Epstein 1, Silverman 0

As a follow up to the special about atheists, CNN invited some prominent atheists — all white men, of course — to give their answers to a set of common questions, including Jerry Dewitt, Greg Epstein and Dave Silverman. The answers to this question jumped out at me:

Why are there so many names for atheists? Is it all the same thing?

Silverman: Yes, they are essentially the same thing. As I mention in my upcoming book “Fighting God,” atheism is the broadest term, and it is the best understood term, so it is the term I think people should use. Some choose to use multiple terms, i.e., “I’m a humanist and an atheist,” but others literally hide behind those other words, i.e., “I’m not an atheist, I’m a humanist,” which is simply misleading. If you lack an active belief in the existence of any gods, you’re an atheist. If you want to choose a different primary label, that is up to you, but we encourage the use of “atheist” because it’s the most straightforward and the more we use it, the more we de-stigmatize it.

Epstein: I consider myself an atheist and a humanist, but I honestly don’t care what term people call me by. And I strongly disagree with David Silverman’s statement, “These are atheists who are afraid to use the word. And what are they doing? They’re lying.” I find that statement offensive, because some people who don’t happen to believe in a God just happen to prefer to call themselves humanists, or by some other term, and it’s none of anyone’s business why. I don’t think there are very many people these days using “humanist” to avoid saying the “a-word”. Maybe some of us just want to put greater emphasis on who we are, rather than on what we’re not. Sure, we don’t believe there’s a supernatural god. But it’s more important to many of us to just try to live our lives as good people than it is to think, all the time, about God.

I think Silverman is being disingenuous here. When he says “that is up to you” if you choose another label, the unspoken next sentence is “but we’ll go on national television and declare you all to be liars if you do.” Epstein is right, that is offensive. It’s also just plain factually wrong. Kudos to Silverman, though, for calling out CNN about their own lack of diversity in the people they chose to interview. What I’d like to see, though, is for all the usual suspects — the ones like Silverman and Dawkins who always get the media calls for interviews — to do more than just call that out, but to insist on it and condition their participation on it.

I really like what Rebecca Watson does. She refuses to speak at a conference if there aren’t at least 35% female speakers. And just as important, she has a list of women who can speak on a wide range of subjects. She isn’t just saying she won’t do it, she’s offering to help them find women speakers. When the old and middle-aged white guys get asked to interview for projects like this, we can do the same thing. We can recommend specific people that will help get them a broader and more complete picture of atheists.

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  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula PZ Myers

    Watson always outdoes me. I’ve long had a minimal diversity requirement of 25% non-white, non-male speakers. I may have to up that number to keep up.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula PZ Myers

    Also, last summer at the World Humanist Congress, they paired me with Silverman in a kind of informal debate. Would you believe I was the calm moderate? He was not greatly appreciated at that meeting.

  • kellym

    If asked, I would say I don’t believe in any gods and consider myself humanist. I would feel compelled to stress that I do not support American Atheists, or Richard Dawkins in any way. Silverman’s passionate “fiscal conservatism” (speaking of dishonestly named things) are so anti-humanist (literally directly resulting in the deaths of humans) that I would never be a member of that group. I don’t have time to list my problems with Dawkins on my lunch break, but I don’t want people to get a bad impression of me by a misunderstood association with the man.

  • dugglebogey

    I’m an atheist and I understand how difficult it is, so I don’t blame anyone who uses other terms to try to soften the impact. It’s not cowardice, it’s practicality.

  • dugglebogey

    kellym

    If someone gets their impression of you by what other people have said, are they really people you want to take seriously?

  • http://www.aquaticape.org anthrosciguy

    dugglebogey, unless that person knows you well, that’s how impressions happen. If someone I meet is a rightwing evangelical Christian, I tend to assume they are very intolerant of “others” (and that there’s a long list in their minds of “others”). I try to keep myself open to the possibility that they aren’t, but when you first meet, you go with the odds to some extent. I really can’t imagine you go in with a completely blank slate.

  • ludicrous

    “When the old and middle-aged white guys get asked to interview for projects like this, we can do the same thing.”

