Atheist organizations and scandals
Below are some recent scandals involving atheist organizations and also incidences of financial mismanagement by atheist organizations which received some publicity.
- 1 Atheist YouTube's channel Utah Outcasts on embezzlement within atheist organizations
- 2 Chinese Communist Party and corruption
- 3 Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science embezzlement allegation
- 4 David Roland Waters, American Atheists and United Secularists of America scandals
- 5 David Silverman, former president of American Atheists, fired after allegations of financial conflicts and sexual assault
- 6 We Are Atheism scandal
- 7 David Gorski at Scienceblogs on financial mismanagement in skeptic organizations
- 8 Sarah Morehead controversy
- 9 Soviet Union and corruption
- 10 Nontheist Jex Blackmore on The Satanic Temple and financial transparency
- 11 Token efforts to extend racial minorities leadership positions in atheist organizations
- 12 Atheist nonprofits and their lack of significant outreach to third world countries
- 13 Atheist non-profit scandals, lack of critical thinking and lack of due diligence
- 14 Freedom From Religion Foundation's Failure to meet the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance standards
- 15 See also
- 16 External links
- 17 References
Atheist YouTube's channel Utah Outcasts on embezzlement within atheist organizations
See also: Atheism and stealing
In a 2018 YouTube video entitled David Silverman Ousted as President of American Atheists, the atheist YouTube channel Utah Outcasts said in a video about David Silverman and atheist organizations: "Many other people were also like maybe he was embezzling funds because we know people in atheist activist communities where that kind of sh*t happens. Yes, it was kind of common."
Chinese Communist Party and corruption
Most atheists are likely East Asians (see: Asian atheism). Razib Khan points out in Discover Magazine, "most secular nations in the world are those of East Asia, in particular what are often termed 'Confucian societies'. It is likely therefore that the majority of the world’s atheists are actually East Asian."
In 2014, the New American website indicated:
|“||The Communist Party of China (CPC) is letting its members know that the party’s official adherence to militant atheism has not changed; Party members are not allowed to be Christians, or to hold any other religious beliefs. That is the clear message sent by a top Party official in an editorial published on November 14 in the Global Times, the international version of People’s Daily, the official newspaper and mouthpiece of the CPC.||”|
Corruption is so widespread in China that Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia founded by an atheist and agnostic, has an article entitled "Corruption in China". On October 20, 2019, Wikipedia's Corruption in China article indicated, "Corruption in China post-1949 refers to the abuse of political power for private ends typically by members of the Chinese Communist Party, who hold the majority of power in the People's Republic of China."
For more information, please see: 'One million' Chinese officials punished for corruption, BBC, 2016
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science embezzlement allegation
The Independent wrote about the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science:
|“|| The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, has filed four lawsuits in a Californian court alleging that Mr Timonen, who ran its online operation in America, stole $375,000 (£239,000) over three years. It is claiming $950,000 in damages, while Mr Dawkins is suing him for $14,000 owed to him personally. Mr Timonen strongly denies the allegations.
In the 18-page complaint filed in a Los Angeles court, the foundation claims that Mr Timonen said the website he was running was just "squeaking by," making only $30,000 in three years, when in fact it was grossing 10 times that sum. The charity alleges that Mr Timonen pocketed 92 per cent of the money generated by the store, with his girlfriend spending $100,000 of the charity's money on upgrading her home before putting it on the market.
The funds apparently came on top of Mr Timomen's pay – of $278,750 over three-and-a-half years (£50,000 a year) – which legal documents filed by the foundation describe as "exceedingly generous and well above-market for someone of Timomen's age and experience...
David Gorski at Scienceblogs wrote about this matter:
|“||Timonen has responded. Although I find his denial self-serving, I do find it odd that there have been no arrests. After all, embezzlement is a criminal offense. If I ran a charitable organization and discovered that an employee had embezzled close to $1 million, I’d have called the police, not the lawyers. Something more than meets the eye appears to be going on here.||”|
See also: Richard Dawkins' loss of influence
Richard Dawkins' Foundation and charges of exploitation and cultish behavior
On August 16, 2014, Andrew Brown wrote an article for The Spectator entitled The bizarre – and costly – cult of Richard Dawkins which declared:
|“|| ...the Richard Dawkins website offers followers the chance to join the ‘Reason Circle’, which, like Dante’s Hell, is arranged in concentric circles. For $85 a month, you get discounts on his merchandise, and the chance to meet ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science personalities’. Obviously that’s not enough to meet the man himself. For that you pay $210 a month — or $5,000 a year — for the chance to attend an event where he will speak...
