A Mea Culpa

[Hemant's note: This message from Foundation Beyond Belief Executive Director Dale McGowan comes as a result of the discussion thread that took place here. A version of this message is being cross-posted at the Foundation Beyond Belief website. I've inserted a hyperlink to a previous post into Dale's message for reference purposes.]

Foundation Beyond Belief is the current focus of my career and the greatest challenge I’ve ever taken on. Mostly things have gone well, but now I’ve made a serious mistake.

We decided early on to focus the vast majority of our charitable work on strictly secular organizations, but to also occasionally give our members the choice of supporting an organization with a progressive religious identity that does good work and does not proselytize. Our support of a Quaker peace organization succeeded brilliantly at this.

When the organization Soulforce came to our attention, we were riveted. Short of explicitly nonreligious critics, we had never seen such a clear condemnation of the toxic central role religion plays in the struggle for LGBT rights. Even though they are not affiliated with a denomination themselves, the condemnation is enhanced by the presence of religious leaders on their staff. They train members of ten denominations that hold anti-gay doctrines to work for change within their churches. They get themselves arrested at Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention. They put the heat on and keep it on.

It’s brilliant work that no one else is doing at that level. Critiques from outside the church doors can be powerful. But when a religious leader (finally) says, “The organized Christian religion has become the enemy of God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children,” it’s an extra body blow to our shared target. I pushed for consideration.

But in our enthusiasm for Soulforce’s work, I failed to take sufficient care in assessing other aspects of their message — less prominent, but no less significant.

During the review process for this quarter, we investigated 96 nominees. In the final phase, I personally spent hours going over Soulforce’s financial statements, mission and vision, press releases, annual reports, and history of activism, as well as in-depth third party assessments.

We knew the organization used religious language to reach their own audience; that’s to be expected. But in reviewing their website, I glossed over a “credo” page too quickly, which included a statement that we “can never really be free” unless we see ourselves as “child[ren] of a loving Creator.” I hesitated… then rationalized it away.

Looking back, I can’t quite believe I did that. It is an absurd statement that directly contradicts the message of our Foundation. No amount of good work justifies that. And even if it was somehow acceptable to me, I owed it to the membership to bring it to their attention. It was a failure both of judgment and of leadership to do otherwise.

In retrospect, it was also a classic example of compartmentalization. I was clearly blinded by how much I appreciated the work they do in churches and saw what I wanted to see. It was a mistake, one we will do our best to never make again.

So while we continue to applaud the work of Soulforce, we cannot in good conscience support them with the donations of our humanist and atheist members. We are withdrawing our sponsorship and selecting a new human rights charity for this quarter. In the interest of my cardiac health, it will be a secular organization that was already a finalist in our process but will undergo an additional thorough review.

Since a recent and ongoing survey of our members shows a clear majority supporting the idea of occasionally sponsoring a progressive religious charity, we will continue to look for appropriate opportunities. When we do, our members can expect a better process, including more formal member review prior to selection.

We believe that organizations can be run by religious people while still being entirely in accord with humanist values, and that it’s a point worth making, even if we occasionally stumble in this way. While some atheists feel uncomfortable giving their donations to those organizations, others consider it a perfect expression of humanism writ large. They are a huge subset of nontheists, and one too often ignored. So despite the challenges, we will continue to look at organizations run by religious groups when we consider our beneficiaries. If we feel one is worthy of consideration, we’ll bring it to our members’ attention.

Finally, I want to make it clear that this error in judgment was mine, not Hemant’s or anyone else’s. And much of the credit for waking me up goes to Aj and Rieux, among other commenters on this very blog. Thanks for doing the homework I should have done and for taking the time and care to hammer it home.

I’d like to think it’s the last blunder I’ll make in this, but that’s not likely. I can only hope to make them few and far between. Thanks again for your patience and input as a community.

Dale McGowan
Executive Director, Foundation Beyond Belief

  • foolie

    Seems overly picky. Can you hold a religious organization to rigorous humanist standards? They believe in God…we knew that to begin with. Why does that credo change anything? This just seems like a great way for atheists to appear obstinate and stingy.

  • noen

    Wow, so they are doing good important work and do not proselytize and yet because they state their beliefs clearly you can’t support them. Basically you demand complete ideological purity before you’ll support someone. You are just like some churches who will refuse to work with others when they disagree on points of dogma.

    Oh and Rieux is a piece of work. She (not sure but I believe so) is probably the most vicious and dogmatic atheist I’ve had the displeasure to meet. They could have used her during the Inquisition. I would suspect it was Rieux’s unrelenting orthodoxy that held undue influence here.

  • http://www.foundationbeyondbelief.org Dale McGowan

    @foolie, noen: I think there’s a difference between differing opinions and a statement that literally negates the possibility of our worldview having anything to contribute. Read the full credo to see what you think. Several members also felt that the insistence that the statement be accepted amounted to proselytizing.

  • Adam

    I agree with foolie. Seems like common sense that they would believe that. I thought the whole point was their non-proselytizing progressive agenda, not their beliefs.

  • k-dub

    Well, there’s all the proof you need that you can’t please everyone.

    Dale and the FBB board, thanks for all of your hard work and for being brave/wise enough to realize you made a mistake in this case. Your handling of this debate makes me an even bigger supporter of FBB.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    I’m really glad to see that support of Soulforce was withdrawn. I still think there’s a difference between charities run by religious people and charities run in the name of religion for religious purposes, and I’m not convinced that FBB really understands this yet. But I’m hopeful.

    @noen: What do you mean, they do not proselytize? They try to convince people to hold the same religious beliefs that they do. They have credos for LGBTQ people to sign which include specific statements about belief in a Creator.

  • anonymous

    To reiterate what several others are saying, we should judge charities by their actions, not beliefs. Some articles on this blog have chided religious people for assuming that non-religious people are immoral because they don’t believe in god. We shouldn’t be doing the reverse to religious charities.

  • http://twoangryvoices.blogspot.com Aegis

    And yet to better advance the atheist movement, it is necessary to give any donations to solely secular groups wherever possible – otherwise, there’s no point to making the distinction at all. What I didn’t spot in the excerpt is who they’ll be channeling those donations to instead, but my guess is they’ll either split it into their existing secular charity feeds or they’ll have found a secular group who’s working for the same cause and will have a similar effect.

  • Aaron

    I don’t know. I would expect a religious group to be… religious. I have trouble seeing the conflict here.
    Re: signed credos: Do they require that everybody sign their credos to be helped or just their members? When they protest at a Focus on the Family event, do they tell the gay folks “The only way to be happy and gay is to be Christian and gay” (cause if they do, then I would abandon them as well)?
    We try to convince people to hold the same beliefs we do (that facts are better than fiction), although I don’t go out of my way to do it.
    Why is it a crime when they do it? Didn’t the FBB know they were religious?

