PROJECTION: It’s Not Just For Movies.

[CONTENT NOTE: f*-bombs.]

I have long been interested in subverting the U.S. conservative movement, which I am certain is the root of all evil despite what you may have heard elsewhere. If you are not convinced of this proposition, consider for a moment precisely what it is that conservatives wish to conserve: a status quo that is violently racist and sexist, patriarchal and heteronormative, ubercapitalist and imperialist, ableist and classist, Christian supremacist and anti-intellectual, sadistically punitive and social-Darwinist—I could go on (and on and on).

What the fuck. Two sentences in, and I've already bummed everyone out. :

But it's not all bad news! Having dedicated much of my adult life to the study of conservatives in the wild (and not coincidentally, much of my childhood to navigating those worlds to survive), I am here to provide you with practical tips that can save you a whole lot of time you would otherwise spend scratching your head in dumfounded bewilderment. The most important thing to know about conservatism is this: there is nothing new in any of it. Not one single thing. I have pored over tracts by Buckley, Schlafly, Will, Friedman, Rand, Coulter, Kristol and Krauthammer; I have listened to Limbaugh and watched Fox News; I have read The Wall Street Journal editorial page and countless right-wing blogs. And I have satisfied myself beyond any doubt that it always—always—boils down to a comically grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about panty-sniffing Catholic bishops or reckless Wall Street traders, the entire "intellectual" basis of conservatism can be summed up thusly: “I’ve got mine, Jack. Fuck you. And especially, fuck them.”

Naturally this point of view leads conservative minds to spin increasingly bizarre rationalizations for their own privilege, and corresponding justifications for oppressing others. One of the more common manifestations of this phenomenon is psychological projection. Projection is a theory in psychology whereby people avoid acknowledging dissonant thoughts and unsavory impulses in themselves by attributing them to others. Everyone is prone to this, especially in times of crisis. But right-wing conservatives deploy it to such an extreme degree and with such a total lack of self-awareness that it borders on comic farce. Allow me to illustrate.

So, some conservative Christians made a terrible movie based on a silly chain email endlessly promoted by a bunch of Liars 4 Jeezus™. (Here's the trailer, if you're a masochist.) Of course I have no intention of seeing this film. (See: nothing new in any of it.) Happily, it turns out we don't have to see it because some d00d named Neil Carter did and wrote about the film's egregious characterizations of atheists. For example:

Atheist professors are predatory, and they are out to convert everyone into ideological clones of themselves. Clearly the concept of people committed to “freethought” and “liberal arts” is utterly foreign to the writers of this flick. Ironically, while no secular university I’ve ever heard of would hesitate to fire a professor who demands a signed renunciation of religion from his students, I have heard of Christian schools which demand written statements of belief from both their students and faculty. In real life only one of these two cultures threatens people with everlasting torment for not believing the right things, and it’s not the group being caricatured in the movie.

Christian colleges require sworn statements of faith from their students, under threat of eternal torture in the next life [sic] and expulsion in this one. So, the filmmakers conjure up a villainous atheist professor who demands Christian students renounce their beliefs under penalty of failing his class. (Okay, strictly speaking they didn't conjure him up. They heard about him from an awesome email.) Except that such a professor is complete fiction. Pure projection.

See? Lets try another:

Atheists are cocky, self-sure, and totally enamored with their own superiority.

Reminder: the entire point of this movie is to illustrate the superiority of Christians.

Projection: it's what's for dinner.

Atheists will openly threaten you, bow up, get in your face, stare you down, and even chase you down a hallway and grab you to force you to listen to their angry diatribes because your faith makes them so angry!

We don't have to imagine this is what some Christians would like to do to non-believers: they already do it—and worse. [TW: extreme bullying, violence, rape and death threats, animal cruelty.] Project much?

Atheists are clearly incapable of love. If you’re hurting or sick they’ll abandon you.

Translation: "I'd be a horrible person if not for…Jeezus nagging me not to be."

Atheists lack ethical boundaries, so they’ll date students against virtually every university’s rules.

But not Christians. Never happens. Got projection?

Atheists have no basis for morality…If there’s no God, then there can’t be any good reason to follow rules or be honest or do anything moral.

Translation: "The reason I'm not a murderous, thieving rapist is because of an invisible Sky Daddy.” Okay, player. Stay away from me.

Obviously, none of this paints conservative Christians in a positive light. And it’s all pretty amusing, if you don’t think too much about the consequences for their children. But there is a frightening aspect, too. For example, if the religious right fears Obama coming to put them all in FEMA camps for their beliefs, consider what that might mean if (when?) they obtain such power for themselves. Even now, while we laugh at their ridiculous claims of persecution, conservative Christians are busy enacting religion-based laws that harm, oppress and yes, persecute their fellow citizens.

