Chris Stedman doesn’t get that conflict is inevitable and necessary.

Chris Stedman has an article in USA Today that, surprise, I find gut wrenching.  It starts with:

Last Tuesday, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer interviewed Rebecca Vitsmun, asking her if she “thank(ed) the Lord” for the fact that she lived through a disastrous tornado in Oklahoma. Holding her infant child in her arms, she replied, “I’m actually an atheist.” And then she added: “You know, I don’t blame anybody for thanking the Lord.”

In a couple of short sentences, Vitsmun delivered two equally powerful messages: that she was not embarrassed by her atheism, and that she respected her religious friends and neighbors. Blitzer’s question represented a common assumption that most people believe in God. It was an indicator of widespread religious privilege in our culture, and Vitsmun challenged it in a way that also humanized atheists.

As Ed Brayton once said of Chris Stedman (in a wonderful blog), Chris doesn’t seem to get the distinction between criticism of ideas and hatred of people.  I applaud Vitsmun for what she said.  And it did humanize atheists.  But Chris gets it wrong on the bolded part.  Vitsmun made it clear that she respected the beliefs of her religious friends and neighbors when she said “I don’t blame anybody for thanking the Lord.”  That is quite different from making it clear you respect the people holding those beliefs, and far more problematic.

Should we respect the belief that a man rose from the dead 2,000 years ago and could’ve stopped the tornado but didn’t?  No, we should not.  There is not a shred of evidence for that belief.  Even if it were true, we should not respect the proposition that we must thank such a god.  Should we respect the notion that we should thank the architect of tornadoes even as children lay dead on account of one?  No, we should not.  Gratitude for one’s survival need not be synonymous with being grateful to a god who thought children needed to die just as much as he thought your oh-so-special ass needed to live.

This bears repeating, and must be repeated because this exceedingly simple idea still eludes people like Chris: telling people they’re wrong is respect.  Assuming a person would rather stay wrong than hear why they might be in error is disrespect.

That same day Arizona State Rep. Juan Mendez made headlines when the Democrat offered a rousing, moving atheist reflection during the time prayers are typically offered prior to the Arizona House of Representatives’ afternoon session, invoking the words of the late astronomer, author and agnostic, Carl Sagan: “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Chris cited this as evidence that atheists are being viewed in a positive light, despite all those mean, confrontational atheists making people hate us.  The relevant part is here:

What was most remarkable about these three incidents wasn’t simply that each was about atheists, or that they made headlines. Rather it was that they showed atheists in a positive light. They demonstrated the reality that most atheists are kind, moral individuals.

This seemingly simple fact shouldn’t be notable, but it is. Unfortunately and unfairly, atheism is commonly associated with a set of negative stereotypes that are bolstered and reinforced when the primary public representations of atheism are voices of conflict. It frequently seems that atheists mostly make headlines when an organization such as American Atheists puts up a billboard like one that claimed that Christianity has a “sadistic god” and “useless savior” and that it “promotes hate.” When stories like that represent the most visible public expressions of atheism, it’s no wonder many people seem to think atheism is a synonym for antitheism.

Why is being antitheist a negative stereotype?  No religion on earth has the slightest good reason to believe in it, and I don’t think people should believe things, like people rising from the dead and walking on water, for bad reasons.  Guilty as charged.  Tell me, Chris, how do we differ in this regard?

Following the invocation by Juan Mendez, which was a case of an atheist (not a theist) giving a nod to atheists, over half the members of the Arizona Senate (most of them, if not all of them, Christian) held a do-over prayer meant to sneer at atheists.  Chris Stedman did not write an article condemning those people (that would have been confrontational), but instead decided to nag atheists like me who will speak out against them (because confronting the people who confront anti-atheist prejudice isn’t confrontational).  Priorities, they’re a great thing (that Chris has long had a problem with).

I think opposing irrational ideas and their offspring (abstinence-only education, anti-atheist bigotry, creationism, anti-LGBTQ sentiment, etc.) is the way to build a positive image.  All social movements began with a minority vocally opposing ideas held by the majority, and in each case there was the inevitable backlash from the majority.  The great leaders continued on, knowing that it takes time, time spent withstanding the slings and arrows of the majority, in order to change minds.  Sure, the people who cherish the irrational ideas (who make up the majority of the population) won’t like it, but if popularity is a person’s goal you can endorse all kinds of silliness and immorality to get there.  If you want to change things, feathers will be ruffled.  Counting on the majority to change their minds on their own never seems to work out, and so we speak up.