  • AJ

    I remember when I was growing up and being sent to church by my family, the Southern Baptists always beat it into our heads that our works and deeds didn’t matter as long as we said the wrong thing.

    Great to see atheists adopting the same worldview as the Southern Baptist Convention! Faith, not works, for atheists, too!

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    Now that’s a well-written apology. No “sorry-if-you-were-offended”, but simply owning up to one’s mistakes. Kudos.

  • keddaw

    But we can “never really be free” outside a religious worldview. The rest of us are stuck here obeying the natural laws.

    Depends how you want to read it, but my take is that free will requires an external agent (god/soul/whatever) that is not subject to the laws of the universe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Wow, go to the link and read the credo if you still think they weren’t prostelyzing. It contains this that they expect people they help to sign:

    Six Soulforce Beliefs About Myself

    I am a child of a loving Creator, a daughter or a son of the Soulforce at the center of the universe.*
    I am loved by my Creator exactly as I am. My sexual orientation is not a sickness to be healed nor a sin to be forgiven. My sexual orientation is a gift from my Creator to be accepted, celebrated, and lived with integrity.
    I am not an accident. I have a purpose. I was shaped by my Creator to love God and to assist in God’s eternal struggle to win justice for all Her children who suffer injustice.
    I will not discover my purpose nor realize my power (my own soulforce) until I join my Creator in doing justice (making things fair for all.)
    When I join my Creator in doing justice, my own life will be renewed, empowered, and made more meaningful.
    In serving others, it is as much my moral obligation to refuse to cooperate with evil as it is to cooperate with good.

    That last bit is particularly alarming. Who the fuck do you think they mean by evil? Newsflash — they mean us! Anyone who is not kowtowing to god and probably anyone who is not kowtowing to the right god though it’s not clear as to the latter. They do mean the former. You’re either giving yourself to a Creator or you’re evil and you want to give this money?

    Honestly, it’s nice to see Dale man up to admitting he was wrong here though I really don’t see how such a glaringly bigoted statement could have got by his filter to begin with. Why kick him for it? I do hope he’s learned from it and is going to be careful not to put on the PC blinders next time he screens for prostelyzation.

    I still disagree with not supporting their organizations. The argument that we’re being as judgmental as they are is poppycock. Do you think a Christian is a bigot just because they don’t support FFRF or American Atheists? Why then are we bigots if we don’t support Soulforce or the Quakers?

    There’s a big difference between saying they can’t work with us and not giving them financial support to set the example that it’s theists who do the good work which merely having a theistic name (such as something implying a soul is necessary) does.

    I belong to both FFRF and Americans United. If I were Christian, I’d only belong to one of those. It wouldn’t make me a bigot and not giving my money to the Soulforce does not make me a bigot.

  • http://www.foundationbeyondbelief.org Dale McGowan

    @Aaron: That’s exactly how I rationalized it for myself. But it’s clearly not just about differing beliefs, but the nature of the statement, which goes on to say “You can go on to Step 2 without believing the Soulforce Credo About Myself, but both Gandhi and King remind us that we can never really be free until we see ourselves in this whole new way,” it crossed a line for too many, including some of our members, who felt they had not heard the complete picture. I needed to at least present that doctrinal statement to the members for their consideration, and I did not.

    @muggle: The reference to evil is not to us, but to the person against whom nonviolent resistance is used. It’s a frequent reference in Gandhi.

  • http://cousinavi.wordpress.com cousinavi

    And, I’m sure THEY would be happy to donate money in support of the Secular Humanist cause…so long as we accept Christ as our personal saviour.

    I was never one for building bridges anyway, but it’s very interesting to see those who thought otherwise torching the foundations on a truly fucking strange principle.

    I opposed building bridges because both their premises and their practices offend my senses of reason, truth, ethics and morality.
    Apparently, even though you love and respect their efforts, you won’t complete the span because they FUNDAMENTALLY assert the importance of calling the First Cause “God”.
    Permit me to respond thus: “DUH !”

    In that case, whether you like it or not, welcome to my side.
    Now let’s stop wasting time looking for Secular Christians, and split that cash between some more billboards and an Atheist Woodstock with an open bar!…and LOTS of medicinal marijuana.

  • noen

    Dale McGowan Says:

    @foolie, noen: I think there’s a difference between differing opinions and a statement that literally negates the possibility of our worldview having anything to contribute. Read the full credo to see what you think. Several members also felt that the insistence that the statement be accepted amounted to proselytizing.


    “Neither Gandhi nor King required sectarian allegiance to any one statement of faith or religious practice. Soulforce welcomes you to do justice with us.”

    HERETICS!

    Look, if you want to encourage positive spiritual organizations rather than fundamentalist extremists then this is the kind of organization you’ll be supporting.

    “Can you affirm this Soulforce Credo About Myself?
    Take your time. Think about it.
    Read Gandhi and King.
    Read the primary sources that inspired Gandhi and King, for example Jesus and the other great pioneers in faith.”

    THE HORRORS!!

    Yes, I can see why Rieux would despise Gandhi, King and Jesus. She is probably the most vicious hateful person I’ve ever met, but seriously, if you want to continue to be marginalized and despised please by all means stay in your ghetto.

    “You can go on to Step 2 without believing the Soulforce Credo About Myself, but both Gandhi and King remind us that we can never really be free until we see

    Nooooooooooo!! they aren’t atheists! But as far as religious activists go that’s pretty tame and broadly inclusive. Yeah, we can’t be having that can we?

  • Steve

    I can really see both sides of the issue. Soulforce does some great work that deserves to be supported. Maybe not necessarily financially, but at least acknowledged and reported. I don’t care that they are a Christian organization per se. Given that they go to fundamentalist Christian universities to talk to students, that’s a good thing. It opens doors that would be closed otherwise.

    But I also troubled by their insistence on accepting God in your life and necessary for your salvation. They don’t need to do that at all in order to fulfill their mission.

    Is that bad enough to exclude them from receiving donations? I honestly don’t know. Tough decision.

  • http://www.foundationbeyondbelief.org Dale McGowan

    Thank you, Steve. It was an incredibly tough decision. In the end, I felt that I had done a poor job communicating the issues to our members, and that I simply could not risk the perception that funds entrusted to us were not handled honestly. Given that doubt, I had to pull the plug. I’m heartsick about it for more reasons than I can count, but I feel that I had no choice.

  • p.s.

    noen, chill the fuck out.
    No one said soulforce was a “bad” organization. They do good work, but alot of people just thought it was a wee bit inappropriate for a group who purports to support secular charities to sponsor an obviously religious/spiritual group. God wasn’t referenced nearly as much on the quaker webpage, and the only mention soulforce gave to non-believers was a half hearted “well I hope you change your mind.” compare that to the quaker perspective:

    Some Quakers have a conception of God which is similar to that of orthodox Christians, and would use similar language. Others are happy to use God-centred language, but would conceive of God in very different terms to the traditional Christian trinity. Some describe themselves as agnostics, or humanists, or non-theists and describe their experiences in ways that avoid the use of the word God entirely.

