Well done rationalia forum, you’re my final Skeptic straw

The latest instalment in the long-lasting and widespread ‘Skepchicks should STFU’ campaign [content note: criticism of “jokes” about corrective rape] has been the final straw for me in terms of identifying as a Skeptic. I’m still a Secular Humanist and Freethinker though.

I’ve just changed the name of an information page on this blog which used to be titled “Skepticism”.  It’s now titled “Critical Thinking” and is in the Special Interests subsection of the About section. The content of the page hasn’t changed, just the name, because the name has become tarnished. Of course the skeptical process underlying critical thinking is still an essential tool for cutting through the dross of received wisdom and propaganda, it’s just that what good in the end is being a “skeptic” or “freethinker” without applying those analytical tools to social structures?

the more Free Thought becomes just about debunking religion, the more it becomes useless. The practice does as much good in examining your relationship to credit card companies as it does in examining your relationship to Gawd, and I tend to wonder whether people that don’t see that have Thought sufficiently Freely. (Chris Clarke, commenting at Blue Collar Atheist)

The raison d’etre of the social justice movement is the application of skeptical analysis tools to existing social structures which disadvantage/demean/degrade/oppress marginalised groups in order to point out the possibilities (and potential benefits) of dismantling inequitable systems. The phenomenen of self-professed skeptical purists scrambling to present reactionary defences of the status quo when challenged by social justice advocates is unedifying to say the least, especially when the purists uncritically use the same arguments they rightly criticise when used against the advocates of atheism/vaccination/the reality of global climate change/etc.

Skepticism as a methodology remains crucial to baloney detection, but one doesn’t have to call oneself a Skeptic as a primary identifier to use it as a tool. Skepticism without humanist principles becomes a sterile exercise in abstract intellectualisations, and skepticism focussing on “I should be able to do/say whatever I want whenever I want” is repellently puerile. Neither offers a way forward for a better future than just more of the same toxic existing social structures, while improving society at least is the shared goal of Secular Humanists.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, skepticism, social justice

Tags: ,

39 replies

  1. What the flaming fuck? I don’t know what else to say.

    • Yeah.
      I’ve belatedly just added [content note: criticism of “jokes” about corrective rape] to the link in the first paragraph. I should have thought of it before I published.

  2. This response (740 comments in) just about perfectly sums up the problems with the “joke” on the rationalia forum made by “pappa”:

    #240 on comments-page-2
    Comment by Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff
    23 July 2012 at 3:30 pm

    At NO POINT has anyone here said you should be censored. NO. NOT ONE PERSON.
    What is being done is that you are being CENSURED. Your despicable behaviour and attitudes are being pointed out, analyzed, fisked, deconstructed, and criticized. Because we are . . . . SURPRISE!!!! . . . using the same freedom of speech which you use.
    What has been pointed out is that your joke, however jocularly, condoned and promoted the rape of identifiable persons, further, those are identifiable persons who have been under abuse and threat for over a year.
    What has been pointed out is that your joke supports and helps maintain a misogynistic rape culture which currently exists. This point in particular has been supported by cites and links to studies, making it a matter of fact, not of opinion.
    What has been pointed out is that many of the responses on the Rationalia forum to your joke have directly abusive of Skepchicks, both collectively and individually, and maintain and exacerbate the sexist abuse to which they are subject.
    What has been pointed out is that a number of the responses on the Rationalia forum to your joke is further jocular remarks about rape, remarks which both support rape culture, and which “trigger” male and female rape victims who read the blog.
    What has been pointed out is that if you were to replace “Skepchicks” in your joke with “Blacks”, or “BlackSkeptics” or “Faggots”, the joke resulting would have you the object of complete contempt in the atheist/humanist community and far beyond. That it is acceptable to place women in that joke, moreover, very specific women, demonstrates very clearly the rape culture that you tolerate and support.

  3. [CN: violent ‘humour’]
    The same idiot (‘Pappa’) went onto Pharyngula to try to defend himself from criticism. He ended up saying that he’d retract the joke, but that would mean that dead baby comedy was off the table, so screw you all. And then, I believe he went back to Rationalia to whinge about how badly The Horde(tm) were treating him and never came back out.
    Contemptible bastard.

  4. I have a question that I hope doesn’t stray too far from the topic. I’ve only recently started reading blogs on the FTB network with any regularity (Ophelia sucked me in with that Hamlet thing) and, having become so well trained here, I’ve been a little shocked at how blithely they throw around ableist language. I was wondering if they have a considered policy on its use, or whether there has been a conversation on the topic over there at some point. Has anyone brought the issue to their attention in the past?

