The Sheer Audacity of Conservapedia

The Sheer Audacity of Conservapedia July 29, 2016

Image by jazbeck via Foter.com (CC BY 2.0)

Google can be a dangerous thing, dear readers.

I try not to do vanity searches on my name much (and given my, um, unique name, vanity searches tend to be very fruitful), but since I’ve got a lawsuit out there, I’m more conscious about it.

Now I’m kind of glad I did, because I found somewhere very surprising that I got a mention: Conservapedia.

No, the ridiculous conservative alternative to Wikipedia wasn’t interested in the suit against the state of Illinois. They had in mind a different bit of my work, specifically my piece about opting out of the atheist movement.

A few excerpts from that piece ended up on a page entitled “Atheism and groupthink” (you can read an archive of that article here and deprive them of the traffic; warning: may induce facepalming or other symptoms of frustration and/or rage). That was added by sysop Conservative, aka Ken DeMyer, on July 18, with the same being added to a few other pages within the past week, according to a quick search.

When I found this, my response was a strange brew of shock, amusement, and irritation. I mean, the fact that a Conservapedia sysop found something that I wrote is honestly surprising (as is being called an “atheist columnist” rather than a blogger), and the reason they quoted me is a little amusing (more on that in a moment). But also I find myself irritated that my words are being used for ends that I find objectionable.

Your Daily Allowance of Iron(y)

First, the funny part: Conservapedia has a page accusing atheism of groupthink.

Let me repeat that: Conservapedia, a wiki created by Andy Schlafly (son of the odious Phyllis Schlafly) for the sole purpose of having a “conservative alternative” to Wikipedia (which apparently was too “biased” toward “facts” and “reality”), is accusing atheism of groupthink.

Conservapedia, a site which has railed against the theory of relativity and claimed that New Atheists have a weight problem (I wish I were joking), which has had a sordid history of censoring editors who don’t toe the conservative Christian line of Schlafly and company, is saying that atheism has a problem of groupthink.

Pardon me for a second while I chuckle to myself over that complete vacuum of self-awareness.

Missing the Point

DeMyer apparently seems to have glommed onto my mention of “groupthink,” and it is true that I made that claim — about a fairly specific group (I might even say clique) of atheists in the movement itself.

I stand by what I said then. There was a fair amount of groupthink and insularity that I saw, and I still think it was worth criticizing. I was intentionally vague about who I was referring to (and I won’t be any more specific right now), but it absolutely was not a blanket statement.

And in fact, DeMyer outright quote-mined me. He quotes from a paragraph where I mention parting ways with the local group I’d been a part of (and led for a time), including a part where I said that my departure “was a deeply frustrating experience for me.” This was immediately preceded by my statement about groupthink — which appears later in the piece and isn’t about the local group at all. More to the point, in the aforementioned paragraph, I explicitly said that I wasn’t going to go into any details about why I left the local group, so DeMyer could not have known if groupthink was the issue. And while I still won’t divulge the particulars, I will say here publicly that my reasons were not even remotely similar to the matters that I was so angry about in that piece.¹

Not only that, but I also said very clearly that I didn’t think this was an atheism problem:

This isn’t to say that the secular movement is uniquely terrible. In fact, I would say that at its worst, the secular movement is almost mundanely terrible. As the child of a minister, I’ve been a bystander to church politics ever since I was aware of the politics of churches, and I have seen some amazingly petty and some incredibly vindictive behavior. As far as I’m concerned, these are practically inevitable aspects of groups of any size (and yes, even as relatively small as the secular movement is, it is certainly large enough to meet that threshold).

And this is what makes me truly angry. I had — have — every reason to be angry at the bad actors in the movement. But my statements of justified anger were manipulated in the most hamfisted way by someone with an anti-atheist agenda.

So yeah, it’s cute that Conservapedia found my little blog and decided to pull from one of my more contentious posts. It’s amusing that they wanted to use it to make a claim with the utmost obliviousness about the irony therein.

But twisting what I said to use my words of anger in order to cast aspersions on people like me?

Image via mememaker
Image via mememaker

Addendum: The Conservapedia Twitter account responded rather predictably:

@ILSecCelebrant boo hoo, atheism is a stupid religion. pic.twitter.com/FxT4DC14o3 (image of “world’s smallest violin”)

The tweet has since been deleted.


Image by jazbeck via Foter.com (CC BY 2.0)

¹ As of the evening of 7/29, DeMyer has now removed the part of the quotation regarding the local group from the page. ^

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