    I can’t tell if you are deliberately misrepresenting what everyone’s saying or just really don’t get it.

    Kudos, dale. best of luck, and I hope you don’t have to take too much heat for this.

  • http://infalliblefailure.blogspot.com Jeff Satterley

    I’m curious: if Soulforce really believes this credo, why would they be willing to accept money from FBB in the first place? It seems rather hypocritical to me.

  • http://whatpalebluedot.blogspot.com WhatPaleBlueDot

    @ Steve
    Is that bad enough to exclude them from receiving donations? I honestly don’t know. Tough decision.

    This change doesn’t mean other people might be perfectly well-advised to donate to this group, but that a decidedly atheist organization speaking for multiple atheists must consider the variety of opinion on the issue. It’s clear that this group is a religious group with a religious purpose, even if that religious purpose is showing Christians that Jesus loves gays. FBB’s purpose isn’t showing Christians that Jesus loves gays, it’s showing people that gays are whole people who don’t need to be redeemed or saved or purified or converted, but need to be recognized as whole citizens, subject to the same rights, protections, and responsibilities as others.

    I think it was a wise decision, and shows skillful discernment considering the differences between this group and the Friends peace group. These are powerful, considerate thinkers we have controlling our donations, and they’re doing a superb job.

  • C Boswell

    Absolute truths do exist. For example, murder, i.e. killing another human being without justification, is wrong. One can love the murderer without loving the sin of murder. In addition, one should support and spread the law that says murder is a crime. Likewise, if one believes that homosexuality is wrong and gay marriage is not what God ordains, one should NOT support the laws that sanction homosexuality or same-sex marriage although one should NOT discriminate against persons who practice homosexual behaviors.

  • ewan

    I think this is probably the right outcome in this specific instance but I’m not sure that a general principle has been established that would describe what kinds of organisations the FBB would consider acceptable in general, and I think that would be useful.

  • http://www.atheistatom.com Atheist Atom

    I don’t know how FBB got derailed into a gay rights agenda. I support the agenda, but there are other groups for that. Come on, remember OUR cause.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    @Ewan: indeed. How about something like “FBB will not support an organization that puts requirements on, or otherwise concerns itself with the beliefs of those that they intend to help”? This should also cover the “no prosyletizing” rule that is currently in place.

  • http://www.zachalexander.com Zach Alexander

    Wow, I had no idea about all this – I need to follow this blog more closely!

    (Hemant, this is Zach, the guy from the Harvard Humanist group starting up the book mashup company. I’ve been wanting to drop by and say it was great to meet you, and that your talk/moderation last month was awesome.)

    Soulforce visited my evangelical alma mater Gordon College in 2007, so why don’t I describe what my experience with them was like.

    First, people need to understand just how toxic a religiously homophobic college can be for LGBT and questioning students – and I can only point you to a booklet of stories by LGBT students at Gordon I helped produce, http://www.ifitoldyou.org/ifitoldyou.pdf (they’re beautiful, but not for the faint of heart.)

    The work Soulforce did in visiting Gordon in 2007, and I imagine at all the other colleges they visited on that tour, was to support LGBT youth isolated/closeted at religious colleges, and advocate for their acceptance by the student body and staff. One contributor to the booklet above described it as “the cavalry coming for me.” Gordon allowed them on campus, gave them an evening event in the main chapel building, where after a brief statement of Gordon’s official (i.e. homophobic) position, they were handed the mic and allowed to basically present a pro-acceptance perspective unchallenged. And then they were allowed to informally fraternize with students in the cafeteria.

    This event in 2007, along with the above-mentioned stories (published on campus the same week), were intrumental in pushing Gordon towards making several changes that make life better for LGBT youth there.

    Now, were they religious? Of course, in the same way a bunch of pro-LGBT fish talking to an anti-LGBT group of fish are both in the water. And by Gordon standards – which is moderate as evangelicals go to begin with – they’re extremely secular.

    So TL;DR, my experience with them was overwhelmingly positive, and I can fully endorse Dale’s statements that “They put the heat on and keep it on,” and “It’s brilliant work that no one else is doing at that level.”

    Maybe they have other activities that are less awesome, or more proselytize-y, or more doctrine-focused, but I can’t speak to that.

  • Aristarchus

    The Bible supports slavery. This should discredit it. Instead, modern Christians have convinced themselves that it doesn’t support slavery by totally ignoring what it actually says. Same with targeting civilians in war, or any number of other issues. The problem is that these reinterpretations occur after society has already changed its mind. In the actual debate, religion is a force for traditional norms and against new ideas. These reinterpretations after the fact serve to maintain the Bible’s credibility and ensure that it will survive to be harmful again in the next debate.

    Atheists shouldn’t be arguing that the Bible is nice to gays because they (often) don’t actually believe that it is. It’s hypocritical, and pretending that the Bible is correct just makes people more likely to believe all its other claims.

  • Tiffany

    Since I attend a Baptist university that has outright rules against homosexuality (which disgusts me), Soulforce made a stop here last year. At this point last year, I was still trying to resolve my religious “beliefs” with the fact that I didn’t see anything wrong with being gay. So at the point, I saw what Soulforce was doing as a good thing. Which in some aspects, it was. They had a really nice peaceful protest against the murders/suicides of gay men, women, and even children. But, they also tried to use Bible verses to back up their cause, and like I said, at the time, I could see how they thought that would work. But now, a year later, I’ve realized that Christianity does speak against homosexuality and I really can’t understand why a gay person would want to be a part of a religion that condemns them for who they are.

  • http://amillionwordstogo.blogspot.com AynSavoy

    @Atheist Atom,

    FBB’s mission, as stated on the website:

    To demonstrate humanism at its best by supporting efforts to improve this world and this life and to challenge humanists to embody the highest principles of humanism, including mutual care and responsibility.

    Does supporting LGBT rights not improve this world and this life? I’m pretty sure it does.

  • TychaBrahe

    How can we criticize the Catholic church for withdrawing its various charitable activities in regions where gay marriage is legal (closing or threatening to close homeless shelters in Washington, DC, where gay marriage is legal) if we do the same thing.

    Would FBB support Habitat for Humanity? It is an acknowledged ecumenical Christian organization. Many of its Christian volunteers and its Christian leadership see its work as a ministry. However, they do not discriminate in accepting volunteers. And they do not discriminate in selecting recipients of their charity. They build homes for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and atheists. I’m sure many of the Haitians for whom they are building homes practice voodoo.

    Do we decry the Salvation Army who say, we do this because it is our ministry, our way of serving God? They don’t ask that the recipients of their charity believe in God.