Atheist Media Day Hosted by Arizona Congressional Candidate

Seráh Blain, Director of Communications

James Woods for Congress, 848 N Golden Key Street, Gilbert, AZ 85233 · (602) 505-0892 · [email protected]

Contact: Seráh Blain (above)

Atheist Media Day Hosted by Arizona Congressional Candidate

(April 27, 2014) Gilbert, Ariz. – As part of his effort to reach out to underrepresented groups, particularly those who are viewed as politically risky to support, congressional candidate James Woods is hosting an Atheist Media Day today. Woods, who is running for the US Congress in Arizona’s Congressional District 5, is an atheist himself and believes a healthy democracy needs to include all voices. Woods believes the political system in the United States cuts too many people out of the process.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about people who don’t believe in God,” said Woods. “Because of the negative stigma, lawmakers aren’t seeking out atheist constituents and asking how we want to be represented. They’re afraid of the political fallout. But how can you make sure government is serving all Americans if you don’t allow marginalized groups of people to talk about what they need?”

According to the Pew Research Center, one in five Americans—and a third of adults under 30— is agnostic, atheist or not affiliated with any religion. By large margins they view religious organizations as too concerned with money and power and too involved in politics. Despite these numbers, Woods says elected officials spend a lot of time meeting with religious and interfaith groups but are avoiding atheist groups.

Woods reached out to a number of nontheistic reporters and organization heads to set up interviews and make himself available to members of the secular community. He hopes that media directed to secular Americans on Atheist Media Day will help that community feel heard—and that people unfamiliar with atheism will learn that the atheists do not fit the stereotypes typically assigned them.

Leaders in the secular movement are expressing support for the outreach effort. “I was really excited to hear about James Woods deciding to reach out to atheists, humanists, agnostics and other nontheistic people,” said John Figdor, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School who is currently serving as the Humanist Chaplain at Stanford. “Our voice is often unheard, despite the fact that 32% of people identify as nonreligious.”

Arizona State Representative Juan Mendez, who made national headlines last year when he opened the legislature with an atheist invocation rather than a prayer, applauded Woods as well. “People around the country feel cut out of politics and social justice work because they don’t see their values articulated by their representatives,” Mendez said. “When James talks honestly about his Humanism, it provides a kind of representation people have been hungry for. We need more inspiring and honest leaders like him.”

Woods says he is planning similar events for other constituents who are overlooked by lawmakers. “I’ve been listening to people with disabilities, people from the transgender community and people whose immigration status is undocumented. They feel ignored, and that needs to change.”

# # #

SecularWoman Logo

Rending the Tent: A Statement from the Secular Woman Community

SecularWoman Logo

**UPDATED 2014-03-18 8:25 AM**

The Secular Woman Board of Directors and larger community hold a woman’s bodily autonomy to be out of bounds for debate, negotiation, or compromise. We therefore vehemently oppose any action which legitimizes, accommodates, invites, or welcomes anti-choice elements into the secular movement. We reject the argument that free inquiry demands consideration of anti-choice viewpoints. We reject the argument that the quest for diversity and growth in the secular movement means including those who question, deny, or advocate against the reproductive rights of women. We reject these arguments as forcefully as we reject the idea that the humanity of racial, ethnic, gender, or sexual minorities deserves closer examination by the secular movement.

Entertaining anti-choice arguments delegitimizes women’s humanity and bodily autonomy; which is why we have been disturbed and appalled to witness the President of American Atheists, David Silverman, commenting on the existence of secular anti-choice arguments during an interview at CPAC without providing any context as to the validity of said arguments. After acknowledging the arguments exists he stated that “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.” This statement served to position anti-abortion arguments as legitimate contenders alongside social justice arguments for marriage equality, etc.

Vision Statement: Secular Woman envisions a future in which women without supernatural beliefs have the opportunities and resources they need to participate openly and confidently as respected voices of leadership in the secular community and every aspect of society.

This resulted in reasonable and justifiable disagreement, backlash, and explanations by other atheists of why this statement dehumanizes women. Almost immediately after Silverman’s comment and the resulting push-back, JT Eberhard published a defense of Silverman and then Hemant Mehta* of the Friendly Atheist published a piece by Kristine Kruszelnicki of Pro-Life Humanists without any redress from Mehta.

At this point, the President of Secular Woman, Kim Rippere, reached out to Mehta to see if he would interview her to give his readers the viewpoint that secular pro-choice is pro-life.  We were stunned at his response. While he supports abortion rights, Hemant said, he is not interested in doing an interview or providing a balanced viewpoint to his readers. He condescendingly suggested that he could put us in touch with his guest blogger directly, and that she would be “eager to have the debate.” Our assertion remains that basic human rights of women are not up for debate!

Value: We support every person’s right to bodily and sexual autonomy. Gender expression, sexual orientation, and matters of intimacy are for individuals to determine.

We at Secular Woman have no interest in debating and arguing about a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions. Our stance is clear: abortions should be safe, legal, accessible, and shame free. Spending our energy debating with 13 people about women’s bodily sovereignty is wasteful; instead we will put our energies toward education, advocacy, and breaking down barriers to care.

In light of our recent exchange, it bears remembering that Mehta was also unenthusiastic about the launch of our reproductive rights project, @AbortTheocracy. When the project launched, he wrote that the image was too strong, worrying that our critics would see it as a baby-killing party.

