Cleaning House

Cleaning House June 24, 2006

I’ve been aware of The Raving Atheist since before I created Daylight Atheism. For a time, his was one of the few atheist blogs I read regularly. However, I gradually soured on him, and by the time I had created this blog, I had decided that on balance he was a detriment rather than a credit to the cause of atheism, and resolved never to link to him.

There were several reasons for this. First of all, I strongly disliked his abrasive and arrogant tone. As readers of this site and of Ebon Musings should hopefully be aware, I believe atheists should make every effort to be civil and approachable. This is not to say that we should be passive in the face of religiously inspired evils or that we should withhold criticism. On the contrary, when it is merited, I strongly believe that we should speak out with force and passion. But when we call all believers stupid, ignorant or insane – something which is clearly not true – or when we ridicule them simply for believing, or when we act as if atheists are more intelligent than theists – in short, when we act like stereotypical “angry atheists“, we reinforce the noxious religious caricatures that encourage believers to ignore and dismiss us. I believe that we should instead shatter those stereotypes by proving that atheists are ordinary, decent human beings just like anyone else, which will win us far more support in the long run. The Raving Atheist, on the other hand, seemed to delight in playing right into those stereotypes, for example by frequently calling theists “godidiots”. This type of language does not help.

Worse yet was his vehemently anti-choice stance. I do not believe that opposition to abortion is an intrinsically irrational stance. I am certain that reasoned arguments could be made for it, even if I think the pro-choice arguments are better. But it seemed to me that RA was not even trying to defend his belief rationally. On the contrary, his arguments, such as they were, seemed like the religious anti-choice position without the religion, and if that seems contradictory and vacuous, so did he. The closest thing to a justification I ever saw him present was something along the lines of, “If my parents had had an abortion, I wouldn’t be here now”. Using this logic, we would also have to outlaw all contraception, so as not to deny any potential people their right to exist.

These reasons convinced me never to link to RA’s site. But the straw that broke the camel’s back has now been laid – in fact, two of them. Via Pharyngula, I learned today that RA has boasted of volunteering at a religious “crisis pregnancy center”, a type of institution whose purpose is to persuade pregnant women not to have abortions by bombarding them with misleading religious propaganda, or worse. (I wrote back in April about the horrifying depths to which some of these institutions have sunk.) And the second of those two straws was the following line written by RA, from the same post:

In honor of Ashli and my friends in the Blogosphere who share her ideals, I will never write another bad word about Jesus or Christianity on The Raving Atheist.

What in truth’s name can he be thinking? Even a person who is against abortion should be able to recognize that the Christian right, by its rabid opposition to the teaching and use of contraception, not to mention its equally fervent opposition to the social programs that help establish stable families, is going to lead to more unwanted pregnancies and thus more abortions. I strongly believe that abortion should be legal, but I also believe that an abortion is a terrible, traumatic thing and I wish that it was never necessary. And the best way to make it never be necessary is to give both men and women the education and support they need to control their own destinies. And to do this, we must speak out against the religious right – something which RA has apparently committed himself never to do again.

Even beyond the abortion issue, there are countless ways in which Christian belief has caused harm in this world. What about the apocalyptic beliefs in Jesus’ imminent return that inspire right-wing Christians to agitate for war and bloodshed and dismiss the necessity of protecting the planet? What about the teachings of intrinsic and inescapable depravity that degrade and pollute the human spirit? What about the numerous Biblical verses that teach hatred and violence? What about the teachings of theocratic hatemongers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson? Will the Raving Atheist henceforth fall silent in the face of these evils?

If that is the case, others will have to step up where he has failed. Fortunately, there is no shortage of strong, independent atheist voices in the blogosphere and elsewhere who can carry out this task. Likewise, there is no shortage of voices who will speak out in favor of the rights and independence of the women RA would gladly subjugate. We can and we will. However, I believe that to continue to offer the Raving Atheist our support and endorsement in the meantime would be inappropriate. Just as with Larry Darby, the atheist white supremacist and Holocaust denier who recently ran for attorney general in Alabama, when a person who claims to be an atheist does not stand for the humanist ideals we stand for, we must make it clear that this person does not represent us or speak for us.

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