    Indeed, we can do what the Watsons and other active feminists do…. AND IT IS SO MUCH EASIER FOR US…..no rape threats, no backlash…..nothing dangerous or serious will result. We can open the door for women, so to speak, for feminist perspective to be spoken. Patting self on the back here…..how rewarding it is to add a feminist perspective to, say an adult education class, because suddenly the women, previously quiet about it will speak their perspective. Even some men will now take the chance of joining in, sometimes the guy you assumed was unaware turns out to have thought seriously about it.

  • moarscienceplz

    #1

    Watson always outdoes me. I’ve long had a minimal diversity requirement of 25% non-white, non-male speakers. I may have to up that number to keep up.

    Yeah PZ, Rebecca upped her number, up yours!

    😉

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Disgusting! I can’t believe someone would put you people, with your thoughts and beliefs and philosophy and faces, on TV. Luckily, it was CNN, so nobody saw it.

  • abear

    It seems that Watson hasn’t set a 35% minimum diversity on her Quizotron panels. Unless I’m mistaken, she is the one that chooses the panels. One would think that she should live up to her standards on her own events if she is going to demand it from others.

  • busterggi

    its difficult for me. I don’t believe in gods but I can’t say I particularly belive in human beings either.

  • ludicrous

    abear @ 10,

    In general, when the playing field is tilted, I don’t expect the players with the uphill struggle to follow the rules with the precision I expect from the privileged team. Add it all up and Watson is doing way more than her fair share of the work.

  • Nick Gotts

    ludicrous@12,

    And she’s given abear something to whine about, which is important.

  • abear

    ludicrous: Personally I think it is a silly pledge to take, but if she is going to make it she should live up to it in her own venues.

    I don’t see how the “privilege” thing would stop her from finding suitable women for her quiz show especially as there are plenty of suitable women out there. Aren’t there?

    Nick Gotts: lol. You make a lousy white knight. 😛

  • Al Dente

    abear @14

    Nick Gotts: lol. You make a lousy white knight. 😛

    Thanks for showing your true MRA colors, asshole.

  • abear

    I am a feminist not an MRA, limpnoodle. Do tell how you believe that response to Gotts is evidence that I’m an MRA.

  • felidae

    To his credit, Silverman is one of the few to take on Bill O’Rielly face to face and win

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    If you say so, abear. If you say so.

  • abear

    sigurd: Why do you hate feminists?

  • Al Dente

    abear @16

    Do tell how you believe that response to Gotts is evidence that I’m an MRA.

    Because, shitforbrains, “white knight” is an MRA tell. Calling someone a white knight is something MRAs do. So if you act like an MRA don’t whine when you get called an MRA. Fuck, you’d think even a dumbshit MRA would figure that out two falls out of three.

  • abear

    wow you seem to have some anger issues Al Dente!

    Your only debating tactic seems to be name calling bigoted rant about my belief system. I can almost see the foam spewing out of the corner of your mouth.

    Your out of control name calling just confirms you don’t have a valid argument.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Al Dente “Because, shitforbrains, “white knight” is an MRA tell.”

    Ah hah! I finally figured out why you got kicked out of chess club!

  • Lady Mondegreen

    @abear #21

    wow you seem to have some anger issues Al Dente!

    Your only debating tactic seems to be name calling bigoted rant about my belief system. I can almostsee the foam spewing out of the corner of your mouth.

    Your out of control name calling just confirms you don’t have a valid argument.

    Actually, Al Dente gave you the reason why he called you an MRA.

    The fact that he also insulted you has nothing to do with the strength of his actual argument.

    (Strength, not validity. He made an inductive argument, not a deductive one.)

    name calling bigoted rant about my belief system

    (Bolding added.)

    Your belief system? Then Al Dente is right, and you are an MRA (and lied about it)? That’s the only “belief system” he criticized.

  • Nick Gotts

    I am a feminist not an MRA, limpnoodle. – abear@16

    In the same sense that Christine Hoff Summers is a feminist.

  • https://www.facebook.com/teddyrodo Teddy Rodosovich

    The whole pizza (enchilada) is the supernatural. Religion is just one slice. I cannot accept the supernatural.

  • Kermit Sansoo

    Eh? Why are these “prominent atheists” so confused on simple issues? Humanism is a collection of values, while atheism is a lack of belief in gods. One can be a Stalinist or a sociopath and still be atheist. And when I was growing up, the big Southern Baptist insult was “secular humanist”. This is not redundant; there are religious humanists. It is a cultural and historical accident that so many Western atheists of this generation are humanists.

