Saturday, May 28, 2011

RIP; Winter in America

Just about a year ago I posted Gil Scott-Heron's "Me and the Devil." He's died. Here's an older one:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Change the e to an a and add an -an

"The 'Christian' Dogma Pushed by Religious Schools That Are Supported by Your Tax Dollars":
Religious schools across the nation are receiving public funds through voucher and corporate tax credit programs. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of these schools use Protestant fundamentalist textbooks that teach not only creationism, but also a religious supremacist worldview. They offer a shocking spin on politics, history and human rights.
The textbook content quoted in the article is extreme and scary, but some of it is just hilariously loopy:
The worldview of these textbook publishers impact areas you might not suspect, including choosing phonics over whole language reading instruction and rejecting the teaching of set theory in mathematics, both on religious grounds. The A Beka publishers advertise the math curriculum as, “A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Interlude - From The Book of Embraces


Yes, indeed: however hurt and shattered one might be, one can always find contemporaries anywhere in time, and compatriots anywhere in space. And wherever this happens, and for as long as it lasts, one is lucky to feel one is something in the infinite loneliness of the universe: something more than a ridiculous speck of dust, more than just a fleeting moment.

Photographing While Female

Last month, I posted several pictures I had taken one day. My picture-taking on that occasion was split in three: some photos of the beach and rocks in the morning, then a few in town, followed by a return to the beach. Events that day led me to think more about gender and the arts.

It seems that feminist thinking about photography - and the arts in general - has largely focused (hee) on the content of photographic images, the objectification of women, and participation in general, neglecting to some extent the actual practice of photographing as art and documentation. (I may be wrong and this ground is well covered, in which case I’d appreciate references.)

Photographing is generally seen as an empowering means of self-expression and political action. That idea is the basis for projects around the world in which poor, marginalized people are provided cameras and encouraged to document their lives and experiences. (It’s interesting that the artistic aspect is often, but not always, downplayed in favor of the allegedly more empowering documentary and participation elements. I doubt this is a good thing.)

And it is empowering, especially for women – generally encouraged to be looked at rather than to look. And fun. I love the feel and sound of the camera. I enjoy composing shots and trying to manipulate the machine to get the results I’m looking for, examining things of interest to me and creating an image to share. It’s discovery, and it feels powerful. It differs from writing in that the act of photographing itself is an active engagement with the world.

And that was how I felt as I returned, a spring in my step, from the first leg of my local excursion in early April. Of course, that required some psychological editing. Since a lot of what I do is broadly “nature” photography (and another large part consists of sites that are abandoned in the off season), taking pictures often involves being alone in some semi-remote and semi-isolated places. If I turn down a small path or head out onto some rocks, I’m vigilant about who might be watching or trailing and mentally mark potential escape routes. I’ve been followed before* and I’m wary of any men in the area, but know that the sort of hyperawareness I would usually practice in the circumstances is impossible to maintain since I'm concentrating on taking pictures.

Midday, I went into town to run some errands and snap a few pictures at a local park. It was about to rain, and I hoped to get a few "atmospheric" shots in. I was composing one just as the first drops began to fall when a truck with two men swerved into the lot and circled close around me. I jolted, and when I looked up I saw the driver’s face. It was that smile – not so much threatening as mischievously predatory. All I could do was look startled and climb quickly into my car.

Here’s the picture I was taking:

As an image, it’s pretty bland,** but I have a visceral response to it. What’s most amazing is that I forgot all about the event while I reveled in the rest of the afternoon. Cropped it out of my memory. It wasn’t until that evening, when I read this comment about harassment, that I recalled what had happened.

The irony is that photography is often regarded, and not inaccurately, as an art that erases iself, misleadingly presenting the image as objective, unmediated reality. This is true, but what’s also erased is the experience of the picture-taker. Discussion of the practical challenges and dangers of photographing in relation to gender, race, and class seems rare (again, references would be most appreciated). Of course, I’d also love to hear from other people about their own experiences.