Value: We oppose all attempts to criminalize or limit access to comprehensive reproductive services such as contraception and abortion.

While it is not our contention that either Mehta or Silverman are personally anti-choice (indeed Silverman announced clearly his pro-choice position in a blog comment), this exchange between Mehta and Silverman’s comments on abortion makes obvious that at least some atheists are unclear on why entertaining women’s rights as an issue that can be up for debate alienates and harms women while simultaneously giving fodder to those who advocate denying women basic human rights.

We are left incredulous at the failure to understand, at the complete lack of repudiation of the oppressive stance their comments and actions validate, and the disconnect between these men’s personal pro-choice stance and their words and resulting behaviors. What seems to be lost on Silverman, Mehta and others is that debating women’s humanity is not an academic exercise because our right to bodily autonomy is far from settled, legally or socially.

Overall, we are exceedingly disappointed with the recent talk surrounding women’s rights in the atheist and secular communities.  Atheism is already struggling with anti-feminism and atheist leaders and writers uncritically giving voice to anti-choice views will serve to further push women to the fringes of the movement – if they even bother to join at all.

During a time when women’s rights are being viciously attacked by conservatives (especially religious conservatives) at the state and federal level, it is appalling to see that leaders of atheists organizations are reaching out to those who reject women’s right to bodily autonomy and appear willing to use women as a bargaining chip to advance the atheist movement’s growth and support the so-called big tent. Big tents have their limits! A tent that includes people who reject basic bodily autonomy for over half the population is not big enough to include anyone else who values human rights. We agree that the atheist movement should be big enough to embrace different viewpoints but we draw the line at viewpoints that reject the humanity of women.


*On March18, 2014 Kim Rippere received this from Hemant:

Hi, Kim — I just saw your post on Secular Woman (…oman-community/) and I realized there was a complete miscommunication on my end regarding your email.

When I read your initial email to me, I understood it to mean that Secular Woman wanted to interview *me* about *my* views on the pro-choice side and the right to choose. I said no because I didn’t feel like my positions on those issues needed any clarification (I’m strongly pro-choice) — and that’s why I suggested you interview Kristine instead.

Reading your post and re-reading your emails, I realize you were requesting that I interview YOU about those issues, to provide the opposing perspective to Kristine’s piece. (That also makes your subsequent email to me make a little more sense.)

1) My apologies for misunderstanding what you were requesting. Had I understood correctly, my answers would’ve been different.

2) I would be happy to provide you (or a member of your group) a forum on my site if you were up for writing a response. But what I’d be interested in posting is A) a rebuttal to the specific things Kristine wrote about and B) the facts/data behind why being pro-choice makes sense. As with all posts on my site, I’ll work with the writer with edits.

3) Given this misunderstanding, I hope you can clarify your post to reflect that — and not state that I rejected a pro-choice perspective on my site. That was never my intention.

Please let me know that you got this? Thanks.

FtBCon2: Secular Woman Track

Secular Woman's track at FtBCon 2 focused on sexual harassment laws, STEM, 2013 trends, women of color and social justice, and homeschooling.  Below you will find the video for each.

Sexual Harassment Law and You: In the past year anti-harassment policies have become more common at conventions as communities have begun to discuss how harassment can deter guests and ruin the convention experience. But how do these privately adopted policies mesh with America’s public anti-harassment laws? Ken White, attorney and legal blogger, will outline how American anti-harassment laws work, how convention policies supplement them, and how best practices can make them more effective.  There is also a related quiz.

Women in STEM:  Join a group of women working in the fields of science and technology as they discuss issues relevant to being a woman in STEM, how their atheism intersects with their science.


Trends in 2013:  Kim Rippere, Julia Burke, Elsa Roberts, and MA Melby will discuss trends and developments in 2013 at the intersection of social justice, feminism, and equality in the secular movement and beyond.


Social Justice and Young Women of Color:  Kim Veal (of the Black Freethinkers) will join Raina Rhoades (of Rhoades to Reality) to host a panel on the issues social justice and young women of color. They will be joined by Noa Jones and Georgina Capetillo. They’ll be discussing the topic and taking questions from viewers.

Religion and  Homeschooling:  A free flowing discussion about homeschooling, religion, and gender. Reprising the discussion from the 3rd Annual International Day of Protest Against Hereditary Religion.


Awe and Wonder and Oprah

In an interview with atheist distance swimmer Diana Nyad this week, Oprah claimed that atheists must not be able to feel a sense of awe and wonder. During the interview Nyad remarked, “I can stand at the beach’s edge with the most devout Christian, Jew, Buddhist, go on down the line, and weep with the beauty of this universe and be moved by all of humanity — all the billions of people who have lived before us, who have loved and hurt… So to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.”

Oprah responded, “Well, I don’t call you an atheist then. I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery that that is what God is. That is what God is. It’s not a bearded guy in the sky.”

