Justinvacula.com – A score to a new beginning

Preparing to travel to Dublin – boarding passes and passport ready

Upon returning from my trip to Dublin, during which I reported on the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference thanks to very gracious supporters who donated to and promoted my fundraiser, I was surprisingly removed from my former blogging home at the Skeptic Ink Network (SIN). Since reading the public notification hours after my return to the United States, I took a brief hiatus to rest, reacquaint myself, evaluate my options, and focus on the transition process of returning to my old – and now new – home at justinvacula.com with services from NEPA Geeks.

John Loftus announced my separation from SIN on his blog in a post titled “About Justin” in which he commends me as a “tireless atheist activist who has done terrific work” and a “talented activist who we believe will continue making positive contributions to the secular movement” who has “highlighted and opposed religion in the public square through his writing, debating, and a slew of media appearances.” In juxtaposition to those commendations, he states the reason for my removal from SIN as “communication style and areas of focus are not compatible with the mission and values of the network.”

View from Philadelphia airport to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport on my return from Dublin

I lament the fact that we could not reach a compromise (nor did John offer me one) or some way by which I can remain on my former home I dedicated considerable time and effort to. At the very least, I would have appreciated the common courtesy of a voice conversation with John prior to my removal. Instead, with such swift action, I was not afforded reasonable time to announce a public departure prior to John’s utterly blindsiding public announcement. His post announcing my removal from the blog network was published in less than 24 hours after my return from Dublin during time I enjoyed much-needed sleep and returned to a full day of work.

I am extremely accessible, open to discussion, and welcome discussion through multiple mediums – and John knew this. He could have easily contacted me with concerns and perhaps crafted a compromise with me, but instead I received a swift boot upon returning from an extremely successful venture to Dublin in which I had used my blog on SIN to share interviews with speakers (1, 2, 3), report on the event via radio (1, 2), report on the event via blogging (1, 2), detail some of my travel experience, fulfill obligations to my supporters, and promote and gain readership for SIN through word-of-mouth, exchange/distribution of business cards, and more.

with Atheist Alliance International President Carlos Diaz in Dublin, Ireland
with Atheist Alliance International President Carlos Diaz in Dublin, Ireland

While blogging at my former home since its inception — before it was even named Skeptic Ink Network — I wrote alongside many respected voices in the atheist/skeptic community who have been extremely supportive of my writing, church/state activism, and atheist activism which often graced the pages of my former blog. I will miss writing alongside these great individuals — including John Loftus himself — and wish them the best in future endeavors.

It is regrettable that although I asked for John’s word to be the final word on the separation, John continued to follow-up – engaging with commenters on his blog with comments on the initial “About Justin” post and in bizarre follow-up posts/comments declaring many of my supporters anti-feminists who are associated in some way with men’s rights groups, considering tolerance of men’s rights groups to be “somewhat similar to supporting KKK groups,” and stating he “share[s] the goals of Atheism + most emphatically” after authoring a post titled “Atheism entails anti-discrimination” in which he oddly claims that “the basis for atheism leads to anti-discrimination.”

Leonie Hilliard advertises special Atheist Ireland mug
Leonie Hilliard advertises special Atheist Ireland mug

This then, following John’s breach of the ‘no more about this’ agreement I initiated, ought to be my final word on these matters.

I am — although no longer writing on the Skeptic Ink Network — more optimistic than ever about my future which will include more church/state activism, atheist activism, recorded debates with religious believers, protesting, public speaking, conference reporting and live-tweeting, work with secular groups ranging from local to international, and engagement with media ranging from local to international.

"Man Objects To Prayers Before City Council Meetings" c/o WNEP TV-16
“Man Objects To Prayers Before City Council Meetings” c/o WNEP TV-16

The near future will include more involvement with my objection to government-led prayer at Wilkes-Barre City Council meetings and further activism. I want to continue focusing on ‘the positives’ — moving away from ‘the drama’ which plagues the so-called atheist/skeptic community — and hope that many of my detractors [and associates] may do the same.

Welcome [back] to www.justinvacula.com – a score to a new beginning! I hope my former readers and blogging colleagues from SIN will continue to follow and support my work. Please update your bookmarks, blogrolls, reader programs, RSS subscriptions, favorites, and consider spreading the word about my new home through your preferred channels. I would also like to thank NEPA Geeks for assisting me with this transition and providing affordable server space for my new home.

As always, your comments are welcome below…but first be sure to enjoy music composed by Phil Giordana preparing you for #metalmonday! Look back tomorrow for a major update concerning my continued objections to government-led prayer at Wilkes-Barre City Council meetings which includes a major national organization joining my fight.