* I’ve also met nice people who’ve approached me to ask sincere, if sometimes condescending (“Is it a project for school?”), questions.

** I think this, from the next day, is much more interesting :):

Friday, May 20, 2011

Update on bad medicine at San Martin mine


Last fall, I wrote a poem, “The Mine Clinic,” about the “medicine” practiced by health professionals affiliated with the Canadian Goldcorp’s mining operation in Siria Valley, Honduras. A recent update from Rights Action – “Goldcorp, Honduran Regime Cover up blood & urine testing and poisoning at San Martin Mine” - with more information and suggestions for what people (especially Canadians) can do at the link:
Going back to at least 2007, Goldcorp Inc. and the government of Honduras have known about and covered up information about blood poisoning and health problems caused by Goldcorp's open-pit, cyanide leaching "San Martin" mine in the Siria Valley, department of Francisco Morazan, central Honduras. This mine is operated by Goldcorp's subsidiary Entremares.

Even though Goldcorp suspended its mining operation there in 2008, villagers in numerous towns near the mine site suffer recurring health harms, even today. Local residents - as well as cows -- have died of health problems likely caused by the mine.

Had Goldcorp and the government of Honduras released the results of their 2007 blood and urine samples, and accepted responsibility to care for the health harms caused by the mine, villagers in the Siria Valley might have received appropriate medical attention. Instead, the results were covered up until now. Still, neither Goldcorp nor the government have accepted responsibility.


[T]he people of the Siria Valley do not need medical treatment for just those 62 people whose blood and urine were sampled in 2007, though they do need that.

Needed is an acknowledgement by the government of Honduras and by Goldcorp that there are past and on-going health and environmental harms caused by Goldcorp's mining operation, and that Goldcorp and the government are responsible to do everything necessary to provide comprehensive treatment and compensation to all affected people and communities, and to repair the underlying environmental contamination and harms.

Needed are all the health files - including complete results of the blood and urine tests - to be returned to the 62 individuals.

Needed is a comprehensive medical response to the widespread contaminants and health harms throughout the Siria Valley.

Needed is a comprehensive environmental assessment of the entire region, to test for on-going air, earth and water contamination; followed by a comprehensive environmental rehabilitation program to make the region again safe for living.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Catch shares update

“Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll starve.”

- bumper sticker, Gloucester, MA, 2011*

I posted briefly back in March about resistance to the implementation of catch share programs in the Eastern US. At the end of the month, the US Department of Commerce announced - belatedly and belittly - that several Northeastern fishing communities were in line for economic impact investigations and possible assistance (a coldly dispassionate, objective report from the Gloucester Times :)).

Then in April – just after Diane Wilson and other Gulf Coast fishermen and –women were blocked from entering a BP shareholder meeting – the bipartisan Jones Amendment passed, blocking federal funding for any new catch share programs for the rest of the current spending cycle.

On Tuesday, “Dan Rather Reports” (on something called HDNet) investigated NOAA’s relationship with local fisheries; the report should be available soon via iTunes.

Here’s an article on catch share programs and opposition from Food and Water Watch. I don’t have the expertise to evaluate it as critically as I’d like, and I have a krill’s knowledge of fisheries management, but I do know this: Long-term justice and sustainability are not going to be achieved by taking power and control away from local fishing communities.

* I enjoyed some of the other variants I came across here:

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.” - Author Unknown

“Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish.” - Author Unknown

That "just" gets to me

Idealists of all schools, aristocrats and bourgeois, theologians and metaphysicians, politicians and moralists, religionists, philosophers, or poets, not forgetting the liberal economists - unbounded worshippers of the ideal, as we know - are much offended when told that man, with his magnificent intelligence, his sublime ideas, and his boundless aspirations, is, like all else existing in the world, nothing but matter, only a product of vile matter.

