Karla Porter and Shirley Phelps-Roper: BFFs 4EVAH.

[TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of rape, abuse and death threats.
misogynist language. weapons-grade mockery.]


The Palace is pleased to be sending a small contingent to the Center for Inquiry’s Women in Secularism 2 conference next weekend in DC. The speakers include many writers and activists we greatly admire, including Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, Vyckie Garrison, Susan Jacoby, Amanda Marcotte, Maryam Namazie, Katha Pollitt and Rebecca Watson (see more details here). Here is CFI’s blurb for the conference:

We find ourselves at a crossroads.

Around the world, the forces of religion and superstition are reasserting themselves, working to contain and even reverse the progress made in the cause of women’s basic human rights.

And within the freethought movement, nonbelievers and skeptics are passionately debating the role of social justice, particularly in regard to gender equality and incidences of hostility toward women.

Which is the best path forward? How can we best advance both women’s rights and secularism? How do we set priorities? What changes can be made to the secular movement to ensure true gender equality?

A powerful roster of speakers and panelists will tackle these questions and much more at the second Women in Secularism conference, presented by the Center for Inquiry.

I mean, if you were a godless feminist with a Palace, wouldn’t that sound absolutely fucking amazing?

Well, not so fast there, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. See that part up there that says “within the freethought movement, nonbelievers and skeptics are passionately debating the role of social justice, particularly in regard to gender equality and incidences of hostility toward women”? That’s a rather…nice way of saying that atheists and skeptics — both prominent individuals and groups — have been engaged for some time in a virtual war over the equitable and decent treatment of the women in these movements.

For some background, including details of the abuse, harassment, doxxing, violent rape fantasies and death threats to which prominent atheist feminist women and their allies are relentlessly subjected — by other atheists, of every gendersee How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism by Jen McCreight, and Atheism Plus, and Some Thoughts on Divisiveness by Greta Christina, in which she says:

A significant stream in the atheist movement — a minority, but not a trivial minority, and a very visible one — is actively devoted to driving feminists out of atheism.

And the reality for me — a reality that makes me sick and sad, a reality that I can hardly bear to talk about — is that, as a public figure, the people I fear the most, the people I am most genuinely concerned about doing me physical harm, are not religious extremists. The people I fear most are other atheists.

See also Melissa McEwan (This Female Atheist, and Where She Is):

I would say I felt exactly as welcome in movement atheism as I did at my Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, but that would be a lie. No one at St. Peter’s ever called me a stupid cunt because I disagreed with them.

Of course skeptics and atheists are a subset of our larger society, so it really should surprise no one that there are vicious misogynists and virulent anti-feminists among us. After all, an estimated 4% of Americans are sociopaths, and the vast majority of them are not in jail. The question from the godless feminist point of view, and a focus of the Women in Secularism conference, is what to do about it.

Over at PZ’s Palace, there has been a heated discussion going on about what would and would not constitute appropriate, ethical and effective tactics to use in response to reprehensible actions by nasty shitheads in our movement. The particular context for the discussion is that some flaming @$$hole named Karla Porter attempted to sic the Westboro Baptist Church on next weekend’s Women in Secularism conference. That would be the military-funeral-protesting, gay-bashing, Jew-hating, Westboro Baptist Church:karlaportertweets

Karla Porter tweets
@wbcshirl Have u heard of Women in Secularism 2 and if so, will u grace it with your presence? http://womeninsecularism.org #wiscfi

Shirley Phelps-Roper tweets
@karla_porter Where do they show themselves? Is there a schedule?

Karla Porter tweets
@wbcshirl schedule not up yet May 17-19 wash DC

When called out on her shittiness, Porter wrote a weaselly blog post, and later said this:

Some people are really bad at understanding tongue in cheek. Today I was accused of trying to sic WBC on WISC2 – let’s get real.

