New Atheists Face Various Problems

New Atheists Face Various Problems September 4, 2012

For instance, maintaining a plausible sense of dudgeon when a theist says atheism is abnormal is difficult to do when you are, in fact, abnormal. Fact: when you only constitute 1.6% of the population (and vanishingly less when you include the human population stretching back to antiquity), you are the exception, not the rule. You are abnormal. Deal with it.

Likewise, when you want to maintain the New Atheist narrative and wave your hands vaguely about Christian hatred of Science, you need to really stop and wonder why that narrative generally goes, “Oh. You know. Galileo and such”.

Could you fill in that “and such” better? Some hopefully point to Hypatia and the destruction of the library of Alexandria because they are, you know, ignorant and as credulous as snake handling fundamentalists in their easy acceptance of urban legend based on a crappy movie. Others repeat the dopey urban legend spread by Dan Brown about the “murder” of Copernicus and his supposed persecution by the Church (he was in fact highly regarded by his clerical contemporaries and buried with honors). Still other, grasping at straws for that “and such” point to Giordano Bruno as a “scientist”. Um no. Here’s Mike Flynn in an excellent and wide-ranging essay that all true believers in the “Catholic War on Science and Reason” should really read:

Execution for treason are not unknown. But what has the execution of Bruno for heresy got to do with scientists? Bruno was no scientist, but a mystic of the Pythagorean sort. The translator of his Ash Wednesday Supper commented wryly that, if they had ever bothered to read it, the Copernicans would have burned Bruno. Time and again he shows that he did not understand astronomy, but rather tried to fit it into his wacky worldview. Even so, keep in mind that for seven years the inquisitors and his brother Dominicans argued and debated with him to get him to change his mind. He was the L.Ron Hubbard of his day. Of course, nowadays, we don’t like to execute people even if they were spying for Stalin; but treason, both secular and religious were once capital crimes.

In short, apart from the ceaselessly-trotted-out Galileo, the evidence of some Catholic War on Science is mighty thin on the ground and Internet Atheists who perpetually point to him start to sound like sixth graders who prove their mastery of the piano by perpetually playing “Chopsticks” at every family gathering. Such people should really do something about that glass house they live in before lecturing Christians on their credulity.

This also, by the way, goes for those same Internet atheists who endlessly point to the sociopathic Phelps clan and say, “There! That’s typical for Christians!”

No. It’s not. And the evidence of that is “Why is the Phelps clan always always always what you point to?”

This is an important point that Internet Atheists would, if they were normal people, take seriously and address. Particularly since Christians routinely denounce and reject the sociopathic Phelps clan and, even more particularly, since Christians are not constrained to point to one or two atheists on the web again and again as atheists do with the Phelps clan. We can note that sociopathy and deeply repellent personalities are not merely found here and there in the atheist community, but everywhere, everyday, all the time.  The Internet Atheist sociopaths are not merely ubiquitous, they are positively promoted to the head of the class with adulation and encouragment from the herd of independent minds that constitute the comboxes of Pharyngula, or Jerry Coyne’s site, or Dawkins’ site. Indeed, so widespread and common is the sheer vileness, social cluelessness, arrogance, and overrated sense of superiority of the average internet atheist’s personality that an emotionally and socially normal atheist like Phil Plait sensed the awkwardness of the atheist brand with normal people and to tried to rein it in a bit by giving a lecture called, colorfully, “Don’t be a Dick” (a lecture widely reviled among socially and emotionally clueless atheists who dominate discourse in that community and who could see no problem with their awesomely superior selves).

Indeed, the curious way in which atheism tends to Darwinianly select for, rather than against, the most repellent personality traits is one of the mysteries of the atheist community. As this atheist notes:

[I]f you say something as mild as “Hey, here are some Christians practicing their faith; that’s not really a bad thing” you’ll get mobbed by a group of people who are quickly becoming the most annoying demographic on the internet. I speak of a subtype of militant atheists who I’ll call the “Reddit Atheists.” These are the folks who have, ironically, adopted the attitudes of hardcore evangelicals who try to convert strangers on subway platforms—it’s not enough for them that they don’t believe in God, they want to make sure you don’t believe in God either. Just by being themselves, they make the best case against humanism.