We may answer that the matter of which materialists speak, matter spontaneously and eternally mobile, active, productive, matter chemically or organically determined and manifested by the properties or forces, mechanical, physical, animal, and intelligent, which necessarily belong to it - that this matter has nothing in common with the vile matter of the idealists. The latter, a product of their false abstraction, is indeed a stupid, inanimate, immobile thing, incapable of giving birth to the smallest product, a caput mortuum, an ugly fancy in contrast to the beautiful fancy which they call God; as the opposite of this supreme being, matter, their matter, stripped by that constitutes its real nature, necessarily represents supreme nothingness. They have taken away intelligence, life, all its determining qualities, active relations or forces, motion itself, without which matter would not even have weight, leaving it nothing but impenetrability and absolute immobility in space; they have attributed all these natural forces, properties, and manifestations to the imaginary being created by their abstract fancy; then, interchanging rôles, they have called this product of their imagination, this phantom, this God who is nothing, "supreme Being" and, as a necessary consequence, have declared that the real being, matter, the world, is nothing. After which they gravely tell us that this matter is incapable of producing anything, not even of setting itself in motion, and consequently must have been created by their God.
I’ve always liked this quotation from Bakunin’s God and the State. I had a disagreement with a friend recently about religious consolation, and Stephen Hawking’s recent comments reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post about it. The argument my friend was making is superficially plausible: even if the fact claims of religion are false, we should not make an issue about this, and even view holding them as positive, because they provide comfort to religious people. There are, of course, several claimed elements of this comfort: in facing loss and death, in believing one’s life has a “greater purpose,” in reducing uncertainty, etc. In a recent post I referred, as I so often do, to Allen Wood’s work on the ethics of belief, and argued that the justifications that religion provides personal consolation and that it leads people to be better not only fail as responses to Wood’s challenge but contradict one another in the process.

I noted then Wood’s discussion of how the consolation justification is inconsistent with human dignity and self-respect. One particular facet, though, has long irked me. (I’m not the first to make this argument, of course, but since it bothers me I’m going to write about it.) My problem is specifically with the idea that religious “meaning” or “purpose” or the god around which these center are consoling beliefs because otherwise the universe or earth or we would be “just” material. I hate that “just.”

Stars, meteors, rockets, rocks, animals, plants, oceans, lightning, gases, brains, and all of the history of the processes tying it all together over billions of years… - the word “just,” the idea of "just," has no place here. But the consolation argument, perversely, rests on it – rests on the promotion of a view of the cosmos, including ourselves, as “just” “a stupid, inanimate, immobile thing.” And so this view has to be encouraged, and it is. It’s taught to children, and then presented as natural, with the pretense that children will only take joy and fascination in their world if it’s coated in cheap syrup. Since people “naturally” believe that everything is nothing, the consolation of religion – of all sorts, including New Age woo – will always be necessary. Worst of all, this idea is unchallenged and even proffered by people who claim to promote science, as though reducing all of nature to a grey nothingness, to live with which people need the consolation of religious dross, didn’t fundamentally deny the interest and pleasure of science and life itself. I hate that “just.”

As I was writing this, I read about Richard Dawkins’ new children’s book. I hope it’s good. Sounds like a wonderful gift.


"So far Hawking has refused to engage Cameron in the battle of the brains."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

More on Templeton, Atlas, and climate denial

In a recent post about Templeton’s antiscience activities (receiving some attention at the moment thanks to a link in a piece by Jerry Coyne, which I strongly recommend), I mentioned the infamous 2009 Heartland Institute climate conference. DeSmogBlog’s list of conference sponsors detailed the over $47 million received by the sponsoring organizations from ExxonMobil and the Koch and Scaife Foundations since the mid-‘80s. The Atlas Economic Research Foundation received funding from all three of the sources of interest to DSB, and they noted that Atlas in turn had funded another sponsor, the Alternate Solutions Institute.

DSB didn’t look at Templeton, but it’s funded at least a few of the sponsors (Free to Choose, John Locke, and Atlas) directly, as I discussed earlier. In fact, Atlas’ grant from Templeton – to support, it appears, its think-tank efforts - for the four-year 2009-2012 period alone is more than the total funding Atlas received from the other three sources combined over the entire period DSB considered.

