All This Talk of Speeches Has Gotten Me Thinking

By M. A. Melby, read her blog at Sinmantyx

During the last few weeks many of us have been talking about speeches. From Ron Lindsay's Speech at the Women in Secularism 2 Convention to the young man who tore up his approved speech and recited the Lord's Prayer counter to the rules of his school, the concept of standing up and being a representative and a leader is on our minds.

I joke that my high school administration would have changed my grade to avoid the awkward situation of allowing me to give a commencement speech. Let's just say, in high school I was a bit of a character. I certainly spoke my mind and wasn't always adequately respectful of authority. High school was not a pleasant place for me, and I wasn't always pleasant back at it. Among so many other things, such as asking the English teacher if he wanted me to start writing in crayon, complaining to the next English teacher that perhaps we should be covering dangling participles instead of going over "nouns" for the fourth year in a row, quitting Art because I didn't appreciate us being used as cheap labor, writing an essay *against* the flag-burning amendment, refusing to go to Baccalaureate because we were taken out of class to plan it, and exiting Choir in diva-like fashion because I hated the music that was being picked out for me (Bach or NOTHING! Romantic period sucks!), I had gained a bit of a reputation.

The principle had artfully avoided the possibility of me singing, "Planned Obsolescence" by 10,000 Maniacs at the talent show, so they dodged that bullet. I sincerely don't know if there would have been a little creative bookkeeping.

In retrospect, I'm glad it wasn't me. I have no idea how I would have handled the responsibility because, like a lot of people that age, I was painfully self-absorbed. The commencement was for everyone. It was no place to air my grievances. However much I would have been tempted to stick an epic, "Remember when you replaced the theater's dressing room with a weight room for the football team over the summer and threw all our stuff in a closet over there? Yeah, that one, right there, with the sewer pipe running through it!" speech, it would have been extremely inappropriate.

When you have an audience that you are there to serve and you are acting as a representative, it's not about you. It's not about what divides, but what unites.

Perhaps I don't give myself enough credit. Perhaps I could have written something that would have brought us together. We had grown up together. We meant a lot to each other when it really came down to it. Maybe I would have cobbled together something that everyone found meaningful. Maybe I would have been humble enough to listen to my classmates and think about our larger experience together instead of providing a speech only from my limited perspective.

That was a long time ago. More-and-more as I gain authority and position in my career, I find myself in situations where my primary function is to facilitate the growth and expression of others. It may be tempting to think that the person who is standing in front of the audience or the class is the center of attention, but that is far from the truth.

The first lesson is to know your audience and to find out what they need from you and how you can provide it. You need to meet them where they are at, not somewhere else entirely. Ron Lindsay's speech, for example, was akin to describing how to cross the street to a group of women and men who run marathons, and implying that they may not be putting one foot in front of the other correctly.

It is selfless work to lead. More is expected of you. It's stressful. People are less forgiving. The necessity to be diplomatic and professional can be infuriating when your filters are on maximum expletive deletion. I absolutely empathize with anyone in leadership who has put their foot squarely into their mouth. When people are depending on you and have entrusted you with responsibility though, living up to those responsibilities is the primary concern, not what's going on in your own head. I am confident that Ron Lindsay understands this.

It's easy to think of people in authority as little gods, and not real people with their own challenges. The "perfect person" for the job is fantasy. Leaders are not born, but develop in time. A good leader learns as much as they can from both success and failure. They take criticism, even if it upsets them, as information useful in making future decisions and being better at what they do.

There is a time to fight your fights; to have unpleasant discussions; to stand up for yourself; to fall flat on your face and learn from it; and even to tell someone you think they are full of *it. When acting as a representative, is not one of those times. In front of an audience who yearns for solidarity and a voice, is not one of those places.
That is the lesson that may still need to be learned.


M. A. Melby is a physics instructor, blogger, and sometimes poet, artist, and musician.  Her work appears in Atheist Voices of Minnesota: An anthology of personal stories as well as her blog “Sinmantyx”.