But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’
The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.
According to The Richest, "Richard Dawkins..has an estimated net worth of $135 million ($100 euro) according to the Sunday Times in 2012."
Vox Day noted that the Richard Dawkins cult is similar to the cult of Scientology. Dawkins was one of the founders of the New Atheism movement. The New Atheism movement, which has waned in recent years, was called a cult by the agnostic, journalist Bryan Appleyard in a 2012 article in the New Statesman in which he describes the abusive behavior of New Atheists. Although the New Atheism movement does not perfectly fit the various characteristics of a cult, it does fit some of the characteristics.
David Roland Waters, American Atheists and United Secularists of America scandals
|“|| On August 27, 1995, O'Hair, her son Jon, and granddaughter Robin suddenly disappeared. The door to the office of American Atheists was locked with a typewritten note attached (apparently with Jon's signature), stating, "The Murray O'Hair family has been called out of town on an emergency basis. We do not know how long we will be gone at the time of the writing of this memo." When O'Hair's home was entered, breakfast dishes were sitting on the table; her diabetes medication was on the kitchen counter, and her dogs had been left behind without a caregiver.
In phone calls a few days later, the trio claimed that they were on "business" in San Antonio, Texas. A few days later, Jon ordered $600,000 worth of gold coins from a San Antonio jeweler but took delivery of only $500,000 worth of coins.
Until September 27, American Atheists employees received several phone calls from Robin and Jon, but neither would explain why they left or when they would return; while they said nothing was amiss, their voices sounded strained and disturbed. After September 28, no further communication came from any of the O'Hairs.
Ultimately, the murder investigation focused on David Roland Waters, who had worked as a typesetter for American Atheists. Not only did Waters have previous convictions for violent crimes, there were several suspicious burglaries during his tenure, and he had pleaded guilty earlier in 1995 to stealing $54,000 from American Atheists. Shortly after his theft of the $54,000 was discovered, O'Hair had written a scathing article in the 'Members Only' section of the American Atheists newsletter exposing Waters, the theft and Waters' previous crimes, including a 1977 incident in which Waters allegedly beat and urinated upon his mother. Waters' girlfriend later testified that he was enraged by O'Hair's article, and that he fantasized about torturing her in gruesome ways.
The police concluded that Waters and his accomplices had kidnapped all three O'Hairs, forced them to withdraw the missing funds, gone on several huge shopping sprees with the O'Hairs' money and credit cards, and then murdered and dismembered all three people. Waters' accomplices included Gary Paul Karr and Danny Fry. A few days after the O'Hairs were killed, Fry was murdered by Waters and Karr. Fry's body was found on a riverbed with his head and hands severed and missing. His body remained unidentified for three and a half years.
In January 2001, Waters informed the police that the O'Hairs were buried on a Texas ranch, and he subsequently led them to the bodies. When the police excavated there, they discovered that the O'Hairs' bodies had been cut into dozens of pieces with a saw. The remains exhibited such extensive mutilation and successive decomposition that identification had to be made through dental records, by DNA testing and, in Madalyn O'Hair's case, by the serial number of her prosthetic hip. The head and hands of Danny Fry were also found at the site.
The gold coins extorted from the O'Hairs were put in a storage locker rented by Waters' girlfriend. Waters had taken out $80,000 and partied with his girlfriend for a few days, but upon his return he discovered that the remaining $420,000 had been stolen. A group of thieves operating in that area had a master key to the type of lock that Waters used to secure the locker. In the course of their activities, they came across the locker, used the master key to open it, and found a suitcase full of gold coins. They eventually spent all but one, which the police recovered.
Karr was arrested, tried, and found guilty of extortion charges related to the O'Hair case. However, he was acquitted of kidnapping conspiracy. Karr was sentenced to life in prison in August 2000 by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks. Waters was arrested and found guilty of kidnapping, robbery, and murder in the O'Hair case, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison; he was also ordered to pay back a total of $543,665 to the United Secularists of America and to the estates of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Jon Garth Murray, and Robin Murray O'Hair. It is unlikely that any of these debts were paid, because Waters had no ability to earn money while in prison. Waters died of lung cancer at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, on January 27, 2003.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair was the founder of the American Atheist organization.