    If Soulforce does good work, why does it matter WHY they do good work?

    I think this is a very bad move.

  • Samiimas

    Yes, I can see why Rieux would despise Gandhi, King and Jesus. She is probably the most vicious hateful person I’ve ever met, but seriously, if you want to continue to be marginalized and despised please by all means stay in your ghetto.

    I see noen’s back with his usual dishonesty and claims that everyone who doesn’t kiss theist’s asses our ‘hateful’. Why don’t you quote the parts of that credo where they explicitly say a creator exists and that we have no purpose until we find him and explain how we’re being ‘hateful’ by not wanting an atheist organization giving money to a group that says atheists have no purpose?

  • Aristarchus

    @TycahBrahe

    We criticize the Catholic Church there because doing some charity of any kind in DC doesn’t means supporting its decision on gay marriage. We don’t criticize them for not supporting charities that offer abortions, because we don’t expect them to give money to people whose actions they don’t agree with. Having an opinion doesn’t automatically make you intolerant.

    Habitat for Humanity I would have to find out more about. Being run by religious (and even religiously motivated) people doesn’t make the work itself religious. The Salvation Army, though, is an obvious no. They proselytize and run religious services, etc. It should be clear that they would be a bad choice.

    I don’t think Soulforce does good work. I think saying “Jesus loves you” to a gay teen might make the feel better, but I also think it’s a lie. I don’t feel comfortable doing that.

  • http://www.atheistatom.com Atheist Atom

    I read the article, Ayn. Dale was so excited about giving money to religious moderates because they were against the religious extremists. He may as well support christians who are against muslims. I mean, we’re supposed to be above the whole god thing. There must be secular organizations that could use that money.

  • Tamara

    One of the things I love best about freethinkers is their ability to question their own actions and decisions and decide that they may have been wrong.

    If the FBB wants to give to religious organizations, it will always be difficult, and perhaps bad for “cardiac health” to try and justify why those religious ones deserve the money over secular ones. The desire for diversity on this front may be faulty, no matter how many warm fuzzies it gives the board.

  • Vas

    Dale, as a representitive of FBB said…

    Since a recent and ongoing survey of our members shows a clear majority supporting the idea of occasionally sponsoring a progressive religious charity, we will continue to look for appropriate opportunities.

    Alright, that is all I need to know, I choose to not sponsor religious charities, even if they are progressive. Some atheists appear to be alright sponsoring progressive religious charities and that’s alright as well.

    I wonder how many of that clear majority would cease donating to the FBB if they refrained from sponsoring progressive religious charities. I at the same time wonder how many of the people who do not support sponsoring progressive religious charities would cease donating money to FBB should they decide to make such sponsorship part of how they do business.
    Seeing as how you have an ongoing survey you may wish to seek an answer to these questions using your survey as a tool. I would speculate that you would loose quite a few more donors by continuing to sponsor progressive religious charities then by refraining from this type of sponsorship. I think it’s a question worth concidering. Really if you just plain knock it off I’d think you may not loose more than a scant few, continue down the road you are on and you may well loose the support of a great many.
    In the end Dale seems to be someone committed to charitable work, his commitment seems deep and sincere. He works hard to help others in need and I for one commend him for his work.

  • http://amillionwordstogo.blogspot.com AynSavoy

    @Atheist Atom, in your original post you simply criticized FBB’s support of “the gay right agenda;” you didn’t mention Soulforce specifically.

    I agree that supporting Soulforce was a mistake, but I don’t think that the goal of supporting LGBT rights in general is contrary to what FBB is trying to do.

  • http://amillionwordstogo.blogspot.com AynSavoy

    @Vas, the survey actually does ask those questions.

  • Todd Stiefel

    I am still a supporter of FBB and encourage everyone else to be as well. I disagree with FBB on the point of whether or not to give to religious charities, but I agree wholeheartedly with their mission and believe that they are a huge asset to the freethought movement. I do not agree with the ACLU on every stance they take, but still believe they are overall a fantastic organization that is worth supporting. The same applies to FBB.

    We will never all agree on everything. We should continue to debate and use our critical thinking to improve. We should never cease to question what we do. At the same time, we should unite and spend more time focusing on the 99% freethinkers have in common.

    Props to Dale for manning up on this Soulforce issue. Dale, you are an honorable man.

    Todd

  • Neon Genesis

    Is the Soulforce credo any more offensive than the atheists who think you can only be free if you deconvert from any and all religion?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    If you really want a look at what Soulforce thinks about atheism, do a search on their site, and you’ll find the following article:

    http://www.soulforce.org/article/535

    Snippets:

    I do respect your right to not believe. And I will listen carefully to your opinions as you hear mine. That’s what “soul force” is about, searching for Truth together.

    But do take seriously the fact that both Gandhi and King believed that “soul force” (relentless nonviolent resistance) could only be effectively maintained by a person of faith. There are other very thoughtful advocates of nonviolence who disagree. I consider you one of those; but stay with us, see why they took this stand, and decide for yourself.

    Bad religion has become the enemy of God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children. Many in our community have chosen to reject bad religion before it wounds them any deeper. And though there are thoughtful, life-long atheists among us, some who call themselves “atheists” are really people of faith stuck between rejecting an old inadequate god and embracing the new Spirit of Truth.

    Too many of these “rejectors” throw the baby (of faith) out with the bath (of bad religion). They confuse religion and faith and in the process, give up both. When we abandon our spirit-journeys (because we’ve been abandoned by our churches, synagogues, or temples), we only hurt ourselves.

    Gandhi embraced agnostics and atheists as friends in transition who have abandoned old, inadequate gods. He saw the unbeliever as a person of faith on a journey back towards the authentic, the powerful, the trustworthy Spirit of Truth at the center of the universe.

    Gandhi, the Hindu, and King, the Baptist preacher, were agreed on one thing. Nonviolence flows out of faith. Gandhi asked marchers before every march to sign a pledge that he or she “had a living faith in God.” Dr. King, a Baptist preacher, marched arm-in-arm with Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants and other people of faith, agnostics and atheists but almost invariably he asked marchers to sign a pledge that they would at least “meditate daily on the life and teachings of Jesus.”

    Dr. King writes, “At times we may feel that we do not need God, but on the day when the storms of disappointment rage, the winds of disaster blow, and the tidal waves of grief beat against our lives, if we do not have a deep and patient faith our emotional lives will be ripped to shreds…Only God is able. It is faith we must rediscover. With this faith we can transform bleak and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of joy and bring new light into the dark caverns of pessimism.”(7)

    Gandhi declared to the people of India “The first and the last shield and buckler of the non-violent person will be his/her unwavering faith in God.”(8)

    Now, Mel White seems like a good guy. I read his memoir a long time ago, and I admire that he’s trying to stop the horrible oppression suffered by LGBT Christians. But the article he authored is full of the usual tripe that faith is beautiful, good, righteous, something to be nurtured and promoted, and that atheists most likely are incomplete and unfulfilled human beings who just haven’t realized the power and transformative nature of faith.