  5. The Horde at Pharyngula won’t tolerate obvious ableist language generally, especially any of the slurs against mental illness, although they do let people get away with lame/moron/idiot in a way that doesn’t fly here.
    Other blog owners/commentariats don’t seem to have got the memo yet, although I see some advocacy pushback intermittently. “R*t*rd” ans “sp*stic” at least seem to be generally disapproved, I think.
    Back on topic, I’ll paraphrase a comment on this that has stuck with me (although not well enough for me to google it and the author):
    [paraphrase]People keep on blaming women’s reluctance to attend TAM etc on Rebecca Watson talking about lecherous gropers, but I’m not more wary of actual lecherous gropers at skeptic gatherings than anywhere else. However, knowing that a truculent tranche of anti-feminist attendees are on record as not seeing anything wrong with jocularly speculating on whether it would be wrong to rape a Skepchick for being annoying? That makes me nervous and unwilling to take the risk of being in a place where I might hear something like that expressed in an atmosphere where I would feel unsafe in speaking up.[/paraphrase]
    At least at gatherings who have posted comprehensive codes of conduct targeting harassment and other hostile behaviours I would feel confident that reporting anybody making jokes like that would get them kicked out.

  6. What is being done is that you are being CENSURED. Your despicable behaviour and attitudes are being pointed out, analyzed, fisked, deconstructed, and criticized. Because we are . . . . SURPRISE!!!! . . . using the same freedom of speech which you use.
    If you think being censured is the same as being censored, then maybe it’s because you know on some level that what you said didn’t deserve to be said.

  7. I must say I get heartily tired of the assumption that “freethinker” must always and only mean “antitheist”. Seems that one’s not allowed to be anything but an atheist, and preferably one with a knee-jerk dislike of everything about every religion, according to some (I’m thinking of the sort of tired rehashed comments that litter the Huffington Post, for instance.) Surely if one’s thinking freely and coming to one’s own conclusions – especially if they’re about one’s own experiences and not based on received dogma – then there is no diktat about what those conclusions will be? They may be right or wrong, but that isn’t the point, is it?
    I hope this doesn’t count as a derail, Tigtog – apologies if it does! Your discussion of the terminology caught my interest more than the here-we-go-again behaviour of that allegedly rational Pappa person, and I found the Rationalia page rather hard to read (visually).

    • Like a lot of labels, Louise, the “freethinker” label has a history, and that history of rejecting dictates from authority is why it’s associated with godlessness (although many Deists use/d the label too). There’s a significant semantic/ideological distinction between atheist and anti-theist as well. There’s especially quite a huge difference between reasoned drbate and what one generally gets on HuffPo.
      That said, it is of course entirely possible and happens frequently that the application of logic and reason to a moral/ethical problem can arrive at the same answer(s) contained in one or more books/traditions of religious teachings. It would hardly be possible for religious teachings building on community traditions dating back centuries and sometimes millennia to be wrong about everything, because belief groups based around totally unreasonable ideas tend to be rather short-lived. However, humans are famously spectacularly good at rationalising to prior conclusions and then telling ourselves that this means our conclusions are rational.
      This is where the skeptical procedures underlying our Baloney Detection Kits are so important: the person who can fool me the easiest is always myself, and that goes for you and everybody else as well.

  8. Yes, I’d say “freethinker” is a term of art, rather like “male gaze” and “safe space” (to name two other terms that have caused confusion in related discussion recently).
    As someone who’s spent a lot of time studying evolutionary biology, I’m always a bit hesitant when people put a lot of emphasis on “thinking for oneself”. It works best combined with a lot of factual information and data, and sometimes, it is better to rely on someone else’s thinking than your own intuition – you may not even know what data you need to be able to think about a given issue (see most white men’s objections to being called on their privilege, everywhere). In fact, I’m not convinced any one human being could do all the required research (followed by deep thinking) to come to a genuinely well-informed stance on every issue that matters, it would take too long.
    Back to the topic, I am head-desking that Pappa can’t see that maybe, rape jokes about skepchicks are somewhat like dead baby jokes to someone who actually lost a baby? Also, I’ve noticed that the men who most loudly proclaim that women can’t be comedians are usually the ones who have the most … let’s be kind to them and merely call it “embarassing” … notion of what is and isn’t funny.

