Atheism and the Me Too Movement

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On February 1, 2018, Caroline Matas wrote in an article at the website Religion Dispatches:

Anyone familiar with the Internet’s “Manosphere” will be unsurprised to learn that “Red Pillers” and Men’s Rights Activists are fed up with the #MeToo movement.

What is, perhaps, more surprising is the number of New Atheist figureheads in which Men’s Rights Activists are finding unlikely allies.[1]

On March 2, 2018, Amanda Marcotte wrote in Salon about atheist feminism and the Me Too Movement:

In mid-February, #MeToo came to the community of activist atheists and science promoters, known as skeptics... Buzzfeed published an expose of Lawrence Krauss, a physicist who became a minor celebrity due in part to his outspoken atheism, in which multiple women shared tales of his alleged sexual abusiveness. Krauss denies the multiple, separate accounts painstakingly detailed by Buzzfeed's reporters. However, Krauss is still facing a litany of professional repercussions: cancelled appearances, disavowals (most prominently by the American Humanist Association) and investigations into the accusations.

But for many in the skeptic movement, Krauss's reckoning, while welcome, feels like too little, too late. For years, these activists told Salon, they've been agitating against sexual harassment in the community and trying to expose the abusive behaviors of many prominent figures. For their efforts, they have been harassed, demoralized and often shunned — while the accused, including Krauss, continue to enjoy honored status in the community. Some of these atheists hope that Krauss' outing represents a turning point in their movement, but others worry that the hostility towards women speaking out is calcified and nothing substantial will change...

Rebecca Watson, the founder of Skepchick, tried a slightly different approach. In 2011, she put out a video detailing how a man followed her into an elevator at 4 a.m. at a conference and hit on her, which she said made "me incredibly uncomfortable"....

"There was a big rise of people who decided that wasn’t good and that feminism was bad and that they had to harass women," explained Monette Richards, the president of Secular Woman, which was created in large part as a response to the hostility that feminists were experiencing.

Richards called it the "Great Rift," a divide that erupted between women who "were saying, no, we are not debating feminism," and those who were either outright anti-feminist or those afraid "to embrace the feminists or feminism, because they felt that they would be shunning a lot of the people who were anti-feminist."...

Still, Richards felt that there is still a huge amount of institutional resistance to feminism, noting that Secular Woman got disinvited from an annual meeting of secular organizations, after members spoke up about these issues. The reaction to Buzzfeed's story about Krauss is disheartening, as well. While the American Humanist Association issued a statement of support for Krauss' accusers, Center for Inquiry still has Krauss as an honorary board member. The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science have been silent.[2]

David Silverman took feminist Rebecca Watson off the speakers list for the Reason Rally after Richard Dawkins objected to her speaking at the event.[3] See: Elevatorgate

Tris Mamone wrote on April 19, 2018:

To be fair, several prominent atheist organizations and activists severed ties with Krauss shortly after the article’s publication. The American Humanist Association released a statement on March 9 saying they would no longer invite him to speak at any upcoming conferences, and they are considering rescinding his 2015 Humanist of the Year Award. The Center for Inquiry likewise announced that they were suspending their association with Krauss “pending further information,” as did evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne after doing his own investigation.

However, author Sam Harris, whose 2004 book The End of Faith first launched the so-called New Atheist movement, voiced his doubts about the accusations against Krauss on his “Waking Up” podcast, saying “there were many things obvious about [the BuzzFeed article] that suggested that we shouldn’t rush to accept all of these allegations,” and that he hoped Krauss “finds some way to redeem himself.”...

And Krauss isn’t the only prominent skeptic with allegations against him. News broke last week that David Silverman had been “abruptly fired” from his role as the president of American Atheists due to both financial and sexual misconduct allegations. On top of this, much has been written about the multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against Skeptic Magazine editor-in-chief Michael Shermer and historian Richard Carrier — yet they are still invited to speak at atheist and skeptic conferences.

What is most troubling about the Krauss story is how many in the atheist movement knew about his reputation before the BuzzFeed article came out, including this writer. If secular communities want to provide a better alternative to religious institutions, why didn’t anyone confront Krauss sooner? Why are Shermer and Carrier still given a platform despite having similar accusations to those levied against Krauss?[4]

See also