I gave CJ Werleman the benefit of the doubt and it seems he’s determined to blow it.

I gave CJ Werleman the benefit of the doubt and it seems he’s determined to blow it. October 20, 2014

I don’t regret withholding judgment on CJ.  I think the atheist movement could do with a bit more of that.  However, CJ seems determined to self-destruct.  His apology on facebook read pretty much as “Sam Harris’ fans are unfairly attacking me for things I’m sorry about and won’t do again.”  It’s just weird.

And Sam Harris has pretty much summed up the rest here:

1. C.J. Werleman, a writer for Salon and Alternet, has made a habit of publicly misrepresenting my views.

2. When I first noticed this behavior, I contacted him, initiating a brief and unpleasant email exchange.

3. After that exchange, Werleman went on to misrepresent my views with even greater fervor.

4. Werleman was subsequently discovered to be a serial plagiarist.

5. His response to this public humiliation was to accuse me of being a plagiarist too. Specifically, I am alleged to have plagiarized the work of Mark Steyn.

6. Evidence for this charge has been presented on a blog that seems to have been created yesterday for this purpose by “Stephanie Cranson” (who also joined Twitter only yesterday). Note that this is two days after Werleman claimed to have knowledge of my stealing Steyn’s work. I shall let readers make of this timeline what they will.

7. This newborn blogger has noticed that a passage in Letter to a Christian Nation (2006) seems suspiciously similar to one in Steyn’s book America Alone (2006)—which, we are told, was published six months earlier.

8. However, the suspicious passage also appears in my first book, The End of Faith, published two years earlier still (2004). It can be found on page 26 of both the hardcover and paperback editions.

9. Another passage I am alleged to have plagiarized from Steyn also appears in The End of Faith(p. 133). For that, I cited the following source in an endnote: “From the United Nations’ Arab Human Development Report 2002, cited in Lewis, Crisis of Islam, 115–17.”

10. “Stephanie Cranson” makes other allegations on “her” blog that are equally unfounded.  For instance, she claims that I plagiarized from my friend Richard Dawkins, on the basis of similarity between the following passages:

Dawkins: “Although Martin Luther King was a Christian, he derived his philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience directly from Gandhi, who was not.”

Harris: “While King undoubtedly considered himself a devout Christian, he acquired his commitment to non-violence primarily from the writings of Mohandas K. Gandhi.”

The Dawkins quote appears on page 307 of The God Delusion. Mine can be found on page 12 ofLetter to a Christian Nation.  As readers can learn on Amazon, these books were published a day apart in September of 2006. And, needless to say, this observation about King’s debt to Gandhi has been made many, many times before.

11. This will be the last thing I ever write about C.J. Werleman.

Despite agreeing with very little CJ has ever written, I have no animus toward him.  This is painful to watch.  It’s sad to watch a career go down like this.  🙁  CJ must surely realize that even if Sam Harris was a plagiarist, this would not absolve CJ.

I think the atheist movement is better for having a multitude of positions, so long as those positions are fairly debated with the intent of figuring out what is true, not with just trashing people who hold different opinions.  Over the past few years we have gotten less adept at this, but holding to that principle is why I’m so sad to see CJ doing this to himself.  I know a lot of Harris supporters are happy about this, but even though I mostly agree with Sam I’m not happy. I want my opponents to be people of integrity. Even if we disagree on some points, we’re still ultimately allies on atheism. That’s enough for me to want them to be good people.

No such luck, it seems.

Ah well.

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