I noted parenthetically in the previous post on the subject that several of the organizations listed as sponsors are funded by Atlas, and I’d like to be more specific. Most of these were listed by DSB as having “No funding records from Exxon, Koch, or Scaife,” but they all appear to be in the Atlas international stable:
  • Institute of Public Affairs, Australia

  • Instituto de Libre Impresa, Peru (2007 Templeton Freedom Award grant winner)

  • Instituto Juan de Mariana, Spain (2008 and 2010 Templeton Freedom Award winner)

  • Instituto Liberdade, Brazil (2006 Templeton Freedom Award grant winner)

  • Instituto Bruno Leoni, Italy (2004 Templeton Freedom Award winner)

  • Liberales Institut, Switzerland (2005 Templeton Freedom Award winner)*
  • This may not be exhaustive, nor, as the MJ article I linked to above shows, do the sponsors of this conference represent all of the climate denialist organizations promoted by Atlas. Naturally, Atlas isn’t necessarily the sole funding source for these organizations, though its financial and other support may well be necessary to keep some of them in operation. But it’s clear that Templeton and Atlas are in the climate denial game.

    * You may have noticed a pattern here similar to that of the awarding of the Templeton Prize.

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    CIRI Human Rights Data Project blog

    The Cingranelli-Richards (CIRI) Human Rights Data Project ( provides standards-based quantitative information on government respect for 15 internationally recognized human rights for 195 countries, annually from 1981-2009. It is designed for use by scholars and students who seek to test theories about the causes and consequences of human rights violations, as well as policy makers and analysts who seek to estimate the human rights effects of a wide variety of institutional changes and public policies including democratization, economic aid, military aid, structural adjustment, and humanitarian intervention.
    And they now have a blog. Not much up yet, but I hope more soon. It's a useful and well-managed project, and I recall emailing them several years ago with a question and receiving a helpful and courteous reply.

    Religion's contradictory ethical evasions

    In general we owe it to others, simply as fellow human beings and partners in the collective rational search for truth, to offer them...what is best of ourselves and our unique perspective. It is our duty not to let our self-interest and self-deception, or our personal wishes and psychological needs take precedence over the evidence in forming the beliefs that shape our communication toward others and our actions that bear on their well-being. (p. 21)
    Allen Wood, in his great “The duty to believe according to the evidence,” clearly explains the need for an ethics of belief based on the evidentialist principle. In it, he takes apart attempts to argue that some beliefs should be immune from this ethical principle due to claimed positive effects or other justifications. I won’t repeat his arguments here, but, as I have many times in the past, recommend the article (which can be read in another form here). My argument here is that two of the oft-made ethical justifications for religion, which Wood addresses largely separately, are contradictory. These are the claims that religion gives people comfort and that and religion is socially beneficial. To be sure, both are wrong on their own, as Wood shows. But in ethical terms I can’t see how either can even be articulated seriously in light of the other.

    It’s strange, and, to me it seems, hypocritical for theists (or accommodationists) to attempt any consequentialist arguments for religion. Religion is lye thrown on the tissue of consequentialist thinking. The moral value of the concrete, empirically demonstrable effects – individual or social – of beliefs is rendered irrelevant by religious belief systems themselves. What does it matter if holding a particular belief increases individual well-being or morality in a measurable way, if that definition of well-being or morality is not the one favored by a deity? To speak of the profane consequences of religious beliefs makes a mockery of sacred thinking, and vice versa.

    These two consequentialist claims for religion, in any event, run up against each other. When I raise Wood’s argument about the ethics of unevidenced beliefs, the response I receive most often is that, well, these beliefs may or may not be true, but they provide comfort to individuals without hurting anyone else. In other words, religious beliefs provide private consolation (a questionable claim on its own, as Wood discusses, both empirically and in terms of comfort based on self-delusion being an actual good*), but are at the same time exempt from moral consideration or to be considered morally positive overall because they’re unrelated to other effective beliefs and exert no negative independent effects on behavior towards others. Now, I don’t think the people who put forward this quarantined-belief notion, who argue that beliefs about the nature of the cosmos, the existence of deities, human purpose, and so forth have no consequences beyond themselves, genuinely believe it – surely, they don’t think it’s true of all religious beliefs - but this is the claim.