    • Even Wikipedia notes:

      A common misconception is that freethought implies treating all ideas equally;however, freethinkers are extremely discriminatory of fallacious ideas and adopt a refined reasoning process in judging factual claims.
      A line from “Clifford’s Credo” by the 19th Century British mathematician and philosopher William Kingdon Clifford perhaps best describes the premise of freethought: “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

  9. Hi again Tigtog,
    Yes, I know of the word’s history (I should have mentioned that, duh!) but there does seem to be a ‘we own this and if you aren’t an antitheist you are a brainwashed pawn of the ebil religious conspiracy’ bent to its use, often enough … but you absolutely caught it when you said, “There’s especially quite a huge difference between reasoned debate and what one generally gets on HuffPo.” Never was truer word said, lol!

  10. Louise, what do you mean by “antitheist”? That’s not a word used much (at all) in the “skeptical”/freethinking/critical thinking crowd I’m familiar with.

  11. These goings-on make me think of the classic theist’s question to atheists:
    “if you don’t believe in God, what is to keep people from behaving as badly as they like?”
    I’m coming to feel that the question has a point, if not exactly as the asker may have thought of it.
    What we think of as “religion” is really one visible piece of a whole cultural ecology which includes the morals, values, traditions, etc., that provide order to human interactions in a society so that they can actually live together. Religious myths and theologies play a vital role: to provide a narrative which allows humans to see these morals, etc., as a coherent whole and so pass them on to their children.
    It doesn’t have to be religion. Communist states were able to go for a long time using the ideal of working for the common good as an organizing principle (and fell apart when too many people in high places violated that principle too blatantly.) The USA has used freedom, the constitution, and the melting pot as its organizing myths.
    What I see happening in atheist/skeptic circles is that there’s a general agreement to throw out religion, but no organizing mythos to replace it, and no general agreement on any other way to put together such an ecology of morals, etc., or even any agreement that morals, values, etc., are a good thing.
    The phrase “things fall apart; the center cannot hold” comes to mind.

  12. Religious myths and theologies play a vital role: to provide a narrative which allows humans to see these morals, etc., as a coherent whole and so pass them on to their children.
    So we need new parables, perhaps?

    • Great comment from ogvorbis over at Pharyngula:

      It comes down, for everyone, of a question. A very simple question. As Pete Seeger wrote, “Which side are you on?” He was speaking to the American labour movement, but the same question comes up, again and again, for every attempt to move human rights forward, to progress.
      Atheism, as an idea, is ancient. Atheism, as a movement, is very recent. As a recent movement, we are still figuring out who we are. Some questions have been answered: Should we hide our atheism? Should we be ashamed of our atheism? Should we let the religious define who or what we are? Those questions have been answered with resounding “NO!”s. Other questions remain.
      Almost all who self-identify as atheists realize that religion is dangerous. When people who view the apocalypse as not only innevitable, but as good, have their fingers on the button that could unleash a global nuclear apocalypse, we recognize the danger. When theists declare that global warming and pollution are not a problem because Jesus will be coming back soon and fix everything, we recognize the danger.
      One of the biggest unrecognized dangers for the nascent atheist movement is our own unexamined privilege and sexism. The first generation of the atheist movement has been dominated by white, upper- or middle-class men with college degrees and a shitload of spare time on their hands. In the past decade, as atheists have become more aware of the concept of privilege, the generic old white man leader has become young, old, male, female, cis, non-cis, gay, lesbian, black, and every other way that we separate out who is who in the world. We now see ourselves as a stew (melting pot doesn’t work — in a melting pot, all of the ingredients merge into a homogeneous mass) and, for almost all of us, this is a good thing.
      For the past year, the biggest debate among atheists has been whether or not sexism is a problem within atheism and, more important, do we want to recognize the problem and what do we do when we do recognize sexism as a problem? The past year has shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that sexism not only exists within the atheist community and movement, but that sexism is a problem. A problem that most see needs to be solved now before it becomes an intrenched part of the atheist movement.
      So, right now, whether or not one sees oneself as part of a movement, as part of a community, we need to ask ourselves, “Which side am I on?”
      One side (small but vocal), sees no evidence of sexism or misogyny within the atheist community and wants to keep the status quo. The other side (larger but often quieter) sees that sexism exists. Which side are you on?
      One side thinks that rape jokes, rape threats and crude nicknames such as ‘Tw*tson’ are acceptable. One side sees rape jokes, rape threats and insulting gendered nicknames as a silencing tactic used to protect privilege. Which side are you on?
      One side thinks that gendered insults such as cunt or twat are so divorced from the annatomical meaning that they are no longer gendered insults. The other side disagrees and sees them as tools to silence dissent. Which side are you on?
      One side is willing to exclude huge numbers of atheists to protect their right to use gendered insults. The other side wants to include as many people as possible. Which side are you on?
      One side will take a simple phrase, “Guys, don’t do that,” and react with fear, derision, insults, hyperbole and silencing tactics. The other side took that same simple phrase and said, in effect, “She has a point. Let’s discuss this.” Which side are you on?
      One side has declared that there is no need for a harrassment policy at any atheist or skeptic convention. The other side points out that a published policy will make the convention more welcoming to women. Which side are you on?
      Which side are you on? The side of progress? Or the side or reaction? We are trying to change society through the removal of religion as the dominant cultural force that guides what is right and wrong, that guides who deserves civil rights, that guides politics. The dominance of patriarchal monotheism is toxic. I am doing what I can to dismantle the influence of patriarchal monotheism. So I ask you (a generic ‘you’, this is not aimed at an individual), which side are you on? The side that seeks to be inclusive, that respects human rights for all people? Or the side that seeks to protect their privilege through the continuation of patriarchal monotheism?