If you want to find out why I call these guys Reddit Atheists, take a brief dip into the atheism subreddit. It is a place entirely defined by bitter, faux-enlightened young people sharing “thought-provoking” images about the horrific evils of religion (in practice, pretty much just Christianity) and congratulating each other for being “enlightened.” The site was originally intended to be a place where people talk about atheistic ideas, but as is Reddit’s depressing trend, it soon devolved into a swampy mess of endless, banal clichés, memes, and general anti-intellectualism. It actually rivals Creationism in terms of having a narrow worldview. They’ve actually had a campaign where they would write “once upon a time” on the first page of every Bible they found in hotels, which is probably the lamest form of vandalism ever.

Reddit Atheism isn’t about philosophy or even adult conversation; it’s about getting riled up into a frothing-at-the-mouth ideological stupor so you can feel guiltlessly self-righteous for the rest of the day. In all of my trips to r/atheism, I’ve never seen anyone post anything written in a measured tone. If you need more proof, take a look at these fine examples of even-keeled insight. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I don’t think Ludwig Feuerbach would be proud.

But listen, I totally get it. If I were 15 when r/atheism was around, I’d probably live in this dark corner of the internet. When you hit that phase where you’re just starting to read grown-up stuff and you become convinced everyone else is a moron, it’s really easy to hate organized religion with a passion and assume that people with faith have just failed to think things through. Then you grow up a little bit by becoming more self-aware and maybe getting away from some of the more odious religious people you knew as a kid—eventually, you get to a place where you can hear someone say, “I’ll pray for you” and simply say, “Thank you,” instead of being a total shit about it. That is, unless you end up making a career out of “debating” religious people, a la Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. (By the way, what is more arrogant than assuming someone can be reasoned into abandoning their faith?)

Defining your life by volatile antitheism—in other words, clinging to something you don’t believe in—isn’t just annoying, it’s actually pretty backward, and, in some cases, culturally malignant. For a demographic that spits a lot of game about equality and mobility, they sure love lording their “intellect” over anyone who dares to think differently. The atheism subreddit gets off on feeling superior to other people; it’s not about ideas or truth, they’d rather thrive on that faux-scholar buzz. That’s why Dawkins is their fire-and-brimstone pin-up boy. That’s why they screencap Facebook updates from their religious “friends” so they can laugh at all the plebeians from their pretty little perch. There’s no respect or pragmatism, just bottomless, never-ending hate.

This Darwinian selection for rather than against this repellent sort of mob mentality is also in evidence as a couple of sane atheists attempt to speak in slow reasoned tones to the likes of sociopaths like PZ Myers and suggest, not belief in God (let’s be reasonable: they are atheists) but simply consideration of the possibility that religion is not 1000% percent pitch black evil and seems to be of rather a lot of benefit to rather a lot of people.  Myers, to the delectation of the herd of independent minds in his congregation, says those who vary from the True Faith he incarnates deserve a “good punch to the balls“.  Klass with a Kapital KKK that.

With those sort of social skills being perpetually selected for in the atheist community, it’s not a *huge* shock to find that they are not a major turn-on to the opposite sex given their massive tendency toward misogyny (a subset of their misanthropy) and, in fact, tend to also produce a female population that likewise emit a supersonic signal warning normal males “Do not approach!  Danger!  Psycho-Shrew!”

So it’s an interesting paradox. Internet Atheists who want to talk about the poisonous effect of all those charities, hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, universities, food banks, and hospices have to go to the same Rolodox entry (“Eek!  The Phelps family!”) when they want to chant their mantras about how Religion Poisons Everything.  But Christians can look almost anywhere in the Internet Atheist community and find abundant quantities of deeply, massively repellent people who are treated, not with revulsion and denunciation, but with lionizing admiration by other atheists.  The selective evolutionary pressure within Average Internet Atheism is heavily weighted toward rewarding the worst and oppressing the best. It is like walking into an average Catholic parish and finding everybody saying not, “Fred Phelps is a revolting lunatic!” but “I wish *I* could be Fred Phelps!”  It’s that little cultural difference between what is aspired to and what is loathed, what the culture selects for and what it selects against that makes certain Internet Atheism will *always* be an abnormal minority that stamps out its best traits and most attractive representatives or drives its best members into the arms of God.  Natural selection indeed.