    In addition, you must be a “person of faith” to march alongside them in their protests, according to this article.

    A marcher must be a person of faith.

    Atheists aren’t welcome, period. This is far more troubling to me than references to how Gandhi and King (and Soulforce) feel about the power of faith. We can’t march with them even if we support their mission simply because we’re not believers.

    Dale made the right decision. The purpose of FBB is not to promote religion. The liberal religion espoused by Soulforce might be “better” than other forms, but FBB shouldn’t be sending money to groups that want to convince religious people to stay religious.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    @Todd Stiefel:

    We should continue to debate and use our critical thinking to improve. We should never cease to question what we do. At the same time, we should unite and spend more time focusing on the 99% freethinkers have in common.

    This sort of thing always sounds so undeniably true when people say it. Still, it comes across as an attempt to silence critical thinking and questioning during the 1% (or more) of the time when it really is warranted. After all, what you are saying is, “Critical thinking is important. But try not to make such a big stink about it when you disagree with one of us.”

    Everything I’ve heard about you says that you’re a great guy. So please don’t fall into this trap of chorusing, “let’s all get along” to shut everyone up any time things get tense.

    The FBB is apparently still planning to support religious organizations, so long as they do enough good stuff that Dale McGowan thinks they are acceptable. They don’t seem to understand why their “any ideology as long as they don’t proselytize” rule is incompatible with their overall purpose, and if they think the Quaker charity was a “brilliant success” they don’t understand the many forms proselytizing can take. As long as this is the case, I think the debate is worth our time.

  • k-dub

    @NFQ, I don’t read Todd’s comment as telling you (or anyone) to sit down and shut up; rather, I think he’s saying that these debates are a good thing (as shown by FBB’s recent change of heart) and that we shouldn’t let disagreements prevent us from doing good things together. I agree with Todd on both counts, assuming I’m interpreting him correctly.

    I fully supported FBB’s selection of Quaker Peace and Social Witness. I was somewhat less thrilled with Soulforce. That’s a fine line that FBB will have to navigate, but I still think it’s worth the trouble to find and support certain religious charities that do good work.

  • http://www.twitter.com/jalyth Tizzle

    Why don’t the commenters who really love Soulforce donate themselves instead of arguing someone else should?

    No, really, this isn’t supposed to be a snarky comment, just an idea for action instead of words.

  • Betsy

    @ Vas – you also have the option to contribute a percentage of your money to any charity FBB is supporting that quarter, or no percentage at all. You will never be forced to support a religious charity.
    This freedom of choice is part of the beauty of FBB – you can tailor your donations to contribute to the cause that you most care about.

  • Hitch

    It’s tough space and Dale is taking it seriously. I think that’s great and kudos to Dale for taking it as such.

    I have seen too much reactive snippiness in comparable situations and I think it’s great to see that one can have a different reaction too.

  • Vas

    @ Betsy,
    Well there is some valuable information. My point still stands though, some may stop supporting them if the affiliate with religious charities.

  • Vas

    @ Hitch
    +1

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    @k-dub: I hope you are right about what Todd meant to express. Sorry for jumping to conclusions.

    @Betsy: You say that part of the beauty of FBB is the ability to customize your donation. I agree that that is a nice feature. But if the expectation is that from time to time, FBB will pick a charity that advocates the opposite of atheism and you have to make sure to notice (even when they initially tell you in their own material that it is a secular charity) and switch all your money out lest you accidentally pay for people to pray — what is the point of FBB? I mean, seriously. In regular life I can choose to donate or not donate in whatever amounts I like, to whatever organizations I like. FBB didn’t create this customizability where before everything was set in stone. It’s certainly nice that they don’t literally force their members to donate in any particular way (though getting really happy about that is maybe setting the bar too low). But … what is it exactly that FBB is supposed to add?

  • Todd Stiefel

    @NFQ, I am definitely not trying to silence people. I believe that one of our greatest strengths is our ability to learn and change over time. Religion is stuck with scripture that cannot change, only its interpretation. We are free to self-criticize and self-correct. We MUST continue to do so. I also get frustrated when I see criticism in our movement get silenced. This is usually done by the criticizer being labeled either angry or an accommodationist.

    My main point is that while criticism is critical, our movement sometimes spends too much of its resources doing so. We have limited time and energy to make a difference. We need to strike a proper balance between critique and cooperation. Most of the effort should go to cooperation. We should not silence criticism, but we should avoid spending huge chunks of our time on it or we will suffer from “analysis paralysis” and accomplish more critique than results.

    Todd

  • Aj

    As long as mistakes are corrected, that’s all that matters.

    To be clear Soulforce does proselytize, it tries to convert people to a religious opinion, on its website, in videos, books, meetings, and articles. It’s mostly directed at other religious people, but I don’t think that matters, and it was stated on the FBB site that proselytizing would disqualify a charity.

    Beliefs matter if the organisation is evangelizing them while doing secular work, the Nation of Islam may get young men off drugs, and Focus on the Family may help heterosexual married couples with counselling, but negatives have to be considered along with the positives. I think Soulforce’s position on atheism is the opposite of Secular Humanism’s, as is their promotion of faith over reason, and their belief in redemptive suffering is an anathema to many forms of secular ethics.

    Anna, thanks for the research, that pretty much destroys the lie about their “inclusive” nature. Your link isn’t working, I think this site added a slash on the end, just copy as it’s displayed.

    noen, espouses ignorant, cruel, and moronic lies about atheism. noen, claims that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot murdered because they were atheists, because atheists are immoral. noen, dishonestly tries to paint Hitler as an atheist to further demonize us, using dubious sources and with disregard for the evidence. noen, claims morals and love cannot exist without supernatural bullshit like gods. It’s not extraordinary that noen doesn’t have a problem with Soulforce’s beliefs or that noen would attack an atheist with bullshit allegations of dogmaticism.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Anna, thanks for the research, that pretty much destroys the lie about their “inclusive” nature. Your link isn’t working, I think this site added a slash on the end, just copy as it’s displayed.

    Sorry about that. There’s some sort of bug in the site that usually won’t allow links to be made clickable unless a slash is added, but it often results in them being invalid.

    These are the two articles:

    http://www.soulforce.org/article/535

    http://www.soulforce.org/article/570

  • foolie

    @ Anna
    I’m not seeing anything bad there. They don’t think people should be atheists…we don’t think people should be theists. They at least respect the concept instead of demonizing it.

    Soulforce’s version of proselytizing is so watered-down that I doubt they’ll find many converts who weren’t already close to their beliefs. If this doesn’t pass muster as sufficiently liberal religion, I can’t imagine what would…so why even bother with the pretense of reaching out to good-works religious institutions?

