An Exclusive Excerpt from Chris Stedman’s Book Faitheist

Chris Stedman is an atheist.

He works with the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University, where he is the Assistant Humanist Chaplain, and blogs at NonProphet Status.

And he’s the subject of a hell of a lot of negative blogposts… mostly because he believes strongly in the interfaith movement and that atheists ought to participate in it — and that the kind of “New Atheism” that tears down and mocks religion without offering anything in its place is bad for our movement as a whole. (I know, I know, how dare he suggest we find common ground with religious people without compromising our own values? Criticize ideas instead of people?! Ridiculous.)

Yesterday marked the release of Chris’ new book: Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious (Beacon Press, 2012). An excerpt was published at Salon a couple of weeks ago.

Below is a different excerpt, one that fleshes out why Chris believes working together with religious people is our best option to remedy the anti-atheist stereotypes and why he believes a “take no prisoners” approach to atheism activism will backfire:

I believe that broadening the aims of the atheist movement to be more affirming [of interfaith outreach] and less antagonistic [while not neglecting legitimate, reasonable criticism] will mean that it will have more to offer people — that it will contribute something positive to their lives — and I believe that if the movement shifts in that direction, it can and will bring in folks who currently don’t feel welcome.

Indiscriminate attacks on “religion,” as if it were a single note instead of a complex chord, are a very real problem because they obscure Humanism’s larger aims — making the world a better, more rational place — with a distracting, destructive, and alienating narrative that doesn’t account for differences in belief and practice. Such behavior fundamentally limits who our movement appeals to and distracts us from focusing on cultivating our own uniquely secular ethics.

… After spending several years deeply embedded in the atheist movement, I know there is no consensus on atheism, nor do I think that the intolerance that proliferates in the atheist movement is equivalent to religious extremism. (Though whenever I hear fellow atheists defend the intolerance among atheists by saying that it pales in comparison to the violence of religious extremists, I always think to myself: “Those are pretty meager standards to hold yourself up against.”) The loudest voices are the most obvious, and it can be difficult to hear anyone else over their clamor — but the movement’s emphasis on critical thinking does allow it to escape some of the trappings of actual fundamentalism. And the problem of loud, intolerant voices eclipsing voices of moderation and inclusion isn’t one exclusive to the atheist movement.

To be sure, atheists aren’t entirely to blame for this extreme “us versus them” mentality between the religious and nonreligious. There are many among the religious who do atheists the same disservice. We’ve become the bogeymen and bogeywomen, frequently used as a rallying point for the Religious Right. Historically speaking, the term “secular humanism” was actually popularized as an epithet against atheists.

Today, atheist demonization is astoundingly common. For example, in the wake of the horrific shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in 2011, one right-wing pundit wrote: “When God is not in your life, evil will seek to fill the void.”

That same week, CNN commentator Erick Erickson attacked President Obama for making the national moment of silence in the wake of the shooting a time for “prayer or reflection.” Erickson accused the president of “accommodating atheists” and even used the example of the moment of silence as an opportunity to question Obama’s faith. “That things like this keep coming up suggests the general public is right in their skepticism of the sincerity of his faith,” said Erickson. In other words, any Christian who advocates for atheist inclusion isn’t a real Christian. No wonder few speak out against comments like Erickson’s.

Sadly, remarks like these aren’t seen by most Americans as extraordinary — in fact, they’re common currency. Not long after National Public Radio’s Juan Williams was let go for making controversial remarks about Muslims, Erickson’s remarks about atheists hardly inspired a murmur.

I hope that defending the nonreligious against rhetorical attacks like those made in the wake of this tragedy will become as instinctual as responding to those directed at our Muslim, Jewish, or Hindu neighbors. But, more generally, I hope more people will begin to act as watchdogs for rhetoric that demeans or diminishes any of our fellow humans, regardless of their religious or nonreligious identity.

So often when we talk about morality and ethics in the United States, we speak of religion in the same breath. As someone who’s been working as an interfaith activist for several years, I get invited to participate in a good number of initiatives that use a common language of “faith” to motivate people and establish the religious as somehow set apart and differently motivated than the rest of the world. While such initiatives usually have the best of intentions, they run the risk of implicitly demeaning those who do not associate with a religious tradition.

Until those of us who do not believe in God are seen as having an equal capacity to be moral, anti-atheist remarks will continue to perpetuate discrimination and atheists will be seen as less moral than the religious.