Secular Woman Member Article

Charles Loelius Letter to CFI

Secular Woman Member Article
By Charles Loelius

An Open Letter to CFI
Regarding Ron Lindsay and Women in Secularism

As a member of a number of secular organizations, including American Atheists, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, The Foundation Beyond Belief, and Secular Woman, as well as local humanist and atheist groups, I have been following Women in Secularism, and its aftermath, with considerable interest. Not only because my local groups, just as the national ones, have a problem with bigots and sexists, but because I am genuinely interested in the future of the secular movement, and how it can best do good in the world. The Women in Secularism conference, it seemed to me, was a tremendous opportunity to share ideas about how secularism, free thinking, and skepticism could help end sexism in the world, and strengthen other social justice movements. And indeed, on the whole it did so admirably. While I could not attend in person, I was able to read transcripts, summaries, and other accounts of talks and discussions, about which we are still talking.

But, unfortunately, and as you certainly are aware, Ron Lindsay, the CEO of the Center for Inquiry, cast a dark shadow over the conference. Having read the transcript of the talk on his website, it is clear that he was not enthusiastic about the conference- refusing to welcome the many guests who had paid hundreds of dollars for tickets and travels- and forcing most guests to listen to a rather banal criticism of the concept of privilege. Speaking as a straight white cis-gendered man, I found his criticisms rather tasteless and ill timed. I certainly don’t think there is never room for discussion about the concept of privilege, and what it feels like to be a person in the majority to hear such criticisms. But I do not think a welcome talk is the right place, especially considering the optics of having a white man lecturing at a crowd of mostly women about the harms of using the concept of “privilege,” and I must admit to being reminded of Rand Paul’s disastrous talk at the NAACP conference only a few short months ago.

But I would not be compelled to write to the board over such a minor transgression. As much as it reveals Lindsay’s ignorance about sociology, and his own uncharitable readings of others’ works, it hardly matters to me if one speaker- even the CEO of the hosting organization- says something a bit inane. However, Lindsay’s reactions to criticisms of his talk have crossed a line. In his follow up blog post, he compares a number of bloggers in the secular movement to totalitarian dictators, going so far as to suggest that Rebecca Watson is some sort of Kim Jung Un. It is worth noting that Rebecca Watson, like many women in the secular movement, has been targeted persistently by a number of serial harassers who have slandered, used humiliating photoshops, and otherwise worked to chase her out of the secular movement. In his hyperbolic comparisons, Lindsay riled up these same harassers, gave them an outlet at his blog where they remained unmoderated, and led to further harassment and support. Worse, at the same time as he was doing this, he personally welcomed Justin Vacula, a well known harasser and writer for the hate site “A Voice for Men” to the conference, a dignity he would not even perform for the rest of the attendees in his welcome speech. All this because, evidently, he disagrees over how privilege ought to be used with Rebecca Watson and PZ Myers(whom he odiously conflates into some hybrid person in the same offensive blog post.)

This is of course disgusting coming from a major leader in the secular movement, and the CEO of your organization. But what is worse, it comes from the same individual who just recently authored and signed an “open letter to the secular community,” claiming that we members of the secular community ought to discuss privately our concerns with those whom we disagree with in good faith. Not only was this letter published without more than cursory input from feminist secular organizations, and those writers who have so often been bullied and harassed- to the point of quitting the movement- for the reason of being a woman and outspoken, but it now appears that it is meant to apply only to we who speak out against sexism. Because it is clear that Ron Lindsay himself did not take the time to talk with PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson in person, as opposed to writing public posts inviting more harassment, and turning a welcome address into a personal argument with people whom he did not even need to phone, as they were in the very same room as himself. This behaviour is not only disgusting and hypocritical, but it has killed my faith in most of the organizations in the secular movement. Evidently as a movement we are happier keeping serial harassers in the movement than we are with making women feel even remotely valued, and Ron Lindsay and by extension the CFI are at the forefront of this decision. What is more, I am personally affronted by his behaviour here as a white male, for I have never felt silenced by even the most ardent feminists in our community, but I have avoided starting my own blog, publicizing my own name, or even attending many conferences because I am too afraid of the serial harassers attacking me for my pro-woman pro-minority positions. Encouraging those harassers has done nothing to encourage me to get more involved in this movement.