    And religion’s defenders are forced to resort to this untenable position, because they recognize at some level that if religious beliefs do affect other beliefs or actions in the world they have to be held to an ethical principle. But then elsewhere they argue that the beliefs do just this: that it’s precisely the religious beliefs that produce positive social consequences. If people didn’t hold these beliefs, the arguments go, they wouldn’t (or wouldn’t be as likely to) be good, join moral communities, be philanthropic, and so on. This is of course rubbish, but my point is that these arguments mean necessarily that they think religious beliefs influence other beliefs and actions towards other people, thus inherently having moral ramifications. How could it be otherwise?

    Even if the two claims – personal/emotional and social/moral - for the value of religion held independently as ethical justifications, which they certainly do not, I don’t see how they could conceivably be reconciled with one another. Arguing that a belief in heaven is merely a comforting thought isolated from all other thoughts and actions and thus with no potential negative consequences for others means that you can’t ever contend that a belief in heaven makes a person behave better towards others. Both arguments are flimsy attempts to evade the need to hold religious beliefs to the same ethical-evidentiary standards as any other beliefs, and both fail on their own. But someone who makes one cannot make the other without demonstrating their, as it were, bad faith.

    * In fact, he calls it cowardly, contemptible, and contrary to self-respect.

    ** Wood notes the obvious, that “any belief that is important to us and likely to have a significant effect on our lives and actions is also likely to have an impact on the well-being of others” (p. 20).

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Honduras is Open for Pillage


    Adrienne Pine at Quotha has been posting about this week’s conference in Honduras, also linking to information and analysis from this site (in Spanish).
    On May 4th through 6th a conference titled "Honduras is Open for Business" will be held in the city of San Pedro Sula. According to the official site, this gathering "aims at re-launching Honduras as the most attractive investment destination in Latin America". The government of Honduras has invited over 1000 corporations to bid on at least 147 projects (it is unknown how many projects are being withheld from the public) with an estimated value of $14.6 Billion USD. This figure is only slightly less than what the annual Gross Domestic Product of Honduras was in 2010 ($16.3 Billion USD).

    ...This conference, with its billions in proposed private financing is a new coup aimed against the democratic right of the Honduran people to participate in the decisions that affect them most. If implemented, many of these projects would displace large amounts of Hondurans from their homes or introduce unfamiliar products that would cause untold harm to the country. "Honduras is Open for Business" is also a jolt to the conscience, considering that the U.S. government and multinational corporations are so eager to treat Honduras as an investment experiment at a time when the nation suffers from widespread social conflict and gross human rights violations.
    [*] They didn’t seem to have an arresting image for their promotions, so I thoughtfully added one to their logo and description. No charge. [Source for original photo]

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Nonbelievers in the civil rights movement

    Accommodationists are fond of expressing shock, shock, to hear atheists mention the history of other prejudices and social movements in the context of discussing our own. How dare we equate the challenges atheists face to anti-Semitism or our movement to the civil rights or LGBT rights movements (not as much huffiness over references to feminism, unsurprisingly)?

    This is of course disingenuous posturing. First, in the vast majority of cases it is obvious – and often called to their attention explicitly – that people are not seeking to equate these movements in every way, that “it’s about pointing out similarities in the way the movements and the backlashes against them play out.” (Indeed, it’s conceivable that we could also refer to the experiences of religious or authoritarian movements. Analyzing movement dynamics doesn’t mean erasing particular content or experiences, but viewing these through the lens of the dynamic under consideration.) It’s also rather callous, casually minimizing and dismissing the very real problems and threats faced by open atheists in their personal and public lives.