During the last several years I’ve met nontheists from all over; their stories have given me perspective on the difficulties some atheists face in day-to-day life. And yet, as sensitive as I am to these realities, they actually confirm what I believe about respectful engagement. Because there are so few atheists, because atheists are so distrusted, and because antireligious appeals currently constitute the movement’s primary form out of outreach, positive interaction with the religious is desperately needed.

When I go out and speak with religious individuals and communities about atheism, the most common feedback I get is that many people have had very negative experiences with atheists. I hasten to reassure them that the majority of atheists are just like everyone else — kind, generous, interested in living lives of meaning and purpose — and that the image of atheists as mean-spirited, nihilistic, and intolerant is a stereotype. But the increasingly vocal and vitriolic subset of the atheist community has made my work of persuading people to abandon their negative preconceptions of atheists a lot more difficult, and it makes it possible for religious people who don’t know many or any atheists to tokenize me and others doing similar work — to see us as the exceptions, to see me as the “one good atheist.” This is the opposite of what I and others are trying to accomplish, and it frustrates me that some atheists enable and perpetuate the widespread mistrust of atheists.

There are many possible answers to the question of how atheists should engage with the religious, but we will be no closer to the answer if we merely continue to debate it — and we will never answer it if we isolate ourselves from religious communities. We must engage. We may not know with certainty the best way to go about cooperation between the religious and the nonreligious, but the problems of the world are too numerous to debate it for long. We must find solidarity wherever we can — and act upon it.

Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious is now available online and in bookstores.

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.

  • jose

    The “It gets better” campaign should not have taken place; instead, another campaign called “I can get better (by not being so gay when I’m with you)” should surely win gay people their rights by finding common ground with the other side and appealing to it.

    • Vlad Chituc

      jose, I’m honestly curious how you read that excerpt and took from it the idea that Chris is advocating compromising your values and living with discrimination just to get along. He’s advocating the exact opposite, standing up for your values and acting decently to get the religious to see us as moral people. 

      • Nope

        “Interfaith Movement” implies the continued existence of faith.

        • Pseudonym

          FWIW, I agree that a word like “transfaith” makes more sense.

          That is a discussion that can be had once your foot is in the door. “Interfaith” is the word that religious people have used for a century at least and understand extremely well, and it’s been applied to dialogue with groups which don’t have a concept of “faith” with essentially no difficulty.

      • jose

        My values have always made me look immoral to them. What I’ve seen in my own country is that the social progress we’ve made has been achieved through old, traditional activism and big demonstrations – from divorce through birth control and sex ed to keeping christianism out of public schools to gay marriage among others. All those were battles with winners and losers, couldn’t have been any other way.

        The church will tolerate you and will accept your help with their projects if you play along, but when it comes to power, they won’t give it away freely no matter how good you look.

        As for the claim that the strident atheists are alienating people, I’d like to see his data. Seems to me the increasing number of Nones have little to do with new atheism or with Chris Stedman; the fact that religious authorities can’t help themselves fucking up again and again, which makes for terrible PR, would be my bet as a cause.

        • Pseudonym

          Who, precisely, is “them”?

          The “them” and “us” attitude is precisely one of the red flags that Stedman identifies as a fundamentalist attitude which has no place in Humanism.

          • jose

             Catholics.

          • jose

             Is Stedman one of those people who “don’t see color” either?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    After spending several years deeply embedded in the atheist movement, I know there is no consensus on atheism…

    WTF dude? There is a clear consensus that atheism is a lack of belief in gods and the supernatural. After several years “deeply embedded in the atheist movement” you haven’t picked up on that?

    • http://nonprophetstatus.com/ Vlad Chituc

      Maybe he meant more “what the goals of atheism should be” or “how an atheist should act” or “what is the unified front of atheism” rather than “what does atheism mean,” which is how you’re reading it. Since it doesn’t really make any sense in the context of the piece, don’t be so quick to read it that way?

      • Reginald Selkirk

         In other words, he is not a very good writer. The only way you can make sense of it is to pretend he wrote something other than he did.

        • Pseudonym

          In other words, he is not a very good writer.

          Or possibly Hemant is not a very good excerpter.

          Or perhaps Hemant didn’t spend as long contextualising the excerpt for a blog post as he would were he writing a book, and expected that his readers would know to apply the basic methodological rules of critical thinking.

