The sand is draining from the last hours of 2013, so here’s a look back at the passing year. Of course, it started off with Daylight Atheism moving to a new home on Patheos, but there were lots of other major developments as well:
Feminism and the Atheist Movement
In January, I launched a petition calling for more emphasis on feminism and diversity in the secular community, which garnered over 2,000 signatures and was delivered to the leaders of many atheist and secular organizations. Those groups released a joint open letter in response, which wasn’t as strong as it could have been but did offer some positive points.
Sadly, we’ve still got a way to go, as was proven when one of the signatories, CFI’s Ron Lindsay, embarrassed himself and his organization with offensive and sexist remarks at Women in Secularism. In the face of protests by speakers and attendees, CFI’s board released an insulting non-statement, and Lindsay curtly apologized.
But just as that controversy was dying down, a much bigger one erupted, as some major figures in the secular community were accused of sexual harassment and worse. Once again, CFI found itself in the crosshairs over allegations that it kept a predator on the payroll. I mused dispiritedly over what it will take to build a better secular movement, given that atheism and feminism have every reason in the world to be allies.
The Republicans’ Downward Spiral
Anyone who thought that President Obama’s reelection victory would break the partisan fever in D.C. was clearly too optimistic. In January, I wrote about how the Republicans instead responded by plunging deeper into denial and epistemic isolation. I argued that they literally can’t help themselves, that they’re trapped in an ideological dead end by shifting demographics, which I think was validated by ultra-wingnut Ken Cuccinelli’s loss in Virginia.
GOP obstructionism reached a fever pitch in October when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives shut down the government in a failed attempt to blackmail the Democrats into repealing health-care reform. I won’t be surprised if there’s more of the same in the next few years; but in the long term, there’s reason for optimism, as these convulsions are a sign that the religious right is losing the culture war and knows it.
New Pope, Same Old Dogmas
Earlier this year, Pope Benedict unexpectedly resigned. In March, as a new pope was being selected, I mocked the liberal Catholics who believe, in the face of all evidence, that the church is a democracy. When a replacement, Pope Francis, was chosen, he sent the media into raptures with seemingly tolerant remarks about gay people, although as I noted, he didn’t actually change any church dogmas. He also talks a good game on poverty, but hasn’t ended the Catholic resistance to birth control that’s a major cause of the problem.
Women also continued to suffer from the church’s immoral views on choice, despite Francis’ magnanimous announcement that those views shouldn’t be aired in public quite as often. I wrote two posts about the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar, an Irish woman who was killed by Catholic dogma. Proving that the church learned nothing from this, the same policies nearly killed Beatriz in El Salvador and Tamesha Means in Michigan.
This year, I began a marathon chapter-by-chapter review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Although Rand was an atheist, I find her philosophy of economics laughably inadequate and her views on morality cruel and repugnant, and since her ideas still have wide influence, I think it’s important to explain in detail why she’s wrong.
Marriage Equality Strides Onward
2013 was a high-water mark for gay rights, as same-sex marriage became the law of the land in France and New Zealand, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Jersey, New Mexico, and even Utah. Increasingly, state officials are refusing to defend bigoted anti-gay laws where they still exist. Last but not least, the Supreme Court overturned DOMA, granting complete legal equality to all marriages in these states.
The religious right wasn’t too happy about this. I wrote about the astounding hypocrisy of religious groups who cry persecution while simultaneously calling for gay people to be imprisoned. Most disgusting of all, many American Christians cheer the violent thuggery against gay people in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I wrote about whether the world should boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics in response.
Travel, Interviews & Debates
In March, I defended atheism and feminism on the Jesse Lee Peterson Show, a religious conservative with views so extreme I’m still not sure if it’s an elaborate piece of performance art. I spoke to students at two colleges in Wisconsin, had my first TV appearance with Thom Hartmann, and debated Christian author Andrew Murtagh in Pennsylvania. That appearance was the kickoff of an online exchange with Andrew which will continue into next year.
I also attended a couple of big conventions: American Atheists in March, Women in Secularism in May, and Skepticon in November. The Sunday Assembly, the rollicking British humanist church, came to New York City over the summer and again in the fall, and I attended and reported on both events.
Last but certainly not least, this was the year I published my first novel, Dark Heart, an epic fantasy in a world where mortals deemed the gods unworthy and overthrew them. I followed up by immediately calling for it to be banned on the grounds that it corrupts children and is injurious to public morals. The sequel will be published early next year, so keep reading!