My posts come in fits and starts. My work and family demand the lion’s share of my attention, so when I post, it is because I was struck with an idea and I had to get it out. That I blog at all, especially about atheism and religion and the like, marks a sea change in how I handle my online presence.
For years, I’ve been a lurker in the online freethinker/atheist/skeptic communities, sometimes offering comments, but mostly just reading and listening, feeling like I had something to add, but not really knowing how to add it in a substantive way. Since coming out as an atheist at the beginning of this year (which was my new year’s resolution), the content on this blog has grown as I embraced it as a place to write the things I had kept to myself over the years. I may not post often, but understand that what is here represents and explosion of content.
I’ve gradually learned to use twitter to bring my space to the attention of those who might be interested in reading it, and I continue to find like-minded others with whom I can enter into dialogues. Particularly, I’ve enjoyed getting to know vjack over at Atheist Revolution, EllenBeth at My Cats are my Gods. Those folks have been quite welcoming to me as I’ve sought community with like-minded thinkers, something that is in scarce supply in my little postage stamp of native soil in Mississippi.
I’m a natural-born contrarian, suspicious of majorities, sensitive to group-think. It seems to me that when a majority of people hold a certain position, that position is likely to be wrong or misguided. I’m fiercely individualist and I have to come to my ideas, my positions, on my own. I seek help and advice when I need it, but it is important to me that my ideas are my ideas, forged in the crucible of my critical inquiry. I stand to be corrected, and I continually refine and hone what I think as new information becomes available.
In that process, when I was a lurker on various blogs and sites, I’ve sometimes posted comments in which I’ve sought information and understanding. Sometimes I’ve found constructive dialogue. Other times, because I tend to take contrary positions, I’ve been treated less than charitably. I’m not sure what motivates people to make comments, or to treat comments with disdain, but for me, it has always been about the quest for community and a desire to test my views.
Among my first interactions with people who at least ostensibly share similar inclinations was about so-called elevatorgate. That’s when Rebecca Watson first came onto my radar. Her tirade against Richard Dawkins, disparaging him for being a “wealthy old heterosexual white man” just blew my mind. I’m was coming into this as an outsider, and there, on a so-called skeptical blog, in a place that is by definition critical, one might hope enlightened, I find someone attacking a person based on his or her essential characteristics. I find that abhorrent. Imagine, say, Watson attacking someone for being a poor old gay black man, for instance. It wouldn’t stand. It would be excoriated with extreme prejudice. One might think that Watson was chastised for doing such a thing, but if one looks at the comments on her blog, her audience ate it up like it was a smoky slab of Memphis-style ribs.
I entered a couple of comments on Watson’s blog which called her out on it, none of which made it past moderation. I was astounded, so denied a voice, I issued my first ever blog post about Watson’s idea of skeptical community, over on my old blog on open salon, which you may read here.
Needless to say, as a non-wealthy but surely heterosexual white male, I didn’t feel welcomed.
Since then, I’ve figured out the issues, pretty much, and I have some idea about the divisions within this community. And have no doubts, I’m aligned with the people who welcomed me, vjack and EllenBeth listed above, among others. I’m going to align myself with the people who would never disparage people based on characteristics they can’t change. I find the opposite to be ridiculous and bigoted. I’ll pull no punches here: Watson and her ilk are nothing more than bigots; they don’t suffer consequences of their bigotry because in that community it is perfectly okay to be bigoted against white males. I don’t understand it, but it is true. It permeates all of their rhetoric.
I find people like Watson to be just bad people. People I don’t want to associate with.
So, I wrote about Watson I hope for the last time a couple of days ago, and that post is easily the most read piece on this blog. People love the drama. If I make some friends from the post, then it was worth it, but I hope I’ve gotten it out of my system. Because writing about them has made me feel somehow dirty, like I’ve laid down with the pigs in the skeptical/atheist community. I got down into the slop with the pigs. This post is a metaphorical shower. Time to get back to the important stuff, not this ridiculous drama with people who aren’t worthy of discussion.
And to vjack, EllenBeth, and all of the other wonderful atheists who are decent people, who welcome rather than shun, who realize that growing our ranks is the most important thing, who recognize that boycotting the best people and conferences is just stupid and counter-productive, let me extend to you my most sincere gratitude. While the bigots are grinding their axes and repelling good people, you made me feel welcome when I needed those outstretched arms. Thank you.