Even if, like Chris, you think conflict is a bad thing (unless you’re trying to stick it to other atheists), let’s get one thing perfectly clear: atheists did not create this conflict.  When Christians attempt to pass legislation that allows creationism to worm its way into science classes or to keep LGBT Americans relegated to the rank of second-class citizens, they necessitate our response.  They also do these things because it makes sense in the context of their religious beliefs.  It is noble and necessary to confront them.  And when we do confront them, there are only two ways to change their minds.  We must convince them that…

1.  God doesn’t really want the things they think god wants.


2.  God does not exist.

And the first one is an outright lie.

When religious people do or support silly things because of their religious convictions we must tell them they are wrong, not just about what god wants, but about god’s existence.  That people like me do so in response to religious barbarity and silliness is not a bad thing.  Even if standing up for what is good is a detriment to our image (Chris fails to note in his article that public estimation of atheists is on the rise, especially in the youngest generation), not unlike how standing up for gay rights was a detriment to a person’s image not very long ago, our image does not take precedence over the integrity and truthfulness of our message.  Sure, if we tell Christians that their religion is rational and/or beautiful (which is a contemptible lie) or if we stay good and quiet when Christians in the Arizona legislature thumb their nose at non-believers we’ll be more liked by Christians.  If you think trading your integrity for popularity, all while coddling irrationality (as if irrationality doesn’t drive most of the harmful actions of humanity), is the way to be respectable, go nuts.  But if you insist that I should do likewise, sorry.  I am infuriated by what transpires in the name of religion and care far too much about what’s true to play the politics of treating unreason as though it merits respect.

Public representations matter because they change the cultural climate and make it easier for people to be honest and open, which facilitates destigmatizing relationships across lines of difference. Positive media representations have helped more and more LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) Americans come out, and the resulting relationships that LGBTQ people have built with others have transformed public opinion. The Pew Research Center reports that among the 14% of Americans who changed their mind from opposing same-sex marriage to supporting it in the last decade, the top reason cited was having “friends, family, acquaintances who are gay/lesbian.”

You know what demographic was stigmatized and constantly being told to stop being so brazen and offensive not even a decade ago?  You guessed it: LGBTQ people.  The source of this wasn’t their frequent confrontations with those who would have inequality persist forever, but rather the displeasure of the haters that anyone would have the nerve to oppose them.  It was the haters who, up til then, had held the societal power using their offense as a means to get the people yearning for equality to shut up.

That’s precisely how it is with atheists today.  If you doubt this, put up a billboard saying “Atheists can be happy without god” and see how long it takes for it to be vandalized.  It’s the atheism that’s hated, and that extends when uppity atheists push back against the products of faith.  Staying silent about the anti-atheist/anti-human deeds of religious people will not make them accept us – it will only mean that we’ve become like the god who watched a tornado kill innocent people while never lifting a finger.  It will mean that we have given foolish ideas, and their real-world results, our silent consent, all in the name of peace.

I do not want that kind of peace.  And if a relationship with my fiancee, a friend, or a believer requires me to stay quiet about harmful things, I don’t want that kind of relationship.

Atheists and people of faith need to build such relationships, too. Instead of beginning with trying to convert or convince the other, let’s start by listening to one another’s stories.

We are listening, Chris.  Pretty much all atheists are.  We’ve read their holy book.  We listen to their leaders and to the people in the pews.  And when they are irrational, we tell them so.  When they are immoral, we tell them so.  This is only possible because we are listening.  I do blog posts every day about what religious people are saying.  We are listening.

Telling someone the truth, or telling them they’re wrong, is not something that precludes the formation of relationships.  To confirm this, look no further than the fact that religious people saying atheists are wrong and immoral has not stopped Chris Stedman from being willing to gloss over the society-damaging actions of believers in order to build relationships with theists.  And if telling someone they’re wrong does prevent the formation of a relationship, it’s the person who cannot handle disagreement who needs to change, not us.