  • anthrosciguy

    I commend you guys for changing and being open about it, but really, why was this a big surprise to you? Really, I mean it. Isn’t this exactly what you would expect from a Christian organization?

  • ewan

    If this doesn’t pass muster as sufficiently liberal religion, I can’t imagine what would

    I’d have thought that it’s not the degree of liberalism that matters, so much as what they do with it. An organisation that pushes a religious viewpoint on others should be right out. An organisation made up mostly or entirely of religious people that just helps people in practical ways (e.g. feeding the homeless) without pushing a religious view might not be.

  • Rieux

    I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to read FA today; I’ve missed this important discussion… that I apparently played a significant role in.

    Thank you to everyone upthread who has done the research and taken the time to document Soulforce’s proselytizing and theist supremacism. As the OP made clear, that’s what was behind this decision, not (as some commenters have mistakenly asserted) the simple fact that Soulforce is religious.

    As I’ve said previously, I disagree with FBB’s stance on the Quaker group they donated to previously; I think it’s a bad idea for an overtly atheist charity to fund religious institutions. But there seems to be broad agreement that there are huge differences between the Quaker group’s treatment of nontheism and Soulforce’s. The latter is, as documented above, simply awful. Given FBB’s decision to fund religious charities that are deserving, I think drawing a line between the two is more than reasonable.

    Finally, I have to say that I am utterly gobsmacked by the level of integrity and commitment to principle that Dale McGowan has demonstrated in this exchange. In his shoes, I don’t think I would have had the guts to so publicly reverse myself and admit fault. My atheism notwithstanding, I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion that Dale is an Integrity God.

  • Aj

    foolie,

    I’m sure they seem equivalent to someone who’s permanently agnostic in principle or a 50% probability agnostic, but for anyone who places the burden of proof on them, or thinks their claims of knowledge are unlikely, then it becomes a point against them.

    What’s watered-down about the proselytization? Seems pretty standard to me, I don’t think religions go for the hard sell often.

    I don’t understand the logic behind supporting religious brands that are already associated with charity, religion is conflated with charity so much already. I doubt many religious organizations would qualify because they’re not really about charity. One has, so you don’t need to imagine.

  • A Portlander

    This is a mistake. The whole point of secularism is that we don’t sacrifice utility for ideological purity. The brownie points McGowan is scoring within his own organization by reversing this decision are NOT worth the cost in public goodwill incurred by reneging on the pledge to Soulforce.

    The existence of these sentiments/clauses in credos and mission statements should have been taken for granted at the time he decided to use FBB money to support faith-head causes. What did he think, that the “progressive” in “progressive religious organizations” was going to somehow obliterate the “religious”?

  • allison

    Dale, thank you for so graciously acknowledging and rectifying your mistake. I’ve always respected you quite a bit and this has not detracted from that. I’m not entirely sure how this will play out, as I also worry about FBB being viewed as reneging on promises, but I certainly understand and respect the reasoning.

    @Vas, having seen and taken the survey, I have to say first that if you read through FBB’s information they do make clear that working with religious groups is a possibility. Also, they were essentially getting feedback after supporting a Quaker nonviolence and social justice group that didn’t proselytize. There were a lot of questions about whether and/or how you may have changed your support of FBB as a result of such choices and whether supporting such groups would be fine in the future. Part of the beauty of FBB is that if you don’t like one of the charities, you can always change your allotment so that you support the others instead.

    @ewan, I think we could file this under violating the “non-dogmatic” requirement for progressive religious charities in the FAQ.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    if that’s what you feel you have to do, Dale, fine. i’m not a dues paying member so my opinion doesn’t count for much. but i like the Soulforce kids a lot, and as i said on the other thread, i think dissing them is cutting off our noses to spite our own face. they are doing what atheists can’t do, which is speak to religious bigots using the force of common faith and the language of faith, in order to bring the queer community closer to full civil rights. that’s a powerful social action and it’s one i support, even if there is a religious element to it.

    i just don’t worry that much about groups like Soulforce “forcing” religion on anyone. maybe that’s mistaken, but i haven’t seen or read about any atheists or people of other religions converting to Christianity due to their efforts.

  • http://cramandballwell.blogspot.com Nate Hays

    I’m with Chicago Dyke.

    This could not be a worse time to withdraw support from any group that is capable of successfully reaching and changing the thought process of thousands of otherwise hateful and closed-minded christians.

    We are talking about the lives of young gay people here! Gay children who are in the news right now for ending their own lives. I’m not at all sorry to say that I find their lives and mental health to be more important than the atheist cause. If my priorities were any different, I’d basically be implying that the FBB was a greater cause than human life, and that would be nothing short of religious.

    I would understand if Soulforce were being conditional, but they aren’t. They aren’t saying “be kind to only gays who love god.” If their mission statement needs to say something about a creator to give them an “in” with christians, so be it. We may as well reject the declaration of independence on the same grounds.

    The only thing you’ve managed to accomplish is make SoulForce look even more sane and just than they already did. I sincerely hope that your poor decision somehow helps their cause more than it harms it. They deserve better.

  • Rieux

    Chicago dyke, I guess I don’t understand why you don’t see the serious problems with the material that has been uncovered on this thread. Soulforce, whether they’re nice kids or not, openly deals with atheists in ways that are uniformly discriminatory and disparaging. Surely you see the basis for concern in that—and the problems with an organization like FBB funding them.

    I have a difficult time believing that you would put up with similar treatment of GLBTs with such untroubled equanimity. It’s not a tough thought experiment to cook up, really: wouldn’t it look like this?

    We have decided to provide funding to a group called Reasonforce, an atheist organization dedicated to convincing young people trapped in fundamentalist religions to leave those religions in favor of atheism.

    A big part of Reasonforce’s philosophy is its fundamental opposition to homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism; a major portion of their outreach to the fundamentalist youth they target is that Reasonforce members, like the fundamentalists themselves, recognize that human beings are never naturally anything but heterosexual and cis-gendered. As the Reasonforce mission statement, which they expect anyone participating in their efforts to sign, states, “I will not discover my purpose nor realize my power (my own reasonforce) until I recognize my own straightness (making things moral for all.)” Similar references to the morality of heterosexuality and unacceptability of other orientations and of gender bending can be found all over their materials.

    Moreover, Reasonforce specifically excludes GLBTs, even if they share a distaste for religious fundamentalism, from Reasonforce’s activities: as an essay on their website states, “A marcher must be a person who recognizes his or her natural heterosexuality.”