Inconsistency, irony, and intrigue in Ireland


While preparing for my trip to the Empowering Women Through Secularism (EWTS) conference — thanks to a fundraiser graciously promoted and funded by supporters — I failed to notice any type of anti-harassment policy listed on the conference’s website and am thus quite befuddled. I praise conference organizers for not implementing an anti-harassment policy, but cannot help but note inconsistency within some speakers at this upcoming conference.

According to a select group of bloggers and their commenters, anti-harassment policies in various flavors are required for women to feel safe, welcome, and invited at conferences throughout the secular community [and beyond] because, as they claim, conferences are unsafe places for women. The secular community is allegedly rife with misogyny and only with anti-harassment policies may women be protected from sexual harassment and ‘creepy men’ which are allegedly common at conferences.

At least three individuals who have been fiercely engaged in rhetoric surrounding the necessity of anti-harassment policies will be speaking at this conference and, as far as I know, they have made no objections concerning the lack of an anti-harassment policy although other conferences and conference organizers have been under extreme fire – characterized as “anti-woman,” “not caring about diversity,” “not caring about women,” “siding with harassers,” “misogynistic,” “sexist,”etc.

One particular EWTS speaker — according to a recent interview — established two requirements for her speaking at conferences: at least 35% women speakers and an anti-harassment policy.

Perhaps because EWTS is a conference primarily concerned with women there is no need for an anti-harassment policy? Not so…at least when considering the recent Women in Secularism 2 conference which heralded its prized conduct policy — trumpeted by and invoked by speakers scheduled for both Women in Secularism 2 and EWTS — included on the conference’s main page.

In October of 2012, Atheist Ireland, one of the organizations responsible for and/or working to make EWTS possible released a statement noting another organization — Atheist Alliance International — instituted an anti-harassment policy and encouraged member organizations to adopt similar policies…but there is no policy at the EWTS conference nor does Atheist Ireland, as it seems, have such a policy.

Since EWTS has no anti-harassment policy, why is it the case that — since anti-harassment policies, according to a select group of bloggers and their commenters, are so important — there has been no outrage directed at EWTS and its organizers although outrage was directed at other conferences and conference organizers?

How can speakers objecting to the lack of anti-harassment policies at other conferences, and even refusing to speak at conferences lacking anti-harassment policies, be ethically justified in speaking at EWTS and saying nothing about the lack of an anti-harassment policy? Why the double standard? Perhaps flights from the United States to Ireland, fame, and speaking to audiences are enough to compromise principles?

I must, though, applaud organizers of EWTS for not falling into the ‘anti-harassment policies are necessary for women to feel safe from ‘creepy men’ and the secular community is rife with misogyny’ false narratives.

Instead of infantilizing women and demonizing men by instituting a bogus, worthless, and pandering anti-harassment policy which provides an illusory safety net, women are left to be empowered by their own assertiveness, Irish laws, and venue regulations…unless the intrepid and suspiciously-placed security team/personal bodyguards which were rumored to have been put in place by Melody Hensley at Women in Secularism 2 because of “concerns” due to my Washington D.C. appearance may mysteriously appear in Ireland.

The conference which was home to the alleged ‘elevator incident’ has no anti-harassment policy and the woman involved in the supposed ‘elevator incident’ — although she stipulates that conferences she speaks at must have anti-harassment policies —  is scheduled to speak at this conference lacking an anti-harassment policy with no complaints. Inconsistancy, irony, and intrigue indeed.

As always, feel free to add your thoughts below.

Brave Hero Radio – David Silverman

Justin Vacula and David Silverman
Justin Vacula and David Silverman

Author note: I am taking a short break from writing about my activism and am posting the archived version of the 6/15/13 episode of Brave Hero Radio with President of American Atheists David Silverman so that people who listened and will listen have a place to freely comment no matter their viewpoints. Stay tuned, tomorrow afternoon and evening, for more discussion about secularism and activism.

The 6/15/13 episode of Brave Hero Radio with President of American Atheists David Silverman is now available.

Listen here!

Show notes:

President of American Atheists David Silverman joins Justin Vacula Saturday, June 15 at 8PM Eastern for discussion about feminism, current events, controversy in the atheist/skeptic communities, and much more.

As always, callers, no matter their viewpoints, are welcome to join the discussion. Call the number on your screen, 718-766-4598, or click the Skype-to-call button on the show’s page when the show goes live to join the caller queue. Callers will be taken only after conversation with David Silverman has concluded.