Madalyn Murray O'Hair's son William stated later:
|“|| My mother delighted in hiring unrepentant criminals to work in her atheist office. She particularly enjoyed hiring convicted murderers who had served their time but were unrepentant about what they had done. She got a sense of power out of having men in her employ who had taken human life. It was love of power over people that finally caused not only her death, but the deaths of my brother and my daughter...
She stole huge amounts of money. She misused the trust of people. She cheated children out of their parents’ inheritance. She cheated on her taxes and even stole from her own organizations. She once printed up phony stock certificates on her own printing press to try to take over another atheist publishing company. I could go on but I won’t. 
David Silverman, former president of American Atheists, fired after allegations of financial conflicts and sexual assault
David Silverman served as the President of the American Atheists organization.  Silverman was after allegations of financial conflicts and sexual assault. Nick Fish, the new president of American Atheists, indicated that Silverman's termination was not over sexual allegations, but as a result of a "loss of confidence" stemming from violations of internal policies on staff management, conflicts of interest, and their general code of conduct. Silverman, through his lawyer, denies any wrong doing and indicates he has never had a non-consensual sexual encounter. See: Firing of David Silverman from the American Atheists organization
In his book, Fighting God, Silverman indicates that he is a “proud feminist.” Concerning Silverman's scandals and subsequent firing, atheist and feminist PZ Myers said, "It's a terrible day for organized atheism." Myers spent $1200 for a lifetime membership with American Atheists because he was impressed by the way Silverman went after the “anti-feminist” atheists. See also: Decline of the atheist movement
We Are Atheism scandal
See also: We Are Atheism
Hemant Mehta wrote in 2015:
|“|| Earlier this year, I posted a series of concerns I had about a group called We Are Atheism.
The group raised money from atheists after tragic events and natural disasters, supposedly to help victims and their families, but the money didn’t always make it there. In some cases, it was given to people completely unaffected by the tragedies, unbeknownst to the donors at the time. The co-founders said publicly they weren’t taking a salary, even though they were. They said donations to the group were tax-deductible, even when they weren’t....
Several former board members of We Are Atheism later spoke up about why they resigned; their reasons included a lack of financial transparency in the organization.
Since all of that went down, Lee Moore took over as President of We Are Atheism and Amanda Brown stepped down from the board (she no longer has a formal connection with the group).
Moore vowed to get an independent tax firm to look over the group’s finances and pledged to make things right...
So what happened with that independent tax firm?...
Simply put: They couldn’t complete the audit. They asked Brown for access to certain accounts involving We Are Atheism’s money and they didn’t receive it.
David Gorski at Scienceblogs on financial mismanagement in skeptic organizations
David Gorski at Scienceblogs wrote about atheist/skeptic organizations and financial mismanagement:
|“||In any case, this makes me wonder: What is it about rationalist/skeptic groups that make them seemingly have such a hard time running their organizations well from a financial standpoint? After all, just a couple of months ago the Center for Inquiry (CFI) sent out letters desperately begging for more contributions. The reason was that CFI had one large benefactor whose yearly contribution funded approximately 20-25% of the yearly CFI budget. As clueless as I may be about finances, even I know that you don’t use such donations to run the operating expenses of an organization, because you can’t count on them from year to year and it’s too big a chunk. You use this money for special short-term projects and a rainy day fund. Not surprisingly, when this mysterious donor stopped donating earlier this year, suddently CFI was in deep doo-doo from a financial standpoint, prompting the desperate plea for donations and deep budget cuts. I realize that the down economy has played havoc with many nonprofit and charitable organizations, but these issues with skeptical organizations seem to go beyond just that.||”|
Sarah Morehead controversy
See also: Sarah Morehead controversy
Sarah Morehead previously served as the Executive Director of the atheist organization Recovering from Religion.