Okay. By all means, let’s get real. Karla Porter directly tweeted to Shirley Phelps-Roper, spokesperson of the fucking Westboro Baptist Church, to alert her to the conference. She sent her a link to its web page. And when Phelps-Roper inquired about further details, Porter replied to her with the dates and location. How that can be interpreted in any way other than “trying to sic WBC on WISC2” is clearly beyond the capacity of my inferior ladybrainz to comprehend. Further, as the proprietress of a blog specializing in mockery, I am fairly certain that I understand “tongue in cheek.” I also understand that when typical shitheads do something typically shitty and are rightly called on it, they frequently attempt to evade responsibility by claiming they were, you know, just joking. YOU HUMORLESS FEMINISTS! YOU JUST DON’T GET IT.

If Porter were indeed joking, perhaps she might have tweeted to her own followers “wouldn’t it be funny if WBC protested the uppity feminists at the Women in Secularism 2 conference? hahaha #iamsofunny.” And if she were any good at joking, someone would think that was funny.

Now at this point, you are probably asking yourself the same thing I did: who the fuck is Karla Porter?

Well, according the online bio on her professional web site, Karla Porter is a self-employed “New Media Strategies,” “Diversity” and “Recruitment Strategy” consultant, with one of the top 1% most viewed LinkedIn profiles of 2012. Among her clients are several veterans groups, including Pennsylvania Women Veterans.

None of PZ’s commenters disagree that Porter is a flaming @$$hole for siccing WBC on the Women in Secularism conference. However, there is fierce disagreement on whether anyone would be justified in contacting her clients to alert them to her shitty behavior. Taste of her own medicine, and all that. I must admit I relish the thought of Porter’s shittiness coming back to bite her. And were I part of a veterans group, and particularly a women veterans group, I think I would very much want to know that the person I’m hiring is perfectly okay with siccing the military-funeral-protesting Westboro Baptists on a gathering of feminists. As I have said before, I believe that striking back against bullies using their own tactics is not in the same moral category as the bullying itself: it is somewhat more akin to self-defense.

Still, something about this course of action troubles me: by contacting her clients, one would be engaging in the same shitty tactic we condemn when done by her — namely, JAQing off to an organization whose actions in response may cause her direct harm — regardless of whether we are on the side of the (metaphorical) angels when we do so. But you know what also troubles me? Doing nothing. That is precisely how bullies get away with shit.

Ultimately, I agree with PZ’s co-blogger Chris Clarke:

Karla Porter is an amoral shithead, and if it becomes impossible to search on her name without finding that out, that’d be a marvelous thing. And I’m not an absolutist here: I think it’s fine to try to get, say, Rush Limbaugh fired — by a coordinated campaign waged on a transparent basis.

But people who set themselves up as vigilante employment enforcers do not speak for me. They’re legitimizing a tactic that has made my life much more stressful for decades.

On the thread I said that maybe I come out in the middle. I think mockery and ridicule fired in Porter’s direction is more than justified, and that perhaps I would spend the day pasting pictures of Porter’s head into pictures of Westboro Baptist protests while I thought about it, just in case I felt like posting them later. So I did. And I do. To paraphrase Chris Clarke, if it becomes impossible to search on her name without seeing these pictures, that’d be a marvelous thing.


Karla Porter and some of the people she wants to sicc on a feminist conference.


Karla Porter and one of her new associates who she hopes will bully and intimidate people she disagrees with.


Karla Porter and her new BFF Shirley Phelps-Roper.


New BFF Shirley Phelps-Roper and Karla Porter share a moment in the sun.


Aww! The Littlest Bigot! Karla Porter attempting to get the kid to protest at a preschool full of kids she disagrees with.


Karla Porter, viewing a selection of Westboro Baptist signs to select her favorites for the Women in Secularism conference.

Karla Porter and Shirley Phelps-Roper: BFFs 4EVAH!!11!!!

Just joking. You know: tongue in cheek.

21 thoughts on “Karla Porter and Shirley Phelps-Roper: BFFs 4EVAH.

