Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wherein I compare the secular community to the GOP

You don’t often find parallels between the atheist community and the Republican party. However, recent events place them in a surprisingly similar light with respect to their potential members.

Let’s look at the atheists first.

In recent years, secular, atheist and humanist women have rightfully demanded that they be given a greater voice within their communities. This culminated in the Women in Secularism 2 conference, which took place in Washington, DC last month. I wasn’t in attendance, so my information comes from the multitude of blogs and tweets about the event. According to most accounts, the opening speaker, Ronald Lindsay (President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, which sponsored the conference) chastised the attendees for trying to silence men. I say ‘most accounts’ because Lindsay feels otherwise.*

This isn’t the place for a primer on the problems women and minorities have faced within the secular community. I bring the story up to compare it with a similar event, this time courtesy of the Republican party.

The GOP lost the last presidential election by five million votes. Much of that loss was due to their particularly poor showing among younger voters (teens and twenty year olds). The College Republican National Committee (CRNC) put out a report explaining why this was so. Briefly, young people don’t think the GOP cares about them or represents their interests. 

How did the GOP react to this news?

Here’s one example, courtesy of Bill O’Reilly:
So why should I care about this study, or why should the Republican Party care about a bunch of kids who don’t know anything?
In case it isn’t clear, the CRNC’s report was conducted by and for Republicans. It’s explicit purpose was to help the GOP regain the trust of younger voters. From the report’s introduction
We believe that Republicans can win young voters but that it will require a significantly different approach than has been used in recent elections. In this report, we propose what such an approach would entail and offer research-based insights that can guide Republicans wishing to find success with a new generation. 
Let’s compare O’Reilly’s comment to one by Lindsay
[They] assume you should never question, you should never argue back, because the person from the marginalized group must have the expertise.
As with the GOP, the people who were complaining about Lindsay’s talk at Women in Secularism 2 genuinely want their community to flourish. Their goal isn’t to aid and abet the enemy. They want more people to join their ranks. Scolding them for informing you about the feelings of people you need to court in order to stay relevant is shortsighted and unhelpful. While there are many effective strategies for growing a community, having a tantrum about dissenting views is not one of them.

Lindsay doesn’t speak for all secularists anymore than O’Reilly speaks for all Republicans. However, they are both in positions to guide their communities toward greater inclusion, something both organizations desperately need right now. The question is: will either group listen?

*Lindsay's full Women in Secularism 2 speech.


  1. I read Lindsay's speech to the conference and I didn't see any animus toward anyone. The main complaints come from ultra feminists who've been causing trouble within the atheist community for a couple of years.
    It seems they nit pick every word or phrase to find fault with any speech given by a man.
    The Republican party has committed suicide by marginalizing women, poor, unemployed, Latino and children. I am not proud to be in the same country as today's Republican.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Thanks for reminding me that I hadn't included a link to Lindsay's full speech. That omission has been remedied.

    As to your points, I can't say that I agree with your reading of the speech. To me, at best it's singularly unwelcoming, considering its opening slot in the conference, and at worst, it's one long scold. However, it doesn't matter what I think. The point is that the women at the conference, which was the audience he was trying to reach, disliked the speech.

    To say that feminists are wrong to find fault with Lindsay's speech is no different than saying that young voters are wrong to find fault with the GOP. It's just not a strategy that's going to bring more people into the fold.

  3. That was not my intent. Research A+ (atheism +). It will show you what I mean. I agree that women are not respected in our society. The people who tried to form A+ became ultrafeminists which damaged their cause. I fully support women's rights and I celebrate their goal. Unfortunately, the ultrafeminists approach didn't work.

  4. I'm familiar with Atheism+. I don't agree with you.


What are your thoughts? I welcome civil disagreement and discussion.