    If FBB decided to fund a group like Reasonforce, I think you’d be outraged. I know I would. (Though, actually, in keeping with the analogy it wouldn’t be FBB doing the funding—it’d be the Human Rights Campaign or the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.) And I don’t think you’d be moved by first-person testimony stating that a particular gay atheist “likes the Reasonforce kids a lot” and that he “hasn’t seen or read about any gays, lesbians, or transgendered folks declaring themselves ‘ex-gay’ or ‘ex-trans’ due to their efforts.”

    What has been documented on this thread are very serious examples of Soulforce’s denigration of, and discrimination against, atheists. Isn’t it a reason for concern that we’re less troubled by that—I guess religious folks are just allowed to be heavily atheophobic, because what else do we expect?—than we are by exactly analogous homophobia and transphobia?

    I just don’t understand how any atheist can look at the Soulforce Credo and their pronouncement “A marcher must be a person of faith” and still think that it makes any sense for an atheist organization to fund them.

  • Rieux

    Oh, look here, it’s noen:

    Oh and Rieux is a piece of work. She (not sure but I believe so) is probably the most vicious and dogmatic atheist I’ve had the displeasure to meet. They could have used her during the Inquisition. I would suspect it was Rieux’s unrelenting orthodoxy that held undue influence here.

    Noen darling, I’m just not going to apologize for refusing to go out with you. First, you really need to cut down on the Axe body spray; the way you coat yourself in it is really off-putting. Second, I don’t think you’ll run into too many women who find your pickup line any more alluring than I did. I mean, really: “Nice rack; now you just need to find a big gun to put in it, like this one here in my pants”? That’s just not going to appeal to too many self-respecting ladies.

    Quoth Aj:

    noen, espouses ignorant, cruel, and moronic lies about atheism. noen, claims that Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot murdered because they were atheists, because atheists are immoral. noen, dishonestly tries to paint Hitler as an atheist to further demonize us, using dubious sources and with disregard for the evidence. noen, claims morals and love cannot exist without supernatural bullshit like gods. It’s not extraordinary that noen doesn’t have a problem with Soulforce’s beliefs or that noen would attack an atheist with bullshit allegations of dogmaticism.

    And you haven’t seen how “grabby” (if you know what I mean) he gets when he’s had a few too many Colt 45s!

  • AxeGrrl

    Rieux wrote:

    I have to say that I am utterly gobsmacked by the level of integrity and commitment to principle that Dale McGowan has demonstrated in this exchange. In his shoes, I don’t think I would have had the guts to so publicly reverse myself and admit fault. My atheism notwithstanding, I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion that Dale is an Integrity God.

    I’ll just ditto the above….kudos Dale :)

  • Pingback: Miracle baby survives plane crash! | No Forbidden Questions

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    @ Anna
    I’m not seeing anything bad there. They don’t think people should be atheists…we don’t think people should be theists. They at least respect the concept instead of demonizing it.

    Really? To me, it seems clear that they don’t respect the concept at all. Sure, they’re not calling us names, but I’m not going to give them a cookie simply for not foaming at the mouth like Pat Robertson. That’s just basic decency.

    Mel White is very clever in his appeals to authority in that article, making it seem that if Gandhi and King understood the power and goodness of faith, then the reader should as well. There must be something to faith if great men like Gandhi and King thought so. Well, if those quotes are accurate, then those men are wrong, too. Just because they’re human rights heroes doesn’t make them infallible.

    Soulforce’s version of proselytizing is so watered-down that I doubt they’ll find many converts who weren’t already close to their beliefs. If this doesn’t pass muster as sufficiently liberal religion, I can’t imagine what would…so why even bother with the pretense of reaching out to good-works religious institutions?

    I thought FBB’s rule was no proselytizing, not no watered-down proselytizing. Frankly, I don’t think FBB should fund religious institutions at all, but if they’re going to do so, IMO, they should not be giving money to religious groups whose main objective is to ensure that LGBT Christians keep their faith. Their only purpose is a religious purpose. Yes, it’s wonderful that they want to rid the church of homophobia, but that doesn’t make what the church teaches true. What about all the other problematic teachings? Soulforce wants to rid these churches of homophobia, but what about the idea that Christianity is the only true religion? What about belief in heaven and hell, salvation and damnation?

    My impression is that Soulforce thinks it would be just ducky if the Baptists, say, got rid of their homophobia but kept all their other exclusionary beliefs. They promote faith, and they want to convince Christians to remain practicing Christians. How is that in any way compatible with atheism? While I applaud their efforts to work for change within religious institutions, it doesn’t seem to me that atheists as a group should have any interest in funding their efforts to keep people in the Christian fold.

  • Rieux

    Well said, Anna, but to elaborate on this:

    Mel White is very clever in his appeals to authority in that article, making it seem that if Gandhi and King understood the power and goodness of faith, then the reader should as well. There must be something to faith if great men like Gandhi and King thought so. Well, if those quotes are accurate, then those men are wrong, too. Just because they’re human rights heroes doesn’t make them infallible.

    I don’t know enough about Gandhi to comment on him, but King’s actual public rhetoric (notwithstanding the modern religious effort to pretend that he did nothing but preach Christianity in support of Civil Rights) was routinely secular, and for good reason: a vastly disproportionate number of his supporters—including a huge proportion of his white supporters—were secular people! As RandomActsOfReason, an atheist who comments on the Daily Kos political blog, explains, a stunning number of leaders in the Civil Rights movement, and indeed in many other justice movements, were in fact irreligious people:

    Asa Philip Randolph, known as the “grandfather of the civil right movement”, founder of the Brotherhood of  Sleeping Car Porters and the man who conceived of the March on Washington and was its director and one of its founding chairmen, where MLK gave his famous “I have a dream” speech, was an overt atheist.

    So was Bayard Rustin, the strategist and organizer  of the March on Washington and its deputy director. Rustin, an openly gay atheist, was MLK’s closest advisor and mentor.

    So was James Farmer, founder of C.O.R.E and a founding chairman of the March.

    So was Walter Reuther, leader of the United Auto Workers and a founding chairman of the March.

    And Eugene Carson Blake, a founding chairman of the March.

    As was James Foreman, founder of SNCC, the Student non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

    Many of the young activists from the North were freethinkers whose liberal idealism was informed by Enlightenment values, not the church, such as Joan Mandle, now Executive Director of Democracy Matters, an atheist.

    Atheists were beaten and died in the South in this struggle as well, but their sacrifice is seldom noted, never in our children’s textbooks.

    Viola Gregg Luizzo, the only woman to be murdered for her participation in the civil rights movement, was targeted after her death by a horrible smear campaign orchestrated by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, seeking to portray her as a bad mother and a pychotic slut. Her real crime? She was a lapsed Catholic who joined the UUC and found her motivation for her civil rights activism in humanism, and, although not an atheist, spoke out frequently against the patriarchial oppression of the Church.

    MLK stood proudly shoulder to shoulder with his freethinking brothers and sisters, and his most famous speeches are utterly free of Christian references, and mostly free of religious ones for that matter.