          There are many possibilities. I humbly offer but two alternatives.

      • Pedro Lemos

        “Since it doesn’t really make any sense in the context of the piece, don’t be so quick to read it that way?”

        You sounded just like the priest of the church I used to attend some years ago, talking about some bible passages…

        • http://nonprophetstatus.com/ Vlad Chituc

          I sound like a priest for pointing out that a less-than-charitable reading of an ambiguous passage makes no sense at all in context?

          Chris talks about loud voices and what the movement emphasizes, and we’re seriously suggesting that the passage should be read as Chris noting a lack of consensus on definition?

          But no, I guess asking people to read carefully, take things in context, and not be so quick to leap to conclusions is just me acting like a priest, or something,

  • C Peterson

    To some extent I agree with him. There should not be an atheist movement. The very concept of “New Atheism” is horrible and damaging. Atheists most certainly should not be arguing for anything, except perhaps for social acceptance of atheists. Atheists should not be challenging religion, as atheists.

    Where I differ, however, is in his willingness to tolerate religion. Religion needs to be even more aggressively attacked. It needs to be ridiculed, it needs to be challenged, it needs to be pulled down, it needs to be removed from our society. But that isn’t the job of atheists. It is the job of humanists, of secularists, of rationalists, skeptics, and freethinkers. It is the job of progressives, who see religion holding humans back. It is the job of those with a natural and fundamental philosophical antagonism towards religion.

    • Gary B

      No matter what we call it, won’t the religious just perceive the challenge as coming from atheism?

      • C Peterson

        I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure if they are attacked by people who claim to speak for atheists (as ridiculous as that is), they will perceive atheism as the source of the challenge (again, as ridiculous as that idea is).

    • ortcutt

      Why shouldn’t there be a New Atheist intellectual movement?  The following New Atheist claims are both true and important.   

      (1) The claims of religion (including the claim that there are gods) are without evidentiary basis.
      (2) Religion corrupts thinking about evidence because it wants to hide that it has none.  As a result, religion is often hostile to science and supportive of rubbish like Post-modernism.
      (3) Religious claims can and should be challenged.
      (4) The moral teachings of religion are frequently immoral and contrary to human thriving.

      All of these things are true, but until a decade ago the only place where you read any such things was in Prometheus Books books that no one other than atheists read.  That has changed completely and it’s why the New Atheist intellectual movement is important.

      • C Peterson

        Because none of those claims have anything to do with atheism. It’s a corruption to make that association.

        • ortcutt

          Atheism per se is just a corollary of the core concerns of the New Atheists.  I would think that anyone who had read any of the books would have noticed that.  Is it just that you don’t like the term “New Atheism”?  Not liking the name is different from not liking New Atheism as an intellectual movement.  I don’t give a damn about the name, but I wholeheartedly support the intellectual movement.

          • C Peterson

            The name isn’t the issue, except that it includes “atheism”, which has no message and has no connection to the tenets of the so-called movement.

            There is much about the “movement” that I like, but I turn away from everyone who claims their position is based on atheism. They are fools, they harm atheists, and they harm the  “movement”.

        • B-Lar

          If religion could exist in a vacuum, then I might agree with you. If religious people could leave evidence denial, sacred premises, and false morality out of the societal discourse, then there would be no need for conflict.

          Unfortunately that is not the case. The challenge is prudent and neccesary for our development as a race. Bad ideas must be challenged for us to have good ideas which stand up under challenge.

          • C Peterson

            But I’m not arguing against the challenge.

            • Rob

              You said: “none of those claims have anything to do with atheism.” and that is bogus. If someone is claiming to be an atheist, and then goes on to fail to logically infer that a challenge is neccesary, and subsequently make that challenge then they might as well have never started thinking about the subject in the first place. If your ideology is not manifest in the real world then it is empty.

              Can you summarise what you ARE arguing against?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Criticize ideas instead of people?! Ridiculous.

    Uh huh. Read these excerpts from Stedman’s piece at Salon and tell me if Stedman follows this advice.
    Just a shy kid with holes in his socks
    Also tell me whether you think that Stedman is a) a good writer b) honest

  • http://www.facebook.com/crystalwheel Crystal Bandy Thomas

    This really resonated with me.  During the time that I was a practicing Christian, one of the sermons preached was  John 4:35 – “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest?
    behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that
    they are white already unto harvest.”  I took that to mean that there were lots of people who were not believers and we needed to convert them. 