In 2016, the atheist blogger Martin Hughes wrote:
|“|| So, anyway…Recovering from Religion, Apastacon, and the Reason Rally all had someone heading them who most of us assumed we could trust. Most of you don’t know who she is, probably, so this means nothing to you. But she has helped out the atheist movement a lot — one of the hardest working, most influential people in American atheism. Her name is Sarah Morehead. Recently, her husband (for all intents and purposes, though not under law) Ray Morehead went on trial for child sexual abuse of her child and another child. We atheists felt for her, and when one of us said that we should give her money to make the ends meet (as he supported her), we didn’t hesitate. She had helped us so much. Why not help her? I gave her a bit of money and asked others to do the same. The request was for $8,000; over $23,ooo was raised.
Shortly after, she removed from leadership of Apastacon, Reason Rally, and Recovering from Religion. There were a lot of non-disclosure agreements involved, so we don’t know all the reasons why. But there were rumors about her character not being as it seems, which were largely rebuffed by people who thought it was the work of Ray Morehead to try to destroy Sarah Morehead’s reputation while he’s on trial.
The rumors became so confusing and pervasive that J.T. Eberhard, one of the top atheist bloggers and a friend (like many influential atheists) of Sarah Morehead’s, investigated them thoroughly. Not only did Eberhard, in his long, very well-documented write-up, find that the evidence indicated this was true — what Morehead said about several rumors in the interview he had with her for his article directly contradicted the evidence he found, evidence that Morehead seems to have tried to delete before he uncovered it. Eberhard, then, uncovered extensive evidence that Morehead systematically made sure only she had access to funds that she seems to have used personally, and lied about several other matters as well; the picture that is painted isn’t pretty.
The way J.T. discussed it, that lying was strategic and repeated. There has been suspicion that she has acted similarly in the other organizations she’s been part of — Stephanie Zvan has also said some troubling things about her overall character, making the picture even darker in my mind....
Although the evidence that Sarah Morehead lied and misappropriated funds seem undeniable, I don’t know how true the rumors about the kind of person Sarah Morehead is are.
But what was truly disturbing, for me, was finding out through Internet conversation that this was just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot of good the atheist organizations have done, but there are also more rumors of disturbing things that happened, and additional blown-open scandals in the past that I didn’t know about or time had caused me to forget. It all kinda came to a head on me at the same time.
In 2016, the atheist J.T. Eberhard wrote:
|“||Sarah undoubtedly had access to lengthy donor lists during her time with Apostacon, Recovering From Religion, and the Reason Rally. It’s entirely possible (let’s face it, very, very probable) that she will be soliciting donations for her future projects. As Hemant established with his piece about We Are Atheism, potential donors need to know when things don’t add up, or if there’s a decent chance their money could be misused.||”|
Soviet Union and corruption
The Soviet Union practiced state atheism. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica's article Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?, "The Soviet public was disgusted with the widespread corruption endemic to the Soviet state."
Nontheist Jex Blackmore on The Satanic Temple and financial transparency
The nontheist Jex Blackmore, who had been a national spokesperson for TST wrote about The Satanic Temple and financial transparency:
|“||Members of the public donate money to support TST’s campaigns in regards to women’s rights and religious liberty lawsuits and events. However, despite many requests from Temple chapters, the organization refuses to share how these donated funds are spent. Currently, there is no way of knowing if the money donated actually supports their legal actions. In fact, as far as I know, members do not know how they fund the products in their store, the gallery in Salem, or the many lawsuits they’ve taken on. Countless lawsuits have been announced or “planned,” many have not been followed through, and often times, the legal actions are strategically sloppy. Dozens of dedicated, supportive chapters across the country regularly commit their time and resources to raising money for the Temple. Yet members have no voice in how the money is spent, they do not decide how it’s allocated, and they do not know where it goes. Unlike other charitable groups, there is no public organizing board or regular financial disclosures and there’s zero oversight.||”|
Token efforts to extend racial minorities leadership positions in atheist organizations
See also: Western atheism and race
On October 9, 2014, the atheist Sikivu Hutchinson declared:
|“||Despite frequent tokenistic calls for “diversity” within the “movement,” there are virtually no people of color in executive management positions in any of the major secular, atheist, or Humanist organizations —notable exceptions being Debbie Goddard of Center for Inquiry and Maggie Ardiente of American Humanist Association. People of color are constantly bombarded with claims of separatism, reverse discrimination, and “self-segregation” when they point to the absence of social justice, anti-racist community organizing, coalition-building, and visibility among secular organizations. After the Washington Post article, the vitriol and denialism among the “We are All Africans” white atheists was off the chain. This illustrates yet again that sticking a few of us on conference panels or secular boards is nothing but cheap appeasement.||”|
Atheist nonprofits and their lack of significant outreach to third world countries
Atheist nonprofits in the Western World by in large have not had significant outreaches to spread atheism in poor, third world countries nor have they had a significant focus to improve their economic plight. See also: Atheism and uncharitableness and Atheism and social justice
Historically, Christians have made great evangelism efforts to reach every people group across the earth. In 2005, there were four times as many non-Western World Christians as there were Western World Christians. Doing overseas evangelism/outreaches, often requires significant hardships/persecution and Western atheists have been unwilling to endure such hardships in order to spread atheistic ideology (see: Atheism and hedonism).
