I’ve been finding it difficult to come up with ideas for blog posts, which is why this blog hasn’t been very active lately. As such, I’d like to leave it up to the readers: what would you like us to write about? Would you like to know something specific about our atheism? Do you have an argument that you’d like us to address? Would you like us to discuss a particular book? Do you have any questions about Philosophy, Biology, or History? Would you like to know our stance on a particular feminist issue? Is there something else you’d like us to write on? Let us know in the comment section.
Tag Archives: sexual assault
I haven’t done an update on my surveys in a while, so here it is. For those of you who don’t know about my surveys, I am trying to do a couple of independent studies for some future blog posts. The first study will be on Religious discrimination, and I will be focusing on how people view discrimination aimed at atheists vs. how they view it aimed at Christians. The second study will be on feminism’s reputation. Namely on how people perceive it’s reputation. Please help me out by doing and sharing my survey. It will be greatly appreciated. And for those of you who have already done my survey, please share it wherever you can. I would like to write those blog posts this summer.
Here is how I’m doing so far:
This survey deals with various situations that may be considered discrimination towards Atheists:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=vvaqodd0equ2y21474850 – 4% complete
This survey deals with various situations that may be considered discrimination towards Christians:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=pi387nzvmo8dklc474867 – 2% complete
This survey looks at whether or not the respondent feels they have been discriminated against for their religion:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=3zolzpi3k1lwc7s470898 – 8% complete
This survey looks at whether or not people feel that Atheists are discriminated against:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=t2k9uo23mlnmklk470896 – 7% complete
This survey looks at whether or not people feel that Christians are discriminated against:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=85koff95iqwpme3470893 – 7% complete
Situations that may or may not be considered Feminist issues:
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=xxiz033c05yo72v472614 – 3% complete
Are various Feminist causes helpful or hurtful for the Feminist movement?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=i8d3kq6z73ems49471695 – 7% complete
How do you perceive Feminism?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=4p48z0rwjwooxpf471689 – 7% complete
Does Feminist have a bad reputation?
http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=r4t8nurh0tyxvqt470762 – 11% complete
Please help me out by doing my surveys, if you haven’t already, so that I can write my posts on the responses. And please share my surveys as well.
Now onto the sixth and final post. And this one involves no extra reading! This one will be on whether or not I believe that atheists in general have been reacting rationally where the sex scandal is concerned. My overall answer is no. Of course there are atheists who have been reacting perfectly rationally to the whole thing, but I think a good portion of the most vocal members have been reacting very irrationally.
Why? Because they automatically assume that the sexual assault accusations are false. As Withteeth showed in an earlier post (see his 5 part series in reply to “Why I Don’t Identify As A Feminist”), only about 2% of rape accusations are false. That in itself makes it very unlikely that any of the accusations are false. Of course, we live in a society where we are taught to view women as liars and rape victims as somehow responsible for the crime committed against them, so it’s not really all that surprising that atheists and skeptics view these accusations as false. However, we claim to be rational and logical. If we are so much better at logic and rationality than the mainstream population, why do we still fall into such socially constructed false belief systems? As was stated in the comment section of my last post, as people who value rationality and logic, our best bet is to withhold judgement until we have evidence one way or the other. Being rational does not mean assuming that a claim is false until it is proven otherwise. That is still making an assumption. It’s making a judgement call that very easily could be false.
I don’t know whether or not the accused men are actually guilty of anything. Maybe they are innocent. I will remain agnostic where this issue lies. However, I’m more than willing to admit that I do have a belief in this matter. I believe that Radford, Grothe, and Shermer are guilty. Why? Because a number of people came forward to accuse all of them. When Stollznow came forward and said that someone assaulted her, others said “I know who did it.” How did they know who did it? Because he had done it to them. Does that really sound like a false accusation to anyone? Grothe and Shermer also both had histories. Grothe knew that Shermer was sexually assaulting people because he had dealt with earlier accusations, but he kept inviting Shermer back to speak at TAM. Randi likewise knew that Grothe was sexually assaulting people, but he just viewed it as “boys being boys.” Even if false rape accusations were more common, their history of being accused of sexual assault makes their guilt far more likely. Yes, all we have is peoples word. It would be nice to have more evidence, and if this were a scientific study it would. But we’re not talking about science. We’re talking about people’s lives. Should Stollznow have worn a camera on her at all times? She wasn’t even planning on naming Radford, so why would she? What about the People that Shermer raped? Should they have planned to be raped ahead of time so that they could collect evidence? After all, all Shermer needed to do to prevent there from being any biological evidence is where a condom. While evidence is a nice thing to have, we need to remember that we have to keep our demands reasonable. Rape is not an extraordinary claim. It happens all the time. And the seeming randomness of crimes makes it difficult to collect any level of significant evidence even for crimes like theft.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that I said nothing about Krauss. There aren’t a large number of accusations against him. I’d still be careful to call anyone a liar, even with redacted claims, since redactions can easily be the result of further harassment. But I won’t say anything one way or the other. I don’t know anything about the accusations against Bill Nye, so I’m withholding judgement there too. I believe that that is the most reasonable position that I can take right now.
