By what standard do atheists judge right and wrong? Other than religion, is there anything that an atheist is obliged to regard as evil and, if so, why? To say that science and reason can be our only guide in every circumstance -- that we should be as coldly logical as Star Trek’s fictional Spock -- may seem an obvious enough answer, but at times the evidence is ambiguous and not every situation can be easily reduced to a clear syllogism. This is not a moot discussion, nor is it a matter of mere hypothetical speculation what science says about sexual equality, at least not for Benjamin Radford.
Radford is the deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine and was until quite recently among the most respected members of the so-called “skeptic community,” who esteem science above everything and regard all religious belief as ignorant superstition. So there is no one to whom Radford may pray for deliverance, now that he finds himself accused of sexual harassment, condemned as a “predator” and exposed to the wrath of feminists.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but atheists don’t believe in Hell and, although some scientists have suggested an anthropological utility for mercy, feminists don’t seem prone to heed such talk when a man stands accused of doing what Radford allegedly did. Karen Stollznow didn’t name him in her long article published Tuesday by Scientific American , but others familiar with the situation quickly identified Radford as the accused harasser. Stollznow says she endured his harassment for four years. After she rejected Radford’s advances, Stollznow says, he bombarded her with “incessant communication of a sexual nature,” even after she got a new boyfriend, whom she later married. “He wouldn’t leave me alone,” Stollznow wrote. “This wasn’t love. It was obsession.”
Despite her “repeated requests for his personal communication to cease,” Stollznow said, Radford continued to pursue her. “I threatened to complain to his employer,” she said, “but he bragged that another woman had accused him of sexual harassment previously and her complaints were ignored.” When they attended conferences, Stollznow says, “the psychological abuse turned physical and he sexually assaulted me on several occasions.”
Radford has maintained a stoic silence in the face of these devastating accusations. The Center for Inquiry (CFI), with which both he and Stollznow were affiliated, has issued only a vague legalistic statement about its investigation of Stollznow’s charges against Radford. She says CFI’s disciplinary action against Radford was “a mere slap on the wrist.” Stollznow says that, when she told friends about her situation, many were unsurprised, regarding Radford as “creepy … a weirdo … sexist … perverted.” Her accusation was made in the context of a general complaint among women in the atheist movement that they are victims of sexism, discrimination and harassment. These complaints caused a stir a couple years ago when a young atheist, Rebecca Watson, got into an Internet dispute with Richard Dawkins, a famed Darwinian opponent of Christianity.
Watson told how women didn’t want to attend atheist conferences because “they felt uncomfortable in a room full of men” and “were hit on constantly” by seemingly desperate atheist men who “try to get in the pants of every woman who walks through the door.” And in a video, she explained that she is “creeped out” by guys who “sexualize” her. Watson recounted the tale of being approached at 4 a.m. in a hotel elevator at an atheist conference by a loser whose failed line was, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” Watson’s complaint inspired much mirthful mockery on my part at the time: Here were these hapless believers in Darwinian evolution, apparently incapable of finding mates with whom to commit the procreative act. Meanwhile, of course, supposedly misguided Christians were happily breeding like bunnies. My beautiful wife and I have six fine children, while the typical atheist guy can’t score at all. Please, my scientific friends, tell me more about how this “survival of the fittest” works.
Now that Stollznow has come forward to claim that she was harassed, stalked, and even “sexually assaulted” by Radford, I somewhat regret my earlier sarcasm. It seems that atheist women have been terrorized in this manner for years, because no sooner did Stollznow speak out than other women started speaking out about their own experiences. Atheist podcaster Stephanie Svan described a case involving Jim Frenkel, and Carrie Poppy related her problems at the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), which hosted the conference where Stoltznow claims she was sexually assaulted by Radford. Jen McCreight, who describes herself as “a liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted feminist atheist,” wrote a blog post in which she recounted several tales of alleged harassment. She then deleted some of those tales, which involved a prominent author and academic who threatened to sue her. McCreight said she had two sources who “are too terrified to openly speak out against him” in public.
Apparently, then, the world of atheism is a sort of Hobbesian nightmare, the “war of all against all,” where no woman is safe from the predations of lecherous creeps who refuse to take no for an answer, where these brutish Men of Science tyrannize any woman who dares complain about their advances. Is anyone really surprised by this? Isn’t this vicious environment exactly what we might expect among those who are so adamantly godless?
God’s vengeance is often ironic, for when He withdraws His divine protection from sinners who reject him, doomed souls are exposed to the consequences of their chosen evil. And there is a certain Old Testament quality to the plagues being visited upon these atheist men. Whereas the Lord smote Egypt with such horrors as frogs, locusts, and rivers of blood, now atheist men find themselves plagued with angry feminists like Amanda Marcotte.
One is almost tempted to pray that God might have mercy on these poor fellows, but why should we trouble scientific types with our primitive superstitions? No one can teach a fool who refuses to acknowledge God. The fool fails to realize that God exists, independent of any fool’s disbelief. These men have made war on God, and in their hour of destruction, to whom may they appeal for salvation? They are utterly without hope, for Science cannot save them now.
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