While Oprah almost certainly meant to try to find common ground, she did something far too many religious individuals do without thinking: rather than actually seeking common ground (“we both feel a sense of awe and wonder, and attribute it to different things”), she forced atheists into her own religious paradigm. Atheists experience awe and wonder just like the religious do; we just don’t ascribe supernatural causes to what we observe. We marvel at science, and technology, and the human spirit, celebrating the many wonders of the world and its people, and grieving the many tragedies. We are humbled by the universe and our small place in it. And we value the one life we have on this planet, and we try to make it matter.

In response to Oprah’s comments, we asked our members and followers what gives them a sense of awe and wonder. We got some pretty awesome and wonderful responses, and we thought we’d share them. And check out SW member Heina Dadabhoy’s beautiful response on Skepchick too!

Space and the whole cosmic accident of our existence. – Carolee S.

Love has always left me in awe. The love I have felt from and for people, family and friends. – Charl L.

The beauty in nature. My son. Pizza is pretty awesome. – Katie W.

Sunrises/sunsets. Moon shadows. – Pat B.

A clear night sky, the smell of a baby, love. – Martha B.

My ability to create life and give birth. – Maureen O.

I AM in awe of Oprah's vicious delusional ignorance. – Elizabeth L.

How far away the nearest star is to Earth, and how long it would take to get there? – Josh H.

I'm in awe of the strength of children who grow up in foster care and –– even being three years from aging out of the system –– keep the hope that a family will choose THEM to love forever. – Melissa D.

OUTER SPACE, cadbury cream eggs, Tens units, consciousness, gymnasts, internal combustion engines, kittens, pineapple rum, my boyfriend looks like Thor, the fact that I'm still told I'm immoral because of my atheism (despite much evidence to the contrary). – Erin W.

Empathy. Intelligence in other species. Pretty much the entire universe. – Neffie M.

Galaxies. – Jaime Goswith

Negative awe….that I had a son and that cancer took him away. Positive awe….every time I go hiking. – Tamara M.

I am awed by the knowledge that I (and all things, really) are, ultimately, stardust. I think Oprah needs to read "The Universe Is A Green Dragon" by Brian Swimme. – Tracie H.

Chemistry and geology. A clear sky. A stormy sky. The unique personality of my cats. Depth of time, blood, the limitations and violence we impose on ourselves despite our intelligence, I could keep going. And not one plank of that would be supernatural. – Jen N.

Sunrises / Sunsets. They are everything! – Jeannie S.

Breath and consciousness! – Dana T.

How beautiful and athletic my daughter is and how beautiful and incredibly brilliant my son is. – Jessica S.

I feel awe about the power of humanity to do good works and work together. I feel awe when I look at nature and into the sky. I am awed by the power and findings and understanding that science has brought to our lives. I am awed by the possibilities for the future. – Kim R.

Nature. – Coreen G

The geology of the earth and the slow, implacable movements it makes that form the most amazing and beautiful mountains, rivers and plains. – Kelly L.

The stars at night when away from city lights. – Daryl C.

The strength and determination of the human spirit. – Michelle O.

Everything from a small lizard on my window eating insects to those galactic clusters… to the very fact that we now have the world's information in our pockets. – Rod E.

Yes, I don't believe in a creator or that all of the universe was created for us in some grand experiment of how we would conduct our lives. But that far from means that I have no awe and amazement in my life. In fact, my world and my love of humanity became especially technicolor the day I realized how utterly random and miraculous our very existence as a species is. Yes, it's difficult to deal with the fact that we are aging and everyone we know and love will die. But facing that fact head on gives me such a raw appreciation of each day on this earth, that I was one of the lucky ones, that I got a chance at this brief life, to be aware of this wonderful world and be glad that I was a part of a species that had evolved to the point that we could reflect on our own mortality. I will never trivialize the meaning of death by pretending it's anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we are alive and we are together is miraculous. And it makes me want to celebrate it every day. – Melinda N.

The beauty of the natural world. Looking into a non-human animal's face and seeing intelligence, curiosity, and trust. When I think about where we came from, and all the tiny steps we took over 3+ billion years to get here. – Rachel S.

Science. – Anna C.

Brain function!!! – Juliana K.

Biology. Being pregnant was pretty awesome. – Sara L.

Science. All of it! – @chelsnatx

How the universe is infinitely large. – @amadrianson

My beautiful children. That I made. – @MagHag

I am always awed by the cosmos and all its complexity as well as the lush diversity of Earth's flora & fauna. – @gevalien

The human brain. – @_ToParisAndBack

The vastness of the universe, and how small and lucky I am to experience it. – @birdgehrl

The human capacity to empathize with others and work toward a more just world. – @elsalroberts

The complexity, diversity, beauty, & weirdness of nature. And the amount of happiness a dog can exude. – @SassAndScience

The complexity created by simple things like wind, water, sun, and a few atoms of carbon. #atheist #wonder #awe – @SallyStrange

Everyday acts of reciprocity, empathy, and mutualism. – @WRKWR

I feel awe at the vast,complex system that our universe is. Even more,I feel awe at our own puny existence. – @McHappyBoxers

I visited Pike's Peak today. Those Rocky Mountains can cause a rather large amount of #awe. – @nicoleintrovert

