Expelled from Boston Atheists for Thought Crime
By John Lauritsen
I have written for the atheist/secular humanist press since 1974, when
my first article appeared in the venerable British monthly, The
Freethinker (established 1881). I remember that, from time to
time, we would debate the best names to apply to ourselves: atheist,
agnostic, freethinker, or secular humanist. I myself have always
liked freethinker — someone who stands for freedom of the human mind.
Recently, my own right to free speech was flagrantly violated by Boston
Atheists (BA), of which I'd been a member for many years. Boston
Atheists is the largest group of non-theists in Massachusetts; it has
meetups (brunches, etc.) and an e-mail discussion list.
Shortly after Donald Trump won the presidential election, members of BA
considered a special meeting to plan protests against
“Trumpocracy”. People on the discussion list went mad, accusing
Trump of every conceivable form of bigotry and of being a new
Hitler. I then joined the discussion, pleading for calm.
After only three posts, two from me and one from “Cara”, I was kicked
On 10 November 2016 I wrote:
Let's face it, the worst person lost: Hillary, one
of the two most corrupt persons ever to run for POTUS. (The
other one was Bill.)
It's not enough these days to read just the
Mainstream Media. Myself, I read independent Internet sites from left
to right, including CounterPunch.org, Antiwar.com, and LewRockwell.com
. Those who rely on the Mainstream Media have no idea of the
extent and enormity of the Clinton crimes.
Here is what I consider a good, fair, tough analysis
of the election by Diana Johnstone: [Link to article here.]
So, let's all just calm down. Trump's Victory
Speech was gracious and presidential. I think he'll have
plenty of advisers and will do a good job.
The same day, 10 November 2015, “Cara” wrote:
If this person is coming, count me out. Trump is a
corrupt, immoral, misogynistic, racist, rapist. How many women's
abortions do you think he's funded? Your articles are from sources so
not legitimate, I refuse to expose my computer to the spam onslaught.
Seriously, Zachary, you need to explain what you had
in mind, because I will not expose myself to ignorance and ridiculous
foxnews conspiracy theories like those below. I assumed this special
meeting would have an anti-Trump bent, because we are intelligent
people who live in a blue state and purport to care about women,
immigrants, people of color, and all the others Trump will impact.
The next day, 11 November 2016, I merely posted a link:
An excellent piece by Justin Raimondo in today's antiwar.com: [Link here.]
This was too much for Boston Atheists. On 11 November 2015 I
received a post with the Subject line: “You've been removed from The
Boston Atheists Meetup Group.” Further down, the post elaborated: “The
person who removed you said”:
I'm making a decision to remove you from the group.
Things are being taken in a more community-oriented direction, and in
discussion with the other organizers we reached a consensus that your
participation tends to be disruptive rather than constructive. I regret
we didn't see a solution that would allow us to avoid such a drastic
action. Well, to the extent that this IS drastic. After all, the Boston
Atheists *group* does not constitute fully the Boston atheist
*community*. If you ever need to connect with atheists, or the
resources available to us as the larger atheist community, you know how
to get in touch with me. I know as well that you are well connected
with other points of contact, as well. As far as being a formal member
of the Boston Atheists, that's come to an end. I wish you well.
I comment: My first post makes severe charges against Hillary Clinton,
that she is corrupt and criminal, but these well founded charges had
been made in many publications and websites, from CounterPunch.org,
Antiwar.com, and LewRockwell.com to the Wall Street Journal. My
post is civil, and entirely within the bounds of netiquette.
The second post, from someone identified only as “Cara”, begins with
insult (“this person”), goes on to accuse me of “ignorance and
ridiculous foxnews conspiracy theories”, makes wild and unfounded
accusations against our President-Elect (“rapist”), and strongly
implies I should not be allowed in BA.
In the third post, I merely give a link to a sensible article by Justin Raimondo.
In the fourth post, Zachary Bos kicks me out of BA on the grounds that
“your participation tends to be disruptive rather than
constructive.” But I had been totally inactive for over a year,
neither attending events nor taking part in discussion. His
statement, “Things are being taken in a more community-oriented
direction....”, is chilling. Does “community” require censorship
so everyone can think alike? Does “community-oriented direction”
mean something like the Nazi practice of Gleichschaltung (making
everything compatible with the goals of National Socialism)?
Zachary's smarmy suggestion that I, although banned from BA, might be
able “to connect with [other] atheists”, is contemptible. I am
not in need of Boston Atheists for my social life. There is only
one issue at stake here: Free Speech. It is outrageous that
members of an atheist group can hurl wild and unfounded accusations
against the Republican President-Elect, Donald Trump, but are forbidden
to criticize the failed presidential candidate of the Democrats,
On 20 November 2016 I wrote the following to Zachary Bos:
I regard my expulsion from Boston Atheists as an
egregious offense against Free Speech, and am writing an essay
describing this affair. I'll put this essay in the Freethought
section of my website and will submit it to appropriate publications.
The entire e-mail exchange consisted only of two
posts from me and one from “Cara”. My second post was merely a
link to a fine article in antiwar.com . Please tell me what was
so offensive in my posts that your or your directors kicked me out of a
group I'd belonged to almost from its inception. I want to be
fair to you, so give me the details.
I was writing for the secular humanist press —
especially The Freethinker (London) — before you were born.
Always atheism was associated with Free Thought. What has
Zachary Bos responded with an e-mail which did not give a single
criticism of my two e-mails, but instead offered crocodile pity for my
alleged distress: “I regret that this removal leaves you feel [sic]
I then pointedly insisted that Bos give details: “Please answer my
direct and reasonable question: What was offensive in my two
e-mails? Since My expulsion immediately followed them, they were
obviously the reason.” His response was that he had already
answered my question — which he most certainly had not.
To conclude: Atheist groups should be concerned with atheism, not
partisan politics. If they do discuss politics, they should allow
all viewpoints to be heard. In England, some members of the
National Secular Society and various humanist groups are on the far
left, some on the far right, and some in-between — this is accepted,
and people are not expelled for their political opinions. The
same should hold true in the United States. There is no
substitute for Free Thought and Free Speech.
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