Those Atheists You Hate Aren’t Really All That Bad

Chris Stedman is an atheist. But because he’s more interested in forming alliances with religious people so they can work together toward their common goals and less interested in arguing over their differences (and why they’re wrong), he gets a really bad rap in the atheist community. Chris doesn’t “support” faith, he doesn’t believe faith is harmless, and he has no problem criticizing faith when it’s necessary. But he’s not going out of his way to trash religious people because they happen to be wrong.

It’s one of many tactics you can choose in our movement. By taking that route, Chris has been able to get his message — that all atheists are not automatically anti-theists, that you can be good without god, etc. — to a very different audience from the one reached by many of the other public atheists out there.

Case in point: A recent article in RELEVANT (a Christian magazine) about how he reconnected with his former pastor:

It’s funny because, when he first asked me to get coffee, I hesitated. “What will he think of the work I do now?” I asked myself. “Will he feel like he failed me as a pastor? Will he want to debate theology? Will he try to bring me back into the church?”

Such hesitance was unmerited; he sat and listened as I updated him on my life, smiling and nodding as I described how I’ve come into my own as an atheist, an interfaith activist and a young man. Now, Matthew and I have a better and more honest relationship than we ever did in my youth.

It’s been a more productive one, too: in less than six months, we’ve mobilized hundreds of people to come together in interfaith coalition and donate their time and money to package more than 30,000 meals for food-insecure children in Boston. Most recently we held an event (planned with Boston University’s Interfaith Council) called HUNGERally, where more than a hundred student representatives from eight Boston-area colleges and universities spent a Saturday night learning about the problem of hunger and pledging to work together across lines of religious difference to address it.

All of this is the direct result of a partnership between an atheist and his former pastor. In light of this, I cannot help but wonder what the world would look like if we were more willing to forge unconventional alliances. What would happen if we were more radical about whom we saw as our collaborators? What would happen if we took the risk of reaching out to the unfamiliar? If atheists and Christians started seeing one another as necessary partners in making the world a better place, what might we come to understand about each other? What might we come to better understand about ourselves? What might we accomplish together?

He’s not suggesting that the pastor is anything more than a nice guy. But you can bet other atheists are going to tear him a new one for this article.

I’ve criticized Interfaith work in the past. I still do. I think they are more interested in strengthening everyone’s beliefs (even when those beliefs are wrong) and less interested (if at all) in getting to the heart of the truth. They’d rather live in Rainbow-and-Unicorn-World where everyone just gets along instead of grappling with the serious issues of why belief in nonsense is bad for all of us.

But Chris isn’t hiding from those conversations. Really. He’s a gay atheist who works within the interfaith community — those issues come up all the time and he has no problem speaking up for himself. His method of showing religious people why there’s nothing wrong with his atheism or sexuality doesn’t involve publicly trashing other people or humiliating them. He makes his point through his actions.

If you read the blog posts and Twitter comments about Chris, though, you’d think he was a religious man in atheist clothing. Or that he’s delegitimizing our work. Or that he’s undermining our goals. He’s not. He’s as much of an atheist activist as the rest of us. He just practices it by focusing on cooperation and conversation with people of faith instead of beating his chest with both fists and proclaiming his superiority.

Another atheist, Alain de Botton, has seen a similar reaction to his latest ideas. He suggested that atheists, like religious people, could use a place — an “awe-inspiring building” — where we could sit in peace and contemplate secular values like love and friendship.

He’s serious about building this “atheist temple” and that’s where he gets it wrong — it’s not worth the money (£1m). But that’s pretty much the extent of my opposition to it.

Richard Dawkins had it right when he said:

“I think there are better things to spend this kind of money on. If you are going to spend money on atheism you could improve secular education and build non-religious schools which teach rational, sceptical critical thinking.”

Still, as far as ideas go, the basis behind it makes sense — We could all use some quiet time to reflect on our lives and the things that matter most to us.

de Botton later made headlines when he said “the most boring question you can ask about religion is whether or not the whole thing is ‘true.’” WHAT?! BUT THE TRUTH IS ALL THAT MATTERS! said a bunch of atheists in response. They seemed to ignore the part where he said:

To my mind, of course, no part of religion is true in the sense of being God-given. It seems clear that there is no holy ghost, spirit, geist or divine emanation. The real issue is not whether God exists or not, but where one takes the argument to if one concludes he doesn’t. I believe it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless to find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling — and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm.

Yeah, well, that kind of makes sense. God doesn’t exist. We (atheists) have answered that question to our satisfaction. Sure we’d like to convince others of that truth, but what about us? Now that we have the answer, what do we do next?

What does religion do right that we might be able to learn from? de Botton says this:

… religions deliver sermons, promote morality, engender a spirit of community, make use of art and architecture, inspire travels, train minds and encourage gratitude at the beauty of spring.

We have grown frightened of the word morality. We bridle at the thought of hearing a sermon. We flee from the idea that art should be uplifting or have an ethical mission. We don’t go on pilgrimages. We can’t build temples. We have no mechanisms for expressing gratitude.

This is where his argument falls apart… if you take it at face value.

It’s easy to counter with examples of “religious morality” that endangers women and hurts gay people, but there’s no doubt that religious people give more money to charity than atheists do — and that goes beyond tithing. Also, atheists have no problem discussing ethics. Sure religions have made use of art and architecture, but there are historical reasons for that (like the fact that religious monarchs in previous centuries were the ones with the money and power). We may not like “sermons,” but I love listening to TED Talks. We may not thank god for anything, but we can stand in awe of the power nature and evolution has in our world. We can show our gratefulness to the people close to us in our lives, whether it’s through affection or gifts or our words. We may not have temples where our communities can meet, but we communicate and share our live with each other over the Internet and through local groups. We may not go on pilgrimages, but we can dedicate our lives to various causes that have meaning for us.

He’s basically throwing secular values under the bus for the sake of making his point. But the responses (like the ones I just mentioned) are right there if you go looking for them. Why de Botton never mentions this, I don’t know.

Ok, now step back for a second. de Botton is basically saying there are some things religious people do that we ought to find a secular replacement for. He’s not wrong about that. I’m simply saying we have already found those replacements.

But the way people have attacked him, you’d think he was trying to dismantle atheism from within:

“To say something along the lines of ‘I’m an atheist; I think religions are not all bad’ has become a dramatically peculiar thing to say and if you do say it on the internet you will get savage messages calling you a fascist, an idiot or a fool. This is a very odd moment in our culture. Why has this happened?”

Again, he’s right about that. If you’re an atheist and you aren’t whole-heartedly anti-religious (or, dare I say it, you suggest there might be something to learn from religious people), there’s a segment of critics online who won’t stop attacking what you say until you’ve basically removed yourself from the conversation. They’ll call you names or take your statements far more literally than you intended so that you’re thoroughly humiliated in front of people who will never read your works for themselves. (Though, to be honest, if you offer an opinion of any sort online, people are going to go after you.)

Why am I saying all this? Because it’s not necessary to treat these atheists like they’re not on our side. They’re not hurting our cause. They’re with us. They’re not the enemy.

As one person on Twitter said yesterday, “I care about truth, but also cooperation, compassion & civil discourse.” Those things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

While we’re on the subject, PZ Myers recently debated Greg Epstein on the question “How Should Atheists Talk About Religion?” on the Ask An Atheist podcast. I haven’t had a chance to hear it yet, but feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Iosue

    I think de Botton raises some interesting points (though I may not always agree with his own conclusions, provisionary or otherwise).  Atheism in and of itself doesn’t really mean anything more than living without any god concept.  And so you can have atheists as radically different as Dawkins, Camus, Stalin, Rand, Nietzsche, etc etc. (to mention both positive and negative examples of atheists).  Atheism BY ITSELF doesn’t mean much more than living without gods. 

    But perhaps this is more of a personal issue…?  As for myself, I find great value in the writings of Seneca and stoic philosophy in terms of self-cultivation and ethics (ancient philosophy was less an abstract matter back then).  But I have no need to belong to a “stoic church” (if such a thing even existed).  I can sympathise with de Botton to a certain degree.

    Humanism has its roots in Greco-Roman philosophy, which was not entirely destroyed by Christianity but in some aspects it absorbed it.  At times it has remained dormant and at other times that humanism rose again to the surface.  I would even venture to say that the better aspects of Christianity actually stem from those Greco-Roman roots.  If there is any common ground for Christianity and humanist-atheism, that is where it lies. 

    • http://nadiawilliams.wordpress.com/ Nadia Williams

      I am SO glad someone has finally put into words what I’ve been thinking
      since first hearing De Botton’s talk on TED. The online atheist
      community can sometimes be as horrible as the fundies: if you don’t
      agree with their version of atheism, you’re reviled and vilified. It
      felt to me as if nobody listened to the guy’s ideas beyond the part
      where he said “religion might have some good ideas we should copy”. Even
      if you disagree with some of his conclusions, or not everything he
      says, don’t haul out the machine gun and raze everything to splinters.
      Listen, discuss, and maybe do something as radical as considering
      whether he doesn’t have a point, even if that point is no more than a
      first step instead of a conclusion.

      (Sorry to leave this as a reply, but it’s the only way this thing would let me leave a comment).

  • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

    PZ and I were being called bullies. Since when is disagreeing with someone bullying? We may have been snarky, but we’re trying to convince people that good people exist in spite of religion and de Botton is saying the exact opposite! Argh!

    We didn’t pull his underwear over his head, we didn’t shove his head in a toilet; we merely called him on his error. If this is bullying, then several countries will have to shut down their parliaments and opt for the American way of giving speeches to empty rooms.

    Alain de Botton resides in his own thought bubble, and yesterday a few people managed to poke a few holes and release a bit of hot air.

    • Anonymous

      Disagreeing isn’t bullying, but using a blog to call people derisive and derogatory names, lying about and mischaracterizing those who disagree with you, spreading false derogatory rumors, and blocking people who disagree with you from posting, certainly is.

      I say again, there is a big difference between writing “I think you’ve missed the mark here, and you shouldn’t speak about religious people this way” and saying “You’re a spineless, tight-assed, limp-wristed, pearl-clutching Uncle Mary with a bad case of the vapors and you should fuck off back into your atheist closet.”

      • http://twitter.com/TominousTone Tom Lawson

        Alain de Botton cannot take criticism. If we used the nicest words in our lexicons to disagree with him he would tell us: 

        “I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make. I will be watching with interest and schadenfreude.”

        I tried. I looked and looked for anyone wishing him the same and could not find anything of the sort.

        The internet is our peer-reviewed journal. If your ideas lack merit, conflict with facts, or do not hold up to criticism, then you have no right to cry foul or resort to career-hexing voodoo.

        • James Croft

          I agree. I thought his respons was ridiculous. He apologized profusely for it and accepted how embarrassing it was, but I agree he was wrong to say that. But that doesn’t excuse New Atheist voices who use similarly aggressive attacks to silence their critics. I note you don’t respond to that point.

          • Cheron22

            And I note you have not pointed to any examples of such behaviour either.

            • Anonymous

              Myers is well known for this kind of behavior. Do a google search.

        • The Other Weirdo

           This is why I read the comments on this blog: every once in a while I learn a new word. “schadenfreude” Apart from you, who knew? :)

    • Anonymous

      Myers is a bully as are quite a few of his regular commenters. It is not at all pleasant to try to discuss something in a civil manner when the opposition is telling you to fuck off and demonizing you, falsely stating your position, claiming you are hateful, reading everything you write uncharitably, labeling you, named calling, and all the other intellectually dishonest nonsense they pull.

      I got banned from his blog when I had the gall to question him on his claiming that some Italian politician shared to keep a brain dead woman alive so he could impregnate her. Does that sound like a reasonable interpretation of the guys motives to you? I’m really hard on my opposition but I don’t pull this garbage because when the other side is wrong (or right) there is no need to.

  • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

    Is religion, in general, wrong?  I think it’s like color preference.  I believe that a certain shade of blue is the most beautiful color in the world.  You prefer green.  I like the sound of Tchaikovsky but you prefer The Clash.  There is, obviously, no rational basis for a belief in a deity, but neither is there a rational basis for a preference for science fiction over mysteries.  And none of these things, I think, matter, if you can keep religion from infecting the rest of your life.  
    If you can believe in the resurrection of Jesus, whether as history or as a metaphor, but still understand evolution and be unwilling to corrupt children’s science education with fairy tales, does it matter what you do on Sunday mornings?

    You don’t have to believe  in a literal interpretation of the Bible to disbelieve science.  Andrew Wakefield was willing to do bad science for money.  They people who follow him are often not doing it from religious conviction, but from suspicion of government agencies.  

    If you want to go to synagogue and listen to the Torah being sung because it inspires you to know that in synagogues all around the world the same words are being sung today just as your people have sung them for thousands of years, but you can put aside the parts of the Bible that oppose gay rights and promote slavery and the subjugation of women, does it matter?  If you strive to be kind and generous and give to charities that dig wells in impoverished villages in Africa, does it matter if you do it because God says that charity is a virtue, or because you recognize that being born in the West is incredibly good fortune, or because it’s a kind thing to do?  Heck, you can believe that the ketchup bottle in the cabinet talks to you, so long as it’s telling you to have wells dug in Uganda as opposed to going all Son-of-Sam on people.

    I admit I feel a little bit of derision for people who actually believe that there is somewhere their dead relatives go, or that someone cares if they eat certain things with other things.  There’s so much else to worry about that spending energy worrying if your aluminum foil was rolled in machines greased with animal fats seems wasteful to me.  But I feel the same sort of derision for people who watch Jersey Shore or Real Housewives or read romance novels.  And they probably think I’m foolish to waste money on comic books.  In the long run, does it matter?

    Honestly, I think by lumping all religionists together we do ourselves a deep disservice.  We help create an us-vs-them mentality.  Did or did not some Christians stand with us in opposing the Cranston West prayer banner?  Those people have *nothing* to do with the Pope asking the American priests not why so many of their numbers were molesting children, but why they weren’t taking better control of the media to bury the story, or with the people in Uganda who are seeking to make homosexual sex between consenting adults a capital crime.  If we deride all theists solely for their theism, we make it less likely that sensible theists will stand with us in opposition to the nutcases.  And ultimately, it’s about what people do, not what is in their hearts and minds while they are doing it.

  • Anonymous

    My objection to de Botton is that it’s not that helpful to divorce ritual from the causes it serves.  He’s essentially just endorsing having strong social ties, common vernacular in a community, and ritual to help you live up to your expectations for yourself.  That shouldn’t be a controversial claim.  

    But it doesn’t make sense to act as though the specific rituals and structures of religious are completely separable from the ideas they promote.  Style informs substance, language shapes thought and vice versa.  Better to promote the ideas you think atheist ritual should preserve and reinforce before you promote ritual qua ritual.

    • Anonymous

      That’s why he doesn’t make that argument.

  • Gus Snarp

    Yeah, no matter what you excerpt, aside from saying that gods probably don’t exist, I just don’t see anything I agree with in de Botton. I won’t be the voice of Gnu Atheism too much in this thread, because while I can see the argument in my mind, I can’t articulate it well without more work than I want to put in. But what I don’t understand is this notion that we need an awe-inspiring building to sit and contemplate the wonder of the universe and that such a thing does not exist in the secular world. This is dead wrong. There are countless examples of just such buildings. Here’s just one stunning example: 
    http://www.amnh.org/rose/ and some more pictures of it.

    • Anonymous

      You kind of have to read the book – he does address things like planetariums and museums at some length…

      • Gus Snarp

        And yet he keeps talking about how we don’t have these buildings. Is he  making a completely different argument in the book than he is in his public statements? He says we need awe inspiring buildings like churches. I say we have them. I say, in fact, that in terms of modern architecture most of the awe inspiring design work is in secular buildings, not churches. I say also that what he asks for in his public statements and his attempted clarification of them, is that architects should be learning from religious architecture. Does he actually think that every beginning architecture student in the world does not study religious architecture? That architects aren’t continually inspired by every kind of architecture that has come before? When I read his attempt to clarify his argument all I could think was that it sounded like he was asking everyone to…do exactly what they’ve always done. Not very revolutionary. 

        If his public statements can’t be understood without reading the book, then they’re just marketing, not arguments, and one can’t really be very upset with others for taking issue with them. In fact, the more people publicly argue with him, the better, since I for one would otherwise never have known this book existed. Now I’m not going to buy it, but it seems like all this controversy ought to be good for sales. One might even think the things he’s written lately were expressly written to gin up this controversy to generate publicity for his book. But no one would be that cynical.

        • James Croft

          I think it’s very odd that you might consider the arguments found in the whole of a book to be reducible to a few public statements, or even a 20 minute talk. I generally assume that people talking about a book in interviews and articles will not be able to express the complete argument, and therefore I give them the benefit of the doubt.

          As for his argument about architecture, he stresses that religious buildings tend to fulfil particular functions which secular buildings rarely aspire to achieve. He gives numerous specific examples of such purposes, and offers some ideas of “temples” the secular world might build to fulfil similar functions without the supernatural beliefs. I don’t find his examples altogether convincing, but I don’t find the fundamental idea ridiculous either. But what I was mostly pointing to is the example of the Rose Center you gave, since he specifically recommends spaces like planetariums as examples of what he is talking about.

          • Gus Snarp

            I don’t think all the arguments in a book can be reduced to a few public statements or a twenty minute talk. I do expect that if you’re going to make your arguments in a few public statements or a twenty minute talk that you ought to be able to at least make them clearly.

            This can be a hard issue because sometimes you really do need to read the book. At the same time, saying “I have a brilliant argument and you just don’t get it because it can’t be summarized in this space and you must read my book” comes off as a scam pitch to me (not that I’ve heard de Botton say that, only you in his defense). So maybe the book is brilliant, but while his comments have succeeded at igniting a firestorm of criticism in the atheist blogosphere, they have not sold me on his having enough to say to be worth my time to read the book.

            But really, if he’s saying we aren’t building awe inspiring buildings with secular purposes inspired by religious architecture, then he’s not looking very hard.

            If he’s saying we’re not building enough, I suggest that you can find several in any large city in America, and that any lack of these buildings is an issue of money more than anything else. There simply aren’t that many Chartres or Santa Maria del Fiores in the world. How many more secular versions do we expect to be built?

            Perhaps his argument is that we’re not holding some kind of faux-religious service in these buildings? that we’re not putting them to the right purpose? If so, fine, but I don’t think it takes a book to make that clear. One more sentence would do it, and I’d still disagree with him.

            Is there some other point he could be making that I have to read the book to find?

            Frankly, I can’t wait until tomorrow morning when I’ve forgotten the name de Botton again and won’t have to think about this again until there’s another bullshit spat.

            I agree with you on one thing: the whole fight is rather stupid. I just think we disagree on which side is perpetuating the conflict. Remember, just because one side is loud and rude doesn’t mean the other side didn’t attack them.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Wow! Have I missed out on some latest-and-greatest terminology or what! What, exactly, is Gnu Atheism?

      • Gus Snarp

        It’s making fun of the term “New Atheists”. Since the term New Atheist was invented to basically refer to anyone who makes a full throated defense of atheism, or to deride religion, who was born after Bertrand Russel, and since there’s really nothing new about the “New Atheism”, and since “New Atheist” is often used as a pejorative (along with the equally ill-conceived “militant atheist”), when one wants to refer to someone who is likely to be considered a “New Atheist” by others, while making the point that you reject the label, and hopefully applying a bit of humor, one can use gnu atheist.

        • The Other Weirdo

           Thank you. So, if I just call myself atheist and forgo all that other stuff, does that make me a bad person or a bad atheist? :)

          • Gus Snarp

            Not at all.  Most of us do.

            Gnu atheist is just for when you have no choice but to draw a distinction with a label, and you don’t like doing it.

            • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

              Or, you might like doing it. I don’t really mind drawing distinctions with labels. Often, I find it very useful.

  • John Small Berries

    “We have grown frightened of the word morality.”

    What’s this “we” stuff? Speak for yourself, de Botton; I don’t need you to speak for me, especially when you’re saying things about me that aren’t true.

    “We bridle at the
    thought of hearing a sermon.”

    Okay, this one I agree with. Sermons are for people who can’t think for themselves, who need to be told what to think and how to act.

    “We flee from the idea that art should be
    uplifting or have an ethical mission.”

    Again: speak for yourself. This seems an awful lot like the theists’ straw-man atheist who, not having a god to believe in, has no conception of things like beauty or love or morality.

    “We don’t go on pilgrimages.”

    Of course we don’t. Why would we? We don’t worship places, or need to travel to them for supernatural aid or to discharge religious obligations. That doesn’t mean we can’t travel to places that have personal significance to us – but that’s not a “pilgrimage”.

    “We
    can’t build temples.”

    Well, we can, but again, why would we? We don’t build temples because we don’t need them.

    We already have libraries. We have museums. We have planetariums. We have aquariums. We have places devoted to actual knowledge, and showing the wonders of the natural world and universe – as opposed to places to think, speak or sing magic words to nonexistent beings and to reinforce belief in those beings. Why would we want temples, when we have places which are so much more fulfilling, and are built around things that demonstrably exist?

    “We have no mechanisms for expressing gratitude.”

    We don’t? Gosh, I wonder how I’ve been expressing gratitude to people all these years, then. I guess I should stop doing it.

    Or did he mean expressing gratitude to the universe for our very existence, as though it’s a sentient entity which listens and perhaps answers back? That’s pantheism, not atheism.

    • Anonymous

      I think actually reading the book might help you understand a little better at what he’s aiming at. He does provide answers (not all of them convincing, but all of them thoughtful) to each of the questions you raise here.

      • Anonymous

        Why would I read an entire book by him when he gets so much wrong in a single paragraph, as John has so amply pointed out.

        • Anonymous

          So you can become informed before passing a judgment.

          • Anonymous

            But I can pass judgement on the topics he covered in the several paragraphs. If he were to retract these false claims then I might consider giving him a second chance. Until then I judge him to be just another guy who lies about others, me in particular.

            • Anonymous

              John’s post, which I was responding to, was about positions which are fully detailed in the book. It contains numerous misunderstandings of De Botton’s actual positions which would be cleared up if he read the book. That is why I recommend he reads the book if he wishes to understand the positions.

              • Anonymous

                Are those direct quotes or not? The quotes he is responding to. If so then the problem lies with deBotton. I’m not going to spend my time reading an author who says the opposite of what he means unless I’m extremely curious, see a scrap of value, or I decide that they are in fact my intellectual enemy. Nothing I’ve seen by deBotton has motivated me and you are doing such a poor job in responding that I don’t think you guys have and clear understanding of what you find compelling about existing religions.

                He states that he finds value in certain religious practices, indicates we should explore like we would explore the Amazon for drug producing plants, but can’t put his finger on any value in what he finds. He’s showing us the plants he found and saying that it has value. When people naturally ask “For what, and why is it better than this plant I have in my backyard already?” he doesn’t have an answer that his followers like you can articulate.

                I can articulate exactly what I find bad and good about church singing. One thing that is very bad is that it forces consensus by outing nonconformists, like saying “under God” in the pledge of allegiance “outs” atheists for later shunning and other bad activities. I’m afraid that importing this practice runs a big risk to shunning for skepticism. There have been and are atheist religions, like Objectivism, that have snuck in the kinds of practices traditional religions use to stay cohesive cults and frankly I hate it. Objectivist cult like conformism extends to excommunication and shunning, along with having a set dogma that was a revelation not from a god, but from Ayn Rand.

                I don’t think you guys understand the dangers here, and your stereotyping, denigration and straw man characterization of other atheists is not a good sign. You are showing signs of cult like behavior.

              • Anonymous

                How can direct quotes of a man be a “misunderstanding”.

      • Anonymous

        You keep saying to read “the” book.    What book?  The bible?  This quote was out of an article authored by deBotton.   There is no book mentioned so how come you are talking about “the” book.  The article is the context of John Small Berry’s comment.  It is linked to in the Hemant’s article.   

        Those are direct quotes from deBotton so they can’t be wrong.  They are also sloppy to the point of defamation of others.   Like the old canards that atheists have no hope, cannot enjoy the beauty of nature, etc. 

        If you want people to entertain his claims you are going to have to do way better than you are doing.    First off, name the book.   Second respond to John’s comment.   When I read that article his comment was precisely what I was thinking.  In fact my first reaction was to want to Fisk that paragraph the way John did.

        Do you think Jews would like it if I said I was a Jew and started writing articles in which I stated how us Jews really do like to use the blood of Christian children?     [Then somewhere else clarify that statment, as "... for research into sickel cell anemia].    

        When did you stop beating your wife?   Read my book to find out what I meant by that.

    • Anonymous

      LIKE * 1000. No no. LIKE^1000. Yeah. The mere idea of wanting a building just for contemplating what’s cool about the earth and the universe is … well … ludicrous. 

      And all the rest that you said, John. Exactly right.

      • http://twitter.com/TychaBrahe TychaBrahe

        It’s not ludicrous.  It’s called a “science museum.”  

        Seriously, there is a room in the Aerospace Hall at the California Science Center in Los Angeles that starts out with a photo of Los Angeles taken by a U-2 flying at 12 miles altitude.  It steps back to show photos of the Sun, planets (including Pluto, which the exhibit predates) on to stars and galaxies and planetary clusters and out the a quasar called PKS-2000-330, which at the time was the most distant object known.  Along the walls, among the stars, are quotes, like this one from TS Eliot: “We shall not cease from our exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive back where we started and know the place for the first time.”On the next level up is a multimedia presentation with script by Ray Bradbury, a free verse poem that explains the origin of the Universe, starting with, “It is the hour before time, the hour before light, the hour before the Universe gave birth to itself.  Then, it was born,” and works its way up through planetary formation and evolution to spaceflight and pictures of Mars taken by Viking, where it declares, “There is life here.  There’s life on Mars, and it is *us*.  And someday soon we’ll land and live, and be the Martians.”I spent a lot of time in there contemplating what is cool about the Earth and the Universe.

        • Anonymous

          Well, while I love science museums and such, I consider them to be for learning about the universe etc. To “contemplate” the earth, IMO it’s better to walk outside and look at it. For contemplating the universe, by extension, you’d go outside at night. Though for the far-away stuff, you may be better off contemplating one of the Hubble images :-D

        • Cripdyke

          The exhibit predates Pluto? Special creation proved! Checkmate, atheists!

          • Rieux

            O noes!

        • Anonymous

          No it is not called a science museum. It, according to Alain de Botton, is called an “atheist temple” and I’m pretty sure all it contains is mats for you to sit cross-legged on while contemplating the universe in your navel (oh and perhaps stained glass windows of whales and dolphins, and rock hard pews).

          • Anonymous

            And if it did, so what?

            • Anonymous

              Then it wouldn’t be a museum which is at odds with the comment I was responding to. I don’t need a separate atheist version of the various kinds of museums anyway. It makes more sense to have a separate atheist temple if you feel you need to go to temple, if only so you don’t have to listen to theists praying. I don’t think meditating requires an impressive building and I don’t meditate in the first place. So I don’t see the point of atheists building pretentious buildings. Should we be building atheist pyramids too?

              • Anonymous

                It’s very difficult to respond to you when, since you haven’t read the book, every new comment includes a new misunderstanding of his position.

                • Anonymous

                  Go back up and respond to John Small Berries then. If deBotton doesn’t believe these things then why is he saying them? Why isn’t he more carful and precise in his words?

                  I personally have no problem with any atheist doing whatever they please. I in fact have been toying with creating an atheist religion for years. If you want to build a big temple that has great acoustics so you can sing with strangers then go ahead. I personally don’t like choir that much because I suck at singing. I also understand the purposes of these rituals in church. Which are in part conducive to cult like behavior.

                  I could write an article outlining the value of religion which deBotton has strayed far away from with these negative stereotypical statements about atheists. I wouldn’t need to do any of that.

                • Anonymous

                  … how can every new comment be a misunderstanding of his position when I am not responding to him?   I’m was responding to a comment.    Read the prior comment and take my comment in light of it.    It was temple not museum.  Do you dispute that?