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  • Harry

    Interestingly enough, r/atheism (and by extension, New Atheism at large) even seems to annoy those who have no interest in the debate itself. Check out this video (warning! language)-

  • Thomas R

    Although there’s a variety of reasons why this would be so I think 9-11 caused a real shift in my experiences of atheists online. I first started going on forums in Winter 1998, it was science fiction forums so plenty of atheists, and although there were some hostile atheists it was different. Atheists I met online then I think differentiated between different religious groups better and often were only focused on religion influencing policy or education. So they’d rant on the “Christian Right” or Southern Christians or even the condom/AIDS thing, but what you privately believed didn’t matter to them that much. Or at all. They didn’t expect religions would or even should die soon. Atheists from France or Germany, that I encounter online, still are kind of like that. They think you’re vaguely silly or backward for being religious, but if you don’t bother them they don’t bother you.

    It seems like for many atheists 9-11, and Bush’s Presidency, convinced them religion is so “dangerous” and “delusional” proselytizing for atheism is necessary. Before many atheists I knew generally would be aghast or annoyed if you accused them of wanting others to become atheist. They maybe believed every sensible person would someday be atheist, but that we would do so on their own. It wasn’t this sense of urgency you get now. Now atheists have told me quite happily that trying to “deconvert people” is an important goal to their life. That’s been a hard thing for me to adjust to because the “Old Atheists” would have, at least sometimes, felt insulted if you accused them of trying to “deconvert you.”

  • bob

    There’s a lot of truth here. Atheists online are boring and often shrill. The fact is that atheism is defined by one’s lack of belief–and once you’ve established your lack of belief and explained why, there’s not much else to say about it, so you’re left making fun of believers, I suppose.
    But. As for religion’s war on science, that is undeniably real, and one needn’t look to Copernicus or Galileo for evidence. School boards dominated by religious conservatives around the country are waging war on science curricula, for starters. The chairman of the House Science Committee recently declared that global warming must be hoax, since it conflicts with his Biblical End Times philosophy. There’s nothing in the bible about melting ice caps, so that must be some lib’ral lie.
    Examples of this can be found practically everywhere, and one need not be an atheist to be appalled by them.
    As for “abnormal,” well, please, that’s just silly. In terms of religion, everyone is abnormal. Christians generally may be a majority in the U.S., but not in the world, and certainly there is no single denomination claiming a majority of citizens in its ranks. If you’re a Methodist, you’re abnormal. A Jew, abnormal. A Catholic, abnormal. It’s called living in a pluralistic world.

    • Ted Seeber

      In what way is the subset of religous fundamentalists (who are less than 10% of any given religious culture) attacking science generalized to a “War on Science”?

      A whole bunch of roaring mice- atheists, fundamentalists, and homosexuals alike. NONE of these populations can get anything done democratically, so they abuse the courts and the media and podunk town school boards to build their little tiny dictatorships that anybody who wants to can move away from.

      • Bob

        One of those “roaring mice” got elected president of the United States and, you know, started wars and stuff. Can’t get anything done democratically? Are you kidding me? Check out, say, the governor of Kansas sometime, just for starters. Or most of the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives.
        And nice, by the way, how you casually throw “homosexuals” in there. The most telling bigotry is always the kind that comes so naturally to the bigot that he’s barely aware he’s doing it.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      One must distinguish between global warming and Global Warming™. The former is a mere acknowledgment that for the past 400 years global temperatures have been creeping upward back toward interglacial norms. The latter is a political program to punish Evil Western Technological Civilization and divvying up the spoils. To put it another way, a hundred years ago you could be called “anti-science” if you expressed reservations about eugenics. It was cited then as part of the religious war on science, because many of the advocates of eugenics were themselves scientists and science fanboys who had not evidently realized they had crossed over from science to politics.

      Chesterton recognized this when, reporting on the Scopes trial, noted that the real issue was resentment against outsiders telling them how to run their lives. Darwin was simply a handy club for beating up on rubes.

      I can certainly see folks resisting X if they think that X will be used as a vehicle (or actually believe that X *is a vehicle) for some sort of cultural propaganda or attack.

