Saturday, June 8, 2013

Open Letter to CFI in Support of Ron Lindsay

Subject: Open Letter to CFI in Support of Ron Lindsay

To the CFI Board of Directors:

As you are no doubt aware, a certain faction of online atheists is conducting a campaign to pressure CFI into firing Ron Lindsay as its CEO. The ostensible pretext for this campaign is the opening remarks Dr. Lindsay made at the recent conference on Women in Secularism.

I was not present at this conference, but Dr. Lindsay has posted a transcript of his speech, and no-one to my knowledge has disputed the accuracy of the transcript, so I feel safe in commenting based on this transcript.

Originally, the criticism of this speech by several leading voices of the anti-Lindsay faction, most notably Rebecca Watson, was that it was made by an "old white guy." Needless to say, since the conference was sponsored by CFI and Dr. Lindsay is its CEO, it was perfectly appropriate for him to deliver the opening remarks. Furthermore, his speech was very supportive of women and cognizant of the second-class status to which religion has often relegated them. There was nothing in the speech that I find the least bit controversial or objectionable.

Later criticism centered on a particular portion of the speech in which Dr. Lindsay criticized the mantra "shut up and listen" which is currently very much in vogue with the faction which seeks to depose him. This shibboleth which Watson, PZ Myers and others are so fond of invoking is the slogan of an extremist ideology which holds that all "old white guys" are ipso facto oppressors, while all women, minorities etc. are persecuted victims, are the only ones whose opinions have any validity, and indeed are the only ones who should be heard under any circumstances.

I need hardly point out that such a crude, reductionist and bigoted worldview is at odds with everything CFI stands for, as is the anti-Lindsay faction's contempt for free speech (as shown by their other favorite mantra, "freeze peach.")

The amount of rage and hatred expressed against Dr. Lindsay for his reasonable and unexceptionable speech is baffling unless seen in context. The faction behind this campaign is actively engaged in trying to hijack atheism and redefine it so that rigid adherence to their ideology of radical feminism is mandatory if one wants to be seen as a "true atheist". To this end, they have spent the last two years willfully dividing the movement and alienating those who have contributed the most to it.

Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, Harriet Hall and many others have been the targets of hate campaigns similar to the one currently being mounted against Ron Lindsay. All of their many accomplishments and contributions are dismissed out of hand while some offhand remark or some insignificant incident is eagerly seized on, distorted beyond recognition, and used as the pretext for what can only be described as a witch hunt.

Many have speculated that the motivation for the near-constant attempts at ideological purges within the freethought/skeptic community is to manufacture controversy in order to increase revenue at the blogs of the leaders of this faction, as well as to monopolize the conference speaker circuit. But whatever the reasons, you must agree that rigid doctrinaire dogma, suppression of diversity of opinion, hive-minded bullying and intimidation, and dehumanizing people by treating them merely as categories - male, female, gay, straight or whatever - is fundamentally at odds with the values for which CFI stands.

It would set a very dangerous precedent to give in to the demands of these dishonest bullies. They will not be appeased - they will only move on to their next victim. I hope I can rely on CFI to support Dr. Lindsay and continue to uphold free speech, free inquiry and respectful treatment of all people as individuals.

This open letter has been published on my blog, Schrödinger's Therapist


[Schrödinger's Therapist]


  1. The lack of context is entirely yours. The point of a keynote speech is to set the tone and theme of a conference, not to attack the and hector the attendees and speakers. Lindsay's speech was a polemic against a strawman interpretation of feminism which no one in atheism + or of FtB has ever advocated or espoused. Further Lindsay went on to use conference time to retreat to his personal blog and attack a participating speaker. This is not behavior a CEO should engage in.
    Also there is no agenda for feminism to "hijack" atheism. You are free to be as sexist and misogynist as you want and still call yourself an atheist, just don't bring that behaviour into shared spaces like conferences if it results in women being alienated and insulted. That's not supression of free speech, it's just being polite.

    1. This is laughable. Lindsay was not "attacking", "hectoring", engaging in "polemics" etc. etc. let alone "insulting" or "alienating" - that is strictly your overheated imagination, and that of your fellow hypersensitive bullying feminists. Your patronizing attitude towards women, depicting them as eternal helpless victims incapable of handling diversity and discussion of ideas, is noted - as is your rudeness and arrogance in coming to my blog and making mindless knee-jerk accusations that I am "sexist and misogynist". For someone who insists on politeness, you obviously have no clue what it means.

      And speaking of politeness, what do you call it when a speaker attacks the head of the organization that invited her - i.e. the guy who pays her speaker's fee - as an "old white guy"? I'm sure you don't even see the irony that Watson's response to the mantra "shut up and listen" was "shut up and listen".