  • Gus Snarp

    I think there’s one other thing missing here, if you fully read most of these interfaith atheists, or “good atheists”, or whatever you call them, you’ll usually find that somewhere in there they’ve told the rest of us, particularly the “militant” ones, that we’re doing it wrong.

    Then we get them saying they can’t express an opinion about a different way of doing things without being attacked. If you write something saying not just, “this is what I did and it was great”, or “more people should do this”, but rather, “you’re not doing this stuff and that’s the problem”, then it is you who are saying only one method is acceptable.

    You can find any kind of asshole commentary you want on the internet, but usually when I read the big names savaging the arguments of these interfaith people, I also find them saying that we have different methods and different goals and all of that is worthwhile, but since you’ve called me out, I’m going to tell you why you’re wrong.

    TL;DR: It’s not the “militant” atheists saying “my way is the only right way”, it’s the interfaith types saying, “you militant atheists are being too nasty and screwing it all up.” The “militant” atheists respond, “Many different approaches are good, but since you think mine is not, here’s why you are dead wrong.”

    • Anonymous

      I just disagree as a matter of fact here. What I have seen is principled disagreement on both sides – reasoned critique about strategy, about language, about messaging etc. which is entirely legitimate – in addition to a hell of a lot of othering, shaming and blog-bullying by prominent “militant” figures, who stoop to vulgar personal attacks, stoke up disgusting comment-threads which introduce homophobia and slurs, and generally try to push interfaith voices out of the conversation.

      There is a big difference between writing “I think you’ve missed the mark here, and you shouldn’t speak about religious people this way” and saying “You’re a spineless, tight-assed, limp-wristed, pearl-clutching Uncle Mary with a bad case of the vapors and you should fuck off back into your atheist closet.”

      Not being able to see the difference between legitimate criticism and bullying is a big problem.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

         Well, JFL, I disagree with you as a matter of fact. I very much doubt you have *actually* seen “a hell of a lot of othering, shaming and blog-bullying by prominent
        “militant” figures, who stoop to vulgar personal attacks, stoke up
        disgusting comment-threads which introduce homophobia and slurs, and
        generally try to push interfaith voices out of the conversation.”

        I very much doubt that indeed. In fact, I doubt you’ll be able to pull up any convincing examples of such. I read the New Statesman article and it was devoid of any.

        In fact, I doubt you can actually link to or quote anyone who actually said, “You’re a spineless, tight-assed, limp-wristed, pearl-clutching Uncle
        Mary with a bad case of the vapors and you should fuck off back into
        your atheist closet.”

        Anti-gnu-atheists generally have nothing but straw men to burn down.

        • James Croft

          PZ does all those things all the time. He made a whole thread part of the purpose of which was spreading a false rumor about Chris Stedman. He consistently attacks those who disagree with derogatory slurs and demeaning language. He regularly prods his favorite commenters to new heights of demagoguery, and fails to moderate extremely aggressive attacks. He foments an atmosphere on his blog that is more than unpleasant – it is unwelcoming to differing voices, hegemonic in its effect on comments, and anti-Freethought. He attacks people on Twitter for praying for their loved ones. He declares his contempt for all Christians. He repeatedly shows that he cannot abide criticism of his own views, while attacking others with wild and aggressive mischaracterizations.

          Have you ever READ Pharyngula?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

             Yes, James, I have. Do you have links to the specific accusations you are making? Cuz, otherwise, it’s just more unsubstantiated opinion.

            • Anonymous

              I’ve seen all the other stuff but would have liked the link to Myers spreading the false rumor about Steadman, or at a minimum which claim Myers made that he thought was false.

              • sg

                As I’ve noted above, the thread is titled “Dr. Dan Golaszewski is a quack!”

                • Anonymous

                  Many thanks. You’ll see in the comment thread there how difficult it was even to get PZ to change the accusation even well after JT had clarified that it was baseless, and that when he first changed it, he first omitted to note the change. The change ultimately is itself derogatory and snide, of course.

                • Anonymous

                  I see no real mea culpa for anything on Myers part. His last comment is a fuck off.

                • Anonymous

                  That is because he is fantastically dishonest. But there is a snide retraction in the post itself. That functions as a mea cullpa even if it is coated with slime.

                • sg

                  I strongly disagree with this notion that he is “fantastically dishonest.”

                  I have seen him be careless about fact-checking but I have never seen him deliberately lie.

                • Anonymous

                  Looked up the article skimmed through the cluster-f-ck of comments there and still have no clue what rumor was being spread. I have no clue what SSA is Or any of the rest of it. Of douse Myers is just acting like usual, and it ain’t pretty, but that is no surprise.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

    “Such hesitance was unmerited; he sat and listened as I updated
    him on my life, smiling and nodding as I described how I’ve come into my
    own as an atheist, an interfaith activist and a young man. Now, Matthew
    and I have a better and more honest relationship than we ever did in my
    youth.It’s been a more productive one, too: in less
    than six months, we’ve mobilized hundreds of people to come together in
    interfaith coalition and donate their time and money to package more
    than 30,000 meals for food-insecure children in Boston. Most recently we
    held an event (planned with Boston University’s Interfaith Council)
    called HUNGERally, where more than a hundred student representatives
    from eight Boston-area colleges and universities spent a Saturday night
    learning about the problem of hunger and pledging to work together
    across lines of religious difference to address it.”

    So… I guess those Christians you hate aren’t really all that bad…

    • Gus Snarp

      Can you imagine if we actually hated Christians as people? Life would be utterly unbearable for us in a nation that is somewhere between 75% and 90% Christian, depending on which survey you look at?

      I mean really, does that make any sense? Allowing for the ecological fallacy, since numbers that large mostly swamp it here, that would mean I’d have to hate three quarters of my coworkers, three quarters of my family (actually, the number’s higher with my family), three quarters of the people I meet on a daily basis.

      I don’t hate Christians at all. I’m surrounded by them on a daily basis and I like most of them.

      • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

         “Life would be utterly unbearable for us”

        Isn’t it?  From all the complaints here and on other atheist blogs, you’d think so.

        “I don’t hate Christians at all.”

        And we don’t hate atheists, contrary to this post’s title.

    • TiltedHorizon

       In an appeal to common sense I’ll point out, if Atheists hated Christians, this article would never have been posted as it holds theists in a positive light. 

      • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

         “as it holds theists in a positive light. ”

        Yeah, except for that part where it says that we hate atheists…

        • TiltedHorizon

          This is not a Christian blog, it’s an atheist blog, therefore the title (and accusation)is actually directed to the primary readership; atheists. Specifically, to the ‘hardline’ Atheists who appear intolerant of other Atheists who suggest religion is not inherently evil or without purpose.

    • Anonymous-Sam

      The problem is, when an atheist makes reference to Christians in any kind of disparaging tone, they tend to be referring to the people who are simultaneously the most un-Christ-like Christians and the loudest members of the faith. You know — the Christians who advocate making homosexuality a crime punishable by death.

      • The Other Weirdo

         Funny you should say that. Since Jesus basically said that the Old Law was still in effect and would be forever and ever, and since the Old Law stipulated death as punishment for homosexuality, then the only Christians who are being un-Christ-like are the ones tolerant of homosexuality. Which, by definition, makes them better people than Jesus.

        • Anonymous-Sam

          I seem to recall it being established shortly afterward that his death absolved us of our sins and there would be no need of human judgment for divine law, nor would there be any divine judgment inflicted upon those on Earth. But yeah. I won’t debate Biblical morality for the same reason that I wouldn’t use the Bible to teach astronomy or genetics, although it bravely tries to explain both of those subjects, too.

          People whose job is to sit about and puzzle out morality are still isolating the tip of the iceberg, much less recognizing that it is a tip, much less how much of it is still below the surface. People thousands of years ago were too busy debating whether or not the metaphorical iceberg existed and whether it would get them struck by lightning if they sacrificed animals to it. ^_^

      • http://profiles.google.com/jinxmchue Jinx McHue

         “they tend to be referring to the people who are simultaneously the most un-Christ-like Christians and the loudest members of the faith.”

        Ha!

        “You know — the Christians who advocate making homosexuality a crime punishable by death.”

        Oh, so when you disparage Christians, you’re limiting your comments to Fred Phelps and his inbred clan of lackwits.  Gotcha.

        • Anonymous-Sam

          On a good day, at least. On a bad day, everyone enabling the sheer inanity of the most recent miniature crusade deserves at least to feel their ears burning.

  • William R. Dickson

    de Botton seems to feel that:

    1) Removing religion will leave a terrible gaping void in our nonexistent souls that must be filled.

    2) If we don’t feel this terrible gaping void in our nonexistent souls, and don’t crave to have it filled, there must be something wrong with us. (See his tweet yesterday regarding the ultimate “problem” with “a certain kind of atheism.”)

    The former seems as ridiculous to me as suggesting that when we eliminate sexism, we’ll need to find something to fill the void it leaves behind. And frankly, I see this view as actively harmful; much better to do our best to pull theism and religion out by the roots (a long, long process, I know) and then see with the advantage of an unobstructed view what we _really_ need to live happy lives than to build a sad mimicry of religion in its place, leaving the view perpetually blocked.

    The latter makes him obnoxious.

    • Anonymous

      My issue is that while it’s true that not everyone has certain needs that religion fufills and therefore has no need to get secular replacements, some people do.

      You find it irritating to hear that we all require the various things religions provide in a supernatural context (community, ceremony, contemplation, outlet for charity etc.)? I totally get that. But many in the atheist community seem intent on insisting that we all don’t need those things, and anyone who does is just “mimicking religion” or somehow weak and needs to “get over it”. Guess what? Some atheists do have a wish for various aspects of life that have usually been covered by organized religion and that is also perfectly legitimate.

      Though some people go too far on both sides within the atheist community, I’ve seen a lot more prescribing of what “we all” should do from the “no rituals, no oranization, no common cause” side than from those who wish to set up those things.

      • David Giarratana

        On contemplation: do you really need a specific community in which to do this? I may not fully understand what you mean by that, but I contemplate the nature of reality and being human all the time, and I would be shocked to learn that this is something you felt was missing without religion.

        As for an outlet for charity, I think with the internet being what it is today, the only reason you could feel bereft of options is if you haven’t looked.

        And I have to say, I really don’t get the need for ceremony, ritual and tradition. What benefit does this have? It’s all arbitrary essentially by definition. The sort that religion offers seems especially devoid of redeeming value. The more secular habit of having annual holidays makes sense, but a lack of religion doesn’t really rob you of that.

        Finally, I actually see what you mean about the feeling of a loss of community, I can imagine for a once religious person the community at a church or what have you felt much more present than, say, any atheist organization, most of the activities of which tend to remain online.

        I think this is the problem with the position that religion takes all these nice things with it when it leaves: for the most part, it really doesn’t.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with I_Claudia. The responses to the Humanist Community Project, which is an attempt to provide community spaces for nonreligious people, was  extremely instructive: numerous posts and comments saying, essentially, “We don’t want this! We shouldn’t want this! Anyone who wants this is a closet theist and a religion-lover and a traitor!” And this from people who are constantly claiming they want a plurality of voices in the freethought community and recognize the values of various approaches! It was disheartening and, in the most extreme cases, dishonest.

      I think Hemant’s point here is spot-on: we have to stop demonizing each other, stop trying to impose our desires on other people, and recognize that people will express themselves and their atheism in different ways.That shouldn’t preclude principled critique of each other when we go wrong – that’s very important – but it should certainly preclude the othering and shaming that people like Stedman regularly receive at the hands of some.

  • Micah

    This is why I love your blog Hemant. ‘Nuff said…

  • Anonymous

    Atheist prioritizes charitable work over secularism.

    Shocking. Unbelievable. Unheard of. Update at 11!

    yawn

    Any idea how many atheists are quietly going about their lives doing charitable work, even within actively religious organizations? I would wager it’s in the millions. Only a minority of atheists put secularism at the top of their list of concerns. For many, it takes a back seat to directly helping the disadvantaged.

    The only difference here is that you’re hearing about it because this particular atheist makes a point to be openly atheist while helping people. This makes it so his charitable work has the happy side-effect of destroying the most pernicious stereotype that exists about atheists; that we have no morality. He is not a campaigner for secularism, even though his existence almost certainly does more good than harm towards that cause.

    If you think that Chris is the problem, you need to wake up and smell the Santorum. We have much, much bigger and nastier fish to fry before we start having enough free time to deal with inquisitorial internal purity tests.

    • Rieux

      That particular atheist makes a point of stabbing his fellow atheists in the back, while in the process ratifying every atheophobic and trope the believers who hate us see fit to voice.

      Stedman isn’t wrong because he “prioritizes charitable work over secularism.” He’s wrong because he continually lends direct support to anti-atheist bigotry. That’s an outrage, and it’s disheartening that any atheist is willing to overlook it.

    • Bruce Gorton

      Richard Dawkins runs a charitable organisation too – the Richard Dawkins Foundation. There are quite a few atheist charities out there if you know where to look.

      But the thing is, these charities are actually atheist charities. They aren’t attempts at creating an atheist priesthood (ala de Botton) or being basically fronted by a guy who seems more invested in protecting religious privilege than actually putting forward decent arguments for atheism. 

      Stedman is part of the reason why guys like Santorum gain so much power – he is a textbook “Serious liberal”. Whenever anything needs to get done to reduce the influence of the likes of Santorum, there you have Stedman talking up a case for how “unreasonable” these “new atheists” are being for slamming faith. 

  • Nope

    Why is proving not all atheists are anti theists? That’s insinuating anti theism is bad.

    • Nope

      Whoops forgot a word: important

    • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com/ TCC

      There’s no such insinuation. And it’s not a matter of proof but of demonstration: here’s an atheist who isn’t anti-theist (I would include myself as well); ergo, not all atheists are anti-theists.

      As for its importance, for those of us who do wish for dialogue – meaning mostly a chance to point out the fundamental flaws in theism to those theists who are willing to listen (because they’re genuinely interested in believing true things or because they feel like you’re being forthcoming and genuine in your concern or whatever other reason) – it is important that theists, at least those who are educable, do not inherently see atheists as the enemy, which they are of course going to be more prone to doing if they know we have an animus toward the beliefs that they hold so dear. Being anti-theism isn’t inherently bad, but it can sometimes be counterproductive. Speaking for myself (and myself only), I know that I was far more influenced by people who were clearly not anti-theist but recognized the flaws and error in theism.

  • http://twitter.com/DangerToews Vic Danger Toews

    Please delete this comment

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    “Chris Stedman is an atheist. But because he’s more interested in forming alliances with religious people so they can work together”

    The Uncle Tom strategy. I don’t think that’s a good model to follow.

    • Anonymous

      This is the sort of derogatory bullshit that Hemant is talking about. Ugly.

      • Joshuaslocum1

        Not nearly so ugly as the actual selling out and backstabbing Chris does. For the life of me I cannot wrap my mind around it, how people who believe in the same liberal values as I do (such as Hemant and James) are *more* upset when someone is starkly called out for awful behavior than they are about the awful behavior itself. Is there really no hope that even reasonable people cannot take off their emotional allegiance blinders even a little when it’s their friends?

        • Anonymous

          Can you not see that it’s perfectly possible to disagree with Stedman’s position without calling him a traitor to the cause? Or is that possibility closed to you entirely?

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

            Of course it’s possible to disagree without calling him a traitor. The substantial point being made is that a lot of people disagree with him AND he’s a ‘traitor’, or more accurately, an opponent. He advocates against the things many people are for – he is not on our side, he is not our friend.

            • Anonymous

              You can oppose things done in the name of and by people of your own side. That’s called being a “critical friend”.

              • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

                What you’re still utterly failing to grasp here is that he is not of our own side, and he is not any sort of friend.

                • Anonymous

                  That is your view. It is not mine. I think he’s done more for us than many leaders in this movement, and I think that will be borne out in the long run.

      • Anonymous

        Nonsense. The draw Mohammed day protest was precisely about the right of atheists (and anyone else) to criticize the beliefs of others, in this case with cartoons. Have you ever read the Qur’an? It’s not at all light on the criticism of other religions, going so far as to call for genocide of polytheists.

        In light of this he does sound like an uncle Tom in telling Muslims that other atheists are wrong to protest Islamic hegemony.

  • Rieux

    Er, Hemant, you’re kind of leaving out the enormous amount of time and energy Chris Stedman has spent stabbing gnu atheists in the back. A significant amount of the credibility Stedman has with the religion industry he has bought by shitting on us. That is in fact a thoroughly justified reason to consider him an enemy of atheists’ rights and interests.

    Here he is in 2010 attacking atheists such as Hemant Mehta for the (horrible! horrible!) crime of supporting and/or participating in Everybody Draw Muhammad Day on college campuses:

    The idea behind the campaign is to advocate for free speech. It seems to me, however, that the campaign is masking an attack on religious identity with a martyrical “free speech” claim. There are other ways to go about this that don’t knowingly target a specific belief of a particular identity. The Friendly Atheist blog wrote, “It’s a stick figure drawing. Chill. Out.” Instead of recognizing the ramifications of offensive images — let’s say they were chalking swastikas or, more specific to this issue, something anti-Atheist — we secularists seem far too keen to tell people to “just get over it.” Because that’s an effective approach, right?

    [....]

    People who engage in such activities are drawing a line (or as Interfaith Youth Core founder Eboo Patel might say, a “faith divide“) between themselves and others, and it is not something as impermanent as one made in sand or etched with chalk. It cannot be so easily erased.

    We secularists need to think long and hard about what lines we’re drawing — and who we’re boxing out in the process. We say we want “free speech;” now let’s recognize that with freedom comes responsibility and the need for respectful dialogue despite differences. In other words, as my mom might say: “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Chalk may wash away but the divides we build often don’t.

    That happens to be a nauseating piece of advocacy for theocratic power at the direct expense of atheist expression and visibility. Complete with some snot flung at Hemant Mehta.

    Stedman’s entire shtick amounts to giving religious people permission to hold, and vent, all the bigotry at “militant” atheists that they see fit to hold and vent. He’s an Uncle Tom, a direct enabler of theocratic power, religious privilege, and atheophobia. (And, like many Uncle Toms, he derives direct benefits for his behavior. Hegemons frequently enjoy throwing scraps to minority members who agree to lick the hegemons’ boots and encourage other minority members to do the same.)

    When has Stedman ever openly sided with atheists against religious power? It’s extremely easy to find public statements from him on the Web attacking atheists for putting up billboards he doesn’t like (because they might bruise his precious friends’ religious sensibilities), sliming atheists for disrespecting his fabulous “interfaith” cliques, shitting on Dawkins and Harris and Myers and company, and generally demanding that atheists utterly surrender to religious privilege. In contrast, where has he said anything that deserves any respect from out-and-proud atheists at all? Show me where he’s supported Jessica Ahlquist. Or Damon Fowler. Or any of the atheist attempts at putting up billboards that have been censored by religious bigots. In short, show me any reason to believe that the man is not just a drooling theocrat who happens not to believe in gods. (And it’s not just atheists he shits on; he likes stabbing his fellow GLBTs in the back, too. Stedman is an equal-opportunity hegemon-stooge.)

    Chris Stedman makes the world a less safe place for open atheists to live in, and it’s beneath you, Hemant, to stoop to defend him. He very clearly would never do the same thing for you if you found yourself in the sights of religious bigots.

    • Anonymous

      And here we go with the bullying, shaming, and othering! Bring it on, Rieux! When are you going to call hims a limp-wristed fag with the case of the vapors? We know you want to! Let it all out! Why hold back? We don’t want these spineless, boot-licking stooges in our movement anyway!

      Bully.

      • Gus Snarp

        Could you please direct us to an example of this “limp wristed” insult, or other homophobia, outside of your own words? Preferably from someone known and respected and not just some random comment in a long thread?

        • Joshuaslocum1

          Gus, see my comment above. James is severely conflating several issues and seeing tigers in the woods that aren’t there. 

          • James Croft

            I don’t think my conflation is unfair. Abuse which is not intended to be phobic can still be phobic. I don’t think you or other commenters have an anti-gay bone in your body. That doesn’t mean the remarks I’m calling out don’t reinforce privilege.

            • Joshuaslocum1

              Weak. You won’t engage, I get it. But I wasn’t making an “intent is not magic” argument. And just because it’s convenient for you to create a distracting argument does not mean, in fact, that anything in the context around this debate could reasonably be construed as being interpreted or received as homophobic by anyone but you . 

              You’re being evasive. No one’s lobbing gay bashing at Chris, James. We’re criticizing him for substance. 

              • Anonymous

                I wasn’t able to reply in full yesterday, but I have done so above. I am absolutely not avoiding these essential issues.

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

         Responding to such a detailed and well referenced critique with an attack on something that wasn’t actually said simply makes it look like you have no reasonable argument to rely on.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

            Ewan, that’s because they don’t have any reasonable argument to rely on.  ;-)

      • Rieux

        Wow! This is feistier than I’m used to from you, James….

        And here we go with the bullying, shaming, and othering!

        Well, shaming, hells yeah. What Stedman has long done to innocent atheists is horrifically shameful. He should be ashamed of that.

        But “bullying”? Calling a stooge for the hegemon out on his destructive misconduct is “bullying”? How do you figure that?

        And “othering”? Sorry, but Stedman’s got no one to blame for that but himself. His entire approach toward out-and-proud atheism is to “other” the shit out of us. As I said, his entire shtick amounts to giving religious people permission to hold, and vent, all the bigotry at “militant” atheists that they see fit to hold and vent. Othering is precisely what the man does to us all the time.

        When are you going to call hims a limp-wristed fag with the case of the vapors?

        What the hell are you talking about? Unlike Stedman, I’m a committed advocate for “limp-wristed fag”s and all other GLBTs who expect to be treated with full human decency—even by the superior species called “the religious.” It was Stedman, not I, who wrote that disgusting “Leeeeave Jim Wallis Alooooone!” article for HuffPo.  Stedman is the one who thinks his fabulous religious buddies should be excused for booting innocent queers out into the cold. When religious power collides with GLBT rights, I support GLBT rights; Stedman demonstrably prefers religious power. (According to me, Wallis deserved every bit of shit he caught in that episode, notwithstanding Stedman’s nauseating defense of religious homophobia.)  How TF is that my problem?

        We don’t want these spineless, boot-licking stooges in our movement anyway!

        Well, I sure as hell don’t. Stedman’s oeuvre directly empowers religious privilege and atheophobia. Why should we overlook that? Because you and he (like he and Wallis) are good buddies?

        • Sami Hawkins

          I lost any respect I might of had for him after reading that pathetic defense of homophobia you linked to.

          “You guys are hurting your own cause by not welcoming people who think you’re immoral and inferior to straight people! You’re a meanie if you don’t hug and thank people for stopping their bigotry just short of voting against your rights!”

          Is an argument that makes me furious. The only way society is going to really change is if new generations grow up in an environment where anti-LBGT bigotry is condemned the way we condemn sexism and racism. No one pretends it’s okay to think women with jobs or interracial couples are sinners and I’m not gonna pretend the anti-gay bigots who think we’re sinners are any better. By defending and making excuses for bigotry he’s just slowing down progress.

          Somewhere in America an LBGT teenager is considering suicide because they think they’re a ‘sinner’ and this ass is defending the people who call them sinners.

        • James Croft

          Rieux, I like your writing very often. I think you’re smart, incisive, and often cut through to the heart of issues. But I also think you use language in a way that is unnecessarily demeaning and aggressive, which obscures the substantive disagreement, and which does seek to shame and exclude other voices. And I object to that strongly. I especially object to in in the context of other discussions on this issue, which have included what I consider to be homophobic and sexist language (like the whole “pearl clutching” and “vapors” meme, which is consistently used as a mode of attack against gay men like Chris and I, references to us as “ladies”, which hasn’t been uncommon, etc.), and extreme derogatory terms which are belittling and cruel as well as inaccurate.

          In this post you have called Chris “an enemy”, accused him of bigotry, of being a “hegemon-stooge”. Ad you have used the highly-charged and extremely derogatory phrases “Uncle Tom” and “Uncle Mary” – phrases which are frequently used to describe literally anyone who disagrees on principle with New Atheist orthodoxy. And you do this in an environment in which people like Chris and I are frequently and excessively attacked, in the most derogatory way, for holding a different view and expressing it.

          I think that’s wrong. I think it goes beyond the bounds of principled, reasoned criticism of people you disagree with, and into the realm of demagoguery and, yes, bullying. Particularly the use of the language of the race-traitor. When you fling an epithet like “Uncle Mary” at a gay rights activist who has been gay-bashed, ostracized by family, and has consistently stood up for gay people, I think you sacrifice an awful lot of your moral authority. I find it despicable, frankly. Ugly and callous. Inhumane.

          I AGREE with you on the Wallis issue, as I wrote at length at the time (and the next time someone wants to call me “spineless”, I’d ask you to consider how tough it is to publicly call-out a friend and colleague on an emotive issue like that). But there are ways to express your disagreement without the slurs and the bullying. And in a context in which major figures like PZ stoop to name-calling, rumor-mongering, pot-stirring, and potty-humor I think you need to hold on even more strongly to principles of reasoned, thoughtful, honest and non-derogatory discussion.

          • Rieux

            But I also think you use language in a way that is unnecessarily demeaning and aggressive….

            Meanwhile, I think Stedman’s misconduct is absolutely outrageous and beyond the pale—and such behavior requires strong, not lukewarm, opprobrium. Responding to hateful garbage like Stedman’s with rhetoric that would not strike Stedman’s fans as “demeaning and aggressive” seems to me simply inadequate to the task of denouncing his deep complicity in promoting atheophobia and religious privilege.

            In short, I think Stedman’s behavior has been deeply and destructively wrong. “Aggressive” language is an entirely proportionate response to such behavior.

            (like the whole “pearl clutching” and “vapors” meme, which is consistently used as a mode of attack against gay men like Chris and I, references to us as “ladies”, which hasn’t been uncommon, etc.)

            I have never taken part in any such thing. (Nor have I seen it directed at Stedman or you—though unquestionably I could have missed it.) I have more than once objected to gendered insults directed at an opponent of mine on the atheist blogosphere; I have no truck with it whatsoever.

            Stedman’s sexual orientation is only relevant to this discussion insofar as we’re discussing his demonstrable willingness to sell out and backstab his fellow GLBTs in the same way as he does his fellow atheists—in both cases, in favor of the religious power and privilege he demands fealty to. All of that is outrageous, and nonetheless I would never dream of attacking him (or anyone) with gendered insults for any of it.

            In this post you have called Chris “an enemy”, accused him of bigotry, of being a “hegemon-stooge”

            Yes. For reasons I have provided in some detail.

            A[n]d you have used the highly-charged and extremely derogatory phrases “Uncle Tom” and “Uncle Mary”….

            What? That last is simply false; I have never called anyone an “Uncle Mary.” I barely have the foggiest memory of hearing that term, much less using it, before today’s thread.

            As for “Uncle Tom,” I’m afraid the shoe simply fits. Advocating theocracy and religious privilege at the expense of atheists’ and queers’ basic freedoms, indeed our humanity, is Uncle Tomistry.

            …phrases which are frequently used to describe literally anyone who disagrees on principle with New Atheist orthodoxy.

            That is not my experience of any use of those phrases. Stedman gets attacked for actual mistreatment of innocent people, not “disagree[ment] on principle with New Atheist orthodoxy.” (The fact that he clearly has no interest in actually engaging with gnu atheist arguments, preferring instead to continually post bigoted and privileged misrepresentations of us, is somewhat of a stumbling block here.)

            And you do this in an environment in which people like Chris and I are frequently and excessively attacked….

            I have seen Stedman frequently attacked. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him excessively attacked. And I haven’t seen it done “in the most derogatory way.”

            …for holding a different view and expressing it.

            No. Stedman is being harshly criticized here—as in many other places—for his severely unethical behavior. That is not in fact objectionable.

            When you fling an epithet like “Uncle Mary”….

            I have done no such thing. WTF, James?