So no, the atheist community at large is not being very rational where the sexual assault scandal is concerned. How can we be rational about it? Withhold an opinion where you do not have enough information to hold an opinion, do some research into the accusations before you assume one side or the other, and follow the evidence. And don’t forget to keep your evidence demand reasonable to the claim. It’s “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” not “common occurrences require the same level of evidence as proving God.” And please remember that we’re dealing with people, not science.
I’ve heard people claim that sexual assault accusations ruin lives. Sadly, that doesn’t really seem to be the case: R Kelly and DMX don’t seem to be any worse off for it, neither does Kobe Bryant. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be common knowledge that they were accused. Either that or people just don’t care. Shermer hasn’t lost many fans yet, and I can’t see him losing many more in the future as a result of these accusations. Can rape accusations ruin lives? Sure, but since only 2% of rape accusations are false, I can’t see many lives getting unfairly ruined if any do. I think the victims are the only ones whose lives are likely to be ruined, and I think that investigating the claims is the only way to keep that from happening. The people who say that these accusations will ruin the lives of the accused seem to forget that the victims have lives to. Are the 5 accused men’s lives that much more important than the lives of the people’s that they are accused of assaulting? Isn’t investigating the claims and finding out the truth the best way to prevent lives from being destroyed?
These are obviously very serious issues to consider. And I urge you to think carefully before coming to any conclusions. As I said, this post doesn’t require any extra reading. However, here are two papers that look at this issue from a different angle:
Now that I have discussed how both parties have dealt with the sexual assault within their organizations, so now lets compare the two. How have atheists been at dealing with this issue compared to the Catholic Church?
My conclusion is not well. Why? Because atheists, like the Catholic Church, seem to take two steps back for every one step forward. On one hand we have the people blogging on Freethought Blogs who are doing all they can to bring the harassment to light and put an end to it. The Catholics, too, have people who are very concerned with the issue and are being quite vocal about putting an end to it. However, it seems as though for every person speaking out against the harassment there are ten more to defend the harassers, send threats to those speaking out against it, and overall be rape apologists. But this is getting into territory that I want to discuss next time. This time I just want to compare the two reactions and look a bit at the criticism that the groups have used against each other.
So first the comparison. John Paul ignored a lot of the harassment. It’s one of the biggest things that he gets criticized on. It’s also something that James Randi had been criticized for. He’s the head of JREF, and a lot of the harassment happened within his organization. It had become common knowledge that certain employees were serial harassers years before elevatorgate, but those harassers were allowed to continue working for the organization for years, or got repeat invites as speakers. Randi couldn’t not have known about the harassment. In fact, when asked about it, his response was basically “boys will be boys.” He had the power to deal with it, but he didn’t.
Benedict is a bit more controversial than his predecessor. One one hand, while he was in office he did more to punish priests who were found to be abusing children. But on the other hand, before becoming Pope, he actively covered up a number of abuse cases. Likewise, Grothe tried to cover up a number of the sexual assault accusations made against Shermer and Radford. Grothe has also been accused of sexual assault, so I’d say he’s worse than the Pope in that regard, but his response was still similar.
Francis has been the best Pope so far for dealing with the sexual abuse within the church, but he’s not without his problems. He tried to excuse the lack of action done previously by saying that “nobody else has done as much.” Quite a few other Catholic leaders have said similar things, as have lay-Catholics. I’d say that that action is comparable to what has been said by a number of atheists. First there’s Richard Dawkins who claimed that date rape “isn’t as bad as stranger rape at knife point.” Then there’s Sam Harris who said that if everybody sexually harasses then there can be no sexual harassment. And then there are the Youtube atheists who argue that the sexual assault accusations are just a result of entitled feminists trying to take over and change the atheist movement. Is change really that terrible?