  1. The “mockery FTW” tag is FTW indeed.

    Perhaps I’m being optimistic, but I believe that Karla Porter is beginning to come to the realization that she’s piling up behaviors that she has to explain outside her rah-rah group. In the comment section on her personal blog, she’s had someone she knows IRL respond to her action as a distasteful surprise.

    And, since she’d tweeted the author of The Bully Vaccine on the topic of WBC as “a problem with bullying innocent people in this country” just three minutes before the tweet of WiSC info to the WBC, I doubt that she’d like further “incidents” like this to become associated with her in Dr. Hancock’s mind. After all, she and Justin Vacula interviewed her in their second BraveHero radio show on the topic of bullying.

  2. Hi athyco, and welcome to my humble abode!
    I hope you are right about Porter seeing the error of her ways, though I cannot help but wonder whether this is a result of genuine introspection and empathy on her part or Machiaellian calculation. Either way, her backtracking is almost certainly the result of well-focused heat. I’m very much an advocate for applying said heat, as long as it’s focused like a laser on the appropriate target without causing splash damage (if you’ll pardon the horribly mixed metaphor). Her future actions are likely to attest to where she’s really coming from, more than her words.

  3. Oh, I’m definitely optimistic on the “Machiavellian calculation” front rather than “genuine introspection and empathy.” :)

    But requiring that calculation is a time-tested way that fewer and fewer bigots are openly bigoted so that more and more of society can live without being splashed by it. She wants this particular episode dropped, and I think she’s aware enough that it’ll come back if she tries to escalate once again.

    Fewer people will ask “Huh?!? Who is Karla Porter?” the next time.

  4. It is her utter lack of self awareness that worries me. I have a real fear she actually doesn’t see the behaviour as unacceptable. Reading the comments of her supporters (she basically hasn’t engaged) had me almost hitting my head against the wall in frustration. At no point has a charitable explaination been put forward as this would acknowledgement of the “issue”.

  5. Athyco, has she actually back tracked anywhere? She was interviewed by JVacula on brave hero radio (which she cohosts apparently) last Sunday. I haven’t listened yet but I may engage out of morbid curiosity.

  6. Hello Brive – this thread was a few days ago so I’m not sure Athyco will see your comment. Maybe send up a flare in the lounge at Pharyngula. I share your fear: there are plenty of people on the anti-feminist side who seem to truly believe that it isn’t bullying behavior if they do it. Kind of like Rudy Giuliani, who when asked whether waterboarding is torture responded that it depends who does it. Um, no, no it doesn’t. And self-reflection doesn’t seem to be Porter’s strong suit. : |

  7. Hi, Brive. Hi, Iris.
    I don’t think Karla is lacking in self-awareness, but as I said, I’m betting on the Machiavellian calculation to which Iris referred. The more she puts herself out there, the more quotes and links and references that can go to people with whom she’d like to stay in good repute come into play. Folks could look at her participation in the “Go Home, Pineapple” first radio show and the later show in which she and Justin interviewed Dr. Jennifer Hancock, author of The Bully Vaccine and still be unclear as to what she thought she was teaching others/learning for herself about the Deep Rifts™.

    But add in that she wrote a (poorly done, IMO) satirical script for Ophelia Benson on her blog that ended up being a clearer exhibit of her own side’s hyperbolic claims. On Justin’s blog, you can read in the comments her ungracious attitude and uncharitable prediction about changing the “Ophie” she used in that script while not applying a diminutive to any other “character.”

    And with this incident, the latest failed tactic of “tongue in cheek” (since it had no harm-free comedic explanation) morphed into the you’re making far too much of this and I have (unlike you) better ways to spend my time than tedious examination of an ancient event tactics. Even so, she can’t help but notice the upvote/downvote ratio on comments on her blog.