            ….at a gay rights activist who has been gay-bashed, ostracized by family, and has consistently stood up for gay people….

            “Consistently stood up”? What do you call that Wallis-defending garbage, then? I am very sorry that Stedman has been the victim of gay-bashing, but that’s a rather poor excuse for his promotion and defense of gay-bashing in a major Internet periodical. Or, for that matter, his constant atheist-bashing in that and other fora.

            I can have sympathy for the man’s past. It is not an excuse for his misconduct in the present.

            I find it despicable, frankly. Ugly and callous. Inhumane.

            And I find it proportionate and warranted by the (severe) circumstances. So there we are.

            the next time someone wants to call me “spineless”, I’d ask you to consider….

            I didn’t do that, either! Jesus, James—I may sometimes use harsh rhetoric, but I think you could at least confine your protest to things I have actually said.

            I AGREE with you on the Wallis issue….

            Well, then—though I recognize the difficulty you mention of disagreeing strongly with a friend, maybe things would have turned out better, maybe there’d be a better chance of showing Stedman the error of his ways, if you were more “aggressive” in your criticism. Then or now.

            A criticism that contains harsh rhetoric conveys something meaningful, James: it communicates that the behavior being criticized is serious, consequential, and flatly unacceptable. In recent years Stedman has engaged in behavior that brutally undermines atheists’ (and, in at least that one case, GLBTs’) claims to freedom from unjust privilege. That is no minor matter, and it cannot pass without complaint.

            A lukewarm objection to such destructive conduct is simply not sufficient. Stedman’s behavior is not merely regrettable, it’s outrageous. And the difference matters.

            • James Croft

              First, I owe you an apology – I completely misread one of your “Uncle Tom’s” as an “Uncle Mary” and I retract completely my accusation on that front. It is such a commonly-used attack (it’s the equivalent phrase to Uncle Tom in the queer community) from new atheists that I saw it in your post when it wasn’t there. I’m sorry for that – I’m glad you didn’t use it. I think that’s the worst.

              As for the rest, I think I need to make it clear that I am responding to the issue as a whole as much as I’m responding to you. I am pointing, as you frequently point in your writing, to a broader context of demeaning, derogatory, hurtful and abusive attacks against people like Chris Stedman and others. I am not saying that shit hasn’t been flung the other way – someone below gives a good example of Alain De Botton losing his shit over criticism thrown his way, which in my mind was unacceptable to. And I think we SHOULD call out more “faitheist” types when they legitimately demean new atheists.

              But how does calling someone a “hegemon stooge” advance an argument? I don’t think it adds anything at all. I think it drains your authority by showing a lack of balance, a lack of concern for other views. I agree with you in Wallace, and I STILL disagree with how you express your disagreement.

              Perhaps, in your case, it comes down to a disagreement on the boundaries of reasonable criticism, and I have overreacted. Perhaps you can tell me if you think my response to Stedman’s article about Wallis, and we can go from there. But again, I do apologize for my error, which is inexcusable.

              • Rieux

                I appreciate the retraction (and I don’t think the retracted statement was “inexcusable,” just mistaken and unfortunate).

                Also please note (you don’t need to apologize; I just hope you recognize) that I haven’t called you “spineless,” either. If I’ve ever called anyone that, I don’t remember it. (FWIW, the first ten Google results don’t, either.) I have to admit that I wouldn’t avoid using “spineless” as assiduously as I will “Uncle Mary,” though. And finally, I’ve seen more than enough of your work online to know that you are definitely not spineless.

                Perhaps, in your case, [our conflict here] comes down to a disagreement on the boundaries of reasonable criticism….

                Yes, I think that’s right. As you know, I believe the boundaries I’m acting (criticizing) within here are contextually justified by Stedman’s behavior.

              • Joshuaslocum1

                Let me clarify for you James so that you may have another target toward which to direct your over-the-top rage at anyone criticizing Stedman:
                1. I was the one, on Butterflies and Wheels, who characterized your arguments ) as “limp-wristed.” This was several months ago and I can’t find the post. At the time I didn’t know you were gay, and as I explained to you then when I apologized, it didn’t even have anything to do with gay stereotyping when I thought of it. Fussy academia was what I was thinking of. 

                But I recognized the effect it had (and I’m gay too), so I apologized. You can now retire your outrage over this. Please try. 

                2. I have also called Stedman an Uncle Mary. Like Rieux when he uses Uncle Tom, that is my considered judgement of Stedman and I’m sticking by it. Is it nasty? Yes, it’s a very severe insult, and yes, I do mean to question his character when I use it. 

                Whether or not you like that is of no consequence to me. And it’s not out of rhetorical bounds (as you’d likely concede if my target were someone other than your friend, which clouds your emotional judgment severely and consistently). I simply don’t believe James Croft would rule that kind of discourse out of bounds across the board. It’s more that you are unable and unwilling to really engage with the possibility that your good friend is not as ethically upstanding as you clearly need him to be. 

                That is not my problem. 

                3. You need to back hell off and stop accusing people of leveling homophobic attacks against you and your bud. When you know goddamned well the people you’re accusing are not homophobes nor do they engage in those tactics. It’s outrageous James. “Pearl clutching” is a common insult thrown at accommodationists of all stripes and you know it. You don’t have to like that (remember, we’re talking about whether it’s homophobic, not whether you approve generally) but stop misrepresenting it. 

                If you do it again I’m going to know you’re not just confabulating but actively lying. 

                I don’t know why it is that you cannot understand that some of us actually do think of people like Stedman as adversaries. We really do think he’s providing cover to religious privilege by throwing us under the bus. My disagreement with him and his type, James, is not merely academic—it’s visceral and acutely political. I *will not* allow him to pass himself off as a butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth nice guy while he slanders and derides atheists who don’t deserve it so as to maintain cred with the religious. 

                Perhaps it’s too big an emotional leap for you to make, seeing how truly dire and ugly we think your friend is. Fine. But you need to understand it and stop being so shocked. We really don’t like him James, and we really think he’s hurting us. 

                • Rieux

                  Well, that provides some background. It may also be the source of my aforementioned “foggiest memory.” Thanks, Joshua.

                  Possibly if I were gay or bi I would be willing to use “Uncle Mary.” But as a heterosexual man who benefits from undeniable (and all too consequential) privilege as a result of those two statuses, I’m just not.

                  (BTW, lurkers, Chris Stedman, James Croft, and Joshua Slocum are all gay. Which, to my mind, brings a level of credibility, or at least relevance, to their comments about such terminology that my kind just can’t claim.)

                • Joshuaslocum1

                  I get why you won’t use it Rieux, and it’s right and honorable. James Croft’s (I’m sorry, but I’m leaning toward deliberate) nonsense that criticism of Chris constitutes homophobia doesn’t deserve to be indulged. It’s a cheap distraction and I find it outrageous (because it’s demonstrably ridiculous, not because I don’t want to hear it-NB James). 

                • James Croft

                  So first, let’s dispense with the imputing of motive. What I am expressing here is my honest outrage at the way our community treats some of its members. That you disagree with my analysis is no good reason to accuse me of peddling deliberate nonsense. I am honestly disgusted by some of the insults some members of the Freethought community fling at each other, and by some of the ways in which they seek to control the discourse. I have felt very discomfited by this for a long time, and this thread has given me an opportunity to express that discomfort. I would appreciate you engaging with my critique in the spirit in which it was intended – as a forthright expression of outrage and disgust at some of our community’s worst practices. I cannot any longer stay silent while a movement I love tears itself apart in gruesome displays of other-bashing.

                  I stand for reasoned, principled criticism and an honest, open exchange of ideas. That is not abetted by personal, degrading, extreme language and insults. It pushes people away from airing contrary views out of fear of the backlash. And that does not aid open discussion.

                  My request is quite simple and quite limited: let’s criticize each other, but let’s do so without using derogatory and personal language. I don’t think that’s unreasonable or even particularly objectionable.

                • sg

                  I too think James ought to drop his complaint re your “limp-wristed”
                  remark. I thought your response was made in good faith and it looked to
                  me like James thought the same. Perhaps some benefit of the doubt: maybe
                  James was so bothered by it that it kept on bugging him well after the
                  memory of your apology was distinct. After all, he seems to think it
                  happened at Pharyngula too.

                  While I don’t think Uncle Mary is an inherently homophobic term (and so I’d encourage James to articulate his reasoning thereupon), I distinctly recall when Caine did make a homophobic remark to James, by using “twink” as an insult. I don’t want to attempt a link from Disqus, but it’s #223 on the “Oh, no! Another outbreak of Mooneyitis!” thread.

                  That incident doesn’t make her “a homophobe” and I don’t see where James claimed anyone was a homophobe. It does mean she occasionally uses homophobic tactics. Nota bene: so do I. It’s objectionable, though, so it’s not out of bounds to bring this up. It shouldn’t have happened, and she never apologized.

                • Anonymous

                  OK so I deserve Joshuaslocum1 a reply here because he has very kindly added some clarification to this whole thing. The comment I made directed at Rieux, where I squished together a bunch of anti-gay phrases in order to make a rhetorical point, has been misunderstood. I was not saying (nor do I say in that comment) that those are words that people actually have used to attack others. I was attempting to make clear that I see the sort of extreme and intemperate language Rieux used as a form of bullying – an illegitimate use of power to silence another and prevent the expression of their viewpoint or drive them out of the community.

                  I also wanted to call attention to what I consider to be a very troubling use of extremely derogatory phrases like “Uncle Tom” (which I think is objectionable because it is so extreme – the situation in which atheists find themselves today just isn’t comparable remotely to the situation African Americans were in when that phrase was coined, making the use of it just outrageous) and “Uncle Mary” which, at the time, I thought Rieux had used (my mistake).

                  Also, I think the use of “pearl-clutcher” and that meme has a tinge of homophobia and sexism to it, in the sense that it has been repeatedly used in response to gay male commenters to feminize them for the purpose of  dismissing their criticism. The fact that it is a well-used meme does not mean that it isn’t a sexist and demeaning one, and since feminizing language has been used historically, and continues to be used today, to dismiss and delegitimize gay people, particularly when it comes to their ability to engage in assertive pursuits like debate, I think it bears mentioning. I must admit the first time I saw it used, having not heard the meme, I thought it was precisely an anti-gay slur designed for that purpose.

                  As for the limp-wristed thing, I wasn’t consciously trying to reignite that issue from ages ago. I accepted and still accept your explanation and appreciate it. It was just one of many things that added together in my mind to make my early encounters with places like B&W and Pharyngula extremely unpleasant. So I didn’t mean to single you out for criticism here – it just appeared in my memory as one of many things.

                  The question of whether I would use the term “Uncle Mary” against someone who was not my friend in similar circumstances is an interesting one. Generally, though not always, I am quite careful how I use language. I am very aware of the power of language to harm. I have chosen to try to never use language to harm people. That decision was part of a late coming-out process in which I spent a long time excavating my own prejudice, my own rhetorical strategies (I can be exceedingly blunt sometimes, to the point of harshness), and my own way of conducting discourse. So, with respect, I don’t think I would use that term to describe a person, except perhaps in rage.

                  Now, I do actually understand your criticism of Chris Stedman. I do actually get it. I have written at length on ideas of religious privilege and how it is enforced or damaged. I give a lot of thought to that question. So I do get the criticism. But I don’t accept that the legitimacy of your criticism translates to legitimacy of personal attacks. And I see the sort of writing that has been posted here, and elsewhere, as more a personal attack than legitimate criticism.

                  I’m very happy to engage in a discussion of what constitutes reasonable critique and what doesn’t – but I’d only do so in an environment where I felt I was being respected and heard. I wouldn’t ask anything different of anyone else.

              • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

                In reply to James Croft, above. Avoiding comment nesting.

                “I cannot any longer stay silent while a movement I love tears itself apart in gruesome displays of other-bashing.”

                It appears to me you are suffering from foot-in-mouth disease.

                And: “My request is quite simple and quite limited: let’s criticize each
                other, but let’s do so without using derogatory and personal language. I
                don’t think that’s unreasonable or even particularly objectionable.”

                Indeed that would be quite reasonable, if that’s all you were saying. But you’re not. Compare:

                 “PZ does all those things all the time. He made a whole thread part of
                the purpose of which was spreading a false rumor about Chris Stedman. … He attacks people on Twitter for praying for their loved ones. He
                declares his contempt for all Christians. He repeatedly shows that he
                cannot abide criticism of his own views, while attacking others with
                wild and aggressive mischaracterizations. etc. etc.”

                When asked for links to specifics, you provided *none*. Talk about spreading false rumours.

                James, if you are going to plead for “reasoned, principled criticism”, you would do well to practice what you preach. Your criticism of gnus is neither reasoned (lack of substantiation) nor principled (directed indiscriminately at basically all of us gnus).

                One of my pet peeves is hypocrisy: literally, insufficient application of criticism. Namely, you criticize others for things you yourself do without hesitation. I have no sympathy for hypocrisy.

                If you would like the conversation to ‘cool down’, I suggest you start the process yourself. A reality check is in order, IMNSHO.

                • sg

                  Again I don’t trust Disqus with links, but the “thread part of the purpose of which was spreading a false rumor about Chris Stedman” is titled “Dr. Dan Golaszewski is a quack!”

                  PZ made a retraction, and James acknowledged and thanked him for the retraction.

                • Anonymous

                  Thaumas – I do appreciate that it is entirely reasonable of you to ask for specifics. But to provide them I would have to go through tens of Pharyngula comment threads and articles and read some seriously disturbing shit which is flung at my friends and at me. So I think you can understand why I might be disinclined to do that. Furthermore, were I to write a full post on this (which I am considering doing) it would engulf my life in a flame war with a much more powerful and ruthless foe (I exaggerate a little to keep this light). So, I hesitate.

                  I’ll see if I can give you a few choice examples, though, because I do respect the call for evidence.

                • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thaumas-Themelios/100001074236927 Thaumas Themelios

                   “But to provide them I would have to go through tens of Pharyngula
                  comment threads and articles and read some seriously disturbing shit
                  which is flung at my friends and at me. So I think you can understand
                  why I might be disinclined to do that.”

                  James, my issue was, is, and will remain that you hypocritically fling stuff at people without substantiation. If you are unwilling to substantiate, quit flinging. That is all.

          • Gus Snarp

            Well that clarifies things a bit. So no one has called anyone a “limp-wristed fag”, those are your words. Your issue is with “pearl clutching” and “vapors”. I don’t think those were meant to be homophobic in any way, but I’ll be the first to say that what was intended doesn’t always excuse what was said. There’s no doubt those words carry a gender connotation that could easily be problematic. I think you’d have a better case if you specifically said which words you had a problem with and explaining why they’re a problem, rather than adding words that are much worse and pretending someone said them and waiting several indentations into a comment thread to say what you actually mean.

            • Anonymous

              To be fair, I never “pretended someone said them”. I was using hyperbole to surface a point which I think is important. However, it was quite significantly based on a misreading of Rieux’s post, so clearly I messed up.

      • Laurence

        In defense of Rieux, he made an argument and provided at least some evidence to back up his argument.  He may have used some unnecessarily terminology while making the argument, but I don’t think playing the victim card is going to be helpful in this case.  It seems like it would be more helpful to find public examples of Chris Stedman doing the things that Rieux claims that he doesn’t do.  You know I respect you James.

      • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

        Hey James, does Rieux say anything about vapours or limp-wristedness here? I skimmed the comments and didn’t see anything, but there are a ton of comments so maybe I missed it.

        Also, FWIW, I think we could all do with taking a few minutes to think about what we’re saying and the impact it is going to have on the other person before hitting “post” or “send.” I sincerely hope that Chris Stedman will be a little more thoughtful in his criticisms of fellow atheists (his “when atheist activism goes wrong” was embarrassingly poorly argued), in addition to Chris Stedman’s critics giving Chris a little more benefit of the doubt and avoiding some of the personal insults. Chris is a great guy and I know that stuff bothers him greatly.

        • Joshuaslocum1

          If it bothers him then he should respond to his critics and consider not behaving that way. Jonathan, he never has to my knowledge. Reasonable people don’t give the benefit of the doubt to others who consistently refuse to respond to legitimate concerns and who continue to slander them. 

          I have to believe you’d agree with that if it were anyone other than someone you know and like in real life! *You* wouldn’t be expected to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who continually mischaracterized your humanist work and gave fodder to an already powerful majority against you, and who wouldn’t stop it or even acknowledge your complaint. Surely you can see that, yes? You clearly are aware that Chris doesn’t walk on water (none of us do), but can you get a little farther and acknowledge that it’s not equivalent bad behavior? That he really is obligated to *earn* the benefit of the doubt at this point? 

          • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

            I think that if you really question Chris’s work and motives, you should email him and ask him about why he’s doing what he’s doing. I had a conversation like this with him a few years ago and I feel like I better understand his brand of atheist activism as a result. I don’t want to speak for Chris, so I won’t – but his HCH email address is posted on our website (and mine as well).

            And Rieux, I fear my time at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard is drawing short. I’m actually about to launch a Humanist Chaplaincy on the west coast!

            • Rieux

              I think that if you really question Chris’s work and motives, you should email him and ask him about why he’s doing what he’s doing.

              Given that Stedman’s treatment of atheists is a matter of very, very public record and not of an invisible back-channel e-mail conversation, I’m not sure that that makes much sense. Stedman puts his ideas out into the public square, and that’s where they deserve to be disputed. If he means to say something different than his public pronouncements contain, surely it’s his responsibility to change (and/or apologize for) those pronouncements, rather than his critics’ responsibility to contact him privately to acquire the Secret Decoder Ring that will enable us to see that said pronouncements aren’t as overflowing with atheophobia and religious privilege as they show every indication of being.

              I had a conversation like this with him a few years ago and I feel like I better understand his brand of atheist activism as a result.

              What, then, is preventing Stedman from providing the same explanation in public that he gave you in private? Why should any public figure be permitted to disclaim responsibility for the ideas he has put out into the world, just because somebody thinks the guy could explain away the serious problems with his ideas if only we’d engage him privately?

              Can’t Stedman’s ideas stand on their own merits, out in the open?

              And Rieux, I fear my time at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard is drawing short.

              Oh, Jonathan… You know you’ll always be a zany Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy guy to me. (That goes for James too.)

              • Anonymous

                Awwww, shucks =D

            • sg

              Jonathan, in December you told me “I’m not sure what Chris hopes to accomplish when he tells GNUs to quiet down. …  I’ll certainly mention it as an idea for him to write about”. Did you remember to bring it up, and if so, do you know whether he wrote about it?

        • Rieux

          Oh, you zany Harvard Humanist Chaplaincy guys. Always willing to throw cold water over everyone—including each other.
          :-)

          • Anonymous

            This is a good thing, no? You should see our wet t-shirt contests =P

      • Sven B

        Calling someone out on their bullshit is not bullying. Stedman deserves to be shamed for exactly the reasons Rieux presented.

    • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com/ TCC

      I read Stedman’s whole article, and I’m not sure what’s so wrong about it. About the only thing I can see is that he didn’t note that getting offended at a stick figure is ridiculous, but you can say that and then also note that doing it when you know it will offend people (why else would the local AHA group have sent the letter to the Muslim Student Association if not to warn them that they might be offended?) is probably not a wise choice, at least not if you would like to find reasonable allies. Maybe you don’t care about that goal, and that’s okay, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting that goal, and I am an atheist who wants that.

      And let me note that (although this might just be me) I find “Uncle Tom” accusations to be absolutely repugnant, and you have not by any standard provided enough evidence for me to accept the accusation as anything other than groundless. Maybe there’s other history out there, but you haven’t provided good examples, even. If you want to say that “Stedman makes the world a less safe place for open atheists to live in,” you’d damn well better be able to back that up.

      • Rieux

        I read Stedman’s whole article, and I’m not sure what’s so wrong about it.

        Then, in turn, I’m not sure what more I can do. I can’t force you to notice the injustice and support for religious tyranny that I put right in front of you.Stedman’s article constitutes direct advocacy that atheists silence our own expression on the grounds that it violates religious rules and religious privilege. That’s an outrage, a direct assault on any attempt to establish that atheists’ human rights are more important than religious people’s self-centered privilege. But again, I can’t force you to care about such things.

        About the only thing I can see is that he didn’t note that getting offended at a stick figure is ridiculous….

        In fact, “he didn’t note” a single goddamned thing about the chalkers’ explicitly detailed reasons for doing what they did, preferring instead to slime them (and Hemant, and plenty of other atheists) with all kinds of atheophobic and religiously-privileged tropes instead. He gave theocrats—such as the ones trying to shut the chalkers down—the club they need to beat innocent atheists senseless. Apparently you don’t see a problem with that, but some of us do.

        …but you can say that and then also note that doing it when you know it will offend people … is probably not a wise choice, at least not if you would like to find reasonable allies.

        But in fact there is no reason at all why chalking Muhammad would prevent “find[ing] reasonable allies,” in light of the fact that anyone who would disdain atheists for failing to follow religious rules is by definition not interested in dealing with us reasonably to begin with.It is not reasonable to demand or expect that atheists limit our expression to the speech that is permitted by one religious sect’s rules (or by the fragile and absurdly privileged sensitivities of members of said sect, sensitivities that are based on said rules). Instead, that is theocratic and religiously privileged, and I rather wonder what in the hell the point of finding “allies” of those varieties is.

        And let me note that (although this might just be me) I find “Uncle Tom” accusations to be absolutely repugnant….

        Meanwhile, I find (1) heavily Uncle Tom-ist behavior like Stedman’s and (2) willful blindness toward the nature of such behavior to be what’s absolutely repugnant. So there we are.

        [A]nd you have not by any standard provided enough evidence for me to accept the accusation as anything other than groundless.

        Again, I can make no claim on your subjectivity. If we were living in 1957, and I showed you the first nine African-American students being escorted by National Guardsmen into Little Rock High School past throngs of shrieking racists, I could not force you to see anything wrong with those throngs’ behavior. Likewise, given that you can look straight at Stedman advocating that his fellow atheists silence ourselves in deference to religious dictates and the absurd, unjust, and privileged sensitivities of believers (while he blows a whole chorus of atheophobia and religious-privilege dogwhistles), I am helpless to open your eyes.Uncle Toms are Uncle Toms notwithstanding any particular person’s refusal to take their destructive behavior seriously.

        Maybe there’s other history out there, but you haven’t provided good examples, even.

        I provided several more, of course—but again, I can only provide the evidence. Recognizing the blatant support for religious privilege and atheophobia is up to you.

        If you want to say that “Stedman makes the world a less safe place for open atheists to live in,” you’d damn well better be able to back that up.

        I did. It appears you simply don’t care.

        • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com/ TCC

          Then, in turn, I’m not sure what more I can do. I can’t force you to notice the injustice and support for religious tyranny that I put right in front of you. Stedman’s article constitutes direct advocacy that atheists silence our own expression on the grounds that it violates religious rules and religious privilege.

          Support for religious tyranny? Seriously? We’re talking about not going of one’s way to do something offensive when it could be reasonably avoided. I could give a fuck less about whether or not this is due to religious rules; there are people involved, people with actual feelings and (often irrational) reactions to various stimuli. Should Muslims be offended by depictions of Mohammed? Clearly not, in my estimation, but they are, and there’s virtually no chance of having them as allies if their feelings are callously disregarded.

          In fact, “he didn’t note” a single goddamned thing about the chalkers’ explicitly detailed reasons for doing what they did, preferring instead to slime them (and Hemant, and plenty of other atheists) with all kinds of atheophobic and religiously-privileged tropes instead. He gave theocrats—such as the ones trying to shut the chalkers down—the club they need to beat innocent atheists senseless.

          I’d be curious as to what these “atheophobic and religiously-privileged tropes” are. And the “giving theocrats a club” thing is just nonsense. Saying “atheists should avoid doing things to piss off potential allies” is not at all the same thing as saying “atheists should acquiesce to any and all religious demands.”

          Again, I can make no claim on your subjectivity. If we were living in 1957, and I showed you the first nine African-American students being escorted by National Guardsmen into Little Rock High School past throngs of shrieking racists, I could not force you to see anything wrong with those throngs’ behavior.

          …you’re fucking joking, right?

          You’re comparing an atheist suggesting that interfaith dialogue will be more possible if we avoid purposefully and unnecessarily doing things to offend potential allies to the racist reactions to forced segregation?

          I think you might need to step back and gain some perspective if you sincerely think that these things are meaningfully similar.

          I did. It appears you simply don’t care.

          A meaningful difference between how I see the world and you apparently do: When people disagree with me, I don’t assume that they’re callous bastards. But maybe that’s just me being “atheophobic.”

          • Rieux

            Support for religious tyranny? Seriously?

            Yes, of course “seriously.” The fact that you have no interest in protecting atheists and our right to be free from religious aggression does not make the problems you refuse to care about less than “serious.”

            We’re talking about not going of one’s way to do something offensive when it could be reasonably avoided.

            No, that synopsis of the situation is, in and of itself, both (1) an offensive dismissal of the legitimate interests (e.g., atheist autonomy) involved in the Everybody Draw Muhammad Day episode and (2) an outrageous ratification of religious tyranny.

            • You have couched the notion that important atheist expression (viz., an atheist protest on a pressing free-expression issue) should be silenced as “not going [out] of one’s way.” That’s an offensive atheophobic attack.

            • You have declared that the activity in question—drawing stick figures labeled “Muhammad”—is “something offensive.” That is religious privilege of the most hateful and destructive kind. There is nothing the slightest bit legitimately “offensive” about those chalkings. The only way anyone can possibly get to that conclusion is by swallowing religious tyranny whole.

            Your attacks on the event—within your frame-tastic preconceptions about its basic content!—are flatly disgusting. Stedman’s were worse, but only because (1) his article was longer than this comment of yours and (2) he had a bigger podium.

            I could give a fuck less about whether or not this is due to religious rules….

            Yes, that’s obvious. You have made it clear that you “could give a fuck less about” theocratic tyranny and the damage it does to atheists. That is of course your right—but why in the world do you think any nonbeliever should be anything but nauseated by your callous disregard for the destruction of our autonomy, our rights, or indeed our lives?

            Be a happy theocrat if you’d like; you just should probably not be surprised when nonbelievers are repulsed by your brutal atheophobia.

            …there are people involved, people with actual feelings and (often irrational) reactions to various stimuli.

            Yes, exactly. Which, by your logic, justifies absolutely any act of theocratic aggression against atheists imaginable, up to and including the extermination of every one of us who has ever blasphemed the Lord. As you note, “there are people involved,” very real people “with actual feelings and (often irrational) reactions to various stimuli”—stimuli such as (1) atheists exist and (2) atheists aren’t silent. “There are people with actual feelings,” millions of them, who want atheists utterly silenced and marginalized—and if they had the power, they’d want us dead. And here you are, arguing that those “often irrational” (wow! what blinding insight!) feelings are legitimate grounds to make moral claims on atheists—specifically, that we shut the fuck up.

            Your argument fundamentally requires an utter surrender to religious privilege and tyranny. It is flatly disgusting, whether it’s coming from Stedman or from you.

            Should Muslims be offended by depictions of Mohammed? Clearly not, in my estimation….

            Oh? Well, then, in that case nearly every word you have written to this point in your comment is wrong, ugly wrong. If, as you concede (a day, several paragraphs, and numerous atheophobic preconceptions too late), Muslims should not “be offended by depictions of Mohammed,” then there is no legitimate reason at all for atheists’ political expression to be silenced—which renders both Stedman’s anti-atheist advocacy and your echo of it offensive assaults on basic human rights. 

            ….and there’s virtually no chance of having them as allies if their feelings are callously disregarded.

            First, “callously” is an atheophobic attack. Atheists refusing to allow religious law to silence their vital political expression is not “callous.” You should be ashamed of yourself for that shot.

            Second, you have no idea what “chance” there is “of having [Muslims] as allies” in the wake of a Muhammad-chalking event. You have no evidence, indeed no clue, about how that can work in the real world.