The issues within the two movements are not completely the same. For one thing, the Catholic Church is dealing with abuse against children. Whereas the victims within the atheist movement are largely women, though men have been harassed too. A number of people believe that another huge difference is the cohesion within the groups. Atheism in and of itself is not a movement. You can easily be an atheist who has nothing to do with the movement. But can’t you also be a Catholic who has nothing to do with the Catholic Church? The atheist movement also doesn’t have a clear leader. It’s for the most part a number of small groups with cohesive goals that are connected to other groups simply by their members lack of belief in gods and their willingness to to bring about acceptance for atheism as an ideology. But is the Catholic Church really that much more cohesive? They have the Pope as their leader, and the priests are theoretically supposed to heed his guidance, but how well does that really work out? There are over a billion Catholics out there. Sure, the Pope can keep some semblance of order with the highest members of the Church, but all of the churches out there cannot be controlled very effectively. As such, there are a great deal of differences between one church are the next. For example, some are very liberal. They want to remain separate from politics, they are accepting of the LGBT community, and they accept evolution and the big bang as scientifically accurate. But others are very conservative. They are willing to tell their parishioners who to vote for, they believe that homosexuality is a sin, and they deny science. The pope can’t possibly endorse both of these church styles. But then, even Popes don’t agree: Benedict said that homosexuality was a sin, but Francis has been more inclusive towards the LGBT community. Yes, atheism is not one big cohesive group, but neither is the Catholic Church.
And to go on with the similarities, both groups have condemned the other for the sexual assault within there ranks. Here’s a Catholic site’s criticism the atheist sex scandal: http://www.catholic.com/blog/todd-aglialoro/the-war-on-atheist-women. And here are some other Christian criticisms: http://save-send-delete.blogspot.ca/2014/01/new-atheists-rape-accusations-feminism.html, http://www.uncommondescent.com/atheism/atheists-vs-atheists-2/, http://www.conservapedia.com/Elevatorgate. And here are some atheist pages criticizing the sex scandal in the Catholic Church:
You get the idea. Are these criticisms unfair? I’d say not. If there is something wrong, then it should be called out. No issue can be fixed by being ignored, and some times it’s easiest to draw attention to a problem if you are on the outside.
So what does all this mean? I’ll get more into that in my next post, but basically it means that we have a problem within the atheist movement and it’s only going to get worse if we ignore it. It means that instead of fighting over the likelihood of a single claim being true or false we should be ensuring that future claims are unlikely because sexual assault is prevented to the highest degree possible.
I’ve talked about the facts. I mentioned what accusations and lawsuits have been made in the Catholic Church sex scandal. I’ve discussed the accusations made in the Atheist movement sex scandal. And I’ve talked about how the Catholic Church has responded to the sex scandal. Now it’s time to talk about how atheists have responded to the atheist sex scandal. This is the main post, since the whole point of this series was to talk about how atheists are responding. As a reminder, my next two posts will be as follows: first I will compare how Catholics have responded to how atheists have responded to the sex scandals within their movements, and then I will discuss whether or not I believe atheists are responding to the accusations rationally.
But now onto this post. So how have atheists responded to the accusations of sexual assault and harassment? Rebecca Watson has recorded a good portion of what she has received as a result of saying “guys, don’t do that.” Keep in mind this was a passing comment she made as a result of the harassment she experienced in what is now widely known as “elevator gate”: “The response from male atheists was overwhelming. This is one example:
‘honestly, and i mean HONESTLY.. you deserve to be raped and tortured and killed. swear id laugh if i could’” http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/10/sexism_in_the_skeptic_community_i_spoke_out_then_came_the_rape_threats.html.
Wait? Saying “don’t do that” is deserving of a death threat? I didn’t even find anything about the people who took priests to court getting death threats, and people take their religion very seriously. But Rebecca Watson gets this for mentioning that something’s creepy? That seems a bit extreme. Even Richard Dawkins had to jump on this bandwagon. In response to Watson’s, let me remind you, passing comment, he said:
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so …
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
Right, Dawkins, because Watson made any comments even hinting at the idea that she thought she was treated worse than a woman who had had her genitals mutilated. But then, Dawkins does like to compare different people’s pain and decide whose is more worthy of empathy with little regard for the people behind the pain. Just look at his recent tweets about rape: “’Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think'” http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/richard-dawkins-says-date-rape-is-bad-stranger-rape-is-worse-on-twitter-9634572.html. No, Dawkins, I think that that is blatant disregard for another humans personal experiences. Regardless of what happened to you, you do not get to tell someone that their pain doesn’t matter because someone else had it worse. That may not be the message that you are intending to send, but it is the one that you are sending.