If we’re not willing to say that stealing lunch money is bad, we can build a bridge to being liked by the school bully.  Or, if we’re good people, we can tell him that stealing is bad and that if he wants a relationship with us, he’ll have to live with us telling him that stealing is bad consistently and condemning his thievery.  I view religion the same way.  I’m all for relationships with religious people.  But because my integrity (and the well-being of the world) is important to me, that relationship will involve me explaining why I think faith is dangerous and irresponsible and why the actions of religious leaders are often dehumanizing and cruel.  This is simply the way it must be if I want to be a good person.

It’s not my job to be liked by everybody (that’s the job of con men and politicians).  It’s my job to give allegiance to compassion and to reason while encouraging others to do likewise.  This does not always lend itself to popularity, and Chris and his handful of atheist followers (I have no doubt tons of Christians love him) need to figure that out.

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.

  • Mark B

    Chris Stedman is a contemptible accommodationist coward.

  • JTEberhard

    Comments from KC trolls who slipped past the IP ban have been deleted.

    • baal

      I presume they were also the ones downvoting entirely normal and reasonable comments.

      • JTEberhard


  • Improbable Joe

    As near as I can tell, Chris Stedman IS a politician. So there you go.

    • LouisDoench

      I certainly think that he’s sincere. I just don’t think he has thought through the ramifications of his constant harping on this issue or the way it is being played by our opponents. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has acted similarly. And in light of the way our mainstream media works, maybe that’s the neccesary compromise he is making. I just wish he would act more aware of the trope he’s perpetuating.

      • Improbable Joe

        Well… “sincere” in that Stedman seems to be naturally, instinctively political. I don’t think there’s anything consciously harmful in what he’s saying, but I do think it is all 100% self-serving BS… which in his head confirms his weasely suck-up behavior as the most positive way to behave. It works for HIM to be a toady and live his life on his knees, when he’s not throwing other atheists under the bus… so it is a successful strategy. For him.

        • baal

          I find Stedman harmful since he’s using a overarching ‘good atheist’ vs ‘bad atheist’ narrative. His ‘bad atheist’ make christians uncomfortable. Problem is that even saying, “Oh btw I’m an atheist.” (akin to coming out) pisses off a good portion of the godly. In that context, you have lost the second you say that no christian offense is the goal.

  • onamission5

    My take on Vitsmun’s comment is that she felt she *had* to say something to that effect, given that she’d just reflexively come out as an atheist on national television and that she lives in freaking OK. It’s the equivalent of “Not that I have anything against people with kids” when you let it slip that you’re deliberately child free at your family reunion. It’s the “please don’t hate me for not being like you” qualifier. She may very well have something against people who thank the lord, or she may not, but I’d be willing to bet that she said she didn’t as a way to cover her ass given the circumstances.

    • EllenBeth Wachs

      She certainly didn’t have to say something to that effect. I probably would have said something similar. It irritates me to no end when a tragedy strikes that some atheists feel the need to be in your face to grieving believers about how ineffectual their prayers are.

      • Brian Fields

        It’s just as wrong as Christians telling us we are immoral or don’t exist in foxholes. In time of crisis, let human beings be human beings as much as we can, that’s the moral thing to do.

      • onamission5

        I probably would have felt that I had to publicly qualify my atheism under those circumstances, seeing as how a simple personal declaration of atheism is all too often taken as an affront. She could have just said, “I’m an atheist” without the qualifier, and although that isn’t (or shouldn’t be) remotely offensive and is in no way a declarative statement about anyone else, people could very well have taken it that way.

      • Kodie

        It irritates me to no end when someone assumes everyone is Christian and puts them on the spot with a microphone in their fucking face on national news.

        • EllenBeth Wachs

          Yeah, that irritates me as well. Does that mean I have to be nasty? Hardly. Does that mean I have to take away some grieving mother’s comfort? No.

          • Kodie

            I’m not sure whose comfort you think was taken away. If someone presumes you must be thanking god, when is the right time to clarify that you don’t? When is it a good idea to confront theists on the insensitive and thoughtless presumptions they make? Talking to a neighbor in that situation may have been far different than a supposed journalist putting someone on tv.