            There are more than a billion Muslims on this planet. For example, one Muslim is an extremely liberal Congressman from Minneapolis; he and a large number of other Muslims are staunch secularists. The notion that “there’s virtually no chance of having” such people “as allies” because an atheist group violated an archaic religious law that plenty of Muslims themselves find absurd, irrelevant to their particular flavor of Islam, and/or incompatible with human rights is laughably false.

            Third, there’s the actual evidence on the ground: the University of Illinois atheist group—the one Hemant wrote about in the Friendly Atheist post that Stedman coated with sarcastic snot—did then and does now maintain strong and positive ties to the Muslim student group on their campus. Your notion that “there’s virtually no chance of having them as allies” after EDMD happens to have problems with demonstrable reality.

            Fourth, we go back to your (and Stedman’s) fundamental moral fallacy: it is not the responsibility of victims of bigotry, privilege, and tyranny when perpetrators of same have their feelings hurt, or refuse to be “allies,” on the grounds that the former have challenged the latter’s privilege. If religious believers refuse “alliances” with—or anything else to—atheists on the grounds that the atheists have defied illegitimate religious power, it is the believers who are morally responsible for that problem, not the atheists. Stedman’s and your statements on this matter are detestable attacks on atheists because you both get that precisely backwards.

            And finally, though you clearly “could give a fuck less” about why EDMD actually happened (both Stedman’s attacks and yours are notable for their blithering disregard for the stated purposes of the event), a major part of the point of EDMD, and indeed of outspoken atheist advocacy in general, is to change religious believers’ reactions to impiety, blasphemy, and other challenges to religious belief. EDMD, like gnu atheism more broadly, is devoted to shifting the Overton Window—to helping believers and apatheists alike become accustomed to outspoken expression that defies religious edicts. The idea (supported by plenty of social science) is that, in the future, similar “blasphemies” will pass with much less pain and protest from the faithful and their defenders, because all of them will be used to such things, inured to the shocking fact that atheists have the human right to state what we believe and act upon it.

            The approach you and Stedman advocate—responding to religious aggression with the Kevin Bacon/Animal House “Thank you Sir! May I have another?”—cuts this entire effort off at the knees. Rather than placing the focus on bruised religious sensibilities and prompting everyone to examine how baseless, privileged, and unjust those are, the cowardly surrender you demand teaches everyone the opposite lesson: that theocrats crying crocodile tears (“O woe! Atheists aren’t obeying my precious religious edicts!”) have, and deserve, the power to force atheists to toe God’s line. The poor unfortunate believers you wail about are trying to exercise theocratic power, and you are arguing that we are obligated to appease them. That is wrong—deadly wrong.

            I’d be curious as to what these “atheophobic and religiously-privileged tropes” are.

            No need for curiosity; by all appearances you swallowed them all, and you’re regurgitating them right here.

            And the “giving theocrats a club” thing is just nonsense.

            No, it’s just an element of your argument (the most noticeable one to people who care about atheists’ human rights) that you are working hard to blind yourself to.

            The notion that theocrats’ hurt feelings place moral responsibility on atheists is a club. You are using it to brutalize atheists right here. Said theocrats will be quite happy to pick it up and use it on us (and on other minorities) even more. Doubt they’ll thank you for it, though.

            Saying “atheists should avoid doing things to piss off potential allies” is not at all the same thing as saying “atheists should acquiesce to any and all religious demands.”

            On the actual grounds that you and Stedman have provided, actually, those are precisely equivalent. The only basis for those precious “potential allies” to be “pissed off” by EDMD is the fact that EDMD violates religious law. By ratifying that as a legitimate basis to make moral claims, you are indeed arguing that “atheists should acquiesce to any and all religious demands.” No matter how thick your denial of that fact.

            Again, I can make no claim on your subjectivity. If we were living in 1957….

            …you’re fucking joking, right?

            No; you’re just grandstanding, in an attempt to distract attention from the point being made. That point is that there is no way for me or anyone else to force obvious moral issues into your subjective consciousness. Human beings are capable, and always have been, of blinding themselves to brutality and injustice and pretending there’s nothing wrong with it. That happens to be what you’re doing here, and the analogy with Little Rock 1957—or any other case of widespread bigotry and hate—is direct. Your mindless “Omigod are you compareing EDMD to segregation how awwwwful retch retch” nonsense may help you pretend you don’t see the point, but it’s there nonetheless.

            A meaningful difference between how I see the world and you apparently do: When people disagree with me, I don’t assume that they’re callous bastards.

            Yes, well, despite your impressive ability to blind yourself to the existence of absolutely any point or idea that you can’t handle, I haven’t criticized anyone for merely “disagree[ing] with me.” I have offered profuse evidence and reasoning for the points I have made, and they amply support the critical conclusions I have stated.

            In short, I haven’t “assume[d]” that you or Stedman is a “callous bastard.” I’ve just pointed out the elements of your reasoning (such as it is) that demonstrate how destructive and unconscionable your argument is. I wouldn’t call either one of you a “callous bastard” for that, but admittedly it’s not far from the mark.

            • Rieux

              Necessary erratum—I wrote:

              [T]here’s the actual evidence on the ground: the University of Illinois atheist group—the one Hemant wrote about in the Friendly Atheist post that Stedman coated with sarcastic snot….

              I was mistaken: Stedman’s snotty attack went after Hemant for a post he wrote about an Everybody Draw Muhammad Day event at the University of Wisconsin, not Illinois.

              Hemant posted at least one article about an EDMD event at each universities, and my subsequent point about the Illinois student atheist group is accurate—but Stedman’s attack specifically linked to a Wisconsin-related “Friendly Atheist” post, not an Illinois-related one.

            • Anonymous
              I’d be curious as to what these “atheophobic and religiously-privileged tropes” are.

              No need for curiosity; by all appearances you swallowed them all, and you’re regurgitating them right here.

              That doesn’t seem fair.   How does he respond if he hasn’t a clue as to what you are talking about.   Especially when you are using newly coined words or newly coined meanings for words.

              What exactly do you mean by “religiously-privileged”.    Do you mean a double standard, and if so why not use the phrase everyone understands instead of some ideologicial specialized language that some Marxist coined?   Even if you are a Marxist it makes no sense to use specialized means for words other than to introduce equivocations.   Besides under privilege theory the anagonists seeking a double standard in their favor, Muslims, are immune to charges of privilege because they are in the minority.   Privilege theory is not based on any rational view of the world and your assumption of its language sumuggles a worldview into the discussion in the exact same way you are objecting to these smuggled in religious double standards.

              Marxists and leftist are no less immune to double standards than the religious, and in fact their ideologies are pretty much religions without a god.    Privilege theory sets up a double standard where on can dismiss the rational arguments of ones opponents based on who they are and not what their arguments are.   You are not doing this but if I were your opponent I could quickly turn tables on you using your “privilege”.    I would first point out that Muslims in this country have a “non-privileged” status and move from there.

              The whole purpose of privilege theory is to set up a double standard where certain groups and their defenders can institutionalize discrimination against their opponents.   You seem like a sharp person and I find it a shame that you have not seen through this intellectually dishonest invention of a new meaning for a word only to be used for equivocation and ad hominem.

        • Anonymous

          TCC is right – you have simply taken the worst possible reading of Stedman’s piece here and are conveying it in extreme and inflammatory language. What Stedman is saying – and this is quite clear to me – is that we should consider how our actions affect others.

          It is not an “attack” on Metha – he receives some very light criticism, way less agitated and enraged than many Gnu figures use against their ideological opponents.  He is not speaking out against atheist visibility or expression, but rather advocating finding a different way to express the same idea: “There are other ways to go about this that don’t knowingly target a specific belief of a particular identity. ”

          He explicitly supports “an activity that condemns the extremists who threatened the creators of South Park while still acknowledging that it is a complex issue” – i.e. supports the goal of the campaign, supports Matt Stone and Trey Parker, supports free speech, but also has compassion for others who are different.

          His critcism has a bit of snark in it. But generally it is measured, balanced, and reasonable. He simply is saying, as PZ Myers himself said on a recent podcast, that EDMD is ““on the borderline”” between attacking beliefs and attacking people, and therefore should be handled with care.

          This is precisely the sort of balanced, reasonable criticism I want to see in this movement, for an against certain ideas. To call it “injustice” and “support of religious tyranny” is to make a ridiculous over-statement and to engage in hyperbole to no good effect. It is also dishonest in the way all extreme appeals are, because it fundamentally mischaracterizes the argument. To say that he “enables atheophobia” in this mild piece is absurd.

          I wonder, would it be possible for anyone to voice principled objections to something like EDMD and remain, in your view, an honest, principled actor? Or is your view the only acceptable view?

          What you’ve done here is taken a reasonable, controlled piece of criticism and portrayed it as a cowardly attack on “nasty atheists”, which it is manifestly not. TCC and Keith Collyer see this quite clearly. You need to take a second look too.

          • Rieux

            TCC is right – you have simply taken the worst possible reading of Stedman’s piece here and are conveying it in extreme and inflammatory language.

            No. In my latest response to TCC, I have explained at great length how his/her account, like yours, simply ignores the bigoted and theocratic bases of Stedman’s (and TCC’s) argument. Both of you are welcome to whatever willful blindness you prefer, but that fails to remove the atheophobia, hostility, or destructiveness from Stedman’s attacks.

            What Stedman is saying – and this is quite clear to me – is that we should consider how our actions affect others.

            That flatly disregards what he is saying, and more importantly what he is presupposing, about the moral status of religious privilege and aggression on the one hand and atheists’ human rights on the other. Those problems don’t go away just because you choose to ignore them.

            It is not an “attack” on Metha [sic] ….

            Oh, bullshit.

            …he receives some very light criticism, way less agitated and enraged than many Gnu figures use against their ideological opponents.

            Well, we’re back to your hobbyhorse of the past twenty-four hours: “agitation” and “rage” and harsh rhetoric. Sorry, but regardless of your obsession with Big Bad Words, language that is “agitated and enraged” is not the only method by which one can attack people in print—or do so harshly and/or inappropriately.

            As I’ve noted repeatedly, Stedman’s treatment of Mehta and other atheists in that article is “snot“—it’s sneering sarcasm delivered with a superior smile: “Did I miss the fear and intimidation buried in there somewhere?” “Because that’s an effective approach, right?” “Oh, right — because then you couldn’t draw pictures of Muhammad in chalk and create controversy on your campus.”

            Notwithstanding your obsession with Bad Words, that kind of contemptuous mockery is every bit as effective a method of expressing hostility as the more direct routes that I, among some other gnu atheists, tend to favor.

            Sarcastic snot is no more inherently evil than the direct approach is, but the latter has the notable advantage of being considerably more honest: there may be downsides to telling someone they’re full of shit, but such a direct comment (or slightly more eloquent versions of it) makes no attempt to hide or misrepresent the idea that’s inevitably being conveyed.

            On the other side of the coin, “Mehta and the atheists who agree with him are full of shit” is indisputably what Stedman was saying—but the political advantage of the sarcastic-sneer route he chose is its disingenuousness, the plausible deniability it creates. By coating Mehta with snot rather than straightforward bile, Stedman (or, in our present context, his buddy) can straight-facedly claim that he wasn’t attacking Mehta at all. That’s obvious nonsense to anyone paying honest attention to the conversation, but it’s an out that the snot strategy creates.

            Amplifying the nastiness of Stedman’s treatment of Mehta (and of EDMD more generally) is Stedman’s total disregard of the stated rationale behind the event. In his hatchet-job response, Stedman quoted seven whole words out of Mehta’s lengthy post… entirely ignoring several basic and overwhelmingly vital moral matters at issue, such as the standing Muslims have to make demands on atheists based on the rules of the former’s religion.

            In the specific context of that article, Stedman’s sneers are nasty attacks in large part because he simply disregards every word of Mehta’s and the University of Wisconsin chalkers’ reasoning, replacing them with Stedman’s personal (and horrendously dubious) investment in “alliances” and religious privilege. For example, there is an obvious, indeed dispositive, response to Stedman’s blithe declaration that stick-figures-labeled-”Muhammad” are “offensive images” analogous to swastikas (!)—but Stedman simply pretends no such reason could possibly exist, choosing instead to launch the “Because that’s an effective approach, right?” slime.

            Faced with an atheist-expression event that had been explained and justified at length by Mehta, the Wisconsin students, and numerous other atheists, Stedman chose to ignore everything but his personal fixation on religious privilege and poor unfortunate theocrats—and then to coat the aforementioned explainers with sneering snot.

            Now,  many months later, you show up here with a song and dance about how that behavior is not an attack, and is so much more acceptable than honestly and forthrightly hostile criticism.

            Well, bullshit, James. Bullshit.

             He is not speaking out against atheist visibility or expression, but rather advocating finding a different way to express the same idea….

            Oh, please: that’s a direct contradiction in terms. Anyone who demands that a human being exercising her right to free expression “find[] a different way to express the same idea” is “speaking out against” her freedom of expression. The “way” in which political and religious notions are expressed is—especially in a case like this one—part and parcel of the “notions” at issue themselves. Any demand that speakers express themselves only in “way[s]” that are approved by arrogant authority figures is itself an attack on the freedom of speech.

            More fundamentally, of course, Stedman’s assertion that, as you put it, he “supports the goal of the [EDMD] campaign” is a blatant bullshit lie. Again, the problem is his ugly cherry-picking exercise of figuring out what he’s required to pay attention to and what he’s not: sure, he’s all for supporting the South Park guys in the abstract—but as he ignores, and so do you (calling into question whether any atheist can count on either one of you to take our fundamental human-rights concerns seriously), there are numerous other reasons why atheists created EDMD; the Parker-and-Stone angle merely happens to be the single rationale that Stedman deigns to cast his regal gaze upon from On High.

            For example, as I just pointed out to TCC, EDMD is overtly intended to change societal responses—from believers and apatheists, and for that matter atheists like you—to violations of the Muhammad-depiction edict specifically and religious laws more generally. EDMD is aimed at moving the Overton Window regarding open defiance of religious privilege. EDMD is intended to combat violence against those (such as Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, and certain Danish cartoonists) who offend Islamic sensibilities by giving theocratic thugs thousands and thousands more targets than they could possibly hit.

            You and Stedman simply pretend that those bases—all of which necessarily require defying the no-depiction law by doing something like chalking, rather than mounting some vaguely gestured-at wan effort that protects Stedman’s ugly religious-privilege sensibilities—don’t exist. You and Stedman pretend that supporting Parker and Stone is the only basis for EDMD that matters. You and Stedman pretend that you’re not obligated to pay the slightest bit of attention to the atheists whose vital political expression you disdain and advocate silencing.

            You and Stedman are wrong.

            [Stedman] simply is saying, as PZ Myers himself said on a recent podcast, that EDMD is ““on the borderline”” between attacking beliefs and attacking people, and therefore should be handled with care.

            Again: bullshit. Neither the word “borderline” nor any similar concept appears anywhere in Stedman’s attack on chalking atheists. And said attack never advocates anything about “handl[ing EDMD] with care”; he directly wants it shut down:

            We secularists need to think long and hard about what lines we’re drawing — and who we’re boxing out in the process. We say we want “free speech;” now let’s recognize that with freedom comes responsibility and the need for respectful dialogue despite differences. In other words, as my mom might say: “just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Chalk may wash away but the divides we build often don’t.

            Let’s talk the talk, not chalk for shock.

            NOT chalk for shock.”

            Please stop misrepresenting what your friend is saying.

            I wonder, would it be possible for anyone to voice principled objections to something like EDMD and remain, in your view, an honest, principled actor?

            Principled objections? Certainly. Legitimate concerns with EDMD or any other area of atheist endeavor are perfectly worthwhile.

            But where have you ever seen principled objections to EDMD? The only principles being upheld in attacks like Stedman’s are religious privilege, dishonesty-by-omission, and the importance of prioritizing theocratic power over the visibility and autonomy of atheist human beings. Those are detestable “principles.” Like any other form of potent inhumanity, they deserve to be denounced.

            Or is your view the only acceptable view?

            Standing up for human rights is “acceptable.” Attacks on them are not. I’m not going to apologize for refusing to soft-pedal that message.

            You are attempting, through shaming tactics (as you yourself admit in this thread) to silence differing opinions.

            No, just to discredit them. An “opinion” (or, more precisely, advocacy) like Stedman’s is directly destructive to the standing of atheists in our society. Both you and he have every right to promote religious privilege at the expense of atheist human beings. I would never dream of trying to prevent you from making your case, to that end or any other. But I will, to the best of my ability, openly denounce the inhumanity and injustice of the arguments you two are making.

            As for “shaming”—indeed, I recognize that there is considerable value in attaching shame to the kinds of destructively atheophobic notions that Stedman is, in this context and several others, promoting. I am trying to “shame” those ideas because those ideas are shameful. That you think there is something blameworthy about such an effort—how, pray tell, are we supposed to treat open advocacy for unjust privilege, hatred, and discrimination?—is just bizarre.

            You therefore achieve the opposite of what you claim you want: a less open, less reasonable, less intelligent movement with less internal discussion.

            Once again: bullshit. An atheist movement without bigotry, including the bigotry that Chris Stedman promotes and furthers, would be a better movement—for precisely the same reasons that we’d be better off without racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism, classism, and all of the forms of privilege that are attached to them. One could bemoan the loss of “internal discussion” we’d suffer if we rid ourselves of virulent misogyny (oh, the humanity!), but somehow that doesn’t strike me as terribly troubling. Hoping to discredit and expel the kinds of injustice Stedman traffics in is no different.

            If you were able to express your disagreement with Stedman without the extreme, misleading, inflammatory language we might be able to have a better discussion about this issue, to the benefit of us all.

            And we return to this. Look: you’ve made it very clear that you think that harsh rhetoric is unwarranted when criticizing Chris Stedman’s treatment of his fellow atheists. In turn, I have made it very clear that I think such rhetoric is amply justified in response to the severe misconduct Stedman has performed. Very obviously we are at an impasse on that point, and I’m not sure what you think you’re going to achieve by pretending otherwise.

            What you’ve done here is taken a reasonable, controlled piece of criticism and portrayed it as a cowardly attack on “nasty atheists”, which it is manifestly not.

            For the last time in this comment: bullshit. As I have explained in detail up and down this thread, Stedman’s attacks on atheists are not the slightest bit “reasonable,” and I’m afraid that the “manifest” nature of his advocacy is something it appears you cannot bring yourself to recognize.

            TCC and Keith Collyer see this quite clearly.

            Wow. You want to play the ad populum card against me in this community? You think that’s going to be a winner?

            How’s that been going for you in the past day or so, James? Think the consensus on the atheist fora you’ve been posting on supports your perspective?

            Well, if so: please, Brer Fox, please don’t throw me in that there briar patch. I can’t imagine how I could possibly survive if we started tallying votes for you against votes for me in these parts. I’m sure I’d be just destroyed….

            • Anonymous

              So help me out – how would you state Stedman’s criticism in a way which would be acceptable to you? What sort of language should we use to make it clear we are taking a different view without engaging in the practices you object to?

              • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

                Good grief. Again with the mindless tone argument. It’s not about how he expressed himself; it’s about the ideas he expressed.

                The answer to your question is that his views would be acceptable when expressed in the same terms that would make racism, sexism and homophobia acceptable.

                • Anonymous

                  I’m not talking about tone. What on earth does that word mean to you, actually?

                • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

                  You seem to be obsessed with the way people express themselves, with the language they use, and you ignore the content of what they’re saying.

                  When you ask “What sort of language should we use to make it clear we are taking a
                  different view without engaging in the practices you object to?”

                  it’s a complete non-sequitur – a change in the language used means nothing, the practices would need to actually stop.

                • Anonymous

                  Ewan, this is stupid. There is no meaningful distinction between the “language someone uses” in a post on a website and the “content” of their post. The language is the only content I have to work with.

            • Anonymous

              I should say that I think this is a very effective response – it’s making me reconsider what you call “snot”, for instance. I do appreciate a lot your willingness to engage with these topics in such great detail.

              • Rieux

                Goodness.

                Well, I guess I might be able to convince you of some things, James, but I’m never going to be able to make a bull-in-the-china-shop-style gnu out of you.

                I guess [sigh!] that that’ll have to do. I suppose gnus need our Russell Blackfords and Eric MacDonalds as much as our PZ Myerses and JT Eberhards.

                • James Croft

                  It’s true! I have far too much appreciation for some pieces of china to be a bull (and far too dainty a figure) ;). Just one note, though – even though I’m speaking against certain sorts of intra-community attack here, don’t forget my own work. I speak for myself as well as on behalf of others, and Chris and I sound quite different. I break a good few plates myself…

        • Anonymous

          Would you stop referring to religious convention or norms as privilege? It is only privilege if and when it is enacted into law or vigilantes enforce it and the law does not actively protect your rights.

          • Rieux

            No. Your refusal to recognize the overwhelming societal power that hegemonic majorities of numerous kinds—men, white people, heterosexuals, cis-gendered people, wealthy people, and numerous other such demographics—hold does not make that power cease to exist. Nor does it do anything to redress the destructive and often severe consequences of that power.

            • Anonymous

              Both “men” and “wealthy people” are minorities so it’s no wonder that I don’t recognize them as majorities, hegemonic or otherwise. Your own ridiculous beliefs that mere majority represents privilege just tripped you up. Your thinking is so befuddled you imagine them majorities. Now you equivocate on the terms ” power” and “hegemony”. You are typical of any cult member who uses specialized meanings of words to arrive at counterfactual beliefs via nonsequitures.

              I recognize the reality of truly unjust use of actual political power to cause actual harm, not your nonsense conclusions. Actual privileges not the imaginary sort.

              • Rieux

                Both “men” and “wealthy people” are minorities….

                No. Wrong. Majority/minority binaries are built on power, not number. Whites in apartheid South Africa were a majority, notwithstanding that there were fewer of them than blacks. Women are a minority in the United States, even though they outnumber men.

                These are basic terminological issues, and there’s not much hope in your keeping up if you’re confused about them.

                I recognize the reality of truly unjust use of actual political power to cause actual harm….

                Oh, right—because the power held by men, heterosexuals, wealthy people, and religious believers is not “actual,” and the harm they inflict by misuse of their power is not “actual.”

                Kindly take your bullshit willful blindness elsewhere.

                • Will Ross

                  I think Brian was using the more common meaning of the word “majority”, rather than the one used by academic sociologists.
                  According to my impeccable ;0) source:
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majority_(sociology) (And by the way, worldwide, men outnumber women.)

                  So, if we cut through the technical jargon, you seem to be arguing that power should not go to particular religious groups. That seems to be the case for secularism, not atheism.  

                  In the US, I thought that was guaranteed by the Constitution? 

                • Anonymous

                  Worldwide whites are a minority, so if I wanted to use that qualifier I could still undermine his (or her) claims. His/her ideology is a mess of equivocations on many standard words. Of course this leads to total nonsense, and warped thinking.

                • Anonymous

                  LOL, you think I’m confused when I insist on using terms properly so as not to make the equivocations you make? Your newspeak is specifically designed to cloud traditional definitions in order to equivocate into false objections to existing theories of justice.

                  Collectivist terminology is specifically designed to blur ones vision on the world, and you call me blind? You are the one being blinded by equivocations and collectivist though processes. For example in your last sentence you power is held by various groups that do not ipso facto hold power. Just because someone is white, or male, or heterosexual does not mean they have any power.

                  There are groups that hold power, like police departments, the supreme court, the Obama administration, etc. Such groups are defined by power structures not race, sexual orientation, or gender.

                  South African whites who held power did so not because they were in the majority but because they did so by force.

                  By your ridiculous definition blacks no longer are a minority because a black person is at the apex of the political machine, and affirmative action is in place.

                  That I insist you not use newspeak is not a matter of blindness.

                  Please don’t tell me where to go. Your attitude is typical of the left. You can’t hold your own with freedom of speech so you try to shut down the voices of those who rightly criticize yours claims. You want to institute speech codes here?

          • Andrew Bennett

             Privilege is not a legal thing it is a social thing.

            • brianmacker

              Vigilantes are not a legal thing but a social thing too.

      • Anonymous

        You think you can find reasonable allies in the set of people who find offense at a stick figure in a manner that is completely inconsistent with the religious rationale behind the rule against Muslims using images of humans and animals? The rule is to prevent them from turning into idolators.

        There is zero danger that atheists will start worshiping these graven images on sidewalks. The drawing of the figures is specifically a protest against Muslims imposing their religious taboos on us non-muslims.

        Islam was specifically designed to take offense in the behavior of others. It’s like if the founder of KKK had banned eating watermelon and chicken because in their bigoted minds that’s what black people do. Then getting in a huff when others don’t “respect” their bans.

        Mohammad was one of the most evil individuals ever to have crawled the face of the earth and frankly I don’t care if that fact offends Muslims, so why should I care if drawing a stick figure incites them? I only exposes their intolerant nature which was planted and cultivated by their religion.

    • Keith Collyer

       Frankly, I don’t see anything in what you quoted Stedman as saying that is “… a nauseating piece of advocacy for theocratic power
      at the direct expense of atheist expression and visibility.” He was making a point and making it fairly effectively. I don’t happen to agree with him, but it was made politely, without insults.  I don’t see where this gives “religious people permission to hold, and vent, all the bigotry at “militant” atheists that they see fit to hold and vent”.
      You call him a “drooling theocrat who happens not to believe in gods”. Drooling is unnecessary and insulting for the sake of it, you long streak of piss (see what i did there?). And as a theocrat is someone who believes in divine (i.e. godly) guidance, it is not possible to be one without believing in god(s). So even your insult is meaningless.
      Why should he have to “side with atheists”? The only thing, the ONLY thing, that atheists have in common is that we do not believe in god(s). That does not make us a “side”. Some of us (like Hitchens) are (were for the pedants) great polemicists. Some (like Dawkins) are great at reasoned argument. Some (like Myers) are great at rants and invective. Some (like what I can see of Stedman here) have a very conciliatory approach. So his approach isn’t yours. Nor is it mine, nor, for that matter, is Myers’. I prefer the Dawkins line, if any. But they are (or at least seem to be) all honest expressions of that person’s atheism.

    • http://wading-in.net/walkabout Al Denelsbeck

      I’m with Rieux on this one – some of us have had run-ins with Stedman in the past, and you can check Butterflies & Wheels for a more comprehensive set of examples. He’s very fond of tooting his own horn in the bridges he builds to the religious community, though very vocal about the ones he burns to the atheistic community, and exemplifies the accommodationist viewpoint that saying anything offensive to the religious is counterproductive – but apparently okay when directed towards outspoken atheists and secularists.

      Moreover, those of us who actually attempted to open a dialogue with him, as he’s so fond of promoting, were rarely capable of doing so – somehow he’s always too busy to get to our points. When my comment went missing on his own blog and I reposted it to Weird Things, I got the promise that he’d get back to it. Still waiting, and I think it’s over two years now. That, by the way, was when dealing with Stedman’s straw man arguments (like some of the replies to Rieux here.)

      He has his approach, and he’s happy with it. I’m quite happy with mine, which includes not respecting anything I do not find respectful, even when someone expects it. I find enough bridges towards the religious community not to think any more need to be built, and won’t fall for the whining martyr complexes of those who form a majority and wield imaginary authority, yet feel picked on when someone suggest abandoning their special status in favor of rational approaches to morality.

      As for “interfaith” activities, someone’s going to need to explain to me why faith needs to be any part of it. Just do something good. What’s so hard about that? If you need to bring your faith (or lack thereof) into it, you’re posturing, trying to score points.

      • Rieux

        Thanks, Al.

        [Stedman i]s very fond of tooting his own horn in the bridges he builds to the religious community, though very vocal about the ones he burns to the atheistic community, and exemplifies the accommodationist viewpoint that saying anything offensive to the religious is counterproductive – but apparently okay when directed towards outspoken atheists and secularists.