My own existence; that I'm able to experience and understand the world around me. Afterlife cheapens life, imo. Oh, and taxonomy. And arthropods. Because seriously. #atheist – @loopnotdefined

The Fibonacci sequence. – @ExPedeHerculem

The human capacity for forgiveness, compassion, and yes, ignorance – @goldenthis

The music of Michael Jackson. – @StellaTex

Impressionist paintings. Baroque period music. I cry at a well done opera because of the splendor of the music. – @cultofthepug

I'm always in awe that everything that we are comes from exploded stars #Secular #atheism – @annaigaw

 I feel awe for seedlings as they gradually push their way up thru the soil. And I feel awe for the steady rhythm of waves washing upon the beach, then drifting back out. – @mztress_isis

I used to skydive, and that feeling of weightlessness combined with the miles of view all around you is amazing. For a borderline claustrophobic, it's like nothing else on earth. Pure triple-distilled awesome. – Jenny Walker-Liddell

You're not a bad atheist, or theist, or human, if you don't feel awe. Your response to the universe is as valid as anyone else's. – Marc David Barnhill

Like Voldemort To Wizards: How Christian Homeschooling Made Me A Sex Ed Advocate

Like Voldemort To Wizards: How Christian Homeschooling Made Me A Sex Ed Advocate
By R.L. Stollar, co-founder of Homeschoolers Anonymous

I learned about sex because of a Boy Scout merit badge.

My older brother and I were on the way to a Boy Scouts meeting. My dad was nervous the whole time, seeming to stall until the last moment. I am not sure if this conversation would have ever happened naturally. But it did happen, if it only happened because it had to.

My brother and I were working to get our Family Life merit badge in Boy Scouts. Part of earning that badge was learning about sex. Someone had to give us "The Talk," and — since our Boy Scout troop was a primarily Christian homeschool troop — that responsibility fell on our father. To learn about sex from anyone other than one's parents was a cardinal sin in my Christian homeschool culture.

Most of the drive was awkward, because we knew we were about to get The Talk. I do not think The Talk necessarily has to be awkward, but it was for our dad. You could feel it in the air. As a result, The Talk really materialized on the 15-minute drive. Never, that is, until we pulled into the parking lot of the rundown Baptist church where our troop met. Then it was do or die time, and my dad gave us a quick summary of lovemarriagepenisvaginababy. Boom.

That was the extent of my Christian homeschool sex education growing up. It lasted less than five minutes.

I grew up in an almost alternate universe, where courtship methods of the Victorian era were popular and no one spoke of sex except in hushed or negative tones. Sex to Christian homeschoolers was like Voldemort to wizards — That Which Shall Not Be Named. I attended "purity" seminars at which homeschool celebrities like Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye, urged audiences of horny teenagers to focus on God and flee that nebulous human demon called Lust.

In that universe, "abstinence only" was not an abstract concept but a concrete reality. I never learned about condoms, or how to use them. I never learned about STDs. As a male, I never learned about menstruation. That was a taboo topic; my parents referred to it as "that time of month" and all I knew was that it was something embarrassing and icky that only women talk about and men just need to know to avoid women during that time.

When I hear people arguing for abstinence-only education these days I cringe. I want to shout at the top of my lungs, "You don't really want that!" I know what that education looks like because that is the education I received. It was a sham to even call it "education." It was rather an absence of education. The so-called "abstinence" was an abstinence of knowledge about biology and empowerment about consent.

It did not help me in even a single way.

It did not discourage me from eventually having premarital sex. All it did was make me utterly ignorant of the reality of sex. It did not keep me from so-called sexual immorality. It made me incapable of acknowledging and processing my own experience of sexual abuse as a child.

As I have grown older, and both shared my story as well as heard other stories of former homeschool kids, there are so many similarities between our experiences. Sex felt like something dirty and secretive and repressed up until one's wedding day, and then magically it was supposed transform into something holy and beautiful and celebrated. Sex was something only men wanted, that was given by women in exchange for love. (I am aware now, too, that this harmful stereotype transcends Christianity and homeschooling.) Men were incapable of controlling their physical desires, always on the brink of the sexual sin of lust. So much so, that women had to carefully don the most modest of clothing to avoid causing men to "stumble." Men were also only attracted to women and women to men, thereby precluding any conversation about the existence of LGBT* individuals.

And foremost of all: sex education, that insidious tool of the evil secularists and humanists, was a weapon of Satan. It was described in classic misogynistic terms: a "temptress," a "whore of Babylon," hired by the Prince of Darkness to lead public schoolers astray. Us homeschoolers, God bless us, we were spared that temptation, as our parents took it upon themselves to raise us righteously, without sex education and its spurious ways.

But dreams run red lights and crash into the curbs of reality awfully hard.

As I hear more and more from former homeschoolers, I hear the same things I myself experienced: that what we were "spared from," what we were "blessed" to avoid, could have really helped us. No matter how hard our parents tried to keep us unstained from "the world," the world happened. We grew up. We made mistakes, got drunk, did drugs, made out, had sex; some of us were sexually abused and raped — all the things that happen outside of Christian homeschooling, too. The only difference is we had zero tools to process those things.