I want to again repeat that I have no problem with having discussions about sexism and racism, and listening to opinions that differ from my own. Nor do I think that having those different opinions makes one unfit for holding the leadership positions in a secular organization. But if one is unable to avoid expressing those opinions without demonizing people who have done no more than differ on the matter of sociology and the most effective methods of dealing with the problems of bigotry and prejudice, and can do so in spite of his own explicit command to the rest of the secular movement not to use such disgusting tactics, then that person is not fit to lead. It is thus that I urge you to remove Ron Lindsay from his position of CEO. I understand that he has given a half-hearted apology as it is, but having seen what Lindsay is like at his worst, I don’t think we ought to give him the benefit of the doubt, if we want to be serious about expanding our movement and making it important to everyone.

I am of course only a small donor, and a small voice, but I am nonetheless extremely disgusted with CFI’s leadership, its hypocrisy and its willingness to cozy up to bigotry. I hope that the organization will have the courage to face the darkest parts of this movement, and the willingness and strength to repair the damage that has been done. This would have to begin with the replacement of Ron Lindsay, but could not end there.

SecularWoman Logo

New Member Letter

The following is a letter sent with a donation to us after Dr. Ron Lindsay’s remarks at Women in Secularism II. The text of the letter has been reproduced below.

Letter from Member

Letter from Member

Dear Secular Woman:

Please let me explain why I am sending you a check for [redacted].

First, to become a member.

Second, to donate to your organization in support of your open letter to CFI taking issue with the way Ron Lindsay “welcomed” you at the recent conferences in his introductory remarks.

I have not yet had the pleasure of attending your conference but I follow happenings on PZ Myers blog, Pharyngula.

I am disgusted with the way Ron Lindsay is reported to have behaved. I have encountered such men (and some such women, as well) during my life in the Catholic Church. These are people who seem blind to the most obvious decency requirements, the most obvious justice requirements and yet they have attained positions of leadership and power.

Whether it was a priest delivering a sermon disagreeing with his church’s position on war while never noticing that NO woman could ever be allowed to stand in church and deliver a sermon as a priest disagreeing with her church’s position on abortion; a brother clueless regarding this grave gender imbalance of power and privilege as we sat through (I endured) this sermon; or the same brother remarking that there was no sexism in the way we were raised even though he knew full well we were raised in the Catholic Church where women were forbidden to be priests, etc and we all prayed to a very male gendered god.

When I have tried to speak aloud about these instances where men showed cluelessness regarding the most obvious and grave injustices against women, I have been made to feel as if I am petty, uncharitable, impolite or melodramatic. You can not imagine my relief to witness your forceful pushback against similar behavior. I am thrilled to see women rising up to fight the silent assumptions all around us – your work, the sexism everywhere project, the women’s media pushback against Facebook double standards for hate speech and female nudity.

I am so happy to se you $[redacted].



Secular Woman Member Article

Anu Ramanathan’s Response to Ron Lindsay

Secular Woman Member Article

By Anu Ramanathan

UPDATE 06/25/2013:

I thank Ron Lindsay for his apology, and hope to see the CFI Board respond likewise for their extraordinarily not-even-trying sham of a bafflegab not-pology, with that same level of courage that is required to make a heartfelt public apology.

I’m not quite ready yet to become a member of CFI, but I will once again set up my recurring donation to CFI, directed specifically to future Women In Secularism conferences, and to Melody Hensley, and meanwhile I will wait and see if Ron Lindsay and the Board of CFI as a whole have actually learned and internalized what it was that pissed me off and so many others people in the community likewise.

While this apology is a beginning, it is going to take a lot to restore my trust in CFI, and yet I am cautiously optimistic that the organization’s leadership will earn that trust back again. It will take a lot more work and actual support from CFI for an inclusive secular community before that shattered trust can be rebuilt; however, at least in my case, it will probably never be as strong as it was before WIS2…

So to Dr. Ron Lindsay – apology accepted.  Board of Directors of CFI – waiting for your apology for the awful bafflegab.

I will be watching and waiting, waiting and watching. I hope to see you earn my trust back with your demonstrated support for an inclusive community.

Women in Secularism 2 and CFI CEO Ron Lindsay’s impolitic and improper conduct during the conference and after

As a member of Secular Woman, I fully support the linked Statement of Objection.

