Sexual Harassment Amongst the UnbelieversThere is a kerfuffle going on in the Atheist community. I've been pretty silent about it, but somebody asked me my opinion so I wrote the following response, which I would like to share. Non-atheists will find nothing of interest here; move along, you folks have your own problems ;-)
Okay. So just to be clear, the kerfuffle I'm talking about is the ongoing flame-fest over the issue of sexual harassment policies at Atheist conventions. So here's what I think.
I think what we're seeing is the consequence of trying to form a community out of a bunch of people who have abandoned our culture's default (Christian) rules of behavior. I'm not saying it was a mistake, I'm saying we all ought to face up to the fact that we have some work to do.
Some who've dumped Christianity feel that in the absence of its archaic sexual taboos, we should now all be free and open about our sexual impulses. Others who've dumped Christianity feel that in the absence of its patriarchal biases, we should now finally respect the absolute equal rights of women and have zero tolerance for unsolicited sexual advances.
I don't think the problem is that one side or the other is wrong. I think they're both mostly right. The problem, in my view, is that we lack a clear new cultural standard for behavior that accommodates both of these views by adopting reasonable limits to enable them to co-exist. Both sides are being a bit shrill and defensive, and that's entirely understandable, because both are fighting to make sure that the new emerging standards of behavior place as few limits on their side of the dispute as possible.
So while it can be unpleasant to listen to this infighting, I think we need to accept it as inevitable. I also think it could be healthy in the long run. Because if we never work through these differences then we won't be one community, we'll be two.