It is because of my very experience as a Christian homeschool kid that I am an advocate for comprehensive sex education.

I believe in comprehensive sex education because all people have the right to be empowered. I believe in comprehensive sex education because it is vitally important to know your body, respect your body and other people's bodies, and understand how to stand up against those people who both want you ignorant of your body and aim to disrespect your body.

Depriving children of that knowledge, for whatever ridiculous religious reasons, is nothing less than educational abuse. It is not pleasing to God or god or anything that is allegedly holy. Ignorance is a unholy prison. Forced ignorance is one of the most soul-crushing experiences one can have.

Children need to be educated about their bodies because that is how children learn how to respect and love them and each other's.

Children need to be educated about sexuality because sexuality is a fundamentally important part of being human.

Children need to be educated about consent because rape and sexual abuse happen in every community and every culture and you are living in a daydream if you think it will not happen in yours.

The more I learn about the universality of body-shaming, rape culture, and abuse, and the more I hear about how these things happen every day in Christian churches and conservative homeschooling communities, the more I see why sex ed is an absolute must. When we are afraid of sexuality, when we are afraid to talk bluntly and honestly and openly about our bodies and our emotions, we are giving power to those who want to take advantage of our ignorance and our silence. When we are blinded by our ideologies and unwilling to see every human being as worthy of respect and safety, we are giving power to those people advancing shame and bigotry. When we are afraid to name That Which Shall Not Be Named and speak about it plainly, we are only adding to the power of those in our communities — homeschooling, Christian, secular, and otherwise — who will abuse it.

I wish I knew about sex from something other than abuse. But my parents and my homeschooling community could not have changed that, no matter how much they wish they could.

Yet I also wish I knew how to talk about sex from something other than a Boy Scout merit badge. And that is something that my parents and my community could have done differently.

I have spent the last decade catching up on what I missed, on the lessons I never learned. It can be an awfully embarrassing process, but it is a necessary one.

About the Author:
R.L. Stollar is co-founder and Community Coordinator at Homeschoolers Anonymous, a cooperative online project by former homeschoolers. He is also a founding board member of Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving homeschooling communities for future generations by educating homeschooling families about mental health and child abuse. Ryan was homeschooled from preschool through high school. He spent his high school years as a speech and debate competitor in the HSLDA-created National Christian Forensics and Communications Association and was one of the original student leaders for Communicators for Christ, now the Institute for Cultural Communicators. Through high school and college, he taught speech and debate to thousands of homeschool students across the nation with CFC conferences, a HSLDA National Leadership Retreat, Cedarville University, the University of Oregon, and elsewhere. He has a B.A. in Western philosophy and literature from Gutenberg College in Oregon and a M.A. in Eastern religions from St. John’s College in New Mexico. Ryan is the former volunteer News Editor of Eugene Daily News, a hyperlocal community news source in Oregon.

God(s) and the null hypothesis

God(s) and the Null Hypothesis
By Dr. Kristi Winters

 ‘So why don’t you believe in god?’

‘Because I accept the null hypothesis,’ is the reply I would like to give, but that might sound like a non sequitur. Yet the null hypothesis is the perfect starting point to investigate the existence of pretty much anything. It assumes that there is no relationship between x and y. An alternative hypothesis would posit that a relationship between x and y exists. Evidence is reviewed and we determine whether it is sufficient to allow us to reject the null hypothesis and accept the alternative.

Why is the null hypothesis so important? It keeps us intellectually honest.

Human beings are amazing, we really are. We have the innate ability to make observations of the world and connect different events together in ways that provide powerful insights and knowledge and can transform human life. In the 1906 Typhoid Mary case, George Soper used science and deduction to reveal the existence of asymptomatic disease carriers, a concept that hadn’t – until that moment in time – existed. In August of 2013, over 100 years later, a study was published that explains the mystery of how people can carry dangerous pathogens but not fall ill from the disease (Huffington Post 2013).

But humans are unreliable amateur scientists because of our natural biases. We have a tendency to think that correlation implies causation (Jaffe 2010) and that particular error produces no end of superstitious beliefs: never stepping on the foul line of a baseball field is an example of a sports superstition (Reuter 2011).

Humans think they intuitively understand probability, but sadly most people don’t realize how at it bad they really are. New York’s stop and frisk policy relies on the idea that associations between race and crime that are found at the geographic level will also be found at the individual level. In other words they assume because areas of higher crime rates also have higher minority populations that by stopping more minorities in those high crime areas they are more likely to find potential criminals. That is what is known as an ecological fallacy.

The resulting evidence even proves it is a fallacy: 2012 stop and frisk statistics show that whites possessed guns and contraband at far higher rates than either blacks or Latinos. The ratio of stops to gun possession was for 1:48 for whites 1:71 for Latinos and 1:93 for African Americans. For contraband whites topped the list at a rate of 1 in 43 stops compared with 1 in 57 for Latinos and 1 in every 61 stops for blacks (TV-Novosti 2013). Yet many people refuse to accept that this ‘logical’ application of aggregate level associations will not be found when you stop individuals, even when the evidence shows it doesn’t appear. Our emotional attachment to our fallacies can cloud our minds even when the empirical evidence is beyond dispute.