    .

    When Silverman flies to Iraq and informs the first Isis representative he can locate that he is atheist, then he has the street cred to call out as cowards any atheists who don’t wear “atheist” lapel pins. He doesn’t know what other individuals are risking by outing themselves.

  • abear

    Nick Gotts @24: How does CHS qualify as a non-feminist Suppressive Person? Did she call you a white knight too?

  • Nick Gotts

    abear@27,

    Yes, I thought that would flush you out – you MRAs are just so stupid. Apart from Sommers currently lavishing praise on the bigots and harrassers of “GamerGate”, you could take a look here, or here for a start. If I include any more links I think this would go into moderation, but there’s plenty more where those came from. When did Sommers last do anything related to feminism apart from attack real feminists?

  • Nick Gotts

    abear@27,

    Also worth noting: MRA hate-site “A Voice For Men” is certainly under no illusion that Sommers is any sort of feminist. When Paul Elam says he has “a great deal of respect” for you, you can be 100% certain you are the very opposite of a feminist.

  • abear

    Gotts : Just because I don’t agree with the Andrea Dworkin, witchwind, twisty faster school of post modernist misandry doesn’t mean I’m not a true feminist, it means I’m not a member of the dingbat faction of feminism.

    I don’t follow the MRA movement very closely but I can state that I disagree strongly with much of what I have seen of their declarations. My opinion is that Elam and crew are just the flipside of the coin to the grifter airhead fake-feminists like Watson, Marcotte, and Sarkeesian.

    Flushed me out? lol! You pseudo-intellectual neomarxists are so clever!

  • Nick Gotts

    abear@30,

    My opinion is that Elam and crew are just the flipside of the coin to the grifter airhead fake-feminists like Watson, Marcotte, and Sarkeesian.

    Your opinion is that a bunch of fuckwitted, misogynist, rape-apologist scumbags are “just the flipside” to a group of highly intelligent and cultured real feminists. Yup, that confirms exactly what we already knew about you.

    I see you have no comment on my links concerning Sommers. Are you admitting she’s an faux-feminist fraud and liar like you? Here is an analysis of the dishonesty in one of her book chapters.

    Who people associate with, who they admire, and who admires them, can tell you a lot. I already noted Paul Elam’s “respect” for Sommers. She’s an associate of the American Enterprise Institute, a neocon think tank, and “Prager University”, a website run by Dennis Prager, a far-right conspiracist dingbat who believes America is a Christian nation and is a rape apologist and global warming denialist. It turns out Anders Behring Breivik is also an admirer. This is from p356 of an online pdf of his “manifesto”:

    Christina Hoff Sommers, the author of The War Against Boys, points out that[11] “after almost 40 years of feminist agitation and gender-neutral pronouns, it is still men who are far more likely than women to run for political office, start companies, file for patents, and blow things up. Men continue to tell most of the jokes and write the vast majority of editorials and letters to editors. And — fatal to the dreams of feminists who long for social androgyny — men have hardly budged from their unwillingness to do an equal share of housework or childcare. Moreover, women seem to like manly men.”

    She also notes that “One of the least visited memorials in Washington is a waterfront statue commemorating the men who died on the Titanic. Seventy-four percent of the women passengers survived the April 15, 1912, calamity, while 80 percent of the men perished. Why? Because the men followed the principle ‘women and children first.’ “The monument, an 18-foot granite male figure with arms outstretched to the side, was erected by ‘the women of America’ in 1931 to show their gratitude. The inscription reads: “To the brave men who perished in the wreck of the Titanic. […] They gave their lives that women and children might be saved.”

  • abear

    Gotts@31: You really love to strawman and play the guilt by association game don’t you Nick Gotcha.

    Are you an left leaning atheist? You must agree with Stalin. Know any muslims? you have terrorist connections.

    Want to call out grifter Rebecca Watson for being a hypocrite and having 20% or less of women on her Quizotron panels in spite of her “Rolodex” full of bright well spoken women that can really sell tickets? Must be a right wing sexist MRA.

    Do try to learn how to debate honestly Nick.