    Well, after I deconverted from Xtianity…Lo and Behold!  I can’t find any unbelievers to be friends with!  And to those to whom I have come out to as athiest…well, I might as well be wearing horns.  I was pretty astounded…where is this harvest of unbelievers for me to hang out with?

    So, if I want any friends at all in my area…this looks like reasonable advice…

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Well, after I deconverted from Xtianity…Lo and Behold!  I can’t find any unbelievers to be friends with!

      Maybe the Bible-quoting is putting them off.

      • http://www.facebook.com/crystalwheel Crystal Bandy Thomas

         It’s called a reference …

  • Baal

    I keep trying to have people accept the idea that there is a difference between being hated for more or less politely saying someone is not living their life consistent with reality (i.e. they are deluded) and being hated for telling someone they and their group shouldn’t exist and they are inherently subhuman defects.  I do see Steadman’s point that there is overuse of intentional marginalization by social justice aligned folks (no, I’m not going to point it out and my not doing that only means I don’t jump to you piper any more than anyone elses, try being reflective on the essential harmfulness of all marginalization). 
    Where I break with Steadman is that I don’t see the major denominations of christianity (mormons, catholics, assembly of god (conservative protestants generally) etc) as having much that is good about them.  I.e. there isn’t much baby in the bath water.  As such, it’s necessary to work to identify and disconnect those religions from the places they are harmful. One such example is in gay adoptions, orphans have better outcomes (less crime higher income) if they are placed with a gay couple than if left in foster care.  The RCC refuses to place adoptions with gay couples so the RCC needs to be forced out or bow out of adoptions. 

  • Octoberfurst

     I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand I think it is a good idea to befriend theists and try to find common ground.  (After all, we are in the minority and it is good to have allies.) But on the other hand I find most religious beliefs  so stupid and backwards that I have a hard time not being critical when I hear a religious person say something ignorant like “The Bible says gays are an abomination” or ‘I believe that God created the universe in 6 literal days 6,000 yrs ago.”  I then wonder how I can find common ground with people who think like this.  

    • C Peterson

      More of my friends are theists than otherwise. I don’t really have any problem being friends- sometimes good friends- with believers, while at the same time being militantly anti-religion. And most of my religious friends know how anti-religion I am, and somehow we still get along.

      We have loads of common ground in non-religious areas, after all. And they see that I don’t have horns and a tail. And a few of them are actually interested in rational discussion about the subject.

      Standing against religion and theism isn’t the same thing as standing against religionists and theists.

      • Octoberfurst

         I too have a number of theistic friends. (What atheist doesn’t? Ninety percent of this country believes in God so if you only hung around with atheists you would be very lonely.)
          But what I was getting at is the idea of going out of our way to find common ground with believers.  But we believe in rationality and they believe in a sky fairy and a “holy book” written 2,000+ years ago.  Granted we probably could find some common ground with liberal Christians. But evangelicals, conservative Catholics and fundies? Not so much.  Just sayin’.

        • C Peterson

          I agree, there may be little common ground on religious philosophy, especially with fundies. But there are other areas where we have common ground, and that allows us to be friends, and avoid some sort of great divide.

    • Pseudonym

      This is just a suggestion, but you might like to spend some time understanding how interfaith dialogue works. For over a century, theists have managed to find common ground with other theists from different religions and denominations, even when there are plenty of “I think you’re wrong about that”-type differences.

      Theists and atheists just happen to have a different collection of differences.

      If it helps, fundamentalist Christians who think that homosexual people are an abomination or are young-Earth creationists are generally not interested in dialogue, even with other Christians. The Fred Phelpses and Jack Chicks of this world don’t even think that other Christians are really Christian. Rest assured, those are not the people who might be interested in finding common ground.

      • Octoberfurst

        Good point.

  • Roy Gamsgrø

    Intolerance keep  being mentioned… Just in that excerpt, atheists were called intolerant four times. Why exactly is it that atheists are being called intolerant?

