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Aug 13

Treading water

Yesterday Jarreg and I were talking in the car. Today’s post is borne out of that conversation, and I apologize if the the ideas feel a little rough. I haven’t fleshed them out as much as I want too. Nonetheless, we amble carelessly into some shaky territory to discuss this movement.

There is something I have been feeling lately about the atheism movement. Jarreg’s felt it too.

Disappointment.

Truly the best word for how I feel because I thought we were better than this. I thought I could walk along in this movement with my head held high. When I encounter stories like this though:

The story so far: Thunderf00t/Phil Mason was invited to join our blog network last month. All he wrote during the short week he was here was incoherent, unprofessional rages against feminism and the whole network he was on; we could not understand why he even accepted the offer to join us if he hated us so much, and his inane rants certainly weren’t going to persuade us that we were wrong, so we kicked him off. And ever since he has been obsessed with howling about our perfidy.

The latest development is that it turns out that almost as soon as he’d been evicted, he snuck back onto our mailing list and has been reading all the confidential discussions we’ve been having. He has leaked these to third parties as well. When we shut down the security hole last week, he then tried to hack back in, to no avail. We have logs of all of this computer activity on his part.

I just feel shame. These are the fucking people I have chosen to associate with. Thunderf00t is petty in a way that I can’t imagine “rational,” “thinking,” adults could be. I said on Twitter, I might have read private emails myself. Not saying for sure that I would have, but given certain circumstances I might find it prudent to exploit a loophole just to make sure that nothing dangerous was going on.  I would not be so stupid to expose that I had done so, especially if the “dirt” I uncovered was no more substantial than water cooler gossip. That is shitty middle school behavior. Not only petty but stupid.

I am not getting into the whole story about Thunderf00t’s behavior as it’s clear I find him utterly contemptible. I do want to say that if and when he chooses to “doc drop” private communication, I won’t be able to forgive that behavior. On a core level I believe that if someone chooses to interact under a pseudonym, threatening or exposing their real name is a serious wrong not to be undertaken lightly.

Beyond seething at the possibility that Tunderf00t may choose to out someone’s real name for petty gain, I am mostly just disappointed in him and those like him.

And the really frustrating part is there are a lot of atheists like Thunderf00t. Elevatorgate might have opened the stupid, petty asshole floodgates, but ever since we have had a steady stream of disappointment in people I thought should be better than the other side.

I was wrong. We aren’t better.

And the truth is, atheism means so little to me. I could spend the rest of my life pretending like I believe if it put me in a community that treated people fairly.

Let that sink in.

I would rather be with believers who treat people well than with racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic atheists. Why? Because I am many things. Atheist is one small part. Nonbelief is insignificant because god isn’t real. People on the other hand, people are real. Feelings are real. Humanity is real, even if we haven’t yet fully defined it. Those tangible things I can hold onto, those fellow humans will always be more important to me than a silly little thing like whether god exists.

Atheism I can quit. I can’t give up on humanity.

We are treading water with history, my fellow atheists. We can choose to take the stand that social justice is important or we can fight against it tooth and nail. I made my choice. It’s time to make yours.

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