  13. There seems to be an unexamined assumption among the atheist/skeptical community (at least what I can see of it) that since religion is (in their view) an Evil Influence, rejecting religion will make people/society better.
    It seems to me that the c**p that has been open for all to see at least since “elevatorgate” suggests[*] that this is not true. From what I can see, it looks like the atheist community is not, on the average, noticeably better than society as a whole (or at least USA society.) In the USA, at least, overt racism against African-Americans is not socially acceptable in the society at large, but sexism and misogyny are (as is anti-muslim bigotry), and the same seems true for the atheist community.
    I view this whole thing as an outsider. I could not care less whether someone believes in a God or not, or whether or how they pray, or what not. I care how they treat other people and the world we live in. If I saw that abjuring belief in a deity regularly made people into better and more admirable people, I would stand on the steps of the Capitol and do so myself tomorrow.
    However, my experience of communities of whatever religion or lack thereof is that a few of their members are wise, honest, and consistently working to make the world a better place and thus people I would like to be like, a somewhat larger number behave abomidablely, and the great majority are neither, but go along with whatever everybody else is doing, and are “as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God.” (to use Thoreau’s words.) Also, that the larger the herd, the worse the behavior.
    [*] Note that “suggests” does not mean “proves.” In the math and science community, where I spent a large part of my life, a “suggested” claim is one that seems like it might be true and is worth investigating to see if it is, in fact true.

  14. The dominance of patriarchal monotheism is toxic. I am doing what I can to dismantle the influence of patriarchal monotheism.

    Is it derailing to point out that not all religion is “patriarchal monotheism”? And I don’t mean that in the tired, old “not my Nigel Jesus”, “Not all Christians are like that”, way. I mean it in the literal sense that most of the religious people I know are polytheistic pagans, and a majority of those worship deities with feminine aspects.
    I am in complete agreement about the urgent need to eliminate “Green Dragon” Christian propaganda and the detrimental effect that right-wing Christianity is having on the world (especially in American politics). But. I find it ironic that in a post about the importance of recognizing privilege, which invokes social justice ideals, the author erases entire populations of religious people.
    Words matter. Atheists should stop saying “Religious” when they mean “Christian”. I am sure there are reasons why an atheist could say that “Judaism is dangerous”, “Hinduism is dangerous”, “Wicca is dangerous”. I would love to hear why I’m making the world a worse place by believing in a supreme transcendent being (and I don’t mean that facetiously, I genuinely enjoy hearing opposing viewpoints). Maybe this is the intellectual equivalent of eating my Wheaties. My privileged butt gets to see what erasure feels like. Perhaps I should feel grateful that I’m being ignored, while I can.

    • Emma, knowing a bit about the author’s style, I believe the term “patriarchal monotheism” was intended to precisely convey exactly which religious groupings xe felt were toxic because xe doesn’t feel that absolutely all religious groups are toxic [eta: in terms of dominance systems and social justice].
      I’m unaware, for example, of any polytheistic pagans currently heading up a kyriarchy near me. If all other religions were as non-kyriarchal as the Wiccans I sometimes meet in Sydney, then no religions would be on the radar of social justice movements at all.