        Yes—and moreover, there’s a causal connection between the two sides of that. Stedman has the credibility with the religious majority he does in large part because of his prominent resort to gnubashing. The “bridges he builds to the religious community” are substantially built on the backs of the atheists he debases and marginalizes. He establishes connections with privileged believers by assuring them that he, too, can’t stand atheists who dare to disrespect religion; as a result, believers don’t have to be scared of him the way they are of the Dawkinses and Myerses of the world. No, no, his support for religious privilege and denunciations of gnu atheism show he’s “one of the good ones,” unlike that other scum.

        And that’s the main reason why Stedman’s behavior is so damaging: he teaches the atheophobic religious majority that they are right to despise us uppity atheists who don’t know our proper place. Believers see Stedman and the few other “good” atheists loudly agree that those horrible “militant” “fundamentalist” miscreants are detestably wrong when we dare to (horrors!) say critical things about religious belief. And that reassures the believing majority that it’s perfectly reasonable for them to hate outspoken atheists for refusing to shut up and defer to their privileged demand to never, ever be told that they might be wrong—or, indeed, be told that we exist.

        Thus does Stedman’s own atheism, not to mention the prominent soapboxes (such as HuffPo) he has been provided to do his gnubashing from, make him one of the most powerful promoters of atheophobia on offer.

        He has his approach, and he’s happy with it.

        And for the record, I’d like to say that in any but the most extreme circumstances I have no objection to “conciliatory atheism”—an open atheism that scrupulously avoids offending religious sensibilities—whatsoever. There are a million ways to be an atheist, and no one is obligated to be a firebrand or an advocate.

        But Chris Stedman and “his approach” aren’t wrong because they are conciliatory toward religion. They’re wrong because they are directly and severely destructive toward atheists’ standing in society and social discourse. Stedman doesn’t need to start chalking stick figures of Muhammad; he just needs to stop stabbing his fellow atheists in the back. If he just cut out the atheist-bashing and concomitant promotion of religious privilege, I for one wouldn’t complain about “his approach” at all.

        • Anonymous

          I actually think this is quite a sophisticated criticism, worth taking seriously. It plays oddly with the Gnu’s appreciation of Overton strategies, because of course for those nearer the center of the rope to achieve the team’s goals they need to point the finger back at those on the end (this is how the good cop, bad cop strategy which Greta Christina wrote about once actually works – by drawing the contrast between the good and bad cop…). 

          That’s one reason why I’m skeptical of the Overton approach, actually – because it requires people to throw others under the bus for maximum effectiveness.

          But I also think there is an argument to be had as to whether that’s what’s going on here. There is a difference, in my mind, between pointing a finger at “those bad, vicious, new atheists” and comparing it to those who are sweetness and light (which some people have absolutely done – I think of R Joseph Hoffmann here) and saying “that strategy is unethical or likely to backfire”. And I think that, usually, Christ is on the latter side rather than the former. But I appreciate others might draw the line at a different place.

          • Rieux

            [O]f course for those nearer the center of the rope to achieve the team’s goals they need to point the finger back at those on the end….

            Nonsense. There is nothing about Overton or “good cop, bad cop” that requires the centrist/”good cop” to stab the radical/”bad cop” in the back. There is in fact no fundamental need for anyone to draw a “contrast” at all; while it’s usually inevitable that audience members will notice that the “cops” are behaving differently, and that a radical’s perspective is outside the Overton Window, there isn’t anything procedurally crucial about either one of those recognitions.

            Indeed, when the centrist gratuitously “points the finger” or “draws a contrast” himself—especially when he does so in heavily moralized and demeaning terms, as gnubashers like Stedman specialize in—that in fact thwarts the Overton/”cop” strategy, because it tells the privileged audience that they don’t have to take the radical’s position seriously at all.

            On “cop” terms, faitheism does its damage when it encourages society to ignore the gnu “bad cop,” to conclude that there’s no need for majority members to change anything about their behavior or outlook in response to the “bad cop’s” arguments. “Good cop/bad cop” cannot possibly succeed under those conditions. To the contrary, to be successful, “good cops” are required to maintain that the threat posed by the “bad cop”—in our context, “the threat” is the cogency of the criticisms gnu atheists state about religion and religious privilege—is real and cannot be dismissed. Needless to say, faitheists continually argue precisely the opposite.

            On the Overton side, the whole point of Overton strategies is to pull the window of acceptable ideas in atheists’ direction—but when faitheists bash gnus, that directly communicates that the Window should not shift, that gnu atheism is and should be considered extremist (“militant,” “fundamentalist,” et cetera ad nauseam) and remain outside the range of acceptable positions. Which is why Rush Limbaugh and similar demagogues have been overwhelmingly successful at pulling the American political Overton Window rightward, but Fred Phelps never will.

            That’s one reason why I’m skeptical of the Overton approach, actually – because it requires people to throw others under the bus for maximum effectiveness.

            No, that’s flatly wrong. If the Overton Window correctly describes the current state of social discourse on any issue, members of society have no need for backstabbing members of the despised minority to point out that other members of said minority are advocating things that lie outside of the Window. Majority members are perfectly capable of noticing that on their own.

            And I think that, usually, Christ is on the latter side rather than the former.

            [Dirty laugh]

            But I appreciate others might draw the line at a different place.

            Indeed. As I think I’ve established at length, the documentary evidence weighs heavily against your line-drawing solution.

            • Anonymous

              Not so. The effectiveness of the contrast on which both Overton and good-cop bad-cop approaches rely depends upon the good-cop openly disavowing the tactics of the bad-cop and stepping in as a protector. The target is thus drawn toward the good-cop (a position a ways from where they started) because they see her as the more reasonable actor in comparison to the bad-cop. Whether this counts as “stabbing bad-cop in the back” is open to discussion, but I wouldn’t characterize what Chris does that way either, so it might be a long discussion.

              This is psychology 101 – you need to draw the starkest possible contrast. 

              But a further distinction is important here. In the cop scenario there is some legitimate threat that the good-cop is staving off. We want to have a very principled discussion about what threat precisely we might think is legitimate to levy. Some things might be too outrageous to countenance. But that’s a discussion for another time.

              Further, there’s the whole question of, wherever you are on the rope, we want all of us to have the strongest muscles we can possibly have. That brings in a set of questions regarding effective strategy which also, to my mind, rule out demeaning approaches as ineffective as well as unethical.

              All this has been the focus of my series The Freethinker’s Political Textbook. I kind of want you to write a piece on Overton etc – I think it would be great!

              • Rieux

                The effectiveness of the contrast on which both Overton and good-cop bad-cop approaches rely depends upon the good-cop openly disavowing the tactics of the bad-cop and stepping in as a protector.

                That is simply not true. There is absolutely no need (and, in fact, it can be seriously antagonistic to the entire point of the strategy) for the “good cop” to “openly disavow[] the tactics of the bad-cop.” The “good cop” is merely required to employ different tactics, ones that are presumably less threatening to the “suspect.” Having the “good cop” say “The way that bad cop is conducting himself is totally unacceptable” is entirely unnecessary, and in many contexts it directly thwarts the strategy.

                The analogy to Stedman-style faitheist backstabbing in the “cop” hypothetical is the “good cop” entering the interrogation room and telling the suspect “Don’t worry about that bad cop; he’s all bluster, and he has no ability to follow through on his threats. I’ll protect you from him even if you don’t give me any information at all—even if you totally clam up and resist every one of my entreaties to help me with my investigation.”

                At that point, the “bad cop” isn’t a relevant “cop” at all; he’s a meaningless sideshow that the “suspect” has no need to pay any attention to. And as a result, the “suspect” has no incentive to sing at all—the “good/bad” strategy has failed. And that’s precisely the effect that faitheist backstabbing has in the atheist context.

                An actual “good cop/bad cop” atheist approach would be one in which gnus make arguments about religion and religious privilege that frighten or frustrate believers, while “moderate” atheists make less aggressive arguments that still address the same basic concerns and seek similar concrete changes in religion’s role in society. The intended end result is that believers (and religious-privilege supporters who aren’t believers) are drawn toward the moderates’ position—and thus toward the basic principles underlying all of the participating atheists’ arguments—on the rationale that the audience can’t go as far as the “radical” gnus do but can accept the moderates’ softer sell. It’s offering a more palatable alternative to drag the audience in the direction that all of the “cops” desire, not demonizing one of the cops.

                I’m afraid you fundamentally misunderstand what the “good cop/bad cop” approach is.  It appears that in your mind, “good cop/bad cop” is a simple process in which “good cop” curries favor with the “suspect” by bashing the “bad cop.” That’s simply wrong. It’s not how the approach works when we’re talking about police interrogators, and it’s not how the approach works when we’re talking about ideological allies.

                In the cop scenario there is some legitimate threat that the good-cop is staving off.

                Yes—but all that’s necessary is for the suspect to perceive the “bad cop”‘s aims as a threat. There is no need whatsoever for the “good cop” to concur in that judgment; (s)he only needs to offer the “suspect” an way out that the “suspect” finds more palatable—a way out that still serves the cops’ shared (shared) purpose.

                We want to have a very principled discussion about what threat precisely we might think is legitimate to levy.

                Huh? Do you seriously think it’s difficult to come up with ways in which atheist visibility and advocacy are “threatening” to the religious majority?! WTF?

                “Threat” is something we provide without any effort at all—as the recent dust-up over the Least Offensive Atheist Bus Ad In History demonstrates. Any effort to assert atheists’ humanity in the face of brutal religious privilege and authority will unavoidably strike a huge proportion of society as “threatening.” That’s not the tough part of the process at all.

                Much tougher is finding worthwhile “good cops”—both people and persuasive arguments that (1) provide privileged believers a way to avoid “bad cop” gnu conclusions but still (2) aim at convincing said believers that atheists’ humanity and autonomy (not to mention logic and objective reality) are more important than the believers’ privilege, power, faith, and authority.

                Faitheism, in its current incarnations, utterly fails crucial condition (2) above: it is and will always be pointless and to deliver the message “Ignore those ‘militant’ ‘fundamentalist’ New Atheists; they’re all wrong and bad. But do buy my product, How To Continue Treating Atheists As Second-Class Citizens, But, You Know, In A Sort Of Nice Way, even though my discrediting of my ‘militant’ brethren has just eliminated any incentive you may have had to move even that far.”

                “Good cop” and “bad cop” are different approaches, not different goals. As long as faitheists and gnus do not share the same goals—and, especially with regard to religious privilege and atheist rights, we very clearly do not—”good cop/bad cop” collaboration between the two camps will remain impossible.

              • Anonymous

                We are getting rather far from the original topic, but I think this is a great discussion. I’d love you to write these ideas up somewhere more formally so others can benefit from them.

                I have one question regarding your read of good-cop/bad-cop: where are you getting your data from? The psychological manuals on interrogation provided to the CIA, the Army, and testimony from professionals I’ve encountered do not support your analysis.

                Each of these sources directly recommend that the good cop should restrain the bad cop or disavow her tactics: 

                http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB122/CIA%20Human%20Res%20Exploit%20H0-L17.pdf 

                “The second “questioner”…explains that the actions of the first “questioner” were largely the result of his lack of knowledge in dealing with people and lack of human sensitivity. If brutes like that would keep quiet and give a man a fair chance to tell his side of the story, etc., etc.” 

                http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/policy/army/fm/fm34-52/app-h.htm 

                “At the time the source acts hopeless and alone, the second interrogator appears (having received his cue by a hidden signal or by listening and observing out of view of the source), scolds the first interrogator for his harsh behavior, and orders him from the room. He then apologizes to soothe the source, perhaps offering him coffee and a cigarette. He explains that the actions of the first interrogator were largely the result of an inferior intellect and lack of human sensitivity. The inference is created that the second interrogator and the source have, in common, a high degree of intelligence and an awareness of human sensitivity above and beyond that of the first interrogator.”

                http://changingminds.org/techniques/interrogation/good_bad_cop.htm 

                “The other interrogator is reasonable and holds back the nasty interrogator, preventing the suspect from being harmed. They may fight or argue amongst themselves.

                “http://www.videojug.com/expertanswer/interview-and-interrogation-2/what-is-the-friend-and-foe-approach 

                “If one guy is pushing hard and the other guy comes to their rescue they feel that that guy is helping them out…What usually works is the bad guy…leaves the room for a minute, and the other guy will apologize for his colleague’s harsh demeanor, and say “It’s tough to deal with. I have to work with him all the time”

                You say “There is absolutely no need (and, in fact, it can be seriously antagonistic to the entire point of the strategy) for the “good cop” to “openly disavow[] the tactics of the bad-cop.” 

                The professionals disagree.

                • Rieux

                  No. You’re reading all of that “bad cop”-bashing on the wrong side of the metaphor.

                  In an actual police interrogation situation, the goal that both “cop”s have is to make the suspect talk. That is what everything aims at. When we pull that through the metaphor-lens, “make the subject talk” becomes “convince the believer to value atheists’ autonomy more than religious privilege” or “establish that religious faith is an inappropriate basis for public policy” or “lead the believer to recognize that indoctrinating children with faith beliefs is an abuse of their human rights” or “cause the believer to question whether belief in God makes sense in the first place.”

                  In other words: on our side of the metaphor, we aren’t trying to make a suspect talk, we are trying to lead religious believers to draw certain conclusions about the status of religion and religious privilege.

                  Okay, back to the interrogation room. As you note, actual police officers playing “good cop” do sometimes say harsh things to or about the “bad cop”—but the factor that actually matters for the purpose of our analysis is the relationship between that (or indeed any) behavior by the “good cop” and the general police goal of making the suspect talk.

                  Does convincing the suspect that the “bad cop” is a barbaric asshole make the suspect less likely to talk? No. The berate-the-bad-cop tactics you see advocated in the sources you’re citing are acceptable because (according to those sources) they make the suspect more likely to spill his guts. And that is the goal.

                  If the “good cop” decided not to say nasty things about the “bad cop” but instead just hollered at the suspect, “DON’T TELL US ANYTHING! DON’T TELL US ANYTHING!”, would that be acceptable? Obviously not; it would directly thwart the whole point of the exercise. Every tactic in the entire interrogation is necessarily judged by its likelihood of promoting or preventing the suspect’s open and accurate testimony.

                  Now. Just as we pulled the “make him sing” goal through the metaphor-lens into our own context of ideological persuasion, we have to pull the tactics you’ve seen described through that same lens.

                  And over on this side, we’re now testing “good cop” tactics by their effects on the likelihood that believers will conclude that  atheists’ autonomy is more valuable than religious privilege, and so on.

                  Now: is attacking “bad cop” gnus, and convincing believers that we are worthless extremists who don’t deserve their slightest attention, going to help bring those believers to the goal-conclusions (which are, not incidentally, the very conclusions that we gnus are arguing for)? Clearly not: on this side of the metaphor, discrediting gnu atheists means discrediting the very goals of the entire procedure. The police-tactic analog to gnubashing is “DON’T TELL US ANYTHING! DON’T TELL US ANYTHING!”, not “My partner the interrogator is really a stupid brute, isn’t he?”.

                  Gnubashing destroys the GC/BC process because the goals such a process would be constructed, in atheists’ context, to reach are the very same ones we gnus are arguing for in the first place. When you attack us, you’re inevitably attacking the goals themselves, and that defeats the purpose of the whole exercise.

                  Back in the interrogation room, the police interrogators are utterly united in their desire to see the suspect talk. Until and unless atheist “cops” have similar agreement on goals, we can’t possibly run the same game.

                • Anonymous

                  You’ve clearly shifted the goalposts here, Rieux (or, if not, I have no idea what you’re saying, which I suppose is possible). You were quite certain that, in the gc/bc strategy, the gc needn’t disavow the tactics (not the goals) of the bc. And now you’ve completely turned about on that issue.

                  You said:

                  “There is nothing about Overton or “good cop, bad cop” that requires the centrist/”good cop” to stab the radical/”bad cop” in the back. There is in fact no fundamental need for anyone to draw a “contrast” at all; while it’s usually inevitable that audience members will notice that the “cops” are behaving differently, and that a radical’s perspective is outside the Overton Window, there isn’t anything procedurally crucial about either one of those recognitions.

                  Indeed, when the centrist gratuitously “points the finger” or “draws a contrast” himself…that in fact thwarts the Overton/”cop” strategy, because it tells the privileged audience that they don’t have to take the radical’s position seriously at all.”

                  And then you said:

                  “There is absolutely no need (and, in fact, it can be seriously antagonistic to the entire point of the strategy) for the “good cop” to “openly disavow[] the tactics of the bad-cop.””

                  And now you say:

                  “actual police officers playing “good cop” do sometimes say harsh things to or about the “bad cop”—but the factor that actually matters for the purpose of our analysis is therelationship between that (or indeed any) behavior by the “good cop” and the general police goal of making the suspect talk.”

                  That is a very large shift in position. You’ve gone from saying, essentially, that saying harsh things about bc is counterproductive to admitting that that is in fact what professionals in such situations do, and talking more about the goals, and about specific things which different cops might say.

                  OK – we can have that discussion. But you first have to honestly concede that your initial position was either wrong or very unclear.

                  In any case, I would very much like these ideas to be presented in a more rigorous form to inform debate about movement strategy – I think I’d learn a lot from it myself. I’d be happy to host some sort of guest post or blog dialogue or something with you on these issues, or publish a piece on this topic in The New Humanism magazine, or something like that, because I think this is an essential strategic discussion.

                  If we were to do that, it would be very important to find empirical validation that Overton strategies can be consciously pursued, and try to determine what characterizes successful attempts. I haven’t seen any data presented on this yet (I’ve looked). But I would very much like to continue this conversation. You can contact me here:TEMPLEOFTHEFUTURE AT GMAIL DOT COM.

                • Rieux

                  That is a very large shift in position. You’ve gone from saying, essentially, that saying harsh things about bc is counterproductive to admitting that that is in fact what professionals in such situations do, and talking more about the goals, and about specific things which different cops might say.

                  No. You’re simply confused.

                  One contributor to the confusion, no doubt, is that “good cop/bad cop” has meant at least two things in this discussion. On one hand, it has referred to an actual set of practices followed by actual police investigators when questioning an actual subject, with the actual goal of getting him or her to provide information.

                  But on the other hand, it has also denoted a metaphorically similar situation in which ideological allies (such as atheists) use a coordinated strategy contrasting tactics in order to elicit a particular response from a target.

                  As I tried to explain in my previous comment, there are crucial differences between literal cops and metaphorical cops. Specific tactics, such as berating the “bad cop,” can be worthwhile in one of those situations but not in the other, because the actual parallel that matters is the relationship between tactic and goal, not the literal tactic itself (which represents itself only in the literal police context, not its metaphorical shadow). Failing to understand that difference has been your signal error in the past few comments.

                  It would appear that the other major driver of your confusion is that you’ve ignored the important difference between a tactic being unnecessary an a tactic being impermissible. Those are decidedly not the same thing; I have kept them carefully separate; and you appear to have missed the distinction entirely.

                  With regard to the tactic of berating the “bad cop”: the most negative thing I’ve had to say about that tactic in the literal police-interrogation context is that it’s unnecessary:

                  There is nothing about Overton or “good cop, bad cop” that requires the centrist/”good cop” to stab the radical/”bad cop” in the back. There is in fact no fundamental need for anyone to draw a “contrast” at all…

                  There is absolutely no need (and, in fact, it can be seriously antagonistic to the entire point of the strategy) for the “good cop” to “openly disavow[] the tactics of the bad-cop.

                  All of that merely states that the basic structure of the GC/BC game does not in fact require real police investigators (or indeed other kinds of “good cop”s) to berate the “bad cop.” Nowhere have I said, as you now allege, that “saying harsh things about bc is counterproductive” in the literal police context. It would appear that, in your confusion, you imagined that.

                  (As I said, the complexity of using “gc/bc” to refer to both (1) literal police officers and (2) ideological partisans using similar tactics definitely seems to be tripping you up here: my “and, in fact, it can be seriously antagonistic” parenthetical quoted above was a reference to (2), not (1). I said “can be” because that problem applies in some uses of GC/BC, but not all of them—including in the latter most or all literal police contexts.)

                  I have simply never said that “good cop” police investigators cannot, should not, or do not use “bad cop” bashing as a tactic. I’ve said that they are not required by the fundamental definition of the “good cop/bad cop” strategy to engage in such bashing. And they demonstrably aren’t: If the suspect is willing to spill his guts without specifically needing to see the “good cop” express hostility or scorn toward the “bad cop,” that’s still “good cop/bad cop,” and (given that the suspect talked) it still can succeed. Ergo “bad cop” bashing is not a logically necessary condition of the game, even in the literal police context.

                  Then, on the other side of the metaphor-lens, “bad-cop” bashing is not only logically unnecessary but also, under certain specific conditions, a direct impediment to the strategy succeeding. It is inevitably an impediment insofar as it makes the “suspect” (that’s now a metaphor) less likely to do whatever it is the “cops” (also a metaphor) want him or her to do.  I’ve already gone over that point at length in my previous comment.

                  The central point I’ve been trying to get across is that faitheists berating gnu atheists is not a proper analogy for a “good cop” police investigator berating his “bad cop” partner. Interpreting the strategy metaphor that literally—that is, paying attention to the literal behavior of police officers rather than the relationship between their tactics and and their goals, which is what actually matters—leads one to draw flatly incorrect conclusions about what the metaphorical model calls for.

                • Anonymous

                  Well, when you can present a shred of evidence to support your (rather tortuously defended) view I will feel more inclined to take it seriously. Since we last talked I’ve done even more reading on Overton, and found at least one other direct reference to the idea that making the differences between those on the extreme edges and those nearer the middle of the rope clear, by explicitly pointing it out, is indeed necessary (in a talk by Desiree Schell on the topic at TAM 2009). So far all the evidence supports my read. You have your opinion. As always, you can get in touch to continue the discussion.

    • Anonymous

      Wow, That Stedman quote is particularly offensive because a drawing Mohammed is more like drawing a swastika with a red circle and slash through it. It is a protest against a totalitarian belief system, that calls for the genocide of others.

      • dubliner

         I think that for a traditional Muslim they would feel a bit like an American would when someone burn the Stars and Stripes. Probably most Americans would not appreciate the act and find it offensive to varying degrees and some Americans would feel positively murderous towards the burner. It certainly would be unlikely to endear the burner or the people he represents to Americans. And is obviously therefore not an act that is likely to promote breaking down in group/out group barriers. That however is presumably not the purpose of such acts.

        • Anonymous

          Call me when an American gets upset because someone drew a flag on a sidewalk with a smiley face and the words “I am the US flag”.

          What is the point of your comment anyway? Is it to make me understand how they feel, or to justify their anger? I understand how they feel. I understand who a traditional Afgani Muslim feels just before the gun down a little girl for learning to read. I also understand how the white slave holder feels when some uppity black talks back. I just don’ t think such feelings are justified, and in fact that they indicate a twisted morality.

          You failed to gain my empathy with the flag burning also. I think getting upset about burning a flag is unjustified also in most cases. Exceptions being if you burn someone else’s property, or do so in a manner that signals a defamation, or incitement to crime. It has to be a actual defamation though in that it communicates an actual falsehood.

          My dad was fired from his job as a teacher at the Adirondack Community College because he supported two students who refused to salute the flag. That was a case of people getting mad when others didn’t follow their rules and would be a better analogy than flag burning. Yes, I am quite aware of such emotions in either case and the are unjustified.

          I can think of an even better analogy for you. Suppose Americans emigrated overseas and e expected Muslims to salute the US flag. Thats what these campus Muslim groups are doing.
          Drawing a smiling Mohammed communicates nothing other than that we are not bound by your rules. It’s the equivalent to back talking the slave master.

          Drawing a picture of Mohammed raping a little girl, chopping innocent people’s heads off, torturing a captive with fire to extract information on property he wishes to steal, etc. would certainly tend to offend even more. However it would NOT be defamation since these communicate facts not falsehoods. Thus any such outrage is unjustified.

          If you don’t want yourself to be upset when confronted with the truth then don’t remain in a religion that idolizes a vicious tyrant, criminal, and cult leader.

          It’s just rich that their intolerance comes to the boiling point over a stick figure drawing when their religion is based on the defamation of others. The quickest way to get them even more pissed is to take what the Qur’an says about other groups and replace the group with Muslims. Take all the nasty claims about Jews, Polytheists, and Christians in the Qur’an and make it about Muslims instead and the become inflamed, but it seems never to dawn on them that the very practice of their religion is vastly more rightfully offensive to others than any stick figure.

          The Muslim wants to be able not only to openly claim I am only worthy as an inmate in an eternal torture center, but also to be offended when my filthy paws dare to capture in chalk even the most mild of characatures of the guy who fabricated their obscenity of a religion.

          • sg

            That’s xenophobic talk, Brian. Think about what it would mean to say “the Jew wants” this or that. “The Muslim wants” to be understood as an individual. There are disagreements among Muslims about this and every other issue.

            • Brian Macker

              Muslims most certainly want to be able to profess their religion.   That’s what the structure of the sentence you yanked that quote out of context was referring to.   Islam professes that I deserve everlasting hell.   Please provide a counterexample of a Muslim who doesn’t which to be able to “openly claim” what the religion teaches, that I am only worthy for hell.

              • Brian Macker

                “… wish to be able …”

                Also we are speaking of those muslims who are in additon offended by some stick figure.   The fact they actually execute people over such offenses in their own countries shows this isn’t some abberation.

              • sg

                Trivial, Brian. One only needs to locate a Muslim who does not believe in hell: wordswithoutborders dot org/article/omega-definitions

                And I personally know others who believe in hell but don’t believe that non-Muslims necessarily go there, hell being for murderers and unrepentant thieves.

                Now, you realize there are Muslims who aren’t offended by drawings of Muhammad? You realize Algeria has had a moratorium on the death penalty in all cases since 1993? You realize that in dictatorships like Saudi Arabia, you cannot use the actions of the government to make claims about the preferences of the populace generally?

                But I know, there is no point in explaining facts to a right-winger. Xenophobia is the air you breathe.

                • Brian Macker

                  Well anonomous sg.  I have determined that you are one ignorant person.  I am aware of all of your claims.   I don’t think they are the least bit important.   

                  “But I know, there is no point in explaining facts to a right-winger.”

                  It’s rich that an anonymus bigot like yourself is going around calling others xenophobes.  Look up the definiton. You have no clue what it means.

                  I’ve got no problem with the Jains.   If I were a xenophobe you’d think I’d have issues with them, along with the many other people who are not of my culture.  Whatever the hell you imagine my culture to be.

                  Great so you’d be supporting Nazis who don’t actually believe that Jews control the media.   Hitler was right, except …

                  All Muslims use the Qur’an as their holy book, every one, and they all respect Muhammad and his teachings.    Well those teachings are vile, intolerant, and genocidal and they cannot avoid the inherent problems that that engenders.

                  You have no clue what my actual position is.  You are interjecting your bigotry into my short comments and attributing all sorts of beliefs to me that you have zero evidence that I believe in.

                  In short your ability to think and make judgements is impaired to the point of making you look like a fool.

                  “And I personally know others who believe in hell but don’t believe that non-Muslims necessarily go there, hell being for murderers and unrepentant thieves.”

                  So what?   Doesn’t sound like you have much of a gift for actually getting to the bottom of anyones actual beliefs.  You’ve got mine all wrong.

                  I’ve had more extensive talks with Muslims than you.   One of my closest muslim friends would make statments just like the above.   Hell is just for criminals.    When pressed however it turns out that I’m a criminal in the eyes of Muhammad.

                  You are just a ignorant and gullible.  Not only did I know that there are Muslims who are not offended by drawing Mohammad but that there is a long history of Muslims doing it.   

                  You are not a mind reader and are very bad at making deductions, and are pretty much clueless.

                  Oh me, oh my, I must be a xenophobe because the teachings of Mohammad are genocidal.

                  You sir are a fool.   Next you’ll be supporting people who recommend the Protocols of the Elder of Zion.   You’d do so on the basis that there is a broad spectrum of opinion among those who like the book.

                  Oh, and I am not saying you can’t make friends with, marry or otherwise interact with Muslims.  Does that surprise you?  I betcha it does.

                  That’s because you are entirely ignorant of my philosophy, my beliefs, etc.   Bigot.
                   