    Civil rights was never presented by the actual activists (including my father), as a “Protestant” movement, and the African American intellectual movement of the time included many freethinkers and atheists such as W.E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes and Freeman Douglass – and other leaders of the Harlem Renaissance such as Hubert H. Harrison, George Schuyler, and Chandler Owen. who cofounded The Messenger with Asa Philip Randolph.

    The woman’s suffrage movement was even more heavily laden, led and inspired by atheist thinkers, activists and leaders.

    Do you know who Ernestine L. Rose, Robert Dale Owen, Frances Wright, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were? Proud freethinkers all. Do you know their respective attitudes toward religion in general and Christianity in particular?

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founding mother of the women’s rights movement, is largely forgotten and ignored today. But in 1895, more than six thousand people packed into the Met in New York to honor her when she turned 80.

    Robert Owen, atheist, founder of the Smithsonian, was the first person in the United States to openly advocate birth control.

    Francis Wright, atheist, was an early agitator for labor reform and equal rights for women.

    Ernestine Rose has been virtually written out of the history books for the triple sin of being of Jewish descent, an emigre, and an atheist, yet her role in the abolitionist and suffrage movements is significant.  

    Surely you know who Margeret Sanger is, and know about her struggles with the the Comstock laws? How about Emma Goldman? Both atheists.

    How about William Lloyd Garrison – are you familiar with his role in the abolition movement and his critical support for the suffrage movement? Lucrecia Mott the suffragette and Garrison the abolitionist were deeply religious, but also deeply anticlerical–and the focus of their critique was on the Church establishments for perpetuating and providing the ideological justifications for slavery and women’s subjugation. Garrison was excoriated throughout his life for being “antireligious”.

    How about Tom Paine? Eugene Debs? Clarence Darrow?

    Robert Nash Baldwin, founder of the ACLU?

    All atheists.

    Here is the historical truth:

    In every civil rights struggle in the history of our nation, freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) stood shoulder-to-shoulder with liberal theists, while, in every civil rights struggle in the history of our nation, organized churches stood against them. In fact, in the US, if anything, the opposition to progressive movements, and the leadership of oppressive regressive movements, have historically been “pretty solidly built on” Protestant and Catholic Christianity.

    And we haven’t even touched on Gandhi yet. Do you even know who Gora is? Goparaju Ramachandra Rao, aka Gora, was Gandhi’s closest confidant and adviser during the last four years of his life, and a key leader in the Indian independence movement. Along with his wife, Saraswathi Gora, they have continued his humanitarian work through their Atheist Center in Delhi. Gora, too, has been scrubbed from US textbooks and is never mentioned in US popular culture in association with Gandhi. He is well known and revered in India.

    I haven’t even scratched the surface.

    In that Kos thread, I added to RandomActs‘ list the names of Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, secular Jews who, in the summer of 1964, were murdered in Mississippi while working as volunteer activists in the Civil Rights movement.

    All of which is to say: Mel White is not just being disingenuous in his invocation of Gandhi and King, pretending that they doggedly insisted that religious belief was somehow vital to acting for justice. I seriously doubt that either one of them said any such thing—because they, unlike White, recognized that their movements depended considerably on the blood and sweat of numerous principled secular people. White wants to pretend that our freethinking forefathers and -mothers didn’t exist, or at least that King and Gandhi saw fit to insult them. Shame on him.

  • http://seeingthinkingknowing.blogspot.com Rob Schneider

    Wow. Can you send this over to John Shook at the CFI and show it to him as a model of how to properly make an apology for a mistake?

    Your apology is brave, honest and admirable, and speaks well of an ethical foundation that is open to self-criticism and re-evaluation. Good work!

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Rieux, good points. It does boggle my mind how the religious can claim to take credit for the civil rights and women’s rights movements when you consider how many proud nonbelievers were involved.

    On that note, I wholeheartedly recommend Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby. Plenty of fascinating information there!

  • Rieux

    Anna—yup, Jacoby’s book is terrific, and it’s directly on point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    The reference to evil is not to us, but to the person against whom nonviolent resistance is used. It’s a frequent reference in Gandhi.

    Dale, I might buy this argument if it weren’t preceded by all the rules right before it demanding god adherence. I really don’t get how you could have overloooked that.

    Mr. Steifel, with all due respect and while I’ll agree with the kudos to Dale for manning up, why not endow an Atheist organization that takes direct action, directly helping people themselves instead of something funneling to other charities? I realize that we are nowhere near having the type of means that something like Catholic Charities does but I’d really love to see something like that start and, in fact, am loving seeing the ones that have started on a small local basis that Hemant has featured here.

    They’ll get my money. Not something like FBB that funnels money to religion. Frankly, that’s how something like that will grow. Through local groups. I don’t have one locally so I will give to the ones in other cities to encourage the growth. Only wish, Mr. Steifel, I had as much as you to further that cause. But it’s your money, do with it what you want. And I’ll do with mine what I want. I, frankly, don’t appreciate the smug attitude because you’ve been luckier in life than me.

    In fact, I think that will be my New Year’s Resolution this year: to not buy anything I don’t really need without matching to a charity (and ones that promote positive Atheism are at the top of the list, followed by political church-state, followed by secular charities) and I don’t think I’ll wait for January 1 to start it.

    Anna, Rieux and Vas, right on!

    you also have the option to contribute a percentage of your money to any charity FBB is supporting that quarter, or no percentage at all. You will never be forced to support a religious charity.

    Frankly, Betsy, if I have to screen the charities for this myself, what purpose does RBB serve? Naw, I’ll give directly.

    Tizzle, thank you! My thoughts exactly! I’m sitting here reading all the aruguments that Soulforce is worthy? So then, send them a check or money order if you think so!

    I think FBB is falling into the same problem as all those distribute for you to varioius charities. They’re not going to agree with you 100% and, even when they’re not corrupt, charities don’t get 100% of the money. They have to take something off the top for their operating cost. Plus I was involved with FFRF in Denver 15 years ago. Hopefully, this has changed but some of the members had designated FFRF in their United Way deductions from their paycheck and the chapter (specifically desginated) never got the money.

    I’ll stick with giving directly to charities. Maybe it’d be better to just report on likely local Atheist groups, Hemant. Now that I would like.

  • Pingback: Update: FBB drops Soulforce | No Forbidden Questions

  • Kayla

    @Rieux,

    Thanks for posting such an interesting article. Didn’t know so many Civil Rights activists (particularly those who were Black) were atheists.

  • Rieux

    No problem, Kayla!

  • Doxy

    I came here from a link at Pam Spaulding’s. The debate has been interesting–but I confess I’m surprised by the sexism woven through the comments. The numerous references to “manning up” as a proxy for taking responsibility for one’s actions would be expected on a conservative religious site. I sort of had the idea that atheists were more evolved than that….