It’s sad how easy it is to find really vulgar comments in relation to the accusations. I’ve been trying to find some reasonable arguments against the accusations, but I’ve had little luck. Here’s one I found on a Men’s Rights (yeah, I know, not a good place to find reasonable anything) forum: “Is anyone else following this? Fucking incredible. It all started with Karen Stollznow accusing skeptic Ben Radford of the Center of Inquiry of harassment and assault, then a former James Randi Foundation employee Carrie Poppy accused DJ Grothe, the gay liberal atheist president of the JREF, of misogyny and harassment, then the batshit lunatic Jennifer McCreight accused physicist Lawrence Krauss of sex assault/harrassment (she’s since taken down the details after receiving a legal notice from Shermer but you can still piece together the picture from the comments. (What was Krauss’ evil crime? Propositioning a woman for sex (possibly a threesome) while he was on a cruise for skeptics. The horror!), then someone from the Atheism + forum set up a Tumblr to accuse Bill Nye of harassment, THEN last night PZ shitstain Myers himself accused Michael Shermer, editor in chief of Skeptic Magazine, OF SERIAL RAPE” http://www.reddit.com/r/MensRights/comments/1k0piy/atheism_skepchick_ftb_feminists_going_all_out_in/. It’s easy to see this person’s bias (at least, I don’t think “shitstain” is anybodies term of endearment). But there’s no argument to counter the claim that these people are harassers, just the basic thought of “but they’re famous and did good things.” And that really is not a good reason to doubt someone’s claim to having been sexually assaulted. Here is a link to a video by the Youtuber Thunderfoot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nm1R2aIm9Po. It is basically his rant about how terrible feminism is and how it’s ruining atheism. He doesn’t even get 30 seconds in before he starts throwing the insults around. This video series by The “Amazing” Atheist is just as bad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geQyrBGS_60. Here’s another one where he discusses his views on Watson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqU9JFbtucU. These videos are full of insults. They don’t offer thoughtful arguments as to why the people they are arguing against are wrong. Since I used to enjoy both of these vloggers, I can’t help but cringe when I hear their lack of logic and sound reasoning.
For some more negative responses towards the accusers, here are some more links:
And because those are depressing, and because there have been some positive responses as well:
As you can see, there is a lot on this topic.
So now we’ve looked at both the sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church and within the atheist movement. So now lets look at how the Catholic Church has responded to the allegations, both positively and negatively.
I’ll begin with the higher-up’s within the Church. What have the last three Popes done in response to the allegations? Well, “John Paul met with 12 U.S. cardinals and bishops’ conference officers at the Vatican. He told them he was “deeply grieved” by news of clerical sexual abuse and said there was no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm children” back in 2012 http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/vatican-john-paul-ii-took-immediate-action-sexual-abuse. I’d say that this is a positive response: it shows an acknowledgement of something that is wrong and a willingness to put an end to the problem. John Paul was also responsible for a letter to Irish priests stating “’these sinful and criminal acts.’ He asked ‘priests and religious who have abused children’ to ‘submit yourselves to the demands of justice’” http://www.channel4.com/news/pope-benedict-and-sex-abuse-suffer-the-children. This again shows an interest in ending the abuse. However, the same article states that “The report also claimed the Vatican had treated mandatory child protection guidelines as ‘study guidelines.’ A motion was subsequently passed by the Irish parliament, the Dail, accusing the Holy See of ‘undermining child protection frameworks.’” This is worrisome. It suggests that the Pope was merely putting on a show. He was making it look like he was doing something, but then he acted as if his rules to protect children were mere “if it suits your interest” suggestions. The next Pope, Benedict, was a bit more problematic that John Paul. After being made Pope, it came out that “Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as Benedict was then known, failed to dismiss several known abusers” http://www.thenation.com/article/160242/shame-john-paul-ii-how-sex-abuse-scandal-stained-his-papacy#. The last article asked a great question about Pope Benedict as a result of his failure to protect children: “How can any pope be a voice for peace, proclaim the sanctity of life and speak for human rights while giving de facto Vatican immunity to bishops and cardinals who concealed child molesters?” Personally, I was never a fan of Benedict. Ignore the fact that he looked like a sith lord and he was still a fairly scary guy given the things he said about the LGBTQ community. However, Benedict did do something to help end the abuse: “Maciel was not publicly punished until 2006, after John Paul II’s death, when Pope Benedict XVI ordered the priest to a life of penance” http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/vatican-john-paul-ii-took-immediate-action-sexual-abuse. Marciel was a Mexican priest who was under investigation for child abuse. He had been under investigation since the 90’s. As you can see, the two previous Pope’s weren’t in denial about the sex scandal, and they didn’t do nothing. However, the actions that they did take were hindered by their own inaction.
