I don’t know how I can state this any more clearly than I already have. But yet, I keep getting emails, messages and other communications asking me the same questions over and over, as well as insisting that I comment on some of the recent controversies, disagreements, etc., that have been popping up rather regularly on the Interwebz and various social networks.
So, I will clarify a few things, with the understanding that these are my words, regardless of whether or not any one given individual or group of individuals agrees with them, finds them offensive or chooses to no longer associate with me over them. Here are my thoughts on a few things. We’ll start with,
For what it’s worth, I have nothing against the concept or the stated mission of Atheism Plus. In fact, I think it’s exemplary. I do have a problem with some of what I have read on their forums, and some of what I have read in the comments and in the context of some of the blogs. As an outsider, and as one who is involved in activism that is not centered around the Internet, there appears to be an increasing sense of division from what might be considered mainstream movement atheism. This is disturbing to me, personally, because the precept is actually a very good one.
There is, undeniably (to me, at least – your mileage may vary), a climate of exceptionalism and an air of superiority that is getting pervasive within the forum, and it is bordering on hubris and arrogance. I wish it would stop, because there are some very awesome people in there, and their message is getting lost in the din. Skepticism should be the prime directive of any freethinker, and simply asking a question about anything, even those subjects that are controversial, should not elicit anything other than conversation. It is my hope that those involved with Atheism + come to understand this, and embrace an environment that is more conducive to critical thinking. Again, agree or not. Your call.
As it stands now, though, the atmosphere there is not one that seems friendly, open to criticism, fair and balanced or even supportive of skepticism. It seems as if the very first thing that would happen if one disagrees with those who are currently administrating the forum is either a ban or a warning of a ban. I could be wrong, but I’ve spent a lot of time lurking there, even though I have an account, and I call it as I see it. In it’s present form, it is not a place that I feel I want to have anything to do with, mainly because I would probably end up either banned or on permanent moderation. Just my perception.
Being A White Male…
My position as a civil rights activist has been long and is well established. Particularly with regard to the belief (yes, I used the b-word) that equality for women, ethnic minorities and the LGBT communities are of paramount importance. I advocate often, loudly and proudly. I have lent and continue to lend my voice to the cause of equality, because I reason that there are no circumstances, whatsoever, where someone’s gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc., should be a deciding factor in anything that is not already specific to these demographics by virtue of culture, tradition or biology.
Nor do I give any credence to any form of racism, bigotry, hatred or discrimination against any human being – particularly groups that attempt to elevate their demographic above another. This is especially aimed at white supremacists or groups that exhibit or support true misogyny. Period. I have nothing but disdain for these groups, and I have commented frequently, and written often about their detriment to our societies.
With that said, I feel the need to point out that I am, in fact, mostly white and I am a male. There are those in our community who are bent on trying to get me to feel guilty about this, as if I am somehow responsible for all the horrible things that other members of my people group have perpetrated over the millennia toward minorities. I cannot help that I was born with light skin and with a penis. I will not apologize for these things, nor will I allow anyone to convince me that the concept of privilege has more to do with how someone was born than how someone behaves or perceives themselves among their fellow humans.
So, here’s two things to consider. One, I am not sorry for who or what I am. I was born with the physical attributes that I have. I am white, and that’s that. I am male, and my sexual orientation is such that I do not have a desire to change that. If someone does, I totally and completely support them. Given my reasoning that gender and sexual orientation are very likely genetic, I believe that nobody should be deprived of being the person they were born as.
Guilt By Association…
I’ve written about this before. A lot. I have friends and acquaintances who absolutely hate each other. This has nothing to do with me. I don’t know how much clearer I can get on this, except to ask those who cannot accept the fact that I remain neutral on my associations, or that one cannot simply “not choose a side,” to Google “Sweden.” This, I can promise, will not change. If you want nothing to do with me because I interact with someone you despise, that is your choice. I am sure I will repeat this again.
There are people who will choose to shun me in whatever way the feel necessary, based on my associations with people they do not like, or whom they feel behave in ways they perceive to be against their personal points of view. I’ve heard arguments from several people why I should sever relationships with other people, and thus far, none of those arguments have been sufficient enough for me to do so. Although some people are becoming awfully convincing.
