Talking to John Loftus

Former FtBer John Loftus of Debunking Christianity has a post up today titled Ed Brayton, PZ Myers, and Freethought Bloggers, Listen to Me.

John is absolutely welcome to his opinions, but as some large part of what he said is a whack at FtB, and as I disagree with it, I answered him in the comments, and I echo it here.


Freethought Blogs blogger here, specifically the Blue Collar Atheist.

Quoting you: “I know you have a herd mentality and have a strong tendency not to listen to outsiders …”

John, if you really wanted to catch the attention of someone, starting out with an insult is probably not the best way to go about it.

But as to your accusation, which is basically that nobody there actually THINKS in an independent, rational way, that hasn’t been my experience at Freethought Blogs. I myself am something of an outsider — a non-academic (I’m not the only one, of course) with roots in the Deep South, older than everyone else there, and more prone to write on philosophical points rather than the news of the day. And yet I feel listened to and included when things are discussed or argued. If anything, FtB has a “heard” mentality.

I watched the process of your own departure from FtB, and I’m still sort of baffled by it. If you feel so strongly about the “herd mentality,” and yet think of yourself as an “outsider,” the cure would have been to stay, where you could offer your insights on a daily basis. Yet you left voluntarily, and not over any issue of substance I could detect.

And this bit: “Ed, PZ, if you had just listened to me you would not be in this mess.” That comes across as a bit grandiose, don’t you think?

As to the sexual harassment and equality issue, my own take on it The Funny Thing About Sexual Harassment, and Then the Unfunny Thing came about well after the atheist blogosphere’s general public response to the issue. In the post, I relate my own — male — experiences of sexual harassment at work, and explain how those experiences inform my view of the harassment of women.

My overview impression of all this is that the movement is undergoing inevitable growing pains. Even if it were true (and again, I don’t think it is) that FtB is beset with some sort of herd mentality, the fact is … there’s a whole Internet out here that is not the feisty, energetic, delightful Freethought Blogs. A potentially infinite number of places where all the other voices can be heard.

Like this one, come to think of it.

So even IF there was a “strong tendency not to listen to outsiders,” those outsiders have exactly zero being taken away from them. And the history-making, still-growing movement we’re all a part of, assuming other people express their own unique views of subjects that come up, either in their own blogs or blog comments, benefits just the same from a diversity of viewpoint and voice.

” … I think you’re making atheism look bad for your own profit and influence, for your own privilege and power.”

Heh. To our majority-Christian society, atheism ALREADY looks bad. Might as well try out some passionate grand experiments as to how to be one’s best and most comfortable unbelieving self, right?

And this is where I take greatest exception to your advice here, because what I hear you saying to PZ and Ed and the FtB bloggers can be boiled down to six words: “Be less you. Be more me.”

Nope. Even if that was a good idea, it’s not our style.

One Billion Atheists
Dawkins and Dennett in Boston
Insight Into A World Without Gods
One Billion Atheists: Two Additional Ideas