    The common factor is Justin Vacula–fighting his fights on terms that appeal to his sense of humor. But I think that Karla will come to the realization that–in this run-up to Vacula’s attendance at WiS2–she’s not showing well with such “lighthearted” tweets while having a meal at Denny’s with a libertarian student in his early/mid-twenties who’s written an article for an MRA site and–along with what those who disagree with him think–has a reputation on the Slymepit as a constant self-promoter.

    I skimmed through the May 11 radio show. Vacula didn’t bring up the tweet at all in the first half sans callers. In the second half, there was only one caller. He referred to the latest as others’ unfounded vilifying of Karla for attacking a conference rather than the content of her tweet, and she certainly didn’t get specific, either. Factor in comments closed on her blog post. Do-not-want-to-discuss-it message on the Slymepit. Terse and/or deflecting on Twitter, and the lack of an @justinvacula (direct or retweet) since May 3.

    I’d say she still does want to be a “BraveHero,” but she wants off the front line.

  8. Hi all. Ah I see. Karla Porter has the self awareness of a consequentialist – she can’t see an ethical dimension beyond her perception there were no likely bad consequences for WiS by her tweet so no harm done there, there are now bad consequences for her so she turtles.

    Put this way I can at least understand where JV, Karla Porter and other SkepticInc bloggers are coming from. This was also made clear by this blogger:


    I’m starting to wonder whether consequentialism vs virtue ethics vs deontological systems isn’t at the heart of the Great Rift. Ie elevatorgate could be interpreted as a clash between “what was the intent/consequences of the action and how big a deal was it?” vs was the guy’s approach “the right thing to do” measured against a values system separate to the action itself and informed by the concept of sexism, privilege. Both sides seem quick to personalise their philosophical disagreement, chaos ensures and I suspect there are a large proportion who actually prefer the personality wars to reasoned analysis.

    Needless to say consequentialism is usually considered a very poor system on which to base personal morality.


    And Karla Porter is still a douche. :-)

  9. Actually that’s an inappropriate insult. Retract and replace with “Karla Porter is still offensive by any reasonable standard”

    • Offensive because she “still” hasn’t applied a reasonable standard.

      Your post makes me feel dumb in that good way–sending me off to digest new-to-me stuff like “consequentialism” (thanks for the links) and giving me new understanding of why so many want to jump past Karla to discussing the WBC.

      Even what I’ve learned leaves me scratching my head, though. Karla has had personal experience with a “joke tweet” providing an experience of confusion/horror among the attendees of a conference. It left her…not very happy.

      I must say, however, that she seemed much more focused on blaming people other than @ElevatorGATE, who sent the conference-hashtagged tweet asking if there hadn’t be 50 or 60 raped at the event. After all, he couldn’t have known that hashtagged tweets were at that time being displayed on a large screen behind a conference speaker, could he?


      • Thanks for your comment. I think though that Karla’s earlier action is consistant with my ‘theory’. In this case the rape tweet had negative consequences because the conf attendees did not understand the context and allegedly freaked out. So bad outcome (“saved” by her quick thinking and caused ultimately by the poisoned A+ agenda).

        In the current case though she probably thought the WBC wouldn’t show up (so no harm) and even if they did the WiS2 attendees should be informed “big girls”, suck in the zero physical threat and extract the silver lining from a WBC attendance by mocking them – a conference service really.

        This shows one of the dangers of consequentialism – who gets to qualify the consequences of an action and determine harm or otherwise? Who says your understanding is even reasonable if it is formed in a prejudicial environment? What measure can you apply to an action in a non biased fashion?

        Personally I think none of this had to do with competing secular agendas. On what I have seen I would say Karla would (almost) always condemn WBC. I think she was purely engaged in a spiteful personality driven in-joke with her mates, probably JV. Ie it had transcended ideology. No big agenda, no conspiracy ‘just’ base meanness. She probably positions WiS2 speakers on a par with WBC and thought it funny to imagine them having a face off. And if it happened, well no real harm done other than the in-joke irony of it all.

