Days ago, following a tweet from Atheist Alliance International (AAI) Executive Director Michael Sherlock calling religion a “retarded relic that really needs archiving in humanity’s library of bad ideas,” a handful of Twitter users launched attacks on Michael Sherlock and Atheist Alliance International which led to AAI suspending Sherlock for one month without pay in addition to a “final warning” placed on Sherlock’s employment record.
We at Atheists for Liberty object to yet another episode of call-out culture and cancel culture in which many waving the flag of woke social justice aim to, by proxy, inflict “accountability and consequences” upon a new ‘witch of the week.’ The response was quite the overreaction to the initial ‘offense’ of calling religion a “retarded relic” – far from, as it was used, a ‘harmful, hateful slur attacking people with disabilities’ commenters alleged. Objections were not limited to Michael Sherlock’s phrase “retarded relic” but were part of a larger troubling attempt to undermine AAI.
KC Gleason, for example, continued to tweet about Sherlock and Atheist Alliance International even after Sherlock was sanctioned. She shared a tweet that referred to “most absolute incompetence in the organization of @atheistalliance.” Gleason also stated that she is “starting to doubt that anyone connected to @atheistalliance adheres at all to their supposed [sic] values” because ex-Muslim activist Yasmine Mohammed, whom KC describes as “connected” to AAI, has “joke pronouns” in her Twitter bio. KC alleged this “mock[s] the trans community.”
KC claimed that “it’s not about canceling and it’s not about getting attention” when she ups the ante by mentioning the Publications Director of AAI, who she continued to have conversations with even after publicly complaining about him direct-messaging her (and sharing the private messages with the public) while also not blocking him. If she doesn’t want to have conversations with someone, why doesn’t she block or disengage? Saying “it’s not about canceling” is difficult to believe when, in another tweet, she wrote, “this is precisely the point to ‘calling out,'” talking about “accountability and consequences.”
KC also wrote, “I do not recommend anyone join” AAI. She also wrote, “We have to be careful that our responses are measured to whatever was done or said. We can’t go nuclear on everything.” But overwhelmingly, it has been a ‘going nuclear’ response — with her continuing to tag AAI on Twitter and manufacturing controversy, playing victim, even claiming she has been threatened.
Some articles described the Michael Sherlock ‘incident’ as “a troubling situation” and even took swipes at AAI, mentioning that they hired “an alleged sexual predator,” referencing David Silverman’s 2019 appointment. Why any bloggers would continue to mention AAI hiring “an alleged sexual predator” is confusing, particularly when the allegations against Silverman have, again and again, been shown to be unsubstantiated.
Most recently, regarding an allegation made when Silverman was appointed to AAI, a judge refused to grant a restraining order against Silverman. Testimony of the same accuser was highly suspect, especially when the accuser was questioned. Screaming at an interviewer and regularly interrupting, she made the conversation really difficult to listen to fully. Sadly, the #metoo mob who opposes due process and presumption of innocence has also infested atheist circles, with many believing that as little as touch on one’s back, like in this case, is sexual assault and should lead someone to be fired.
Criticism has not been limited to Michael Sherlock but has also been directed at AAI. For example, a Twitter thread saying, “it also tells me everything I need to know about the values of the people who work with him.” asking, “are there any competent adults working there” and mentioning AAI again and again.
We at Atheists for Liberty miss the reporting from years past, like when the same publications agreed with Atheist Ireland’s public statement publicly disassociating from social justice warrior PZ Myers who remains out of favor and instead focused on sharing work of activists.
Sadly, toxic social justice activism continues through call-out culture and cancel culture, further dividing and diminishing the atheist community. This is far away from the core aims of defending the separation of religion and government, normalizing atheism, and refuting religious claims.
The intrusion of social justice and woke ideology into atheist circles continues. To name just one example of many, Alex DiBranco spoke at the Secular Student Alliance’s 2020 National Convention, where she argued for “a feminist, humanist approach” to “contest white, male, and cisgendered supremacism,” saying, “the organized secular/atheist movement has over-emphasized opposition to religion or the belief in a god for its own sake, rather than prioritizing the problem of harm posed to social justice from any direction.”
Atheists for Liberty stand against destructive social justice entryism and the overblown response to an atheist activist calling religion a “retarded relic.” Atheists for Liberty instead prioritizes the free exchange of ideas, individual liberties, religious freedom (including non-belief), Enlightenment values, and secular government.