Okay, so I’m not an insider among the alleged Freethought Blogs cult, nor have I commented extensively on the dramas surrounding the blog network, but I like to think that I’m at least in some sense in touch with goings on. I still read a lot of these blogs, I still talk to people, I still ask questions and I’ve even got a few special sources.
But for the life of me, when some people hit publish, or open their mouths on podcasts and YouTube videos, I keep feeling like I’ve missed a memo or three.
Look, I have a raft of reasons for not wanting to use the ‘Atheist +’ label, mostly relating to its Americentrism, its effective class-blindness, its under-acknowledged class privilege and its aggressive identity politics*, how all these interrelate, and how this gels with my reasons for being an ‘out atheist’ in the first place. However, I’m often left gobsmacked when it’s claimed that the FtB/Atheist+ crowd…
- … Want white people to feel guilty for being white.
- … Want men to feel guilty for having a penis.
- … Are ‘…trampling on the rights of several other demographics’ (video).
- … Are at risk of bullying their ‘victims’ into suicide.
- … Are Stalinist/Maoist/Pol Potist/Nazi/Stasi totalitarian propagandists.
- … Advocate Puritanism at atheist conferences.
- … Claim that the atheist community is more sexist/misogynistic than the Catholic church.
- … Paint ‘ElevatorGuy’ as an attempted rapist.
- … Yadda, yadda, yadda…
I’m not bushwhacked by just any allegation; if people want to allege a specific instance of bullying with supporting references (e.g. Greg Laden v Justin Griffith); if people want to argue that language is more mutable than a lot of FtB bloggers argue (with citations); if people want to pick apart Rebecca Watson’s recent material criticising evolutionary psychology (with references); if people want to argue things like Jason Thibeault’s apology to DJ Grothe not being sincere (with linkage), I’m not going to dismiss them out of hand.
But all this poorly sourced, paranoid horseshit (e.g. follow the above link to see and listen to Al Stefanelli talk about ‘trampling on rights’), just leaves my head spinning. ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’ – that’s supposed to be close to being a mantra amongst us mob.
When people make these kinds of wild accusations without ample (or any) supporting evidence, I tend not to believe them. In fact, I tend to gravitate towards quite different conclusions.
I tend to suspect, that for whatever reason, some part of the people making these allegations, harbour the attitudes towards themselves that they are attributing to others.
White people who accuse people of trying to make them feel guilty for being white, actually feel a bit guilty for being white; men who feel bad on account of owning a penis, aren’t particularly happy with their penis ownership; people who accuse feminists of being puritans, actually feel insecure or guilty about some aspect of their own sexuality; people who worry that we atheists may be seen as being as sexist as the Catholic church, may actually suspect that we may be that sexist; people who defend ‘ElevatorGuy’ against allegations of attempted rape, see something of the rapist about him, and people who see conflict as potentially precipitating suicide, harbour suicidal thoughts.
This is in these cases, what I venture, what I suspect. I also suspect that these people are looking for someone else to blame for having experienced these feelings.
Yeah, it’s cod-psychology, I know. But is that any worse than a heap of hysterical accusations, thin on supporting evidence?
I’m used of people being smarter than this. The ‘debate’, such as it is, is out-of-the-blue in its unprecedented capacity to disappoint. I’m getting more and more pissed off.
I do expect better, and more so of people in privileged positions.
*Please note: ‘aggressive identity politics’ has a specific meaning. Any wonk worth their salt will understand, so I’ll not be spelling it out. Consider it homework if you aren’t familiar with the concept.