              • Will Ross

                Brian, I’m not an expert on Islam, but I do know that there are muslims working to understand and respect other faiths in America including, presumably, our own.

                http://sun.cair.com/AmericanMuslims/Interfaith.aspx 

                So yes, a good muslim will seek to profess their faith (though they are forbidden from attempting to convert anyone). But it’s hard to see how understanding and respecting you equates to believing that you are only worthy of hell.

                Like any other religion, their book is inconsistent and interpreted in different ways, of course. So depending on which muslim you speak to, YMMV. 

                • Brian Macker

                  Have you read the Qur’an?  It is even more open with it’s intolerance, bigotry, and incitment to violence against other groups than even Mein Kampft.

                  YMMV with Nazis, and members of the KKK also.    They have all sorts of different beliefs.   However if you are an admirer of Hitler because he got the trains running on time, but don’t really believe that Jews do ALL of those things (just some of them) then I still will consider you to be on the wrong path.  

                  You are absolutely clueless if you are using CAIR as an example. Are you aware of the fact that the founders were involved in supporting terrorism?   To the point of actually ending up as unindicted co-conspirators?

                  Look you are just way to ignorant to even begin to understand my position.    Which includes understanding way more that you or sg even have a clue about.

                  Educate yourself first.

                • Will Ross

                  Brian, I am happy to concede that I haven’t studied the text. Furthermore, it would take many years of study to come to a view with any sort of authority.

                  However, skimming as far as 2:260 in the sahir international translation (which I know doesn’t count to the purist, but is the best I can do in the time available: I’m not going to learn Arabic in a day), it seems to me that:
                  - yup, you’re in trouble
                  - this is between you and the creator and is nobody else’s business: it is forbidden to try to convert you (though a good muslim should make sure that you have seen the facts. But only Allah can judge whether you are ready to act on them).
                  - we are safe, so long as we are just: it is forbidden to fight an aggressive war

                  95% + is specific regulations about how you apply this stuff in practice, in the culture of the day. This needs to be interpreted carefully. For example, it assumes that the culture relies on slavery and talks about the treatment if slaves. But freeing slaves is referred to as a virtuous act. 

                  I understand that it gets a bit more aggressive later on, when we get to the period when Islam was fighting for its life. I am not surprised that there are supposed to be inconsistencies in the text. I believe that Dawkins himself is encouraging us to develop the capability to believe inconsistent models at the same time. This is not hypocracy: it is simply accepting that our understanding is imperfect. Anything else would be arrogance,

                  (I love the idea of hippocracy, suggested by your typo. Rule of the horse has a lovely Wild West feel to it. Though Swift did use it as an excellent metaphor in Gulliver’s Travels. But I digress.)

                  Thank you for needling me to start looking at the text.

                  As for CAIR, as you say, I am entirely ignorant of many things. These include US law and politics. However, in the UK, “unindicted” would mean that their guilt or innocence has never been legally tested, so they are presumed innocent. And, upon consideration, it seems to have the same meaning in the US. http://www.jihadwatch.org/2007/08/cair-whines-about-being-an-unindicted-co-conspirator-in-a-terrorist-funding-case.html seems to accept that putting them on a list does not mean that anyone thought that they were terrorists (and criticizes them for being thin skinned about it). I was going to make some Dire Warnings about accepting the unproven word of the Security Services (who, like everyone else, have a distinct point of view). But it seems to me that the US establishment made the right call on this one. I wish I could say with confidence that it would have been the same in the UK.

                  Did I say I admired Hitler? Or Islam? Don’t think so. (though from what I’ve seen so far, I rather prefer Islam.)

                  It is not possible to talk sensibly about Nazis. Many people  invoke a variant of Godwin’s Law to say that whoever cracks first (and mentions the Nazis) loses. It is the equivalent of  the behaviour of the chess playing pigeon that we like to compare to the typical religious argument: “upsetting the board, shitting on the pieces and strutting around as if you’ve done something  clever”.

              • Brian Macker

                To both my responders.  I am very careful in what I write. 

                Islam DOES profess that I deserve everlasting hell.  That is a fact.   There are many different aspects to religion three of which are the founders opinions, the religious documents, and the living religion.

                All muslims wish to be able to openly claim that which their religion teaches.   The problem with these irrational religions is that they are self contradictory.   This allows followers to be open hipocrites.     Another problem is that often the living religion encourages active ignorance of the full scope of the texts, and also trains the mind to disfunction (like any cult).   They encourage ignorance even of their own religion, and train themselves to accept contradiction.  

                So none of your supposed evidence counts, up and until you interrogate these people as to what they actually mean.    You haven’t done your homework, and I have.

                Every single school of Islam has me going to hell.    The Qur’an has me going to hell.   Mohammad was quite clear that hell existed and used that claimed fact to justify all sorts of things.   Without belief in hell then Mohammad is just some crackpot criminal liar.   So it is obvious that when they claim not to believe in hell that they are just following the same practice of accepting contradiction.

                The problem is that even if you do not believe in hell, when you advocate Islam you are still advocating that I should go to hell, unless you also go to lengths that such Muslims never go to.

                Now it would be possible to create a version of Islam that would not entail me going to hell but then why call it Islam?   It would require the admission that Mohammad was a liar who duped his followers.   It would require the admission that the Qur’an is false.    They want it both ways.   It can’t be that way, sorry.

                The fact that they foster respect for Muhammad means they have to live with all his claims.  His claim that everything he recited in the Qur’an as infallible for one thing.  

                It is implicit in their claims that I’m deserving of hell, even if they fail to recognize that fact.    It only takes a few minutes of discussion with them for them to admit it.  I know, I’ve done it over and over.

                You don’t get to be a Nazi and at the same time claim Hilter wasn’t acting as a good Nazi, or that he was lying about certain things.

                Furthermore it is implicit in claiming that you are a Nazi that you wish to be able to “openly claim” what it asserts.

            • Anonymous

              Jews are both an ethnicity and a religion.   There can be Jews who are not in fact believers in Judaism.    The same doesn’t happen with Islam.  It is a solely a belief system, and nothing more.   Thus when you state “I am Muslim” you either believe in the tenants of the religion or you are mistaken about your identity.   You aren’t Muslim if you are an atheist.   You can be atheist as a Jew.   So of course I can’t make claims about the religious beliefs of the ethnic Jews.

              The mere fact that one identifies as a Muslim indicates that one does not solely want to be understood as an individual.   Excluding those who self identifiy as Muslims to prevent persecution the act of declaring one Muslim is to accept certain claims.

              I understand that there are disagreements in Islam.   It is still a fact that those professing to be Muslims are accepting Islam, not the Amish faith, not Jainism, not pacifism, and not tolerance.    Once they accept it they have to live with the consequences of that acceptance.  One cannot volunteer in labeling oneself as a Nazi and then whine about being misunderstood as an individual.

              I am perfectly willing to say that “The Amish wants pacificism…”    Am I a “Xenophobe” for saying that?   I actually think pure pacifism in the sense the Amish practice it is a negative attribute.     That there might be someone was born Amish who likes to pick fights, and beats people up doesn’t make the statement wrong either.    He’ll soon find himself disavowed by the other Amish, in exactly the same way those Muslms who would openly state that there is no hell (aka Mohammad is a fucking liar), will find that they are shunned.

              The problem with Islam is that they won’t just find themselves shunned but beaten to a pulp or killed.    Examples:  Daughters of Muslims that want to pick and choose about what to believe in Islam.   They end up dead.  

              There are groups that are identified as “Muslims” but in fact aren’t Muslim in the sense of actually believing in the religion.   This kind of muslim can as a local phenomenon be considered ethnically Muslim, but only in a local sense.   I was not referring to cultural Muslims, and that should be obvious from the structure of the sentence.

              If I said, “Jews wish to believe in God” would you think that was xenophobic, because in fact there are cultural Jews who don’t even believe in god?   How about taking the sentence in context and understand that it is referring to Jews who believe in God, and not atheist Jews.  

              Hypocritical for a a guy who thinks that every right winger is immune to learning to be making such distinctions.   I don’t even self identify as a “Right Winger”, yet not only do you have me pegged as one you are applying your own personal prejudices to draw false conclusion about what I know and believe.

              You owe me a big apology, and you need to make a mea culpa on your misintepretation of what I write.

              Why on earth would I have a problem with a cultural Muslim who doesn’t go to Mosque, doesn’t read the Qur’an, thinks Muhammad was a liar, drinks booze, eats bacon, has gay sex, commits adultery, etc.  

              You have to understand however that the religious Muslims aren’t going to agree with calling an atheist who is culturally Muslim by the term Muslim.

              My problem is with those who actually are religious Muslims in that they actually believe in what Mohammad said, which includes offensive nonsense, then getting offended when their religion is questioned in any way.

              What don’t you understand about the fact that if I was in a Muslim country and paid to have a billboard put up that said “Atheism.” (or as a non-muslim drew Mohammed) that I would soon find myself afoul of all sorts of trouble.    Meanwhile, they openly denigrate non-Muslims on a regular basis, and their entire religion is a pyramid of genocidal intolerance.

              You don’t see the enormity of this hypocracy, which was the point of my original comment?

              Why do they get to denigrate me from the pulpit while being able to choke the shit out of me at a parade if they don’t like me mocking the guy who advocated my denigration?

              Why the hell do you think this way?   WHY????
               

              • Will Ross

                Whether the outgroup is defined in terms of religion or race, your comments look xenophobic to me, Brian. In particular, the bold caricature of Islam that you offer is so grotesque that I have to ask where you get your information.

                There are well over a billion Muslims in the world. Whilst a hundred million fundamentalists could make a lot of noise and spread a lot of hate, that doesn’t mean that they get to veto moderate interpretations of their religion.

                In answer to your final question, I’m sure that if he was talking to a fundamentalist Muslim, sg would take issue with his ideas of proper behaviour. But he isn’t. He’s talking to you.

                • Anonymous

                  I Get my information on Islam from: a) Several translations of the Qur’an. I have several Quran’s and there are compilations of translations online. b) My copy of one of the Hadith and others are available online. c) Talking with Muslims I know personally, all university educated and from several countries. d) Talking with Muslims online. e) Reading books by Muslim apostates. f) Legal systems enacted in various countries. g) Voting records in those countries. h) news coming out of those various countries. i) Historical documents.

                  The fact that Islam grotesque isn’t my fault.

                  Where on earth did you get the idea that fundamentalists make up only ten percent of the Muslim population, which population, and how do you define the term?

                  In answer to your final statement. Yes he’s talking to me and applying a double standard for both himself and Muslims. He can assume I’m “right wing” and gets to not only dismiss me on the basis of stereotypes but also mind read his way into giving me some straw man position. He allows the Muslim his religion, Islam, which in fact denigrates me to the point of saying any right thinking Muslim is not only justified in killing me, but that Allah commands it.

                  I on the other hand only have the belief that I have the right to defend myself from such attacks in a proportion fashion and always with the assumption that the individual may be ignorant of or uncooperative with what the religion says. I am in fact defending myself first by using my right to speak the truth.

                  My personal beliefs are extremely liberal with regards to custom, and I’m just fine with celebrating not only the holidays and traditions common here like Christmas and Hanukkah, but also Hindu ones. I have not been asked to participate in other rituals but I’ve got no proplem with it. I also don’t care how you dress, eat, etc. Just so long as you aren’t forcing conformity on others. Yet, I’m to be vilified with slanderous claims that I’m the one who xenophobic for disagreeing with a guy who invented a criminal religion and was in fact a rapist, slaver, thief, vandal, tortured, assassin, liar, and genocidal murderer? A religion that is so Xenophobic that it requires social conformity to the tastes of one vile man who lived in a barbaric tribal society, and demeans nonconformists for failing to eat, dress, entertain, play, or like animals in the way that Mohammed did.

                • Will Ross

                  Brian, I have not accused you of being xenophobic. I have pointed out that, to an outsider, your comments look that way. If you care about whether people think of you as a xenophobe (and “…I’m to be vilified as xenophobic…” rather suggests that you do), this is my gift to you. As someone once said, ”
                  O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us.”

                  You may be right about the nature of Islam – I certainly do not claim to have studied it in depth, and it would take years of study before I could do more than cherry pick passages to support one interpretation or another. I do find it hard to believe that a billion reasonable people would interpret passages written for a savage world as directly and literally applying to our more civilised times. That isn’t the way Christianity has been interpreted, (except by a minority of literalists who, ironically, sought to free the individuals by giving everyone direct access to something which had previously been owned by the Organisation) and it just seems unlikely that 100% of muslim scholars take a different line. Perhaps I’m just projecting my English middle class sensibilities.

                  The less than ten per cent is an example of a number that is big enough to make it look as though the entire religion is aggressive, including the entire actively religious population of a number of extreme countries,  but small enough to be unrepresentative of the whole. I have no way of knowing whether the true proportion is 1%, 10%, 20% or 60%. I believe that it is growing more active, but cannot tell whether it is growing in volume.

                  But I am pretty certain that it the smaller this number is, the better. Shouldn’t we be supporting the moderates against the fundamentalists? If we attack the underlying tenets of the religion itself, this has the practical effect of supporting the fundamentalists against the moderates. I can think of no plausible scenario where this would be a good thing.

                  (edited for paragraph breaks – new to Disqus – sorry!)

                • Anonymous

                  Please, now you are going to switch over into oh-so-wise concern troll mode.   I will spare telling you that this comment is in contradiction to your other comment.   You weren’t claiming concern how others my see me, you were talking about how it appeared to you.  However you have an admittedly ignorant viewpoint.   I am concerned in how others view me and it especially irks me when someone reads what I write, and then puts and straw man spin to it, and then responds as if I said something I in fact did not.   Cherry picking his way to his conclusion since you think you understand that concept.

                  I never claimed not to be concerned about what people think about me, nor gave any indication I don’t, and so I don’t need moralistic quotes from you on the subject.

                  You pretend to be concerned about my reputation and yet here you are in the prior comment and in this one insinuating that I am practising various forms of trickery such as cherry picking, and that I have little knowledge of Islam.    I have spent years looking at Islam and I started well before 9/11/2001.     My first encounter with a form of Islam was when I had let a black man borrow money from me (which I could not afford to lose being a poor college student) because of a sob story he told me about his family.    He eventually indicated he had no moral duty to pay me back the money because his religion, Nation of Islam, teaches that Muslims do not have to honor agreements with non-Muslims.

                  One doesn’t need to resort to cherry picking to show the vile nature of Islam, and in fact I can do the opposite.   What few morally valid sounding quotes that there are in the Qur’an I can put back into context and show how they have little to nothing to do with any moral restraint.   Peaceful cherry picked quotes are always followed by exceptions and incitements to violence that would make Hitler blush.

                  Sure to someone ignorant of the facts it may appear xenophobic, but then again the mere statement that I’m an atheist may make an ignoramus think I eat babies.

                  ” I do find it hard to believe that a billion reasonable people would interpret passages written for a savage world as directly and literally applying to our more civilised times. “

                  What makes you think them “reasonable”?   You think it reasonable to believe all the superstition in the Qur’an?  There is overwhelming evidence they are mostly ignorant and unreasonable, and from all the sources I listed above.

                  I’ve had the most “reasonable” and polite Muslims tell me that given my beliefs that I would be rightfully killed in any Islamic country.  I wasn’t talking to any terrorists either.   So it is quite apparent that the issue of reasonability all depents upon ones world view.   The Islamic world view is not reasonable, and so they do not take reasonable actions.   Not only is it not reasonable it has many inherent double standards.

                  If these billions are so reasonable then why are their legal systems so barbaric even in the most supposedly enlightened of Muslim countries?   Why are they, for example, criminalizing the use of the word Allah by Christians when some of their arguments for Islam is that Allam merely means god?   Does that sound “reasonable” to you?  Polls taken in Islamic countries on various issues have shown that you are way off the mark on their reasonableness.    Do you think the fact that most Islamic countries have either expelled, or relentlessly persecute their Jewish populations to be reasonable?

                  Why do you find hard to believe that all the evidence points to?   Not only do they interpret those ancient passages as applying today they would quickly arrest or act as vigilantes (with no police protection) against any such claims.  That’s blaspheme you are talking about right there.   

                  You are confused because you make the enormous mistake of thinking that Islam is structured anything like Christianity.   It isn’t.    Christ was pacifistic.  Christ did not found any church.  Christ commited nor participated in any large scale crimes nor wars.    Christ actually makes many anti-old testament claims and of course this came after the old testament, so Christians are more inclined to discount the earlier passages in favor of the new revalation.  There quite consistent message from Christ that is contradictory to much of the rest of the dead part of the religion.   Of course, and dead part of a religion is always in danger of being reinstituted, as we can see with Westboro Baptist Church.  However with Christianity the old stories of atrocities are just that, old stories, and ones about Jews killing the ancient long dead enemies of the Jews.

                  Everything is different in Islam.   None of these Christian traditions exist.   Mohammad used a false pacifism to get himself out of trouble he instigated in his early period, and became more and more militant as time passed.    He advocated every form of treachery, double standard, and crime you can imagine, well against the outsider, not the Muslim.    The atrocities he committed were not sanctioned by their diety on limited grounds such land claims, or ancient feuds.    They were grounded in bigoted claims about existing groups today and listed specifically such as Jews, Christians, Idolators, and non-believers.    This covers all living individuals in the world today that are non-Muslim.    The instructions  on treatment are different for the different groups but one thing is always a constant, you don’t treat them the way you would a Muslim.     Jews and Christians are to be persecuted in various ways and made to pay a tax called the Jizya.   Polytheists (Idolators) and other non-believers are to be forced to convert or killed.

                  So there is not only the issue of what the few handfuls of moderates (who are in the vast minority) believe.   Even if they don’t believe specifically in those passages they still endanger others whenever they claim that the Qur’an is infallible.  Why?  Because like any instruction manual someone might actually take your word for it and start following the instructions.     If any hair dryer manufacturer sent out manuals that explicitly instructed users that they were shower safe, even if elsewhere in the manual it gave vague and hard to interpret warnings to the contrary, would you accept the excuse that no one actually reads the manual, and most customers are ignorant of it?

                  I think another problem you are having is with estimating the number of “fundamentalists”.      You seem to be doing this by counting only actual terrorists, and supporters of terrorism.  That is NOT the definition of fundamentalist.    Plus the actual support for terrorism swings wildly depending on who the Muslims think are suffering from the activities.  It isn’t any principled opposition against terrorism in general.    The popularity was high when it was percieved that innocent foreigners and muslim collaborators were getting the brunt of the violence.   

                  Fundamentalism is vastly more common than with Christianity and for various structural reasons within the religion.  It is not merely suicide bombings I am concerned with.  It is all the various atrocities and persecutions that are common and widespread throughout the Islamic world that show that fundamentalism is no exception but in fact the rule.    Christians being beaten to death for drinking from Muslim only drinking cup in Pakistan (the fact that there are such cups), child marriage, Sharia law, second class citizenship for women, and non-Muslims, persecutions, church burnings, forced conversions, blaspheme charges, murder of apostates, honor killings, and so on and so forth.   The grinding poverty that is the expected fruit of the fatalism, restrictions on economic activity,  and Islamic  sectarian violence.   It’s hard to accumulate capital when your co-religionists from different sects don’t get along with you (because of Qur’anic intolerance of muslim “hipocrites”).  Hard to get ahead when you view other muslims with suspect and different interpretations lead to charges of false belief.

                  There is nothing fundamentally oppositional in Islam to terrorism so there is nothing to reform back to as in Christianty.   In fact, Mohammad explicitly in the Qur’an mentions terror as something that must be used even though not strictly needed, (after question by his followers as to the need for such barbarity).   Despite their high level of barbarity the polytheists were actually more tolerant and less ruthless than Mohammad.   Polytheism as practiced was actually a tolerance for the gods of other tribes.   Mohammad broke that understanding, along with many other understandings, such as breaking truces and attacking during recognized periods of religious truce such as Ramadan.

                  Sure Christianity went through similar periods but it was more for a lack of copies of the bible, and reading skills, that the fundamental Christian message of peace was not well known.   It was also in part historical accident.   An accident that is less likely with Islam, if not inherently inhibited.   As literacy rises the exact opposite happens with Islam.   Educated peoples, doctors, architects, and computer engineers, read the Qur’an and are more likely to end up following the old ways than ignorant peasants who operate less on Islam and more on ignorance of Islam and gut instinct about what is right.

                  “Shouldn’t we be supporting the moderates against the fundamentalists? If we attack the underlying tenets of the religion itself, this has the practical effect of supporting the fundamentalists against the moderates. I can think of no plausible scenario where this would be a good thing.”

                  The old, you are supporting the terrorist, trope.   Oh please.   The moderates are few, and do not speak up because they are in fear themselves.   Moderate intepretations are actually seen as foreign intepretations.    You side with the moderates against the vast majority of fundamentalists and they will view you as trying to weaken the religion.  They are not the least bit embarrassed by the violent nature of the religion, and Muhammads past.    It’s all justified.

                  I’m questioning the entire artific, and I am being honest, and truthful.    That is the correct path for me.  You can live in a fantasy world if you like.  I also do not think it is my responsibilty to support one set of fantisists against another, and especially when the supposed moderates turn out to be wolves in sheeps clothing.   Moderate after supposed moderate helping our government has been exposed to be anything but moderate.

                • Will Ross

                  No, Brian: I am pointing out that you read a statement of fact , “…
                  your comments look xenophobic to me” about your comment as a personal attack on you. This was not my literal or intended meaning though I can quite understand how in the context of this stream of comments you might interpret it as such.

                  Where did all this talk of terrorism come from? You mentioned it to discredit a particular group, but that is all. I used the word “fundamentalists” because that was what I meant. And I do believe that fundamentalists on all sides tend to reinforce one another, so the key struggle is between the moderate and the fundamentalist, not between the various flavours of fundamentalist. I suspect that this is something else we do not agree on, but feel free to correct me.

                  You are dead right that my problem is in estimating the numbers. I am naturally sceptical about what I read in the press. My limited experience is that every editor has a narrative which they need to tailor every story to fit. So it’s not that I’m ignoring the evidence: I just haven’t seen it yet. 

                  You may well be right that the structure of Islam is fundamentally more vulnerable to fundamentalism than Christianity.  But that doesn’t in itself, as I think you agree, make every Muslim a fundamentalist. So it still comes down to the numbers.

                  I believe that most, if not all,  people are reasonable, though en masse they often don’t behave that way.

                  I agree with what you say about the manual, which is precisely why it is important to read it carefully. I’m happy to accept that it gets nastier later, but also that it is inconsistent so cannot be acted upon without some interpretation. Which brings us back to moderates and fundamentalists and numbers.

                  If we were Christians, it would be easy: we love them as we love ourselves and accept their insults cheerfully. In fact, as I was brought up in that tradition, I’m inclined to that approach anyway. As you may have noticed.

                  As we are commenting on “The Friendly Atheist”, I think the spirit my comments are closer to our host’s tone. If there is a troll, it isn’t me.

                • Anonymous

                  OK, I’ll drop issue of any claims against me, as you are close enough to a position I can’t object to.

                  “As we are commenting on “The Friendly Atheist”, I think the spirit of my comments are closer to our host’s tone.”

                  The title refers to Hemant, not me, or his commenters.

                  “Please make allowances for our cultural differences and try not to infer any intent beyond what I actually say. I am trying to do the same for you.”

                  Ok, I didn’t think you were being “unfriendly”.   I take into account that the written word is much harder to interpret.

                  “(Put another way, if there is a troll, it isn’t me!)”

                  Friendlyness isn’t a measure of whether you are trollish or not.     So any unfriendlyness you think you are reading in me isn’t about trolling.   I honestly disagree.  I honestly use my real name.   I’m being up front, and not playing games.

                  The fact that the subject was diverted to ad hominem attacks on me was in fact trollish.   The same concerns could have been expressed in the non-trollish way of asking me why I believed certain things.  So don’t be so sure you aren’t coming across as making trouble.

                  I’ll take your insinuation I’m actually the troll here, as playfulness, and not a trollish quip. 

                  ” But that doesn’t in itself, as I think you agree, make every Muslim a fundamentalist.”

                  Some self identifying muslims are atheists so you are right, but that was never my position.    I could go on and on with other stuff I know that one might think goes against my position but it doesn’t.     There are lots of outs here for self professed Muslims with regards to all sorts of things.

                  My original comment was to point out some hypocricy on the part of any Muslims that want to surpress what they find offensive, and to also broaden that charge to any Muslim who feels they have a right to feel offended by what is meant to offend here.   They sure might feel offended but they have no moral right to feel justified in that offense up and until they root out all the vile nonsense in their own religion that is offensive to others.     

                  Personally I find all sorts of things offensive to various degrees but I don’t get upset about it because I have no right to be offended.   I’ve got no problem with Muslims being offended by the drawing stick figures, but they just better not think they are justified in that offense when the guy they idolized walked into the shrines of other religions and destroyed them.   Such a double standard cannot be justified.

                  “I’m happy to accept that it gets nastier later…”
                  The Qur’an isn’t written in cronological order.   It was Mohammad who got nastier later.   There is a concept of abrogation where Mohammad’s later proclomations supersede his earlier, but there is no way to just look at the Qur’an an tell the order.    There are other documents for that.

                  “If we were Christians, it would be easy: we love them as we love ourselves and accept their insults cheerfully.”

                  I wish it was only insults.   I meant it when I claimed that the Qur’an incites violence and genocide.   There is a big difference between saying,  you are greedy, Jews are greedy (which the Qur’an says),  let’s kill all the lawyers, and an infallible deity instructs to kill all idolator that do not convert to Islam lest you to may end in hell.

                  I hope you can appreciate that what we regularlly consider criminal, inciting a mob to violence, is a far lesser crime.    Reasons being that 1) The victims are limited in scope.  2) The period limited.  3) The justification limited to the facts of the circumstances.  4) The incitement is based on personal opinion and less likely to be believed. 5) The inciter normally does not have cult-like cooperation from the mob and is thus carries less responsibility.   6) The normal situation is usually not based on a gross overgeneralization.

                  Although we can more closely understand the incitement of a mob to hang a suspected criminal the using of a gross overgeneralization (like god hates fags) is even less likely to be true (the odds of error go up as more people are subsummed).     It might be likely that a particular Jew is greedy as charged given evidence, but the odds are low that all Jews are greedy.   (Not all claims about groups work this way if the are definitional.)

                  In my original sentence hell was supposed to be but one example of the hipocrisy I was using for my point.   The mere fact they revere a guy like Mohammed who has perpetrated such a heinous crime is more evidence of their hipocrisy. 

                  Note that the hypocrisy isn’t accidental.   Mohammad specifically made statements like “persecution is worse than slaughter” when he justified his heinous acts to his followers.   Followers who were questioning these acts based on the morality of the day, and finding them lacking.    The “persecution” he spoke of was the fact he was thrown out of Mecca after spending a decade insulting the polytheists in their own temples, and finally conspiring with enemy tribes in Medina.   After Mohammad had expresssed his claims to divine revelation to the polytheists of Mecca, and told them their gods were all false, and they were all going to hell, they weren’t particularly kind to him when he showed up at their shrines to pray to his god.    After being thrown out he started raiding their caravans and killing their people.    At some point he when far beyond these norms to outright advocation of slaughter, and justified in on the basis that persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-Muslims].

                  Muslims get extremely pissed if you switch roles and point out that if we acted according to the Qur’an they’d all be dead.     For example, Muhammad in another case merely suspected that a few members of one Jewish tribe that had been cooperating with him might have cooperate with the enemy by passing information.    He had every male in the tribe beheaded as punishment.    Muslims justified this act because they claimed Mohammed was applying Jewish law to the Jews (which is nonsense BTW) in beheading false allies.      Just imagine if we applied this reasoning to Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, or other countries?   

                  Luckily for them we are not Muslim analogs.

                • Anonymous

                  So explain what this means, “your comments look xenophobic to me” if not an accusation of Xenophobia?   Especially in support of another commmenter who was more explicit.

