How PZ Myers Differs From Rush Limbaugh

Prometheus Unbound takes issue with PZ Myers:

I certainly understand why people like PZ Myers’s style. It is easy and uncomplex, and impatient with nuance. It’s what makes Fox News so popular. And it may well draw a crowd of young people. Myers is ever on the ready to stir the shit. And he is supremely confident. These are attractive features to many insecure people. They are also the characteristics of the demagogue. I know I take a harsh view of PZ Myers, but I also share a number of his beliefs. But just like you can be a conservative and not like Rush Limbaugh, so you can be an agnostic or atheist and not like PZ Myers.

There are good reasons to engage in mockery when challenging faith which do not apply to most other intellectual debates.  The issue is that the point of contention is reason itself.  When you are debating people who show contempt for the need to give reasons itself, then such absurdity requires laughter and derision because it has sworn off responsiveness to reason.  Secular rationalists, as far as I can judge them, seem to want nothing more than a world of rational debate but have learned that reason itself must be defended through emotional appeals to counter the pervasive and often irrationally powerful influence of tradition and traditionalism on the average person.

I mean, when Daniel Dennett is getting attacked for daring to simply tell OTHER ATHEISTS that it’s okay for them to own up to their disbelief and not fear that it is socially detrimental and something to discourage in their neighbors, you can tell we have a ridiculously long way to go before people’s emotions are receptive to secularism and would be willing to acknowledge that truth matters for its own sake, willing to accept faithlessness as a good thing, willing to frankly call superstitious nonsense superstitious nonsense rather than treat it with undue reverence—regardless of how many people hold it dear, and willing to challenge the myth that faith is an inherently good thing always capable of clear disassociation from religious authoritarianism.

When people’s hearts are set against reason itself, you have to turn to addressing their hearts and making them feel embarrassed or angry or otherwise uncomfortable with themselves when they are being irrational. For too long the opposite feelings have improperly been cultivated.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.