We, the undersigned, are atheists, skeptics and nonbelievers who value free speech and rational thought and who seek to build a strong, thriving movement that can advocate effectively for these values. We’ve chosen to put our names to this petition because we want to respond to a video created by a blogger calling himself Thunderfoot. In this video, Thunderfoot attacks named individuals who’ve been active in promoting diversity and fighting sexism and harassment in our movement. He describes these people as “whiners” and “ultra-PC professional victims” who are “dripp[ing] poison” into the secular community, and urges conference organizers to shun and ignore them.
We hold this and similar complaints from other individuals to be seriously misguided, false in their particulars and harmful to the atheist community as a whole, and we want to set the record straight. We wish to clarify that Thunderfoot and those like him don’t speak for us or represent us, and to state our unequivocal support for the following goals:
* We support making the atheist movement more diverse and inclusive. It’s long been clear that the skeptical movement has a preponderance of white men. While we don’t disdain their participation, we believe skepticism is valuable and important to people in all walks of life, and in accordance with that principle, we consider it vital to have a movement that reflects the demographics of the society we live in. If our community continues to be dominated by white men, it will become increasingly out-of-touch and irrelevant as Western society becomes increasingly multiracial and multicultural and as non-Western countries gain economic and cultural power.
To that end, we urge the atheist and skeptical organizations to make a conscious commitment to diversity: to intentionally reach out to people of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds to speak at our conventions, to serve on our boards of directors, and to be the public faces and representatives of skepticism. We believe that there are talented, dedicated and eminently qualified people of every gender and every race, and that seeking them out will strengthen our movement and broaden its appeal.
* We support strong, sensible anti-harassment policies at our gatherings. There have been too many instances of people at atheist conferences reporting bad behavior and unwelcome conduct by fellow attendees. When it’s repetitive or especially egregious, this unwelcome conduct may rise to the level of harassment, defined as behavior intended to demean, threaten or intimidate others. We hold that preventing harassment is a legitimate and obvious goal for conference organizers, and that this can be done through the implementation of fairly simple and well-tested conduct policies.
We want to encourage robust debate over opinions and beliefs, as a good rational community should, and we believe that the wide adoption of anti-harassment policies advances this goal by fostering a rational atmosphere of civility and respect, where all people can express their opinions freely and feel comfortable in doing so. We applaud the conferences and organizations that have already created model policies in this regard, and we urge others to do likewise.
* We support the people in our community who’ve been the target of bullying, harassment and threats. Outside the conference environment, there are prominent members of the atheist community (including most of the people named in Thunderfoot’s video) who’ve been subjected to a vicious and persistent campaign of online harassment, including obsessive streams of slurs and invective, threatening messages, sexually-tinged taunting, and malicious impersonation on social media, all carried out with the goal of bullying them into silence. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of the people who’ve been harassed in this way, and forcefully and unequivocally condemn those who’ve carried out the harassment. Unless they change their ways and make amends, they have no place within the movement.
To put a stop to this bad behavior once and for all, we need to change the culture of the atheist movement so that sexism isn’t condoned or defended, just as racism and homophobia aren’t condoned or defended. We’re grateful to the leaders of the movement who’ve spoken out against harassment, and we encourage all atheists and skeptics, regardless of their influence or prominence, to do likewise.