            Maybe I’m being the presumptuous one, that a journalist would have more exposure to the kinds of people there are, and act professionally, i.e. if you are sticking a microphone in someone’s face, don’t put words in their mouth unless they have trouble speaking, which I imagine many people put on the spot are likely to drain all the interest out of the story by freezing up. Assuming people will freeze up and need to be prompted is awkward and annoying, especially when the person doing the prompting has planned out specific and insensitive leading questions. Did Blitzer ever care if someone thanks god? He seemed to think this would make a feel-good story after a tragedy and reinforce some universal narrative. Restore the audience’s faith by making survival the same thing as being graced by god.

            But I don’t think he was well-meaning here to the woman, he was feeding the audience what it wants to hear, and good for her she didn’t comply with that to put their comfort ahead of her own. The show wasn’t for the people of Oklahoma who had their TVs and everything they own demolished and lost lives of loved ones and neighbors – it was for the remote viewer who was otherwise unaffected to see good Christian resilience. Atheists have resilience too. There is nothing wrong with that message. We live on a planet with weather that has no intent on crushing us, no punishing or sparing is going on here. Thank god for what? It annoys me greatly when I hear people whose alleged job it is to relay the truth – who, what, where, when, and why? Oklahomans, a tornado, Oklahoma, last week, and a tornado – who presume the notion that there really is a god while they report the news. It is for an individual to believe, it’s not a fact and should not be relayed to the audience as if it is a fact. Never mind if the woman is an atheist or a Christian, if she is a Christian who thanks god, let her speak for herself. An atheist would have not said in so many words “I’m an atheist so there is no god to thank” or “while others may thank god and I’m ok with that, I am an atheist so I don’t” without the prompt. Asked a non-leading question, an atheist would have worded their sentiments by simply not mentioning god.

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            I wasn’t talking about Blitzer

          • Kodie

            Then a strawman?

  • LouisDoench

    Chris, who seems like a really nice guy, needs to be brought up to speed on how his willingness to feed the “angry atheist turns off believers” trope is one of the reasons he gets access to the media the way he does. It’s called hippy punching and it’s the key to getting on “This Week” or onto the pages of USA Today. It is important for any atheist approaching the mainstream to ritually sacrifice some of his fellows to appease the beast. It happens with liberals as well.

  • Brian Lynchehaun

    What has Stedman said to indicate that he doesn’t understand your position? As opposed to understanding and disagreeing?

    • baal

      I’m not going to buy his book but I don’t think I’ve seen Stedman show that he can recite fairly the position of those who disagree with him let alone that he’s reflected enough to respond on point.

      Evenmoreso, if Stedman’s primary point is that we shouldn’t offend christians he’s flat in error. Our mere existence offends them. In that context, trying to not offend christians means going and hiding in a closet – or admit your existence and then beg not to be hated (he takes this route).

      If he wants to say that atheists should avoid gratutious attacks on christians or lying about christians, the burden is on him to point those out. I would more or less agree with this position but it doesn’t look like Stedman is taking it.

      So Prof. Lynchehaun, if you could be so kind as support your contention that he understands but doesn’t agree, I look forward to the proof.

      • Brian Lynchehaun

        “if Stedman’s primary point is that we shouldn’t offend christians he’s flat in error”

        It isn’t.

        “Prof. Lynchehaun”

        Part of his message is to refrain from dickish moves like this to avoid *unnecessarily* coming across as an asshole and antagonising people beyond the amount that they are already prejudiced to do so.

        This kind of thing would be a gratuitous attack.

        “I’ve seen Stedman show that he can recite fairly the position of those who disagree with him”

        The irony here is thick.

        “if you could be so kind as support your contention that he understands but doesn’t agree, I look forward to the proof.”

        I didn’t make that contention. I asked for JT’s evidence for why he chose one over the other. For a person so quick to throw stones, your house appears awful glass-like.

        • baal

          “”I’ve seen Stedman show that he can recite fairly the position of those who disagree with him”

          The irony here is thick.”

          oops, “Can’t” was missing from my sentence.

          You aren’t a professor? I thought that was a factual use of an actual title you actually have. Also, calling me dickish, asshole and an idiot would be a better example of a gratuitous attack.

          It’s entirely fair to have you answer your own question. Further, since you appear to be a Stedman apologist, I’d expect you have something other than JAQs already at hand.