I have ZERO confidence in Dr. Lindsay as CEO of CFI, and rapidly plummeting confidence in CFI as an effective organization for the secular community.  CFI will not see any support from me, monetarily or otherwise, for as long as Center for Inquiry’s CEO Dr. Ron Lindsay continues as CEO, and does not retract his statements and blog posts, and apologize for his shameful and impolitic conduct at last weekend’s Women in Secularism 2 conference.

I am hereby withdrawing my membership in CFI, but will continue my support of the Women in Secularism conference itself for as long as your organization continues to host and support it (the conference). If CFI decides that it cannot or will not host and/or support the conference in the future – and the longer the Board of Directors keeps Dr. Lindsay on as CEO without a clear, honest and sincere apology, the clearer it becomes to me and others like me that your organization is not serious about supporting the conference –  I will expect all the money that I have donated specifically for future Women in Secularism conferences to be refunded to me.

Even if there is a retraction and apology, and even if the Board of CFI censures its CEO  for his extraordinarily impolitic and  unbecoming  conduct, it will still take a LOT to restore in me any level of confidence that CFI’s Board of Directors meant its endorsement of the Open Letter to the Secular Community  as anything more than a shallow public relations move.  It is already clear that Ron Lindsay meant only to jump on the hip trendy bandwagon of major secular organizations’ support of the Open Letter to the secular community.

I trust that you, the Board of Directors of the Center for Inquiry, will do the right thing by your community, and not bow to the hostile demands of the few anti-feminists and MRAs over the far numerous decent members of the secular community worldwide.


Anu Ramanathan

Twitter: @AnuTrophy

Your Point of View is not the Default. Context Matters.

By Kim Rippere and Elsa Roberts, follow them on twitter at KimRippere and ElsaLRoberts 


The article below reflects the personal opinions of the authors, and is not an official statement from Secular Woman


It was a surreal experience to witness a white, double PhD, straight, male lecture women and feminists on how to not upset the men in positions of power/privilege as part of a “welcoming” talk to Women in Secularism 2 – that the concept of privilege can be used to silence men! The conference was derailed before it began just as so many of our conversations are derailed online by men who feel entitled to make their issues and feelings paramount. We’ve seen it countless times; for example, how many times have we all seen a comment thread about rape instantly turned into a thread about how men are raped also (yes, we know that and care!)? It is impossible to count.

Dr. Lindsay’s point in his comments was that feminists need to moderate their voice so as to not upset men (or women who continue to cleave to the patriarchy). There was little apparent understanding of privilege and marginal understanding of how the underpinnings of systemic, historical oppression continue to function in our society, even though women’s historical subjugation was given lip service in his speech. It’s difficult to believe that Dr. Lindsay could have so poor a grasp on these issues given that religious privilege is explicitly a part of the CFI mission. Atheists, and their supporting organizations like CFI, are working to be heard regarding religious privilege, and do they worry about the potential of silencing those that are religious?  I think not. Dr. Lindsay, you acting as the President/CEO of the Center for Inquiry, have condemned religious privilege while, apparently, dismissing and/or minimizing other forms of it.

Feminists are not silencing anyone in our movement; we are simply attempting to be heard.  Dr. Lindsay, it isn’t that you are being silenced, it is merely that you are being informed you should make way for first hand experiences and give those primacy when relevant. As Adam Lee said: “You lack evidence relevant to this problem, so learn from those who have it.”

To put it in skeptic terms #ShutUpAndListen means "You lack evidence relative to this problem, so learn from those who have it."

This is how a conversation should go between individuals when one has more experience and expertise than the other:

  1. When the conversation is about the inclusion of women, women’s experiences are most relevant. That doesn’t mean that no one cares about men’s experiences, it simply means that women’s are paramount.
  2. When talking about how men experience socialization, men’s experiences are primary and paramount.
  3. When talking about being a trans* woman of color?  A trans* woman of color’s viewpoint is paramount.
  4. When educating regarding an aspect of the genome; gender and race are irrelevant; but, being a geneticist is relevant and paramount.


Most would rather hear from a scientist regarding science. The foundation of [privilege] is as simple as that.

