In Which Richard Dawkins Disappoints Me

So, here's the question for today: How should we respond when people we admire make serious missteps? Just so there's no confusion, I want to say right up front that Richard Dawkins fully deserves his reputation as a great scientist and a communicator of science. One of my favorite book memories was the happy summer day I spent in Central Park a few years ago reading The Ancestor's Tale in a sun-shot grove. And I hardly need to mention his fiery and effective advocacy for atheism, which has … [Read more...]

Growing the Secular Community

While attending the 2012 SSA convention, I had some thoughts about the future of the secular movement and what shape it will likely take in the coming years. As atheism expands and becomes organized, it's acquiring a political affiliation and a corona of associated beliefs - generally left-leaning, socially progressive, and increasingly identifying as pro-social justice and pro-feminist - and this is a development that we should definitely encourage. Some people assert that atheism means … [Read more...]

The Ten Commandments of Flirting, Or, How to Not Be Creepy at Atheist Conventions

The atheist community is abuzz over a discussion at last month's Women in Secularism conference, in which it inadvertently emerged that there are prominent speakers who have a reputation for predatory behavior and whom atheist women informally warn each other to avoid. This revelation (as well as a few recent high-profile examples of unacceptable behavior) is leading to the institution of anti-harassment policies at many of the major annual conventions, something I'm very happy about. Still, … [Read more...]

The Religious War on Women Continues

It must be a terribly confusing time to be a member of the Vatican hierarchy. In an effort to stem the accelerating exodus of Catholic laypeople, they've been cracking down on suspected heretics left and right - on nuns who help the poor too much, on priests who want to change the rules of ordination, on politicians who don't vote the way the bishops tell them to, on groups that fight bullying of gay teenagers, on ordinary churchgoers who've been divorced or who don't attend Mass every week - … [Read more...]

God’s Gender Police

Last week, the blogosphere was in an uproar over a sermon given by a North Carolina pastor, Sean Harris, who seemingly advised parents to beat their children if they show any signs of being gay or otherwise not following traditional gender norms:"Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. OK? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male."Harris … [Read more...]

Unite Against the War on Women

This Saturday, April 28, is the date for a collective movement of nationwide marches and rallies, organized by UniteWomen.org and backed by a national coalition of non-profit organizations, the Center for Inquiry among them. I wanted to write a bit about what motivated this and what's at stake. In just the last few years in America, decades of gains in women's rights have been seriously endangered, with outrageous anti-choice laws proposed or passed by right-wing legislatures in numerous … [Read more...]

The Catholic Crackdown on Feminism, Continued

There are some times when it gives me little pleasure to be right, and this is one of them:The Vatican has launched a crackdown on the umbrella group that represents most of America's 55,000 Catholic nuns, saying that the group was not speaking out strongly enough against gay marriage, abortion and women's ordination.This isn't the result of the "apostolic visitation" I wrote about earlier, but the findings of a separate Vatican inquiry (PDF) into the Leadership Conference of Women … [Read more...]

More Elucidation of Mansplanation

My previous post on the term "mansplaining" was turning into a zombie thread, so I had to drive a stake through its heart. But there's more that needs to be said on the topic, and today it comes in the form of this study covered by Scientific American. (HT: Justin Wolfers, via Michelle Goldberg on Twitter. The original article is also available online, but requires free registration.) Researchers trained four actors, two male and two female, to give the same short physics lecture to 126 … [Read more...]

Your Daily Dose of Mansplaining

Sometimes, when a comment thread bogs down in a long and protracted debate, highly enlightening comments can get lost in the heap. In the cause of preventing one such comment from being lost to obscurity, I'm giving it its own thread so it can receive the degree of respectful attention it clearly deserves. There's a term coined by the feminist movement that's very useful in contextualizing what you're about to read, which is "mansplaining". Mansplaining occurs when a man explains to a woman, in … [Read more...]

Weekend Coffee: March 17

There's a heap of news I didn't get to write about in greater depth this week, but all these stories deserve at least a look: • Remember the Anglican church, that blandly, Britishly polite bastion of modern liberal Christianity? So it turns out that they're officially against same-sex marriage. In a hilarious piece whining that they should get to vote on the rights of other human beings, Anglican homophobes also argue there should be no such thing as civil marriage in the U.K., that … [Read more...]