  • Brian Fields

    I think Vitsmun did exactly the right thing. In the midst of her neighbors’ tragedy, it would have been inappropriate to challenge their beliefs. I do strongly disagree with Stedman taking that action out of context for his own point, to reassign that as appropriate context for the general discussion about religion. Context IS everything – We do have to be mindful of the message we want to send if we truly want to change minds. But we shouldn’t lie or misrepresent a rational position to do it.

    • Kodie

      I don’t remember the last time, if ever, that I heard of an atheist kicking believers when they’re down. Nobody seems to be complaining when Christians do it though. Hey lady, a tragedy happened, and you and your son are alive, don’t you feel like you owe my lord a ‘thank you’? For instance, my lord wiped the shit out of your village and killed a bunch of kids, and so I’m not really interested in being here to talk to people but get some good warm sound bites and you are holding a kid – my audience will love the shit out of this! – you must kiss my lord’s ass on cue now on my tv program, ok?

      • Brian Fields

        Right in the middle of the tragedy is the wrong time to make those complaints. There are plenty of opportunities to point out the hypocrisy and other issues – We can cherry pick any time we like to do it.

        Remember – Believers don’t typically see it as kicking people when they are down (At least most don’t). Religion sucks, but if we are to say that human beings don’t need God to be decent people, we should expect that most believers are generally decent people who happen to believe in God.

      • EllenBeth Wachs

        I see it every time a tragedy happens. Just look at facebook and twitter. And atheists do complain, rightfully so. I see them responding to christians and others that they don’t thank god but they thank the doctor, scientist, engineer, etc

        • Kodie

          But not at a hospital, or a funeral, or say, if Wolf Blitzer was an atheist, he wouldn’t have asked a presumptuously atheist question such as “You must have come through this tragedy by the chance of statistics, and if you had a faith before, you probably understand now how wrong you were, right?” We are talking about this as a raw topic while it’s raw to highlight an insensitive presumption made regularly following raw tragedies. Humans interacting with humans after a tragedy is normal. Pushing a religious agenda should not be the news’ job. I have never heard of an atheist pushing on someone who has experienced a tragedy about their faith and why whatever they’re feeling is in error. We have lived in this world surrounded by Christians with sensitivity, I think, toward victims. Sorry there’s an internet where we can discuss this where they might look at it, but religion seems to be the go-to method for overcoming tragedies – the Christian coping, resilience, rationalizations, generosity, comforting, grieving (as after the Boston Marathon bombing – inter-faith-inclusive-but-excluding-atheists gathering/”service”); as if there is no other way to live and whatever a person in need needs, god has something to do with it or else they would be crushed under the weight of despair or else they can go fuck themselves.

          It is just like after 9/11 (up to the present day), Muslims are considered the enemy although Muslims were murdered along with everyone else. Atheists suffer but are excluded from the presumed universal narrative of loss and recuperation that heavily involves Jesus, as does what it means to be an American seems to as well.

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            No, I agree, I don’t think pushing a religious agenda is the news’ job. I also agree that an atheist wouldn’t be likely to kick a believer at a hospital or a funeral but that wasn’t what the question was. Yes, religion is the go-to method for coping but that is simply because the majority of people are religious. I also don’t think it is right that atheists are excluded.

    • John H

      Vitsmun’s statement was entirely understandable, given that she has to live with religious people who frequently see the mere existence of atheists as an unacceptable challenge to their worldviews, but I disagree that she in any sense did the “right” thing. The pragmatic thing, the necessary thing, certainly. But I see it as a huge problem that a) Blitzer presumed religious belief and b) it’s up to atheists to go out of our way to assure theists that our lack of belief doesn’t mean we bear them ill will. Coddling the majority’s delicate sensibilities may be a necessary survival strategy for marginalized minority populations – to continue with the analogy to the LGBT movement, look at all the gay people in the last century who were forced to live closeted lives in order to not be entirely marginalized or even imprisoned – but it’s not okay that it is necessary, and nothing is going to change without people challenging the status quo, as JT continually points out. Stedman is the obsequious atheist equivalent of Uncle Tom*. We should be deeply suspicious of the motivations and/or ethics of anyone not only willing but actively interested in playing nice with harmful, corrupt institutions engaged in the active marginalization or outright oppression of various groups, including ones to which that person belongs. Accommodation of existentially-divergent groups is not sound social policy nor political strategy.