Privilege is used, in part, to point out that the most relevant person has the best information/evidence and that their voice should be paramount. It doesn’t mean that anyone is silenced or that a marginalized person is always correct. The geologist isn’t silenced by the physicist speaking and commanding the attention of the room on a topic they are an expert in; they have a differing, complementary, and connected understanding.  And on different ideas each will take primacy as appropriate.

Surely, you don’t think that the residential real estate attorney should be paramount in a legal employment concern? The employment attorney’s opinion, viewpoint, knowledge, and experience should be paramount with the EEOC. This is the foundation of understanding privilege. Your view is not the only view, it is not (or should not be) the default, and context matters when deciding who to listen to. This is one the reasons that GOP Senators were roundly criticized during their hearings on birth control: there were no women on the panel even though the issue explicitly affected women. Men were sitting in judgement of women’s health care, just as you sat in judgment of feminists with little to no apparent understanding of feminist history, feminism, privilege, or your feminist audience.

Your “welcome” speech, then, pushed back gains that women have made in our movement. You have emboldened the harassers and vocal detractors of feminism in the secular movement; in fact many of them have come out in vocal support of your statements. These supporters of yours make a habit of calling women “cunts”, “cunty”, and “bitches” all while creating and breaking down straw feminisms faster than we can keep track and still they claim to the “real” feminists, while those of us working to dismantle patriarchal structures are labeled as irrational. You supported these same repugnant and untruthful sentiments in your hyperbolic blog post made in response to Rebecca Watson, where you stated “Either you believe reason and evidence should ultimately guide our discussions, or you think they should be held hostage to identity politics.”

This statement creates a false dichotomy and implies that identity politics is somehow tainted. Nothing could be further from the truth; identity politics gives marginalized groups the tools to make their voices heard and a way to break free from oppression. Those engaged in identity politics must constantly question the status quo and engage their critical thinking faculties to dismantle long held beliefs which are not rational but merely serve to prop up those in power and to keep systemic inequality functioning. It is precisely these people who make use of the tools of reason and evidence everyday, we must if we are to effectively do our work and help others in non-marginalized communities see that some of their beliefs are not rational, but a cultural heritage which they must shed if they wish to move forward toward a more just society.

Feminism, sexism, privilege, patriarchy, and identity politics are all concepts that are readily available to research via the internet. The seemingly perpetual need within the secular community to have more and new dialogue, instruction, and education on these topics is a microaggression. The assumption that it is a feminist’s role and responsibility to educate, educate, educate the oppressor is completely unbalanced. Do some work, get educated. Or alternatively, listen.

CPCs: Not a Reasonable Option

“Pregnant? Need Help?”

Have you seen these signs around your community? You might be forgiven for mistaking them as advertisements for women’s health centers – but you’d be wrong. These are advertisements for religious organizations called Crisis Pregnancy Centers and they are the happy recipients of your tax dollars.

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) are anti-choice “fake clinics” which exist solely to dissuade women from having abortions and, more often than not, are run by churches and religious organizations. They often advertise falsely in phone listings as “abortion services” or “family planning services” but the only service most provide are drugstore pregnancy tests and, in limited cases, an ultrasound. In fact, very, very few CPCs even have medically trained staff, choosing to rely instead on church volunteers. Many CPCs have been caught in the act of giving out false medical information and acting coercively, all in the name of God and a woman’s traditional role. Some CPCs have deceptive sounding names such as “A Woman’s Choice” and women often find themselves calling what they think is a clinic or an abortion provider only to find that the person on the other end of the line refuses to discuss abortion or contraception unless the woman comes in first, “just to talk”. All of this subterfuge is meant to trick women into visiting the center so that more pressure can be brought to bear.

I visited a Crisis Pregnancy Center as a teenager and found out very quickly that the main focus was evangelizing. I was greeted by what I now know was a volunteer who led me to a private room and had me give a urine sample. She placed the sample on her desk, popped in a drugstore test stick and picked up a heavy bible. She told me she wanted to pass the time by reading scripture to me. I sat and listened politely and then told her I was non-religious. She insisted on praying with me anyway and then read the result of my test – negative. She then asked me if I used contraception and told me that condoms don’t really work and that I was better off just not having sex at all. With that, I was released.

