Vlad Chituc misses the mark badly.

The ever dishonest Vlad Chituc has a post up over at Chris Stedman’s blog in response to Zach Alexander’s review of Stedman’s book, in which the bulk of Zach’s post goes unnoticed and the main point goes sailing over Vlad’s head.  But this paragraph in it stuck out to me and really illustrates the problem with Stedman and his lot:

Epistemic concerns are obviously important, but, to me at least, they seem necessarily grounded in ethics. That Chris and I might put moral concerns prior to epistemic concerns isn’t a bug that displays a disdain for knowledge, but rather a feature that properly grounds knowledge in human well-being. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.

How on earth does someone put moral concerns ahead of epistemic concerns?  The two cannot be uncoupled.  Look no further than the parents who pray their child to death, even as their love for their child fills them with nothing but the est intentions.  Look no further than the countless Christians who make up all-but-the-sum of the opposition to gay rights here in the United States, not because they do not have moral concerns, but because the unreasonable ideas rattling about their skulls twists their moral concerns into prejudice.  The list could go on and on.  The point is that in order to be moral you must make every effort to be rational, otherwise you run the risk of having your moral impulse twisted into cruelty.  Period.  If you fail your moral responsibility, you are necessarily failing your ethical responsibility.

This is why atheists like me get miffed when people like Chris run around telling people their particularly cherished irrationalities are beautiful.  Fantasy can be beautiful, but obviously wrong beliefs about the nature of the universe are not beautiful, and we do humanity a great disservice by confusing the two.

Zach pointed this out.  But instead of “we do put primacy on the accuracy of beliefs” in response Zach’s article, we get stuff like this from Vlad.

I’m more than happy to live a life as a scientist and accept all that comes with it, but it feels wrong to knowingly make someone’s life worse just so that they can have less ignorance. It just doesn’t seem like our choice to make (whereas I would have no qualms at all about going out of my way to help make a stranger’s life better).

There are very few cases where someone’s life can be made better by ignorance (shortly before death is the only example I can possibly think of).  And ignorance in the belly of humanity has never, ever been better for society.  If you think don’t think how dangerous/beneficial the ignorance and irrationalities of others our call to make, tell it to the LGBT community full of normal people turned into second-class citizens.  The easily discernible fact here is that beliefs are the gatekeepers of actions, and in a world where our actions affect those around us the beliefs of our neighbors are very much our business.  The degree to which our species flourishes is inversely bound to the extent to which we can purge ignorance from our population.  You can’t say you’re willing to let irrationality/ignorance live because it makes people happy and then gripe when people call you about not putting a premium on rationality.

This is why we can forgive people for attempting to be rational and failing.  This is also why we do not forgive religion, as religion is the only institution on the planet telling people that being irrational is ok.  Religion is the source of the idea that faith is noble rather than immoral.  So that is our message to religious people: you’re failing yourselves and you’re failing us.  Your faith is not beautiful, and the world would be better off without it.  You can argue about our approach, that we should be nicer, but when you start telling people that faith leads to great happiness as a society or that deeply seeded irrationalities can be beautiful, you’re just as wrong as they are.

Lastly, Vlad says…

As always, my posts shouldn’t be taken to be representative of Chris’s views

Presumably, this is to absolve Chris of any responsibility for what Vlad says or does.  This is a pretty smart move, but I don’t think it should work because Chris is giving Vlad a platform.  If someone works for Wendy’s, the things they say shouldn’t reflect on Wendy’s (when they’re not working, of course), because Wendy’s isn’t the one giving them the platform.  But Chris is giving Vlad a platform, so when Vlad doubles down on an obvious pile of bullshit and Chris gives him a space specifically to do so, there is an obvious endorsement by Chris.

If one of my columnists is running around saying that religion is beautiful and I give them a platform (or fail to take it away), that should be taken as an endorsement by me.  So when Vlad says

[I have] no problem with saying “fuck you” to anyone. It’s rude and disrespectful and I’m totally okay with that.

It should very much reflect on Chris and the opposition to disrespect that he preaches.  If disrespect is so counter-productive, why give someone advocating that stance a megaphone?  Does Chris just shoot his cause in the foot for grins?  Of course, though Chris likes to take pot shots at me for being disprespectful when he knows I’m muzzled, he is always conspicuously silent when Vlad says things like this (though, of course, he is fully aware of it).  Strange, that.

The fact that Vlad is so peachy keen with disrespecting others (at least when he does it) should also make us shake our heads when Vlad laments that…

…it’s not hard to find blogs posts or submissions to r/ atheism that seem to aim primarily to degrade believers, rather than address them with their well-being in mind.

As if criticism of irrationality isn’t done with the well-being of believers, and the world they inhabit, in mind.

Say what you like about the gnu atheists, but we drop the hammer on unreason whenever it pops up, and we do so without deviation.  Chris Stedman, and the people he endorses with a platform, could learn a thing or two about consistency (and the integrity that comes with it) from us.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.