    But this latest playwhinging episode has me thinking about atheism and the civil rights movement. The simplistic narrative of civil rights struggles, apparently favored by some accommodationists, seems to feature rather depoliticized black people, inspired by their faith and organized by churches, fighting for equality and facing resistance based solely on the color of their skin or their civil rights activism. This does not reflect reality. The civil rights movement involved a diverse coalition confronting mainstream churches who detested activists for their race and ethnicity, leftist politics, challenging of traditional gender roles, and, yes, atheism.

    Susan Jacoby writes of this history in Freethinkers:

    “The Christian Right,” she says,
    would like today’s public to forget exactly where religious conservatives stood on civil rights forty years ago. One of the more repellent ironies of modern religious correctness has been the attempt by fundamentalists to wrap themselves in the mantle of those men and women of faith who risked their lives to fight racism. In the sixties, right-wing fundamentalists were, almost without exception, hard-core segregationists. They attacked the twentieth-century civil rights movement as their spiritual and often physical ancestors had attacked the nineteenth-century abolitionist and feminist movements. What they saw was what their predecessors had seen – not a struggle for justice but a conspiracy of atheism, political radicalism, and sexual libertinism (326).
    While “[i]t is inarguable that the preeminent moral leadership of the early civil rights struggle came from the black churches of the South,…only those with an interest in concealing the sorry racial record of so many white churches, North and South, have the temerity to credit religion per se for inspiring the movement” (326). Support from white northern churches was inconsistent and often passive, and the majority of southern white religious people (especially evangelicals), including religious leaders, were “staunch defenders of segregation” (327). Southern Catholic and Jewish congregations had a better but uneven and tentative record.

    While northern white people had little involvement in the important struggles in the South in the ‘50s, in the ‘60s, as northerners headed south, a diverse coalition of liberal Catholics and Protestants, religious and secular Jews, agnostics, and atheists joined the original activists, and the movement
    became a collaboration among Americans of many religions, and of no religion, moved by the same moral imperatives.* It was a coalition the nation had not seen since the abolitionist movement, when iconoclastic religious believers and freethinkers were united by the conviction that slavery was immoral, when Garrison declared his belief that membership in the human race – not membership in a church – was all that was required to recognize the evil of slavery (330).
    She is careful to emphasize that “the white members of that dedicated coalition never spoke for middle-of-the-road white church members in the North or the South” (330). The largest segment of college-age white Freedom Summer volunteers in the first half of the ‘60s, according to Jacoby, were nonobservant Jews, “motivated not by Judaism as a religion but by the secular Jewish tradition of social activism… Nigger was the only epithet hurled more frequently at marchers than kike and Jew-boy” (333). There were nonreligious within the black activist community as well. “Many of the younger men held views on religion more in line with those of W. E. B. Du Bois – who had almost as little respect for the black church as he did for white churches – than with those of King” (332).

    As with earlier coalitional movements, the diversity of beliefs amongst activists created tensions within the community and external-relations concerns for the believers. “The irreligion of many of the younger white volunteers was a sore point not only with white segregationists but also with many respected elders in southern black communities” themselves (332). Even MLK had trouble accepting even his close friend and lawyer Stanley Levison’s atheistic and humanistic morality: “King found it impossible to imagine that someone could be as morally committed to the betterment of humanity as Levison without believing in any god or any religion. ‘You believe in God, Stan’, King would tease his friend. ‘You just don’t know it’” (331). (While Jacoby suggests that “[T]he younger nonreligious blacks did not always display the respect for devout African American believers that King and his clerical contemporaries displayed toward those whose humanism was the sole moral basis of their commitment to civil rights” (333), she presents no evidence of this, and the quotation from King doesn’t particularly demonstrate a respect for the nonreligious.)

