As I read through the article (originally a piece for NPR’s Morning Edition) by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, the constant thought runnin through my head was “that’s wrong,” “that’s wrong,” “that’s wrong”…
Let us count the missteps.
A Bitter Rift Divides Atheists
The headline may not have been written by Hagerty, but it’s wrong for reasons I’ll get into in a moment.
Last month, atheists marked Blasphemy Day at gatherings around the world, and celebrated the freedom to denigrate and insult religion.
… the controversy over this exhibit goes way beyond Blasphemy Day. It’s about the future of the atheist movement — and whether to adopt the “new atheist” approach — a more aggressive, often belittling posture toward religious believers.
Some call it a schism.
The first sentence makes it sound like an atheist holiday. It’s not. I have no doubt that most atheists — the overwhelmingly vast majority of atheists — don’t even know what Blasphemy Day is.
It’s an online phenomenon that a number of atheists participated in. Some went for the all-out insults against religion. Some kept it more subdued.
But most of my atheist friends did nothing to “celebrate” the day.
None of the atheist organizations I’m involved with or give money to gave it that much thought, other than in passing. It just wasn’t a priority.
It’s certainly not a schism.
Hagerty would’ve been more accurate if she wrote, “a few people at one organization, the Center for Inquiry, are arguing about what approach to take regarding blasphemy.”
I guess it’s just easier to throw out a careless blanket statement.
[Stuart] Jordan is a volunteer at the [Center for Inquiry] and therefore could speak his mind. But interviews for this story with others associated with the Washington, D.C., office were canceled — a curious development for a group that promotes free speech.
DJ Grothe points out that no one was told not to speak with Hagerty (emphasis mine).
Since a CFI volunteer who was quoted in the article could “speak his mind,” there was an implication that a paid staffer couldn’t. Haggerty stated that it was a “curious development” for a group that promotes free speech to forbid staff from speaking freely. Let me state it clearly: No one at CFI was told to refrain from having interviews with NPR. It is true that some of the Center for Inquiry staff in Washington DC, after hearing that the story might be cover[ing] internal disagreements at CFI (recent transitions in leadership), chose completely on their own not to speak to the media.
You can read the rest of DJ’s piece here.
Back to Hagerty:
“What we wanted were thoughtful, incisive and concise critiques of religion,” [CFI head Ronald Lindsay] says. “We were not trying to insult believers.”
But others are perfectly happy to. New atheists like Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins and journalist Christopher Hitchens are selling millions of books and drawing people by the thousands to their call for an uncompromising atheism.
This isn’t a battle between thoughtful criticism and offensive insults. Yes, some of the famous atheists use sharp rhetoric, but it’s grounded in reason. They’re not just taking cheap shots. While it may appear like that to some, Hitchens can back up his point when he goes after religious beliefs for being dangerous and ridiculous.
The more outrageous the message the better, says PZ Myers, who writes an influential blog that calls, among other things, for the end of religion. On Blasphemy Day, Myers drove a rusty nail through a consecrated Communion wafer and posted a photo on his Web site.
That’s just factually wrong. The Great Desecration occurred in July of last year.
PZ has his own thoughts on the article here.
It’s an overall irresponsible piece by Hagerty. I expect better from NPR.
(Thanks to everyone for the link)