Monday, April 14, 2014

What Would Sojourner Truth Say if Amanda Marcotte Told Her To Shut Up About Her Religious Motivation?

Through RMJ I read that the anti-religious bigot, Amanda Marcotte, has demanded that Jimmy Carter should put a muzzle on himself, not talking about his religious beliefs and how it informs his advocacy for freedom and equality. Instead, she says, he should follow the "secular world in putting the real-world evidence first and seeing where it leads them."    As one of the comments at his blog notes,  Marcotte's piece was first posted on Alternet, one of the major forums of anti-religious bigotry on the pseudo-left.

Having, from time to time, stumbled across the  still hot and ongoing ranting at and denunciation by their fellow "secularists" of  Rebecca Watson* I'm not sure that's a valid claim.  The wake of "elevatorgate" and the tsunami of atheist sexism it unleashed (even from some rather elegant atheists such as Richard Dawkins) doesn't lead naturally to the belief that "secularism" - and when Marcotte says it, the term means, in fact atheism - is a sexism free zone.

But that's a problem for the atheists to figure out for themselves, for us it can serve as a test for any claim that they've gotten shut of sexism, which they obviously haven't.

It might be just a coincidence but I've been getting more orders from atheists to keep religion out of public discourse in the past few months and there seem to be more of them who seem to believe that there is some kind of constitutional ban on people talking about their religion in public and in politics.

Well, there is no such ban on private citizens and residents supporting their stands for equality, racial, gender, and sexual, with religious arguments.

 I am happy to report to you that Amanda Marcotte and the other censorious atheists are not the boss of us.

That Marcotte doesn't like that is her problem and only a problem for the wider left if we are stupid enough to gratify her bigotry.  There is every reason to believe that, in light of atheism NOT having evidenced their way out of massive sexism, anyone who had looked at the largely boys-club identity of previous iterations of organized atheism that they would not have given it up**.   And, despite an active propaganda effort to turn feminism into an atheist campaign, it was, in fact, informed from the start by the biblical demand for equal justice and respect***.   I wonder what Sojourner Truth would say to Marcotte's demand that she shut up about her religious motivations in both her abolitionism and her feminism.   If it were possible to poll women on this issue I wonder what their response would be to that command.

Religion was one of the major forces behind the social movements of the 19th century that all of our current liberal politics rests on.  Liberalism, itself, is based on metaphysical assertions that, ultimately, find their only secure basis in religious belief.

It would be the stupidest possible thing for religious liberals to give into the tantrums of atheists that they censor their strongest and most effective motive in working and struggling for change.   It's not as if the atheists have done better than the religious left has in stifling sexism within organized atheism.  The fact is that religious liberals have done entirely better at that.

* For those who aren't aware, the pseudo-skeptic and anti-religious bigot, Rebecca Watson set off an earthquake with her rather tepid suggestion at the 2011 World Atheist Convention to male atheists that women really might not welcome having a man come onto them, alone, in an elevator in a strange city in the very early hours of the morning.   You can investigate the incident by searching either Watson's name and "elevatorgate" you'll find plenty of what I'm talking about.  Especially on YouTube, where you don't have to be able to type to rant.   Here's one of the less offensive accounts that is critical of Watson, note that it quotes Marcotte as being aware of the controversy and that it exposed the old-line sexism that would seem to saturate organized atheism as much as it does many other groups, religious and secular.   Though I can tell you that the kind of talk that issues from her fellow atheists would never be tolerated by religious liberals in their sphere of activity.  You can read more in the first thing I ever read about it here.  I won't link to the massively sexist, and offensively vulgar rants against Watson and her allies that are still being posted.

**  George Hansen, in his sociological study of what for all intents and purposes is the direct predecessor of today's organized atheism, CSICOP,  noted the rowdy boy-club nature of it:

Such perceptions are not limited to outsiders. This has been an issue within CSICOP as well. In the March 1985 newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics, Mary Coulman (1985) wrote a piece titled “Where Are the Women?” She reported that sometimes she was the only woman who attended meetings of the Bay Area Skeptics and that often there were only 2 or 3 women present with 60 to 70 men. Coulman wrote another column in the June issue asking the same question, noting that no women had yet replied. Finally, months later, Elissa Pratt-Lowe (1985) responded:

I think another aspect of organized skepticism that may deter women is the aggressive, “macho” attitudes held by some of the (male) participants. It seems to me that some “skeptics” are more interested in ridicule than in exploring and challenging pseudoscientific beliefs. [This was followed by “Very true, I think-MC”]. (p. 7)

    The Bay Area Skeptics are not the only ones to confront the problem. In response to an article by physicist George Lawrence in Rocky Mountain Skeptic, John Wilder (1988) wrote: “For all of the author’s [Lawrence’s] scientific, academic and intellectual credentials, he displays a level of disrespect for others that, in my opinion, is completely inappropriate. . . . The author succeeded only in subjecting a group of sincere . . . people to outright ridicule” (p. 8). 

Though later he pointed out that there were other predominately male groups that didn't have the same character.

The problems caused by cynicism and hostility have been recognized by the organization, and steps are being taken to diminish them. The severity of the problem cannot be attributed entirely to male dominance; after all, a number of other predominantly male organizations do not have such a reputation. It is likely that there are a number of other factors that contribute to the perceived demeanor.

Given the character of many women in the neo-atheist, pseudo-skeptical movement,  including Marcotte and Watson, they share the same derisive, demeaning, bigoted habits of discourse that is easily turned against women as well as against even religious liberals who have the most impeccable feminist credentials.

*** Perhaps more on that in a later post.  The history of religious motivation of feminism would seem to be traceable to the 17th century, arguably back into the middle ages.  Given the alternatives, it isn't be surprising that a lot of women found that convents allowed them far more freedom than secular life did.


  1. Julian of Norwich referred to God as both "Father" and "Mother." No one in the church suppressed her work. If anything, society at large passed over the description and never took it up (they should have. God is associated with "Sophia" in the Hebrew Scriptures (and the Christian ones: "Logos" is just the Greek version of the Hebraic idea of wisdom. The first line of John's Gospel tell us "In the beginning was the Logos." It was, for the Greeks, the organizing principle of Creation. The Hebrews held Sophia in much the same regard.). Sophia is always seen, in the Hebrew Scriptures, as female.

    That Sophia never got the attention she deserved is due more to the emphasis on monotheism, probably, than inherent sexism.

    There is a lot of suppression of women's stories in the scriptures, but then the scriptures themselves are layers and layers of texts from many hands and eras, and not the work of a single author over a single lifetime. There is a great deal of justice that undermines that sexism, too.

    And in churches today: the UCC has ordained women for so long I can't now tell you when they started it (sometime after 1957, when the denomination was formed, is all I can say for sure). The Presbyterian church I grew up in allowed women to be Deacons (at least, if not Elders) while I was still attending there, so that was in the '60's or early '70's.

    The "sexism" latent in Xianity is there because some groups insist on keeping it there, not because it is endemic to the doctrines of the church. But those groups tend to get the attention of the media, either mainstream or, as in the case of Ms. Marcotte, side stream. What she doesn't know about Pres. Carter's faith, and Baptists in this country (check that list of church signs I put up, and how many are from Baptist churches) would fill library shelves.

    If anything, the intertoobs have made the trumpeting of ignorance even louder than before.

  2. And reading your link to Shakesville, I have to say Richard Dawkins is an even bigger dick than I ever realized.

    More and more I think even his scientific reputation will not long survive his death. He really isn't nearly as important as he clearly thinks he is. He fits the stereotype of the arrogant Oxford don too perfectly.