    The movement’s enemies ceaselessly charged that “‘atheistic’ and ‘communistic’ volunteers had descended upon the South in order to engage in promiscuous interracial sex” (331). Under these conditions, Jacoby asks, “What civil rights leader would wish to underscore the religious unconventionality of so many volunteers” (331)? The extensive participation of nonreligious in this context created problems for the the believers:
    Like the image-conscious suffragists at the turn of the century, civil rights leaders had good reason not to draw attention to the importance of the nonreligious, and even the unconventionally religious, in their movement(330).
    Jacoby tells of the prejudices involved with the murders of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwermer, and Viola Gregg Liuzzo. Goodman and Schwermer, Jewish atheists and secular humanists, were killed along with James Chaney in June of 1964. Although the killers had only planned to murder Schwermer, Goodman was killed as well because “he was with Schwermer and was, after all, only ‘another atheist, Communist, nigger-loving Jew’” (334).

    Viola Gregg Liuzzo, a civil rights volunteer murdered by Klansmen nine months later, is described by Jacoby as a “spiritual humanist.” Like Michael Schwermer’s wife Rita, Liuzzo was “attacked not only as a northern busybody but…as an unnatural woman who had stepped out of her God-ordained place in society” (337):
    Liuzzo’s status as a mother of five was not used to gain sympathy for her but to impeach her character; national opinion polls showed that a majority of Americans, women as well as men, northerners as well as southerners – felt that no mother had a right to leave her children, even for a few days, to work for a social cause. That Liuzzo had not expected to be murdered was beside the point in the view of a public that still believed a woman’s place was in the home (336).
    The “remarkably persistent social stereotypes used to label female social activists as libertines and opponents of God Himself” (333) and the defaming of atheism were promoted by the FBI, and used by defense attorney Matt Murphy, who had good reason to expect them to resonate, at the trial of Liuzzo’s killers:
    ‘Mrs. Liuzzo was up there singing “we will overcome, we will overcome, we will overcome”’ he ranted. ‘What in God’s name were they trying to overcome? God himself?...Integration breaks every moral law God wrote. Noah’s son was Ham and he committed adultery and his sons were the Hamites and God banished them and they went to Africa and the only thing they ever built was grass huts. No white woman can ever marry a descendent of Ham’ (336).
    A greater appreciation of the “many heroes animated by nonreligious humanism” (338) in the civil rights and other movements in US history can bring useful insights. As Jacoby's narrative attests (and other evidence clearly shows), beliefs about religion and hostility to atheism and atheists in the US should be recognized not merely as deriving from simple ignorance but as the result of decades of orchestrated political campaigns from the (religious) right.

    Also, the complexities of coalitional movements need to be acknowledged and addressed. Jacoby represents the extensive participation of the nonreligious in the civil rights movement in the context of attacks from without as “a delicate issue for those who wished the cause of racial justice to be seen not as a radical departure from but as the embodiment of American tradition at its best” (330). But of course the best of the American tradition is subjective, and the historiographer chooses her primary protagonists. Downplaying the participation of atheists and the humanist basis for much courageous civil rights activism made life more difficult for the nonreligious at the time, both as civil rights activists and simply as atheists, and for atheists in the future. (It’s hard to imagine how difficult it would have been for a black woman to be a vocal atheist in these circumstances.) It’s probable that this marginalizing of the nonreligious and of humanistic morality within the movement has contributed to the acceptance of a narrative that overwhelmingly, virtually exclusively, emphasizes religious leadership and inspiration.

    We have no way of knowing how the wide-ranging activism of the Cold War era would have played out if these movements had responded more defiantly to attacks on “unconventional” beliefs and behavior - but I think today’s movements are in a position to act differently. Atheists and humanists, people challenging traditional roles, and political radicals should think twice about participating in coalitions that celebrate other participants and views at their expense, and should resist the muting of their voices and projects. Others in coalitions with marginalized groups should respect what a coalition is. A true coalition is one of equals, in which no voices are marginalized or silenced and no one pressured into setting aside or delaying some struggles in the supposed pursuit of others, particularly when these are inseparable.

    *This claim is slightly problematic – while they shared much, there was variation in the specific moralities and goals involved.