To the Board of the Center for Inquiry,
I am writing today since this is the week that you’re meeting and I am sure that you have received a number of communications about your president, Ron Lindsay, and his somewhat bizarre commentaries at and after the Women in Secularism conference.
To begin with, it seems that Dr. Lindsay doesn’t actually know very much about feminism or social justice, instead choosing to parrot strawman arguments he has heard elsewhere. This was confirmed when, asked for examples of people who have made the argument he claimed is endemic to feminism online, he could name fewer than three people who have made anything that could even be construed to mean that (which were taken out of context) and neither person he named was a woman in secularism.
Dr. Lindsay seems to be laboring under the impression that sexism has been solved and now it is men who are under the terrible burden of oppression because they can no longer make sweeping generalizations about women, mentally or behaviorally, without facing social repercussions. Not only did this make him unsuited to be an opening speaker for this particular event, it continues to make him representative of all of the problems that the event was designed to address. He seems to feel that, in his quest to promote inquiry, he is entitled to dismiss the answers to the questions he is given.
That does seem to be the problem. Dr. Lindsay wants to claim that “shut up and listen” shuts down discussion, but this argument is disingenuous since his misunderstanding of that phrase presents the other option as not actually listening at all. When he claims to want to promote “inquiry”, he only seems to want to speak himself, and doesn’t appear to listen to the responses to his questions. His blog posts both at and following the conference demonstrate quite clearly the hyperbolic way that he reacts when, having posed a question, he receives an answer he doesn’t like.
I should also point out that, as president of CFI, he should have been attending the fundraiser for CFI, not comparing a female blogger to North Korea. This was just irresponsible of him.
Allow me to make myself clear: I am not asking you to fire Ron Lindsay. However, he should issue a genuine apology and commit CFI toward working to make a Women in Secularism 3 happen. Moreover, he should not be the opening speaker for that conference until he becomes more informed of actual feminist theory.
I respect his stated goal of promoting reason and avoiding the stifling of conversation, but Dr. Lindsay needs to understand that to have a conversation, you must occasionally be quiet and actually listen to the other person. Rather, his words and actions seem to indicate that he prefers the illusion of dialogue to actual dialogue, and that is both disappointing and disturbing.
I wish you luck at your board meeting.