  • A lot of good points here, as usual. It certainly does seem to be true that most of the people who make a deliberate effort to advertise their atheism are very young. It also seems to be true that most such people are the children of staunch believers, and that they believe that the verbal statement “There is no God” makes them entirely different from their parents. Of course, if their parents raised them to be blinkered fundamentalist Christians, the mere substitution of the statement “There is no God” for the statement “There is a God,” unaccompanied by any other change in education or habits, means that they will become blinkered fundamentalist atheists.

    A week or so ago, you mentioned some prominent atheist whose response to sociological work about the effectiveness of religion as a tool for building cohesive social bonds with some rhetorical question “Does throwing acid in a girl’s face build cohesive social bonds?” That sounded very familiar to me, and as I thought about it I quickly realized why.

    I spent a fair bit of time in the 1980s on the fringes of AIDS activism. Back then, lots of people did what the Phelpses still do, finding an extreme sex practice that a small percentage of gay men engage in and discussing it as if it were the true essence of homosexuality. So people like me had to spend a lot of time pointing out that the extreme practices tend to put their devotees in the emergency room more or less immediately, and that if they were at all common among gay men that fact would be well-documented in public health data, where there was in fact no evidence of the kind. Anyway, respectable people don’t much go in for that line about same-sexers any longer, at least not in mixed ideological company. But, the same fallacy is alive and well among militant atheists. Some Christians picket funerals with signs reading “God Hates Fags”? That’s the true essence of Christianity! Some Muslims throw acid in unveiled girls’ faces? That’s the true essence of Islam! Some Buddhists were among the inventors of suicide bombing? That’s the true essence of Buddhism! Etc, etc, ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

    And I don’t know about “abnormal,” either, though for different reasons than bob gives above. Sure, most of the 100,000,000,000 or so people who have lived in this world have lived in societies where it was expected that they would participate in activities that had some bearing on a supernatural order, and have met those expectations. But for how many of those people were those activities particularly important? For how many of them were the official reasons for doing those things really compelling, and for how many were they just something you did unless you were a weirdo? I’m not someone who would say that the only really religious people are those who have undergone a dramatic emotional experience of conversion, but on the other hand I wouldn’t want to efface all distinction between the earnestly devout and the people who regularly go through the motions but, if they ever gave a moment’s thought to what it all means, would burst out laughing. I’m sure that latter category would be a lot more than 1.6% of the human race, probably a lot more than 1.6% of the people I see in church on any given Sunday.

  • Ingvar

    I’ve always wondered how the Phelps manage to finance their lunacy. They don’t seem to have done anything to have earned buckets of money. At least Fred Phelps doesn’t seem to have. I’m sure if I did a search on the Internet I could find something, but the paranoid part of me is being reminded of a certain bit of political wisdom. If you’re in a public argument or debate over something, of first importance is to get your message out there the way you want it. The next important thing is getting your opponent’s message out there the way you want it. If I wanted evangelical Christians (or just Christians) to look bad, I would fund Westboro. If you don’t like Christianity, they are your messengers for it.

    • From what I’ve seen of them, the Phelpses don’t seem to be burning through much money. A couple of hundred small donors could easily finance their operations. I’m not discounting the idea that there might be some well-to-do individuals funneling money to them as a way of discrediting Christianity, but I don’t see them doing anything that a handful of genuine sympathizers couldn’t finance.

  • What happens my friend is the common pharisaic attitude of the modern church and many modern christians, coupled with the really stupid things many say and do, (like not wanting to impart sex education which is what causes unwanted pregnancies, or creationism and Intelligent Design, or exclusivity and intolerance) of all denominations. Self-righteous people, be it secular or religious, no one likes, and that’s why you have this type of reaction in the anti-chrisitan blogopshere. It’s the reason why you have pages like Evil Bible, Exchristian, and the ones you mentioned, along with the enormous numbers of anti-christians in the forums, you for example have to be in the Naruto Forums, the debate section that is in the Cafe or in TV Tropes who are obsessed with the God is Evil trope. You wouldn’t have people like this if the christians and muslims of the world would abandon their anti-intellectual and violent ways. By the way, you are reacting to the same condescending way that internet anti-christians do. You are right with this post, but just as you hate their condescending attitude, so you should hate yours. I agree that the anti-christians read Christianity’ history in a very black and white way, and you also never see them criticizing churches that are not causing any trouble and agree with their views, like the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Church, the ELCA or the Methodist Church, so I do agree that anti-christians also use flawed argumentation and ignore evidence that runs contrary to their worldview. But in the end, they are right in many things, and that’s why I’ve realized that the debate should be between good and bad christians and not between christians and anti-christians.