                  You might also want to provide historical precident for this idea that supporting Islamic moderates has ever worked for anyone.   Muslims have been attacking the US since it’s inception, and so far what has worked has been to defeat them an to let them lick their own wounds.    The new policy being to try to rebuild them (and cultivate moderates) after defeating them doesn’t seem to work so well and is extremely expensive.   Bush from the outset lied about the nature of Islam, and acted as an appeaser in this regard.   So your experiment is being run.    Leftist critics seem to think things were going badly until a democrat got in office and escalated things.   Supporting supposed moderate uprisings in the middle east in addition to the increases in predator drone attacks.

                  The Qur’an says that true Muslims can defeat something like a hundred fold their numbers.    The exact opposite has been occuring.   We have single women soldiers beating off superior numbers of Muslim attackers.   We should be rubbing their noses in it with statements from the president bringing this up and saying “Either the Quran is wrong, Muhammad is lying, or these people who have brought us down on you are not true Muslims.   You decide.”   They need to also have the true nature of their religion rubbed in their noses at every opportunity so they can make true reforms.    Those reforms must include taking Mohammad much less seriously or they just aren’t going to work.   He was after all a genocidal maniac.

                • Will Ross

                  No problem, Brian. The language you used was, to me, very emotional and judgemental. 

                  It was only when we dug a little deeper and you shared your evidence that we can see that you do have evidence which shows that your distrust of the “other” is not just whipped up by some feeding frenzy in the press or some other form of groupthink. But the statements on their own did not carry the evidence and could contribute to such a feeding frenzy. And, to someone less open minded than me, might give the impression that the author was xenophobic. (To be honest the reply confusing xenophobia with racism didn’t help.)

                  Historical precedents? Islamic Spain was the most tolerant place in Medieval Europe: is that historical enough?

                  I’m not convinced that the benefits we gain from drone attacks is worth the collateral damage (and resulting motive for terrorism).  I don’t see how you can look at the Middle East now and say that our policy has been working.

                  If the moderates have managed to construct a coherent moderate view of Islam, why would that not “work”?

                • Anonymous

                  “Islamic Spain was the most tolerant place in Medieval Europe: is that historical enough?”

                  If it were a true statement.  It is not.  Look up the Cordoba massacres.   Then look up the history of ALL european countries of the time.    Sure there were some European countries that were less tolerant of Jews, but there were those that were more tolerant.   The history consisted of Jews fleeing from various Muslim countries to various Christian, and vice versa.     Jews did flee Islamic Spain btw.   In the end which countries ended up with the largest populations of Jews?   They were European.

                  Some of the historical documents used to prove the supposed superiorior of Muslims to Christians have to be taken in the light of where the Jews doing the complaining lived.     The grass is always greener on the other side and even if it isn’t when you want reform it’s useful for politicians to portray it otherwise.    Haven’t we been hearing all during the past decade or more how peaceful and tolerant Muslims are compared to us?  

                  There was a large scale persecution of Jews in Spain after the Muslims were kicked out but you have to realize that they were invaders, as were the Jews that came with them.   Any local cooperation of Jews with the Muslims was also reason to eject them.    Sorta like how the Haitian slave revolt was intolerant of all whites and had a flag that consisted of a white baby on a pike.

                  The history is complex and I think the competition is with who was more tolerant but who was more intolerant of the two religions on a country by country basis.     The muslims never showed true tolerance anywhere, period. 

                  Many of my muslim friends are shocked when they first got here how tolerant we are of each other, and unfortunately and ridiculously argue that it is a Muhammad wanted it.  No silly Muslim, it’s due to having governmental secularism and a limited republic.

                  “I’m not convinced that the benefits we gain from drone attacks is worth the collateral damage (and resulting motive for terrorism).  I don’t see how you can look at the Middle East now and say that our policy has been working.”

                  I’m not sure how you got that out of what I wrote.  Our invasion of Tripoli ended Islamic attacks on American shipping (and it is even in one of our patriotic songs, “… to the shores of Tripoli. “).   That was successful.  Our dealings with Islamic nuts in the Philipines worked (buried them in pig guts).  

                  Our current approach isn’t working, and I thought I made that clear.  Acting as the private army for the Saudi’s, or Shite Iraqi’s, and then setting up Islamic governments which we then subsidize as socialist economies is incredibly stupid.  Likewise our constant aid to enemy countries like Pakistan and Egypt.    Yes they are our enemies, as has been clear for a very long time.

                • Anonymous

                  Also do a google search on “Bat Ye’or: Andalusian Myth, Eurabian Reality”
                  She’s a historian that is hated by the left.   Read the article then look up the criticisms of it and see if they properly address her.      I think she is a inflammatory in her retoric but I don’t know of inaccuracy in the history she expounds in that article.   

                  I don’t buy the demographic arguments she makes elsewhere.   I think Muslims under secular governments will eventually move to lower birth rates, for the same reasons everyone else has less children in advanced countries.  I could be wrong, as on anything I say.  You will have to research directly yourself.

            • Anonymous

              Jews are both an ethnicity and a religion.   There can be Jews who are not in fact believers in Judaism.    The same doesn’t happen with Islam.  It is a solely a belief system, and nothing more.   Thus when you state “I am Muslim” you either believe in the tenants of the religion or you are mistaken about your identity.   You aren’t Muslim if you are an atheist.   You can be atheist as a Jew.   So of course I can’t make claims about the religious beliefs of the ethnic Jews.

              The mere fact that one identifies as a Muslim indicates that one does not solely want to be understood as an individual.   Excluding those who self identifiy as Muslims to prevent persecution the act of declaring one Muslim is to accept certain claims.

              I understand that there are disagreements in Islam.   It is still a fact that those professing to be Muslims are accepting Islam, not the Amish faith, not Jainism, not pacifism, and not tolerance.    Once they accept it they have to live with the consequences of that acceptance.  One cannot volunteer in labeling oneself as a Nazi and then whine about being misunderstood as an individual.

              I am perfectly willing to say that “The Amish wants pacificism…”    Am I a “Xenophobe” for saying that?   I actually think pure pacifism in the sense the Amish practice it is a negative attribute.     That there might be someone was born Amish who likes to pick fights, and beats people up doesn’t make the statement wrong either.    He’ll soon find himself disavowed by the other Amish, in exactly the same way those Muslms who would openly state that there is no hell (aka Mohammad is a fucking liar), will find that they are shunned.

              The problem with Islam is that they won’t just find themselves shunned but beaten to a pulp or killed.    Examples:  Daughters of Muslims that want to pick and choose about what to believe in Islam.   They end up dead.  

              There are groups that are identified as “Muslims” but in fact aren’t Muslim in the sense of actually believing in the religion.   This kind of muslim can as a local phenomenon be considered ethnically Muslim, but only in a local sense.   I was not referring to cultural Muslims, and that should be obvious from the structure of the sentence.

              If I said, “Jews wish to believe in God” would you think that was xenophobic, because in fact there are cultural Jews who don’t even believe in god?   How about taking the sentence in context and understand that it is referring to Jews who believe in God, and not atheist Jews.  

              Hypocritical for a a guy who thinks that every right winger is immune to learning to be making such distinctions.   I don’t even self identify as a “Right Winger”, yet not only do you have me pegged as one you are applying your own personal prejudices to draw false conclusion about what I know and believe.

              You owe me a big apology, and you need to make a mea culpa on your misintepretation of what I write.

              Why on earth would I have a problem with a cultural Muslim who doesn’t go to Mosque, doesn’t read the Qur’an, thinks Muhammad was a liar, drinks booze, eats bacon, has gay sex, commits adultery, etc.  

              You have to understand however that the religious Muslims aren’t going to agree with calling an atheist who is culturally Muslim by the term Muslim.

              My problem is with those who actually are religious Muslims in that they actually believe in what Mohammad said, which includes offensive nonsense, then getting offended when their religion is questioned in any way.

              What don’t you understand about the fact that if I was in a Muslim country and paid to have a billboard put up that said “Atheism.” (or as a non-muslim drew Mohammed) that I would soon find myself afoul of all sorts of trouble.    Meanwhile, they openly denigrate non-Muslims on a regular basis, and their entire religion is a pyramid of genocidal intolerance.

              You don’t see the enormity of this hypocracy, which was the point of my original comment?

              Why do they get to denigrate me from the pulpit while being able to choke the shit out of me at a parade if they don’t like me mocking the guy who advocated my denigration?

              Why the hell do you think this way?   WHY????
               

    • sg

      He has supported Jessica Ahlquist and Damon Fowler by putting up a guest post in defense of them, by Andrew Tripp. As much as Stedman has been criticized for publishing guest posts by Karla McLaren, he should be credited for publishing Tripp.

      To be sure, I disagree with some of Tripp’s conclusion on what to do about cases like the harassment of Ahlquist (I think we should attempt to convert people to atheism, by any means necessary), but the post is calling attention to their marginalization and condemning it.

      • Anonymous

        I would add, too, that both John Figdor and I went down to Cranston to support Jessica, and I’ve know her for a while (since we spoke at the same CfI Leadership Conference and shared an awesome car ride up there with her dad). She’s awesome! We just try to split the load so we all focus on our areas of expertise. What Chris does best is bringing people together around a common cause, like the recent HungeRALLY which brought more than 100 students together to promote the discussion of issues like hunger, food insecurity and famine.

      • Rieux

        I’ve seen Tripp’s article. I’ll give him, Figdor, and Croft credit for supporting Ahlquist and Fowler.

        Nevertheless, Stedman’s public silence on such matters (has he ever publicly supported an atheist in a dispute with religious power?) remains deafening.

        • sg

          When Benson decided that McLaren’s words were effectively Stedman’s — “Oh hai, why can’t the new atheists be nice? …
          asks … Chris Stedman via a guest post on his blog by someone called
          Karla McLaren” — you commented in that thread but you didn’t object to
          Benson’s characterization.

          Either Benson was wrong to criticize Stedman for McLaren’s piece, or you’re wrong to not credit Stedman for Tripp’s piece.

          I happen to think it’s the latter, but either of those stances would be
          consistent. It can’t be that Stedman holds some responsibility only when
          we don’t like what his guest poster is saying.

          • sg

            Ugh I hate Disqus so much.

            • Rieux

              There, we are in complete agreement.

          • Rieux

            I’d say Ophelia’s introduction to the post is inaccurate. “Says Chris Stedman” is incorrect.

            But the blame that was cast on Stedman in that episode is not the mirror image of credit for Tripp that you are presenting it as. (As an aside, I’ll note that, in last spring’s dust-ups regarding gnubashing posted on Non Prophet Status, I focused all-but-solely on McLaren and her fellow guest-posting hatchet-wielder, Chris Luna; I barely touched Stedman.) Stedman was held responsible to some less-than-McLaren degree because he published severely dishonest attacks on innocent people. That act—reviewing a factually-challenged hatchet job and deciding to post it on one’s blog—is one that’s subject to ethical criticism; Stedman can’t be blamed for telling McLaren’s lies, but he can be dinged for publishing them.

            Credit for Tripp’s support for atheist victims of religious tyranny just doesn’t work the same way. It’s not terribly impressive that Stedman reviewed Tripp’s article (“Gee, it mentions these ‘Ahlquist’ and ‘Fowler’ kids—how novel….”) and decided to publish it; that takes little if any courage. Publishing someone else’s destructive lies is simply more blameworthy than publishing someone else’s advocacy for justice is praiseworthy.

            My statements here on this score have all been about direct support that Stedman himself has entirely failed to provide to Ahlquist, Fowler, and (to my knowledge) anyone else in a similar position. There have been a huge number of opportunities in the past several years for Stedman to express his direct support of atheists’ human rights and dignity where they are threatened, and yet his record on that score is a gaping hole.

            Again, my comments pertained to direct support by Stedman, not reflected credit he could theoretically leech from someone else. (Why in the world hasn’t he spoken up to agree with Tripp’s accounts of Ahlquist, Fowler and company? What has stopped him?)

            I agree that accusations of analogous direct responsibility for McLaren’s misconduct are wrongheaded, but Stedman has plenty to answer for from that episode without direct responsibility needing to enter into it.

            • sg

              But the blame that was cast on Stedman in that episode is not the mirror image of credit for Tripp that you are presenting it as. … Credit for Tripp’s support for atheist victims of religious tyranny just doesn’t work the same way. … Publishing someone else’s destructive lies is simply more blameworthy than publishing someone else’s advocacy for justice is praiseworthy.

              There is no rational, defensible reason why it should not work the same way. Your standard here is completely arbitrarily drawn. However, it’s trivial to understand why that standard appeals to you. Negativity bias, which everyone is prone to, makes the bad seem more salient to you.

              An attempt at a more objective standard would be to say that people simply can be held responsible for what they do, both the good and the bad. Stedman did a good thing by publishing Tripp’s piece, and while it may be a small thing, thus far you have given him no credit at all. Feel free to be backhanded in your compliment when you get around to giving him some small credit, but until you do, it is evident that you are having difficulty overcoming your bias sufficiently to recognize the fact.

              My statements here on this score have all been about direct support that Stedman himself has entirely failed to provide

              That’s the standard you’ve demanded, but there is no objective reason why it should be preferred. The fact is he still used his resources to promote awareness of intimidation against atheists. A “theocrat”, as you called him, would be unlikely to do that. You were the one who proposed that term, and his direct support for Tripp is evidence against that proposition.

              Why in the world hasn’t he spoken up to agree with Tripp’s accounts of Ahlquist, Fowler and company? What has stopped him?

              And why in the world haven’t I spoken up to agree with PZ’s recent defense of the NEPA Freethought Society? My silence must mean something!

              It’s not terribly impressive that Stedman reviewed Tripp’s article (“Gee, it mentions these ‘Ahlquist’ and ‘Fowler’ kids—how novel….”) and decided to publish it; that takes little if any courage.

              It takes no courage at all, zero, for Andrew Tripp to write in support of Ahlquist from his very safe vantage point. Therefore, there cannot be a difference in courage exerted between Tripp and Stedman that would justify giving Stedman no credit for his action of promoting Tripp’s piece.

              Your invocation of “courage” is just confused, muddled thinking. I almost dare not ask: have you been doing that neurotoxin which is virtue ethics, by any chance?

              • Rieux

                There is no rational, defensible reason why it should not work the same way.

                Bullshit. There is nothing irrational, indefensible, or even surprising about penalizing destructive misconduct at a greater rate than we reward valuable conduct. We’re not balancing risk against reward while we speculate on the stock market or design tort law here; we’re making ethical judgments in a universe in which it’s far easier (one could say cheaper) to kill or cripple a human being than it is to raise one to productive and actualized adulthood.

                Examples of such asymmetrical treatment abound in ordinary society: if you commit an unlawful homicide and are caught and convicted, you can expect to go to prison for a very long time. But if you save a life, the rewards you can expect to receive are vastly less significant than the killer’s long prison sentence is.

                Or, in a context somewhat closer to the Stedman example we are discussing, if I’m a newspaper publisher and I green-light an article chock-full of actionable libel, I and the paper am exposed to civil (possibly even criminal) liability for defamation. But if I approve an article that wins a Pulitzer Prize for reporting, the writer gets the prize (including the money), not me.

                That’s simply the reality of being a publisher, and indeed the reality of ordinary human ethical decision-making: acts that harm people are routinely treated as more worthy of ethical attention than acts that aid people are.

                The same approach can be found all over human history: as further e.g.s, take the Hippocratic principle of primum non nocere (“first, do no harm”); the Wiccan Rede (“An it harm none, do as thou wilt”); and, y’know, the Talmud (“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation”).

                All of these represent a recognition of the rather obvious fact that individual human beings have far more power to do harm to one another than we do to help one another. Which makes the asymmetry you scoff at an unavoidable fact of human endeavor.

                In this specific instance, Chris Stedman had more power to harm his fellow atheists by publishing McLaren and Luna’s lies than he did to help us by publishing Tripp’s support for victimized atheists. That matters. “Objectively,” even.

                My statements here on this score have all been about direct support that Stedman himself has entirely failed to provide….

                That’s the standard you’ve demanded, but there is no objective reason why it should be preferred.

                Again, that’s simply bullshit. Chris Stedman is a writer. He demonstrates which matters he cares about most by writing about them. As a result, there is nothing the slightest bit odd (or un-”objective”) about noting that Stedman has never TMK written Ahlquist’s or Fowler’s name (or the censorship of atheist ads in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, or Des Moines, Iowa, or Fort Worth, Texas, or….) in his life. That says  something about him, whether you care to recognize it or not.

                You can wave your arms around and gesticulate at Andrew Tripp all you’d like; regardless, all the “Ooh! Ooh! Look at this other thing somebody else wrote on his blog”ing you’re capable of does not change the facts that (1) Stedman himself has never, TMK, written anything of the kind, and (2) that is a relevant data point to use in drawing conclusions about the man’s priorities and outlook.

                .

                But enough. This entire snipe hunt you have dragged me onto is a pointless diversion. In point of fact I did not criticize Chris Stedman, either last year, this week, or anywhere in between, for publishing McLaren’s and Luna’s attacks on gnu atheists. That behavior of Stedman’s has nothing to do with the charges I’ve leveled at him here. (And on the other side of the coin, I did just give him the credit he’s due—which is to say a minuscule but nonzero amount—for printing Tripp’s article.)

                This is all pointless and irrelevant. Stedman has earned the justified bile of atheists by valuing religious privilege over atheist identity and autonomy. That is my rebuttal to Mehta’s defense of Stedman. Your issues regarding a year-old mess Stedman made on his blog have little to nothing to do with anything we were talking about.

                • sg

                  This is all pointless and irrelevant. Stedman has earned the justified bile of atheists by valuing religious privilege over atheist identity and autonomy. That is my rebuttal to Mehta’s defense of Stedman.

                  Meh. I haven’t suggested you aren’t justified in being angry at Stedman, though I object to certain inaccurate characterizations of him. If you thought I was discussing whether you should be angry at Stedman, then you imputed the wrong motivation to me. Rather, SIWOTI. You can hate his guts for all I care. Google will confirm I’ve said as much before: “I have preferences about which arguments are used if we fight, but whether we fight is not a big deal to me either way.”

                  You can wave your arms around and gesticulate at Andrew Tripp all you’d like; regardless, all the “Ooh! Ooh! Look at this other thing somebody else wrote on his blog”ing you’re capable of does not change the facts that (1) Stedman himself has never, TMK, written anything of the kind, and (2) that is a relevant data point to use in drawing conclusions about the man’s priorities and outlook.

                  Oh, it’s a data point of some kind, just like my silence on NEPA is a data point; it just isn’t sufficient to draw the conclusion you’re trying to arrive at. It may as well be considered evidence that he figured other people had it well covered, or perhaps, like me, he is rarely strongly motivated to chime in on topics which are wholly uncontroversial among the atheist community. If the latter, then that may be a personal failing of some kind — and if you fall back to this lesser charge, I won’t dispute it — but it still doesn’t add up to what you want.

                  You proposed that Stedman is a theocrat. That is the claim I’m disputing. You suggested his silence on Ahlquist is evidence that he’s a theocrat. Quite a leap, but it’s not wholly absurd to say that a theocrat would never give any support to Ahlquist.

                  So here we have evidence of Stedman giving indirect support to Ahlquist, by giving direct support to Tripp. This is evidence against your proposition. It is, as you say, a data point which does not line up with your desired conclusion.

                  Now, if you think that you get to define the rules of evidence, such that only direct support of Ahlquist counts, while indirect support counts not at all, you’re wrong. You just don’t understand how evidence works. What you can coherently say is that indirect support is not as strong of evidence as direct support. But it is evidence, and thus it is what you asked for, whether or not you understood the implications of your own request: it is “any reason to believe that the man is not just a drooling theocrat who happens not to believe in gods.”

                  If you’re unable to accept that it is evidence against your proposition, then that just demonstrates the extent of your bias. If you are able to accept it as evidence against, then great, and it’s just unfortunate that it took you this long to acknowledge. I have some hope for the latter, because:

                  (And on the other side of the coin, I did just give him the credit he’s due—which is to say a minuscule but nonzero amount—for printing Tripp’s article.)

                  Well, you didn’t acknowledge that he was due any credit until now, but it’s good that you did now.

                  Again, that’s simply bullshit. Chris Stedman is a writer. He demonstrates which matters he cares about most by writing about them.

                  But that’s not all he is. He is also a blog editor, who solicits posts from numerous guest bloggers who write things that interest him. He demonstrates also some matters he cares about via who he publishes. It did indicate something about his priorities that he published McLaren’s piece, after all. And it does indicate something about his priorities that he published Tripp.

                  He probably does care most about those things he writes about. That’s a reasonable inference. But it’s not reasonable to infer that he doesn’t care at all about the topics of those guest posts he publishes. They’re not random; they average a certain tone, after all.

                  If he cares less about Ahlquist than his ex-pastor, you may find that immoral of him, but it doesn’t indicate that he’s a theocrat. Your claim does not hold up. And your notions of evidence appear to be quite muddled.

                • sg

                  Examples of such asymmetrical treatment abound in ordinary society: if you commit an unlawful homicide and are caught and convicted, you can expect to go to prison for a very long time. But if you save a life, the rewards you can expect to receive are vastly less significant than the killer’s long prison sentence is.

                  This doesn’t support your understanding at all. Such prosocial behavior as saving a life doesn’t need to be strongly externally incentivized because we’re already prone to prosocial behavior in ordinary everyday life. So this particular difference in incentives isn’t prima facie a value judgment; it’s simply a function of the fact that strong incentives for prosociality are already factored in and paid for: cf. the experiments where dropping an item in front of a toddler results in the kid picking it up and handing it to you, without any reinforcement necessary. It’s not unfounded to say that virtue is often its own reward.

                  Or, in a context somewhat closer to the Stedman example we are discussing, if I’m a newspaper publisher and I green-light an article chock-full of actionable libel, I and the paper am exposed to civil (possibly even criminal) liability for defamation. But if I approve an article that wins a Pulitzer Prize for reporting, the writer gets the prize (including the money), not me.

                  Ha. I would have crumpled this one up. Your first example was a much more respectable attempt. The publisher of a libelous piece is generally subject to tort because it’s the publisher who’s collecting the profits. It’s also perfectly possible to sue the writer — just google “sues journalist” — but you don’t hear about it as often because it’s hard to get blood from a stone. The fact that writers win Pulitzers is simply a recognition of who did the bulk of the creative work.

                  The same approach can be found all over human history: as further e.g.s, take the Hippocratic principle of primum non nocere (“first, do no harm”); the Wiccan Rede (“An it harm none, do as thou wilt”); and, y’know, the Talmud (“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation”).

                  This attempt is better than the second, but still inferior to the first. You seem unaware of any controversy about whether negative or positive formulations are preferable.

                  You’ve picked out Hillel’s version of the golden rule, which was a negative expression of it. But you forget that when the writers of Matthew and Luke expressed it, they chose positive expressions: “in everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” and “do to others as you would have them do to you.”

                  You’ve selectively remembered the Hippocratic oath, which in fact includes a positive and negative formulation side by side: “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.” There is no explicit guide included as to which should take precedence when they conflict; that is apparently left up to the individual.

                  And the Wiccan Rede is but a response to Crowley, who took the second clause to be the whole of the law.

                  Sagan called the negative form the silver rule, regarding it to be inferior to the positive. I’m conflicted on the matter of preference — rather, I have a more fundamental disagreement with the whole distinction — but my point is there’s a longstanding controversy over this which you pretend is settled.

                  All of these represent a recognition of the rather obvious fact that individual human beings have far more power to do harm to one another than we do to help one another.

                  So you assert. Alas, all your examples fail to make that case. Again the reason you think this is obvious is because of negativity bias. You gave it one and a half good tries, but in the end it was all petitio principii.

                • sg

                  An interesting note: to Laozi is attributed a neutral form, with no preference either way: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.”

    • sg

      I’m surprised that in 2012 people are still talking like there’s totally nothing wrong with Draw Muhammad Day.

      This is after DMD 2011 was taken over by racists. scienceblogs dot com/pharyngula/2011/05/drawing_mohammed.php#comment-3928138

      That was predictable, since DMD 2010 was a response to a particular event — a threat which lots of people rightfully took seriously — and most of those responders didn’t see a compelling reason to continue it year after year, thus leaving the racists proportionally much more visible during 2011.

      I realize your quote from Stedman referred to DMD 2010, which as a one-off event, reasonable people disagree. If you don’t mean to extrapolate about the events of 2011 and 2012, then I’ve misunderstood the implication of your words.

      But your characterization of Stedman’s criticism of DMD as “a stab in the back” suggests that you won’t accept the legitimacy of any disagreement even about 2010.

      • sg

        Amend that to “legitimacy of any disagreement about 2010.” The “even” doesn’t make sense.

      • Rieux

        No, I’d say “It’s been taken over by racists” is a pretty good contender for the “principled disagreement with EDMD” that James (elsewhere on this thread) asked, and I agreed, that I’d accept.

        Distancing tolerant atheists from racist assholes is a perfectly legitimate and principled aim. Rewarding religious privilege and the attempts to enforce religious law it underwrites is very much not. The Stedman critique at issue is 100% the latter.

        • sg

          That it’s been taken over by racists is a criticism you allow for DMD 2011. This allowance does nothing to suggest that you’ll accept any criticism of DMD 2010, which is what I originally asked about.

          (BTW, Stedman did not endorse any attempt to enforce religious law. The
          MSA at that school said they believed the AHA’s actions would violate
          school policy. They may be right or wrong about that; I haven’t read the policy. But Madison’s policy, whatever it is, was already
          on the books and they’re within their rights to lobby the administration
          to interpret policy in their favor.)

          • Rieux

            This allowance does nothing to suggest that you’ll accept any criticism of DMD 2010, which is what I originally asked about.

            As I’ve said several times now, I’ll accept any principled criticism of EDMD, or indeed of any atheist endeavor of any kind and at any time. I’m not aware that any such criticism of EDMD 2010 exists, but who knows? I didn’t know about the takeover you described. (For that matter, I’ve only got it on your authority even now. Though, given the lack of discussion regarding continued EDMD events in the atheist blogosphere over the past year-plus, your testimony seems rather plausible.)

            BTW, Stedman did not endorse any attempt to enforce religious law. The 
            MSA at that school said they believed the AHA’s actions would violate 
            school policy.

            Oh, you mean this—from the MSA letter quoted in Hemant’s post on the subject?

            I would like to inform you that, as far as we understand, the event you are planning is illegal by the constitution of the University of Wisconsin (88-12 RACIST AND OTHER DISCRIMINATORY CONDUCT POLICY). Deviating from this law will offend not only the UW Muslim Students Association but the entire Muslim community on this campus and other organization of similar culture and faith. The Dean of Students shall be contacted immediately.

            “Stedman did not endorse any attempt to enforce religious law,” because the above is merely an attempt to enforce University policy, eh?Well, then, I guess this is the point at which I ask you what in the hell you’ve been smoking. How willfully blind can a person get? The above is obviously, indeed indisputably, an attempt to enforce religious law—the one barring depictions of Muhammad—by pretending that any violation of that law is “racist and[/or] discriminatory conduct.” The MSA letter itself drives that point home by balefully citing “offense” to Muslim students, and indeed “the entire Muslim community on this campus and other organization of similar culture and faith.” What possible basis could such “offense,” such accusations of “racism” and thus “illegal”ity, have besides the obvious conflict between depictions of Muhammad and Islamic religious law?

            I have a very hard time believing that you’re dumb enough to be snowed by such an utterly transparent attempt to use a campus speech code to enforce a religion’s blasphemy law. And then I’m a little insulted that you thought I’m dumb enough to be snowed that way. 

            Only slightly incidentally, Rule 88-12 of the University of Wisconsin Constitution, if it actually could be used to ban EDMD (and the MSA demonstrably thought it could), is utterly unquestionably unconstitutional. Thus, even if the MSA had been merely, as you bizarrely pretend, attempting to enforce a secular school policy, that policy happens to be blatantly illegal itself—once again rendering the MSA and their enabler, Stedman, tinpot tyrants attempting to shut down innocent atheists’ right to free expression. None of this makes Stedman look the slightest bit less ugly or blameworthy.

