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CFI Skeptics of Eugene Message Board › Goodbye CFI

Goodbye CFI

A former member
Post #: 23
I know I have not been active in this meetup group at all. Mostly due to scheduling conflicts, but I am now officially leaving this meetup because of Ron Lindsay's recent talk at Women in Secularism and his follow up posts. It showed a very obtuse side of Lindsay and until he resigns or is removed from his position at CFI, I cannot in any way associate myself with CFI.

May your reason extend to all things and not be blinded institutionalized bigotry and/or misogyny as it seems to have in Ron's case.

Voting with my feet. Have fun all!
Lee J.
user 13404892
Eugene, OR
Post #: 26
Hi Johnny,

I'm not sure that I've met you, but I'm sorry to see you leave. I've also been following the saga this weekend surrounding Ron Lindsay's comments. For those not familiar with the issue, CFI hosted the 2nd Women in Secularism conference on May 17-19th in Washington D.C.:


The conference was largely organized by Melody Hensley, who is Executive Director of CFI-D.C. and has been heavily promoted by CFI. The conference, on the whole, seems to have been a great event. You can check the conference site for details or follow one of the many live blogging streams such as Lousy Canuck, Ashley Miller, or Brute Reason.

The low point for many attendees was the opening talk by CFI CEO Ron Lindsay. I encourage everyone to read the actual transcript. It's not a great speech on several points, vacillating between a positive message and tone deafness, but the most problematic part was this:

"But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.

"This approach doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t work for me. It’s the approach that the dogmatist who wants to silence critics has always taken because it beats having to engage someone in a reasoned argument. It’s the approach that’s been taken by many religions. It’s the approach taken by ideologies such as Marxism. You pull your dogma off the shelf, take out the relevant category or classification, fit it snugly over the person you want to categorize, dismiss, and silence and ... poof, you’re done. End of discussion. You’re a heretic spreading the lies of Satan, and anything you say is wrong. You’re a member of the bourgeoisie, defending your ownership of the means of production, and everything you say is just a lie to justify your power. You’re a man; you have nothing to contribute to a discussion of how to achieve equality for women. "

Starting with Elevatorgate in July 2011, a subset of the atheist community online has been heavily divided over the role of feminism within the larger skeptical movement. This deepened in 2012 with the creation of Atheism+ (also on Reddit), an initiative to include social justice as an atheistic cause. While both sides of the discussion have had their irrational moments (especially in the blog comments), the battle on the whole appears to be conflict between those who believe in equality and those who believe in silencing such people through a continuous stream of vitriol and violent threats.

In April of this year, many atheist and humanist organizations tried to engineer a ceasefire by signing "An Open Letter to the Secular Community", although the effort was rejected by groups such as Secular Women. One of the chief criticisms of the "open letter" was that it equated the insult of being called an MRA [Men's Rights Activist] with the "insult" of receiving hundreds of rape threats.

On this backdrop, Ron Lindsay's comments at the opening of a conference devoted to women's issues in secularism seem particularly out of touch. He was immediately declared a hero by MRAs on Twitter, but many of the paid conference attendees were less enthusiastic:­­

Ron Lindsay responded by attacking his critics:


And doubling down on his premise:


Dr. Lindsay clearly doesn't understand the intent of "shut up and listen", and he used his (silenced?) soap box on the main page of the CFI website to make that fact abundantly clear. As one person tweeted:

Showing petulant and whiney blog posts on the front page of your org's website convey an odd message @center4inquiry.

Despite the above, it's important to remember that this is just a solitary mark against an organization with a long track record of positive work. CFI funds events such as last year's Reason Rally, they have outreach programs for minority groups and college students, and they fight legal battles on secular and science-based issues. CFI was the main backer of the Women in Secularism conference, even if their CEO made a mess of the opening talk. Time will tell if the CFI board encourages their CEO to reexamine his biases on this topic.

On an individual level, I'd argue that leaving CFI-Eugene has no productive effect, but disconnects you from one of the largest and most active groups of atheists in the Eugene area. CFI-Eugene officially falls under the umbrella of CFI-Portland. If you have a CFI membership, most of your money goes to funding projects in the Portland area (and eventually here in Eugene as well). Rather than leave, why not work to improve things?

Those who feel strongly about this issue should contact CFI Portland or CFI corporate directly. CFI Portland has no direct influence over the national CFI, but they are in a better position to collate feedback. If you are a member, you may want to remind them that your financial support depends on the leadership role CFI has taken toward encouraging diverse voices in the skeptical community.

We could also take a more active role in these issues locally. CFI-Eugene has historically been more of a social group than an activist group, but our numbers continue to grow and many new members express an interest in social justice and Atheism+. If you have an interest in coordinating events with this focus, please contact one of the local organizers.
Ruth M.
Nice, FR
Post #: 310
Johnny, bless your heart for having such strong sentiments about the rudeness, obtuseness and hypocracy of the CFI CEO. I hope you come to the local Eugene events. This group is a very comfortable group to hang with. As Lee said we are primarily a social group but the vast majority of us hold views compatible with Atheism+.

Lee - this was a great write up. I had been unaware of the battles. I had backed away from anything but social events because it seemed to me that all else that was available was drawn out (and to me boring) philosophical arguments which fit the description of naval gazing (IMHO). I am VERY interested in Atheism+ and will follow their activities. Thank you for the info - I am a happier camper for it. ;-)
Lee J.
user 13404892
Eugene, OR
Post #: 27
Ruth - It depends on who you follow online of course, but most of my sources are much more interested in causes than in naval gazing. Here's another link you may find interesting:­

All - The Secular Women's organization, mentioned above, responded to Ron Lindsay's comments. I thought it was appropriate to add the link to this discussion, given he referenced them in his follow-up tirade:

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