      • Irenist

        Another interesting line in your response, Alejandro, was this:
        “[J]ust as not every Christian is a Fred Phelps, so not every atheist is a Myers or a Ditchkens (to use Terry Eagleton’s nickname here). Your quote from a dissenting atheist probably points out that you think the same, but you are still engaging in a generalizing tone as if every internet atheist is the same when there is alot of variety even here. Not every internet atheist is an anti-christian lunatic as not every catholic is an anti-homosexual, anti-contraception, pope-obeying freak.”

        Well, I actually am a Catholic who thinks gay people are called to chastity, that contraception is immoral, and that the Pope is Christ’s vicar on earth. Since rigorous orthodox Catholicism is something of a rarity on the interwebz, I suppose that makes me something of a freak. So be it.

        Nevertheless, I agree with you that not every atheist is a Ditchkins or a troll on r/atheism. Many of my dearest friends are atheists, and they’re lovely people. I was an atheist myself for about 10 or 12 years, and I think I was far more polite than the Ditchkins types and the trolls. Indeed, my one concern about Mark’s O.P. is that I worry it could be taken as a triumphalist gotcha against having broken people in its midst. Given that we’re all of us sinners, I think no worldview is going to lack for broken adherents. I don’t think Mark meant the post as a gotcha so much as a diagnostic comment on atheist subcultures, but I agree, Alejandro, with your larger point that judging any worldview by its worst adherents–and especially judging any worldview by its adherents on the troll-magnet called the Internet–is unhelpful.

        • Actually, rigorous catholicism is more common than one thinks in the internet. I have found dozens of catholic blogs and websites that try to follow the Magisterium as hard as they can. Babes in Babylon, Two Catholic Men, Whispers in the Loggia, everyone in Patheos, NC Register, Curt Jester, Father Barron, Darwin Catholic, UNFFWildcard, First Things bloggers, Edward Feser, just to name a few.

    • MarylandBill

      So let me see if I understand this correctly. If the Catholic Church and all the other more traditional churches were just to abandon our traditional teachings on morality and just adopt a live and let live approach then the New Atheists would have no problem with us? I bet they would be really thrilled if we adopted the Unitarian Universalist idea that even belief in God is optional. Maybe they don’t mind those groups because they are dying; some rather quickly.

      And lets be honest, in the 20th century and so far in the 21st century, it has not, by and large, been Christians killing in the name of their religion; in fact, as far as I can tell, we are far more likely to be the victim than the other way around (yes there are a few notable exceptions… but there is a difference between the exception and the norm).

      I also find it interesting that you think it is the condescending attitude of the anti-Christians we hate. We can live with condescending attitudes… that is not really what we have here. It is a full on hate. I am sure there are Marxists out there who still try to defend, even celebrate the persecution of Christians in the French Revolution and under Communism.

      • “So let me see if I understand this correctly. If the Catholic Church and all the other more traditional churches were just to abandon our traditional teachings on morality and just adopt a live and let live approach then the New Atheists would have no problem with us? I bet they would be really thrilled if we adopted the Unitarian Universalist idea that even belief in God is optional. Maybe they don’t mind those groups because they are dying; some rather quickly.”
        I’m not saying the Church has to abandon anything. But it just so happens that enforcing her morality like not using contraception causes poverty (large families that can’t sustain themselves economically in the third world), unwanted pregnancies, and allows AIDS (people like to say that fidelity will stop it, yes, it would, if we were living in a world of angels and not humans).
        “And lets be honest, in the 20th century and so far in the 21st century, it has not, by and large, been Christians killing in the name of their religion; in fact, as far as I can tell, we are far more likely to be the victim than the other way around (yes there are a few notable exceptions… but there is a difference between the exception and the norm).” How much is it the exception? Not counting people who have died from AIDS because of not giving sex education and contraception, we have the KKK, Francisco Franco, Ngo Dinh Diem, and not killing but still doing alot of damage,we have the Church stealing children from single and divorced mothers in the 80s, the catholic sex abuse scandals, the Magdalene Laundries, and the silencing of liberation theologians (who were opposed to the dictatorships of their respective countries). So even in the 20th Century “christians” did alot of wrong.
        “I also find it interesting that you think it is the condescending attitude of the anti-Christians we hate. We can live with condescending attitudes… that is not really what we have here. It is a full on hate. I am sure there are Marxists out there who still try to defend, even celebrate the persecution of Christians in the French Revolution and under Communism.”
        There are crazy marxists yes, but I’m sure there are crazy “christians” who defende the crusades and the inquisitions, so yeah.