            Anyway: at this point, I’m afraid you’ve simply torched any vestige of credibility. Your pretense that “Stedman did not endorse any attempt to enforce religious law” on the grounds that the Muslim would-be theocrats attempted to use the UW Constitution, in a blatantly illegal fashion, … to enforce religious law is flatly ludicrous, if not laughable. Every single person involved in the matter—certainly including Stedman and surely including you—knew and knows perfectly well that the source of the entire conflict was the blasphemy laws favored by some Muslims. No one who flatly denies such a basic and indisputable fact—”Stedman did not endorse any attempt to enforce religious law” indeed!—has any claim to be taken seriously in this discussion.

            Kindly go waste someone else’s time.

            • sg

              Kindly go waste someone else’s time.

              Bossy! But I’ll be responding to whatever I want to respond to. If you feel some vague obligation to respond to anyone who speaks to you, I understand, but you can let go of that in my case and I won’t be offended.

              As I’ve said several times now, I’ll accept any principled criticism of EDMD, or indeed of any atheist endeavor of any kind and at any time. I’m not aware that any such criticism of EDMD 2010 exists, but who knows?

              I don’t think you’re telling the truth, but I also don’t think you’re aware that you’re not telling the truth. But let’s see how it goes.

              I didn’t know about the takeover you described. (For that matter, I’ve only got it on your authority even now.

              You must have overlooked it. In my first comment about DMD, I gave you a link to the Pharyngula thread where some of the evidence was collected and debated.

              The above is obviously, indeed indisputably, an attempt to enforce religious law—the one barring depictions of Muhammad—by pretending that any violation of that law is “racist and[/or] discriminatory conduct.”

              These claims about the “indisputable” are what make me think that no matter how sincerely open you think you are, you really can’t allow for the possibility that you’re wrong.

              We know that when people feel negative emotions in response to another’s actions, they tend to believe that the other person intended to cause them to feel those negative emotions (see DOI 10.1007/s11098-004-4510-0 for a review). And Muslims in the United States are already a viciously persecuted minority; on campus this self-consciousness may manifest as stereotype threat.

              I doubt you’ve read UW’s policy on what constitutes discrimination (and if not, your claim about indisputability is risibly irresponsible). Here it is: www dot wisconsin dot edu/bor/policies/rpd/rpd14-6.htm

              Assuming it’s mostly the same policy now as then, UW could be asked to consider whether some of the chalkers are intending to make Muslim students feel unwelcome. That’s not unheard of, since there had been nativists involved in other cases of drawing Muhammad.

              The university’s motivation is that they want to prevent incidents which “may lead minority students, employees, officials and guests to feel isolated or to choose to isolate themselves from the numerically predominant racial/ethnic group within the university.”

              The regents board’s policy gives examples of policies that could be implemented by university institutions to satisfy the requirements: “other discriminatory conduct means intentional conduct, either verbal or physical, that explicitly demeans the … religion … of an individual or individuals, and … creates an intimidating, hostile or demeaning environment for education, university ­related work, or other university authorized activity. In addition, institutions may wish to provide specific examples of racist and other discriminatory conduct, to further enhance understanding of the problem. Such examples might include: … ‘jokes’ that demean a victim’s … culture or history.”

              Use a bit of empathy and try to imagine it from an average Muslim student’s perspective. You’ve been targeted with slurs your whole life because you’re either African American or your family are recent immigrants. News of this upcoming event makes you feel uncomfortable and very distinctly separated from the norm of this campus community, othered. Because you’re human (see the aforementioned review article by Knobe), you may feel like the event’s organizers are intentionally trying to make you feel uncomfortable, othered, less than. And these negative feelings, coupled with a heightened self-consciousness of your difference, makes it difficult to give all your attention to your studies.

              That’s reason enough to try to seek some intervention with the school that puts their imprimatur on your standing as a valued and included member of the campus community, so you can get back to your education as soon as possible instead of having your difference made exceptionally salient not only to you but everyone on campus. And, luckily, the school already has a policy explicitly about how people should not be targeted to feel separate because of their religion.

              See? There is another reason to file a complaint like the MSA’s, not for the purpose of enforcing their religious rules on other people, but to have it made clear that they belong here too.

              My explanation is to be preferred because it accounts for situational factors, while yours is indistinguishable from the fundamental attribution error. My explanation considers that they are humans with emotions and complex, perhaps conflicting motivations; there is no reason to doubt that Ahmed Fikri was sincerely relating his self-concept when he said “I assure you that we believe in freedom of expression just as much as you purport to do.”

              Your explanation is indistinguishable from the fundamental attribution error as applied to groups, and the Knobe effect even predicts how you come to prefer your explanation: MSA consists of people who have a religious rule against drawing Muhammad, MSA seeks to prevent some others from drawing Muhammad publicly, you feel the latter would be an immoral outcome thus you conclude that the former obviously must be the intentional cause of the latter and, indisputably, no alternate intention could possibly explain it.

              Only slightly incidentally, Rule 88-12 of the University of Wisconsin Constitution, if it actually could be used to ban EDMD (and the MSA demonstrably thought it could), is utterly unquestionably unconstitutional.

              Oh, but only someone ignorant of constitutional law in practice could say “utterly unquestionably” in a case involving a school. I really wouldn’t be so certain.

              Go ahead and read that policy, and realize that it would very likely prohibit someone from standing in the campus quad and chanting racial slurs at passers-by. Then consider that under normal US law, it’s absolutely protected speech to stand in a public place and chant racial slurs at passers-by. How can this incongruence be?

              Schools generally have ended up being allowed an authority to regulate speech for the purpose of facilitating an atmosphere conducive to education, and the schools are generally left to determine how they do this.

              If I had to bet on how it would go down if this had gone to court, I do think it’s quite likely AHA would have won. But I only feel confident saying that because of a couple of this context: it was a short event since the chalk would last only a few days, and it was a political statement in response to a particular event occurring recently on the world stage.

              Thus, even if the MSA had been merely, as you bizarrely pretend, attempting to enforce a secular school policy, that policy happens to be blatantly illegal itself—once again rendering the MSA and their enabler, Stedman, tinpot tyrants attempting to shut down innocent atheists’ right to free expression.

              Please. This is sheer ignorance on your part.

              The right to demand that the rules on the books be enforced, and the duty to abide by those rules, is a central tenet of Rawlsian liberalism.

              Consider it from outside the US for a moment: citizens of the UK who expect their state to enforce its prohibitions against racist speech are not tinpot tyrants, even if the very existence of those rules offends Yank sensibilities. Likewise, students who petition UW because they have reason to think that Rule 88-12 protects them from jokes that demean their religion are not tyrants either. They are merely acting upon their rights in a Rawlsian framework.

              By the way, as much as you disagree with them, consider that you may have a duty to give them the benefit of the doubt as regards their motivations and goals. John Kilcullen gives a taste of the argument: “Rawls gives an interesting treatment of the duty to obey the existing law, and the right and (sometimes) duty to change it if necessary by illegal means, and the duty to be reasonably tolerant of other people who (in your opinion wrongly) want to change the law and use illegal means. Such questions arise when society is approximately but not perfectly just. Insofar as the existing order is just you should support it, not undermine it; and insofar as you enjoy benefits under it you have an obligation in fair play to obey its demands upon you, even if they are (somewhat) unjust. On the other hand, the duty to work toward more perfect justice may best be performed by means of civil disobedience or even rebellion (p. 373). Others who mistakenly think that the existing arrangements are unjust who adopt civil disobedience or rebellion as means toward what they think justice requires should be treated leniently out of respect for their concern for justice; they should not be treated simply as criminals.”

              Whatever you think about all this, however much it offends you, it is liberalism, as articulated by liberalism’s preeminent modern theorist. I’m not proposing that it’s the best way of organizing society. But this much is simply a fact: Rawlsian rule of law is not tyranny.

              • Anonymous

                This “Yank” would like to inform you that is a derogatory term, and that we don’t live under a “Rawlsian Framework”, thanking the lack of time travel very much. Also, you bigot, Muslims are not and have not been viciously persecuted in the US, as evidenced by crime statistics and if anything they disproportionately commit hate crimes against others as a group. Being black has no bearing on DMD, because Mohammad isn’t black. In case you were not aware the mainstream black Muslim groups in the Us are all segregationists so it is laughable to argue that my right to protest is limited by their need for inclusiveness. It’s best if you not throw every item of your ideological and ignorant misunderstanding of fact, law, psychology, logic, and US culture against the wall to see will stick, because you are indeed wasting everyone’s time who’d care to address your numerous misconceptions.

                The Rawlsian rule of law is in fact tyrannical despite your unsupported assertions. It is also faulty philosophy and reasoning. At root it argues that the government can violate an individuals natural rights in order to artificially generate a Rawlsian outcome, which easily meets the criteria for totalitarian government. Rawlsianism is your religion and you have no right to force it on me via your totalitarian interpretation of law. Rawlsianism differs only in its rationalizations not goals from Marxism, which resulted in many of the most notorious totalitarian systems on the planet.

                I don’t have time to address all your other errors. I disagree with Rieux only in his/her belief and use of privilege theory. There is no need to import this erroneous concept. The proper use of the word privilege along with the words ignorance, double standard, and perspective should be enough without importing silly concepts like being ignorant or having a different perspective, or being in the majority, is an example of having privilege.

        • Anonymous

          It is not at all principled. It is the height of intellectual dishonesty. It’s using guilt by association without any actual association. Racists will always like valid arguments against groups they hate. That does not make those arguments invalid. Next you guys will be shunning ice cream because white supremacists like vanilla.

      • Anonymous

        See the problem I have with guys like you are you are selectively blind. Did you ever notice all the racists in Christianity, Islam, etc? How come you are agreeing against Islam because it has been taken over by a bunch of racist?

      • Brian Macker

        You haven’t even supported your claim that DMD has been taken over by racists.  Your link fails to support anything.    I see zero credible evidence provided so far.    

        • sg

          Oh Brian. There are people in that thread saying they were thinking of participating until they saw the evidence of racism cited in that very thread.

          You are a known xenophobe and right-wing extremist, and as such have incentive to use motivated reasoning to ignore the evidence. But it’s there for anyone else who cares to read the thread.

          Sorry, but I can’t treat you as a serious participant in discussion, Brian; you aren’t capable of it even if you wanted to be. I can only encourage the reader to go read that thread and decide for themselves.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been an atheist for a while now. I think many atheists are in denial about the benefits of religion. When you hear Dawkins rattling on about how religion is like a virus, it becomes clear that many have lost all perspective on what religion actually is. When I remember growing up as a Christian, I remember a group of loving people coming together as a community every week. People you would never associate with were your “brothers and sisters.” I think the main benefit of religion is this very real community, something that is hard to create outside of religion. Communities outside of religion lack that overarching life-defining focus exactly because choice is involved, while religions convince their followers that there is no choice.

    I completely agree with de Botton that asking whether religion is true is rather pointless. What I’ve been searching for for years is something that really replaces that religious community with those strong bonds, and I have yet to find anything that matches it. I’ve even considered attending a Catholic church for the community and rituals (raised Protestant). de Botton identifies a real issue here, and everyone simply denying the issue does nothing to solve it. Humans were built for religion through evolution and vice versa.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      ” I completely agree with de Botton that asking whether religion is true
      is rather pointless. What I’ve been searching for for years is something
      that really replaces that religious community with those strong bonds,
      and I have yet to find anything that matches it.”

      If you don’t care whether or not their claims are true you can just go back to the church then. Here in the reality based community people tend to think that the truth matters quite a bit.

      • James Croft

        Way to welcome another member of our community! This is PRECISELY how we should talk to each other! Bravo Ewan – way to be welcoming, kind, thoughtful and generous!

        • Bruce Gorton

          James, you might have realised that, but a lot of atheists came out as atheists in spite of the threat that implied to their relationships with friends and family. They did this in the face of their family’s possible disaproval due to a respect for basic honesty.

          What makes you think they will not state their opinions in order to shelter the feelings of douchebags who seem to think whether something is true or not doesn’t matter?

          • James Croft

            Bruce, can you not see the difference between “stating an opinion” and being obnoxious, rude and unwelcoming? I find the inability to distinguish between those two very troubling.

            • Bruce Gorton

              James – not as troubling as I find the intellectual dishonesty inherent in the idea “that asking whether religion is true of not is rather pointless”

              Once you have abandoned the value of basic honesty – the value of valuing truth – then all reason is out the window. 

              • Really?

                 Do you even understand what de Botton was saying?

                His point was: “we’ve done the ‘does god exist?’ thing yet” and it’s obviously “no.” So let’s focus on what to do from there.

                It’s the dumbest and shortsighted liberalism to suggest de Botton is some kind of post modernist who cares not for truth.

              • Anonymous

                I encourage you to go find a good lengthy piece on de Botton’s ideas (like in the WSJ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204883304577221603720817864.html), because I think you are misinterpreting what he’s saying.

                • Bruce Gorton

                  I wasn’t quoting de Botton, I was quoting you before you clarified your full position.

      • Anonymous

        Religious beliefs are clearly false. I have no problem telling people that their beliefs are false. What I have a problem with is the belief that because religious beliefs are false, all aspects of religion are useless and harmful. Religion evolved for a reason, it is imprinted in our Paleolithic brains. Many people seek meaningful happy lives; people ignore such an important part of themselves at their own peril.

    • Anonymous

      Do you really live in such an impoverished community that there aren’t organizations organized around something other than religion?  Get involved in a political movement.  Join an artistic or musical society.  Join a sports team.  Volunteer with a secular charity.   You don’t think those people can be your “brothers and sisters”?  If not, then you’ve never been on a sports team.  I really get irritated when people say that they are missing out on community because they aren’t in a church anymore.  Church is easy.  Parents indoctrinate children in to them and there are a million proselytizers eager to find you and suck you in if they don’t.  Atheism is hard because you need to decide who you are and find your own path and build that community around your own interests.  If you are willing to explore and get out there and get over this idea that community comes from religion, then you will do it.  

    • The Other Weirdo

       The only question about religion that must be asked, before all others, is whether it is true. If it is true, then subsequent discussions can follow. If it cannot be shown to be true, then no other discussion is required. Whatever other role religion performs can certainly be replicated through other means. You must remember, however, that religion has been a driving force in human affairs for 10,000 years. Atheism? Not so much. That doesn’t mean, however, that we need afford religion any respect merely because it espouses some fuzzy bunny feelings in people.

    • Anonymous

      For the rituals? What listening to nonsense in Latin?

    • Gordon Duffy

       I remember growing up religious, being lied to by old men making promises they could not keep and having them cover up child abuse because nobody could believe a priest would do anything wrong.

  • Conrad schnakenberg

     the Unitarians and Universalists are a mixture of theists and nontheists who get along very well together. They are much more concerned about making an impact in the world to produce a better society rather than arguing about theological differences.much of the Sunday talks are a great deal similar to your Ted talks rather than theological sermons of conventional churches. Check them out!

    • Anonymous

      The peculiar thing is that you praise the UU’s for having TED-style discussions about things other than religion, but how about discussions about religion?  The thing that annoys religious folks about the New Atheists is that we talk a lot about theology and religion, but in a way that highlights the fact that there is NO EVIDENCE for any of those claims.  We don’t want to talk about whether god is three-in-one or not, but about whether there is any evidence whatsoever for any supernatural beings, period.

      For too long, getting along well together has meant that no challenge of the evidentiary basis of religious claims was allowed.  From what I’ve heard from many atheists who have left UU, they were made to feel like second-class citizens and told that discussion of the evidentiary basis of religious claims was not allowed because of concerns for “getting along very well together.”

      If people really want weekly TED talks, organize a TED society where people get pop-cultural lectures every week.  But such an organization would be an educational one, not a religious one.  

  • Jeff

    I really wish this guy would not act like he’s speaking for anyone but himself. Maybe he needs validation from theists, but I don’t, so leave me out of it.

  • Anonymous

    Just my opinion, but I think these “nice” atheists are sad that there isn’t a sky daddy to watch over them and tell them what to do. They want it it to be true, they want it to be real, and they hate that it isn’t. They want a authoritarian, even tyrannical, supreme being to be in charge.

    I don’t want that and I’m glad it isn’t true. I don’t think it would be a good thing, anymore than having a authoritarian, tyrannical government would be a good thing.

    • Seriously?

      There is absolutely nothing in any of their writing to suggest that in the least.

      If you’re going to provide your opinion, at least provide it some grounding in fact rather than simple speculation. Judging without reading any of their work is exactly what Hemant is criticizing in this post.

      • Anonymous

        My reaction exactly.

      • Anonymous

        I thought I clearly stated I was offering my opinion. But it’s true I really don’t care what these wishy washy atheists and and agnostics think. Maybe it’s because where I live I don’t deal with sophisticated theologians and Christians. I deal with the kinds of people who think like Bryan Fischer and Rick Santorum and Joseph Farah. The people who don’t give a fuck how many gay kids kill themselves. Shit like that.

        • dubliner

           Well maybe that does result in a significant difference in attitude. I don’t live around people like that but around liberal religious and non religious, none of whom is terribly excited about it one way or another. So I do find the sheer aggression from the freethoughtsblog atheists frankly obnoxious. Maybe I wouldn’t if I were stuck in Noname, Missisippi all my life.

          I also wonder if in the same way the brain can effect sexual orientation, cis/trans etc could it be that there is a ‘religious’ brain especially given how widespread it is. So it may be asking too much to try to wipe out religion anymore than one could or should wipe out gay orientation for example. I prefer to concentrate on the elimination of the fundie forms of religion. Discourage extremism and the nastiness that we see as part and parcel of ‘faith’ tends to gradually fade away. And I also believe that people who are ‘questioning’ will be more attracted to the atheist side with carrots rather than sticks.

  • Anonymous

    Militant Atheists create the jagged little pill. Friendly Atheists help them swallow it.

  • Michael Waters

    Honestly I think Ian over at crommunist sums up my feelings on this post quite well. 
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist/2012/02/29/the-unfriendly-atheist/

  • Anonymous

    I think the problem is that there are Scientifically-Oriented Atheists (New Atheists) and Non-Scientifically-Oriented Atheists (the wishy-wasky Lit-Crit types of Atheists).  For the former, the truth or falsity of the claims is the really important matter.  To the extent that the latter want to poo-pooh the question of truth or falsity and muddy the water, and make ridiculous claims that suggest that atheism has any impact on the ability of a society to find awe, be moral, produce art, etc….  Has he been to an art gallery in the last century?  Lots of non-religious people don’t have any trouble at all producing art without needing to paint Jesus.

  • http://pandasthumb.org/ RBH

    Another atheist, Alain de Botton, has seen a similar reaction to his latest ideas. He suggested that atheists, like religious people, could use a place — an “awe-inspiring building” — where we could sit in peace and contemplate secular values like love and friendship.


    Still, as far as ideas go, the basis behind it makes sense — We could all use some quiet time to reflect on our lives and the things that matter most to us.

    Night before last I walked my dog an hour or so after sunset. The crescent moon, Venus, and Jupiter were lined up in the western sky, and Mars glowed in the eastern sky. Almost every time I do that–see the sky at night when I’m walking Sherlock, I actually consciously think (in close to these words) “I’m made out of atoms manufactured in stars, and so is Sherlock. He and I are distant cousins, family.” I require nothing more awe inspiring than the night sky and my big dog.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Symbols mean things. If they’re chalking up swastikas on a sidewalk then we know they stand for genocide  and can therefore be safely jeered until they go away to gnaw on their own livers. And there are plenty of anti-atheist demonstrations out there, some even recorded on this blog. The worse that usually happens is a bunch atheists show up with countersigns and they all parade together. But let an atheist say something mean, by which I mean truthful, about a religion, and the claws and threats of hell come out. So, really, who’s the bigger meanie in this sandbox?

  • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

    There is little doubt that I agree with PZ when it comes to challenging the religious, being vocal, and not pulling out punches. However, I also recognize that we all have a role to play. I don’t like when atheists attack other atheists when we still are on the losing side of the culture war. After religion becomes something that the majority of people laugh at and the religious are forced to go through a mental calculation before discussing, then we can have this debate about who is right deBotton or PZ.

    I think deBotton’s tower is ridiculously stupid and I don’t have a problem saying that, but it brings attention to the ridiculousness of churches and I am ready to capitalize on that. We need to stop the drama in our community and capitalize on each other’s endeavors… even the ones we don’t agree with.

    • Anonymous

      Sorry, I’m going to continue to attack Marxist, Objectivist, Scientologist, Buddhists, or any other atheist on subjects which they get wrong. I’ll only be supportive when they are right. I don’t see any side I agree with 100%.

      • http://twitter.com/DangerousTalk Staks Rosch

         That’s great Brian, you can attack anyone you disagree with and the fundamentalist Christians will take over the world. It’s one thing to criticize ridiculous ideas and beliefs of other atheists like Scientologists, but attacking a different approach to the problem just seems silly. Here I completely agree with PZ. I don’t care if Epstein and deBotton want to sing and hold hands with the religious. More power to them. But I don’t like when they criticize me for not doing the same. I think they should do their thing and let us do our thing. We don’t need the drama of atheist vs. atheist when we have real enemies at the gate. 

        • Anonymous

          I didn’t say I was attacking people, but subjects they were wrong about. You seem to want me to accept these falsehoods. If that’s your goal then I suggest you just accept the falsehoods of fundamentalist Christianity and you won’t have to worry about them taking over the world. You have to stop your in-group/out-group thinking. I happen to think PZ, Epstein, and deBotton are all wrong on various aspects of this. I wasn’t taking sides. I was pointing out that I can reject both sides where they are wrong.

          I don’t consider fundamentalists to be enemies. I view them as people who are mistaken in their world view. I view Myers in the same fashion. He takes very strident positions in areas he is totally ignorant about, and he is wrong.

  • Bruce Gorton

    As to the OP – you open up with the claim that Stedman is attacked for seeking religious alliances. Care to show us any examples? So far as I can see criticisms of him have more to do with his methods than his aims, and as Ophelia puts it, he isn’t being targeted he is being responded to. 

    • Anonymous

      Sounds about right. I’d want specifics for these claims, otherwise they are straw men.

  • Ndonnan

    Ha it must be very annoying to come across an out spoken moderate athiest.If he were a moslem he would be living in america ,working in Manhatten,middle class. While most of atheism is living in afganastan ,working in Kabul,taliban elite.Like the taliban, he should be slain[verbally],hes corrupted.No i see him as enlightened,less ignorant an individual…. a more evolved man if you like

    • Anonymous

      The only thing I find that is annoying is he claims to speak for me. Check out John Small Berries comment at the top. You analogy sucks and is the Islamic equivalent of a Godwin. The worst the most vitriolic atheist has done is little worse that what you just did with your comment. I don’t see any atheist blowing up schoolgirls over this unlike the Taliban.

  • David Giarratana

    There’s been a lot of talk on here about “derisive language” and “bullying.” Help me out: why does it matter if someone says a mean thing to you? What’s so hard about brushing that aside? What’s the big deal?

    It’s one thing if you’re being misrepresented by someone or falsely accused of something, but indignation over tone and hurt feelings is a waste of time and energy.

    • dubliner

       I’m an adult and so for some strange reason when I attempt to chat with someone on pharyngula and the reply I get repeatedly is along the lines of “go fuck yourself and the goat you rode in on you moronic asshole ” – I’m disinclined to engage. Maybe if I were male, 20ish and experiencing surging testosterone I would relish such encounters but I’m not and I don’t.

  • http://NextReformationBlog.com/ James

    I don’t know anything more about Stedman other than the article I read in Relevant. But I can say I agree with the article.

    I’m a strong supporter of secularism and the ideas of atheism. Fighting to keep theocracy out of the US and defend a strong separation of church and state; yes! Draw Mohammed day; cool.

    But I also put more emphasis on our actions than our beliefs. Deeds not creeds I say. And so I have no problem working with the religious on humanitarian and community building efforts. I don’t care if you believe a pink polka dot pony lives on the moon, if you want to come help hand out blankets and meals to the needy in my community I’m more than glad to work with you.

    There’s a time and place to debate religion, but when we’re working together to help our community and they aren’t trying to preach at anybody, I’m not going to pick that fight for the sake of fighting. These are the religious people I can and do work with – ones that put people before dogma.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing more atheists take a break from blogging about secular morality or calling us “Uncle Toms” for once and pick up a soup ladle or collect some blankets and help out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Kovach/1270634973 Matt Kovach

    we are not amused

  • Anonymous

    Chris Stedman is my kind of atheist.  I hadn’t heard a word of him before this article, so I thank you for introducing me to him.  I have been attacked by internet atheists for failing to attack the religious simply because they’re religious.  I will expose fundamentalists for the harm they do to society and their flocks, but there are many more who simply want to get along in this world without hurting anyone else.  Which aligns with my own values.  I want us to get along in this world without acrimony, distrust, judgment (“because they are wrong” sounds just like “you’ll burn in hell”) and condescension.  We’re not going to bring truth to the dark corners of the world when so many favor the darkness.  And doesn’t that sound an awful lot like what the evangelicals do?  

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      So, the religious person says that  they should be able to impose their disapproval of same sex marriage on the whole of society by banning it, rather than on themselves by not marrying someone of the same sex. The gay folks say they should be allowed to do marry whoever they want as a basic human right.

      What do you do? Suggest that they should just ‘get along’?

      • Will Ross

        No. 

        They should argue about same sex marriage.

        Not about whether God exists.

  • Anonymous

    I’m seeing a very big blind spot in these accomodationists.    These various religions are defamatory of non-believers.     Sure many of their members are ignorant of or disavow some (not all) of these teachings.   That however is not an excuse.  It’s as if there were members of the KKK who say they are tolerant of black people, and are ignorant of the organizations founding claims, and actions.     Sorry, it is the responsiblity of the members of an organization to educate yourself about it, and leave if you don’t agree.    You can’t remain a member of the KKK and deal with it.   Dealing with it would require all sorts of measures.   The most obvious would be to disband, or reject the religion.     Another route is to actively teach about the errors that the organization has made, pay reparations, disavow past leaders, disavow documents, etc.

    Instead of asking for these actions of the defamers the accomdationists instead turn on the victims.    They tell us not to challenge these defamers but instead to roll on our backs and pee ourselves like some submissive dog.

    Hell no.   Hilter was a vile bastard.   Mohammad was worse than Hitler, and had he the military advantage Hitler had over his neighbors he would have committed even further genocide than he personally accomplished (before one of his female victims poisoned him).     Mohammads teachings resulted in far more murders of innocents than Nazism ever did.   That is a fact.   His genocidal instructions towards polytheists (idolators as he like to call them) resulted in tens of millions of deaths in the invasion and force conversions in India alone.

    Incitement to violence is a crime.   The Qur’an has entire chapters doing exactly that.  Incitement to theft is a crime.   The Qur’an has entire chapters justifying thieft and outlining how to divide the spoils of such briganny (see “The Spoils” in the Qur’an).    Defamation is a crime.   The Qur’an spents and inordinate time defaming idolators, christians, and jews.    Islam any objective measure Islam is a criminal conspiracy, not something to be respected by it’s many victims.

    I’m not allowed to be offended by a millenial old criminal conspiracy (in the legal sense of the word), the vile criminal acts of Mohammad and his original followers, the endless acts of violence of Muslims against non-Muslims as justified by their religion, and yet they are somehow justified in getting upset over a smily faced stick figure?   WTF!!!!

  • Andrew Bennett

    It’s humbling to admit, but I am much more willing to listen to you than to DeBotton or Stedman, primarily because of your reputations. To read your perspective on them has opened my eyes to how closed my ears were. Per your recommendation I will try to consider their ideas more carefully.

    P.S. Wouldn’t the ideal atheist temple be a museum? They have grand architecture, a peaceful environment for meditation on knowledge, wisdom and personal values, and they are educational.


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