    Because we don’t tolerate parents beating and murdering their children in the name of their deity?
    Because we don’t tolerate that the Benny the Rat is fighting the use of condoms in AIDS-ravaged countries?
    Because we don’t tolerate that youths are being demonised because of their sexual orientation?
    Because we don’t tolerate that churches are allowed to brainwash children in public schools?
    Because we don’t tolerate that religion gets a free pass when it comes to human rights violations?
    Because we don’t tolerate that religion

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4VYQXMYJ3MGO74VD6Q7VZIYOQA Bonnie

      @google-cd466415b76fd9f778a3468fd14af320:disqus - You may not be a Faitheist, but you’re my kind of atheist!

      Stedman may be overestimating our rancor. I don’t think too many “New Atheists” would attack the quietly religious people who live by modern moral standards and just happen to believe in a higher power and life after death. We may question those beliefs but we’re not going to be all-out pugilistic about it.

      OTOH, the types of people that Roy is talking about, who use religion as a rallying point to commit all sorts of atrocities and terrorist attacks, those are the people we are intolerant of, and we should be!

    • Teh Lady

      Money.

    • Pseudonym

      Rather than guess (and incorrectly at that), a moment with Google reveals some specific examples of intolerance identified by Stedman, some of which was directed at himself.

      I’m not Stedman so I’m guessing, but I suspect that there are two answers to your last question. What the religious have that atheists need, is a) a lot of people and allies, and b) a large wing that is tolerant of difference. Interfaith dialogue would help atheists gain both.

      • B-Lar

        The tolerance of difference thing is a total red herring. Sure, each fragment of religion thinks the other is fundmentally wrong, but they dont tolerate each other with mutual hoest respect. They simply dont ask difficult questions of one another because they know that the same questions will be asked of themselves. It is a communal head/sand interface excersise.
        To demand Atheists also engage in this excersise is nonsense. We can ask the questions because we arent afraid of the answers. Stedman’s suggestion that we all just get along is disingenious and he doesnt seem to understand that reason and delusion cannot stand side by side. Dont pretend to respect something when you dont. You only end up disrespecting everyone that way.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    Faithiesm is I am afraid intellectually dishonest and actually insulting to believers. What this is saying is if we patronise religion by pretending it has a point atheists will be liked better.
    It is not a life I could live and still respect myself.

    • B-Lar

      Like, like, a thousand times, like.

  • ortcutt

    Why does anything need to “replace religion”?  Billions of the world’s people get along just fine without religion.   Interfaith?  What relevance do the few stragglers who cling to religion really have in our world?  Why should I be searching for them in order to hang out with them?  For someone who lives in Boston, Stedman seems to have not noticed that hardly anyone under 40 gives two sh*ts about religion here.

  • Teh Lady

    I am getting tired of your passive-aggressiveness, Hemant. Who are these atheist people who only exist to belittle and hate every religious believer?  Are they some random dudes from facebook writing things like “oh man… theist are so dumb!1! We athiests are like so smart!”? I mean, who are they and where are they? Because I have yet to encounter even a one atheist who truly thought that every theist was an idiot for having faith or an atheist who refused to have anything to do with anyone who was religious in any way.

    I guess I’m saying that you and Stedman are fighting against a lot of straw. Also, “mocks religion without offering anything in its place”? Again with the America-centrism. You act like lack of religion is some kind of a hole in one’s life… It’s not. Very few people give a shit about religion in Northern Europe, for example, and we seem to be doing rather well even without the Harvard Humanists.

    • Pseudonym

      Stedman actually addressed this in an interview in the Token Skeptic podcast. From the transcript:

      I’ve been very surprised. I’m sometimes afraid to say much about the
      level of vitriol that I and others have received. Because I really don’t
      want to reinforce the worst stereotypes that exist out there about the
      non‑religious. Because, again, I don’t think that people who are saying
      those kinds of things do represent atheism in the broader perspective,
      or atheists in the broader perspective. I tried to walk that line in my
      book by saying, “Here’s an issue I see.”

      I think it’s honestly a minority perspective, like most vocal,
      divisive perspectives. Because they’re vocal and divisive, they are loud
      and they get the most play. But I don’t think they’re representative. I
      guess I just hope that people will… If they disagree with the ideas I
      put forth in the book, that’s great. I’m glad for the discussion. I seek
      opportunities to think critically about my ideas.

      But it is discouraging to have your experiences invalidated or
      discounted, just because they don’t resonate with someone else. Just
      because someone else hasn’t experienced that doesn’t mean that I or
      others haven’t.