Pope Francis seems to be doing a better job than his predecessors, so let’s take a look at his response to the issue. Well he did have the willingness to actually apologize for the scandal: “Pope Francis said he felt compelled to “personally ask for forgiveness for the damage [some priests] have done for sexually [abusing] children,” the Vatican radio website reports” http://www.christiantoday.com/article/pope.francis.personally.asks.for.forgiveness.for.catholic.churchs.child.sex.abuse.history/36735.htm. I’d say hat that is a point in his favour. He may not have been the one abusing children, but it was and is the job of the higher-up’s within the church to protect the people within it and ensure that any issues get dealt with swiftly and effectively. However, Francis lost that point by then saying “’No-one else has done more [to tackle child sexual abuse]. Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.'” No Francis, you don’t get a cookie for doing what your supposed to do. Whether or not the Catholic Church has done more than any other group to stem the abuse within it’s ranks has yet to be seen, but it is obvious that the Church’s efforts have not been as effective as they could be. That’s the real issue: why isn’t the Catholic Church doing everything it possibly can to get rid of the abuse of children? Isn’t it in the Church’s best interest to get rid of it? And getting rid of it publicly can only help it’s cause. Pope Francis has made his actions more public that the other Popes, which is a good thing: “Pope Francis gave another impromptu press conference. Responding to a question on the clergy abuse crisis, he said, ‘At the moment there are three bishops under investigation: one has already been found guilty and we are now considering the penalty to be imposed. There are no privileges’” http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/will-vatican-step-and-hold-bishops-accountable. The same article stated that “The CDF has laicized 848 priests between 2004 and 2013, according to testimony by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the papal diplomat at the U.N. panel examining the Vatican handling of abuse cases last month in Geneva.” So clearly some advances have been made.
Sadly, Pope Francis isn’t the only one who tried to play the “well we’ve done better than everybody else” game. One article stated “Archbishop Tomasi also stated that while it would be ‘very difficult…to find other institutions or even other states that have done so much specifically for the protection of children’ as the Vatican has in recent years, ‘we have to continue to refine, to enact provisions that protect children…so that they may grow and become productive adults in society and their dignity be constantly respected’” http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/2910/un_blasts_vatican_response_to_sex_abuse_updated.aspx. Again, doing better than other institutions is not saying much in your own favour when you are not doing very well yourself. And I don’t really think that the Catholic Church can compete with industrialized nations when it comes to protection of children. Politicians are quickly thrown out of office for so much as getting caught cheating on their wives (while heads of state are harder to get rid of than that, they are still screwed politicly as a result of such scandals). Imagine the reaction to a politician who’d been caught molesting children? Not to mention all the legal protection states offer children. One one website I found this:
“There is no need to reiterate the obvious points that sexual abuse is always a grave moral evil, that it is particularly deplorable in organizations claiming to offer moral leadership, and that it is most deplorable of all in the Catholic Church, which makes unique and unparalleled claims about truth and grace. But I also observe the following:
The prolonged and unremitting secular attack on the Catholic Church for a sexual abuse problem overwhelmingly in the past
The confiscation of the ecclesiastical wealth of the Catholic people (who, in general, have no guilt in this matter)
The changing of statutes of limitations to permit vast financial settlements in cases where the perpetrators are long dead
And the effort to implicate the pope despite the complete absence of evidence
I’ve been fighting an ecclesiastical culture that has permitted consistent abuse of the rights of the faithful, including sexual abuse, for over 40 years. Though hardly alone (Catholic Answers comes to mind), I take a back seat to no one in this. So, if your view of the results of the sex abuse scandal is that the Church is getting exactly what it deserves, I would be sympathetic:
if you could demonstrate any similar effort against other institutions, including public schools, where the rates of abuse are higher than in the Church,
or if guilty priests, religious, and bishops were being held personally responsible rather than the Church as a whole,
or if the same people who are attacking the Church were also calling for a return to sexual self-control and sexual restraint in order to address the problem at its root,
or if those of us who point out the large role homosexuality has played in this abuse were not excoriated for daring to suggest there is anything disordered about homosexuality” http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/three-great-lessons-of-the-abuse-scandal.