  10. Interesting analysis re: consequentialism potentially underlying a lot of these clashes. It always struck me as solopsistic, if not outright narcissistic, to assume oneself is always a reasonable and unbiased judge: I cannot conceive of any bad results from my actions, therefore there cannot be any. I don’t think it is a coincidence that libertarians exhibit a similar blindness.

    Also: I’m going with doucheweasel.

    • I’m sure they apologise to each other all the time :-)

      But when it’s personal and or ideological then it helps to be the judge as to the nature of the consequences. Especially if reinforced with a cheer squad.

      It’s interesting to see Damion’s responses to my (lengthy) post per link above to SkepticInk. Before descending into detail he explicitly supports the notion that the moral nature of each and every action is case by case subjective. He equates any external values system with religion and therefore rejects the concept.

      That seals it for me. That’s why an ‘imposed’ “just don’t do it” is seen so negatively, why conf rules are seen as bad and why we are all talking at cross purposes. I don’t know what it says that we couldn’t identify this issue as a group before it sank into abuse, hatred and a desire by some to crush the opposition.

      This has been a valuable, interesting and profoundly disappointing experience.

      • I had an exchange with Damian, too, in which he went from saying he couldn’t speak for Karla to speaking for me. (I seemed to presume “malevolent force” and “dark magic” from the WBC, for example.) Then, he essentially explained why I was wrong in what he’d read from my mind with his “seem to presume” by repeating what he’d said in the OP about the WBC being harmless idiots and crazy people to be handled for the lulz.

        In his opinion, Karla’s lesson from the outside interaction with her con that made her unhappy was “Don’t have an unregulated tweet wall.” Exactly as you say–case by case subjective. (I’d include “narrow,” too.) I don’t know if I can wrap my head around a way to deal with that–the power it gives an individual to rationalize away almost any harm except physical strikes me as heady for someone who wants it. There might be wedge space with Karla, as she retweets Dr. Jennifer Hancock about anti-bullying and aphorisms like the greatest strength is gentleness.

        If I’d read your comment here first, Brive, I may have responded differently to Damian because I’m more interested in your thoughts on what goes forward. I don’t want to be pollyanna-ish in focusing on the “valuable” and “interesting,” but I’d hope that those two categories could give you some insight you’d want to pass on dealing with the “profoundly disappointing” part. You’d said on Karla’s “Words at odds” post that you were exploring SkepticsInk as an alternative, so I figure you’re not attracted to FTB.

        If you’d care to post here where you find yourself drawn to comment, I’d be interested in reading it.

  11. Hi Athyco

    First – Iris I hope you don’t mind me dumping a large post here? I am very happy for you to delete it after Athyco has had a chance to look it over.


    I’m not sure if I have answers but I’m happy to brain dump a bit about where I’m at.

    Basically I’m an atheist who firmly believes that requires me to be a small (h) humanist. In practice I aim to “reject attitudes that belittle the importance of being human”.

    So by extension I fully support concepts of social justice.

    But I am also on a really complex confusing personal journey and I am far from clear on many things.

    It’s all very well establishing a broad ‘mission statement’ per above but I really want my beliefs to be founded on a logical and defined moral system that I can then use to evaluate new concepts (which in turn may adjust my values … )

    Without religious deontology this is really hard and complex as we have to engage with aspects of ethical philosophy – ie the toolsets that develop intellectual structures or models that individuals can then further develop or mix and match to personal taste.

    Here’s some more Massimo links:

    How to Determine Right from Wrong

    How to Live Life

    How to build a just society


    In general I agree with Massimo and tend towards virtue ethics: ie that in general “life is better when people are fair to each other, refrain from violence if not absolutely necessary, act with integrity, respect other people’s civil liberties, have access to education and health care, and can generally pursue their interests with the utmost degree of freedom compatible with everyone else doing the same” Still pretty loose – but it help explains why I instinctively recoil from someone tweeting WBC.