Atheist non-profit scandals, lack of critical thinking and lack of due diligence
See also: Atheism and critical thinking
People who think about donating priorities and perform due diligence are less likely to donate to organizations who engage in scandalous behavior.
The Skepchick writer Heina Dadabhoy wrote about atheists and charitable giving:
|“||So many of us don’t critically examine to what we pay attention and why, to whom we give our money and why, of what sort of news we keep abreast and why, about what we find out and why. We fail to recognize the disturbing patterns indicating structural injustices that emerge when we consider all the factors at hand and how these sorts of situations play out.||”|
Freedom From Religion Foundation's Failure to meet the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance standards
According to the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance's website, the Freedom From Religion Foundation fails to meet the Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance's standards as of May 4, 2018.
For more information, please see: Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance review of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
- "I am so, so tired of hearing about atheist scandals and scumbaggery." - Twitter post
- David Silverman Ousted as President of American Atheists, Utah Atheists, Go to the 3 minute mark in the video
- Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics (Zuckerman, 2005)
- A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, Washington Post By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey May 23, 2013
- Most atheists are not white & other non-fairy tales, Discover magazine
- China’s Communist Party Reaffirms Marxism, Maoism, Atheism, New American, 2014
- Corruption in China, Wikipedia
- Corruption in China, Wikipedia
- An ungodly row: Dawkins sues his disciple
- Richard Dawkins Drops His Lawsuit Against Former Employee
- Richard Dawkins sues Josh Timonen, Posted by David Gorski on October 24, 2010
- The bizarre – and costly – cult of Richard Dawkins, The Spectator, Andrew Brown 16 August 2014
- Richard Dawkins Net Worth
- The Cult of Dicky Dawkins
- The God wars by Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman
- How cultish is the New Atheism?
- David Roland WATERS
- Son calls famous atheist Madalyn O’Hair “evil”
- This Firebrand Atheist Was Just Fired After Allegations Of Financial Conflicts And Sexual Assault
- Leading atheist, accused of sexual misconduct, speaks out, Washington Post (republished article from Religion News Service) by Kimberly Winston, September 6, 2018
- American Atheists President David Silverman Fired After Sexual Misconduct Allegations, Christian Post, 2018
- David Silverman was a “Proud Feminist”
- David Silverman fired from American Atheists by PZ Myers
- David Silverman was a “Proud Feminist”
- An Update on We Are Atheism by Hemant Mehta, September 15, 2015]
- Richard Dawkins sues Josh Timonen, Posted by David Gorski on October 24, 2010
- Recovering From Religion ~ Sarah Morehead
- This Isn’t (Just) About Sarah Morehead by Martin Hughes
- On the rumors circulating about Sarah Morehead by J.T. Eberhard
- Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?, Encyclopedia Britanica
- The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements, Volume 2; James R. Lewis, Inga B. Tollefsen; Oxford University Press, 2016; pgs. 441-453
- Will the Friendly Atheist Ever Learn?, September 2018
- Atheism and social justice: Sikivu Hutchinson on the first People of Color Beyond Faith conference, Chris Stedman, Religious Service News, Oct 9, 2014
- The African apostles: How Christianity exploded in 20th-century Africa
- Is Christianity taking over the planet?
- A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, May 23, 2013
- Atheist Priorities in Fundraising by Heina Dadabhoy
- [http://www.give.org/charity-reviews/national/law-and-public-interest/freedom-from-religion-foundation-in-madison-wi-18414 CHARITY REVIEWIssued: June 2016 Expires: September 2018 Freedom from Religion Foundation