SecularWoman LogoRecently Michael Nugent’s organization, Atheist Ireland, issued a statement formally disassociating from PZ Myers, alleging hateful and abusive rhetoric. This led to others supporting this statement to varying degrees (such as Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist, Ron Lindsay of CFI, and the Secular Policy Institute). The concept of formally disassociating from a person one has no formal ties with seems unusual to us, and we have no desire to take an official stand regarding what appears to be an extremely belabored personal disagreement regarding tone. We encourage others, in the spirit of fairness, to read Myers’ statements in their original context to independently assess Atheist Ireland’s claims.

However, one issue that has surfaced during this dispute demands our attention due to our understanding of events. Our stated values make it clear that we stand with survivors of sexual assault and those who believe and support them. We choose not to associate with those who align themselves with abusers rather than victims:

We affirm that everyone has the right to feel safe, confident, and secure in their personal and emotional interactions.

We oppose harassment, bullying, objectification, and other forms of aggression both physical and nonphysical in all settings.

We strongly assert that people in positions of authority within any community or organization should not attempt to dictate to victims of sexual assault and rape how or where they are allowed to share accounts of those experiences.

Although we take Michael Nugent at his word that this is not his intent, he has contributed to an environment that encourages victims of rape and sexual assault to remain silent. By insisting that PZ Myers was irresponsible for helping a woman publicly disclose that she had been raped by Michael Shermer, a disclosure that has subsequently uncovered a pattern of inappropriate behavior, Nugent appears to be focusing on making judgments concerning the victim and her choices, as if she is the problem to be solved.

Nugent has written post after post concerning his disagreement with PZ Myers, repudiating Myers as being “hateful”, and encouraging Atheist Ireland to disassociate from Myers. Nugent, however, appears to have spent little or no effort to visit such harsh judgments on those who have continued to obsessively ridicule and harass specific targets within the atheist and skeptic communities for years.

This is an extension of a systemic problem, by no means limited to the words of Michael Nugent, which has become brutally apparent within the atheist and skeptic communities in recent years. Women who speak about assault, sexism, or simply assert their own personal boundaries have been targeted by hate campaigns [tw] while a sobering number of our proclaimed leaders become defensive, insist that the victims remain silent to avoid embarrassment, and prioritize the reputation of men above the safety of women.  

The message that we are receiving is that “boys will be boys” and we had better shut up about it. Our answer is “No.”


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