Friday, August 17, 2012

Holy crap!

I've never actually been involved in the atheism or "skeptic" movement in any significant way. I'm not a member of American Atheists or any skeptic society. I'm not much of a joiner, for one thing -- I probably wouldn't have joined any costuming groups, either, if not for the events you can only go to if you are a member. Plus, given that atheism is just lack of belief in a god or god(s), there's not much of a thread to hold an atheist community together. And it's not like atheists necessarily have much in common with each other, just by virtue of being atheists.

I mean, at least in Star Wars costuming, I have in common with the other people an enjoyment of Star Wars. There's at least one interest we have in common to talk about. And even then, I've met a lot of people at Star Wars costuming events that I haven't had a damned thing to talk about with outside of Star Wars because otherwise our interests don't intersect. And I can't tell you how often I've gone to events with the 501st (the "bad guy" Star Wars costuming group) where the entire discussion revolves around armor (Stormtrooper armor, Snowtrooper armor, Boba Fett armor, etc., etc.), the making of armor, the wearing of armor, etc. And, since I don't wear armor or make armor, and my expertise in costuming construction is in sewing, which the armor guys don't know anything about, I end up being bored and finding no one to have a conversation with, even when we have Star Wars in common.

But just because someone else is an atheist doesn't mean I have much in common with them at all. I mean, virtually every adult I interact with on a daily basis lacks belief in Santa Claus, but that's not much to base a relationship on. Atheism doesn't really define much about a person either. Different people don't even get to atheism by the same routes, so they don't necessarily even care about the same things. My concerns as an atheist who never was really a theist at all are different than, say, the concerns of a former theist who became an atheist due to a scandal in their former religious institution. Prominent atheist Sam Harris is, according to many accounts, very anti-Islam, seeing it as a throwback that is worse than other religions. I think Islam, from my perspective as an outsider, is barely any different than the other Abrahamic religions and that extremist Muslims have a lot more in common with extremist Christians than they do with moderate Muslims. My focus and concerns are very, very different than his.

Atheists aren't even necessarily skeptics or rationalists. Bill Maher is an atheist but he is completely unhinged on the topic of health care and medicine. He believes in all kinds of crazy medical woo and his objections to Western medicine are just as irrational and harmful as the beliefs of any crazy right-wing Christian. Some atheists believe in the vaccine conspiracy crap about vaccines causing autism. Some atheists still believe in other supernatural things like ghosts or astrology. I don't feel a lot of kinship for people who simply believe in some other irrational bullshit just because they don't believe in god(s).

So I didn't know about the controversy in the atheism/skeptic community that began last year because a woman named Rebecca Watson had the temerity to say on Youtube video that guys shouldn't proposition women at conventions when they're alone together in a hotel elevator at 4 am. You can check out the video here: Watson video. Her actual comment about this was to say, mildly, "Don't do that." And all fucking hell broke loose in a shitstorm that is still going on today, over a year later.

I guess, now, I'm kind of glad I never became involved in the wider atheism/skeptic community. Who wants to be part of a community which has so many assholes in it that it becomes a big thing when someone says you shouldn't proposition women late at night at conventions in the elevator? It really wouldn't occur to me to proposition someone in the elevator in the first place. Even at Dragon*Con, a convention where hooking up is so common that during a panel about the convention the panelists said, verbatim, "If you don't get laid at Dragon*Con you didn't leave your room," I still wouldn't proposition someone in the elevator. Who thinks that it would be a good idea to do something potentially off-putting and awkward in an enclosed space from which you can't leave?

Hell, even if I didn't give a crap if the person I was propositioning would feel creeped-out or threatened by being propositioned in an elevator late at night, I still wouldn't do it because if she says no, I would want to be able to leave. What if she thinks I'm a huge knob and decides to use the rest of the elevator ride to tell me so? That would suck. (I know. I once was stuck as a passenger in a car with a girl who'd been told by someone else that I was going to ask her out -- which I wasn't. She decided to preempt me by telling me why she wasn't interested, in graphic detail, while I was trapped in the car with her. Trust me, that did suck).

I've read some of the backlash, which includes people questioning whether this incident, dubbed "elevatorgate", ever really happened, Richard Dawkins telling Watson that since women are being abused in far worse ways in the third world that she should shut the hell up, people acting like if you can't proposition people in the elevator at cons that no one will ever have sex anywhere ever again, and that the only way the incident was "creepy" is if you think all men are rapists or something. It's just dumbfounding to me.

I guess it's no surprise that atheists and skeptics can be assholes just like everyone else. But, my god, I never would have guesses that something so innocuous could create such a split in that community. I thought it was stupid and ridiculous that people in the Star Wars costuming community take sides and fight with each other on the basis of what costumes they wear, but I think it is even more ridiculous that a community could be torn asunder over the issue of whether it is okay for someone to be creeped out by a guy propositioning her in an elevator at 4 am. How is that even a thing?