      *I don’t mean to compare atheist marginalization to slavery in degree of harm; they are closer in degree of institutionalization, but obviously racialized chattel slavery was orders more harmful. Stedman is simply another example of a member of a marginalized group playing apologist for the dominant group’s behaviors; he’s much more like the contemporary incarnation of the Uncle Tom character from The Boondocks, Uncle Ruckus.

      • Brian Fields

        I don’t bear “ill will” towards religious people. That’s the point. I bear ill will towards religion, and religious ideals. It’s a fine distinction, to be sure, but an important one.

  • Art_Vandelay

    JT, I feel like you didn’t communicate this the way that you intended…

    Vitsmun made it clear that she respected the beliefs of her
    religious friends and neighbors when she said “I don’t blame anybody for
    thanking the Lord.” That is quite different from making it clear you
    respect the people holding those beliefs, and far more problematic.

    Don’t you mean that she made it clear that she respected the people holding those beliefs and you agree with that but it would be more problematic to say that she respected the beliefs themselves?

    • GaryLayng

      I have to agree: having seen the video, it appeared to me as if she respected the people who held to such childish beliefs and respected their right to do so. She didn’t seem to be expressing any opinion whatsoever on the silliness of believing in an invisible, impotent, non-existent sky fairy that blows down churches dedicated to it and destroys the homes and takes the lives of its worshippers.

  • sparkyb

    You forgot option 3 of what to convince believers (which I learned from you, JT).

    3. God exists and does want the things they think he wants, and they should defy that because those things aren’t moral.

  • John-Henry Eric Beck

    You know, I missed Vitsmun’s qualifier when I saw the video. Personally, I find it irksome and unnecessary; it’s the biases of the Christians that put the pressure on to say something like that. Blitzer’s question was far more offensive to anyone non-Christian (or non-Abrahamic) than simply stating “Actually, I’m an atheist,” in response to the question. She didn’t bring it up.

    I think it’s also important to keep in mind that she was dealing with the destruction of her home, a brush with tragedy, and being on the spot and surprised. So I try to be careful about being critical of someone on the spot like that.

    As far as Stedman goes, I think there’s some point that a fair few people are going to respond more favorably when you take the time to sit down and listen respectfully to their stories and all that. But I also think that approach has a limited utility and we need a variety of approaches. And the way he makes some of those comments makes it take extra effort to read that charitably.

  • Andrew Kilian

    Listening isn’t the same as taking in the information and processing it in your own frame. Bypassing or misunderstanding involves listening but omits understanding. In this post you “listen”, but ignore the point the author is trying to make and instead put words in his mouth. That’s what dishonest Theists do.

    Stedman was basically saying that “the stereotype that all Atheists are tone deaf, screedy and have to browbeat others when it’s not an appropriate moment to do so is not the case.” That is not a bad message. We do need people like Ms Vitsmun who can declare their Atheism and with a lot of class say I don’t begrudge anyone who needs some device to feel safe after losing everything they own. That’s a moment when anyone needs to feel safe. She is respecting their feelings and the sensitivity of the moment and it’s not a bad thing. I’m sure Ms Vitsmun “respects the people holding those beliefs” without feeling that those beliefs have weight. She did what you are not doing. Separating the belief from the person and showing compassion for the person when it is appropriate. When there are advocates of religion pushing religion into public policy I’m sure we all will push back because it is then appropriate to do so. They’re two separate things deserving two separate reactions and don’t deserve to be lumped into the same pile.

    As far as I know, no one thinks being told they’re wrong is respectful. People barely accept being told they’re mistaken.

  • Beth Clarkson

    Why is being antitheist a negative stereotype?

    I imagine that it is a negative stereotype for the same reason that being anti atheist has a negative stereotype. At any rate, I hold the same negative stereotype of both – that they delight in tearing down the beliefs of the other side.

    Also, why do you consider all irrational ideas to be bad and something to fight against? I am personally very fond of some clearly untrue and hence irrational ideas such as ‘all men are created equal’.