“A sexual abuse problem overwhelmingly in the past”? The reason that these cases are in the light today is because the children who were abused are now adults who know what happened to them is wrong and want to fight to end a serious issue. There are current cases, but I bet a lot of the current abuse that’s happening what be found out until the current generation of children are in their adulthood. And even if the abuse is all in the past, does that make the Catholic church less deserving of criticism? They did nothing for 20 years. This wouldn’t be a scandal if they had done something in the very beginning. The Catholic people aren’t losing their wealth. Nobody’s going to Joe Catholic’s home and demanding payment for the court cases. On a side note, the Catholic Church can and does, in some countries, demand payment for church repairs from non-Catholics. They can do this because, in some countries, the Catholic Church owns a certain portion of the land. Most people don’t even know they live on church land until they get a perfectly legal letter demanding funds. So lay-Catholics aren’t being demanded to pay for the churches legal fees (except possibly by the Catholic Church), but non-Catholics are forced to give money to the Catholic Church. There shouldn’t be a statute of limitation on rape and child abuse. The fact that it exists is more problematic than it being extended in certain cases. There is a lot of evidence as to the Pope’s guilt. Not in the form of him abusing children, but in the form of him doing nothing to protect the children in his care. Why should the Catholic Church only be punished if it’s not doing as much as other institutions? Aren’t the priests being held responsible? The Church isn’t being held responsible for the priest’s crime, it’s being held responsible for it’s own crime: failure to act when the sex abuse came to light. Right, because stricter control on sexual behaviour is the healthiest and most reasonable response. How about the Church let’s priests get married? How about they acknowledge the fact that sexuality is healthy and normal? That sounds much better to me. Homosexuality is not a disorder. To say otherwise is to deny the facts. Rather than play blame games, I’d like to see the Church simply acknowledge it’s neglect and then do what it can to eliminate the sex abuse scandal. But for every step they take forward, they seem to take two steps back.
This post has gone on far longer than I intended, so rather than keep going, I’ll just give you some links. Most of these are Catholics defending the church with a mix of more blame game thrown in:
As you can see from my previous post, there is a lot of information about the sex scandal within the Catholic Church. Since the scandal first came to light in the 80’s, this makes sense. The atheist scandal isn’t even a decade old yet, and most of it came to light within the last three or so years, so there isn’t quite as much information. That said, there is still a lot of information out there. So let’s take a look at what there is.
You’ll notice three names come up quite frequently throughout this post. These three men, Ben Radford, Michael Shermer, and D.J. Grothe, are by now fairly well known as the most problematic figures where sexual assault is concerned. However, they are not the only ones accused of sexual assault. The issue of sexual assault within the atheist movement is so common that Hemant Mehta wrote on his blog “There seems to be something that everyone is talking about, but no one is actually saying it out loud. It seems that are a number of ‘male speakers behaving badly towards women at conferences’” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/05/23/its-almost-time-to-start-naming-names/#comment-536627555. He went on to quote a claim that “’Both female friends and strangers confided in me, telling me stories of speakers that talked only to their chest, groped them against their wishes, followed them to their hotel room, or had goals to bag a young hottie at every speaking gig they did. Once after I had publicly criticized someone on my blog, people made sure to warn me that this person had a skeevy record. I had to request friends attending the con to be extra diligent about making sure I wasn’t alone.’” The fact that people have been telling their stories is the biggest reason why these accusations are so well known.
Since many people have told their personal stories online, I am able to actually share many of them with you. A woman named Alison Smith made an accusation against Shermer: “’I ran into Shermer in the hallway,’ Smith said recently, speaking publicly for the first time about what happened that night. They began talking, and he invited her to a Scotch and cigar party at the Caesars Palace hotel. ‘He was talking about future articles we could write, and he mentioned this party and asked if I could come, and I said yes.’ At the party, they began downing drinks. ‘At some point,’ Smith said, ‘I realized he wasn’t drinking them; he was hiding them underneath the table and pretending to drink them. I was drunk. After that, it all gets kind of blurry. I started to walk back to my hotel room, and he followed me and caught up with me’” http://www.buzzfeed.com/markoppenheimer/will-misogyny-bring-down-the-atheist-movement#27il8dq. Smith had help telling her story online, as did many of the other women. Mehta helped tell a few women’s stories on his blog: “My friend Ashley Paramore made a video talking about a skeptics’ conference she went to at which she was sexually assaulted” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/29/atheist-opens-up-about-getting-sexually-assaulted-at-conference/. That video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BK3g86Hp93I&feature=youtu.be. Karen Stollznow had quite a bit of help sharing her story by the bloggers on Freethought Blogs, though she initially shared her story herself: “Karen Stollznow is a big name, popular on the skeptic conference circuit, and has always given the impression of being strong, poised, and confident — which means that I cluelessly took it for granted that no one would ever mess with her. I was wrong. This is never a problem with the victims, but always in the nature of the perpetrators” http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/06/no-it-could-never-happen-to-her/. There was also this bit written about Stollznow: “Center For Inquiry’s Ben Radford, whom you might remember as the skeptic who took on a four year old over evolutionary reasons little girls might like pink, among numerous other terrible bits of skepticism and anti-science, has been accused of sexually harassing and assaulting Karen Stollznow serially over a period of four years” http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2013/08/07/ben-radford-and-cfi-a-point-of-contention/. She is quoted as saying “’Five months after I lodged my complaint I received