My friend *Katie was not so lucky. Years later she visited the same CPC and her test was positive. Instead of offering support to a pregnant teen, the center pressured her to give the baby up once it was born. Katie was adamant that she wanted to raise the baby herself but the volunteers at the CPC had already pulled out a list of eager couples and continued to pressure her with horror stories of teen parenthood. She was finally able to leave and is now a happy mother.

Not content with simply defunding Planned Parenthood, many conservative states and even the federal government are openly giving taxpayer dollars to Crisis Pregnancy Centers. In fact, in 2010 the Obama administration gave Care Net, one of the largest purveyors of CPCs a “capacity building” grant, despite the fact that the organization is strictly a proselytizing entity which does not provide family planning services and which has an explicit “Christian only” hiring practice.

State and local government give further support to these religious centers by openly endorsing them in ways that seem innocuous to those who don’t know what CPCs do. The Virginia Department of Health lists Crisis Pregnancy Centers in its online publication, A Virginia Guide to Family Planning, Genetics and Social Services while leaving unmentioned any family planning clinics.  The guide even mentions Colonial Heights Baptist Church as a family planning resource!

Government funding of CPCs is clearly a violation of the separation clause of the first amendment. In 2011, I began a campaign to get the Virginia Department of Health to stop endorsing CPCs through its guide and you can get active in your state too. Check out your state and city health departments to see whether they endorse CPCs and start a campaign. You might also want to find out who is teaching sex education in your city’s schools. In some states, sex education teachers are not required to be certified and anyone can volunteer to teach it and many churches see this as a great opportunity to send in one of their own. You can also fight back by using this handy toolkit to document false advertising practices used by CPCs.

Finally, you can get educated. It’s astonishing how many people are unaware of CPCs or don’t realize the intensely religious nature of what goes on behind their doors. Consider hosting a screening of 12th and Delaware in your community to let everyone see firsthand and objectively what CPCs are all about and the damage they do to women’s lives.

*Name has been changed

Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson

Richmond (VA) Clinic Defense

[email protected]


A Man of Faith on Secular Exclusion

by Rogelio Tavera

Member article by Rogelio Tavera, his thoughts as a religious man in the wake of the Boston tragedies and secular people’s exclusion from official mourning and commemoration ceremonies.

Greetings, my siblings in humanity!

As a man of faith, I wish to speak about the painfully obvious exclusion of secular people from the memorial service for the recent boston marathon tragedy.

I am angry that these people, who carry the tax load for religious institutions were excluded. Yet the people who arrange such events don't seem to worry that someone else is carrying our financial load and receive a slap in the face in return.

Secular people, whether they label themselves as humanist, atheist, agnostic, anti-theist, or whatever label with which they identify, carry a moral compass that leads them to do what is right without hope of reward or fear of reprisal for not doing so. They have my utmost respect because I find that concept to be inherently beautiful.

My lord jesucristo, walked the earth with a message of social justice. To exclude a huge segment of society because they do not have need for a belief system is an affront to that message of love thy neighbor.

I ask any religious person whose beliefs would lead them to exclude my secular siblings from the grieving process that we, as a society, need to participate in the following questions:

Where is your compassion?

Where is your sense of unity?


If someone's religious beliefs lead them to exclude others from the events and customs in which we as a society find solace because of their lack of a belief system, then those religious beliefs or the interpretation of the person who has them are seriously lacking in love and compassion.

We share one humanity and the exclusion and even outright persecution that secular people receive at the hands of religious people is immoral.

They can no more pretend to themselves that they believe in divine entities than I can pretend to myself that I don't. Nor should any of us have to.

True religious freedom cannot exist only by freedom OF religion; it must also include freedom FROM religion. A just society will reflect this in its laws, its customs, and its acts.