This is why people ought to evaluate the existence of gods using the null hypothesis. I mentioned that the null hypothesis is most often used to evaluate causal relationships between phenomena. It can easily be applied to the existence of supernatural beings such as gods. I will provide a null (HO) and alternative hypothesis (HA):

HO: Gods do not exist.

HA: Gods exist.

Simple enough, right? But the atheist’s job is not done there because a theist might want to take up the challenge. The issue, then, is what is to be considered evidence of a god or gods? Two things are important here. The first depends on the definition of ‘god’ the theist gives. I’m not going to engage with the various definitions of god here, I must leave that to the theists rather than attempt to speak for them. I want to focus on the second, what constitutes evidence of existence, and offer some thoughts.

One definition of evidence is ‘the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.’ (Oxford Dictionaries 2013, p. 2) In science all evidence must be observable. Inferences in isolation are not evidence in science. Consider this: science posited the idea of the Higgs-Boson particle in 1964, but that was not sufficient evidence of its existence. That was not confirmed until March of 2013 and it was based on observation. All claims about the universe requiring something supernatural to start it can be thrown out unless are accompanied by observable physical evidence of the supernatural starting the natural universe.

Another criterion is that any claim must apply equally to all those who make it. Theists might point to a holy book as evidence for their god. The problem is that there are many gods written about in many books. If the theists want to introduce a book as evidence of existence then ALL books about gods must also count as evidence of their existence. Science doesn’t allow for special pleading (Curtis, n.d.), so either all human works about gods are in and they are all equally valid, or they are all out.

I would also note that the natural world cannot be evidence of the supernatural. There is no valid reason to accept natural events as evidence of anything other than natural processes because the supernatural, by definition, is not natural. It is as non-natural as one can get. Therefore, pointing to the existence of the human eye is not evidence of the existence of supernatural gods.

Rare events, those that are highly improbable, are not supernatural events either. There are merely highly unlikely. Clearly a highly improbable event cannot be a miracle because we can and do we can estimate the probability of their occurrence. I’ll quote comedian Tim Minchin (2009) who joked about the idea that giving birth identical quadruplet girls – a 1 in 64 million chance event – was a miracle: ‘Things that have a ‘1 in 64 million chance of happening’ happen all the time. To presume that your 1-in-64-million-chance thing is ‘a miracle’ is to significantly underestimate the total number of things that there are.’

After establishing a fair and reasonable basis for what constitutes legitimate evidence of gods what one is left with is a lack of any evidence. Without sufficient evidence to the contrary, we must hold to the null hypothesis: gods do not exist. This is not an emotional decision. I’m not denying or rejecting anything. I’m merely observing the fact that there is no evidence of gods that allow me to accept the alternative hypothesis.

It is what science does every day. And it seems to me if gods really did exist, providing evidence of their existence wouldn’t be so hard.

Online Sources

Curtis, Gary. No date. ‘Special pleading at the Fallacy Files.’ Available online at:

Huffington Post. 2013. 'Typhoid Mary' Mystery May Have Been Solved At Last, Scientists Say.’ Available online at:

Jaffe, Adi. 2010. ‘Correlation, causation, and association – What does it all mean???’ Available online at:

Minchin, Tim. Uploaded 2009. ‘Tim Minchin on Religion.’ Available online at:

Oxford Dictionaries. 2013. ‘Evidence.’ Available online at:

Reuter, Joel. (2011) ‘MLB Power Rankings: The 50 Strangest Superstitions and Rituals in Baseball.’ Available online at:

TV-Novosti. 2013. ‘NYC stop-and-frisk data: Whites more likely to carry weapons and drugs.’

This article was edited on 05 September 2013.

Introducing the LGBTQ Article Series, Recognizing Pride Month

This week Secular Woman will be featuring stories on LGBT people and their experiences with the oppressive forces of religion. Many queer and gender variant people face horrific and relentless discrimination and hatred from their faith (or former faith), and often from their family who practices a faith which rejects them. Part of our vision is a world where secular values celebrate same-sex love and people of all gender identities and expressions.

The stories this week show how far we have to come as a society and the capacity of the secular, atheist, and humanist communities to embrace LGBTQ people and stand with them in their fight for equality and justice. It is our goal to share these stories with the expectation of increasing understanding in the secular community of the challenges gender and sexual minorities face and the importance of continuing to support their struggle for acceptance and equality.

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Moving Our Community Forward

For more information, please contact: 

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727 E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail – See more at:


For more information, please contact:

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727 E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail

After CEO Ron Lindsay’s remarks at Women In Secularism II, Secular Woman released an open letter detailing our objections to much of Dr. Lindsay’s speech, which we also communicated to the board of CFI. We were not alone; many of our membership and readership, as well as several prominent feminist and atheist leaders and writers echoed our sentiments. After several weeks of waiting, the CFI board of directors issued a non-committal response which we were far from satisfied with as it failed to address the concerns detailed by so many. Our response was to wait and see if further action resulted, as we saw how our entire community was fracturing and didn’t want it to become further divided.

