An Open Question to Those Who Think Skepticism Should Embrace “Social Justice”


 There has been some confusion as to what I’m saying about skepticism and social justice issues.  I’ve written before, that skepticism has lead me to be vegan, to support the legalization of marijuana, and to oppose the death penalty, all issues I believe are social justice issues.  Those are my conclusions, butnone of which I expect the JREF to take on as their own issues.  This post is really just another way to look at why some are mixing their politics and skepticism.  I didn’t expect my usual audience of 20 readers to expand to 600, most of who don’t know me or ever had these discussions with me.

This post was inspired by Tim Farley‘s excellent takedown of the “Block Bot” , a blocking utility that is used ostensibly to block harassment, but only really blocks “harassers” if they’re on the “wrong” side.  I’m trying not to be too snarky, but one of the “editors” of the Block Bot list once tweeted that I should be blocked.  This was before the Block Bot, and I’m not high profile enough to be on it now, however, I also don’t harass, tweet nasty things, or even tweet much at all.  Presumably this was because of a few people I follow. The reasons I follow people really are my own, and following does not mean endorsement.  Furthermore, there are people I follow and communicate with on Twitter that I want to help and I think could offer a lot to skepticism.  PZ Myers, well known atheist thug, has blocked me on Twitter, as have a few other well know atheists.  People who I’ve never even tweeted at, mind you.  Now, I’m not saying this for sympathy for being blocked, I’m pointing out how out of control and ridiculous it’s gotten if small fry like me are being caught up in it.  I’m too unknown to be blocked.

So, I’m reading Tim’s post and it all comes down to Atheist-Plus or not Atheist Plus in comments it seems. There really is no such thing as Atheism Plus except for the handful of people on AtheismPlus [dot] com and a handful of bloggers.  Really, thats it.  There are more members of the Flat Earth Society and they’ve probably put on more conferences as well.  I’m not being snarky but that’s the whole of it. 

Some atheists want to take atheism to a different place, where American progressive social justice politics are promoted from an atheist point of view.  If it sounds like secular humanism to you, you’re not alone.  Most people can’t figure out the difference. These atheists, however, are more hostile to different political views than secular humanists.  One of the proponents has even said Libertarians can’t be good skeptics (and therefore atheists in his mind) because they have faith in the invisible hand of the market.  Dumb statements like this make you wonder if the targets of social justice, you know, the people, matter more or less than movement purity to these people.

This desire to mix progressive politics has even creeped into the skeptic movement, highlighted first to me by a panel at TAM9 where the idea of expanding the skeptic movement to tackle issues like drug legalization or minimum wage might be good ways to expand the skeptical movement.  I could write lots on how wrong this is, but if you want to read something well done, check out Barbara Drescher’s website

Why is this push lately? Why are people wanting this?  Why are sites like Skepchick (a name that contains a word that many women I’ve worked with find offensive, btw) writing more and more politics and feminism and less and less actual skepticism? 

So my question is this:

“Do you even really care about skepticism anymore?” 

What do I mean by this?  I simply mean, if the people who want to mix skepticism and their progressive politics, look deep inside their mind, is this desire nothing more than a taste change?  Could we be looking at people who simply have moved on in their minds about what they are passionate about? 

I think the answer is yes.  I have no way to back this up though.  I’m simply basing this on looking at what people say, the kind of things they seem to get really jazzed about, and how much politics now dominates their message.  I think a lot of these people should just admit their not that into skepticism and just move on to other movements.  I know it’s tough to build up your audience from scratch, and  be a small fish in a bigger pond, but it’s a disservice to any movement to not have both feet in. 

This isn’t bad thing, either.  Someone is not a worse person or skeptic if they’ve grown and changed.  I wasn’t always a vegan, I wasn’t always a skeptic.   

So that’s my question, for which I don’t expect an answer, but maybe people will look at the “rifts” a little different and look at new possibilities. 


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