Thus, if it angers, annoys or otherwise negatively effects someone that I post on another person’s wall, timeline or stream that happens to be considered an enemy or persona non grata; or I happen to post in a forum or on a blog that belongs to or is run by people considered to be persona non grata, this is not my problem. I cannot state more clearly that I will not be told whom I can communicate with, where I am permitted to communicate or in what fashion I am allowed to communicate in. Yes, I understand the concept of consequences, but I strongly cherish the freedom to associate with whomever I want.
As an added thought, I will inevitably use words that will piss of someone, sometime, somewhere. Of that, you can also be sure. Lecturing me about using them will generally be a waste of time.
Yes, I’ve been asked about this no less than twenty-eight times in the last week, via email, personal messages and texts. In answer to the question of whether or not I am willing to consider myself a potential rapist, the answer is “No.” I actually find this quite insulting, as do I find the reasoning that every male has a rape switch. This is my opinion, and I have come to it after reading several other opinions on both sides of the issue, as well as examining myself, my personality, my disdain for violence, my respect for women, etc.
If you feel otherwise, you are entitled to this – and I will support your right to perceive yourself as such. For me, and as someone who was in the military, rape would never be a consideration, under any circumstances, anywhere, anytime. In fact, I would shoot myself in the head before I would commit a rape, thereby precluding myself from being among the category of rapists.
As well, if my mere existence as a male is something that makes someone of whatever gender nervous, this is not my problem. No, really, it’s not. It’s their problem, and this is not to diminish in any way the horrors that someone who has been raped has to deal with, and will have to deal with likely for the rest of their lives – both males and females. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, not even a pedophile. But if a person is a stranger to me, or has not otherwise informed me that they have been raped, I have no way of knowing. This goes for any crime that has been committed against another human being, of which there are many. Thus, I cannot and will not go through life existing with the perception that I am a perceived danger to everyone else. If I did, I would either never leave my house, or end up crossing the street a lot.
I am not going to avoid being in the presence of people because there might be someone among the crowd who feels threatened because I am present. There are times when I find myself in a secluded space and suddenly am in the presence of another, sole, human being. Because I know that being alone in a secluded area can be uncomfortable for some people, I usually offer up a smile, a tip of my hat in passing, and move on. I most certainly will not leave the area because just my being there is going to cause another human being to be afraid that I might assault them or rape them.
My Fellow Freethought Bloggers…
No, no, no. This network is not a hive mind. It is not a group think. I don’t know how many times I can state this. Let me explain. There are almost forty writers on Freethought Blogs, and we actually disagree with each other often, and sometimes strongly. In fact, there are some people in this network who don’t talk to each other at all in our now infamous “back channel,” and there are others who don’t communicate there, at all. Whether or not any one of us stay a part of this network or move onto other projects is our choice, unless we violate privacy rules – which is something nobody should ever take issue with. I know the structure of this network, as well as the way Ed Brayton had set it up. It’s very difficult to get kicked out of here.
It is obvious that there are writers here who exert more influence in the collection of movements that make up the non-sectarian cause of secularism. However, they do not have any authority over anyone other than themselves. This is not to say that influence cannot be used nefariously. Of course it can, but that is not the point. The point here is that the comments on some of the blogs here, other blogs elsewhere and various forums reveal some very strong negative feelings toward these more influential writers, but are almost always directed toward the entire network. Hence, things like #FTBullies, etc., etc…
It was my hope that judgments regarding any of us here on Freethought Blogs would be based on the actions or writing of the individual writer, and not on the entire network. That goes for my blog, as well. Even when a group of individuals here share in an action that might be disagreeable to anyone, I would have hoped that the disagreement would still be based on the issue, even if it is spread across several writers, and still not the entire network. I hope that makes some sense. In short, if you absolutely refuse to read a blog here because you abhor the author, all I ask is that you please not discount the overall talent of writers that make up this network.
I am what I am and that’s all that I am. Here, there, anywhere. I serve no masters, I will not be silenced and I will interact with whomever I please.
Follow me on Twitter at @Stefanelli