So, we were pleased when we saw that Dr. Lindsay had chosen to issue his own apology for his remarks during his opening speech at Women in Secularism II. Apologies, in particular, public apologies are both imperfect and a challenging thing to engage in, but they are vital to healing hurt communities. Dr. Lindsay chose to be authentic in his apology, showing an understanding of the hurt caused and a willingness to listen to us and others who wrote to him with our concerns. We thank Dr. Lindsay for beginning to address our concerns and are hopeful of continued dialogue and understanding.

To further those objectives, we have some practical suggestions for moving forward as individuals and a community. We suggest that Dr. Lindsay and CFI continue to engage social justice on multiple levels, in particular focusing on core issues such as the concepts of privilege and intersectionality in a workshop or seminar; announce and commit to a WIS 3, a conference that women and feminists in the secular community highly value; and join Secular Woman in creating a joint task force focused on inclusion in the secular community.

We’re eager to see CFI grow into a leader in areas around intersectionality and inclusion within our community; developing the Women in Secularism conference was an exciting first step but there is so much more work to be done and so much yet to learn. This is an exciting and momentous time for our movement and CFI, so let’s build on the successes we are just now starting to make as a secular community and as feminists and social justice advocates within our movement.

Show others the path, help them take the first step, and help draw our online and in-real-life community together.



Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit:

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Statement of Objection to Center for Inquiry CEO Ron Lindsay’s Actions Regarding Feminism


For more information, please contact:

Kim Rippere, Secular Woman President: 404.669.6727 E-mail

Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman Vice President: 906.281.0384 E-mail

The Secular Woman Board of Directors, in consultation with our most active members and supporters, regrets having to express our organization’s deep concern over recent public statements from Dr. Ron Lindsay, Center for Inquiry (CFI) CEO, during and following that organization’s Women in Secularism (WiS) conference this past weekend.

Secular Woman promoted the WiS event heavily with our membership for months. During this period we raised $2190 that enabled seven women, relatively new to the secular movement, to experience an event they would not otherwise have had the means to attend. Based on member feedback, we estimate that another 25 of the reported 300 WiS attendees were at the conference because of Secular Woman’s encouragement.  Additionally, 57% of our Board of Directors was present.

Through Secular Woman’s @AbortTheocracy campaign, thousands of our fans, followers and members have been made aware of CFI’s efforts in the area of reproductive rights. In fact, CFI is the only organization to have taken advantage of this service announced to secular leaders on an internal list-serv for leaders in the secular movement.

Given our support and the aims of WiS, we find it stunningly unacceptable that Dr. Lindsay chose to greet our members, our Board, and other attendees with his personal, ill-formed criticisms of feminism rather than welcoming us all to the conference we had promoted and paid to attend. Worse, he instead chose to personally welcome a man who has harassed and antagonized many of the speakers scheduled for the weekend, and who now has an interview about the conference on the front page of the website of A Voice for Men, which is monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their misogynistic content.

We are incredulous that in a conference about women in the secular movement Dr. Lindsay was completely silent about the threats, harassment, and stalking that many atheist women have experienced at the hands of other atheists. Additionally, we are truly appalled by the tone and content of his blog post, “Watson’s World and Two Models of Communication,” in which he bizarrely compares Rebecca Watson’s writings to missives from North Korea, misuses a Secular Woman statement to his own purposes, and claims that those who are active feminists cannot be real reason-and-evidence based secularists.

Not having seen an apology, retraction, or other followup to these official communications, we are forced to arrive at several conclusions:

  • that Dr. Lindsay’s actions are endorsed by the CFI Board of Directors as consistent with its mission and expectations of leadership

  • that CFI supports ad hominem attacks on individuals who disagree with CFI staff

  • that CFI is content with its limited diversity and doesn’t value the support of Secular Woman or our thousands of members and supporters

  • that Dr. Lindsay’s, and by extension CFI’s, endorsement of the Open Letter, which Dr. Lindsay’s blog violates in every way it could, was a sham

As a result of Dr. Lindsay’s actions, the past year’s conflicts have been further enflamed, continuing to alienate the demographic showing most growth potential within the secular community – women – not just from CFI, but from the secular movement. Secular Woman is hopeful that Dr. Lindsay and/or the CFI Board of Directors will offer a formal, complete, and deserved apology and retraction to Secular Woman and secular women and feminists* regarding his “welcome” statement and later blog comments. We trust that Dr. Lindsay and the CFI Board will now, and in the future, actively demonstrate their intolerance of all who harass, threaten, bully, and work to silence women and feminists. Finally, Secular Woman seeks open and honest in-person dialogue regarding women, feminism, and the secular community with the CFI Board of Directors.


Secular Woman is an educational non-profit organization whose mission is to amplify the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women. For more information about Secular Woman visit:

*Note: statement has been edited to remove “all” in reference to secular women and feminists deserving an apology. All women do not want an apology. The statement was intended to reference secular women and feminists in a general sense, not to imply that literally all women were in agreement on this issue.