A Jesus sceptic and Columbia University graduate who advocates that alleged victims of sexual abuse should be believed is now fighting claims that he sexually harassed a student after a lecture he gave to the Secular Student Alliance.
Richard Carrier, a social justice activist and leading proponent of the “Christ Myth” theory which argues that the historical Jesus never existed, is now facing claims that he sexually harassed a student after giving a speech to the Secular Student Alliance (SSA), a group which aims to educate students about the value of scientific reason and the intellectual basis of secularism.
Amy Frank, the former president of the Arizona State University Chapter of the SSA, claimed in a Facebook post that Carrier “sexually harassed” and “touched” her after a lecture he gave at her university.
“I’m not even close to being his only victim, and there are even more victims of other speakers of the SSA,” Frank wrote. She accused the alliance of “go[ing] out of their way to undermine the reports,” and said she would boycott it until its leadership is “completely dismantled.”
“I’ve held my tongue far too long,” Frank said. “The victims have had enough.”
Although Carrier, who is 46-years-old, has aggressively denied the accusations, his polyamorous lifestyle and criticisms of the SSA’s rule against sexual relationships between lecturers and college-age students has made some skeptical.
Carrier has admitted that he pushed Frank to consider a polyamorous lifestyle, which is the practice of engaging in intimate relationships with more than two people, but rejects her suggestion that he sexually harassed her. “I mentioned that if she ever does [open her relationship], I’d be interested in dating her, and she should feel free to contact me if that happens. She smiled and said she would. If that’s sexual harassment it’s quite a stretch,” Carrier said.
Instead of going silent, Carrier has remained vocal in response to the accusations. He maintains his innocence despite the overwhelming hostility he is receiving from social justice activist groups that he helped to create. “Apart from publicly flattering her abilities as I would anyone as competent, we had one private conversation in which she expressed interest in opening her relationship” with her current partner, “but noted he wasn’t sure about it yet,” Carrier wrote.
“The SSA is investigating everything, and that’s at my request,” Carrier claimed on Monday. “I am very encouraged by their willingness to do that, because no one else seems willing to properly investigate any claims against me before publishing them, or even after publishing them.”
In response to the accusations, Carrier has been banned from Skepticon, a large convention for secularists. “[O]ur attendees’ well being and comfort is put at an unacceptable risk by Carrier’s presence, and so we are officially prohibiting Richard Carrier from attending any future Skepticons,” a spokesperson for the convention said.
In addition, leadership at the atheist blog network where Carrier writes announced that they were pulling Carrier’s blog, citing “several first-hand reports of persistent, obnoxious sexual behavior in defiance of specific requests that he cease.”
Despite the mounting allegations against him, Carrier is confident that the allegations are false that he is legally seeking defamation charge for his accusers. “[A]ll the allegations made public against me this past week are in significant part false and constitute defamation,” and that he was “fully engaged in taking legal action now.”
Carrier’s fate is somewhat ironic, as he has been a leading figure in the “Atheism Plus” movement, a hyper-progressive, hyper-feminist offshoot of atheism regularly criticised by popular atheist commentators as adding political dogmatism to an otherwise anti-dogmatic movement.
Atheism Plus, along with many other activist feminist movements that emerged in the early 2010s, often used the buzzword “believe survivors,” which according to critics implied a “guilty-until-proven-innocent” stance towards those accused of sexual assault. At its height, Atheism Plus advocate PZ Myers even published anonymous rape accusations on his blog against atheist thought leader Michael Shermer.
No charges were ever brought against Shermer, and Myers was widely criticised for taking to the blogs instead of to the justice system. But that was a time when internet vigilantism from progressives was seen as a normal, even fashionable, alternative to the justice system, and when feminist activists openly urged observers not to ask for proof when allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment were made. Perhaps Richard Carrier is now quietly regretting the movement he helped create — or silently thanking the conservatives and libertarians who took the wind out of its sails over the past two years.