      This reminds me a lot of the problems with misogyny and bad treatment of women at skepticism conferences, of the type which Skepchick spends a lot of time talking about. One of the sad truths about endemic bad behaviour in communities is that it’s often invisible to those who are not on the receiving end.

      A Roman Catholic living in the mid-20th century could equally have asked who all these supposed child-abusing priests were. After all, no priest ever tried to abuse them. Sounds like a straw man, right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/elcrabofanger Ian Caballero

    Yeah, we’re such horrible people for calling the religious on their bullshit. And for not recanting our heresies or at least admitting that their “faith” is a good thing.

    F that.

    I have theist friends. They know I’m an atheist. They know that we fundamentally disagree on certain issues. The guy who is sitting across from me right this very second is a devout churchgoer. He’s also my close friend of many years. I don’t use my atheist as a bludgeon, and he refrains from doing the same with his faith. The reason for this is simple – we don’t act like dicks. We can disagree, and discuss things.

    That being said, we absolutely need people to call the religious out on their bullshit. The end. All approaches should be examined, and what works in one case won’t work in another. There’s nothing wrong with Steadman trying to find common ground, to work with the faithful, and to generally try to be a nice guy. But he doesn’t get to call out Dawkins, or Myers, or anybody, for calling the vicious, hateful, murderous thugs populating religious communities exactly what they are. And we absolutely should challenge religion.  Period.

  • primenumbers

    Working with religions for common ground just entrenches the religious privileges in our society.

  • Pedro Lemos

    “Indiscriminate attacks on “religion,” as if it were a single note instead of a complex chord, are a very real problem because they obscure Humanism’s larger aims — making the world a better, more rational place — with a distracting, destructive, and alienating narrative that doesn’t account for differences in belief and practice. ”

    As far as I can tell, atheism attacks on “religion” are rarely indiscriminate. I doubt you would see an atheist criticizing a christian,  a muslim, a jew or any other religious person for doing something good (you may question his reasons for doing that, but you certainly wouldn´t criticize the act itself).
    What I see more often is fellow atheists criticizing bad things done in the name of religion. Like this: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/03/28/sex-slaves-sold-in-the-name-of-religion/. And this: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/2012/09/07/somerville-priest-arrested-charges-repeated-indecent-assault-child-parishioner-over-ten-years/yqez8uJo9Fl3VexCDcwYcO/story.html. And this: http://www.wsmv.com/story/19606105/pastor-arrested-on-money-laundering-charges. And this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/9649232/Parents-kill-teenage-daughter-in-acid-attack-in-Kashmir.html. Just for the sake of examples.
    So please, enlighten me, how better and more rational are these religious people making the world?
    And what about the good part of religion, you ask. How are we gonna replace it? What good part of religion are you talking about in the first place? The sense of community? The charity acts? Good advices from authority figures? Because none of these things depend on religion or faith to exist. In fact I dare to say most of them exist in spite of religion. The only thing that maybe can´t be replaced is the confort religious people fell in believing they will have a better life after this one, or that their dear deceased relatives are resting eternally in a perfect place. But maybe if our lifes were improved here, we wouldn´t need that.
    So, we don´t simply attack religion haphazardly, as you seen to think (and if all atheists you met were like that, which I doubt, you must live in a very weird place). We attack the idiotic things religion allows to happen. Someone has to! Otherwise, any religion belief could be created to be the excuse to do anything.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jt.eberhard JT Eberhard

    “And he’s the subject of a hell of a lot of negative blogposts… mostly
    because he believes strongly in the interfaith movement and that
    atheists ought to participate in it — and that the kind of “New Atheism”
    that tears down and mocks religion without offering anything in its
    place is bad for our movement as a whole. (I know, I know, how dare he suggest we find common ground with religious people without compromising our own values? Criticize ideas instead of people?! Ridiculous.)”

    Wrong.  He is the subject of negativity because he’s a self-aggrandizing, passive aggressive, dishonest little shit who has a habit of throwing atheists under the bus in order to make inroads with the religious.

    • Reginald Selkirk

       JT tells it like it is.

      • Jap

        JT doesn’t give any evidence for his claim that Stedman is a “self-aggrandizing, passive aggressive, dishonest little shit who has a habit of throwing atheists under the bus in order to make inroads with the religious” and we should — as rationalists, skeptics, so on — ask for evidence of that. Anything else just smacks of jealousy and blatant unprofessionalism on the part of JT, and potentially libellous.