Listen live, join the live chat, and use the same link following the live broadcast to stream and/or download the archived show.

Opening music is provided by memewar.net. Break music is provided by Phil Giordana.

Like what you hear? Brave Hero Radio depends on support from listeners. Please donate!


Update: The chatroom activity from the show is now available.

Scribd link

BlogTalkRadio link

GoogleDoc link

Do atheist conferences reflect society-at-large?


In recent months, I have been engaged in ongoing discussions pertaining to atheist conferences – questioning bold claims including ‘anti-harassment policies are necessary for women to feel safe at atheist conferences,’ ‘rampant misogyny exists in the atheist community,’ and ‘atheist conferences are unsafe and hostile places for women.’

I have failed to see adequate evidence suggesting any of these above claims are true and find these claims to be extremely harmful to the health of the atheist community because women become driven away from conferences by the same people who allegedly want to increase the participation of women at atheist conferences. Men and male sexuality — additionally — are demonized; “certain male speakers” are viewed as “dangerous,” bloggers claim men oppose anti-harassment policies because they want to harass women (and believe they have the right to do so), and men are portrayed as monsters who have no concern about others’ personal space. A climate of fear is erected thanks to bloggers spreading false messages about alleged dangerous and “creepy” men at atheist conferences.

When evidence is lacking for these claims and good skeptics wonder why police reports have not been filed, conference organizers have not been alerted to these alleged ‘rampant problems,’ and numerous events ‘go off without a hitch,’ people attempting to defend their evidence-less positions employ character attacks in an attempt to, as it seems, malign people who ask for evidence or raise legitimate questions. “You think women are liars,” “you are invalidating the experiences of women,” “you lack empathy and should be more concerned about the plight of women,” “your privilege is showing,” and “you are a misogynist” are wails of those who lost the argument – those who cannot provide evidence to warrant their claims. Additional flawed reasoning mirrors that of a fundamentalist – ‘the evidence is out there, but you’re just unwilling to accept it,’ ‘you need to find the evidence for yourself,’ and ‘you are just in denial.’

More recently — diverging from the standard line of character attacks — people who cannot produce evidence to substantiate claims of rampant harassment at conferences have put forth a new line of reasoning: “Women, in society-at-large, are treated poorly; they are victims of sexual assault, harassment, and even rape. If women are treated poorly in society, and atheist conferences are in society, what makes you think women won’t be treated the same way at atheist conferences?”

This line of reasoning is a pretty clear example of a composition/division logical fallacy which is explained quite clearly on YourLogicalFallacyIs.com:

You assumed that one part of something has to be applied to all, or other, parts of it; or that the whole must apply to its parts.

Often when something is true for the part it does also apply to the whole, or vice versa, but the crucial difference is whether there exists good evidence to show that this is the case. Because we observe consistencies in things, our thinking can become biased so that we presume consistency to exist where it does not.

Although women experience sexual assault, harassment, and rape in society-at-large, it does not follow that women experience sexual assault, harassment, and rape at atheist conferences; we need evidence beyond ‘it happens in society-at-large’ to suggest that sexual assault, harassment, and rape occurs at atheist conferences.

Armed robbery, murder, arson, forgery, computer theft, use of crack/cocaine, and consumption of child pornography occurs in society-at large. Because these crimes exist in society-at-large, should it follow that these crimes also occur at atheist conferences – at the same rate or at all? Shall we go about saying — although there is no evidence that arson, for instance, occurs at atheist conferences — that arson, because it happens in society-at-large, also occurs at atheist conferences? Armed robbery? Murder? Forgery? Computer theft? Crack/cocaine use? Consumption of child pornography? Since it is unfair to say these crimes exist at atheist conferences appealing to the fact that these crimes exist in society-at-large it is similarly unfair to say that sexual assault, harassment, and rape occur at atheist conferences.

As always, feel free to comment below.

Friday Google Hangout with Dan Fincke – venue change

danbhrThe venue of our originally intended discussion concerning feminism and controversies in the atheist/skeptic communities has changed from Brave Hero Radio to Google Hangouts to allow for a more focused debating atmosphere, personal nature, neutral ground, and a platform which may be more accessible and welcoming for prospective listeners.

Tune in live Friday, May 31 at 8:30PM Eastern, on Dan Fincke’s Youtube page, for the public Google Hangouts session. The link will appear shortly before 8:30PM Eastern and live listeners may need to refresh the page. Following the end of the Google Hangouts session, I will post the discussion on my YouTube page, here on Skeptic Ink Network, and promote through social networks.