  • Irenist

    Alejandro, this is from your response”
    “Darth Ratzinger is like this for example, and you probably most likely agree with him and think other religions are false and inferior to Christianity like Islam, Neo-Paganism and Buddhism. I don’t and I think all religions share part of the truth and we should engage in interreligious conversations and learn from one another and accept foreign beliefs.”

    It might surprise you to know that “all religions share part of the truth” is more or less the Catholic position:
    “The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as ‘a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.'” –Catechism of the Catholic Church, 843.

    Of course, the Church disagrees with you about what “the truth” is. However, once you’ve accepted that there is such a thing as “the truth,” then as a logical necessity, some set of beliefs contains more of it than any of the other sets. Thus, if something like atheist liberalism is the closest fit to reality, then other worldviews are “inferior” to it, and only contain “part of the truth” where they approach agreement with it. Mutatis mutandis w/r/t what’s “the truth” and what’s not, the Church has the exact same stance you do.

  • NoahLuck

    Mark, you inspired me here to finally add a half dozen of the top atheist blogs to my RSS reader. And you know what happened? The squabbling factions in the Church now appear chummy and united by comparison. In retrospect it’s obvious – the differences we have within the Church take on disproportionate importance when I’m not exposed to wider religious cacophany in the world.

  • When pondering God or no God, sometimes I like to look at the big picture. For example. As to the idea of an intelligent creator and man’s possible “restoration to the ancient pedestal of favored son” as in geocentric pre-Copernican times, in Dinesh D’Souza’s book What’s So Great About Christianity, the following:

    “Astronomer Lee Smolin imagines God as a kind of master technician who is sitting at a control panel with a set of dials in front of Him. One dial sets the mass of the proton, another the charge of the electron, a third the gravitational constant, and so on. God spins the dials randomly. What, Smolin asks, is the probability that this random spinning would result in a universe with stars and planets and life? ‘The probability,’ he answers, ‘is incredibly small.’ How small? Smolin’s estimate is one chance in ten to the power of 229. Smolin’s point is reinforced by a single example from physicist Stephen Hawking: ‘If the rate of expansion one-second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it even reached its present size.’ The odds against us being here are, well, astronomical. Yet, we are here. Who is responsible for this?”

    Science, to the chagrin of atheists, can be absolutely faith affirming. Smolin’s estimate above requires perspective. Twenty to thirty dials most likely “set” the universe as we know it. The likelihood of them all being set randomly with the universe resulting is one chance in ten to the power of 229. Fine tuning to an unimaginable degree. Amazingly, if he had said the probability was only one chance in ten to the power of twelve that the universe was a random event, that in itself is a one in a trillion chance.

    Ergo, we have the Big Bang event, which creates something from nothing. That is either impossible or miraculous. On top of that, we have the extreme unlikelihood of a resultant universe with stars and planets and life. The odds are about a bazillion quadrillion schmillion against this reality. Ipso facto, as a rational man and from these two examples only, talk of a Designer is not unthinkable but reasonable.

  • Will

    “and you also never see them criticizing churches that are not causing any trouble and agree with their views, like the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Church, the ELCA or the Methodist Church.”

    I never find them making this distinction. It is always “TheChristians” or “TheChurch” or “TheChurches”, and I never see or hear “P.S.: This doesn’t mean you.” “Religion” is presumed monolithic and homogenous (although they also sneer at us for being divided. Clear as Gowanus Creek.)