  15. Emma, as an atheist with Buddhistic tendencies, I don’t like the way many other atheists use “religious” as a synonym for “theistic”. Most atheists who are vocal online are often only addressing Christianity, or patriarchal monotheism. I have had far more interesting conversations about religion online with pagans than the majority of vocal atheists. I guess those of us who have more complex opinions are less likely to be blogging, because “religion is a messy complicated subject” doesn’t make for good soundbites or snappy linkable posts.
    For the record: I have no problem with people following their own religions, the more the merrier as far as I’m concerned, because it is less likely to lead to hegemony problems as with Christianity in the west and Islam in e.g. Saudi Arabia. I don’t think atheism is guaranteed to make anyone a better person, but it does need to be an acceptable option. This seems to be much less an issue in Australia (several atheist PMs so far) than the US (electoral suicide as I understand it).

  16. Emma, knowing a bit about the author’s style, I believe the term “patriarchal monotheism” was intended to precisely convey exactly which religious groupings xe felt were toxic because xe doesn’t feel that absolutely all religious groups are toxic [eta: in terms of dominance systems and social justice].

    Thank you for clarifying. I think I fell into the trap of reading the post you quoted as if Sam Harris had written it, and not the actual author. Thank you for humouring me.:)

  17. Hm, the latest fallout from the deep-rifts is that PZ Myers has decided to punish experiment on his Pharyngula commentariat by saying he won’t be their janitor any more. He’s rescinded all Standards and Practices and set all his banhammered mob free from the Dungeon.
    So I wouldn’t suggest wading into Pharyngula right now unless you’re already familiar with the culture at its rowdiest and feeling stoushy.
    However, AFAIK the other FTB blogs are still holding to their own individual discussions guidelines, so if you’re generally comfortable on any of them, that should remain the case.

  18. Hi everyone. I’m maiforpeace, one of the moderators at Rationalia that did my best to do the right thing at a very heavy price. Thank you so much for the validation I need right now – I’m still reeling, the community is still reeling, and out of respect for my most loyal, but very quiet friends, I will respect their need to move on.
    However, since Pappa’s wife did say that we were just beginning to have some interesting conversations over this until Pharyngula rained hell on us, I’m going to trust she meant what she said and will bring up the conversation again when everybody, especially myself, heals.
    Thank you for comforting me with your posts, and please carry on!

  19. And it would be much more helpful to me, and to Pappa if was treated with respect and not made to feel even worse than I know he is already feeling – give him a break please. He’s human, but like me, and doesn’t do so well when put on the spot. He’s very bright and open minded in a relaxed atmosphere.

    • maiforpeace, until you swung back to the topic of rationalia and Pappa today, nobody here had been talking about that for at least the last 20 comments. We’d moved on to other things.
      So, own goal?

  20. Please move on then, it was an attempt at a bump. I apologize.

    • Fair enough, blogs and forums have different netiquettes. In general, I’m more interested in the larger conversation about how this culture of fostering intimidatory BS (like “jokes” about raping somebody)areis being used as a silencing tactic against those who want to broaden the skeptical conversation to cover more than just the low-hanging woo-fruit. Pappa’s just a single datapoint: the conversation is not only about him.

  21. much more helpful to me, and to Pappa if was treated with respect and not made to feel even worse than I know he is already feeling

    Unlike the Skepchicks, of course, who are supposed to just blithely put up with men hurr-hurring over how hilarious it would be to rape them. Are specific threats of corrective rape just the price women are supposed to pay for having the temerity to exist in public?
    But no, the rape-advocator is the poor put-upon victim in all of this. For fuck’s sake.

  22. You are so right, and that wasn’t respecting you, The other posters and especially myself. He’s an adult, if they don’t want to face the truth then at least don’t condemn me for trying to. What I will do in the meantime is poke around here and enjoy what you have to offer, and consider a more meaningful reply to the larger conversation.

  23. Lauredhel – I’m going to state up front that I’m not a big fan of the skepchicks, not because I don’t support 100% what their message is, but because of the way they deliver it – same thing for PZ. As a positive atheist, I believe you have to lead people to open their minds willingly, and the only way you can do that is by communicating compassionately. You can have the best crafted, most rational argument but when laced with language that shames, belittles, mocks it just turns into noise, and often serves to entrench the listener even more.
    Pappa is also my friend and I know he is is reeling from being publically hung out to dry.
    As for the fucks sake, multiply that by 1000 for me when it comes to being frustrated.