Call to Action: Provide Your Input on Tragedies and Inclusion

As part of a joint effort among national atheist and secular groups, and in partnership with Boston Atheists and the Humanist Community at Harvard, we want to educate public officials about the diversity of their communities in times of tragedy and atheists’ desire and need to be included.
Atheists are hurting from this news as much as anyone else, and part of the grieving process for atheists affected includes things such as representation at the official memorial service and in the community response. When memorial services include exclusively religious language,  atheists who are affected are excluded and shut out from the community.
We are asking you to assist us by writing a short paragraph that includes the following three things:
1) Who you are and whom you represent or speak on behalf of (e.g. Kim Rippere is President of Secular Woman);
2) Why you’re hurt by the exclusion from the memorial;
3) What you would like to see happen as a solution.
Greg Epstein fro the Humanist Community at Harvard is meeting with public officials to discuss this issue and would like to pass on responses from our community’s leaders. We also encourage you to solicit responses from members of your communities (if you run a blog, your readers; if you have a TV show, your viewers, etc) that he can include as well.
Please send your responses by early this week so we can make sure he gets them in time.
IMPORTANT: Please send your responses to [email protected] and encourage your fans/listeners to do the same.

Poll Shows Atheist Leaders’ Open Letter More Acceptable to Men than to Women

Poll Shows Atheist Leaders’ Open Letter More Acceptable to Men than to Women

Corinne Zimmerman, Ph.D.


On April 2, 2013, the leaders of a number of secular organizations released “An Open Letter to the Secular Community.” The Board of Directors at Secular Woman chose not to endorse the letter and we briefly describe our reasons here.  We found out on April 2 the reasons behind American Secular Census’ choice not to endorse this letter either. The president released a statement to explain her decision.


To gauge the initial response of the secular community, the American Secular Census (ASC) conducted a brief opinion poll:


The American Secular Census opened up an anonymous, public poll about twelve hours after publishing Why the American Secular Census didn’t sign ‘An Open Letter to the Secular Community’. The poll remained active for around 54 hours and was linked on that page, on the Secular Census Facebook page, and in the Secular Census Twitter feed. We left further promotion up to viral networking within the secular community, where it received diverse coverage.


The ASC received responses from a non-random, volunteer sample of 170 people. Survey respondents were asked to indicate their gender, and answer two opinion questions after affirming that they had read both the “Open Letter” and the response from ASC explaining the lack of endorsement. A summary of the initial results can be found here.


Secular Woman was interested in examining the pattern of results to the opinion questions based on the gender of the survey respondents. The first opinion question asked about the “Open Letter” itself, and provided four response choices (see Table 1). The pattern of results is consistent with the idea that women were more critical of the letter: Male respondents were more likely to rate the letter as “excellent” or “pretty good,” but female and genderqueer respondents were more likely to say that it is “fair” or has “major problems.”

Table 1

In general, what is your opinion of “An Open Letter to the Secular Community”?

Response Category




Row Total

It’s an excellent letter. I fully support it.







It’s pretty good. I have some reservations, but they’re minor.







It’s a fair letter. It would take some work for me to support it.








It has some major problems. I don’t support it at all.








Column Totals





Note: The percentage of each gender category within response categories is noted in parentheses.  The relationship between the two traditional gender categories and response choices did not reach statistical significance, Χ2 (3, N = 165) = 6.3, p = .09.  The sample of those who identified as genderqueer was too small and thus would not be representative of the population.

The second opinion question asked respondents to indicate whether they believed that the American Secular Census should have endorsed the letter by signing it (see Table 2). Overall, 51% of men, 60% who identify as genderqueer, and 77% of women agreed that ASC not signing the letter was the right decision.  For this question, there is a statistically significant relationship between gender and opinion. Female respondents were more likely to support the decision by the ASC to not sign the letter. Male respondents were more likely to believe that it was a mistake not to sign or were unable to decide.


Table 2

Should the American Secular Census have signed the letter?

Response Category




Row Total

Yes. It was a mistake not to sign the letter.







No. Not signing the letter was the right decision.








I can’t decide.








Column Totals





Note: The percent of each gender category within response categories is noted in parentheses.  There is a significant relationship between the two traditional gender categories and response choices, Χ2 (2, N = 165) = 11.8, p = .003. The sample of those who identified as genderqueer was too small and thus would not be representative of the population.