    On the other hand I fear Steve Novella may be closer to the mark when he says:

    “Personally, I do not think there is any one ethical system that always works. It is legitimate to consider consequences, but also to have a system of rules, and to consider the bigger question of individual and societal values. These get mixed together in a complex way in order to make individual moral decisions. But there is no algorithm or method to always derive the right answer.”

    To be honest I need to do more work to distil the whole complex thing into something I can bond with as a usable model.

    That’s why I found this tweet exercise interesting but disappointing. Deploying charity, it was good to get beyond the initial “what a piece of work” and to understand (possibly) where they were coming from. Disappointing because those values to me, eliminate a lot of empathy and remove the human dimension in favour of a cold consequentialist view. Good because it helped me see some sense in the whole “Great Rift” that went beyond 2 groups swinging at each other or 1 group being the ‘nameless evil’ vs the goodies. Bad because I found that a group I thought had some potential for useful engagement was actually IMO scarily amoral.

    I will probably let Damion know and move on or risk losing my life to and endless philosophical debate.

    [ I suspect there is an element of convenience with Damion. I’d bet he would (for instance) find it difficult to sacrifice his child (say) to save 5 children in Africa…. He probably picks and chooses his moral code to suite his purposes – another reason to dislike him. ]

    But as I mentioned I have many specific questions swirling around my head.

    I truly believe Karla was wrong to try and hurt her opponents – but according to what ? Am I imposing my values onto her and if so where do these values get their authority? I could apply the person in the street test – but what if the “street” is full of, say, Christians? (as Damion suggested). And morality changes, slavery is the usual example, but gay marriage is a contemporary example. How does this happen? Is it a whole lot of individual moralities converging or is there a “social” morality out there we plug into and are informed by? And if morality is fluid how do I measure whether I am in front or behind the wave? How do I reconcile (or do I even have the right?) moral values derived from radically different social constructs?

    I’ve got some strong opinions but I haven’t locked in my detailed views. So I really enjoy engaging with a range of inputs – to challenge my thought process.

    Why does Vacula believe atheism and feminism (ie social justice) are completely separate. Has he a point and if not why don’t I agree?

    Should PZ support an Australia comedian who tweets that she hopes an 11 year old girl “gets laid”? If so why?

    How does an ostensibly intelligent academic (WLC) reconcile religion and philosophy in such a way that many scientists get waylaid in debate? Why are his ideas such a mind screw and why specifically are they logically wrong?

    What exactly is the significance of conference codes of conduct? Are they being used as a tool to impose a particular left liberal feminist world view on a wider set (rage against the patriarchy) or are they pragmatically necessary to stop abuse or are they more a values statement saying “this is the type of people we are and this is the type of behaviour we find acceptable”?

    Why do men and women operate in the Slymepit? What is it about feminism that makes those who disagree so angry? Are they just f**wits or is there some truth about the human condition there?

    I support feminism in that it aims to humanise a group often treated as second run. But do I understand and support third wave feminism and its themes? Do I really get the patriarchy and gender based privilege – or is it a loose model to help understand broad themes? Does a middle class white women have more privilege than a poor third world African? Or is it a different privilege? How can I tell? In the first world are gender issues more pressing than say increasing religious fundamentalism or structural economic changes? Why?

    The questions are endless but necessary for me to understand what I believe and why.

    I find FTB closest to me in belief but many commentators there are very “comfortable” in their opinions. As PZ said FTB is a theme party and if you’re not with the theme then you are the boring uncle/aunt tolerated but not wanted. The inability to (just) ask questions and then discuss topics – not to be a jackass but to think thru the angles – makes it a bit problematic.

