Open Letter To Secular Women On “Rending The Tent”

“We reject the argument that free inquiry demands consideration of anti-choice viewpoints.”

I fully understand your feelings of betrayal around the atheist/skeptic community and in particular AA with the “big tent” concept of including anti-choice members in what is in reality a fledgling political organization. You feel there should be unanimity in supporting your position. There’s the fact that after a long struggle women finally realized a semblance of control over their bodily autonomy codified in Roe-V-Wade. It should be settled law. Instead we’re faced with ongoing legislative erosion intended to turn back those hard won gains by the religious right. Shocking changes have already happened. A good example is the recent horror in Texas where a dead woman’s family was compelled to maintain her body as an incubator to a provably unviable fetus at their own expense. It took an injunction to stop it. It’s an ongoing process that can only be countered in two ways in a democratic pluralistic society. We can join or create organizations that provide us a voice and a mechanism to implement legal defences in the US court systems, and we can win the cause in the court of public opinion. Both require something other than “individual pursuit” of secularism/skepticism/atheism. The battle for the hearts and minds of the majority are crucial to success in defending against stone age thinking and morality. Societal goodwill allows us a measure of control over our destiny.

So when I read your statement I couldn’t help thinking that refusing to engage in the active defense of women’s autonomy issues is like saying “I’m not going to board a train that has already left the station”. It’s unfair. It’s not right. It’s an unpleasant reality. We have already experienced the losses and now we have to fight to get them back. Whether you choose to do that through organizations like AA or the skeptical societies remains to be seen. I submit that they have their own realities to deal with in order to survive and be successful as well. I’m not asking you to compromise your ideals, just to consider engaging in dialog about them.


About Egg Zackly

Retired amateur pundit.
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6 Responses to Open Letter To Secular Women On “Rending The Tent”

  1. john zande says:

    I’m a little confused. What’s happened here? (I’m in Brazil so have no solid grasp of what’s going on in US secular/humanist groups)

    • P Yew says:

      The recent players are David Silverman, by extension American Atheists, Georgia’s Secular Women, JT Eberhard, Hemant Mehta, Kristine Kuszelnicki, increasingly the atheist blogosphere, and I suspect overlaps from Atheism Plus. It all started when AA tried to get a booth at the CPAC, [Conservative Political Action Committee] a US arm of the GOP political machine. He made statements offensive to Kim Rippere, and this letter “Rending the Tent” is a response to the series of events linked in the article on their website. Silverman’s effort was to become more representative of the atheist “whole” by including those people who are both atheist and conservative. Many secularist liberals are baffled by what seems to be an ideological contradiction of terms. LGTB conservatives also support policies that are inherently toxic to gay issues, they for some reason have chosen to prioritize their conservatism over their sexual identity and rights surrounding them. The same thing has cropped up in women’s bodily autonomy issues. Silverman wants everyone to have a say under the aegis of “big tent” atheism, with an emphasis on priority of “atheism”. It’s an echo of political microcosm. More pluralistic in approach. The Secular Women feel there is no room for equivocation on their stance. They feel any opposing opinion shouldn’t be allowed, esp in secular organizations. It’s a very polarizing position to take.

      • john zande says:

        Thank you. This with Avery Michaels post (linked below) now makes a lot more sense. I think you’ll like Michaels post.

        I follow US politics fairy closely (a morbid fascination since the emergence of the Teabillies) and i simply can’t see how humanist/secular groups would want anything to do modern conservatism in the States.

      • P Yew says:

        Thanks for the link. I gave it a quick read, and came away with this thought: The trouble with carving out a “non negotiable” stance is it might seem to inoculate against dissent, but the legislative actions go on apace. The damage is done regardless. There’s a political reality to be dealt with. What remains is to decide what framework and context to use in response.
        Conservatism is a train wreck that’s hard to look away from. Pity those of us who live the nightmare. đŸ™‚

      • More pluralistic in approach.
        what a silly thing to say! It is not more pluralistic to exclude one group in favor of others. (i.e. if true, Silverman is prioritizing say church/state separation over womens rights that does not make it more pluralistic)
        And its obvious that teaming up with conservatives have implications not just for women/abortion but also for each of the social causes that conservatives in general oppose.
        All I can as a non -believer I can work with religious people whose policy choices more or less match mine irrespective of their religious beliefs which for a significant number of believers impact no one else but themselves.
        I will not work with non-believers who are opposed to policies I strongly believe in.
        So this particular pluralistic approach will only drive away people like me – whether that means AA numbers increase or decrease I do not know – but really would an atheist tea party be the goal we want to fight for?

  2. P Yew says:

    Thanks for your interest in the issue. So, the very idea of pluralism is- “a state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization, who don’t always agree but find areas of commonality and consensus for the good of the whole.” It is an essential part of a healthy democracy. What alternatives are there to dialog and working within a system framework? If you isolate yourselves it becomes a matter of math. Whoever is in the majority makes the decisions. You win *arguments* by *persuading others* with reason to agree with your point of view. You don’t influence anyone by withdrawing from the debate after stating your position as an ultimatum. I don’t think the inclusion of conservative/libertarian atheists will result in their views representing the whole. It does, however, afford them the opportunity to be heard. It’s moot anyway as I think they will stay away from AA for much the same reasons you give for not participating.

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