a letter that was riddled with legalese but acknowledged the guilt of this individual. They had found evidence of “inappropriate communications” and “inappropriate” conduct at conferences. However, they greatly reduced the severity of my claims.’” She also said “’In February of this year I drew D.J.’s attention to a very serious matter. At TAM 2010 I was sexually assaulted and harassed by another speaker by the name of Benjamin Radford. I was also sexually harassed by him at TAM 2012. I had attempted to handle this both privately and professionally so as to not embarrass the organizations involved. When Mr. Radford’s behaviour continued I was then forced to file a formal complaint with his employer (CFI/CSI) to resolve the issue. An investigation was performed and he has since been found guilty. (I can supply evidence to attest to this decision.)’” Stollznow’s case is by far the most well known one at this point. The fact that there has been a lawsuit in connection to it is probably one reason why it is so well known. Most of these cases didn’t end so well for the victim. One woman said “’At a conference, Mr. Shermer coerced me into a position where I could not consent, and then had sex with me’” http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/08/what-do-you-do-when-someone-pulls-the-pin-and-hands-you-a-grenade/. Stollznow dealt with the assault for four years. However, one woman got “lucky” thanks to the awareness of a friend of hers: “And that’s the entirety of my story: Michael Shermer helped get me drunker than I normally get, and was a bit flirty” http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/08/08/what-do-you-do-when-someone-pulls-the-pin-and-hands-you-a-grenade/. But even in this woman’s case, what happened is still terrible and should not be something that anyone should have to worry abut happening to them.
All of the cases that I’ve looked at so far involve women. However, women are not the only victims of sexual assault that we know about. One man wrote of hisown experience “I was fairly surprised though, when DJ turned to me and said that the reason everyone loved the Skepchicks was because they ‘want pussy.’” He went on to say “This [his personal weight issues] was discussed and DJ then made an hilarious horrendous ‘joke’ about how I should pay him a visit down in Los Angeles so that he could drug me and let some of his friends have some fun with me. You know, in other words so that I could be gang raped” http://www.morethanmen.org/2013/08/07/dj-and-me/. Grothe has been accused of other similar harassment. Shermer, too, has been accused of sexual assault against a man. One accuser wrote “Of course, if you’ve been following the skeptic blogosphere, you are probably aware that Michael Shermer is a rapist.” He went on to say “Note the lack of elaborate conditionals there. This is because 1) the prior probabilities are not in his favor, and 2) I am fairly certain that Michael Shermer had nonconsensual sex with me” http://creativepooping.tumblr.com/post/58606684580/copy-of-suicide-note-from-attempt-on-8-13-2013. This isn’t really relevant to the post, but as an aside, I really hate it when people avoid calling rape rape. We live in a culture where it’s a taboo word. It’s like when the UN refuses to call a genocide a genocide. If we want to put an end to something, we have to bring attention to it and that means calling it what it is. But back to the point. These people, men and women alike, have been victimized by the people who are generally seen as pillars of our community. These are the people who we should be able to turn to for help, not the people we should have to fear.
If you would like some more reading material on this issue, here it is:
I’ve talked a lot more about the Catholic Church here than I had intended to, so I’ve decided to break this part of the discussion up into two parts. I will discuss atheism in the next post. In this post, I will be looking at the accusations made against both Catholic clergy (and certain lay-members who used their position within the church to commit abuse). I will also look at lawsuits connected to the accusations. I will not discuss every accusation, but I will provide links for anyone interested in finding out more about these issues.
What is the sex abuse scandal within the Church? According to Wikipedia, “The Catholic sex abuse cases are a series of allegations, investigations, trials and convictions of child sexual abuse crimes committed by Catholic priests, nuns and members of Roman Catholic orders against children as young as three years old with the majority between the ages of 11 and 14. The accusations first started to receive wide publicity in the late 1980s; many span several decades and were brought forward years after the abuse occurred. Cases have also been brought against members of the Catholic hierarchy who did not report sex abuse allegations to the legal authorities. It was shown that they deliberately moved sexually abusive priests to other parishes, where the abuse sometimes continued. This led to a number of fraud cases where the Church was accused of misleading victims by deliberately relocating priests accused of abuse instead of removing them from their positions” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_sexual_abuse_cases#Lawsuits_and_their_effects. So what accusations have actually been made against the Church? Well, according to the BBC,“The National Catholic Safeguarding Commission (NCSC)…said 465 sexual assault claims were made against clergy members between 2003 and 2012” in England and Wales alone http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28466874. The UK isn’t the only place with such large numbers: “In February 2004, a report commissioned by the Church said more than 4,000 Roman Catholic priests in the US had faced sexual abuse allegations in the last 50 years” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6232947.stm. The Canadian Encyclopedia mentions a number of specific cases from across Canada, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/catholic-church-sex-abuse-scandals/. Some of the priests mentioned by the encyclopedia include Hugh Vincent MacDonald, Martin Houston, and Joseph Lang. MacDonald “now faces multiple allegations of sexual abuse dating back to the early 1970s.” Houston “resigned from his parish in June after media reports about his abusive past as a teacher at an Oblate-run residential school in the 1960s.” And Lang “faces allegations of sexual activity with a minor dating back to his time as a parish priest in Cleveland, Ohio in the 1980s.” In many of the cases that I have looked at, the accused priests were either removed from their positions or they resigned. However, this is not always the case. As a result of negligently moving priests to different parishes when accusations arose, the Catholic Church has been forced to pay a lot of money in damages.