        • B-Lar

          You could read Stedman’s book. Perhaps JT has examined the evidence that is available to everyone and made his interpretation. the majority of his statement is technically subjective, but I aprove of his priorities. JT stands against irrationality in all its forms and is not scared of causing offence. Accomodationist is NOT his middle name.

          As for throwing atheists under the bus, I do recall reading something of Stedman’s where he appears to create fantastical caricatures of straw-atheists so that he can appear to by the shy hero of the peice maligned by the hateful godless. Would this count as evidence?

          • Pseudonym

            JT may have based his opinion in objective evidence, but there is none here. He just comes across as a guy with a personal beef.

            As for the latter, that might count as evidence if you could show that these supposed “fantastical caricatures of straw-atheists” were not accurately based on Stedman’s first-hand experience.

            • B-Lar

              You could do some background reading on the subject on JT’s blog http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/2011/12/defending-horrors-to-build-bridges/ he chats about a particular stedman episode and gives a bit more linkage to source. There are always going to be people who rile you up and Stedman seems to push buttons for some people. Google Stedman+criticism to have a look.

              Short of finding those atheists and seeing what they are like at a meeting myself, I can only give you my interpretation which is – I cant imagine atheists talking like that. They seemed like a bad caricature, and I was reminded of Clint Eastwood talking to a strawman designed for burning. http://www.salon.com/2012/10/21/toxic_atheism_drives_people_apart/ 
              (of course, I could be falling victim to a variation of no true scotsman here… we are speculating in the absence of evidence.)

              A good and charitable explanation would be that Stedman did what most humans do on a daily basis – presuppositional bias. A less charitable alternative is that he willfully misrepresented the truth in order to sell more books to the religious. A hypothesis which is not entirely unlikely. What do you think?

        • JBC

          JT calling somene a “little shit” is so hilarious.

          Want to see a “little shit” JT?  Look in the mirror.

    • Wikipedia

      [citation needed]

  • toth

    Did you even  read the Salon article that spawned the blog posts that (I assume) you’re referring to? It doesn’t sound like you have.

  • Marco Conti

    When the religious, or at least a good majority of them, learn to respect my ideas and myself as a person, when they stop telling us, or at least hinting, what awaits us if we don’t convert to their religion then I’ll be open to dial down the vitriol and find an “interfaith” alliance. 

    That day is not here. Not by a long shot and what he is doing is pandering. 
    Maybe he has earned that respect, the same way an uncle tom earns the with bossman respect. No thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/Freemage69 Freemage

    The problem isn’t that Stedman participates in interfaith exercises and organizations.  It’s that he expects all other atheists to do so, and insists that those who don’t are somehow setting society back, and so wants to show us the light.

    Greta Christina has pretty much shredded this position into little pieces, and I see no reason to keep repeating those arguments.

    Furthermore, Stedman and his fellow-travelers seem to forget that there’s more to it than just “ideas vs. people’.  Religion is about organization; individual, personal woo is harmless in most cases, and could probably be largely ignored, but it wasn’t just ‘ideas’ that led to an international organization operating to conceal horrific crimes against children, often by using the same funds they got from the victims’ parents.  It was “people”–specifically, men who decided that the suffering of children was nothing in comparison to the image of their Church.

  • Parse

    My personal impression of Stedman is that he’s That Friend.  Just how there are people who say “I’m not racist, I’ve got a black friend!”  or “I’m not homophobic, I’ve got a gay friend!,” he’s the one people think of when they say “I’m not anti-atheist, I’ve got an atheist friend!”

  • Laurence

    The real question I have for Chris Stedman and people that agree with him is how are we supposed to criticize religion, religious belief, and/or religious morality in a way that he would find acceptable.  Everytime I read something by him, he is either criticizing other atheists for “not doing it right” or praising interfaith work.  I want to know how the Chris Stedman method of criticizing people’s deeply held beliefs because I think being able to do that is extremely important and should not be given up.

    • B-Lar

      +1

  • JBC

    The problem is that Stedman is dishonest.  He agenda is the same as the “new” athesists…he wants to eliminate religion from the face of the earth.

    He just wants to be nice about it.

    I prefer it more open, more honest.

    I want to know who the enemy is, and what he plans to do if he gets the power.


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