. Those whose comments agreed with almost every post by the "Big Names" of atheism. How dare anyone question them.

So here we are, on a little website, with a little forum, happily posting about things around us, knowing that those with the bigger sites and larger audiences were helping us gain acceptance in the world. Except now we may not be so happy. You have taken it upon yourselves to make utter and complete fools of yourselves defending something that should have never been in the first place. Our once tranquil atheist haven has been sullied by egotistical skeptics who couldn't accept that not everyone sees the world as they do and had to double down when called for it.

So now we're sexist, misogynist, woman hating sexual predators. Except we're not. It was never about any of those things. It was about your ego. And your ego leaves us all with a sour taste in our mouths.

DW "Skeeve" Adams
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