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Mythicist Milwaukee and today’s atheism

normalizeatheism

Did you know that atheists today commonly refer to themselves as skeptics? Did you know that debunking Flat-Earthers is very popular right now? Did you know that bashing Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) have made many skeptics overnight YouTube sensations? If not, you haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on in atheist social media.

So why bash people that are referred to as SJWs? Is it because they blow things out of proportion and use strong arm tactics to demonize and block free speech for those who disagree with them on their ideology? Yes, and what happened at Mythcon 4 was a clear example of this.

There’s an enormous divide in the atheist community regarding free speech and political views. There’s a lot of political debate from European Vloggers. There are people who Richard Carrier refers to as the new left and the new right. For Americans, there’s a bit of a Rosetta Stone needed to understand political leanings on issues. The US right is not the same as the European right.

Freedom of speech in the United States is not the same as freedom of speech in Europe because of the enactment of so called hate speech laws. There are politicians promoting draconian censorship and then there are YouTube personalities like Sargon of Akkad who are politely disagreeing with them. OK, maybe not so politely.

So where does Mythicist Milwaukee (MM) fit into all of this? First a little about the MM organization. I’ve know the folks at MM for years. An awesome group of people, very nice, professional, and easy to work with. I was the first featured speaker at the first Mythinformation (Mythcon) event.

I was followed by Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, and our headliner was Dr. Richard Carrier, a well know historian who’s very knowledgeable and has written books about the links between Jesus Christ and earlier myths.

Over the years MM has given hundreds of atheists the opportunity to get public exposure. Through radio programs, podcasts, and conferences, non-believers are given the stage and get experience in answering questions and presenting their story. Past speakers include black, white, men, women, feminists, ex-Muslims, singers, comedians, etc.

The first Mythcon was a success in that we filled seats, but the venue at that time was small. About 120 people I’d estimate. The second Mythcon was not successful in attendance. When having a conference, it is a wee-bit important that people show up.

For the 3rd Mythcon, they brought in Matt Dillahunty, a well-known atheists who’s been to many conferences. How do you get attendance? Bringing in a headliner like Matt should help. But getting popular speakers will increase ticket prices. The main event at Mythcon 3 was Dr. Robert Price and Dr. Bart D. Ehrman on the topic, “Did Jesus exist?”

For Mychcon 4, the folks at MM decided to bring in popular atheist YouTube personalities and address the great divide in the community by having Thomas Smith (new left Feminist) interview Carl Benjamin (new right anti-Feminist.) They also had YouTube personalities Shoe On Head and Armoured Skeptic.

No one batted an eye when MM gave the stage to feminists. When MM gave the stage to anti-feminists (not people who are anti-woman, but people who criticize the leftist feminist movement) people lost their mind. One of those people was Steve Shives.

So why do people hate so called Social Justice Warriors? Steve Shives’s behavior gives us the reason in the clearest possible terms. Sargon is controversial, he his belligerent, but he wasn’t there to have his own platform. He was there to debate someone with opposing views. Imagine that, people with opposing views having a debate.

But Shives doesn’t just go after Sargon, he attacks the MM organization and even tries to harass the venue into shutting the event down. Never mind all the other speakers that will be there or the people planning to see the event.

In 2015 Steve Shives tried to promote the idea that the atheist movement should be coupled with the feminist movement. But these are different movements, and atheism typically promotes humanism which is much broader in scope than feminism. The Reason Rally in 2016 was a mixture of atheism and feminism. It was an attendance disaster despite an awesome performance by Penn Jillette.

Armoured Skeptic criticized Steve Shives attempt to use atheism as a platform for leftist feminism. So what happens when you disagree with an extreme leftists? They call you names like “rape culture supporter, racist, Nazi” and try to ban you. They attack any organization that would host you, the hotel or other establishment hosting any event with you in it, and any other speakers at the same event.

And they do all this while ironically claiming that you’re a fascist. This is why people hate them so much, but they just don’t seem to get it.

Being attacked by Steve Shives was the best publicity MM could have hoped for. There are widely popular YouTube personalities where half their videos are making fun of Steve Shives. And BTW, Shives is one of the atheists MM previously gave a platform to. This is how he repays them.

The hatred for the extreme left needs to be understood in order to have perspective on the most controversial incident at Mythcon IV. People applauding while Sargon repeating the phrase, “Even I wouldn’t rape you” that he made to a female Member of Parliament (MP) in Britain who wants to censor the internet.

If the audience was asked if they were applauding because they think it’s an acceptable thing to say, or if they were cheering because this is something that’s going to piss off the far left, and there’s nothing they like better than having SJWs lose their minds, I’m guessing the reason would be the latter. But that’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

Recently Dusty Smith (also known as Dusty the White since he’s no longer dyeing his hair) called out Australian YouTube personality Bearing for voting against equal marriage for gays. Dusty accused Bearing of denying equal rights and liberties just to spite the left. I agree with Dusty that this is what happened.