Dr. Corinne Zimmerman is a Professor of Psychology at Illinois State University. Her research interests focus on cognitive development, with a particular emphasis on the development of scientific thinking skills and scientific literacy. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Developmental Review, International Journal of Science Education, Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology, Memory & Cognition, Public Understanding of Science, Sex Roles, and Science.

These data and related analyses represent an ongoing strategic partnership between Secular Woman and the American Secular Census.


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A Message of Support for Greta Christina from a Secular Woman Member

[Editor's Note: Since submission of this member article, Greta Christina has had her surgery and is now recovering at home. Visit her blog for updates.]

Greetings, my siblings in humanity!

This past week, the secular community was sent reeling with the bad news that a voice of reason and promoter of social justice, Greta Christina, had been diagnosed with stage one endometrial cancer.

I am a licensed home health LPN with certifications in geriatrics and brain and spinal cord injuries, having gotten my education through a program with the University of North Florida. While I do not specialize in women's health or cancer, I do have some experience with these issues. I have been a healthcare provider off and on all of my adult life, caring for (and far too often burying) loved ones with HIV-related illnesses, when many members of the medical community, as well as a number of religious people and entities, turned them away to fend for themselves. I have also cared for sick friends and relatives dealing with chronic and/or debilitating illnesses and conditions.

I guess we all have our place in life and this is mine.

The very word "cancer" is like a jolt to the system and it is natural for the first emotion to be fear. Greta's revelation of her cancer was for me yet another reminder of the necessity for increased emphasis on women's health care. Something that is important to remember is that every cancer victim's situation is as unique as he or she is as a person. The cancer Greta has, stage one endometrial cancer, is the most common form of uterine cancer.

While we know that certain substances are carcinogenic in nature, or that certain lifestyles make someone more prone to cancer, it is often not possible to pinpoint the exact cause of cancer in a person, as it might be a combination of factors. We also all know of someone who rationalizes unhealthy elements by having had a relative who smoked three packs a day, drank bourbon for breakfast, and never ate a food that wasn't deep-fried, but managed to live to be 120 years old, and even then was perfectly healthy, but died after being hit by a bus.

Despite that uncertainty of the cause, there seems to be a link between endometrial cancer and increased levels of estrogen. Estrogen replacement without the use of progesterone is believed to increase the rate of this type of cancer. Cancer is basically the uncontrolled growth of cells in a certain part of the body, and high levels of estrogen have been shown to increase the growth of the uterine lining to the point that cancer can develop. Endometrial cancer can also stem from genetic or environmental factors.

But what matters most is her course for treatment. Greta's situation is actually quite optimistic. While nothing is certain until after her surgery, her oncologist seems to believe that the cancer was diagnosed quite early and will require only a hysterectomy to remove all cancer from her body. While the survival rate for later stages of this type of cancer can be dismal, for early detection and treatment of endometrial cancer, the survival rate is an incredible 95%! So we have no reason not to believe that we will have Greta with us for a long time, encouraging and inspiring us in our quest for social justice.

In the meantime, there are a number of things that others can do to help. In Greta's entry where she bravely shared the health crisis that she faces, on top of grieving for the father that she recently lost, she spoke of financial concerns. She asked for donations at this link:  She also suggested that we buy her book to help.

Well, the showering of love by the secular community for this beloved lady was beyond her wildest dreams. She now asks that if anyone wishes to make a donation, we could send one to causes that are close to her heart: and  Even in the midst of personal trial, this woman is so gracious as to think of others besides herself.

In my own experience, something I have seen is the importance of a positive mental attitude. A positive mental attitude not only leads a patient to live a healthy lifestyle if they are not already, but it increases the quality of life immensely. I would like to remind everyone that we should not only focus our efforts on Greta, but also on her wife, Ingrid. When one's spouse is facing a health crisis, the feelings of frustration and helplessness can often be overwhelming. Ingrid is also in need of love and support.

This will be a challenging time for them both, but in later years, as they look back, they will see that this trial sterengthened their marriage.

In closing, Greta and Ingrid, if you read this, please know that just as you are united in a marriage, you are united with the secular community. You are not alone.

We at Secular Woman are with you, and we will love and honor you in sickness and in health.

Love and peace to you both.

– Rogelio Tavera is a Secular Woman member and a licensed nurse.