Don’t say I’m one of the good atheists

In the comments on the Not So Different post, someone told me, “Chris, you are one of the actually reasonable atheists, and I enjoy your blog and have your book on UFO’s et al.” Sounds nice, but you know what? Don’t say stuff like that. It’s incredibly obnoxious. Here’s why.

When you say, “you’re one of the reasonable atheists,” or “you’re one of the good atheists,” you’re also saying, “those other atheists over there aren’t reasonable.” You’re saying, “those atheists over there are bad atheists.” You even imply that that being a reasonable atheist is unusual, that being a good atheist is unusual.

And while I can’t know what atheists you’re talking about, it’s a pretty safe bet I’ll disagree with you. No one is perfect, but on the whole I like people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, Greta Christina, and John W. Loftus–the people who most often get singled out as the “bad” atheists.

When you say I’m one of the “good” atheists in contrast to those “bad” atheists, you’re also implying that people should be able to look at me and see how bad all the other atheists are by contrast. It feels like I’m being made to support a cause I don’t support. It’s a little like taking the words of a scientists who accepts the theory of evolution and twisting their words to make it look like they reject evolution.

In fact, the fact that I don’t know who you’re talking about makes it especially sleazy. If you said, “ooh noo, Dawkins is so strident,” I can respond to that, but when you gesture vaguely at the “bad atheists,” that’s not something I can refute. It robs me of an easy way to respond to your misuse of my name and my writing. So don’t do that.

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