Why New Atheism imploded . . .
It seems that after Hitchen’s death, it became far less focused on debating religious groups about their beliefs. Comparatively, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the organizers of Skepticon and TAM have completely wrecked the Atheist movement for followers of New Atheism and for other Atheist movements.
TAM and Skepticon organizers probably share the brunt of the blame. They didn’t make any changes on sexual harassment policies back in 2011 and did little to enforce such policies. Women brought complaints about sexual assault only to be rebuffed; the first President of the TAM convention had stupidly asked for a concession on the part of the victims by saying that he wanted to reports to be balanced. Why was this stupid? Because he had just implicitly claimed that some of the victims were lying and he was clearly trying to do damage control on the organization’s image. Shocking as this may sound, CEOs and organization Presidents have to accept blame when their organization fails at security concerns otherwise the public will go elsewhere. The importance of this can’t be understated; instead of dealing with this issue or having a community of sympathizers who tried to help, the Skepticon/New Atheist community went on a pathological hatred for all things regarded as “feminist” and who was this vilification toward? Feminist – many of them Atheist – bloggers, vloggers, and writers. From Youtube, to podcasts, and sometimes on television; the intense misogyny was for all to see. Slews of condemnations, disingenuous misrepresentations, ad hominems, and a disgusting level of vitriol were thrown upon women who either identified themselves as feminist or brought to light the problems of the convention. One vlogger, Thunderf00t, even said that sexual assault at atheist conventions wasn’t a major issue and went on to say that feminism poisoned everything. This hateful vitriol served to obfuscate the message of the victims of sexual assault and atheist conventions began to dwindle in the numbers of female participants over the years.
This type of behavior was utterly shameful from an organization that claimed to be about social progress and support for science. But, of course, even that slowly changed. Soon the message became wearing t-shirts that lambasted so-called “feminazis” for the crime of bringing up issues of inequality and sexual harassment. Most of these anti-feminists would bring up small anecdotes from Tumblr, twitter, or some personal interaction that they had to condemn every woman who considered herself a feminist. Some of these vloggers, like TJ Kirk – known as The Amazing Atheist, would repeat anti-feminist videos and constantly use anecdotes from tumblr to justify his misogyny. At one point, every third video that he made was an anti-women rant and he never mentions his messages on reddit where he told a rape victim that he hoped she was raped again; the message which set off the disgust for him within the feminist movement.
Richard Dawkins was no better than these juveniles. His infamous “letter to Muslima” in which he made light of an encounter that Rebecca Watson – known as Skepchick – had on an elevator. This wedge only grew worse as Dawkins refused to change his views. The time when he began to show changes, Sam Harris added his own sexist message on his blog and Dawkins was back to insulting feminists and ignoring the sexual harassment complaints at conventions that he was invited to. Both he and Harris have remained silent on the rape allegations of Michael Shermer. But unlike the juveniles, he did eventually apologize for his distasteful joke letter.
Sam Harris seems to like using half-truths to make his political objections. He has supported an openly discriminatory anti-Muslim movement in the Netherlands; going so far as to back them and he has been selective in his objections against Islam in particular. Yes, it is true that the Taliban seek to create horrible conditions because of puritanical religious beliefs but the Taliban were trained by the US military and our government aided Saudi Arabia in teaching a puritanical version of the Islamic faith in Afghanistan to brainwash these people into fighting the Soviets. The Bush family went so far as to use U.N. school books to teach an extremist Islamic ideology to school children during the time of President Reagan. Harris either purposefully leaves that out to make his argument look better or he doesn’t know the full facts. Either way, he is not giving his viewers or readers a truthful version of the events that took place. Regarding Iraq, he never brings up Clinton’s sanctions which resulted in the deaths of 500,000 innocent people – most of them were children as young as 5 years old. Where is the moral condemnation for those events and why does Harris never speak of them? I think it’s more accurate to say that Harris is outright vindictive because he has written arguments to support Islamic dictators. If you try bringing this up to Harris’s fans then they’ll say that you’re being disingenuous but the truth of it is in his very books:
“There is no doubt that our collusion with Muslim tyrants – in Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere – has been despicable. We have done nothing to discourage the mistreatment and outright slaughter of tens of thousands of Muslims by their own regimes – regimes that, in many cases, we helped bring to power. Our failure to support the Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in 1991, which we encouraged, surely ranks among the most unethical and consequential foreign policy blunders of recent decades. But our culpability on this front must be bracketed by the understanding that were democracy to suddenly come to these countries, it would be little more than a gangplank to theocracy. There does not seem to anything within the principles of Islam by which to resist the slide into sharia (Islamic law), while there is everything to encourage it. This is a terrible truth that we have to face: the only thing that currently stands between us and the roiling oceans of Muslim unreason is a wall of tyranny and human rights abuses that we have helped to erect. This situation must be remedied, but we cannot merely force Muslim dictators from power and open the polls. It would be like opening the polls to the Christians of the fourteenth century.” – Sam Harris, page 132 of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.”
Bringing this up to Sam Harris fans will only get you accusations of quote-mining, disingenuous misrepresentation, and arguments that Harris is being taken out of context to the point that there is no context in which one can evaluate such statements. It’s a willful denial of the meaning of these statements and an attempt to obfuscate Harris’s sheer ignorance regarding these political topics. It is both shallow and deceptive in order to protect this heroic image of Harris and others. In all honesty, it’s no different from how religious adherents protect their demagogues.
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