If hatred against SJWs is causing belligerent non-productive comments to be applauded, and causing equal rights and liberties for minorities to be denied out of political spite, that hatred has gone too far. If hatred is causing logic and reason to be corrupted, people need to take a step back.

Do extreme leftists deserve to be mocked? On extremist positions yes, but it’s OK to agree with them on something. If the new right and the new left agree on gay marriage for example, that doesn’t mean they’re agreeing to cuddle each other. It’s OK to have colossal disagreements on certain issues, and agree on others.

Many “old school” atheists like Matt Dillahunty have threatened to never attend another Mythcon unless there’s a change in leadership or direction. Matt spent over an hour explaining himself in a video where he lays out his objections. He had issues with certain members of MM before the event.

But when you watch the video from Matt, it’s not all about criticism of MM. He calls out the strong arm tactics used to try and shut down the event and acknowledges the decline of atheist conference attendance. Although I disagree with some of his points, his discussion is very interesting and I recommend people view it along with one of the MM organizers Mario Quadracci's reply.

Steve Shives is telling everyone on the left to never attend another Mythcon and wants the MM organization to die. This is an absurd position to take. What happened with Smith and Sargon was one event at one Mythcon. Each Mythcon has been different. We don’t know what’s going to be scheduled for Mythcon 5.

But one thing is clear. If old school atheists and the new left refuses to come, the next Mythcon will be one-sided. By refusing to come these people are shooting themselves in the foot. Everyone should be supporting MM and appreciating all the work they’ve done over the years giving so many atheists an opportunity to have greater public exposure.

Isolation is a big reason many atheists in the past suffered from severe depression. It’s not easy feeling like you’re the only sane person in the asylum. Thankfully today there are atheist meetup groups, Facebook pages, and an awesome YouTube community to make non-believers not feel alone. MM has been a great part of that.

Matt Dillahunty in his statement criticizing the event said he didn’t watch atheist videos and didn’t know who people like Armoured Skeptic even were. If that’s the case, to me, that’s irresponsible. Old school atheists shouldn’t be stuck in their own little bubbles. We should have a finger on the pulse of our community.

We should know what issues are popular and what new personalities are gaining recognition. We should be spending time recruiting new representatives and providing recognition. Speaking of which, an awesome new atheist to social media is Alex O’Conner, the Cosmic Skeptic. He has the poise and the patience of an ancient philosopher, and yet, he isn’t old enough to have a beer!

Another young atheist to watch is a secularist named Melissa Chen who spoke at Mythcon 4 about the Enlightenment. Many people today claim that the United States was built on Judeo-Christian values. That’s not true. The US was built on the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement that changed the world.

Did MM make mistakes? I think so. I believe that the debate format of Smith “interviewing” Sargon was a mistake. Having a more traditional debating structure with a strong moderator in the middle would have been effective in getting to the heart of issues and deflecting a lot of the nonsense IMO. That would be my criticism in the spirit of assisting the organization.

Matt said a “new direction” might cause him to return. OK Matt, what ideas do you have that would cause you to come back for the next one? Based on my experience, MM is an organization of very reasonable people. This is not a static organization, they are adaptable to change.

Thomas Smith made a lot of mistakes in his performance with Sargon. He definitely had some cringe worthy moments. Perhaps Thomas would like another shot to redeem himself. That’s not going to happen if he refuses to attend anymore events.

You can’t blame MM for giving you an opportunity. If you choked, that’s on you. Hopefully you can learn from the experience and do better next time. Based on all the exposure MM has given to Thomas Smith, I’m guessing that they like the guy.

Everyone should learn how to argue. People who don’t know how to argue tend to try and ban people instead of having a conversation.

So what should MM do to make Mythcon 2018 a smashing success? What would you like to see? Let them know.

It’s important that atheists spend less time tearing each other down and more time lifting each other up. I want to personally thank MM for the opportunity they gave me and so many other non-believers. I wish them continued success. May logic and reason be with you, and may the best arguments win.

-James Kirk Wall

References:
Richard Carrier - MythCon IV: What Organizers & Outreach Directors Need to Know
Matt Dillahunty – Mythcon and humanism
Mario Quadracci's reply to Matt
Armoured Skeptic - Feminism is My God Now
Dusty Smith - StrawManning Bearing! What I Should Have Said The First Time!
The Intercept - Glenn Greenwald - In Europe, Hate Speech Laws are Often Used to Suppress and Punish Left-Wing Viewpoints
Mythicist Milwaukee YouTube channel

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