    • As a positive atheist, I believe you have to lead people to open their minds willingly, and the only way you can do that is by communicating compassionately. You can have the best crafted, most rational argument but when laced with language that shames, belittles, mocks it just turns into noise, and often serves to entrench the listener even more.

      As a counterargument, would the civil rights movement “moderates” such as Martin Luther King* have got as much traction as they did if they didn’t have scary Malcolm X making them look all warm and fuzzy by comparison?
      *I’m sure most HaT regulars already know this, but MLK was not nearly so “gentle” in his arguments as is commonly claimed. There’s a lot of cherrypicking going on with regard to which parts of his rhetoric get highlighted most often.

      • BTW, just for extra clarification, I don’t actually accept that the Skepchicks are at all strident or ranty, although I’ll grant the occasional mockery/shaming. PZ is ranty and rude, sure – but that’s him. The Skepchicks are not part of Pharyngula. They’re not even part of FTB.

  24. maiforpeace: But hate speech threatening violence against women… what, isn’t? You really can’t see the hypocrisy here?
    Can you open minds by providing fertile ground for rape culture? By alienating half or more of your audience? By creating a brutally hostile environment for anyone who’s experienced sexual violence?
    What, exactly, did Pappa say that was gentle and compassionate and encouraged us to “open our minds willingly” to his message?
    (I echo tigtog’s sentiments also.)

  25. I agree with you.


  26. Maiforpeace, I feel as if you are asking us, the Skepchicks and others to adhere to standards that your friends don’t even attempt. I certainly haven’t read close to every Skepchick post, but I’d still be willing to place a heavy bet that you wouldn’t be able to bring us an example of anything any one of them has written that even approaches the brutality of what Pappa said, and what he opened the floor for his supporters to say. I’m glad you believe in communicating compassionately, but I don’t think we’re the ones you need to convince.

  27. Reading back over this thread, I realise that we’d moved on to larger discussions by the time that Pappa actually did make an apology on Pharyngula for his original posting (I don’t think that he made the same apology on the Skepchicks thread, but I might have missed it). It wasn’t without flaw, but it did appear quite heartfelt.
    He’s still receiving some criticism in various places for things his apology missed, and some subsequent comments he’s allegedly made at the Rationalia forum which still show some severe lack of clue, but I just wanted to make sure that everybody here realises that he did at least make an effort to apologise properly.
    Anyway, I’m really not sure exactly what you want of us, maiforpeace. We’ve expressed disgust for what he wrote, we haven’t particularly piled on further than that here. If he’s still feeling shamed, then I think he should still be feeling shamed, frankly. It’s still possible for him to move on and become a better person in future, but this whole experience will probably take some time to absorb, analyse and synthesise into a different way of thinking (if that really is what he wants to do).

  28. Tigtog and others, thank you so much for the discussion. You have been very patient with me. I came here to get some confirmation of what’s still bothering me about all of this.
    Comment 16 says it all.
    That big sigh on the end is me realizing I have some difficult choices to make now. Peace.

  29. Thanks for dropping by, maiforpeace. Again moving back to the larger discussion, I like this comment from one Melody on Greta Christina’s post about the “playing the victim card” Catch-22:

    I rarely see people in the atheist community dismiss personal accounts that revolve around being atheist, ie religious bigotry, families disowning offspring, politics etc.
    And why not? animosity toward atheists is a reality (especially in areas with a more conservative leaning population). It’s common knowledge that atheists experience these things, and personal accounts usually correlate well with the wealth of formal studies and surveys we have out there. And unless some one is taking an issue to court, I don’t see folks being asked to provide evidence for their accounts. After all, in person experiences don’t usually happen on film, or a large studio audience or what have you.
    So, I’m puzzled as to why the same consideration isn’t offered to other marginalized peoples. We have a wealth of data (many control for socio-economic status btw) that suggests that racism, for instance, is alive and well. We have a wealth of data (look at the current legislation) that suggests women don’t have it too well in the states, etc. So…why are folks so quick to dismiss anecdotes from these (and other) groups, but readily accept atheistic leaning complaints as common place?
    Sometimes, I think think these kinds of people are upset, specifically, at the act of person X complaining. As if this causes harm some how. People aren’t so much upset that these things happen; they seem to be upset that folks are making them aware of it.

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