There has been a growing number of lawsuits against the Catholic Church. People who were abused by their priests as children who feel that the Church did not do enough to protect the children within the Church are now taking matters into their own hands. As a result, the Catholic Church has had to pay out a lot of money. In one case, “552 plaintiffs in Boston received a record US$85 million (euro64 million)” http://www.cbsnews.com/news/calif-diocese-settles-abuse-cases/. In another case, “the largest Roman Catholic diocese in the US agreed to pay $60m (£30m) to settle dozens of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6232947.stm. One woman, Elizabeth McKenna “spent 20 days on the witness stand in a Toronto courtroom in the spring of 2000, before the diocese of Sault Ste. Marie and their insurers finally agreed to settle a $3-million lawsuit she had pursued for a decade” http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/catholic-church-sex-abuse-scandals/. She said of her case “‘They really put the gloves on,” says McKenna. ‘I’ll never forget one of the lawyer’s questions: ‘Do you have an orgasm when you masturbate?”” Even Australia has been affected by the sex scandal. Apparently, “Child sex abuse by priests cost the Catholic Church in Melbourne more than $34 million” http://www.skynews.com.au/news/national/2014/08/18/response-to-child-sex-abuse—insufficient-.html. As you can see, the Catholic Church has lost a lot of money as a result of the scandal. However, I cannot feel sorry for them since all of this could have been avoided by handling the cases properly when they first came up.
There are many theories as to why there is so much sex abuse within the Catholic Church. Many people have said that it wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for the fact that clerics must take a vow of chastity. I don’t know how true that is. However, “Pope Francis was quoted as saying data indicated ‘about 2%’ of clergy in the Catholic Church were paedophiles” http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28466874. That may not seem like a very large number, but, when you think about how many clergy members there are, it indicates a large number of people.
If you would like to look more into sexual assault accusations and lawsuits against the Catholic Church, here are some links:
Humans are tribal creatures. Let’s face it, we don’t like it when our “group” is accused of things, even if those accusations are accurate. For the last few years, I have been disappointed to see people who identify as atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and secular humanists defending members of “our group” who have been accused of sexual assault to a ridiculous degree. Many people seem to be so unwilling to accept that such a crime could happen at conferences that they attend, and could be perpetrated by people that they idolize. I can understand this reaction to a certain degree: who wants to find out that their hero could so casually hurt another human being? But at the same time, these are people who claim to hold rationality above all else and yet they are reacting on pure instinct.
So I’ve decided to put together this little project. Okay, so it’s not so little, but here it goes. Everybody knows about the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, and atheists are particularly quick to lay judgement on the Catholic Church as a result. I think this judgement is completely justified. So lets look at this scandal and compare it to the more recent scandal in atheism. More importantly, lets look at how both groups have generally reacted towards the scandals in their communities.
Obviously this project is a bit too much to handle in one post, so I’ll break it up into a few posts. In the first post I’ll look at the facts. I’ll talk about the accusations and the lawsuits within the Catholic Church, and then I’ll do the same for the atheist community to the best of my ability (since the latter is more modern, it’s going to be made up more of accusations than of lawsuits). In the second post, I will look at how Catholics have responded to the sex abuse scandal. I will look mostly at the Vatican and the pope, but I will also look at certain lay-Catholics. They will be both positive and negative responses and I will respond to them with my own interpretation when I feel it is necessary. I will do the same for atheism in my third post. I will look at some of the big names in atheism, but I will also look at some relatively unknown names. In my fourth post I will compare the reactions of Catholics and atheists, and I will also look at how atheists and Catholics have reacted to the scandal in the other’s movement. And in my fifth and final post I will discuss whether or not I think atheists are reacting rationally towards the current scandal and why. I will also discuss how I feel we can best resolve these issues.