    For instance I’d probably advocate Conference Codes be rewritten as an events “value statement”. This would clearly explain the ‘unstated’ premise behind acceptable behaviour. I’d then direct anyone who feels uncomfortable to a proper secretariat with the authority to flexibly deal with any situation against this context. Prescriptive rules and penalties are a bit deontological and inflexible and are likely to be interpreted by many reasonable people as an ideologically inspired gambit. It also brings out the loonies and gives them ‘an excuse’ to blow steam.

    If I posted this view on FTB I’m guessing I’d be pretty immediately blasted as a troll or worse (especially the last bit). It’s not that I want to tone troll. I just don’t enjoy angry blasts and I suspect I’m looking for something different to much of the FTB community. I have however dipped my toe in the FTB water, though it is usually to subtlety challenge a line rather than chorus some view I already accept.

    I was hoping SkepticInk might provide a forum for differing views. The Vacula’s of this world will engage with dissenting ideas far more than FTB. But I just don’t find most of his values appealing and the discussion is more a debate than an exploration of ideas.

    Anyway sorry to go on. I haven’t written my thoughts out like this before – so even if I bored it has at least been useful to me! As I said above I will probably re-engage with Damion briefly this weekend – confronting his values system rather than a nit-pick session.

    I would love to hear your story and see where you are at in this whole Atheism, A+ Skeptic humanist journey!


  12. Umm re-reading:

    “Why do men and women operate in the Slymepit? What is it about feminism that makes those who disagree so angry? Are they just f**wits or is there some truth about the human condition there?”

    My magic intent was not that The Slymepitters exhibit “truth” but that their behaviour may indicate something more about the nature of humans than just their obvious nastiness.

  13. Hi Brive – I don’t know why you got kicked to moderation, perhaps too many links for the filter? I have to check, but I think it’s set at five. Anyway, I care not one whit about the length of your posts here. Your discussion with Athyco is a thoughtful, interesting and important one, and I feel very fortunate to be hosting it here.

  14. First of all: have a wonderful time at WiS2, Iris, and thank you for encouraging Brive to brain dump! :)

    And no, Brive, you certainly didn’t bore your intended (albeit limited) target audience.

    I saw that you’d commented at Pharyngula on the post about Vacula’s work being quoted in the Houston Chronicle. What passed through my mind: Hmmmm, the point’s going to be accepted but minimized since there’s such a history with Vacula and I wish I could read a conversation between Brive and Sastra. I hope you give commenting a few more shots. Other FTB’ers have different commenting rules: Greta Christina’s would fit you, I think, when she hits a topic that interests you.

    I’ll be thinking about and later giving my take on your questions because you’d already started me down that path with previous comments and links, but as to where I am in this whole journey? The stressed aspects of the story change over time.

    As of right now, I’m a woman who still has creeds, prayers, and hymn lyrics ready to mind should anyone ask, and I amassed them by changing to Methodist then Episcopalian over the original Southern Baptist by my early teens. I’d change congregations but tell myself I was rejecting the hypocrisy of individuals in a church, not the faith. But every change formed a pattern until I realized that I was trying to retain some level of faith through rejection—not only of the hypocrisy of people “applying” their faith, but of what I found ridiculous (young earth creationism) or stifling.

    But I’d never thought of declaring that it was atheism rather than the first amendment that led me to model to middle school students that no disturbance was all they “owed” during the pledge of allegiance or to stop planned prayer during assemblies. A number of boys whom I’d send out for disrupting my class would be sent back saying, “Mr. Principal told me to apologize” (I facepalm at the memory of the number of them not realizing that that sentence wasn’t the apology). A higher number of girls (especially black girls) would be suspended for “attitude.” I didn’t declare it was feminism but equality and civil rights.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that when I began exploring my atheism, I didn’t have concerns with the realization that it wouldn’t replace many of the ethical systems under which I was already working, but it would clear the decks for an unobstructed view of them. Perhaps that’s why I can—as first chisel tap on the idea sculpture here—find points of agreement with both quotes you provided and not have the “I fear Novella may be closer to the mark” reaction. (My “I fear” reaction may come later.)

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